Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

© April 29, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on March 13, 2011

BLCF Bulletin April 29, 2018

 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

 Opening Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day (Heaven Came Down); Choruses

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

 Responsive Reading #636 (The Holy Spirit Promised – John 14 and 16)

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. The lesson for this Sunday morning is ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call, where our Scripture passages look at two accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Way of the Lord, Christ Jesus, that were told by Luke in his gospel, The Book of Acts.

We, as contemporary converts, can easily understand and identify with many of the aspects of Saul’s conversion.

Both Saul’s conversion, as well as our own conversions, took place after the Lord’s glorification, which is to say after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, and the Day of Pentecost.

For a look at the significance of the conversion of Saul, let us look at some of the points, courtesy of Grace Communion International:

Luke begins his description of Paul’s conversion in chapter 9 by continuing the story of his persecution of the church. “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” says Luke of Paul’s campaign of persecution against the church in Jerusalem (9:1).

Paul even travels to other towns, Damascus in particular, in order to round up Christians. As he later tells King Agrippa, “I even hunted them down in foreign cities” (26:11). To Paul, stamping out the Christians is a necessary part of doing God’s will. They are teaching a blasphemous heresy that threatens the people of God (the Jews) and the sanctity of the law and temple. It is surely God’s will that such people should be silenced.

Paul can justify his actions against the church by looking to the heroes of Israel’s history. Phinehas killed an Israelite man and Midianite woman who were defying the law of God (Numbers 25:6-15). Elijah killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees, used violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people (1 Maccabees 2:1-28, 42-48).

Thus it is that Paul sets out toward Damascus with the zeal of an avenging prophet. He has letters from the high priest with authority to extradite any Christians he finds in the synagogues of Damascus. Paul will capture them and return them to Jerusalem for trial and punishment (9:2). Most likely those being hunted down are the Hellenistic Christians who fled Jerusalem, not those who lived permanently in Damascus. So far as we know, the high priest has no direct authority over the latter, since they are not in his immediate jurisdiction.

Later, Paul explains that the entire council signed the order of extradition he was given (22:5). Luke is pointing out that the Jewish leaders continue to be in the forefront of trying to eradicate the new sect of Jesus believers. Some questions have arisen over exactly what powers of extradition the letters from the high priest gave Paul. Two centuries earlier, Rome had decreed that Jews who fled to Egypt could be extradited to Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 15:15-24). They were then to be punished according to Jewish law.

Whether this authority to extradite exists in the time of Paul is not known. It’s possible the high priest still holds the power of extradition from the Roman authorities. If not, the Sanhedrin may be relying on its clout with local synagogues to cooperate in this matter. The political situation in Judea is unstable, with the Roman governor not wanting to intervene in “Jewish matters.” Thus, the council may hope to punish as many Christians as possible without the advance knowledge or intervention of the Roman authority.

https://www.gci.org/bible/acts9

Stoning of Stephen – Acts 7

We share with Saul, the burden of sins. Though we may not have been responsible for persecuting others based upon their beliefs, seeking to punish and ultimately execute others, who Saul was convinced were teaching a blasphemous heresy against the faith and God.

Just like some modern day religious zealots, Saul sought to use “violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people.”

After all, Saul reasoned, he was only doing God’s will. Violence against these Christians was God’s will, he believed.

Saul was 100% wrong, for he was singled out in a direct encounter with our Lord on the way to Damascus, Acts 9:1-16 (ESV):

The Conversion of Saul

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”      

God has chosen prophets and leaders by revealing Himself or His will through dreams, visions, angels, and even a burning bush.

In the above Scripture passage, we see that it is Saul of Tarsus who is a living example of a person who twists God’s Word and HIS will, in order serve his own interest by committing great evil and by offends the Lord, which prompts the Lord to reveal himself to Saul and ask:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6)

In our second Scripture passage, taken from Acts 2, Luke tells the amazing account of the conversion of Saul to discipleship to the Lord. The reborn disciple gives the following testimony, Acts 22:6-16 (ESV):

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

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

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In our second Scripture passage, Paul identifies the Lord as speaking to him from heaven with a light brighter than the noonday sun:

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22)

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In acknowledging and renouncing his own sins, Paul is baptized in the Holy Spirit and becomes an apostle or messenger of the Lord.

