Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’

© August 13, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 13, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                       

Opening Hymn #466: God of Grace and God of Glory; Choruses                         

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

Responsive Reading #646 (Spiritual Warfare – Ephesians 6,                                2 Corinthians 10, 2 Timothy 4)     

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                             ‘Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Our lesson today, entitled: ‘Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’, we will examine what the Apostle Paul referred to as The Whole Armor of God in his letter addressed to the Church, composed of God’s holy people in Ephesus, found in Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV):

 The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

At first blush, we might mistake Paul’s Epistle as describing instructions, telling the members of the Church of Ephesus to don a soldier’s armor for battle. Such misinterpretation of the scriptures happens when the reader has difficulty differentiating between when a Scripture passage is read literally and when read as a metaphor.

Clearly, in Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul intends the Armor of God to be a metaphor for the aspects of what the church needs to prepare for the spiritual battle that occurs when the devil unleashes an onslaught of spiritual forces of evil against the Church of Christ, Jesus.

I recall as a youth in San Antonio,Texas, Hurricane Carla brought heavy rain and wind for hours and suddenly, as the eye or centre of the storm passed overhead, the rain abruptly stopped, the sun came out, and a quiet calm arrived. It was eerie, that while eye of the storm appeared as a pleasant reprieve from the violent storm front, there were still signs of impending danger. The birds reinforced this sense of dread by the conspicuous silence; no singing or calls. Dogs in the neighborhood were strangely silent as well. Looking west, in the distance, I could see the storm wall which is the boundary of the eye. It was at the boundary of the hurricane’s eye, I could make out two distinct funnel clouds indicating a pair of sister tornadoes showing why the eye wall is considered to be a hurricane’s most devastating region. But before I had a chance to fully appreciate the beauty and danger of Carla’s eye, the trail edge of the storm arrived in its fully fury!

Tornado generated at the eye wall of a Hurricane

The devil continuously attacks the Church in many ways, because through Christ Jesus, the members are saved and the devil wants to separate us from the grace of the Lord that we receive. Satan will try to lull Christ’s Church by drawing attention to the calm of the eye of the storm, while ignoring  the dangers.

But Christ does not bring us a temporary calm from life’s storms, but promises us  to save us from the fury of the storm waves, launched upon us by the devil, We are saved by His amazing grace, Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV):

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

We find a good description of meaning of the Armor of God protects us from a storm of evil in a commentary authored by Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia:

 Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20

Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

The active role of the church is not altogether surprising, given the writer’s previous indication that God has “raised us up with [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (2:6). This exaltation is a unique expression of the church’s identity among New Testament writings. However, it is interesting to note that, while Christians are already seated with Christ in the heavenly places, this position does not eliminate the need for struggle. The wrestling “against the spiritual forces of evil” also takes place “in the heavenly places” (6:12).

While modern Christians are likely to have a view of heaven as a paradise in which no evil dwells, the writer of Ephesians is drawing on a different set of cultural assumptions, one in which a struggle between cosmic forces occurs within the heavenly realm. Christians, who already reign with Christ in some sense, are obligated to participate in this struggle.

The armor of God that the church takes up relates to the message that the author has already laid out. The theological message of Ephesians 1-3 is now depicted metaphorically as preparation for a spiritual battle in which believers engage through their actions. By girding themselves with the “belt of truth” (6:14), readers metaphorically prepare themselves for the work to which they have already been called: they are to “speak the truth in love” to one another (cf. 4:15, 25). Similarly the “breastplate of righteousness” relates to the “new self” with which they are to clothe themselves, as beings “created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24).

The author has earlier explained the “gospel of peace” (6:15), for which readers should ready themselves by putting on shoes. In reconciling Jews and Gentiles into one body, Christ “is our peace” (2:14). The elimination of hostility through Jesus’ death on the cross is central to the letter’s understanding of the heart of the gospel message. It is this message of reconciliation that should lead the church to the behavior indicated here and in the rest of Ephesians 4-6.

