Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

© April 11, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based On Messages Originally Published September 19, 2010 and on July 13, 2014

BLCF Bulletin 13, 2014

BLCF: Cross_Runners

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading # 648 ( A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer                                             

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

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

Scriptures: Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Acts 20:24, and 2 Timothy 4:7 

BLCF: MARATHON-RUN

Let us pray…

In this age of instant fast foods, instant bank tellers (a.k.a. bank machines), movies on demand, and instant access to a wealth of information via the internet, it is refreshing to slow the tempo of our surroundings and do something that requires more than just a few minutes of our time to complete. For some, such low tempo activities includean extended period of unstructured time, untethered to clocks, schedules or timetables. For others, it is the challenge of completing a goal that involves continuous effort for a protracted period of time, dedication, commitment and provides a goal worthy of the effort.

One such event is the marathon, a cross-country run, not run as a competition between individual participants, but as a vehicle for a group of people to raise awareness and funds, by its participants in order to recognize or help others who suffer from, are afflicted by or have died from a disease or affliction. An example of one such marathon for a cause is the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research, which occurs annually every around September 14, on the second Sunday after Labour Day.

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The Terry Fox Run takes place annually on the second Sunday after Labour Day. The Terry Fox Run dates over the years:

2014September 1434th Anniversary
2015September 2035th Anniversary
2021September 1941st Anniversary

Some people run in marathons for personal satisfaction of completing the challenge of the race. For others it is all about the cause.

The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards), which is usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon (the namesake of the race) to Athens. Upon completion of the run where Pheidippides reported a victory, he collapsed and died. While he had died he completed his task and gave the message which gave hope and joy to the people of Athens.

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Today, many marathon races are run to commemorate a person or just cause. Often the person and the cause are inseparable, such as the Terry Fox Run. Though he never finished his race, the effort and idea of running across Canada to raise awareness of, and funding for, Cancer was a victory for him.

We have with the Terry Fox Run, no individual winners; only a common desire amongst the runners to defeat Cancer. In our race as Christians, we run together to defeat Satan, to defeat death and win victories for God.

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While Paul and other authors of the Scriptures speak of running or winning a race, I think the God was not speaking of a short sprint or even a middle or long distance event. God was talking of a long endurance race, such as the marathon. A life-long marathon.

And how do we prepare ourselves for in the long run, (if you excuse the pun)? God does provide us with a “Runners Handbook” in His Word. Here are a few of the important verses to prepare us for the race of life, beginning where the Bible describes ways of preparing the believer for the challenges encountered along the way of a lifelong “Christian Walk:

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Ephesians 6:10-20, describes them as wearers of ‘The Whole Armour 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.

And in 1 Chronicles 12:22, talks of the ‘The Army of God.’

22 For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.

We are part of the “army of God”, engaged in battle, wearing the armour of God. But armour is not the only analogy given to our Faith Walk.

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The Bible in 1 Corinthians 12:27, also, describes Christian believers as part of the “body of Christ”.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

BLCF: Body of Christ

Looking at 2 Corinthians 5:20,we are “Christ’s ambassadors”; His envoys, representing him in this world.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Ephesians 5:22-33 describes the church of believers as “bride of Jesus”, with Christ being the groom, described similar to the relationship between a wife and husband.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Footnotes: a. Or holy and blameless

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The Bible likens us in 1 Corinthians 3:17, to a “temple of God”.

17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

 We are “healthy branches” and Christ is the vine, as described in John15:5.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

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Matthew 5:13-16, characterizes Christian believers as “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

Each one of these is varied and each one is valid.  Each one could easily take a sermon to explain and understand.

However, let me simplify all of them by describing them an aspect of our personal relationship with God. As soldiers in God’s army, wearing God’s armor we battle both Satan and sin. God is our Commander-in-Chief; the Bible gives us both His strategy and the weapons to battle within the scriptures. However, the battle, that challenges both our determination and tests our endurance, is lifelong; but great are the victories won, if we stay faithful in serving the Lord. Victory is found in souls saved from the final judgment of death by receiving God’s love and avoiding the obstacles Satan places in our path. The gaol and reward is salvation and eternal life.

Once we have made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, having confessed our sins, and committing ourselves to God, we are immediately appointed His ambassadors. As ambassadors our passports are stamped by the precious blood of Christ who died for our sins. As so we carry the diplomatic immunity from judgment for our sins. But we are expected to represent the Kingdom of God in an appropriate and fitting manner. Our diplomatic mandate requires us to understand God’s purpose and policies, as outlined in the Bible. And as Holy diplomats, we must use the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit to walk, talk and act as messengers of truth. Otherwise, we lose credibility and do our appointed position a disservice and dishonor the One who sacrificed so much that we may be His representatives, unto the ends of the world.

