David: Humble Shepherd, Defender of the Faith, and God’s Fearless Champion

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

David: Humble Shepherd, Defender of the Faith, and God’s Fearless Champion’

© October 22, 2017, by Steve Mickelson

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                          

Opening Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering; Choruses                       

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

Responsive Reading #598(a): The Holy City (Psalm 23 – first half)                  

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                   

‘David: Humble Shepherd, Defender of the Faith, and God’s Fearless Champion’                                                                                      

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Worship and Prayer Service at BLCF. For today’s lesson, we will examine the actions and testimony of David in two passages of Scripture: 1 Samuel 17:1-51 and Psalm 23.

Before we examine these Bible passages, let us briefly take a brief overview of this King, who proved the power of his faith on the battlefield. The following biographical sketch comes from Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia:

King David

David[a] is described in the Hebrew Bible as the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.

In the biblical narrative, David is a young shepherd who first gains fame as a musician and later by killing Goliath. He becomes a favorite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. Worried that David is trying to take his throne, Saul turns on David. After Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle, David is anointed as King. David conquers Jerusalem, taking the Ark of the Covenant into the city, and establishing the kingdom founded by Saul. As king, David arranges the death of Uriah the Hittite to cover his adultery with Bathsheba. The text does not state whether she consented to sex. According to the same biblical text, God denies David the opportunity to build the temple and his son, Absalom, tries to overthrow him. David flees Jerusalem during Absalom’s rebellion, but after Absalom’s death he returns to the city to rule Israel. Before his peaceful death, he chooses his son Solomon as his successor. He is mentioned in the prophetic literature as an ideal king and an ancestor of a future Messiah, and many psalms are ascribed to him.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David

It is interesting that on more than one occasion, God chose to raise a humble shepherd to become a leader to His Chosen People. You may recall that the other herdsman chosen by the Lord was Moses, who was chosen to lead People of the House of Israel, from their bondage in Egypt.

Let us now look at the account of how young David convinced King Saul that the shepherd would be the best choice to be champion of God’s Chosen people against the giant Philistine warrior, named Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17:1-51 (ESV):

 David and Goliath

 17 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six[a] cubits[b] and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels[c] of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years.[d] 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah[e] of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 

Footnotes: a. 1 Samuel 17:4 Hebrew; Septuagint, Dead Sea Scroll and Josephus four b. 1 Samuel 17:4 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters c. 1 Samuel 17:5 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams d. 1 Samuel 17:12 Septuagint, Syriac; Hebrew advanced among men e. 1 Samuel 17:17 An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters 

Looking at the footnotes on the height and size of Goliath, you may calculate, using the conversion of 1 cubit being equal to 18 inches or 45 centimeters, we have the warrior at 8 feet 8 inches plus a span or 270 cm, plus a span. And using the shekel of 1 unit being the equivalent of 2/5 ounces or 11 grams, the armor of mail, Goliath, at 5,000 shekels, would weigh about 2,000 ounces or 22 Kilograms.

Goliath was faced on the battlefield by David, the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. It was while he was bringing food to his brothers on the battle lines, that David heard the taunts of the Philistine champion against the armies of God’s Chosen and volunteered to face Goliath not only as a champion of the army of Israel, but more importantly, he came in the name of Lord of hosts who is the God of the armies of Israel.

Who else was more qualified to be champion of God, King Saul, and the People of Israel than this young shepherd who bravely slew both bear and lion to protect his flock, giving praise to God for his victories saying, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  – 1 Samuel 17:37

This brings us to our second Scripture passage, Psalm 23, where David acknowledges this King of God’s Chosen testimony is that he is but a member of a flock, who is guided, protected, comforted, and anointed by His Father in heaven.

We read this Psalm which praises and honors the Lord, in today’s Responsive Reading, entitled: The Holy City, and echoed in our Opening Hymn: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering, which we sang earlier in the service. For a better understanding of King David’s Psalm 23, here is the Good News Bible translation:

The LORD our Shepherd

1The LORD is my shepherd;

I have everything I need.

2He lets me rest in fields of green grass

and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.

3He gives me new strength.

He guides me in the right paths,

as he has promised.

4Even if I go through the deepest darkness,

I will not be afraid, LORD,

for you are with me.

Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.

5You prepare a banquet for me,

where all my enemies can see me;

you welcome me as an honoured guest

and fill my cup to the brim.

6I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;

and your house will be my home as long as I live.

https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/explore-the-bible/read/eng/GNB/Ps/23/

I wonder how many of the BLCF Congregation have the 1 Samuel 17 account of David and Goliath come to mind as they read The Lord is My Shepherd in  Psalm 23 and vice versa?

