To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday

‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within’

© September 30, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn # 410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day; Choruses                Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                            Responsive Reading #667: Humility and Exaltation (-from Philippians 2 and Matthew 23)                                                                                                                      Message by Steve Mickelson:‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Morning Prayer and Worship Service for the last Sunday of September 2018.

Today’s lesson is entitled: To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within was partly inspired from an online article by Jon Lockett, about a mysterious 1,000-year-old map, published by the UK Sun, online on September 10, 2018, entitled:

CRACKING THE CODE: 1,000-year-old Medieval map ‘reveals the location of          Noah’s Ark and other biblical mysteries’

Mappa Mundi

By Jon Lockett

10th September 2018, 3:12 pm

Updated: 10th September 2018, 6:43 pm

 Hereford’s Mappa Mundi contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical events.

 A HISTORIC map which marks the supposed sites of religious events is still being decoded – nearly 1,000 years after it was made.

The Mappa Mundi, in Hereford Cathedral, contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical happenings.

Measuring 1.59 x 1.34 metres (5ft 2ins by 4ft 4ins), the map is constructed on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin).

The huge masterpiece is seen by many history scholars as one of the greatest surviving artworks of the Middle Ages.

On the map the world is depicted as a circle with East at the top of the map – to mark the rising of the sun and the second coming of Christ.

Jerusalem sits at its centre as was common at the time.

Noah’s Ark is clearly pictured on the bottom-left of the map on the modern-day Iran-Armenia border.

And that ties in with the theory that the ruptured remains of the legendary vessel can now be found on Mount Ararat, in eastern Turkey.

Close to the very centre of the Mappa Mundi can be found the Tower of Babel – said to have been built after the great flood.

According to the Bible, the tower was so tall it was seen as a challenge to God, who caused humanity to speak in different languages as a punishment.

It has been long claimed that Shinar, where the Bible says the tower stood, was in south Mesopotamia and that Babel was located at Babylon.

However those that have studied the incredible and beautiful map put it in what is now Syria.

Eden is represented by a circular island at the very top of the map surrounded by a ring of fire and separated from the land masses by water.

Eve is seen taking fruit from the tree of knowledge from a terrifying serpent perched in the tree.

Hereford Cathedral’s commercial director Dominic Harbour said: “The map disarms anybody who stands in front of it.

“It’s really a cacophony of too much going on at the same time. The map’s unfathomable, really.

“You have to immerse yourself into it.”

Scholars believe it could be 1,000 years old and shows the history, geography and destiny of humanity as it was understood in Christian Europe in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

The inhabited part of the world as it was known then, roughly equivalent to Europe, Asia and North Africa, is mapped within a Christian framework.

Jerusalem is in the centre, and east is at the top. East, where the sun rises, was where medieval Christians looked for the second coming of Christ.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7219987/ancient-map-reveals-location-noahs-ark/

Since the above article describes the biblical accounts of the Tower of Babel and the Garden of Eden, I thought that it worthwhile to review these two accounts, as they appeared in the Bible:

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV): The Tower of Babel

Confusion Of Tongues

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for con\used

I would like to point out that in Genesis 11:7, the Lord refers to Himself in the plural, which is appropriate for the Godhead or Holy Trinity.

The Lord takes great exception to the people who migrated from the east, settling in the land of Shinar, and together decided to build there a tower with its top in the heavens.

At that time, people spoke the same language, and the Lord decided the easiest way to foil their plan to build this tower, which He found to be an abomination, was to confuse the people by causing to speak in different languages. This was to ensure that the people could not understand each other so as to prevent them from understanding one another, which in-turn would foil the people’s plans to collectively build a tower to heaven.

While it may not be the actual construction of the tower which concerned the Lord, but the reasons why the people sought to use the building as to reach the heavens for their own glorification. In other words, to elevate their perception by others to be elevated to a level equal to God, a motivation not unlike that which the serpent used to entice Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit described in Genesis 3:1-13 (ESV):

The Fall

Temptation in the Garden

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

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

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 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[c] 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?”[d] 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.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Not only were Adam and Eve’s eyes opened to an awareness of good and evil, which brought them an awareness of their sin and being naked, which prompted them to hide because of their nakedness because of their fear.

