Preparing a Dwelling Place for God

blcf: BeTheChurch

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Preparing a Dwelling Place for God’

© January 29, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on November 23, 2014

BLCF: bulletin-january-29-2017

blcf: dont_go_to_church_be_the_church

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                Opening Hymn #199: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship; Choruses             Prayer and Tithing; Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #620 (The Church – from Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians 1)                                                                                   Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Preparing a Dwelling Place for God ’    

                                                                     BLCF: being-the-church                                                                                                                            

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. And though most of you know your neighbors, I would like to invite each of you to take a moment to participate in the old tradition of shaking hands and saying hello to your neighbor, and become reacquainted with God’s Church in the heart of Toronto. His local church is composed of the body of believers, not the wood, brick and mortar that make up the building at 1307 Bloor Street West.

Now that we have reacquainted ourselves with the local church, let us begin today’s lesson, which is about God’s church. Let us first look at the word church, its definition and origins. For this, we shall look at Strong’s Concordance and find the following:

BLCF: Church_bounty_of_Christ

 

The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). 1577 /ekklēsía (“church”) is the root of the terms “ecclesiology” and “ecclesiastical.”]

ekklésia: an assembly, a (religious) congregation

Original Word: ἐκκλησία, ας, ἡ Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: ekklésia Phonetic Spelling: (ek-klay-see’-ah) Short Definition: an assembly, congregation, church Definition: an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of Christian believers.

1577 ekklēsía(from 1537 /ek, “out from and to” and 2564 /kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.

http://biblehub.com/greek/1577.htm

This body of Christian believers is an assembly or congregation of believers, who when combined together comprise God’s church. Two of the Scripture verses, found in today’s Bulletin, describe the body of the church being composed of parts or members, which are of equal importance, with even those parts which seem to be weaker are indispensable to God’s purpose. And that the body needs all of its parts working in harmony, fulfilling His plan as one unified body.

This Scripture passage is summarized by the verses found at beginning and end               1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27-32 (ESV): 

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12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Together, as a body of believers, we are baptized into one body by God’s Holy Spirit. Remember no part of function of the church body that to God, no individual position is of greater importance than the others.  Remember the Lord stressed the importance of humility, when he washed the feet of his disciples, which applies to the work of the apostles in the church. If we were to read the next chapter of Ephesians, we would see that the “more excellent way”  is love, 1 Corinthians 13  (ESV):

 The Way of Love

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13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 13:3 Some manuscripts deliver up my body [to death] that I may boast b. 1 Corinthians 13:5 Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing

The body of believers, which is God’s church, is unified, functions and is expressed by love, which is the love of Christ.

The Bible gives us another description of the Lord’s unconditional love in Ephesians 5:28-32 (ESV):

BLCF: Love never fails

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Christ functions as the cornerstone of his church which has as its foundation  Peter and the other disciples, held together by the mortar of the Holy Spirit,  infused with Christian love, as we read in Ephesians 5:28-32 (ESV):

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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

With Peter as the foundation for God’s church, you may recall that Jesus is its cornerstone, from today’s second Scripture passage from Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV):

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19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul, in his letters to the various churches, being Christ’s followers, acknowledges the expressions of unconditional love demonstrated by various individuals who worked together for the betterment of the church, as we read in his Personal Greetings expressed in Romans 16:1-15 (ESV):

 Personal Greetings

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16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant[a] of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert[b] to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia,[c] my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,[d] and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers[e] who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.                                                                                

Footnotes: a. Romans 16:1 Or deaconess b. Romans 16:5 Greek firstfruit c. Romans 16:7 Or Junias d. Romans 16:7 Or messengers e. Romans 16:14 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 17

But how do we as members of Christ’s Church discern and understand God’s purpose for the church? It is by way of the Holy Spirit that we may be enlightened in the knowledge of why we are called and how we may best fulfill God’s purpose to prepare the church as a dwelling place for God, to His glory, as we see in Ephesians 1:15-23 (ESV):

Thanksgiving and Prayer

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15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[a] toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 1:15 Some manuscripts omit your love

We, at Bloor Lansdowne Christ Fellowship, as Christ’s Church, receive a New Covenant, which is: the gift of salvation, the promise of the resurrection, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit – all through Christ Jesus, who fulfilled God’s plan, as an expression of His Way, the Way of God’s love.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #208: There’s a Church within Us, O Lord                          

Benediction – (Colossians 3:15):  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Church Bulletin May 15,2011

The Parables and the Miracles of the Ministry of Jesus Christ

BLCF: making-disciples-header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Parables and the Miracles of the Ministry of Jesus Christ’

