Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’ 

© November 4, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 4, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I should Gain; Choruses                            

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

Responsive Reading #662: Freedom from Sin (Romans 5 and 6)                           

Message by Steve Mickelson:  

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’  

                                

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the first Sunday of November 2018. For those of you gathered here this morning, congratulations for having set your clocks back an hour, in order to make the change from Daylight Savings to Standard time. Please be kind to those who arrive in an hour, as they may have forgotten about the time change. Today, being the first Sunday of the month makes it a Communion Sunday. We invite all present, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God died on the cross to pay the penalty for our, to join us in partaking the elements of Communion. There is no BLCF Church membership requirement to take Communion, only the conviction that Christ, Jesus is Lord and Saviour, who died for your sins, rose from the grave by the power of the Spirit, ascended to heaven, sending us the Holy Spirit to be our companion, forever.

When we talk about taking Communion, we remember the sacrifice of the Lord, whose death on the cross resulted in the forgiveness of all sin, allowed us, by way of faith, the means to avoid the judgment for sin. Jesus came not to fulfill the Law, but to fulfill the judgment mandated by the law, by surrendering his life as a payment for the death judgment awaiting us all.

In John 8, verses 1-11, we have an account how the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman, caught in the act of adultery, asking Jesus how they should deal with her crime, as the Law stipulated death by stoning. This was intended to be not only a test of Jesus’ knowledge of Hebrew Law and the consequences one may expect for violating it. Let us begin today’s lesson reading this passage from John’s Gospel:

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

These eleven verses, from the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, provide us with a wealth of knowledge and understanding how violation of the Law, in this case, the seventh of the ten itemized in Exodus 20. In this case Exodus 20:14, 14 “You shall not commit adultery.

The woman had broken the Law and the scribes, Pharisees, and others gathered expected a pronouncement of death to the woman. This was the same judgment that the people of Israel expected when Moses brought the Laws from God down from the mountain, Exodus 20:18-21 (ESV):

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[a] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Exodus 20:18 Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Masoretic Text the people saw

These Laws came from God to instill a respect of God’s ordinances, and an avoidance of sin by the people, so as to not have Him render judgment upon them. But the people feared that if they heard God speak to them, that they will surely die. The Law was intended to guide the people on a righteous path of behaviour, to demonstrate their love for God and for others.

In the case of Jesus and the adulteress, Jesus indicated that no man or woman is innocent of sin, and therefore none are qualified to act as judge and executioner. That is God’s privy, and as such, He alone has the authority to render judgment or its consequences upon sinners. This does not mean that there won’t be any judgment for violation of the Law, which will be rendered by God, alone.

Did scribes and Pharisees take the words of our Lord to heart? Apparently not, as we see the actions taken against the Apostle Stephen, whom Christian scholars are considered to be the first Christian martyr, as we see in this account taken from Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 7:54-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes:a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Though Jesus had been sent to pay the penalty for sin, we that human tendency to sin had not eliminated. Though Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, in that he saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God, the Father, the lord did not intervene. Stephen’s last words before he died were a plea to the Lord not to hold the sin of murder against them. You may note that watching the garments of the murderous mob, was a young man named Saul, better known as Saul of Tarsus.

Saul’s testimony on the matter is recorded in Acts 22:1-21:

Acts 22:1-21 (ESV)

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) b.Acts 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

We see that before his conversion Saul had busied himself by rounding up and persecuting Christians. And in the process of one of the first persecutions, Saul witnessed Stephen’s death by stoning while he stood by watching over the garments of the members of the crowd who killed the Apostle.

But why was there no judgment from God against Saul or the mob who had murdered Stephen?  God had no plans for members of the mob in general, he did have plans for Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, after his conversion. We see the degree of conviction demonstrated in Paul’s testimony, expressed in the following epistle addressed by the Apostle to members of the Church in Rome, see Romans 10:9-10:

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Paul said that salvation comes to those who confess that Jesus is Lord, whom God raised from the dead. This confession comes not from a fear of a judgment by God, but a belief in the heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. We know from last week’s lesson, that the heart is associated with the intangible aspect of our beliefs, such as love, faith, and hope. With this belief, comes the tangible response of confession of our belief that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins. And from that expression of faith, God will respond to the tangible sacrifice made by His Son on the cross with the intangible actions of our own justification and salvation through Christ, which in turn leads to the tangible actions of our own resurrection and granted eternal life.

All of God’s actions come as an expression of God’s love for us for us and our love for Him. For only He is able to make manifest the tangible from the intangible, merely by His own Word.

Let us pray…

Responsive reading #663: Communion Observance (1 Corinthians 11)         

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

Benediction – (1 Timothy 1:17): 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Profile of Peter – A Disciple of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Profile of Peter – A Disciple of Christ’

© May 6, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 6, 2018 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

Opening Hymn #192: Joys Are Flowing Like a River (Blessed Quietness); Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #620 (The Church – Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians 1)

Message by Steve Mickelson: Profile of Peter – A Disciple of Christ’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Praise and Worship Service on this Communion Sunday at BLCF Church.  I would like to give you a reminder of our BLCF Café Fundraiser in support of the community dinner at 6:00PM Wednesday, May 30, at the cafe. The fundraiser will feature the Bluegrass Gospel Music of Cold Water Roots.