In addition to these, the reader is exhorted to take up “the shield of faith” (6:16). According to Ephesians, faith activates the power of God (cf. 1:19; 2:8). Salvation is God’s gift, yet it also comes through the believer’s faith (3:12). It is “through faith” that Christ dwells in the believer’s heart (3:17). Metaphorically, taking up the shield of faith communicates the protection that faith activates. The salvation that comes as God’s gift through faith is depicted as the ability “to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (6:16).

Prayer (6:18) is an activity that is connected to the taking up of God’s armor. The author also prays on behalf of the church for their strength and understanding (cf. 3:13-19). The church is instructed to pray for all of the saints and for the author as well. The cosmic adversaries of 6:12 carry an eschatological tinge, because the imagery of God taking up God’s armor to seek justice was related in first century culture to the notion of the day of the Lord. Yet in Ephesians’ reworking of the imagery, the battle with cosmic forces is not simply a battle delayed for a future day of God’s judgment, but is a present battle believers must engage on a regular basis.

The church’s struggle is a heavenly one against spiritual powers, but it is acted out on a more mundane level in the types of behavior to which the reader is called. The “chains” of the writer’s imprisonment (6:20) are another reminder of the ways that the “cosmic powers of this present darkness” impinge on the lives that believers live in this world. The armor of God does not mean that the church will not encounter difficulties, then, but enables Christians to encounter such difficulties. Through perseverance and prayer, the church may boldly proclaim the gospel even in the midst of persecution and hardship.

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=379

The Armor of God described by Paul in Ephesians 6 is composed of elements, some of which are provided by the Lord, such as: truth, righteousness, salvation, and the Spirit.

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus – The way, the truth, and the life

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) – The righteousness of God

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) – Salvation through Christ

25 Consequently, he is able to save completely those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

 

 

  2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) – Spirit given by God

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

The remaining elements of the Armor of God, come from the church or body of believers, they are: peace, faith, prayer, and fasting.

Hebrews 12:14 (ESV) – Peace with Everyone

14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 1 John 5:5 (ESV) – Faith in Christ

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 1 Corinthians 7:5 (ESV) – Prayer and Fasting

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

In conclusion, when we don the Armor of God, we dwell with confidence in a place of refuge which is a fortress from all the spiritual forces of evil that come forth as schemes of the devil, an assurance described in Psalm 91:1-6 (ESV):

My Refuge and My Fortress

 

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

Let us pray…

 

Closing Hymn #544: When I Can Read My Title Clear

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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Following the Lord’s Steps, According to His Plan

BLCF: Does-god-care_wide

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© September 7, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

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

Scriptures: Proverbs 16:9, Exodus 3:1-12, John 14:1-14, John 16:1-15   

  BLCF:God's_blueprint_plan                       

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 myths, even to some Christians.

The first, is that since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God has abandoned of us because of sin. The second 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 from a lifestyle that distances them from the Lord.

BLCF: God_reveals_Himself

Because of this common misconception many sinner 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 has a plan just for you, as we see in the first of this morning’s Scripture Verses, Proverbs 16:9 (ESV):

The heart of man plans his way,     

but the Lord establishes his steps.

BLCF: Whats-The-Plan

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

BLCF: Moses_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

BLCF: Exodus_13-GodLedIsraelInPillarsOfCloudAndFire

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

BLCF: answered_by_fire_by_rob_joseph

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.

BLCF: pillarofcloud

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 to  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.

BLCF: map-egypt-sinai-exodus-route

We know that having restored the identity and free will of His people, God’s next step of 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

BLCF: IAmTheWayTruthLife

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

BLCF: God-says-trust-me-i-will-show-you-psalm126-6

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

BLCF: Holy_Spirit-fire

“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…

BLCF: Bible-says-quot-trust-God

Closing Hymn # 324: Be Still, My Soul

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

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.

BLCF: God_reveals