© August 30, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 30, 2015

Based on Messages shared with BLCF on December 30, 2012 and September 22, 2013

Christ is the foundation

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 664: About Spiritual Gifts (1Corinthians 12); Prayer

Opening Hymn: #200: The Church’s One Foundation; Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: Matthew 13:10-16; Mark 6:30-44; John 10:37-38

Matthew 13:10-16 The Purpose of the Parables:

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10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 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. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 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. 14 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.” 15 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.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Mark 6:30-44 (ESV): Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand:

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30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii[a] worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Footnote: a. Mark 6:37 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer

John 10:37-38 (ESV):

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37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Let us pray…

As a church, composed of a body of believers in the resurrected Christ, we are gifted with salvation from God’s judgment of sin, the promise of a resurrection from death, and gifts through the Holy Spirit. These gifts empower us to demonstrate as one unified body, the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit as a witness to the Gospel of Lord, as we see in 1 Corinthians 12:1-12 (ESV) :

Spiritual Gifts:

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12 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. . One Body with Many Members 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

BLCF_Cafe_LOGO_Sign

Every Wednesday since January 2008, at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, we have been challenged to prepare for, serve to, minister upon, and clean-up after a gathering of to as many as 150 to 200 guests. Many of our volunteers, though attending post-secondary schools are ESL students. That is to say that they grew up speaking another language and have volunteered at the cafe to hone their English skills as well as to serve a compassionate cause. I have observed some of the tricks used by Sophie to communicate how to run the dinner a complex set of activities in a short period of time. To help develop the ESL student’s English skills, Sophie will have an experienced volunteer brief the new volunteers regarding the operating and safety procedures at the café.

Sophie will demonstrate to the volunteers how to prepare; serve each guest, in what order; how to demonstrate friendship and respect; how to deal with unacceptable behavior from guests; when to take breaks; what to do or not do during the message portion of the dinner; when we serve dessert; how to avoid serving a guest twice, before all guests have been served; and even the manner by which the dinner is served. To avoid misunderstanding, Sophie will demonstrate the process by example and often will pair experienced volunteers with new ones so that the new volunteers may observed and learn by following the example of their respective assigned partner. Sophie uses a simple, but effective approach to both acquainting new volunteers with the processes involved with the running the dinner, while forging a team bond among the volunteers.

For our lesson today, we will compare how the actions of the volunteers at the BLCF Café relate to Jesus’ miracles and parables as a living testimony to Christ’s Gospel.

Prior to his crucifixion on the cross for our sins, Jesus ministered for some three and a half years. Jesus was challenged with teaching matters of a spiritual nature to people who have yet to experience Pentecost and before they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s expectations and plans for His people.

To meet this challenge, Christ’s performed a number of miracles and parables to help them understand God’s expectations, promises and plans for His children. To emphasize God ‘compassion for our needs and teach how He can overcome the seemingly impossible, He would perform a miracle.

The miracles of Jesus are the supernatural deeds of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels. A miracle, being supernatural by definition, is action which defies the laws and rules of nature and is beyond the abilities of the common person. The miracle demonstrates the fact that the power of the Lord exceeds the laws and rules of science and of the world. However, in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Jesus refuses to give a miraculous sign to prove his authority. That is to say, the Lord refused to perform a miracle as a stunt or to entertain those incapable or unwilling to appreciate the Spiritual Power of God.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is said to have performed seven miraculous signs that characterize his ministry, from changing water into wine at the start of his ministry to raising Lazarus from the dead at the end. We find a good example in the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude in the Gospel of Mark 6:30-44.

Over the centuries Christian scholars have reviewed, discussed and analyzed the miracles attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. In most cases, authors associate each miracle with specific teachings that reflect the message of Jesus. These scholars view the miracles of Jesus, not merely as acts of power and omnipotence, but as works of love and mercy that are performed not with a view to awe witnesses with a sense of the Lord’s omnipotence, but as a sign of Christ’s compassion for a sinful and suffering humanity. Each miracle involves a specific teaching or lesson.

According to the Gospel of John, it was impossible to narrate all of the miracles performed by Jesus, the miracles presented in the Gospels were selected for a twofold reason: first as a manifestation of God’s glory, and then for their evidential value to the faith of a witness. Jesus referred to his “works” as evidences of his mission and his divinity, and in John 5:36 (ESV), he declared that his miracles have greater evidential value than the testimony of John the Baptist:

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36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.