And their fear and guilt of their transgression to God, caused Adam to blame Eve, and Eve to blame the serpent for their sins. Not only had they disobeyed God, but they also lied to Him when they refused to take responsibility for their own actions.

We see in the account of the Tower of Babel, there were consequences from the Lord for Adam and Eve, ejection from the garden of Eden, which they had walked together with God. This separation from the Lord, where they walked together with Him to enjoy conversation in the cool of the day, was perhaps the greatest punishment because it also brought them a judgment of death:

Genesis 3:20-24 (ESV)

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.[a] 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Footnotes: a Genesis 3:20 Eve sounds like the Hebrew for life-giver and resembles the word for living

The Tower of Babel was constructed after Adam and Eve were punished for their sin, bringing the punishment of the loss of fellowship with God and the punishment of death. There was no manner of works, including building a tower to heaven, which would allow people to restore what the Lord had decided to remove as a punishment for their sins.

There is only one Way by which the separation between God and humanity could be removed, allowing a restoration for the lost fellowship with God, through Christ Jesus. He is the only way that we may restore both the relationship with the Father in heaven that was taken after the fall, but it will restore a unity taken when the tower was constructed at Babel:

Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV): One in Christ

 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.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

Through blood and flesh sacrificed by our Lord, Christ Jesus, we have reunited again in one single body. And by way of the Holy Spirit sent to us from the Father in heaven, in the name of his son, Jesus, we are able to understand each other since that Great day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:1-12 (ESV): The Coming of the Holy Spirit

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

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

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

God has provided a plan to sanctify us through his son and reconcile us as a body of believers to our Father, so that we may look forward to that day when Christ returns to walk, talk, and fellowship with Him in that garden, at the cool of the day.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

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.

 

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Whom Do We Seek to Edify: Ourselves or His Church?

BLCF: Towers - Aspire to Heaven or Inspired from Heaven

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Whom Do We Seek to Edify: Ourselves or His Church?’

© June 18, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 19, 2016

Based on a Message shared at BLCF Church on June 2, 2013

Confusion Of Tongues

Confusion of Tongues from the Tower of Babel

 

Announcements & Call to Worship:  Responsive Reading #650 (Trials and Temptations – James 1 and 1Peter1); Prayer                                                                                                            

Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone; Choruses                                                    

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

Today’s Scriptures: Psalm 2:1-6; Genesis 11:1-9; 1 Corinthians 14:6-18

Tower of Babel

Confusion of Tongues

 

Let us pray…

At first blush it would seem that the topic of this Sunday’s message has something to do just with languages or tongues.  While the account of the Tower of Babel does explain how it is that we have such a diversity of languages and people over the face of the earth, there is much more to the story, which may sound familiar to a lesson we recently shared, that being how Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, Chapter 3.

You may recall that Satan appealed to Eve and Adam, who was with her, that by eating the forbidden fruit, they would be elevated to the same level as God in their understanding of good and evil. Fearing that they would next eat from the Tree of Life, God exiled Adam and Eve from the garden both as a punishment for their transgressions and to prevent them from committing another sin. Genesis 3:22-24 (ESV):

 

BLCF: garden-of-eden-first-sin

 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Now, back to the tower. For centuries, the human race has aspired to be at a higher plane, as evident by the building of structures such as the Eiffel Tower, Empire State building, CN Tower, Burj of Dubai, and so on. Like the Tower of Babel, most of these towers afford an overview of relatively low nearby terrain.  I recall when the CN Tower was just completed in Toronto there was a three month wait for dinner reservations at the tower restaurant. We had some friends of my sister visiting from Sydney, Australia. My dad thought it would be nice to take them to restaurant and enjoy the view of the city and Lake Ontario, as far as Rochester, New York. On the evening of the reservation, a foggy cloud bank rolled in, and all you see from the tower were portions of Toronto Island.