My lesson today is entitled: Profile of Peter – A Disciple of Christ’. This will be the first in a series I hope to share with you over the next several weeks. Your bulletin today contains a series of verses from the Bible which give us a good idea of both the gifts and personality of this disciple of our Christ, Jesus, our Lord, and Saviour.

The graphic on the front of today’s Bulletin illustrates the Lord extends his hand to Peter, who sank in the water while attempting to walk with Jesus upon the sea. Peter was the only disciple who showed an inclination to attempt this supernatural miracle.

Let us begin with Peter’s initial calling to the ministry of the Lord.

We have three different verses, which at first blush give different and contradictory descriptions of how and when Peter was called by Jesus, to serve the Lord. In his commentary, Charles Spurgeon gives a good explanation of these verses that some critics cite as examples of inconsistencies in the Gospels of Matthew and John.

I have taken the liberty of expanding the verses used by Spurgeon, in order to give a clearer context to his commentary and have inserted the verses after each passage. So John 1:37 is replaced with John 1:35-42; Matthew 4:18-19 with Matthew 4:18-22; and Matthew 10:1-2 with Matthew 10:1-4.

Later, towards the end of the lesson, I would like to suggest a fourth passage from the Scriptures, in the 21 Chapter of John’s Gospel, where a resurrected Jesus reconciles with his disciple for the sins of denying Christ three times, and Peter, again, is called to follow Jesus

.

Let us begin with the Three Contradictory Calls to Peter by Charles Spurgeon posted on the  Web Page, www.Jesus.org :

Three Contradictory Calls to Peter – Charles Spurgeon

Adapted from Spurgeon’s Sermons, Peter’s Three Calls (No. 702), by Charles Spurgeon. http://www.jesus.org/life-of-jesus/disciples/three-contradictory-calls-to-peter.html

John tells us that Peter was called by Christ through the preaching of John the Baptist, who bore witness that Jesus was Christ, the Messiah (John 1:37).

John 1:35-42 (ESV): Jesus Calls the First Disciples

 35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.[a] 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus[b] was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter[c]).

Footnotes: a. John 1:39 That is, about 4 p.m. b. John 1:40 Greek him c. John 1:42 Cephas and Peter are from the word for rock in Aramaic and Greek, respectively

Matthew, on the other hand, tells us that Peter and his brother were fishing, that Christ was walking by the lake of Galilee, and that as He passed by He saw these men fishing, called them by name, and said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:18-19).

Matthew 4:18-22 (ESV): Jesus Calls the First Disciples

 18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”[a] 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 4:19 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women

Now, the key to the whole may be found in the fact that there was yet a third call, and that afterward, Jesus called not Peter and Andrew alone, but the whole twelve of His disciples and set them apart to be Apostles (Matthew 10:1-2).

Matthew 10:1-4 (ESV): The Twelve Apostles

10 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[a]Simon the Zealot,[b] and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 10:3 Some manuscripts Lebbaeus, or Lebbaeus called Thaddaeus b. Matthew 10:4 Greek kananaios, meaning zealot

We gather from this last call that the other two might have been different and distinct from each other. Coming to look at the subject we find that the first call was the call at Peter’s conversion, which called him to be a disciple while still at his daily work as a fisherman. The second was the call of Peter, not to be a mere disciple, but to be an evangelist. And the third was the call of Peter, not to be an Evangelist or a common servant of the Master, but to be a leader, to take a yet higher grade, and to become one of the Twelve who should be associated with Christ as the founders of the new system of religion and witnesses of the life of Christ.

To recap, the three accounts of Peter’s calling may be viewed as describing the progression of his faith walk from believer to a follower, and then to become an Apostle or messenger of the Lord.

Even as a disciple, Peter showed signs of Devine insight and awareness as he identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matthew 16:13-18 (ESV): Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

 

 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades

While Jesus usually demonstrated an example of humility by calling himself “the Son of Man”, the Lord blesses Peter for recognizing Him as the Son of God by telling the disciple will be the foundational leader, whom He intends to build His church. A church which shall prevail against the gates of hell.

But the road to establishing Christ’s church is not fraught with a bump or two, or even three. Jesus predicts that Peter’s faith will falter and the disciple will deny knowing the Son of God.

Luke 22:31-34 (ESV): Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[a] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”33 Peter[b] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[c] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 22:31 The Greek word for you (twice in this verse) is plural; in verse 32, all four instances are singular b. Luke 22:33 Greek He c. Luke 22:34 Greek He

You will note in Verse 32, that Jesus, also indicated that Peter’s loss of faith will not be complete, as the disciple will turn back to the Lord and become a source of strength and encouragement to the other disciples.

Luke 22:54-62 (ESV): Peter Denies Jesus

54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter wept bitterly, for he realized just Jesus had indicated that though Satan would have his way with the disciple, like Job, the Lord would not allow Satan to take his soul. The challenge to Peter’s faith continued, and the disciple who first perceived Jesus as the Messiah, could not understand that that the power that allowed Jesus to perform supernatural miracles, such as walking on water, healing the infirm, and raising Lazarus from the dead, would be able to overcome death.