And our Lord challenges those who witnessed his miracles as a validation of the presence of God in Christ, as part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity in the Gospel of John 10:37-38(ESV):

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37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

BLCF: Gifts-of-Grace

We see the miracles of the Lord helped teach us Jesus’ plan and the supernatural manner by which it would be achieved. While the miracles were self- evident, the Lord made use of the parable as an aid to teach his purpose and plan.

The parables of Jesus can be found in all the Canonical Gospels as well as in some of the non-Canonical Gospels, but are located mainly within the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke). They represent a key part of the teachings of Jesus, forming approximately one third of his recorded teachings. Jesus’ parables are seemingly simple and memorable stories, often with imagery, and each conveys a message.

Scholars have commented that although these parables may seem simple, the messages that they convey are deep, and central to the teachings of Jesus. Christian scholars view them not as mere similitude’s which serve the purpose of illustration, but as internal analogies where nature becomes a witness for the spiritual world. In other words the miracle gives the world a glimpse of the supernatural aspects of God’s Spiritual realm.

Many of Jesus’ parables refer to simple everyday things, such as a woman baking bread (parable of the Leaven), a man knocking on his neighbor’s door at night (parable of the Friend at Night), or the aftermath of a roadside mugging (parable of the Good Samaritan); yet they deal with major religious themes, such as the growth of the Kingdom of God, the importance of prayer, and the meaning of love.

Still, the disciples had a problem understanding the purpose of the Lord’s use of the parable, which Jesus explains the Gospel of Matthew 13:10-16 (ESV):

The Purpose of the Parables

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10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 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. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 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. 14 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.”

15 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.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

 BLCF: actions_louder_than_words

The parable helped the non-believer to understand the Lord’s spiritual purpose to his miracles. A full understanding only comes by way of the faith of the witness, with help from the Holy Spirit. Belief in the supernatural aspect of a miracle, can lead the observer to supernatural character of the Lord, and in turn to faith in the Lord and belief in the truth of his Gospel.

BLCF: Community-Dinner

Let us now return to our outreach ministry at Wednesday’s BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. To non-believing guests and volunteers, our actions of serving and fellowship are a living parable of the love and sacrifice of Christ. And by the miracle of the power of God’s Holy Spirit, those who accept action of love that are given without any expectation in return, can relate to the gift of God’s unconditional love for His children. This understanding, through the power of the Holy Spirit, helps non-believers understand and accept by faith, God’s unconditional gift of grace, salvation and love, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. It is by conviction of the Holy Spirit that believers may preach and teach others the Gospel love of God through Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. It is by acts of unconditional compassion and love, we become a living parable and testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit.

In that regard, Wednesday’s Community Dinner is viewed, by many of our guests and volunteers, as their church. After all, is the Church, God’s holy temple, not a building composed of mortar, wood and bricks located at 1307 Bloor Street West, but the people who gather here to study His word, sing and praise His name, and to glorify their God, as a body of believers’. It is the people who are God’s Holy Temple or Arcs of His New Covenant: Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV):

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19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[a] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[b] the Spirit.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:19 Or sojourners b. Ephesians 2:22 Or in

The church or temple of God is not a building that contains a body of worshipers, but rather it is the body of believers that contain the Holy Spirit with Christ as the foundation, 1 Corinthians 3:11 (ESV):

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11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

By sharing the gospel of Jesus in word, thought and deeds to others, we invite them to join His church and share grace of his gifts of salvation and the Holy Spirit through faith, and thus becoming a part of His Church.

I would like to conclude today’s lesson by reciting, as our closing prayer, the following poem, Moments, by author Violet Turner:

Let us pray…

In moments of my deepest sorrow

When I’m tempted to despair

You remind me that you love me

Proving that You’re always there.

And,

In moments when life feels empty

As I’m drowning in the rain,

You reach out to save me

Healing my deepest pain.

And,

In moments when I feel lost

As the waves crash over me,

You cling to me with all Your might

Protecting me in the raging sea.

 

And,

In moments when I want to quit

You help me to believe,

You open my blind eyes

That I may truly see …

 

That,

In a moment of great love

You sacrificed Your perfect Son,

Redeeming me from sin’s grasp

 

So,

In moments of pain and sorrow

I will not give up, nor despair,

Because in Your might love

You’ve proven You’re always there.

 http://christianity.about.com/od/membersubmittedprayers/qt/Moments-Poem.htm

Amen…

Closing Hymn is #12: Praise the Lord, His Glories Show

Benediction – (Romans 15:5-7):

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

– Go in Peace of the Lord!