The Tower of Babel was intended, by its builders, to be constructed both, to bring them closer to Heaven, and as a monument to those builders, so that they would not be forgotten from history or their descendants disappeared or were dispersed. Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV)

       The Tower of Babel

                                      BLCF: Tower-Babel                               

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

It is ironic that a tower built as a testimony to its builders, so that they would not be forgotten or dispersed, ended up being the reason God made them become no longer unified in language and they were dispersed throughout the world.  History indicates that the tower eroded so that the lower portions fell away. There were some writings that indicate that Alexander the Great had located the remnants of this tower and intended to rebuild it. This plan was abandoned after the untimely death of King Alexander. Which brings us to the next Scripture verse, Psalm 2:1-6 (ESV):  

The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed

BLCF: You-Are-Anointed-for-Service

2 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

To aspire for something, is a desire to reach a higher plane, where, by definition:

as·pire  /əˈspī(ə)r/

Verb

  • Direct one’s hopes or ambitions toward achieving something: “we never thought that we might aspire to those heights”.
  • Rise high; tower.

People seek to achieve or they aspire, not to be confused with inspire, as in the works of the Holy Spirit. The definition of inspire is as follows:

in·spire /inˈspī(ə)r/

Verb

  • Fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative: “his enthusiasm inspired them”.
  • Create (a feeling, esp. a positive one) in a person: “inspire confidence”.

Those who aspire seek to be filled with pride in self, while those who inspire, seek to have others filled with the Holy Spirit. An example of aspiration may be found in the sonnet, High Flight written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Portions of this poem appear on the headstones of many interred in Arlington National Cemetery, in the U.S., particularly aviators and astronauts. John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was an American Pilot Officer serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee; his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen.

Magee came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF and was graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941.

In August or September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee composed High Flight and sent a copy to his parents. Several months later, on December 11, 1941 his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years of age, crashed to his death. His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire.

(Biography courtesy of the United States Air Force http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/highflig.htm)

High Flight – By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

High Flight

Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee Jr.

“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds

– and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of

– wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.

Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along

and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.

“Up, up the long delirious burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

where never lark, or even eagle, flew;

and, while with silent, lifting mind

I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space,

put out my hand and touched the face of God.”

While the sonnet is beautifully worded, it is an example of the flesh’s desire or aspiration to reach God in a manner this is not in harmony with the Spirit of God. An irony here is that the author, a son of missionaries, composed prose that presumes the protagonist, a pilot, could fly high enough in something he built to touch the face of God.

To reach God and Heaven requires neither a tower, nor an aircraft, nor any other worldly means. To reach the Spiritual plane mandates us not to take actions that are the result of aspiration, but to follow inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit to achieve that state of Spiritual Grace which allows us to lead others to find His Grace, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 (ESV):

 Mystery and Victory:           

BLCF: Witnesses-Taken-Up-Into-Heaven

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:             

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory?     

O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

57 But thanks be to God,

who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ  

So we see in this passage, the mystery is to the flesh, which is of the world, and the victory goes to the Holy Spirit. And to achieve this state of Grace, we must replace our human impulses by our faith in Jesus Christ, Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV):

                                      Jesus the Great High Priest                                  

BLCF: Jesus_Grest_High_Priest

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

You may recall that after being anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was taken to a desolate place, where he fasted and was tested by Satan. Jesus was brought to a high place and offered by Satan all authority over all that he saw from that great height. But Satan failed to tempt Jesus, as our Lord did not aspire to grow his own personal power and authority or to be placed upon an equal plane with God the Father. Instead, Jesus, in a perfect example of faith, replaced conceit and ambition with humility and obedience, Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV):

Christ’s Example of Humility 

                   BLCF: Jesus washes desciples feet                            

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And the confusion we still observe from Babel today, tends to interfere with not only building of towers of aspiration, but the building of the church body if we aspire to build the church in a worldly manner. Such confusion hampers both the health and growth of the church body, 1 Corinthians 14:6-18 (ESV):

BLCF: building-up-the-church-2

 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.