John 20:1-10 (ESV): The Resurrection

 20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a]head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his

We see that Simon Peter and John had a footrace to investigate Mary Magdalene ’s report that the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb. While John had arrived first to the tomb, the disciple hesitated at the entrance. But when Simon Peter reached the tomb, he entered without hesitation in a bold manner, not unlike the way he decided to join Jesus for a walk upon the sea. We see that John followed Simon Peter inside and both disciples could not understand that the empty tomb was another fulfillment of Scriptural prophecy.

Jesus would reveal himself in the Upper Room to his disciples, including Peter, as the Resurrected Christ, on two occasions. The second time was eight days after the first, for the benefit of Thomas, who was absent from the first revelation of the Lord, and to allay the skepticism and doubt expressed by the disciple.

The third revelation of the Jesus happened as the disciples were fishing, without success, at the Sea of Tiberias. When Simon Peter recognized the Lord, he dove into the sea. Following Jesus directions as to where to cast their nets, they were rewarded with a bountiful catch. Peter climbed aboard the boat to help his fellow disciples haul in the nets bearing their great catch.

After Jesus and the disciples had breakfast together which included the freshly caught fish, the Lord and Peter had a conversation together, where he offered the disciple an opportunity to be forgiven and reconciled, by stating his love for the Lord three times. One acknowledgment for each denial Simon Peter made on the night that Jesus was arrested. I consider this passage found in Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel to be the fourth calling of Peter by Jesus that I mentioned earlier in the lesson.

John 21:15-19 (ESV): Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

With the reconciliation of Simon Peter and the Jesus complete, the Lord charges his disciple with the care of his church.  The church would be established on the Day of Pentecost, when Jesus sent the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the presence of God, to all who respond to the call of God by repenting their sins, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of their sins.

Acts 2:36-41 (ESV)

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The gifts of salvation and reconciliation to God, the father, through His Son Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit of God, are available to all people and for all generations. We need to acknowledge the gifts of salvation and reconciliation, the promise of our own resurrection, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, by sharing the Gospel of Christ Jesus unto the ends of the earth, until the day Christ Jesus returns.

The other instruction given by Jesus is: to eat and drink the elements of communion on a regular basis, as a church, in order to recognize how death, which is God’s judgment upon humanity for our sin that was removed through the sacrificial death of Jesus upon the cross. Like sharing the Gospel of Christ, communion must be observed until the day that Christ, Jesus returns, to judge the living and the dead.

Just like Peter, any sin we have committed may be forgiven if we acknowledge our faith and love in the Lord, so that we may enjoy a fellowship with the Lord and each other, as members of the Family of God, through Christ, Jesus!

Let us pray…

Communion Observance (Responsive Reading #663 – 1 Corinthians 11)

 Closing Hymn #417: What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30):

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen.

God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP’

© February 4, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 4, 2018

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on January 8, 2012

BLCF_Bulletin_January_8_2012

Announcements & Call to Worship of Prayer, Opening Prayer

Opening Hymn #204: There`s a Quiet Understanding; Choruses                                      

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God 

Responsive Reading #655: The Final Word (Revelation 22) 

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Great Banquet: God`s Invitation’

Let us pray…

The focus of our lesson today will be what we may learn from the Lord’s parable which Jesus described as the “king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

Several years ago this spring, my nephew Steve married his fiancée, Elise. This was the fourth wedding held on Sophie`s side of the family. The wedding consisted of a memorable service, followed by a joyful banquet. The wedding was the culmination of many months of planning and preparation for the blessed event.

If we were to turn on the television, we may see any of number of reality shows about various aspects of the wedding, including such aspects as: choosing a wedding planner, selecting the right wedding dress, or four brides who attend each other’s wedding and then rate aspects of the weddings.

Millions of viewers anticipate another royal wedding in the UK, between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, to be broadcast this spring. Only those with invitations will be privy to the reception and the following banquet. It is appropriate that only those familiar with the hosts and who appreciate the significance of the celebration to the bride and groom, would be given a RSVP invitation to attend.

Most people enjoy attending and observing moments of nuptial bliss, where a bride and groom embark upon the journey of a new life together, not expecting to see reality show dramatics nor royal pomp and circumstance in the event. We all can imagine the various elements involved in a wedding ceremony and the celebration that followed the exchange of vows, where a couple embark upon a new life, united in both heart and spirit. The expectation of the invited is to witness a happy, joyful wedding and celebration afterward, which makes it is not surprising that Jesus used a wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, as a parable of to illustrate God`s covenant for dealing with our sinful nature through Jesus, and to illustrate the gospel of Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV):

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

  

 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’  And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” 

The parables of our Lord Jesus are earthly stories meant to explain heavenly truths. Each person or object is symbolic of someone or something else. Understanding the symbolism is crucial to discovering the lesson of the parable. This is entirely consistent with literal, historical, grammatical interpretation, since the passage is clearly described as a parable, and in fact gaining the theological impact of this parable requires such an understanding. In fact, Jesus best explains His purpose for using the parable in Matthew 13:10-17 (ESV):

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:                                                             

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Back to the lessons from The Parable of the Wedding Feast, the servants sent out to announce the wedding are ignored by some, as were the first disciples who share the good news about Jesus have been ignored. But the Lord is patient and does not want us to rashly reject the gift of salvation, so he sends out more servants, or more disciples, with His invitation. But we see that there are those who choose not only to reject the invitation, but choose to kill those bearing His message. This represents those who have imprisoned, or humiliated, or even killed God`s disciples. But, the King, will kill the murders and destroy their city.

