Guided by the Beatitudes – Part 2 – (Part 1 – Sunday, August 4, 2019)

BLCF: beatitudes3

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 2 – (Part 1 was shared Sunday, August 4, 2019)

© August 18, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 18, 2019

Based on a Messages shared at BLCF on October 18, 2009, and on February 26, 2017

BLCF: bulletin-February-26-2017

BLCF: beatiful-atitudes

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                

Opening Hymn #177: Rejoice, The Lord Is King; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #617: (The Beatitudes – Matthew 5)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Guided By The Beatitudes’ – Part 2 (Part 1 Last Sunday)

BLCF: 10-commandments-and-beatitudes

Let us pray…

You may recall in our lesson two Sunday’s ago, that we examined the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law, understanding that in spite of our sinful nature which began in the Garden of Eden, the Bible records that God has faithfully provided mechanisms for guiding believers along the “A Path of Righteousness”.

Before the advent of Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross, subsequent resurrection, and ascension to Heaven, allowed those who believed to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

God gave the People of Israel the Ten Commandments, as described in Exodus 20:1-17. These laws gave a nation of former slaves’ rules to guide the people along God’s path.

Over time, the Commandments have been expanded by the Jews into the Laws of Moses, comprising three Codes.

The first Code is the 10 Commandments.

The second Code consists of the Ordinances, a set of Spiritual specifications which include: description of the Tabernacle, Holy Days, acceptable offerings and activities or responsibilities of the priesthood.

The third Code may be described as a set of Social rules governing such things as diet, sanitation, quarantine, soil conservation, taxation, marriage, slavery, etc.

Many consider these comprehensive Mosaic Laws as the foundation or template of our modern legal system.

While the first code was given by God to Moses, the second and third were a human attempt to expand or embellish the original ten by covering every possible facet of society. Most importantly, as the manmade Laws grow in number and complexity, in an attempt to address each new situation, there is a tendency to forget the importance of the original 10 Commandments and who authored them.

Some mistakenly think that Jesus came to do away with the Laws of Moses, as we read in Mathew 5:17, Jesus said that not that he came to destroy the law or the prophets: but he came to fulfill them, and by his death and resurrection bring the Holy Spirit to those who believe. The Holy Spirit is the key to God’s plan for providing guidance to believers to keep along His path.

As believers in Christ, God has removed the old rules or laws and provided, through the Holy Spirit, provided a beautiful and simple way for us to grow and mature, by accepting the responsibility of our spiritual maturity. He has given us his Beatitudes by which each of us may use to measure our spiritual growth on a personal level. By doing so we may grow and develop our fruit of the Spirit and draw closer to his presence with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The Gifts of the Spirit given by faith in Christ’s act of salvation are free, and not of works, lest anyone should boast. To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in a garden, you must realize that it takes time and you may not get fruit in the first season. You must wait for the trees and vines to mature. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree or vine. And you must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. Finally, you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

BLCF: Fruit_of_Spirit_Galatians_5_22-23

You may ask: “What are some concrete evidence or expressions of these spiritual gifts and are these expressions truly an example of using the Spirit’s Gifts in a manner that is producing fruit?” Jesus gave us a list of expressions Godly Gifts, which he described as Beatitudes, in his Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:3-10:

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
  9. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you … for great is your reward in Heaven.

Some Biblical scholars consider the 9th Beatitude as part of the 8th one. But what is the significance of the Beatitudes? Described in Christ’s Discourse? We find part of the answer from gotquestions.org:

BLCF: beatitudes

Question: “What are the Beatitudes?”

Answer: The Beatitudes are the eight declarations of blessedness spoken by Jesus at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12), each beginning with “Blessed are…” It is debated as to exactly how many beatitudes there are. Some speak of seven, nine, or ten beatitudes, but the number appears to be eight (verses 10-12 of Matthew 5 being one beatitude).

The Greek word translated “blessed” means “happy, blissful” or, literally, “to be enlarged.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the word to refer to more than a superficial happiness; in this context, blessed refers to a state of spiritual well-being and prosperity. The happiness is a deep joy of the soul. Those who experience the first aspect of a beatitude (poor, mourn, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted) will also experience the second aspect of the beatitude (kingdom of heaven, comfort, inherit the earth, filled, mercy, see God, called sons of God, inherit the kingdom of heaven). The blessed have a share in salvation and have entered the kingdom of God, experiencing a foretaste of heaven. Another possible rendering of the beginning of each beatitude is “O the bliss [or blessedness] of . . . .”

The Beatitudes describe the ideal disciple and his rewards, both present and future. The person whom Jesus describes in this passage has a different quality of character and lifestyle than those still “outside the kingdom.” As a literary form, the beatitude is also found often in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms (1:1; 34:8; 65:4; 128:1) and in the New Testament as well (John 20:2914:22James 1:12Revelation 14:13).

https://www.gotquestions.org/beatitudes.html

BLCF: code-of-conduct

Ronald G. Falconberry writing in Moral Ethics and the Beatitudes: Righteous Code of Conduct is Revealed in the Sermon on the Mount helps us to further understand the importance to the Lord of his Beatitudes:

Each beatitude reveals a moral philosophy or code of ethics which God desires in everyone. Those who embrace those moral values will receive God’s blessings.

While the Law of Moses judged men by their actions without looking at their motives, the Beatitudes reveal that God looks at each person’s heart because whatever is in the heart is what leads one to actions:

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight statements known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Each beatitude reveals a moral philosophy or code of ethics which God desires in everyone. Those who embrace those moral values will receive God’s blessings.

While the Law of Moses judged men by their actions without looking at their motives, the Beatitudes reveal that God looks at each person’s heart because whatever is in the heart is what leads one to actions.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

The “poor in spirit” in the first beatitude are those who are not self-centered. According to Proverbs, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart” (16:5) but God will bless those who acknowledge their need for God’s grace and humble themselves.

As James writes, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Blessed are Those Who Mourn for They Will be Comforted

The second beatitude refers to a spiritual mourning. Those who recognize that they are lost in sin can, in their sorrow, accept the gift of salvation from God and be comforted to know they have the promise of eternal life in heaven.

As it is written in Revelation 7:17, “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Blessed are The Meek for They Will Inherit the Earth

The word meek in the third beatitude does not refer to a weak or spineless person but to a strong person who submits to God’s control. Although Jesus was meek, he overturned tables in the temple and drove the money changers out on two separate occasions (John 2:2-25; Matthew 21:12-17) and publicly denounced the Jewish leaders’ corruption of the Law (Matthew 23).

The meek are those who submit to God’s will but are willing to stand up and confront evil and injustice. As Jesus stated in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

The fourth beatitude alludes to those who desire to live moral and virtuous lives. Those who accept Jesus as their savior and attempt to live Christ-centered lives will receive righteousness. Paul writes, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22).