While the words and actions of David against the champion of the army of the Philistines described in 1 Samuel 17:1-51 speak for themselves, the metaphors used in Psalm 23 certainly bear witness to David’s battle against Goliath, and how he trusted God, and continues to praise Him.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died for Me

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Recovered, Anointed, and Restored by Our Good Shepherd, Jesus

BLCF: Gods_love_for_the_Lost

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Recovered, Anointed, and Restored by Our Good Shepherd, Jesus’  

 © October 23, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF bulletin-october-23-2016

 BLCF: Jesus-the-good-shepherd

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #612 (The Lamb of God – Isaiah 53); Prayer                                                                                                 

 Opening Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound; Choruses                

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

Scripture Verses:  Psalm 23, Ezekiel 34:11-15, Luke 15:1-7, John 10:1-18

                                           BLCF: the-lost-sheep                                      

 

Let us pray,

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and our Sunday Morning Worship and Praise Service.

The message today, entitledRecovered, Anointed, and Restored by Our Good Shepherd, Jesus’, we will examine some of the reasons why Jesus often compared his relationship with his followers and his ministry to that of a shepherd and his flock of sheep.

Contained in both the title and first line of the 23rd Psalm is David’s acknowledgment that the Lord is his shepherd. Psalm 23 both describes David’s relationship with the Lord and acts as a faith testimony.

Psalm 23 (ESV) The Lord Is My Shepherd

                 A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[
a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[
b]
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely[
d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[
f] in the house of the Lord
forever.[
g]

Footnotes: a. Psalm 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest b. Psalm 23:3 Or in right paths c. Psalm 23:4 Or the valley of deep darkness d. Psalm 23:6 Or Only e. Psalm 23:6 Or steadfast love f. Psalm 23:6 Or shall return to dwell g. Psalm 23:6 Hebrew for length of days

Psalm 23 reinforces the description of the Lord as a shepherd, who cares for us, like a shepherd’s flock, by providing not only our physical needs with green pastures and still waters but the spiritual needs by restoring the souls and guiding  us along the righteous path for his name’ sake. His provision is so complete, that we are not wanting or in need of anything else.

Even when we are in low circumstances that may threaten our very own mortality and spiritual survival, we take comfort in the Lord’s presence.

The gift of God’s Covenants, of His mercy, and life eternal, anoint us so that we are completely and eternally full with the Lord’s goodness and mercy.

And though we may find physical and spiritual tests and challenges intended by the devil to drift away from the safety found within the Lord’s flock, we may take solace from the Lord’s promise that, as a Good Shepherd, He will seek out those of His flock who have gone astray, as we read in Ezekiel 34:11-15 (ESV):

The Lord God Will Seek Them Out

BLCF: Jesus-seeks-and-saves-the-lost-sheep

 11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God.

The arrival Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was prophesied in Ezekiel 34:11-15 as  seeking out His flock, who have become scattered and lost in the darkness and clouds which have obscured the light of his guidance and goodness.

When the lost members of the Lord’s flock are found, they will be led in the same manner described in Psalm 23: out of a place physical and spiritual danger, to a place that he provided where we shall not need or want for anything.

While the Lord provides for the needs of His sheep, Jesus explains His expectations of the way which we are to share Christ’s Gospel or the Message of Salvation with others, as a parable described in Luke 15:1-7 (ESV):

  The Parable of the Lost Sheep

BLCF: lost_sheep

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     In our final Scripture, Jesus declares that he is our Good Shepherd, who acts as the gatekeeper to the Father’s kingdom in heaven, calling His flock to the only way of salvation and the presence of God’s glory, John 10:1-18 (ESV):

I Am the Good Shepherd

 i-am-the-good-shepherd

 10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, loves His flock so much, that He has given his life to redeem them. The Lord has chosen to lay his life, to redeem our lives, by the authority given to Christ by the Father in heaven, so God’s goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lifetime, and we may anticipate the beloved Son of God, who sacrificed His life to atone for the judgment for sins of His flock. If we listen to the call of the Lord and accept His gift of salvation and follow the path that He provides, we are promised the gifts of light, salvation, and eternal life.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering

Benediction – Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV):

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

 

BLCF : I-have-found-my-lost-sheep

What Is ‘God’s Mercy and Grace?’

BLCF: Gods Mercy is greater - animated

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

What Is ‘God’s Mercy and Grace?’