In the Wedding Feast Parable, the King represents God the Father; His Son is our Lord Jesus.  The Invited guests represent Israel and the servants He sent symbolize the prophets and disciples. The city the king had his troops burn because the people invited not only refused to attend, but has killed the king’s servants, represents a defiant Jerusalem.

We find further clarification of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Mark`s gospel, in Chapter 2:18-20 (ESV):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

God has prepared a banquet with His son Jesus the bridegroom and His bride is the church, being the body of believers, not the mortar and brick. Some say those He then sent His servants out to invite represent the church, which can contain both good and bad believers. However, the symbolism and timing are wrong. The Church is the Bride of Christ, not a group of last minute substitute guests. Since Israel had already refused their invitation, and the Church (being the bride) would not need an invitation, so who are the guests in the parable and what else are we to take from the lesson?

The wedding garment, worn by the guests represents His righteousness. This is a concept explained on numerous occasions in both Old and New Testaments.

The fact that a guest is thrown out into the darkness for not wearing  proper wedding attire indicates these last minute guests have to be clothed in “garments of salvation” to publicly identify themselves as believers.

The parable makes it clear that there is no reason, none at all, for people to reject a gracious invitation from the King to come to the wedding feast and enjoy all good things. The only reason they reject the invitation is that they do not believe the King, or they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Since this is a call from the King or from God, the people are not free to take it or leave it, even if they think they can be non-committal. To reject the invitation from God to share in His Kingdom is folly, it is choosing death, as it not only constitutes a rejection of God’s offer of grace, and it is a rejection of His only provision for eternal life.

The poorly dressed guest might also be considered one of those who profess to be followers of Christ when in the company of other believers, but who hide their light under a bushel when in the presence of non-believers. This brings us to the next Scripture verse for this morning`s message, Romans 1:16 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The wedding garment not worn by the guest who is removed from the banquet in Our Wedding Banquet Parable has another interesting aspect, which is represented by what the guest chose to wear to the banquet.

First century Jewish wedding customs held that the father of the groom was in charge of the event and bore all the expense associated with the wedding and reception. In case of royalty or the very wealthy this often included providing a specially made garment to be worn over a guest’s regular clothing. This wedding garment was presented to the guest upon arrival and donned immediately. Wearing it wasn’t mandatory, but was considered a great insult to the Father of the groom if refused and could get a guest ejected from the festivities. In case of large gatherings it also served as identification to discourage uninvited guests from crashing the party.

The guests gathered by the servants for the wedding represent both the good and the bad. That is they represent either those who repent their sins, or those who have not. The guest who accepted the invitation, calling themselves righteous, while claiming to be entitled to His mercy. However, it takes more than just words to claim redemption.

The wedding guest not properly dressed for the banquet is like the person who claims to be a child of God, but his thoughts and actions reveal whether or not his actions matched the words. This is like the expression: you may talk the talk, but did you walk the walk.  There are many so called Christians whose focus and service is performed in the name of the Lord, but their true focus is self-promotion. While they may fool some into believing that they are serving the Lord, God knows that they are only seeking to benefit themselves. Unfortunately, for them, at the Lord`s Banquet, their actions and our motives become visible, like their outer garments. Those who are not servants of the Lord will be judged. Those who were not sincere in their faith practices will be bound and ejected from Heaven. Not all who have been invited will be allowed to stay.

From the beginning of time, God has given humanity a choice. The rags worn by the guest are not unlike that worn by all humanity because of sin. Adam and Eve in an attempt to conceal their sin of disobeying God in the garden felt ashamed and chose to wear fig leaves and loin cloths in an attempt to conceal their guilt from Him. Let us read about this in Genesis 3:7-10 (ESV):

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[a] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[b] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:8 Hebrew wind b. Genesis 3:9 In Hebrew you is singular in verses 9 and 11

God saw Adam and Eve had known sin because they had eaten the forbidden fruit, which caused them to want to hide their nakedness, so God made them garments to wear, not to conceal their sin, but as a reminder of their sin, as described in Genesis 3:21 (ESV):

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

When the Day of Judgement comes, and no one knows the day, only those clothed in righteous will not have their sins exposed, Revelation 16:15 (ESV):

 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

What do we mean when we talk keeping the garments of righteous? Where do these garments come from? We may find our answer in Galatians 3:27 (ESV):

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Like the Wedding Banquet Parable, those who accept God’s gift of salvation, by believing His Son, Jesus died for our sins, so that we may accept the Holy Spirit, and wear new garments of righteous, discarding filthy garments of sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve, and exchange them for pure vestments, free of iniquity, Zechariah 3:3-4 (ESV):