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A bride and groom are joined together in marriage until death. That is until death bids them to part. But God expects married partners not to be unequally-yoked. Like a pair of oxen, of one we stronger than the other. Otherwise the cart or the plough, or whatever the team pull, would be drawn into circles. God wants us walking a straight path, with straight rows, not making crazy crop circles. A bride and groom are kept together because they share the same values, seek the same goals, and work together in harmony. Jesus, the groom, did His part to provide for his bride, which is the church, by fulfilling the scriptures and being the last and final sacrificial lamb for all of humanity. Every believer; man and woman, Jew and Gentile, adult and child, alike may be judged sinless forever in God’s eyes’ thanks to the sacrifice of Christ.

And the bride in this relationship, being the Church, has the responsibility to maintain and nourish the faith; to ensure all her children understand the message of the Gospel, as well as God’s unconditional gift of love. Not for only a day; not until the kids are grown; and not until retirement; but until death, which in God’s time frame, forever! Forever includes this lifetime, the next, as well as the hereafter.

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A married couple may have a wedding album to mark that special day, with all the events of the day being recorded by the photos,  as well as by saved mementos which, when added to the photos, make the scrapbook a tapestry of a life event. This album is often followed by other albums to record other important events, such as: birthdays, vacations, anniversaries and other significant events of a whole lifetime bound within the albums’ collective pages. Today, tech savvy couples may post such images on social media pages, such as Facebook, Flickr, BLOGs and Instagram on the Internet for the whole world to see. To make a good impression, these social media albums are edited to show only the best images of what we do.

BLCF: BOOK-OF-LIFE

The Lord keeps an album too, sometimes referred to our “Book of Life”. Unlike our scrapbook albums, this one has a record of all that we do, say and think; the good as well as the bad. But like our album, all of the good and bad will be posted for all to see come Judgment Day. That is a daunting thought, for instead of warranting a title such as “The Highlights of My Life”, the title for such a Book might have one sounding like a spaghetti western title like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of My Life”! To the Lord the content of this Judgement Book that is important to Him includes: whether we have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; whether we have confessed our sins; and perhaps most importantly, have we embarked upon the race that the Lord has set for us as Christian believers: to spread the Gospel to others and whether we grew in faith and trust in His Way.

Before I get carried away, and attempt to comment on all of these examples of our Christian walk, let me address the topic of this Sunday’s message: ‘Are you running from God’s judgment or towards His grace’?  There is another analogy of the Christian walk, but the Apostle Paul describes it as a race, like a marathon. With a few exceptions, the runners of these races are not necessarily running the race as competitors against each other, but like the marathons for a just cause, as a group running with the common goal of just making it to the finish line by overcoming the challenges of obstacles, such as the wall of pain and exhaustion. They must find inner strength from within and demonstrate to the world that they can continue the race into to the end.

BLCF: Woman Running

I have a sister-in-law, Suuzi who is a triathlete. She does triathlons, which include three endurance races combined in a single marathon race. Part of the race is in the water; part is like the original marathon is on foot; and part is on bicycle. One of Suuzi’s first races took place in Hamilton, early in the month May, with the first leg to be swum in Hamilton Harbor. My brother-in -law recorded that race with over three hundred participants at the starting line.  At the start of the race,  we  see that the starting gun goes off and the triathletes run into water. In the next scene of the video, about half of the participants doing a 180 – turnaround and run right back out of the water.

BLCF: cold water swim

If you are curious as to how cold the water of Lake Ontario can be in early May, ask Sophie as she was baptized in Lake Ontario at Sunnyside Park in the month of May.

I believe Suuzi was one of those who ran in, then out of the lake. She and the other runners were not prepared for the conditions of the lake. Eventually Suuzi re-entered the lake and eventually finished her race.

BLCF: kangaroos

Recently, Suuzi lived in Australia for a couple of years, and while on the road had her training run interrupted by a gang of kangaroos, which surrounded Suuzi on the roadside. This kangaroo encounter, while somewhat bizarre and sounding humorous could have had a very serious outcome, as the hopping marsupials are well known for their aggressive and combative behavior. Fortunately, Suuzi escaped from the encounter, unharmed. After she escaped the kangaroo threat, Suuzi actually returned to the same location with her husband, camera in hand, hoping to take a photograph the ‘roos. Come to think of it, it is likely that Suzie’s photo albums, at least those documenting her runs, are likely to be quite different from the norm.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, those running the ‘Race of Christian Faith’, we must be prepared for the unexpected, which is Satan’s way of distracting us from our goal of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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In school I used to like running to middle distance races. A middle distance was 880 yards before metrification or 800 meters today. I recall during one practice run, where I knew none of my opponents. I had taken, and was maintaining, a lead over the rest of the pack for most of the race, with one pesky runner, whose name was Alan, maintained a pace beside and behind me for most of the race.

At one point of the race, near the last thirty yards of the finish line, Alan looked at me with a show of apparent concern saying, “You look tired! Are you OK? Maybe you should take it easy, as it is only a practice.”