 

The body of members that compose any church are subject to a Spiritual standard where the mind and the spirit are in harmony. This facilitates an understanding among the members and eliminates confusion and misunderstandings which hamper growth of the church body through the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Hymn #355: Higher Ground (I’m Pressing on the Upward Way)

Benediction (Colossians 3:17):                                                                                          

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

United in the Spirit While Completing the Assigned Task

BLCF: Lord-Jesus-animated

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

’United in the Spirit While Completing the Assigned Task’

© November 22, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 22, 2015

BLCF: HOLY_SPIRIT_DOVE_ANIMATED_GIF

Responsive Reading #661: The One True God (Acts 17); Prayer

Opening Hymn #79: We come, O Christ, to Thee; Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: Genesis 3:1-7, Genesis 11:1-9, Mark 10:35-45, and Matthew 26:14-16

BLCF: the-church-works-best-when-we-work-together

Let us pray…

Our lesson today, ’United in the Spirit While Completing the Assigned Task’, we look at the challenges a Christian believer faces, while following the path set by the Lord. Those challenges include avoiding any stumbling blocks that Satan places in the path that the Lord wishes us to follow.

The Christian Church is composed of a body of believers. But is that same church of believers that Satan desires to confuse and corrupt away from the presence of God. The Reformist, Martin Luther describes the devil handiwork as follows: “For, where God built a church there the devil would also build a chapel.”

the-church-is-a-body

Satan loves nothing better than running interference to Christians’ understanding of the Lord, as we see in the various Scripture verses listed in today’s BLCF Church Bulletin.

The first Scripture Verse, Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV), describes how Satan tempted both Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to eat fruit forbidden by God. The temptation challenged the Lord’s authority by lies that indicated that eating the forbidden fruit would not bring a death judgement upon them, instead the fruit would open their eyes to understanding good from evil and elevate them to possessing the knowledge like God:

The Fall

BLCF: Adam_and_Eve

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

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:1 In Hebrew you is plural in verses 1–5 b. Genesis 3:6 Or to give insight

We see that instead of being elevated, their sin caused them a separation from God, along with guilt, shame and eventually ejection from the garden.

The second of today’s featured Scripture verses, Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV), tells how following the Great Flood, humanity spoke the same single language, sought to build a great tower to heaven. The builders expected that the tower bring fame, unity of purpose, and help them from being scattered over the face of the earth. This second sinful act of arrogance that was an overt challenge to the authority of their Maker resulted in God bringing confusion of different languages among the builders of the tower. And the disparate languages, by their very nature, caused the people to scatter over the face of the world.

The Tower of Babel

BLCF: Tower-Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused

While the Babel account does not indicate Satan’s direct involvement in influencing the people in their decision to build themselves a tower to heaven, we know that their sinful nature is a legacy from Adam and Eve original sin in the Garden. But the same sinful arrogance is exhibited by two of Christ’s disciples, described in Mark 10:35-45 (ESV):

The Request of James and John

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35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 10:43 Greek diakonos b. Mark 10:44 Greek bondservant (doulos)

In this account, James and John asked to share in the glory of the Lord, by being given seats on either side of Christ. Jesus replied that their request indicated an ignorance of what Jesus was expected to face, which is his suffering and death on the cross in order to fulfill God’s plan for reconciliation and forgiveness. In order to be glorified, Jesus needed to suffer the pain of judgement for the sins of all of humanity. As Day of Pentecost had not arrived, the disciples did not have the benefit of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit to help them discern the foolishness of their request.