Blessed are the Merciful for They will be Shown Mercy

In the fifth beatitude, the merciful are those who reach out to help those in need or forgive those who wrong them. God will remember their love as James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13)

Blessed are the Pure in Heart for They will See God

The pure in heart work to keep themselves unpolluted by the spiritual filth of the world. The sixth beatitude promises that God will bless those who try to keep themselves morally clean. In Ezekiel 36:26, the prophet writes, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” and, as Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Blessed are the Peacemakers for They will be Called Sons of God

The seventh beatitude refers to those who love peace and work to prevent or resolve conflicts or disagreements. This does not mean simply appeasing people or watching quietly while contentious activities occur; instead, peacemakers attempt to establish a healthy relationship based on truth and righteousness.

Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted Because of Righteousness for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Paul writes that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Even Jesus died for his righteousness; however, the eighth beatitude promises the ultimate blessing.

As Paul later wrote, “Now, there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

Beatitudes Help Develop Quality of Character

https://suite.io/ronald-g-falconberry/1txm2fy

BLCF: faith

People work their entire lives to achieve wealth, fame and power, which may bring material rewards. Christians believe, however, that those who live by the code of conduct outlined in the Beatitudes and pursue righteous lives will develop the quality of character that God wants His followers to have and will ultimately be blessed with the reward of an eternity in Heaven.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #79: We Come, O Christ, to Thee

Benediction (Numbers 6:24-6):                                                                                                             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.

BLCF: No Jesus No Peace

Guided by the Beatitudes – Part 1  (Part 2 – Sunday, August 18, 2019)

BLCF: the-beatitudes-header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 1

 (Part 2 – Sunday, August 18, 2019)

© August 4, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 4, 2019

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on October 18, 2009, June 22, 2014, and February 19, 2017

BLCF Bulletin Sunday, October 18, 2009

BLCF: Bulletin June 22, 2014

BLCF: bulletin-February-12-2017

BLCF: 10-Commandments

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #664: About Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 1

BLCF: beatitudes

Let us pray…

For our lesson today and next Sunday, we will examine how Christians, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, are guided along the Righteous Path, with the goal of a life that is best described as a beautiful expression of His gifts.

To understand this expression of God’s gifts of the Spirit, under His New Covenant through Jesus, let us look at the old Covenant, under the Old Law of what we refer today as the Ten Commandments.

In spite of our sinful nature, that began in the Garden of Eden, the Bible records that God has faithfully provided mechanisms for guiding believers along the “Paths of Righteousness”.

Before the advent of Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross, subsequent resurrection, and ascension allowed those who believe to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, God gave the People of Israel the Ten Commandments, which we find in Exodus 20:1-17. These laws gave a nation of former slaves’ rules to guide the people along God’s path.

Over time, the Commandments have been expanded by the Jews into the Laws of Moses, comprising three Codes. The first Code is the 10 Commandments. The second Code consists of the Ordinances, a set of Spiritual specifications which include: description of the Tabernacle, Holy Days, acceptable offerings and activities or responsibilities of the priesthood. The third Code may be described as a set of Social rules governing such things as diet, sanitation, quarantine, soil conservation, taxation, marriage, slavery, etc. Many consider these comprehensive Mosaic Laws as the foundation or template of our modern legal system.

While the first Code was given by God to Moses, the second and third were a human attempt to expand or embellish the original ten by covering every possible facet of society. Most importantly, as the man-made Laws grow in number and complexity, in an attempt to address each new situation, there is a tendency to forget the importance of the original 10 Commandments and who authored them.

Jesus came not to do away with the Laws of Moses, but to fulfill them, as we read in Mathew 5:17, Jesus said that not that he came to destroy the law or the prophets: but he came to fulfill them, and by his death and resurrection bring the Holy Spirit to those who believe.

Jesus did not come to end sin in the world but to take upon himself the judgment for sin, which is death. And to those who receive Christ’s Gift of Salvation, also receive the Gift of God’s Holy Spirit, and the Spirit brings believers Gifts of the Spirit which are characteristics that are expressed as beatitude.

The Holy Spirit is the key to God’s plan for providing guidance to believers to keep along His path.

What is the Holy Spirit? Let us go to wikipedia.org for our Wiki bits answer.

BLCF: What_the_Holy_Spirit_does

What is the Holy Spirit?

Within mainstream Christianity the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity. As such he is personal and also fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Son. He is different from the Father and the Son in that he proceeds from the Father (or from the Father and the Son) as described in the Nicene Creed. His sacredness is reflected in the New Testament gospels (e.g., Mark 3:28-30, Matthew 12:30-32, and Luke 12:8-10), which proclaim blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as unforgivable.

The Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. These include:

  • Conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions, and of their moral standing as sinners before God.
  • Bringing to conversion. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith. The new believer is “born again of the Spirit”.
  • Enabling the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is believed to dwell in the individual believers and enable them to live a righteous and faithful life.  The word Paraclete is specifically applied to the Holy Spirit in this regard. A paraclete is one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate.
  • Inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and/or church.

The Holy Spirit is also believed to be active especially in the life of Jesus Christ, enabling him to fulfil his work on earth. Particular actions of the Holy Spirit include:

  • Cause of his birth. According to the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, the “beginning of His incarnate existence”, was due to the Holy Spirit.
  • Anointing him at his baptism.
  • Empowerment of his ministry. The ministry of Jesus following his baptism (in which the Holy Spirit is described in the gospels as “descending on Him like a dove”) is conducted in the power and at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

And most importantly the Holy Spirit is God’s way of pouring his love into our hearts Romans 5:5(NIV): And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

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

BLCF: fruit-of-the-spirit1

As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit enables direct communication with God through the discernment of God’s will. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers. But what can a believer do to draw closer to our Lord, to facilitate or augment the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives?

First, as believers, God, through the Holy Spirit makes available to us what is described as fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is described by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23:

“The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit enables direct communication with God giving discernment of God’s will. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers. But what can a believer do to draw closer to our Lord and to facilitate or augment the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives?

First, as believers, God, through the Holy Spirit makes available to us what is described as the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is described by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23:

“The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

The Fruit of the Spirit which includes charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, is gifted by the Holy Spirit is free, “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in the garden, you must realize that it takes time, you may not get fruit in the first season. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree. You must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. And you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

You may ask what are some concrete examples or evidence of Spiritual Fruit.

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight statements, known as the Beatitudes, which may be considered as overt expressions of the Spirit’s Fruit, as we read in Matthew 5:3-11:

Matthew 5:1-11 (ESV): The Sermon on the Mount

5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:9 Greek huioi; see Preface

Some Biblical scholars consider the 9th Beatitude as part of the 8th one.