Paul had offended God, by persecuting followers of the Way of Christ, though he had been deluded into believing that by persecuting and harming them he was somehow fulfilling the will of God. Again we see repeated, the sins of Adam and Eve, who sought to raise themselves to the same level of God, as well as their son Cain, who sought to murder Abel, who was perceived as a threat.

Through the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus, Saul could be forgiven of his sins against God by confessing these sins and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Paul had heard the Lord’s voice and had heeded the call of the Lord, which is all that He expects from us. As for what benefit(s) do the Apostle Paul and we, as believers in the resurrected Christ, receive at the time of the Spirit’s baptism? The answer is found in John 16:7-13 (ESV):

Jesus and Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit and Christ

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.

Jesus, having borne the judgment for all sinners’, which is everyone on the face of the earth, since the Day of Pentecost, had to ascend to and be glorified in heaven, beside God, in order give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Only then will understand and follow God’s will in our lives:

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.  (John 16)

Let us pray…

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

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30): “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen.

 

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Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’

© July 23, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared at BLCF on October 4, 2015

BLCF Bulletin July 23, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                 

Opening Hymn #126: Amen, Amen! ; Choruses                                                  

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

Responsive Reading #638 (The Holy Spirit Promised – John 14 and 16)    

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’

                  

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’.

Through a series of verses, we will find how the Lord answers humanity’s collective cry for help: for companionship, guidance, understanding, peace, mercy, grace, the Holy Spirit, love, the Lord’s testimony, baptism, and unity of faith, to enable us to implement the “Great Commission’ of Sharing the Gospel of Christ. The Scripture verses which we may use as a roadmap to guide us on the path as apostles or messengers of the Gospel are found in your bulletin.

We need faith in the Lord, and acknowledge Whom will guide us on our journey, as we see in Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV):

My Help Comes from the Lord 

  

A Song of Ascents.

121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.     

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,     

who made heaven and earth.

Our help comes from our creator, our Lord who made heaven and earth. The Lord knows where help is needed among His creation. The first need was Adam’s need for a companion or helper. And so, God created Eve, Genesis 2:18-24 (ESV):

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for[a] him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed[b] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam[c] there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made[d] into a woman and brought her to the man.

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”[e]

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:18 Or corresponding to; also verse 20 b. Genesis 2:19 Or And out of the ground the Lord God formed c.Genesis 2:20 Or the man d. Genesis 2:22 Hebrew built e. Genesis 2:23 The Hebrew words for woman (ishshah) and man (ish) sound

God created woman not just as a helper, but a wife to man, so that the husband and wife may physically be one in the eyes of the Lord.

We know the story of how the first man and woman fell from God’s grace by the sin of disobedience. This disappointed Him and brought separation of the man and woman from His grace, as well as the judgment of death.

God continued to have love and compassion for His creation, and so he sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, as a final sacrifice to bring forgiveness, grace and a New Covenant to humanity. We acknowledge this sacrificial gift and Covenant, as a united body of believers, every time we partake in Communion.

This New Covenant from the Lord includes not only the promise of our resurrection from death, but also the gift of the continuous presence of God’s Holy Spirit, John 14:25-27 (ESV): 

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper[a], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Footnotes: a. John 14:26 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also John 14:16; 15:2616:7

Just as the Lord provided for man’s need for companionship, by creating woman as a physical helper; He sends men and woman, grace through Jesus, and Spiritual companionship by way of a Spiritual helper, the Holy Spirit.

Christ’s answer’s humanity’s need for grace and mercy from the Lord. Jesus sends his helper, the Holy Spirit, to provide the faithful with companionship, guidance, understanding, and peace.

Having been forgiven by faith in Jesus as our Lord and savior, and gifted as vessels of the Holy Spirit, we may draw closer to God’s throne of grace in the time of need, with Jesus being our intercessor, the Great High Priest, Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV):

Jesus the Great 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.