© January 17, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 17, 2016

Based on a Message shared with BLCF Church on Sunday July 11, 2010

 Ephesians1_7   

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 – Second Part Only (Living Psalms – Psalm 23 – Paraphrased); Prayer                                                                              

Opening Hymn #286: Years I spent in Vanity and Pride                                            

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

Scriptures Verses: Psalm 23, Romans 5:20-21, Ephesians 1:3-9

BLCF: Lord-Jesus-animated

Psalm 23 (ESV) The Lord Is My Shepherd

– A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
forever.[g]

Footnotes: a. Psalm 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest b. Psalm 23:3 Or in right paths c. Psalm 23:4 Or the valley of deep darkness d. Psalm 23:6 Or Only e. Psalm 23:6 Or steadfast love f. Psalm 23:6 Or shall return to dwell g. Psalm 23:6 Hebrew for length of days

BLCF: the_Grace_of_God_will_lead_you

Let us pray…

For today’s lesson, we will be looking at ‘What is ‘God’s Mercy and Grace?’ Mercy and Grace, when referenced to God are usually used interchangeably by both believers and non-believers alike. We often speak of the God ‘s Mercy being involved when we avoid a catastrophe or disastrous circumstance in our lives. It is often used to describe a situation where we experience events that have good or positive outcome, when the anticipated outcome should be bad or negative, and no one can explain why this has occurred.

So what do we mean when we talk about grace? Let’s check our Wikibits:

Spiros Zodhiates, author of The Complete Word Study Dictionary:

New Testament defines Grace is the word most frequently used in modern Bible translations for the original Greek word charis. There is no simple English-language equivalent. Charis means “that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor [and] acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired . . . [and] a favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver Charis is also translated as “favor,” “thanks” and “pleasure.” It comes from the Greek verb chairo, which means “to rejoice” (same source).   A simple way to define grace would be to think of it as God’s unearned, undeserved favor toward us—motivated by His love and concern for us, especially those of us who accept His invitation to enter into a relationship with Him. It encompasses all of the wonderful gifts God so graciously offers us.

Similar to the above scenario, when we see another who has fallen into circumstances, we use the expression, “There, but for the Grace of God, go I”

BLCF: Gods-Grace-Mercy

There is a problem in using the two terms, Grace and Mercy, interchangeably. For while God’s Grace and Mercy, in some ways are not used not mutually exclusive of each other, that does not mean one is synonymous to the other.

Mercy is what grace offers. The grace of God comes to us in our poor sinful condition and offers us the mercy of God when we deserve His wrath. So grace comes to us giving us mercy.

Grace is most commonly called “unmerited favor”. Grace is what God offers to fallen sinners through the salvation obtained by the atonement of Jesus Christ. We call it grace because it is undeserved.

The forgiveness we receive in Christ is through no work we ourselves do, it is for this reason we call it “unmerited favor”. (Romans 3:24, Ephesians 1:7, 2:8-10, Titus 2:11)

Rolfe Barnard defines the relationship of the two as:

“Mercy is God’s favor that holds back from us what we deserve. Grace is God’s favour that gives us what we do not deserve.”

BLCF: Gods mercy and Grace

Thomas Goodwin puts it this way:

” ‘Grace’ is more than mercy and love, it super adds to them. It denotes, not simply love, but the love of a sovereign, transcendently superior, one that may do what he will, that may wholly choose whether he will love or no. There may be love between equals, and an inferior may love a superior; but love in a superior, and so superior as he may do what he will, in such a one love is called grace: and therefore grace is attributed to princes; they are said to be gracious to their subjects, whereas subjects cannot be gracious to princes. Now God, who is an infinite Sovereign, who might have chosen whether ever He would love us or no, for Him to love us, this is grace.”

Another way of describing God’s grace is calling it Divine grace. is found in the Wikipedia Encyclopedia:

Devine Grace is a theological term which is present in many and varied spiritual traditions. It is God’s gift of salvation granted to sinners for their salvation. However, there are significant differences between the ways people of different traditions use the word.

Within Christianity, there are differing conceptions of grace. In particular, Catholics and Protestants use the word in substantially different ways. It has been termed “the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, and modern liberalism from conservatism”. Catholic doctrine teaches God may use the sacraments to facilitate the reception of His grace. Protestants generally do not hold that view.

Grace in this context is something that is God-given, made possible only by Jesus Christ and none other.

Romans 5:1-2 (King James Version) “1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand…”

Galatians 5:4 (King James Version) “4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”

The view that Christians have on grace is that it is undeserved mercy that God gave to us by sending his son to die on a cross to give us a way to be with him in for the balance of eternity.

However, the Greek word used in the Bible is Charis pronounced khar’-ece, in which Strong’s Concordance gives this interesting definition:

“The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”[2] The Greek word charis is related to two other Greek/English words, which are charisma (a special spiritual endowment or influence) and character (an engraving, stamp or mark indicating the genuineness of something)[3] Therefore, grace is given by God in reference to developing characteristics in harmony with God’s character.

Non-Christians hold a markedly different definition of grace:

Hindu philosopher Madhvacharya held that grace was not a gift from God, but rather must be earned.