BLCF: LSS

I was fortunate to attend a high school in Richmond Hill which had no bells between classes. If you were absent you wrote your own notes to sign yourself in or out. The expectation was if a student were given responsibility, he or she would grow and mature if the rules of conduct were minimized.

BLCF: LSS-policy

The slogan of Langstaff Secondary School was and is “Maturity through Responsibility”. As believers in Christ, God has removed the old rules or laws and provided, through the Holy Spirit, provided a beautiful and simple way for us to grow and mature, by accepting the responsibility of our spiritual maturity. He has given us his Beatitudes by which each of us may use to measure our spiritual growth on a personal level. By doing so we may grow and develop our fruit of the Spirit and draw closer to his presence with the help of the Holy Spirit.

However, Fruit of the Spirit given through salvation, which the gift of the Holy Spirit is free, not of works, lest anyone should boast. To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in the garden, you must realize that it takes time, you may not get fruit in the first season. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree. You must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. And you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

People work their entire lives to achieve wealth, fame and power, which may bring material rewards. Christians believe, however, that those who live by the code of conduct outlined in the Beatitudes and pursue righteous lives will develop the quality of character God wants his followers to have and will ultimately be blessed with an eternity in Heaven.

Let us pray…

BLCF: be-the-church

Closing Hymn #451: I Have Decided To Follow Jesus

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.

Know Jesus – Know Peace!

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire 2019’

 © February 23, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 24, 2019

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on July 28, 2013, and August 27, 2017

BLCF Bulletin August 27, 2017

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                  

Opening Prayer Hymn #195: Fill Me Now (Hover o’er Me, Holy Spirit); Choruses    

Tithing and Prayer Requests; Hymn #572: Praise God                                       

Responsive Reading #654: The Holy City (-from Revelation 21)                  

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                         

‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire.’  The invention of fire had a profound effect on our world. Fire brings us heat to counter the cold, cook our food and to illuminate our surroundings. Fire enabled members of society to work through the night and led to the advancement of the civilization of humanity.

The first use of fire is lost in prehistory and the subject of much conjecture and speculation. According to ancient mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. Fire was likely first discovered by accident event, as a result of natural causes, such as volcanic eruption, ignition of marsh gas or more likely from a lightning strike.

There are numerous references in the Bible to the use and significance of fire. In most scriptures that mention fire included describing the manifestation of the power and presence of God. We find a clear example of His power and presence in this morning’s Scripture from 1 Kings 18:

1 Kings 18:20-40 (ESV): The Prophets of Baal Defeated

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 

28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 18:32 A seah was about 7 quarts or 7.3 liters

A severe drought and famine in the region of Samaria led to God’s Prophet Elijah facing off against some 450 prophets of the god Baal. Elijah was critical of the people wavering between this god and the true Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

Elijah proposes to the people the building of two altars, each with its own sacrificial bull. To one, the prophets of Baal will call upon the god Baal to ignite the wood of the altar. And with the other, Elijah will call upon God, Jehovah, to ignite to wood. The people and the 450 Baal prophets accept the challenge.

For hours, the prophets of Baal called in vain, upon their god, Baal to ignite their altar.  The prophets even resorted to cutting themselves to elicit a response from Baal. And no fire came; Baal did not reply.

Now it was Elijah’s turn. But to make things interesting, Elijah instructed the people to douse the offering and wood with four jars of water, not once, not twice; but three times!

I recall camping a few summers ago and trying to ignite some wet wood. It was not easy. Just when you have some flames, the fire dies out.

The wood on the altar constructed by Elijah wasn’t just damp, being soaked by a dozen jars of water to the point that excess water collected in a trench surrounding the altar. But this did not deter Elijah’s faith, nor did it deter him from calling upon God. Elijah had proceeded as the Lord instructed. He acknowledged the authority of the Lord saying “I am your servant”. He asked that God would start the fire, not as a response to a request to do the bidding of Elijah. Instead, Elijah implored the Lord to start the fire to change the hearts of those who had turned away from God and to restore their faith.

God’s response was to send a fire of such intensity, that it not only consumed the offering, wood, and stones, so all that was left was dust. And all the water, including that in the trench, had evaporated. God’s response was clear and definitive, leaving no doubt in the minds of the people of Israel. The people fell on their knees, acknowledging that “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

And the 450 prophets of Baal were executed. Such was the judgment of God. And afterword, the Lord kept His promise by bringing rain to end the drought.

If you look at the back of today’s bulletin, you will see a list of several instances in the Bible, where the power and glory of God are expressed in some form of flame or fire.

Most of us are acquainted with the Prophet Moses’ encounter with the Lord, who revealed Himself as a Burning Bush, Exodus 3:1-6 (ESV):

The Burning Bush

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

At the time of this account, Moses was 80 years of age. Having been expelled to die in the desert by Pharaoh, Moses had lived the next 40 years as a shepherd and had seen most that the dessert had to offer. But something had caught his eye. The English translations translate what Moses saw as a bush, but a more accurate translation of the Hebrew word seneh is brambles. While we could spend the rest of today’s sermon debating the inaccuracy of the translation and the merits of the original Hebrew over inaccuracies of English translations, such discussions have no real bearing on the lesson our Lord is trying to convey and only act as a distraction from the main theme of the passage. Now back to Moses.

Moses noted that while the bush or brambles burned, it was not consumed by fire. And when he drew close to the bush, Moses saw an angel in a flame of fire in the midst of the bush. And when the Lord had seen that Moses turned aside to see, God admonished Moses to not come closer and to remove his sandals, as the ground that Moses stood upon was Holy ground. And the Lord identified himself as the God of Moses father, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God reveals Himself to Moses as a burning bush, the flames burning supernaturally without ceasing.

After God used Moses to deliver the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt, He did not forsake them, Exodus 13:21-22 (ESV):

21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

We must remember that that light is not just a tool of mankind, but an expression of the presence of the Lord, Exodus 24:17 (ESV):

17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

But the fire and flame of the Lord is not only a source of comfort to the faithful but will be an expression of God’s judgment upon those who are not of value to His Kingdom, considered to be like thorns and brambles, Isaiah 10:17 (ESV):

17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day.

This same fire is as an expression of God’s ability to refine and cleanse us of impurity and filth, Malachi 3:2 (ESV):

2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

Refiners use fire to melt and separate precious metals such as silver and gold from non-precious metals found in the ore. Each stage extracts the purer metal. And fuller’s soap is used in a process to wash and clean raw wool of impurities and odors.

We find a more direct description of the Lord’s fire, by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 (ESV): 

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   

You will note that the Prophet’s indicates that baptism in water is an act we do for repentance, but only the Lord can baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. So when the believer receives the Holy Spirit, the same fire which is an expression of God, also is received, Acts 2:1-4 (ESV):

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.   