For me that was I all I needed to hear. My legs and arms were burning, my lungs bursting at my efforts and Alan’s words spoke to me of everything that my body felt. I was done, as Alan had effectively broken my focus enough to pass me and win the race.

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In our race on the Glory Road, we too have someone like Satan whispering in our ears that the water is too cold to swim or that we have reached an insurmountable wall. Even something as innocuous as “Oh look a bunch of kangaroos”. Whatever it is, we must resist the temptation to stop or quit the race. For in quitting, we hand the garland of victory to Satan!

We must not be diverted from our route or distracted from the goal in our race. Satan loves to chill the water in which we swim or throw a kangaroo or two in our path. He will do anything to make us lose our focus and ultimately to stop us from running God’s race. Remember, that Jesus, immediately following his baptism and having received the Holy Spirit, was taken into the desert, where he fasted and was repeatedly tested by Satan. But Jesus, through faith in His Father, and by his knowledge of the scriptures, stayed on track and defeated Satan. Jesus’ victory was our victory. Jesus did not allow himself to be detoured from his appointed path to defeat sin on our behalf.

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Having prepared ourselves for the race, let us review the race set before us:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV)

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

BLCF: 1Corinthins_9_24-27

         1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) 

4Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  

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The goal of our race is testify to the Gospel of Christ and to keep the faith:

  Acts 20:24 (ESV)  

24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

  2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

And if we set upon the marathon of our life, intent to share, without distraction, the Gospel of Christ and keep our faith in the Lord, then when our race is run. We may claim for ourselves the rewards of our efforts to draw closer to the Lord’s “Throne of Grace”, so that we may receive His mercy and, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, find the grace to help those who have not yet found it.

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Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For 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.                                                                                          

Let Us Pray…

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Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

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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Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’

© December 24, 2017, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 24, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #108: The First Noel, the Angel Did Say;                                     

Christmas Hymns (from the Hymnal)

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

Prayer Requests

Responsive Reading #627 (The Savior’s Advent – Luke 2); Prayer 

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’;           

Lighting of the 4th Advent Candle and the Christ Candle

Let us pray …

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for December 24, 2017.

Today we will light the fourth Advent Candle, lit on the fourth and final Sunday before Christmas. This candle is commonly called the Candle of Peace.

Advent Season is where we observe on each of the successive Sunday before Christmas, the events foretold in Scripture, including the birth of the Christ child, Jesus. Jesus came to be the world’s Messiah or Christ, who was anticipated by humanity and promised by God. Over the last three Sundays, we studied in Scripture how God revealed to the prophets, the Magi, as well as to Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds the birth of Jesus. God revealed the event by way of Devine Prophecy, dreams, visitations of angelic messengers, and a star in the heavens. Each Advent Sunday, we lit a candle and read appropriate verses.

Though worshipers may vary the order of the designation or name of the four Advent Candles, which is really not as important as acknowledging that, after the four Sundays of Advent, that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem to complete God’s covenant. The Advent and Christ Candles, all remind us that Christ came to bring light into a dark world, filled with sin. Let us review the order of Advent candles lit here at BLCF over the last month, what they represent and one of the verses that we read for each respective Sunday:

1st Sunday of Advent which represents our Hope in Christ – we lit the Prophets’ Candle and read Romans 15:12-13 (ESV):

12 And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

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.

 2nd Sunday of Advent which represents our Faith in Christ – we lit the Bethlehem Candle and read Luke 3:4-6 (ESV):

 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,[
a]
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Footnotes: a. Luke 3:4 Or crying, Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord

 3rd Sunday of Advent which represents our Joy in Christ – we lit the Shepherds’ Candle and read Luke 2:7-15 (ESV):

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[a]

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[b]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:7 Or guest room b. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

The lighting of the 4th Candle of Advent

Today we light the 4th Candle of Advent, representing the Candle of Peace or God’s Love. Let us reflect upon the verse John 3:16-17 (ESV):

For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world

Since today is not only the 4th Sunday of Advent, it happens to also be Christmas Eve, when a 5th candle, called the Christ Candle is traditionally lit.

The 5th Candle: Christ Candle (John 8:12)

On Christmas Eve, we will light the Fifth Candle or Christ Candle and reflect upon the following significant aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Jesus is our light, Son of God and son of man; the King of kings.

Jesus is our hope; he died a man and rose from the grave; the highest Priest of priests.

Jesus is our peace; he brought us our salvation from the judgment of sin; no more worry, pain or fear.

Jesus is our joy; promising us eternal life. He demonstrates God’s love– pure, holy, undying love.

Whoever believes in Him will never perish but have eternal life! (John 3:16).

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD! (Psalm 4:6b)

Christ Candle

Celebrating the birth of Jesus and rejoice in His coming to us, we light the Christ candle. Let us read the verse: John 1:5 (ESV):

Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Light represents an important symbol in the Scriptures, often represented by flame or a candle, as we light the Christ Candle, let us read John 8:12 (ESV):

   I Am the Light of the World

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.”