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

Let us discard our rags of sin and accept the gift of the new wedding garment and wear it to celebrate the fact that we were not only we called by Him, but celebrate that He chose us as guests to His banquet. We only need to RSVP his invitation.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: Responsive Reading #663 (1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #210: Here, O My Lord, I See Thee

Benediction – (1 John 1:6-7): If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  – Amen

Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and the Manifestation of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 ‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and

the Manifestation of Christ’

© January 7, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

Revised Sermon, Originally Shared at BLCF on December 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 7, 2018

Opening Hymn #118: Shepherds Came, Their Praises Bringing; Choruses                                                        

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

Responsive Reading #667 (Humility and Exaltation – Philippians 2; Matthew 23); Prayer                                                                               

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Epiphany: A True Manifestation of Jesus’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today will focus on Epiphany, not to be confused with the secular use of epiphany, such as the ‘Eureka!’ moment experienced by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose and he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged, known today as the Archimedes’ principle.

The Epiphany which is the object of  today’s lesson is spelt with a capitol “E”, a Christians use to describe when the supernatural powers of Jesus, the Son of God, became manifested or expressed to all. We have a little more background from the Web site sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances

Observed on January 6th, the Epiphany celebration remembers the three miracles that manifest the divinity of Christ. The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means “to show, make known, or reveal.” The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added – the visit of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.

For many Christians, the definition of Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of mankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.                                                              http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/definition-of-epiphany.html

Last week we watched the film, the nativity story, which included a depiction of the visit of the Three Magi or  the Three Wise Men.  Epiphany is associated in the Christian Church and includes one or all three of the accounts recorded in the Bible:

  1. The Magi’s visit to the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:1-12)
  2. The Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-12)
  3. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John. (Matthew 3:13-17)

The first of today’s Scripture verses gives the only account of the visit of the Magi or Wise Men who came from the east, beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, as unlike Joseph and Mary, they came to Bethlehem to worship and bear gifts to the newborn king as foretold by prophecy and guided by a star, and not in response the Census mandated by the Edict of Caesar.

The fact that the Magi were unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, indicates that the three were Gentiles, being ignorant of the prophecy known to the scribes and chief priests, only that a star will mark the location of the birth of Christ Child as we see in Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

2 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.                                       

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

The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star. Our Scripture passage from Matthew 2:1-12 describes a prophecy that describes a visit by Wise Men or Kings, assumed to be three in number, based upon the three gifts of treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Their visit was based upon a prophecy they which the priests and scribes described to King Herod as follows:

“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.’”

This prophecy is found in Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The next manifestation of the Lord, takes place at a wedding at Cana in Galilee, considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The 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

The changing of water to wine by our Lord is considered by many Biblical scholars to be symbolic how faith in Jesus Christ transforms the believer into a new creature.

Our third Scripture passage describes how the Spirit of God came upon our Lord, after he was baptized in the River, Jordan, which is found in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

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

From the three miracles of Epiphany, we see that God, as the Godhead/Holy Trinity, demonstrates His power and presence in many ways.

Our Epiphany study marks three events and aspects of the walk on earth by Jesus:

  1. His birth as prophesied by God and recorded in Scripture, which is supported by the visitation by the Magi.
  2. The power of the Lord was made manifest when Jesus transformed water to wine.
  3. The alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus after His baptism, supported by words spoken to John by God.

All three Epiphany Scripture verses demonstrate how our Lord manifests or expresses his Devine power and presence: by his birth, his miracles and by way of the Holy Spirit. All three accounts take place between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, while he walked on the earth as a man who the angels called the son of God, but who chose to refer to himself, more modestly, as the son of man.

The birth of Christ in such humble circumstances, as in a stable, with a manger as a crib, first announced by angels to shepherds, reveals that Jesus came as child to serve all men and women, not to rule from a palace, as he Magi had mistakenly expected. This child, Jesus, grew to become the Savior and Lord, not by power and conquest of battle and destruction, but by an act of love and surrender on the cross at Calvary.

Before he died, Jesus lived and experienced the world as a man, died a human death, but was resurrected from the tomb, and then ascended into heaven in order to bring Devine forgiveness and sanctification by taking upon himself our judgment for our sins. And Jesus continued to assure that we would have Emmanuel or the presence of God with us by way of the Holy Spirit.

I would like to point out that the Three Miracles of Epiphany focus on actions involving part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity:

  1. The Wise Men arrive in response to God, the Father’s prophecy fulfilled.
  2. The Wedding of Cana is an account where Jesus the Son, at the bequest of his mother, Mary, changes water into wine.
  3. The Baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit appears and alights upon Jesus.

Each of these miracles, the people witness an aspect of God’s will and power, be it the fulfilment of a prophecy of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus; Jesus changing water into the best wine for a wedding celebration; and the appearance of the Holy Spirit descending to Jesus, whose identity is confirmed by the words of the Father, Speaking from heaven.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: #663 (1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior

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.

Anticipating the Return of Christ

BLCF: animated_magi-starstargraphic

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Return of Christ

© January 1, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin-January-1-2017

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #645: Christian Conduct (Galatians 5 and 6); Prayer      

Opening Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!   