Having received mercy, grace, and the gift of the Spirit, we may gather together, as a Body of Believers or Christ’s Church, where we may ask and receive from God anything according to His will, Matthew 18:19-20 (ESV);

19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Salvation is a gift of God, given to us as an expression of His love, 1 John 4:10 (ESV):

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Having accepted the gifts of salvation and grace from the Lord, we are equipped to share the Gospel of Christ, which is his testimony of love, and our testimony of faith, 1John 5:6-10 (ESV):

Testimony Concerning the Son of God

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

Part of our testimony of faith is expressed through the observance of Communion as a single body of believers, where on the first Sunday of each month, we eat and drink the elements of Communion to acknowledge the Lord’s sacrifice on our behalf, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (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.

When we partake in eating and drinking the tangible elements of Communion, we acknowledge our faith in the intangible gifts of mercy, grace and the Holy Spirit. These gifts allow us to embark on the Great Commission of being sent out to share the gospel unto the ends of the earth, John 20:21 (ESV):

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #434: Sweet Hour of Prayer

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.

Three Steps in the Christian’s Walk: Faith, Confidence and Assurance

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 Three Steps in the Christian’s Walk: Faith, Confidence and Assurance

© May 21, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 21, 2017

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #193: Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #636: The Holy Spirit Promised (John 14 and John 16)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     

Three Steps in the Christian’s Walk: Faith, Confidence and Assurance’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service here in the heart of Toronto at BLCF.

Our lesson today is entitled: Three Steps in the Christian’s Walk: Faith, Confidence and Assurance’, where we will look at the three steps of Spiritual transformation Christians experience, as they undertake to walk with the Lord.

The first step is the decision to accept that Jesus died for the sake of humanity, in order to remove the judgment we all face for our sins.

Simply put: everybody has sinned and face the penalty of paying for those sins with their lives, as we read in today’s first Scripture passage, Galatians 3:22 (ESV):

22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Jesus allowed himself to be judged for our sins and to pay the penalty for them with his life. However, being the Son of God, Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, establishing a New Covenant with God. And as believers in Christ’s Resurrection, we are elevated to become Ministers of the New Covenant, as we see in our next Scripture, 2 Corinthians 3:1-4 (ESV):

Ministers of the New Covenant

 3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our[a] hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.[b]

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

Footnotes: a. 2 Corinthians 3:2 Some manuscripts your b. 2 Corinthians 3:3 Greek fleshly hearts

Christ’s resurrection gives us the assurance that: not only are we are forgiven for our sins, we now, by our faith, become living testaments for the Lord. That same faith described in Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And this assurance or confidence by faith in the Resurrection of the Lord brings to us His blessing, John 20:29 (ESV):

29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Along with the Lord’s blessing for faith, we have the promise of our own resurrection and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who was granted to all believers after Jesus ascended up to heaven.

The reason why Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit is explained in John 16:4-15 (ESV):

The Work of the Holy Spirit

 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

 “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.

It is this assurance in the promise in Christ, which is God’s New Covenant that we are to share as our testament of the Good News or Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

To recapitulate the ‘three steps in the Christian’s walk’ are:

  1. Faith – that God loves you so much, that he sent Jesus, his only Son to die for your judgment and reconcile you to Him. A relationship that Adam and Eve had lost through sin has been restored once and for all through Jesus.
  2. Confidence – that  Jesus was raised by the Holy Spirit from the dead and walked for a time on the earth both as a proof of his identity as part of the Triune, God’s Holy Trinity, and show the promise of God’s New Covenant to those who have faith in Him.
  3. Assurance – in the promise from Jesus, that on that appointed day, our Lord will return to raise his flock of believers to his eternal kingdom and to judge those who have denied and rejected him, by word or deed.

In conclusion, your walk throughout eternity begins with the Lord three important steps; or to coin a phrase based on philosopher Lao Tzu’s well known proverb, ‘the journey of a thousand miles towards eternity begins with but three steps.’

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is mine

Benediction – (Romans 15:13): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.