Mary Fairchild in Christianity.about.dot com gives a further explanation of what the light, represented today by a lit candle, signifies:

Christianity Symbols Illustrated Glossary: Light in the Bible

Light represents the presence of God. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and to the Israelites in the pillar of flame.

The eternal flame of God’s presence was to be lit in the Temple in Jerusalem at all times. In fact, in the Jewish Feast of Dedication or “Festival of Lights” we remember the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple after being desecrated under Greco-Syrian captivity. Even though they only had enough sacred oil for one day, God miraculously causes the eternal flame of his presence to burn for eight days, until more purified oil could be processed.

Light also represents the direction and guidance of God. Psalm 119:105 says God’s Word is a lamp to the feet and a light to our path. 2 Samuel 22 says the Lord is a lamp, turning darkness into light.

http://christianity.about.com/od/symbolspictures/ig/Christian-Symbols-Glossary/Light-of-the-World.htm

Closing Hymn: #117: Silent Night! Holy Night!

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 4:6):

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

“May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ Child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever.” 

 – John Armstrong

 

Overcoming Darkness of the World with Light from the Word

Light over darkness

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Overcoming Darkness of the World with Light from the Word’

© December 27, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 27, 2015

BLCF: Psalm-119-105-22

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #631: (The Incarnate Christ – John 1); Prayer                 

 Hymn #105: What Child Is This, Who, Laid to Rest                                              

Hymn #102: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus                                                       

Hymn #109: Once in Royal David’s City                                                                                

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

Scriptures: Psalm 119:105, John 1:1-18, John 12:44-50, 2 Peter 1:16-21

BLCF: animaties-kerststallen-99411

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service, on this, the last Sunday of 2015.

For the last month, we observed each of the Advent Services by lighting four Advent Candles, one on each Sunday, which respectively represent the hope, peace, joy, and love that our Savior’s nativity brings us.

Today we have a fifth candle, known as the Christ candle, which is lit to observe the nativity or birth of the Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

Many believe that the New Covenant, between God and humanity, began with the birth of the Lord in Bethlehem and ended with Christ’s death on the cross at Calvary.

This somewhat simplified view of our Lord is both inaccurate and incomplete. To begin with, the New Covenant was spoken by our Lord at the Passover Supper, which Christians commonly refer to as the Lord’s Supper or the Last Supper, which he broke bread and served wine to begin the institution or practice of the Communion between God and humanity. As part of this New Covenant, believers are instructed to regularly observe Communion until the day the Lord returns.

While it is true that our Savior’s death on the cross was the final blood sacrifice to atone for humanity’s sins, the oversimplified view that the Lord was born to die really misses other aspects of the Savior impact upon our lives.

A more complete assessment of Gospel of Christ could be given, as follows:

Jesus is often referred to as the ‘Word made flesh’ and as the ‘Light of the world’, as we see in Psalm 119:105 (ESV):

 

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105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

This light which came from God to shine in a world enveloped in the darkness of sin as described in Isaiah 9:2(ESV):

 

BLCF: GREAT_DARKNESS_GREAT_LIGHT

2 [a] The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:2 Chapter 9:1 in Hebrew

 

While we have the arrival of the Christ child alluded to by Isaiah, the physical light God provided at creation, described in Genesis 1:1-3 (ESV) was there at the time of creation:

 

The Creation of the World

BLCF: Genesis1-1

 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

The light we celebrate as Christians is not the physical illumination that comes from the sun, but the Spiritual light from the Word. When we say Word, we are not talking about the Bible, but Jesus, the Word made flesh. It was at his nativity or birth, that Jesus not only arrived as the Word made flesh, we see that the Nativity of Christ brought God to humanity, John 1:1-18 (ESV):

The Word Became Flesh

BLCF: True_Light

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own,[b] and his own people[c] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.[d] 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[e] who is at the Father’s side,[f] he has made him known.

Footnotes: a. John 1:4 Or was not any thing made. That which has been made was life in him b. John 1:11 Greek to his own things; that is, to his own domain, or to his own people c, John 1:11 People is implied in Greek e. John 1:16 Or grace in place of grace f. John 1:18 Or the only One, who is God; some manuscripts the only Son g. John 1:18 Greek in the bosom of the Father

While by Jesus’ birth, we see God coming to humanity, we see in the Crucifixion of Christ, we see the Way he brings humanity to God by removing the judgment for sin, John 12:44-50 (ESV):

 

Jesus Came to Save the World

BLCF: Jesus-the-true-light-of-Christmas

 

44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

The Resurrection of Christ demonstrates the Lord’s glory as Jesus’ brings the promise of eternal life to humanity, 2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV):

 

Christ’s Glory and the Prophetic Word

BLCF: cradle_to_the_Cross

 

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Footnotes: a. 2 Peter 1:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

On the Day of Pentecost, Christ sends humanity the Comforter, which is God’s Holy Spirit, so that, as apostles or messengers of Christ’s Gospel, we empowered by the Spirit to shine the light of Christ throughout the word to the Glory of God,          Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV):

 

Salt and Light

BLCF: light_salt

 

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

 

BLCF: deliver-us-from-evil-final-deliverance

 

In conclusion, Jesus, the Word, existed as part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity at the time of the Creation.