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

Scripture Verses: Matthew 2:1-15, Jeremiah 23:16, 1 Peter 2:1-11

BLCF: events-surrounding-Jesus-birth

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s first Sunday Praise and Worship Service for 2017, which happens to be Communion Sunday.

BLCF: happy-new-year-2015

That said, I would like to wish everyone in the congregation, a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2017, blessed by our loving Lord.

BLCF: Noah-Movie

Over the holidays, I watched a documentary on Noah’s Ark which began by stating that since the people of Israel did not have a written language, they adopted a Cuneiform language adapted from that used by the Babylonians. While Daniel and others were captives of Babylon, they were taught Babylonian. The show takes a leap to an ancient scroll written in that same language, apparently by a student regarding a Great Flood, where a Babylonian was inspired to build a great ark which contained two of every available animal. In other words, Daniel or some other scribe apparently took the Great Flood story from his Babylonian teachers so that it ended in the Book of Genesis.

The documentary jumped to India, where another individual had a team both engineering and building an enlarged Babylonian vessel, but according to the build of materials described by Noah used in Genesis.

It seems strange that credit for the ark described in the Scriptures was taken away from Noah and given to an unknown Babylonian, and yet the linguist does not deny whether or not there was a flood. It seems that he is more determined to show an inclination to believe that a Great Flood did occur and ark was built by a Babylonian implying that Noah was a fictional character created in a Jewish retelling of a Babylonian historical event. Even Hollywood attempts to change the Bible’s account of Noah and the ark.

Regardless of whether the ark was built by Noah or some Babylonian, the “giant elephant in the room” is an acknowledgement that an ark was built, populated by the last of humanity and large assortment of animals.

We may conclude from either the Genesis account or the Babylonian scroll, that a Great Flood took place destroying all life and humanity, save for those who survived the deluge inside a giant Ark built especially for that purpose.

Considering the fact that the people of Babylon attempted to elevate themselves to God and heaven, by building a tower, (sounds like when Adam and Eve were temped by the devil to acquire the knowledge and understanding of God by eating forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge), I would be more inclined to accept  Holy Scripture over a Babylonian student’s notes inscribed on a scroll.

Both the Babylonians and the People of Israel, (as the rest of humanity), can trace their lineage to Noah’s sons, who survived the Great Flood aboard the ark, as described in Genesis 9:18-19 (ESV):

Noah’s Descendants

BLCF: the-bible-genesis-9_18-19

 18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.[a]

Footnotes: a. Genesis 9:19 Or from these the whole earth was populated

BLCF: Noah

What impressed me with this documentary was the author by giving credit to a Babylonian over Noah based on an ancient scroll he ignores an array of alternate explanations.

While the Cuneiform language used by the Babylonians may predate the Hebrew language used to write Genesis, the Babylonian account could have been dictated by a Jew to a Babylonian scribe, where the latter changed the name of the main character from Noah to some Babylonian, rather than the other way around. If the Jew who dictated the Noah account could not read Babylonian, he would have no way of knowing that his account had been altered.

BLCF: Know-Christ-Know-Christmas

Unfortunately, this Noah documentary seems to be one of the numerous documentaries that crop up every Christmas and Easter, filmed with the sole intention to debunk the existence of God, his son Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, and therefore negate that the Bible is the inspired Word.

Today’s Bible lesson, Anticipating the Return of Christ , and today’s Communion observance, will give the opportunity to celebrate the promise of the birth of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy,  the Nativity of Jesus, completing one Advent and our Lord’s return, the Advent that Christians observe.

The tough part of challenging the birth of Jesus  associated with the Magi, is  the fact that in this account Jesus’ birth is expected by Magi who come from other nations and are not of the People of Israel. Such is the case in the account described in Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV), entitled:

 The Visit of the Wise Men

BLCF: wisemen_and_star

 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: 3-wise-men-visit-jesus-and-flight-to-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.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 716 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

BLCF: King-Herod-and-Magi

King Herod, like some rulers today are so insecure of their own authority that they resort to extreme measures such as genocide to removed perceived threats. Herod’s mistake was a lack of faith in manifestation of prophecies from the mouth of only true God.

Whether listening to false prophets or defying the Word of God, there is a great danger the body and soul of those who seek in vain to change the visions that come from God, a warning expressed in Jeremiah 23:16 (ESV);

BLCF: danger-false-prophets

16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.

But what motivates King Herod, as well as all the false prophets today, who seek to displace God’s visions with their own self-serving theologies? We get some idea of the answer to this question and how to keep God at the centre of our faith in 1 Peter 2:1-11 (ESV):

 A Living Stone and a Holy People

BLCF: beware-false-teachers-1-peter-2_1-11

 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”[a]

and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

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

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.                                                          

Footnotes: a. 1 Peter 2:7 Greek the head of the corner

BLCF: Martin-luther

The Holy Spirit helps us to recognize and to understand God’s word which is testimony of His only Son, Jesus, John 3:31-36 (ESV):

BLCF: from-above

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Let us pray…

BLCF: communion-sermons

Communion Observance: Responsive Reading #663 (1 Corinthians 11)            

 Closing Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding

 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:faith-trust-hope

Social Media and the Word of the Lord

BLCF: social-media-prayer

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Social Media and the Word of the Lord’