So the followers of Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and the gifts of fire which is the glory of God, Hebrews 1:7 (ESV): 

 7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

To better understand Hebrews 1:7 let us back up to the first four verses of Hebrew 1, Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV):

The Supremacy of God’s Son

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In the above passage, we see that Jesus is described as the radiance of the glory of God, and like a refiner purifying precious gold; He purifies us from sin, through His son, Jesus Christ.

In Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we see that Christ is talking with two prophets, Moses and Elijah, who had experienced the power and presence of God by fire and flame. And we have an idea of this radiance in the description of Jesus in the account, in Matthew 17:1-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 Footnotes:  a. Matthew 17:5 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

I believe Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus gives us some idea as to how it will be with Jesus after our own resurrection. Just like Moses and Elijah, we will be able to see our Lord, present in all His glory; radiant and full of light, bright like the fire of the sun. May this vision ignite a fire of passion and faith to share with all those around us the love of God as is expressed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for this is the Savior’s final commandment our Lord gave to us. For it only takes a spark of faith, to ignite the fire that is found in the presence and power God’s love.

Let us pray…

Hymn #484: Pass It On (It Only Takes a Spark)

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.

Suffer the Children

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

Suffer the Children’

© June 10, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 10, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #325: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #621: ‘Christ and Children’ (Matthew 18, Mark 9 and 10)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Suffer the Children’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today is entitled, Suffer the Children. But what is meant by “Suffer the children come to me” or, as some Translations state, “Let the children come to me”? We are not talking about harming or hurting children, instead, we have an explanation of this passage from the commentary published in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

 14of such is the kingdom of heaven – Love, the simplicity of faith, innocence, and above all, humility, are the ideal characteristics of little children, and of the subjects of the kingdom.

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/19-14.htm

The first characteristic is love, not an ordinary love, but what Christians commonly describe as agape or the unconditional love associated with God and humanity:

Agape is commonly used by Christians to describe God’s love, defining it as unconditional love. Agape may also refer to Agape feast, certain meals celebrated by early Christians.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape_(disambiguation)

What happens when someone decides to take an action that is directly opposite to the agape or unconditional love that the Lord expects us to demonstrate towards God and towards others?

The opposite of actions that demonstrate an unconditional love, might be those which express an unbridled hatred towards others. Today, we see such examples of such hatred towards others commonly expressed by the use of weapons, such as guns, to harm others. In extreme cases, the gun is used as a “weapon of choice” to be used to harm as many victims of rage as possible.

On the 19th Anniversary of the Mass Shooting at Columbine High School, CNN recently originally published on November 17, 2017, (updated on April 20, 2018), a list of Mass Shootings posted as, Top Dozen Mass Shootings in the USA. Sadly, this list includes five schools. The names of these schools have become synonymous with the names of some of the worse mass shootings in US history. Here are the five:

  1. Virginia Tech: 32 killed – April 16, 2007 – Student Seung-Hui Cho, 23, goes on a shooting spree, killing 32 people in two locations and wounding an undetermined number of others on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The shooter dies by suicide.                                                                                                     
  2. Sandy Hook: 27 killed – December 14, 2012 – Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before turning the gun on himself. Investigators later find the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, dead from a gunshot wound.               
  3. University of Texas: 18 killed – August 1, 1966 – Charles Joseph Whitman, a former US Marine, kills 16 and wounds at least 30 while shooting from a tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy shoot and kill Whitman in the tower. Whitman had killed his mother and wife earlier in the day.                                                                                                                       
  4. Parkland, Florida: 17 killed – February 14, 2018 – A former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing a teacher, coach, athletics director, and 14 students. Nikolas Cruz, 19, confessed to being the gunman, according to a probable cause affidavit, and is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.                                                                                                                                        
  5. Columbine High School: 13 killed – April 20, 1999 – Eric Harris, 18, and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold kill 12 fellow students and one teacher at their high school in Littleton, Colorado. The pair then committed suicide in the school library.

https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/07/health/deadliest-mass-shootings-columbine-in-modern-us-history-trnd/index.html

The American flag flies at half-staff over the US Capitol                         (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

In addition to the five school shootings, there are seven additional mass shootings included in the CNN Dirty Dozen Shootings List. But these terrible shootings did not occur at schools and had victims who were adults. Our lesson will focus our attention upon incidents that involved the lives of the young students, mostly innocent children or young people, who were either murdered, injured, or threatened with death, at the beginning their lives.  We will also see what the Bible says about the killing of children.

Flags at half-staff at Peace Arch Canada-US Border

But before we, as Canadians, become too smug about student shootings being an act of violence being exclusive to our neighbors south of the border, let us examine another list, which is exclusive to our country. This second list was published on March 14, 2018, by Huffington Post Canada:

  1. La Loche Community School, Sask.: Four people were killed and two were critically wounded in a shooting in a northern Saskatchewan Dene community Jan. 22, 2016. Shots were fired at the La Loche high school building around 1 p.m. 
  1. Les Racines de vie Montessori, Gatineau, Que.: On April 5, 2013, two men die during a shooting at the school’s daycare. The shooter is identified as Robert Charron. Thirty-eight-year-old Neil Galliou is killed before Charron takes his own life. Charron told staff to take the 53 children to safety before he opened fire. 
  1. C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute, Toronto: On May 23, 2007, 15-year-old Jordan Manners is found in a hallway with a single gunshot wound to the chest. He later dies in hospital. Two teens were charged with first-degree murder and were later acquitted. 
  1. Dawson College, Westmount, Que: On Sept. 13, 2006, 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa was killed and 20 others were hurt when gunman Kimveer Gill, 25, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon. Gill was killed in a police gunfight.​​​​​ 
  1. Dawson College in Montreal, Sept. 18, 2006, a gunman dressed in a black trench coat opened fire at the school killing one student and injuring 19 others. 
  1. W.R. Myers High: Taber, Alta.: On April 28, 1999, a 14-year-old Grade 9 student shoots three students, killing 17-year-old Jason Lang before he is arrested.
  1. Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal: On Dec. 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lepine shot more than two dozen people, killing 14 women before killing himself.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/03/14/school-shootings-in-canada_a_23385842/

Canadian Parliament Building with the Canadian at half-staff

Preventing the lives of children from being snuffed out by bullets seems to be the main takeaway from these lists. While it is an important concern for us that we find ways to mitigate the use of guns as weapons of mass destruction or debate whether rage or mental illness is the root cause of these mass shootings at schools, there is a more subtle and more dangerous threat to our society.  I feel it is our society’s tendency today to become inured to the idea that the mass killings of our children as a normal thing, part of the price we pay for our life and liberty. We should consider how each killing of a child robs us of part of our most precious commodity. And if we do not act to prevent the loss of life among our children, we become deprived of the most valuable assets for our future, which was best expressed by Mother Teresa:

Mother Teresa

“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” 
– Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic nun 

Before Columbine, Nelson Mandela, who suffered much personal pain and injustice in his lifetime, made the following observation in May 1995:

Nelson Mandela

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. 
– Nelson Mandela (8 May 1995)

But, you might argue that Mandela was a politician and not a religious leader, though in this statement he expressed a moral and spiritual concern and outrage more openly than many faith leaders have about the mass shootings of children.