Sin brought a loss of Spiritual light upon humanity, causing us to fall into a state of darkness, devoid of the Spirit.

Jesus, the Word, came as the Son of God, the Word made flesh, in order to restore the Spiritual light upon humanity, by being a final sacrifice to atone for our sins.

 

BLCF: from_darkness_to_light

 

We may celebrate Christ by observing the following:

The Nativity of Christ brought God to humanity.

The Crucifixion of Christ brings humanity to God.

The Resurrection of Christ brings the promise of eternal life to humanity.

On the Day of Pentecost, Christ sends humanity the Comforter, which is God’s Holy Spirit.

And that that the light of Jesus, the Word made flesh, shines to overcome the darkness of the world. A light that shines from all who believe in the Lord , by way of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

 BLCF: Psalm-119-105._jpg

 

 

Closing Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!

Benediction –  (Numbers 6:24-26):

 The Lord bless you and keep you;
 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

amen

 

Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord

BLCF_Nativity2

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’

© December 22, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 22, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #627 (The Savior’s Advent – Luke 2r of Prayer); Prayer               

 Opening Hymn #113: Angels We Have Heard on High

Today’s Scriptures: Scriptures: Ezekiel 34:23, Luke 2:15-20 and John 10:11

BLCf -3Mahi

Let us pray…

This is the fourth and final Sunday of the Advent Season, where we observe the events foretold in Scripture of the birth of the Christ child, Jesus, the Messiah or Christ anticipated and promised by God. Over the last three Sundays, we studied in Scripture how God revealed to the prophets, the Magi, Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds the birth of Jesus. God revealed the event by way of Devine Prophecy, dreams, visitation of angelic messengers, and a star. Each Advent Sunday, we lit a candle and read appropriate verses.

BLCF-Advnt4tSundays

Though worshipers may vary the order of the designation or name of the four Advent Candles, which is really not as important as acknowledging that, after the four Sundays of Advent, that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem to complete God’s covenant. The Advent and Christ Candles, all remind us that Christ came to bring light into a dark world, filled with sin. Let us review the order of Advent candles lit here at BLCF over the last month, what they represent and one of the verses that we read for each respective Sunday:

The 1st Advent Candle: Hope/Prophecy (Luke 1:30-35)

 Luke 1:30-35 (ESV)

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[a]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[b] will be called holy—the Son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man b. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

The 2nd Advent Candle: Bethlehem/Peace (Isaiah 9:2-6)

Isaiah 9:2-6 (ESV)

2 [a] The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[
b] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[
c]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:2 Ch 9:1 in Hebrew b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon c. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

The 3rd Advent Candle: Shepherds’ Candle/ Candle of Love (Isaiah 52:7)

Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Cross references:

  1. Isaiah      52:7 : Nah. 1:15; Cited Rom. 10:15
  2. Isaiah      52:7 : ch. 40:9

The 4th Advent Candle: Candle of Joy/Angel’s Candle (Psalm 126:2-3)

Psalm 126:2-3 (ESV)

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

The 5th Candle: Christ Candle (John 8:12)

BLCF_Advent5thCandle

And this Wednesday, on Christmas Day, we will light the Christ Candle and among other verses, read John 8:12 (ESV):

   I Am the Light of the World

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.”

BLCF_Saviors_Birth

 

Christianity dot about dot com gives a further explanation of what the light, represented today by a lit candle, signifies:

Light in the Bible                                          

Light represents the presence of God. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and to the Israelites in the pillar of flame. The eternal flame of God’s presence was to be lit in the Temple in Jerusalem at all times. In fact, in the Jewish Feast of Dedication or “Festival of Lights” we remember the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple after being desecrated under Greco-Syrian captivity. Even though they only had enough sacred oil for one day, God miraculously causes the eternal flame of his presence to burn for eight days, until more purified oil could be processed.  Light also represents the direction and guidance of God. Psalm 119:105 says God’s Word is a lamp to the feet and a light to our path. 2 Samuel 22 says the Lord is a lamp, turning darkness into light.

http://christianity.about.com/od/symbolspictures/ig/Christian-Symbols-Glossary/Light-of-the-World.htm

BLCF_ChristCandle

But today, the fourth Advent Sunday, we will light what is called the ‘Angel’s Candle’ or the ‘Candle of Joy’.