Our Scriptures describe an assortment of sinful actions that people committed in order to obtain a share of God’s knowledge, His Presence and His authority. These actions can be described as peoples’ desire to put lightning in a bottle:

Lightning in a bottle

BLCF: lighting-in-a-bottle

Capturing something powerful and elusive and then being able to hold it and show it to the world.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=lightning%20in%20a%20bottle

The only thing worse than defying the authority of the Lord is betrayal, Matthew 26:14-16 (ESV):
Judas to Betray Jesus

14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Judas’ betrayal happened after the spirit of the devil came upon the disciple. The expectation of the betrayal was not to bring the person to the same level of the Lord. By accepting blood money for the Lord, Judas decided to elevate himself above Christ. The price of this elevation was 30 pieces of silver.
We throughout history, a desire by believers and non-believers, alike, to understand the workings of the universe, as we see in this quote from Shakespeare Quick Quotes:

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There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

your philosophy ] i.e., philosophy (or learning) in general.

The emphasis here should be on “dreamt of”, as Hamlet is pointing out how little even the most educated people can explain.

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quickquotes/quickquotehamletdreamt.html

But the great minds can only postulate theories based upon their limited understanding of the nature of the world. And what is a theory?

theory – noun, plural theories. (dictionary.com)

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1. a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena:
Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Synonyms: principle, law, doctrine.

2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
Synonyms: idea, notion hypothesis, postulate.
Antonyms: practice, verification, corroboration, substantiation

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theory

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Albert Einstein, who was considered one the world’s greatest minds, authored the theory of relativity, based upon astute observations of the natural behavior. Einstein, who described himself as an agnostic with respect to the existence of God, advanced a theory to replace Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Nature. Newton is a firm believer in God.

While Relativity could account for the behavior of matter in most circumstances, there were some aspects of particles fell outside the framework of this theory, which resulted in another theory, the Quantum Theory to be advanced. But Einstein believed that a Unified Theory could be created to bridge the two theories, Relativity and Quantum, and act a single Theory of Everything:

Classical unified field theories – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Since the 19th century, some physicists have attempted to develop a single theoretical framework that can account for the fundamental forces of nature – a unified field theory. Classical unified field theories are attempts to create a unified field theory based on classical physics. In particular, unification of gravitation and electromagnetism was actively pursued by several physicists and mathematicians in the years between World War I and World War II. This work spurred the purely mathematical development of differential geometry. Albert Einstein is the best known of the many physicists who attempted to develop a classical unified field theory.

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

Unified field theory Main article: Classical unified field theories

BLCF: Theory_Of_Everything

Following his research on general relativity, Einstein entered into a series of attempts to generalize his geometric theory of gravitation to include electromagnetism as another aspect of a single entity. In 1950, he described his “unified field theory” in a Scientific American article entitled “On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation”.[153] Although he continued to be lauded for his work, Einstein became increasingly isolated in his research, and his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. In his pursuit of a unification of the fundamental forces, Einstein ignored some mainstream developments in physics, most notably the strong and weak nuclear forces, which were not well understood until many years after his death. Mainstream physics, in turn, largely ignored Einstein’s approaches to unification. Einstein’s dream of unifying other laws of physics with gravity motivates modern quests for a theory of everything and in particular string theory, where geometrical fields emerge in a unified quantum-mechanical setting.

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

BLCF: relativity-2

But does the Bible give any indication as to why scientists have failed to come with a single theory that accounts for the behavior of all aspects of the behavior matter and energy, from the beginning of the universe until the present? The answer to this question could be found in verse 11 of Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 (ESV):

The God-Given Task

BLCF: God-given-task

9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.[a]

Footnotes: a. Ecclesiastes 3:15 Hebrew what has been pursued

There are aspects of our nature that fall beyond the scope of the physical universe, such as mercy, love, grace, and kindness. All are given in reward to faith, us to be seated by Christ. God has granted humble believers a way, through Jesus, to be raised up to be with the Lord, without the help of forbidden fruit, elaborate towers, or a request that put the Lord to the test. Let us take joy in all the He has given us.

1 John 1:1-4 (ESV) The Word of Life 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete. Footnotes: a. 1 John 1:4 Some manuscripts your

1 John 1:1-4 (ESV) The Word of Life
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that your joy may be complete.

And the certainty of experiencing joy comes from Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV):

4 But[a] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made  us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:4 Or And

 

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Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #177: Rejoice, the Lord is King

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7): And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

BLCF: James_1_12