Mandela’s statement agrees with the view of our Lord, Christ Jesus, who is known to have admonished his disciples to suffer the children to come unto me

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV): Let the Children Come to Me

 13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The focus of this lesson is about protecting the children, Jesus was very clear about his love for his children and the sadness that our Lord feels, should any one of these little ones perish because of our lack of diligence. Jesus explained this in the following Parable of the Lost Sheep:

 Matthew 18:10-14 (ESV): The Parable of the Lost Sheep

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.[a] 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my[b] Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:10 Some manuscripts add verse 11For the Son of Man came to save the lost b. Matthew 18:14 Some manuscripts your

The loss of even a single child reflects the failure of guardianship of what our Lord holds dearest and values the most and has entrusted to us. As Christians, we should expect our society to uphold the same values towards its children as our Father in heaven. Otherwise, we fail the Lord just as much as society has failed us by not protecting the safety of our children.

A recent example of unconditional love that Jesus spoke about may be found in the actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill a man who admitted to have a mental disorder and to be off his medications.

It was faith that permitted Antoinette Tuff to set aside her own personal troubles in order to show a Christ-like compassion and love towards an angry troubled stranger, and as a result, saved that stranger and many innocent children from danger and destruction

In his depressed state, Hill had stolen an AK-47 rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, and entered a school to fight with police and end his life, which he found no longer worth living. All that stood between Hill and his suicidal objective, was a woman of faith who had recently contemplated her own suicide having suffered through a recent divorce and being left alone to raise a child with multiple disabilities.

But God had a plan to use Antoinette’s faith and suffering as testimony to His compassion and love at a time of great testing. Here is an excerpt of an article authored by Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s on this potential deadly encounter defused by a woman of faith’s, who took a bold step of intervention trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. This article comes from the August 20, 2013 edition of the Washington Post:

Antoinette Tuff and Michael Brandon Hill

Antoinette Tuff’s Weapon of the Spirit: How Compassion Stopped a Gunman

By Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Ph.D. Theology

‘Our weapons are not carnal, they are spiritual.’ This biblical lesson is found in 2 Corinthians. This week, it can also be learned at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, an elementary school outside of Atlanta.

Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk at McNair, is being credited with averting another horrific school shooting. Tuff met the gunman as he entered the school building, and listened to him say “he didn’t have any reason to live, and he knew he was going to die today.” She chose not to meet violence with violence, but spoke compassionately to the gunman, identifying with his pain and loneliness, a feeling she shared that she had as well after she separated from her husband of 33 years. She encouraged the gunman not to give in to despair.

Tuff used the “weapons of the spirit,” not a gun to stop the gunman. “I give it all to God. I’m not the hero. I was terrified,” she said.

Spiritual strength and compassion were the weapons used here, not a physical gun.

Weapons of the Spirit, not “carnal,” that is, physical weapons are what we need in life, according to the Bible.

Weapons of the Spirit can transform hate into compassion, and violence into peace.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/08/22/antoinette-tuffs-weapon-of-the-spirit-how-compassion-stopped-a-gunman/

There seems to be a common theme that is apparent in most of the US and Canadian school shootings. The shooters suffered from one or a combination of the emotions of anger, fear, pain, loneliness, despair, or hopelessness, and suicide was the final solution. And before the final solution, shooting students and staff was the line they crossed in order write their message first by the blood of their victims and finally themselves. The shooter would use their weapons on themselves or shoot at police in order to commit “suicide by cop”.

Kate Spade

Like the recent rash of celebrity suicides, including  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, if they had encountered a sensitive and compassionate person such as Antoinette Tuff, they might have been able to a frank conversation about their feelings, especially the feelings of suicide and found that there are better solutions to their emotional state than murder, followed by suicide. Faith brought Antoinette Tuff through her despair and gave her the strength to encourage Michael Brandon Hill not to give in to his despair. When a person suddenly loses interest in activities and friends that were a big part of their lives, a sensitive friend might help them avoid committing a great tragedy by asking them whether they are considering doing harm to themselves or others.

Anthony Bourdain

You may respond to this epidemic of suicides by saying: “leave the problem to the professionals”. But the professionals, such as law enforcement are usually called upon when it is too late, they assist the disturbed individual with the suicide. Most of the politicians seem reluctant to offer any more than hopes, prayers, and moments of silence. They behave as if only God can stop the pandemic of mass murders sweeping across the continent. God may not stop the pandemic, but he will certainly judge those who have been elected to legislate laws to protect the values of life and liberty of innocent children and deliberately do nothing but offer thoughts and prayers. If a child is drowning in a pool and the person hired to guard those in the pool does nothing, isn’t the guard’s inactivity an example of negligent homicide?

Is there anything we as Christians should do? First, we should recognize the symptoms of a person contemplating suicide and then act:

Know Someone Thinking About Suicide?

What are the signs:

High-risk signs for suicide can include talk or threats to harm oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online for materials or means, talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.

If you know someone that is at immediate risk of suicide in Canadacall 911 or toll-free at 1-833-456-4566 .

In the USA, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.

The actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill best exemplify the importance and value of faith in God and sensitivity to others helped her to protect a portion of society that is part of the legacy from God from harm. Tuff’s actions exemplified the legacy of sound character expressed by  her faith as described in this quote, from the late Billy Graham:

Billy Graham

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” 
  — Billy Graham, evangelist 

When it comes to children, we must remember the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.

In closing, as faithful Christians, we are expected to express the teachings of  Christ Jesus in word, deed, and by obeying the Lord’s Commandments:

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

If we ignore the danger facing our children posed by shooters, many seeking suicide for themselves, are we not disobeying our Lord’s Commandment to us?

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #41: Children of the Heavenly Father

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.

And know they love you! (click here)

Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’

 © August 27, 2017, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 27, 2017

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on July 28, 2013

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                  

Opening Prayer Hymn #195: Fill Me Now (Hover o’er Me, Holy Spirit); Choruses                                                                                                                        

Tithing and Prayer Requests; Hymn #572: Praise God                                       

Responsive Reading #654: ‘The Holy City’ (-from Revelation 21)                  

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                   ‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire’                                                

1 Kings 18:20-40 (ESV): The Prophets of Baal Defeated

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 

28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 18:32 A seah was about 7 quarts or 7.3 liters

Let us pray…

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire.’  The invention of fire had a profound effect on our world. Fire brings us heat to counter the cold, cook our food and to illuminate our surroundings. Fire enabled members of society to work through the night and led to the advancement of the civilization of humanity.