© October 2, 2016, by Steve Mickelson

blcf-bulletin-october-2-2016

BLCF: The_Word

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #651 (The Holy Scriptures – 2 Peter 1, 2Timothy 3, Hebrews 4, Romans 15, Psalm 119, Isaiah 40); Prayer                                                    

Opening Hymn #392: Take Time to Be Holy                                                                 

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

Today’s Scriptures: Isaiah 40:1-8, Matthew 22:36-40, John 1:19-34

 

Check out how this graphic looks on the actual Christian T-shirts Christian T-shirts can help to start a conversation with someone about the things of God. Would you know how to respond if someone looked at your Christian t-shirt and asked you why they should be a Christian? The Bible says that we should "always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you." (See 1 Peter 3:15) When you're wearing a Christian t-shirt, you should be ready even more so. So, if someone looked at your Christian t-shirt, and asked why they would want to be a Christian, what would you tell them? We hope that your visit to Slide Forward Christian Store today will be about more than just a Christian t-shirt (not that there's anything wrong with wanting or wearing Christian T-shirts). We hope that in addition to your interested in Christian T-shirts today that you would take the time to look in to a teaching by Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort on Biblical Evangelism, called Hell's Best Kept Secret. You can Purchase this teaching from our website in book form (The Way Of The Master), or on a DVD (Hell's Best Kept Secret). You can also watch this teaching for free in our resources section. Wearing Christian T-shirts without knowing how to share the Biblical Gospel with someone who asks is not cool. Wearing Christian T-shirts and knowing how to share the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ with some of the (estimated) 3,000 people that read your christian shirt is Awesome! One more thing... Are you sure that you're a Christian? Have you been born again? Do you understand that you are a sinner -- (sin is transgression of the Law)? Do you realize that you've broken God's Law (lying, stealing, idolatry, lust, blasphemy) and that if He were to Judge you on Judgment Day, that you would be Guilty and rightly deserve Hell. Do you understand that God demonstrated His love towards you in that while you were yet a sinner, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to suffer and die on the cross to pay the price for your sins. Do you understand that in response to that you must repent (that is turn away from your sins)and trust fully in Jesus Christ for your salvation (the way you would trust a parachute to save your life if you jumped out of a plane). Do you understand that any good works you do after your have received eternal life are simply to show your affection to your Heavenly Father and that you are in no way meriting your salvation. For you were saved by God's grace alone through faith, and that not of your self, it is a gift, lest any man should boast. Do you understand that because you are a Christian that doesn't mean that your life will be filed with good health, wealth, and prosperity?But instead, did you know that Jesus promised that we would suffer trials and tribulation, temptation and persecution -- and eternal life! We hope that this is not news to you, but if in fact you have never heard the Gospel presented like this, we pray that you will make TODAY the day of your salvation. We pray that you will repent and trust alone in Jesus Christ for your salvation today. Then read your Bible daily and obey what you read. Slide Forward Christian Store, is first Slide Forward Ministry. It is our sincere desire that God will use us to share the Gospel with people. Our goal is not simply to sell Christian T-shirts, but to Share the Gospel with people and also to encourage and equip fellow Christians to share the Biblical gospel with others. So, please -- Share these Christian T-shirts, and our other products with your Christian friends, but share your Christian T-shirts and the GOSPEL with your non-Christian Friends. You can be confident buying christian t-shirts, and other christian products from SlideForward.com because we are owned and ran by Christians. We don't just sell christian t-shirts, we are CHRISTIANS! In addition to that, we make it our goal to have competitive prices as well as first class customer service.

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Worship and Praise Service. As today is the first Sunday of October, we will be observing Communion. There is no requirement that you must be a member of BLCF in order to receive the elements of Communion.

To receive Communion, participants must be a member of the body known as Christ’s Church. This membership means that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, having  confessed to Him that you are a sinner;  and that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, sent God’s Holy Spirit as companion to all believers until the day He returns to judge all.

Our lesson today, entitled: Social Media and the Word of the Lord, we will examine some aspects of what we commonly refer to as social media. Social media today may include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, any other media methodology that permits the user to communicate with others in real time.

 

BLCF: Being-Jesus-Online

Dennis Moles, author of the booklet: Being Jesus Online,  Biblical Wisdom for a Wired World, published as part of Our Daily Bread Ministries’ Discover Series, attempted to answer the rhetorical questions:

“What would Jesus tweet? Would He have social media accounts? And if He did, what would He say and share? How would He relate to his ‘friends’ and “followers” and to those who disagreed with Him?”

Mr. Moles seemed to apply the old standard questions Christians are encouraged to apply to their conversations with others: “What would Jesus Say?”  Or “What would Jesus do?” with respect to the content of what we express on social media conversations and postings. Moles basically indicated that we should conduct our social media conversations and postings under the same guidelines as how we would personally interact with other people, by asking whether what is posted demonstrated a love for God and a love for our neighbor, which is also known as Jesus’ Great Commandment, described in Matthew 22:36-40, where the Ten Commandments or Laws that God gave to Moses may be considered as expressions of love and honor to either God or your neighbor:

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

BLCF: 10-2_commandments

 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Dennis Moles indicated that anything we post on social media should be scrutinized to ensure that will not fail to demonstrate love to God and love to our neighbor. If it fails scrutiny, then it should not be posted.