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Preparing a Dwelling Place for God

 BLCF: Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:            

Preparing a Dwelling Place for God’

© November 23, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin November 23, 2014

BLCF: Ephesians_2_19-22

Announcements and Call to Worship:

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

Opening Hymn #199: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbs9PhxeOCs; Choruses                                                   

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

Scripture Verses: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Ephesians 2:19-22

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 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (ESV) One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or servants; Greek bondservants b. 1 Corinthians 12:20 Or members; also verse 22

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Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV)

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[a] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[b] the Spirit.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:19 Or sojourners   b. Ephesians 2:22 Or in

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. And though most of you know your neighbors, I would like to invite each of you to take a moment to participate in the old tradition of shaking hands and saying hello to your neighbor, and become reacquainted with God’s Church in the heart of Toronto. His local church is composed of the body of believers, not the wood, brick and mortar that make up the building at 1307 Bloor Street West.

Now that we have reacquainted ourselves with the local church, let us begin today’s lesson, which is about God’s church. Let us first look at the word church, its definition and origins. For this, we shall look at Strong’s Concordance and find the following:

The English word “church” comes from the Greek word kyriakos, “belonging to the Lord” (kyrios). 1577 /ekklēsía (“church”) is the root of the terms “ecclesiology” and “ecclesiastical.”]

ekklésia: an assembly, a (religious) congregation

Original Word: ἐκκλησία, ας, ἡ Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: ekklésia Phonetic Spelling: (ek-klay-see’-ah) Short Definition: an assembly, congregation, church Definition: an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of Christian believers.

1577 ekklēsía(from 1537 /ek, “out from and to” and 2564 /kaléō, “to call”) – properly, people called out from the world and to God, the outcome being the Church (the mystical body of Christ) – i.e. the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world and into His eternal kingdom.

http://biblehub.com/greek/1577.htm

This body of Christian believers is an assembly or congregation of believers, who when combined together comprise God’s church. The two Scripture verses read just before the message today describe the body of the church being composed of parts or members, which are of equal importance, with even those parts which seem to be weaker are indispensable to God’s purpose. And that the body needs all of its parts working in harmony, fulfilling His plan as one unified body.

This Scripture passage is summarized by the verses found at beginning and end 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27-32 (ESV): 

BLCF: Christ Church

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Together, as a body of believers, we are baptized into one body by God’s Holy Spirit. Remember no part of function of the church body that to God, no individual position is of greater importance than the others.  Remember the Lord stressed the importance of humility, when he washed the feet of his disciples, which applies to the work of the apostles in the church. If we were to read the next chapter of Ephesians, we would see that the “more excellent way” is love, 1 Corinthians 13  (ESV):

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 The Way of Love

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 13:3 Some manuscripts deliver up my body [to death] that I may boast b. 1 Corinthians 13:5 Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing

The body of believers, which is God’s church, is unified, functions and is expressed by love, which is the love of Christ.

The Bible gives us another description of the Lord’s unconditional love in Ephesians 5:28-32 (ESV):

28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Christ functions as the cornerstone of his church which has as its foundation  Peter and the other disciples, held together by the mortar of the Holy Spirit,  infused with Christian love, as we read in Matthew 16:16-18 (ESV):

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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

With Peter as the foundation for God’s church, you may recall that Jesus is its cornerstone, from today’s second Scripture passage from Ephesians 2:19-22 (ESV):

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The Apostle Paul, in his letters to the various churches, being Christ’s followers, acknowledges the expressions of unconditional love demonstrated by various individuals who worked together for the betterment of the church, as we read in his personal Greetings expressed in Romans 16:1-15 (ESV):

 Personal Greetings

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16 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant[a] of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert[b] to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia,[c] my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles,[d] and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers[e] who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.                                                                                

Footnotes: a. Romans 16:1 Or deaconess b. Romans 16:5 Greek firstfruit c. Romans 16:7 Or Junias d. Romans 16:7 Or messengers e. Romans 16:14 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 17

But how do we as members of Christ’s Church discern and understand God’s purpose for the church? It is by way of the Holy Spirit that we may be enlightened in the knowledge of why we are called and how we may best fulfill God’s purpose to prepare the church as a dwelling place for God, to His glory, as we see in Ephesians 1:

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Ephesians 1:15-23 (ESV) Thanksgiving and Prayer

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[a] toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 1:15 Some manuscripts omit your love

We, at Bloor Lansdowne Christ Fellowship, receive as Christ’s Church a New Covenant, which is: the gift of salvation, the promise of the resurrection, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit – all through Christ Jesus, who fulfilled God’s plan, as an expression of His Way, the Way of God’s love.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #208: There’s a Church within Us, O Lord 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QktIufwCC9A                                                                   

Benediction – (Colossians 3:15): And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

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