The first use of fire is lost in prehistory and the subject of much conjecture and speculation. According to ancient mythology, Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. Fire was likely first discovered by accident event, as a result of natural causes, such as volcanic eruption, ignition of marsh gas or more likely from a lightning strike.

There are numerous references in the Bible to the use and significance of fire. In most scriptures that mention fire included describing the manifestation of the power and presence of God. We find a clear example of His power and presence in this morning’s Scripture from 1Kings 18.

A severe drought and famine in the region of Samaria led to God’s Prophet Elijah facing off against some 450 prophets of the god Baal. Elijah was critical of the people wavering between this god and the true Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel.

Elijah proposes to the people the building of two altars, each with its own sacrificial bull. To one, the prophets of Baal will call upon the god Baal to ignite the wood of the altar. And with the other, Elijah will call upon God, Jehovah, to ignite to wood. The people and the 450 Baal prophets accept the challenge.

For hours, the prophets of Baal called in vain, upon their god, Baal to ignite their altar.  The prophets even resorted to cutting themselves to elicit a response from Baal. And no fire came; Baal did not reply.

Now it was Elijah’s turn. But to make things interesting, Elijah instructed the people to douse the offering and wood with four jars of water, not once, not twice; but three times!

I recall camping a few summers ago and trying to ignite some wet wood. It was not easy. Just when you have some flames, the fire dies out.

The wood on the altar constructed by Elijah wasn’t just damp, being soaked by a dozen jars of water to the point that excess water collected in a trench surrounding the altar. But this did not deter Elijah’s faith, nor did it deter him from calling upon God. Elijah had proceeded as the Lord instructed. He acknowledged the authority of the Lord saying “I am your servant”. He asked that God would start the fire, not as a response to a request to do the bidding of Elijah. Instead, Elijah implored the Lord to start the fire to change the hearts of those who had turned away from God and to restore their faith.

God’s response was to send a fire of such intensity, that it not only consumed the offering, wood, and stones, so all that was left was dust. And all the water, including that in the trench, had evaporated. God’s response was clear and definitive, leaving no doubt in the minds of the people of Israel. The people fell on their knees, acknowledging that “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

And the 450 prophets of Baal were executed. Such was the judgment of God. And afterword, the Lord kept His promise by bringing rain to end the drought.

If you look at the back of today’s bulletin, you will see a list of several instances in the Bible, where the power and glory of God are expressed in some form of flame or fire.

Most of us are acquainted with the Prophet Moses’ encounter with the Lord, who revealed Himself as a Burning Bush, Exodus 3:1-6 (ESV):

The Burning Bush

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

At the time of this account, Moses was 80 years of age. Having been expelled to die in the desert by Pharaoh, Moses had lived the next 40 years as a shepherd and had seen most that the dessert had to offer. But something had caught his eye. The English translations translate what Moses saw as a bush, but a more accurate translation of the Hebrew word seneh is brambles. While we could spend the rest of today’s sermon debating the inaccuracy of the translation and the merits of the original Hebrew over inaccuracies of English translations, such discussions have no real bearing on the lesson our Lord is trying to convey and only act as a distraction from the main theme of the passage. Now back to Moses.

Moses noted that while the bush or brambles burned, it was not consumed by fire. And when he drew close to the bush, Moses saw an angel in a flame of fire in the midst of the bush. And when the Lord had seen that Moses turned aside to see, God admonished Moses to not come closer and to remove his sandals, as the ground that Moses stood upon was Holy ground. And the Lord identified himself as the God of Moses father, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God reveals Himself to Moses as a burning bush, the flames burning supernaturally without ceasing.

After God used Moses to deliver the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt, He did not forsake them, Exodus 13:21-22 (ESV):

21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

We must remember that that light is not just a tool of mankind, but an expression of the presence of the Lord, Exodus 24:17 (ESV):

17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

But the fire and flame of the Lord is not only a source of comfort to the faithful but will be an expression of God’s judgment upon those who are not of value to His Kingdom, considered to be like thorns and brambles, Isaiah 10:17 (ESV):

17 The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day.

This same fire is as an expression of God’s ability to refine and cleanse us of impurity and filth, Malachi 3:2 (ESV):

2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

Refiners use fire to melt and separate precious metals such as silver and gold from non-precious metals found in the ore. Each stage extracts the purer metal. And fuller’s soap is used in a process to wash and clean raw wool of impurities and odors.

We find a more direct description of the Lord’s fire, by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11 (ESV): 

  

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   

You will note that the Prophet’s indicates that baptism in water is an act we do for repentance, but only the Lord can baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. So when the believer receives the Holy Spirit, the same fire which is an expression of God, also is received, Acts 2:1-4 (ESV):

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.   

So the followers of Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and the gifts of fire which is the glory of God, Hebrews 1:7 (ESV): 

               

7 Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

To better understand Hebrews 1:7 let us back up to the first four verses of Hebrew 1, Hebrews 1:1-4 (ESV):

The Supremacy of God’s Son

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

In the above passage, we see that Jesus is described as the radiance of the glory of God, and like a refiner purifying precious gold; He purifies us from sin, through His son, Jesus Christ.

In Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we see that Christ is talking with two prophets, Moses and Elijah, who had experienced the power and presence of God by fire and flame. And we have an idea of this radiance in the description of Jesus in the account, in Matthew 17:1-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

 Footnotes:  a. Matthew 17:5 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

I believe Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration of Jesus gives us some idea as to how it will be with Jesus after our own resurrection. Just like Moses and Elijah, we will be able to see our Lord, present in all His glory; radiant and full of light, bright like the fire of the sun. May this vision ignite a fire of passion and faith to share with all those around us the love of God as is expressed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, for this is the Savior’s final commandment our Lord gave to us. For it only takes a spark of faith, to ignite the fire that is found in the presence and power God’s love.

Let us pray…

 Hymn #484: Pass It On (It Only Takes a Spark)

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.

Guided by the Beatitudes – Part 2 (Part 1 Last Sunday)

BLCF: beatitudes3

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 2 (Part 1 Last Sunday)

© February 26, 2017, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on October 18, 2009

BLCF: bulletin-february-26-2017

BLCF: beatiful-atitudes

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #177: Rejoice, The Lord Is King; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #617: (The Beatitudes – Matthew 5)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Guided By The Beatitudes’ – Part 2 (Part 1 Last Sunday)

BLCF: 10-commandments-and-beatitudes

Let us pray…

You may recall in last Sunday’s lesson, examined the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law, understanding that in spite of our sinful nature which began in the Garden of Eden, the Bible records that God has faithfully provided mechanisms for guiding believers along the “A Path of Righteousness”.

Before the advent of Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross, subsequent resurrection, and ascension to Heaven, allowed those who believed to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

God gave the People of Israel the Ten Commandments, as described in Exodus 20:1-17. These laws gave a nation of former slaves’ rules to guide the people along God’s path.