I think that we all can easily understand the feeling of joy and the message of joy delivered by the angels to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. I believe that touched upon the fact that God uses His angels to deliver messages of great importance and significance to the recipients of the messages. For additional information on the heavenly hosts, I found that Michael K. Jones authored a brief summary found on the back page of today’s bulletin, entitled ‘Angels in Scriptures’:

                BLCF+Angels+Nativity

 Angels in Scriptures -by Michael K. Jones

Angels are pure spirits created by God. Their apparitions and missions by God are constantly mentioned in the Bible. The original meaning of the word “Angel” is messenger; and in general it can be said that although the word is sometimes used of other persons acting as messengers (e.g., human persons, Isaiah 18:2 ; 33:7) normally its use is restricted to the pure spirits who act as divine messengers. Thus God send angels to announce His will, to correct, punish, teach, rebuke, and console (Psalm 102:20; Matthew 4:11; 13:49; 26:53).

 

 Angels were created by God probably at the same time as creation. They were not created all equal (Daniel 10:13) they are commonly grouped into three hierarchies with three choirs each, the name of which are mentioned in the Bible: seraphim (Isaiah6:2,6), cherubim (Genesis 3:24 ; Ezekiel 10:1-22) and Thrones (Colossians1:16) dominations (Colossians 1:16), virtues (1 Peter 3:22), powers (Colossians 1:16 ; 1 Pet. 3:22), principalities (Colossians 1:16), archangels (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and angels. But they were all destined for the glorious vision of God depending on the outcome of a trial to which God subjected them. In this trial some rebelled against God and were consequently cast into hell (2 Peter 2:4).

 

The good angels can see God (Matthew 18:10), are called sons of God (Job 1:6 ; 38:7), aid those who fear God (Psalm 33:8 ; 90:11), are guardians of countries (Daniel 4:10,20 ; 10:10 ,13, 20, 21 ; Acts 16:6) and of individuals (Matthew 18:10) The thought that God appoints an angel to guard every soul from the moment of its birth is a common theological teaching. These so called guardian angels are referenced in the Scriptures (Psalm 90:11; Matthew 18:10).

 

BLCF_Christmas_Angel_3

 

Angels who did not preserve grace but fell from their high state together with Satan (2 Peter 2:4 ; Jude 1:6) are called fallen angels, angels of the devil, or angels of the dragon (Matthew 25:41).

 

Having driven man out of the Garden of Eden, God placed the Cherubim at its gates as guards (Genesis 3:24).Angels were sent to assist Agar (Genesis 16:27; 21:17), Abraham (Genesis 18; 22:11), Lot (Genesis 19), Jacob (Genesis 28:12-22) Elias (3 Kings 19:5) the three children (Daniel 3:49) , and Daniel (Daniel 6:22).  The Law was given through angels (Hebrews 2:2).

 

 An angel guided the people of Israel (Hebrews 12: 22); (Numbers 20:16). God promised to send an angel to His people (Exodus 23:20 ; 33-2), sent to prevent Balaam from cursing His people (Numbers 22:22), and sent another to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-14) And angel rebuked the people (Judges 2:1-4), directed Gedeon (Judges 6:11-40), appeared to Samson’s mother (Judges 13:4-21), punished David (2 Kings 24:16), directed Elias (3 Kings 19:5 ; 4 Kings 1:3-15), and defeated the Assyrians (4 Kings 19:35). Angles also explained visions (Daniel 8:16; 9:21; 10:5 10, 16).

 

An angel appeared to  Joseph (Matthew 1:20 ; 2:13-19) to Zachary (Luke 1:11, 19-20), to the Mary (Luke 1:26-38), to the shepherds (Luke 2:8,15) to our Lord in His agony (Luke 22:43), to the disciples after the Resurrection (Matthew 28:2) and after the Ascension (Acts 1:10), and to Paul (Acts 27:23).

God sent an angel to assist Peter (Acts 10:19; 12:7-11), Cornelius (Acts 10:3; 11:13) the eunuch of Queen Candace (Acts 8:2639): to aid the sick (John 5:4), and to bear the just to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).

 

Angels desire to know the mystery of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:12). They will summon men to judgment (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) although they know not the day (Mark 13:32), and will come with Christ to judge mankind (Matthew 16:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).

angel_0

So we have a good idea of how angels fit into Scriptures. But, let us focus on the Christmas Story and the significance of lighting candles to represent the light of Christ. Earlier, when recalling the second Advent Sunday, I read from Isaiah 9:2-6, where people who walk in darkness have found a great light. We continue that thought in two of today’s Scripture verse from, the 3rd and 8th  Chapters of John’s Gospel:

  John 3:19-21 (ESV)

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 John 8:12 (ESV) I Am the Light of the World

 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.”

Though we Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, having ascended into heaven is unseen by us, we celebrate through faith in the gift of salvation and sanctification he gave us, by taking upon himself the judgment of the sins of all humanity and we have Emmanuel, which means God with us. For a short time God was with humanity in the form of Jesus Christ, who referred to himself as the ‘Son of Man’. But upon his death, and after his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, so that all believers may experience Emmanuel or presence of God through the Holy Spirit, as expressed so succinctly in today’s third Scripture verse from 1 Peter:

 1 Peter 1:8-9 (ESV)                                                    

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

So, at this time, we light the fourth and final Candle of Advent before Christmas, now as the Candle of Joy or Angel’s Candle. May we reflect upon the verse, John 1:5 (ESV):

BLCF+4_advent-0001

Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

The fourth candle, lit on the fourth Sunday of advent, is Angel’s candle. As we light this flame, we are reminded of the heavenly hosts that proclaimed Christ’s arrival with “Behold, I bring unto you good tiding of great joy!” The Angel candle is also purple, reminding us that it was a King’s birth that the angels proclaimed.

