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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Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?

BLCF: Jesus-died-for-our-sins

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?’

© October 16, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF-bulletin-october-16-2016

Based on a Message Shared With BLCF on September 14, 2014

BLCF: cant-to-can

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                   Responsive Reading #633 (The Good Shepherd – John 10); Prayer                                                              

Opening Hymn #237: What Can Wash Away My Sin? ; Choruses                                             

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

Scripture Verses: Romans 3:23, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 John 1:7-9, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58                     

BLCF: miughty-to-sin.jpg

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 John 1:7-9 (ESV)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV) Mystery and Victory

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.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

BLCF: Who_do_you_say_I_Am

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. For the lesson today, I would like to pose a few questions: Who is Jesus? What is sin? What do they mean to me?

To answer these questions, we must first understand their relevance to each other and their mutual context, as found in the Scriptures. Jesus came to propitiate God for sin by his crucifixion on the cross. And what is meant by sin? Romans 3:23 indicates all humanity have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Is sin the act By Adam and eve of disobedience to God’s ordinance, which was the command not to eat fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge”, as described in Genesis 3?

The Apostle Paul describes manifestations of sin as “works of flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV):

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Our hope comes from the blood that Christ shed on our behalf to cleanse us from the unrighteousness of sins which we confess or admit, as describe in 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And with salvation, by faith in Jesus, comes the promise of the resurrection from death and a life immortal, as described in our next Scripture passage, from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV), entitled the Mystery and Victory:

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.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

But some might ask: “Who is Jesus, that he might be capable of removing sin’s stain from each and every believer’s life?”

BLCF: I-Am-Jesus

 

For Jesus is more than a Saviour, as even Christ describes himself using more than a dozen distinct terms, which you will find on the back of today’s bulletin. In the passages, taken from various passages in John’s Gospel, are a set of descriptors, theologians refer today as the “I Am’s of Jesus”:

John 6:51 (ESV) 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 8:23 (ESV) 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:12 (ESV) 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:58 (ESV) 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 10:9 (ESV) I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

John 10:11 (ESV) 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:36 (ESV) 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

John 11:25 (ESV) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 15:1 (ESV) 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

And what does Christ mean when repeatedly exclaims that “I am”’? let us check an online dictionary:

Am – verb – 1st person singular present indicative of be.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/am?s=t

In other words, Jesus states that he describes himself as: living bread; not of this world; the light of the world; before Abraham (he existed before Abraham); the door; the good shepherd; one with the Father (God); Son of God; the resurrection; the life; the way; the truth; the true vine.

Jesus exists is multifaceted and multidimensional in relation to our needs.

If the verses above, containing a descriptor that is preceded by “I am” sounds familiar, you may recall Moses’ encounter with God, the latter appearing as a “burning bush” in Exodus 3:13-15 (ESV):

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.                                                                                

Footnotes: a. Exodus 3:14 Or I am what I am, or I will be what I will be b.Exodus 3:15 The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14

It is totally fitting that Jesus describe himself in the same manner in John’s Gospel as God described Himself in Exodus 3. After all, Jesus tells us in John 10:30 (ESV), that:

I and the Father are one                              

Both Christ and the Father are part of the Godhead, commonly called the Holy Trinity, with the third part being the Holy Spirit.

So far we have answered the first two questions I raised at the beginning of today’s lesson: “Who is Jesus?” and “What is sin?” But what about the third question, referring to the previous two: “What do the mean to me?”

This question was answered within some the verses that we studied today. Each of us is guilty of sin, as indicated in Romans 3:23 (ESV):

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We only need to believe that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as we see in John 11:25 (ESV):

 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

As followers of the Resurrected Christ, we walk in the light, cleansed from all of sins unrighteousness, remember the Scripture passage from, 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

BLCF: walking_in_light_vs_darkness

 

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn # 158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21): 

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: Peace through Jesus