Over time, the Commandments have been expanded by the Jews into the Laws of Moses, comprising three Codes. The first Code is the 10 Commandments. The second Code consists of the Ordinances, a set of Spiritual specifications which include: description of the Tabernacle, Holy Days, acceptable offerings and activities or responsibilities of the priesthood. The third Code may be described as a set of Social rules governing such things as diet, sanitation, quarantine, soil conservation, taxation, marriage, slavery, etc. Many consider these comprehensive Mosaic Laws as the foundation or template of our modern legal system.

While the first code was given by God to Moses, the second and third were a human attempt to expand or embellish the original ten by covering every possible facet of society. Most importantly, as the manmade Laws grow in number and complexity, in an attempt to address each new situation, there is a tendency to forget the importance of the original 10 Commandments and who authored them.

Some mistakenly think that Jesus came to do away with the Laws of Moses, as we read in Mathew 5:17, Jesus said that not that he came to destroy the law or the prophets: but he came to fulfill them, and by his death and resurrection bring the Holy Spirit to those who believe. The Holy Spirit is the key to God’s plan for providing guidance to believers to keep along His path.

As believers in Christ, God has removed the old rules or laws and provided, through the Holy Spirit, provided a beautiful and simple way for us to grow and mature, by accepting the responsibility of our spiritual maturity. He has given us his Beatitudes by which each of us may use to measure our spiritual growth on a personal level. By doing so we may grow and develop our fruit of the Spirit and draw closer to his presence with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The Gifts of the Spirit given by faith in Christ’s act of salvation are free, and not of works, lest anyone should boast. To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in a garden, must realize that it takes time and you may not get fruit in the first season. You must wait for the trees and vines to mature. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree or vine. And you must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. Finally, you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

BLCF: Fruit_of_Spirit_Galatians_5_22-23

You may ask: “What are some concrete evidence or expressions of these spiritual gifts and are these expressions truly an example of using the Spirit’s Gifts in a manner that is producing fruit?” Jesus gave us a list of expressions Godly Gifts, which he described as Beatitudes, in his Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:3-10:

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
  9. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you … for great is your reward in Heaven.

Some Biblical scholars consider the 9th Beatitude as part of the 8th one. But what is the significance of the Beatitudes? Described in Christ’s Discourse? We find part of the answer from gotquestions.org:

BLCF: beatitudes

Question: “What are the beatitudes?”

Answer: The Beatitudes are the eight declarations of blessedness spoken by Jesus at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12), each beginning with “Blessed are…” It is debated as to exactly how many beatitudes there are. Some speak of seven, nine, or ten beatitudes, but the number appears to be eight (verses 10-12 of Matthew 5 being one beatitude).

The Greek word translated “blessed” means “happy, blissful” or, literally, “to be enlarged.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the word to refer to more than a superficial happiness; in this context, blessed refers to a state of spiritual well-being and prosperity. The happiness is a deep joy of the soul. Those who experience the first aspect of a beatitude (poor, mourn, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted) will also experience the second aspect of the beatitude (kingdom of heaven, comfort, inherit the earth, filled, mercy, see God, called sons of God, inherit the kingdom of heaven). The blessed have a share in salvation and have entered the kingdom of God, experiencing a foretaste of heaven. Another possible rendering of the beginning of each beatitude is “O the bliss [or blessedness] of . . . .”

The Beatitudes describe the ideal disciple and his rewards, both present and future. The person whom Jesus describes in this passage has a different quality of character and lifestyle than those still “outside the kingdom.” As a literary form, the beatitude is also found often in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms (1:1; 34:8; 65:4; 128:1) and in the New Testament as well (John 20:2914:22James 1:12Revelation 14:13).

https://www.gotquestions.org/beatitudes.html

BLCF: code-of-conduct

Ronald G. Falconberry writing in Moral Ethics and the Beatitudes: Righteous Code of Conduct is Revealed in the Sermon on the Mount  helps us to further understand the importance to the Lord of his Beatitudes:

Each beatitude reveals a moral philosophy or code of ethics which God desires in everyone. Those who embrace those moral values will receive God’s blessings.

While the Law of Moses judged men by their actions without looking at their motives, the Beatitudes reveal that God looks at each person’s heart because whatever is in the heart is what leads one to actions:

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight statements known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Each beatitude reveals a moral philosophy or code of ethics which God desires in everyone. Those who embrace those moral values will receive God’s blessings.

While the Law of Moses judged men by their actions without looking at their motives, the Beatitudes reveal that God looks at each person’s heart because whatever is in the heart is what leads one to actions.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

The “poor in spirit” in the first beatitude are those who are not self-centered. According to Proverbs, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart” (16:5) but God will bless those who acknowledge their need for God’s grace and humble themselves.

As James writes, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Blessed are Those Who Mourn for They Will be Comforted

The second beatitude refers to a spiritual mourning. Those who recognize that they are lost in sin can, in their sorrow, accept the gift of salvation from God and be comforted to know they have the promise of eternal life in heaven.

As it is written in Revelation 7:17, “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Blessed are The Meek for They Will Inherit the Earth

The word meek in the third beatitude does not refer to a weak or spineless person but to a strong person who submits to God’s control. Although Jesus was meek, he overturned tables in the temple and drove the money changers out on two separate occasions (John 2:2-25; Matthew 21:12-17) and publicly denounced the Jewish leaders’ corruption of the Law (Matthew 23).

The meek are those who submit to God’s will but are willing to stand up and confront evil and injustice. As Jesus stated in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

The fourth beatitude alludes to those who desire to live moral and virtuous lives. Those who accept Jesus as their savior and attempt to live Christ-centered lives will receive righteousness. Paul writes, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22).

Blessed are the Merciful for They will be Shown Mercy

In the fifth beatitude, the merciful are those who reach out to help those in need or forgive those who wrong them. God will remember their love as James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13)

Blessed are the Pure in Heart for They will See God

The pure in heart work to keep themselves unpolluted by the spiritual filth of the world. The sixth beatitude promises that God will bless those who try to keep themselves morally clean. In Ezekiel 36:26, the prophet writes, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” and, as Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Blessed are the Peacemakers for They will be Called Sons of God

The seventh beatitude refers to those who love peace and work to prevent or resolve conflicts or disagreements. This does not mean simply appeasing people or watching quietly while contentious activities occur; instead, peacemakers attempt to establish a healthy relationship based on truth and righteousness.

Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted Because of Righteousness for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Paul writes that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Even Jesus died for his righteousness; however, the eighth beatitude promises the ultimate blessing.