With all due respect to Mr. Moles’ message, I chose to examine the questions,

“What would Jesus tweet? Would He have social media accounts? And if He did, what would He say and share? How would He relate to his ‘friends’ and “followers” and to those who disagreed with Him?” when applied to believers in the Resurrected Christ, sharing Jesus’s Great Commission of sharing the Lord’s Gospel unto the ends of the earth, as well as any other Scripture account.

My consideration is based more upon issues and limitations of the form of social media, than the content focus of Mr. Moles.

To examine an example of the form limitation, let us look at Twitter which has a size restriction to the Tweets or messages of a maximum of 140 characters.

Last Sunday’s lesson, ‘David Over Goliath: A Victory of Faith’, used the first 54 Verses from 1 Samuel 17 to present the argument that David’s victory over Goliath happened because of the shared faith by both Saul and David, that God would accompany David to provide the victory in the same way He enabled David to succeed against the bear and lion. Imagine trying to express this Scripture passage in 140 characters or less. For that matter, imagine trying to condense all the lessons of the Bible, each one restricted to the limitations of a Tweet and make it comprehensible.

If it were possible, God would have chosen to inspire the Scriptures as such short segments. This would be like considering a movie preview tells the same story of the entire film or that a brief snippet from a speech expresses everything spoken in a one-hour speech.

The dramatic editing of a movie or speech results in a tremendous loss of intended message. In the same manner, shortening God’s Word not only changes the Scriptures meaning, it dishonors God by not conveying the complete message that the Lord intended to be expressed.

To understand the importance of keeping God’s Word unchanged and not abbreviated, let us look at Isaiah 40:1-8 (ESV):

           Comfort for God’s People

BLCF: Isaiah-40_8

40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[
a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The Word of God Stands Forever

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said,[
c] “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty[
d] is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 40:2 Or hardship b. Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one crying  c. Isaiah 40:6 Revocalization based on Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Vulgate; Masoretic TextAnd someone says d. Isaiah 40:6 Or all its constancy

BLCF: social-media-evangelism

Not only would a 140 character Tweet fail to express this thought, Twitter has placed other restrictions on what we may Tweet.

If, for example, I decided to Tweet the same message: “Jesus Saves” to ten or more recipients, Twitter would intervene and warn that my Twitter messages, being worded the same, exhibit a behavior that Twitter considers SPAM-like in nature. If I continued sending identical messages, I risk suspension or cancellation of my Twitter account.

If I chose to randomly send 140 character Tweets out from my account, there is little likelihood that it would be read at all. I could choose to Tweet out a message containing a link to a site containing a sermon or longer message, but with the same unlikelihood of successfully being read, just like a futile “voice in the wilderness.”

Speaking of voices in the wilderness, Twitters cannot completely convey the words, beliefs, and actions of either John the Baptist or Jesus, as described in John 1:19-34 (ESV):

 The Testimony of John the Baptist

BLCF: John-the-Baptist

 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight[a] the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Behold, the 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! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son[b] of God.”

Footnotes: a. John 1:23 Or crying out, ‘In the wilderness make straight b. John 1:34 Some manuscripts the Chosen One

Even Facebook viewers of the above Scripture passage would not be inclined to read the above passage, because it far exceeds the length of the average post. And if I randomly messaged strangers by Twitter or Facebook messages, the recipients could complain to the respective administrators about receiving unsolicited SPAM-like messages and result in having the respective Twitter and Facebook accounts closed down.

To unbelievers, my social media, messages of the Word of God is nothing more than folly and foolishness, as we see in 1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (ESV):

BLCF: Law-and-Grace

 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[a] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 1:21 Or the folly of preaching

BLCF: The-Word-Is-Our-Foundation

Social media fails by rules that limit the length, content, and content filters applied the messages. A personal one-on-one dialog would have a better chance of successfully sharing even the most simple of ideas found in the Bible.

Social media, such as Twitter or Facebook, is useful for “preaching to the choir” or sharing short messages or links to longer messages with other believers.

Now BLOGs, which are vehicles of larger more complex content, are more capable of sharing such content on the web.

I post my weekly sermons, along with illustrations and Scripture passages to a World-Wide readership averaging 30-50 readers each and every day. Because I can post key tag words and phrases, such topics, titles, characters, and Scripture verses, anyone using a search engine will hit upon those key-words and bring the searcher to the BLOG. You will note that a searcher may or may not be a believer. They only require an interest in finding out more about the word, phrase or topic they chose to “Google”.

On many occasions, we have had visitors to our BLOGs communicate questions or comments about a sermon posted online. Some of our readers and visitors have come by on a Sunday morning to participate in the service.

While social media may help introduce people to the Gospel and the Word of God, it is the personal conversation and interaction that allows them to perceive God’s Holy Spirit, the true power that convicts people to believe in the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus, which leads to a Christian faith conversion.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Communion Sunday

Communion Observance (Responsive reading #663 – 1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #265: I’ve a Message from the Lord

Benediction – (Colossians 3:16-17):

 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

BLCF: Colossians_3-17