And as we light the Fourth Advent Candle: Candle of Joy or Angel’s Candle, may we read from Psalm 126:2-3 (ESV):

  2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.

On Christmas Day, we will light the Fifth Candle or Christ Candle and reflect upon the following significant aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ:

         Christ Candle

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus
and rejoice in His coming to us,
we light the Christ candle.

Jesus Christ is our hope.
He is our peace.

Jesus Christ is our joy.
He is love–
pure, holy, undying love.

Whoever believes in Him will never perish
but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD! (Psalm 4:6b)

BLCF+Merry_Xmas_New_Year

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #120: Joy To The World

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.

BLCF+xmas_New_Yeaar_2014

Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy

Advent Conspiracy header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy 

©November 24, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 24, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #631 (The Incarnate Christ – John 1); Prayer

Opening Hymn #35: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Let us pray…

Today’s message is entitled: Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy might beg for an explanation of terms. The first term is rather straight forward.

Next Sunday, we will observe the first Sunday of Advent and on that occasion we shall reflect upon the significance of the approaching birth of Jesus and how the birth of our Lord changed the world. But what is meant by Advent and what does light candle at represent?

advent-candles

Let us check our Wiki bits definition of Advent Sunday:

Advent Sunday (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches. It also marks the start of the season of Advent.[1] In the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist churches the celebrant wears violet-coloured or blue vestments on this day, and the first violet or blue Advent candle is lit at Mass. In the Church of Sweden, however, the Liturgical colour is white: the motivation is that the day is a joyful feast (the colour is changed to blue, the traditional colour for Advent in Scandinavia, or—if the church does not possess blue vestments—violet after 6 p.m.).

Zechariah 9:9–10 and Matthew 21:1–9 are always read in the service, and the symbolism of the day is that Christ enters the church.

Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This is equivalent to the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, and the Sunday following the Feast of Christ the King. It can fall on any date between 27 November and 3 December. When Christmas Day is a Monday, Advent Sunday will fall on its latest possible date. Note that it is also possible to compute the date of Advent Sunday by adding three days to the date of the last Thursday of November.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_Sunday

Adven+ Conspiracy

But as Christians observe the Advent of Christmas, it is easy to get distracted from the reason for the season, which is the observance of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and instead drawn into what some refer to as the Advent Conspiracy. Having just observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, one might think that the Advent Conspiracy is some sort of plot involving the historical event of the Nativity. No so. There is no assassin on a grassy knoll. Though King Herod did plot a conspiracy, using information from the Magi, to locate and kill the baby Jesus, which God foiled. But that is a topic for another Sunday. But we do have a conspiracy in which the world diminishes the significance of the birth of Jesus.

give more

Here is an excerpt from interviews with the three founders of the Advent Conspiracy from foxnews.com:

Advent Conspiracy ( By Lauren Green  Published December 18, 2009 FoxNews.com)

The Advent Conspiracy movement asks Christians to resist the temptation to spend on extravagant gifts and instead redirect their money to helping the needy.

Greg Holder, who pastors a church in St. Louis, Missouri. is one of the group’s three founding ministers. He says Advent Conspiracy is about having Christians — not retailers — tell the story of Christmas.

“We’re not asking you to join this movement out of guilt or distrust or anger,” he said. “We want you to know that this is not about saying no to something. This is about saying yes to something better.

“So for us it’s re-entering the story, it’s rediscovering the story, that’s where the ‘give more’ comes in.”

Using a video posted on YouTube to market the movement, the Advent Conspiracy has spread to 1,700 of churches in at least 17 countries on four continents, and can even be found on the social networking site Facebook, where nearly 45,000 people have signed up to support the movement.

Houston Pastor Chris Seay, another of the movement’s co-founders, says he has no interest in forcing retailers to say “Merry Christmas” to shoppers in place of the non-sectarian “Happy Holidays.”

“I don’t want to invoke the name of Christ at Wal-Mart — it’s not the most sacred place,” he said. “I would rather you say Happy Holidays … especially when we’re running over little old ladies to get a cheaper television” on Black Friday.

Weary shoppers, laden with packages, see his point.

“It would be nice for (people) to learn to do for others, because that is the true spirit of Christmas and that does make you the most happy,” said New Yorker Candice Wylie. “Not receiving, but giving.”

“It’s about being together (with) family and really what’s important instead of just getting caught up in the commercialization of the whole thing and the franticness of Christmas and trying to spend, spend, spend,” added shopper Lorraine Cona.