As Paul later wrote, “Now, there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

Beatitudes Help Develop Quality of Character

https://suite.io/ronald-g-falconberry/1txm2fy

BLCF: faith

People work their entire lives to achieve wealth, fame and power, which may bring material rewards. Christians believe, however, that those who live by the code of conduct outlined in the Beatitudes and pursue righteous lives will develop the quality of character that God wants His followers to have and will ultimately be blessed with the reward of an eternity in Heaven.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #79: We Come, O Christ, to Thee

 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.

BLCF: No Jesus No Peace

Guided by the Beatitudes – Part 1 (Part 2 Next Sunday)

BLCF: the-beatitudes-header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 1

 (Part 2 Next Sunday)

© February 19, 2017, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on October 18, 2009, and June 22, 2014

BLCF: bulletin-February-19-2017

 BLCF: 10-Commandments

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #664 (About Spiritual Gifts – 1 Corinthians 12)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Guided By The Beatitudes’ – Part 1

BLCF: beatitudes

Let us pray…

For our lesson today and next Sunday, we will examine how Christians, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, are guided along the Righteous Path, with the goal of a life that is best described as a beautiful expression of His gifts.

To understand this expression of God’s gifts of the Spirit, under His New Covenant through Jesus, let us look at the old Covenant, under the Old Law of what we refer today as the Ten Commandments.

In spite of our sinful nature, that began in the Garden of Eden, the Bible records that God has faithfully provided mechanisms for guiding believers along the “Paths of Righteousness”.

Before the advent of Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross, subsequent resurrection, and ascension allowed those who believe to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, God gave the People of Israel the Ten Commandments, which we find in Exodus 20:1-17. These laws gave a nation of former slaves’ rules to guide the people along God’s path.

Over time, the Commandments have been expanded by the Jews into the Laws of Moses, comprising three Codes. The first Code is the 10 Commandments. The second Code consists of the Ordinances, a set of Spiritual specifications which include: description of the Tabernacle, Holy Days, acceptable offerings and activities or responsibilities of the priesthood. The third Code may be described as a set of Social rules governing such things as diet, sanitation, quarantine, soil conservation, taxation, marriage, slavery, etc. Many consider these comprehensive Mosaic Laws as the foundation or template of our modern legal system.

While the first Code was given by God to Moses, the second and third were a human attempt to expand or embellish the original ten by covering every possible facet of society. Most importantly, as the man-made Laws grow in number and complexity, in an attempt to address each new situation, there is a tendency to forget the importance of the original 10 Commandments and who authored them.

Jesus came not to do away with the Laws of Moses, but to fulfill them, as we read in Mathew 5:17, Jesus said that not that he came to destroy the law or the prophets: but he came to fulfill them, and by his death and resurrection bring the Holy Spirit to those who believe.

Jesus did not come to end sin but to take upon himself the judgment for sin, which is death. And to those who receive Christ’s Gift of Salvation, also receive the Gift of God’s Holy Spirit, and the Spirit brings believers Gifts of the Spirit which are characteristics that are expressed as beatitude.

The Holy Spirit is the key to God’s plan for providing guidance to believers to keep along His path.

What is the Holy Spirit? Let us go to wikipedia.org for our Wiki bits answer.

What is the Holy Spirit?

BLCF: What_the_Holy_Spirit_does

Within mainstream Christianity the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity. As such he is personal and also fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Son. He is different from the Father and the Son in that he proceeds from the Father (or from the Father and the Son) as described in the Nicene Creed. His sacredness is reflected in the New Testament gospels (e.g., Mark 3:28-30, Matthew 12:30-32, and Luke 12:8-10), which proclaim blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as unforgivable.

The Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. These include:

  • Conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions, and of their moral standing as sinners before God.
  • Bringing to conversion. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith. The new believer is “born again of the Spirit”.
  • Enabling the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is believed to dwell in the individual believers and enable them to live a righteous and faithful life.  The word Paraclete is specifically applied to the Holy Spirit in this regard. A paraclete is one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate.
  • Inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and/or church.

The Holy Spirit is also believed to be active especially in the life of Jesus Christ, enabling him to fulfil his work on earth. Particular actions of the Holy Spirit include:

  • Cause of his birth. According to the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, the “beginning of His incarnate existence”, was due to the Holy Spirit.
  • Anointing him at his baptism.
  • Empowerment of his ministry. The ministry of Jesus following his baptism (in which the Holy Spirit is described in the gospels as “descending on Him like a dove”) is conducted in the power and at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

And most importantly the Holy Spirit is God’s way of poring his love into our hearts Romans 5:5(NIV): And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

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

As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit enables direct communication with God through the discernment of God’s will. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers. But what can a believer do to draw closer to our Lord, to facilitate or augment the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives?

BLCF: fruit-of-the-spirit1

First, as believers, God, through the Holy Spirit makes available to us what is described as fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is described by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23:

“The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit enables direct communication with God giving discernment of God’s will. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers. But what can a believer do to draw closer to our Lord and to facilitate or augment the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives?

First, as believers, God, through the Holy Spirit makes available to us what is described as the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is described by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23:

“The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

The Fruit of the Spirit which includes charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, is gifted by the Holy Spirit is free, “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in the garden, must realize that it takes time, you may not get fruit in the first season. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree. You must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. And you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

You may ask what are some concrete examples or evidence of Spiritual Fruit?

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight statements, known as the Beatitudes, which may be considered as overt expressions of the Spirit’s Fruit, as we read in Matthew 5:3-11:

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the

Kingdom of heaven.

  1. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Some Biblical scholars consider the 9th Beatitude as part of the 8th one.

BLCF: LSS

I was fortunate to attend a high school in Richmond Hill which had no bells between classes. If you were absent you wrote your own notes to sign yourself in or out. The expectation was if a student were given responsibility, he or she would grow and mature if the rules of conduct were minimized.

BLCF: LSS-policy

The slogan of Langstaff Secondary School was and is “Maturity through Responsibility”. As believers in Christ, God has removed the old rules or laws and provided, through the Holy Spirit, provided a beautiful and simple way for us to grow and mature, by accepting the responsibility of our spiritual maturity. He has given us his Beatitudes by which each of us may use to measure our spiritual growth on a personal level. By doing so we may grow and develop our fruit of the Spirit and draw closer to his presence with the help of the Holy Spirit.

However, Fruit of the Spirit given through salvation, which the gift of the Holy Spirit is free, not of works, lest anyone should boast. To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in the garden, you must realize that it takes time, you may not get fruit in the first season. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree. You must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. And you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

People work their entire lives to achieve wealth, fame and power, which may bring material rewards. Christians believe, however, that those who live by the code of conduct outlined in the Beatitudes and pursue righteous lives will develop the quality of character God wants his followers to have and will ultimately be blessed with an eternity in Heaven.

Let us pray…

BLCF: be-the-church

Closing Hymn #451: I Have Decided To Follow Jesus

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.

BLCF: Peace through Jesus