Holder and Seay say they are not trying to bash retailers. It’s about rethinking Christmas.

Pastor Patrick McKinley, the movement’s third founder, emphasizes that it’s up the churches to exercise their creativity to let Scripture tell the true Christmas story so “we don’t have to sit back to let consumerism tell the story.”

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/12/18/advent-conspiracy-seeks-to-bring-back-meaning-christmas/

So what are we to do to avoid becoming a co-conspirator of the Advent Conspiracy? The answer may be found on the Advent Conspiracy Web Page, as posted in the introduction to the movement:

Advent Conspiracy Brochure 20113

“Worship More, Spend Less, Give Presence, Love All Are you tired of how consumerism has stolen the soul of Christmas? This year, take a stand! Join the groundswell of Christ-followers who are choosing to make Christmas what it should be—a joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth that enriches our hearts and the world around us, not a retail circus that depletes our pocketbooks and defeats our spirits. Advent Conspiracy shows you how to substitute consumption with compassion by practicing four simple but powerful, countercultural concepts: Worship Fully—because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus! Spend Less—and free your resources for things that truly matter. Give More—of your presence: your hands, your words, your time, your heart. Love All—the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized, and the sick in ways that make a difference. Find out how to have a Christmas worth remembering, not dreading. Christmas can still change the world when you, like Jesus, give what matters most—your presence.

worship

The Advent Conspiracy is an international movement centered on bringing a deeper meaning to Christmas during the Christian season of advent that immediately precedes it. The movement is characterized by its four founding principles: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. The movement’s message is to avoid getting caught up in the consumerism surrounding the holiday in order to celebrate Christmas more fully.

In 2006, Pastors Greg Holder, Chris Seay, Rick McKinley and others founded the organization to rebel against the hyperconsumerism to which they found many Christians fall victim. They proposed to spend less on gifts and give more to the poor. Today, Advent Conspiracy consists of approximately 1500 member churches and organizations around the globe.”

http://worldrelief.org/advent

Spend Less

I first heard about the Advent Conspiracy in a graphic attachment to an email sent to me by Pastor Don Boyd several years ago. We see a good graphic summary of the movement on the back page of today’s bulletin:

Advent Conspiracy Summarized:

     Worship Fully Christmas marks the moment where God’s promise   was fulfilled and love took form, tiny fingers and all. It is a moment that   deserves our full attention and praise—a celebration!
     Spend Less By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves   from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a   full heart.
Give More The most powerful, memorable gift you can give   to someone is yourself. And nobody models this better than Jesus.
Love All By spending just a little less on gifts we free   up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who are in need.

http://worldrelief.org/advent

love all

If they had lived today, the Pharisees might be viewed as participants of the Advent Conspiracy, based upon their view of our Lord and the Scriptures which was both worldly and judgmental in nature, leaving them figuratively and spiritually in the dark, as we read in John’s gospel, John 8:12-20 (ESV):

                           I Am the Light of the World

8 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.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father[a] who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Footnotes:  a. John 8:16 Some manuscripts he

The Transfiguration of Jesus

But those who reside in the darkness are not just the Pharisees, all who live a life of sin, wickedness and evil, as we read in John 3:19-21 (ESV):

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Our path from darkness is illuminated by Jesus Christ who died for all the evil, wicked, sinful actions and thoughts. Christ’s path brings us from the darkness of condemnation and judgment to the illumination of His light and truth, by way of faith in the Lord.

Doing what Jesus would do!

This makes us a member of God’s elect as we read in 1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV):

 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

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But as Christians, we celebrate the approaching light by lighting candles for each of the Sunday’s prior to Christmas, as well a candle on Christmas Day. The colour of these candles may vary, but if you look on the back of the bulletin, you may see what these candles represent:

                       Why We Light Candles At Advent:

The candles are lit in the order of: Purple, purple, pink, purple, and finally, white. This is what each of the candles mean:

1 – Purple –The Candle of Hope – This candle reminds us that God keeps His promises. He promised a Savior, and He sent one.

2 – Purple – The Candle of Preparation – This candle reminds us to be prepared to receive the Lord.

3 – Pink – The Candle of Joy – This candle remembers the multitudes of angels that joyfully announced the birth of Christ.

4 – Purple – The Candle of Love– This candle represents the love of God. It was out of His incredible love that God sent His only Son Jesus.

5 – White – The Christ Candle – When this candle is lit on Christmas Eve, it symbolizes Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

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But each candle reminds us of the different aspects of our Lord and how we may become free of the condemnation of sin by walking in the light, which is the path set before us by him:

1 John 1:5-7 (ESV) Walking in the Light

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 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.

By lighting candles, and by prayer and thanksgiving, we remind ourselves of the great commission assigned to us until the time of the second advent, when the Lord will return:

 City on a Hill

    Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

 

Let us pray…

Advent Conspiracy manger 

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction – (Psalm 4:6b):   Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!

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