From a nontheistic, naturalist, and rationalist perspective, the concept of divine grace appears to be the same nonexistent concept as luck.

By contrast, Christian believers hold with the belief that grace comes from God, as an expression of His love, and is manifested by His mercy to those who confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as savior and redeemer.

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Grace reigns through righteousness. An excellent verse regarding God’s grace and which also addresses man’s role is Romans 5:20-21 (ESV):

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

“That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The expression “grace reign though righteousness” (charis basileuon dia dikaiosunes) reveals the climate in which grace is successful. “Righteousness” is an atmosphere of the presence of God’s commandments and man’s humble acquiescence to all that God had required of him   (Psalms 119: 172, Acts 10: 34, 35).

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The apostle John summarizes God’s motivation and character in three simple words:

“God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).

His dealings with us are motivated by His love—His care, His concern and even His correction—so we can receive His gift of eternal life as members of His family.

Several of the apostles summarize God’s attitude and approach of loving care and concern for us with the term grace. Paul, Peter and John use the word quite often. What do they mean by it, and how can it help us better understand our Creator?

1Peter5_10

Paul typically starts his letters to the churches with the phrase:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In doing so he wanted to impress upon his audience God’s favor toward those who accept His calling.

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If you look on the back of today’s Bulletin, you will see a list of Scripture Verses giving the many ways as:

How does God express His love for us through grace?
 
– Through grace God reveals Himself and helps us come to know Him and Jesus Christ His Son (John 1:14-16).
– God calls us through His grace (Galatians 1:15).
– Through grace God pronounces us “justified”, righteous and free of sin
– as a result of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice (Romans 3:24; Titus 3:7).
– God offers us salvation, His gift of eternal life through grace (Romans 5:15-18; Titus 2:11; 3:5; Acts 15:11).
– Through grace God allows us to enjoy a relationship with Him (Romans 5:1-2).
– God saves us through His grace (Ephesians 2:5, 8).
-Because of God’s grace, God offered Jesus Christ, and Jesus offered Himself, as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind (John 3:16; Hebrews2:9).
– Through grace God gives us mercy and “help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
-Through grace God gives us not only what we need but enough for us to share with others (2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 9:8).
– God forgives us through His grace (Ephesians 1:7).
-Through grace Jesus Christ came in the flesh in the role of a servant so we could have a Savior and receive eternal life (2Corinthians 8:9; compare Philippians 2:5-11).
-God gives us consolation and hope through grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
-Through grace God grants spiritual gifts to His people for the benefit of those in His Church (Ephesians 4:7-16; 1 Peter 4:10).
-God’s grace: His dealings with humanity motivated by love are part of the true gospel (Acts 20:24). The gospel —the good news — is the message of God’s plan to offer eternal life in the Kingdom of God to all who have ever lived and will yet live. This is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in taking on Himself the penalty for our sins.

The Gospel of Jesus is the message of God’s plan to offer eternal life in the Kingdom of God to all who have ever lived and will yet live. This is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in taking on Himself the penalty for our sins.

And Jesus’ Gospel includes the wonderful news that God will intervene in human affairs to save us from ourselves and send Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

So what is the lesson, we as believers in the risen Christ, need to take home from so many expressions of God’s mercy and grace?

Grace is when you receive a good reward that you do not deserve. Mercy is when you spared from a bad judgment that you do deserve. God expresses His love by being generous with both His Grace and Mercy.

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The lesson to us should be that of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

We need to show tolerance to the words and actions of others which we find offensive to both God and to ourselves. If God is just to forgive us in spite of our sins, then who are we to condemn such behavior? Throughout His ministry on earth, Christ demonstrated tolerance to those who would commonly held in contempt by so called elders of the faith. Judge not lest ye be judged.

We need to forgive others who have wronged us. The Scripture passages found in both Matthew 6:9–13 and Luke 11:2–4 , commonly called the ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, where Jesus teaches how to pray, indicates that if we expect forgiveness from God, we need to forgive others first.

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In the Bible we are asked the question: “How can we claim to love our Father in Heaven whom we do not know, when we hate our brother whom we do know? In other words, if we really know God, that is know Him in our heart, we would not have room there for contempt or resentment, to seek retribution or revenge.

I find it interesting that some people are more tolerant towards strangers, than they are to those whom they know.

Finally, we should not only just show tolerance and forgiveness, which are aspects of mercy; we need to demonstrate grace by reconciling ourselves to others by working to reestablish our relationships with those from whom we have distanced ourselves. For just as God has reconciled us through the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf at the cross at Calvary, we must be reconciled to those guilty of doing or saying the unforgiveable against us. It is an un-Godly self-indulgence to hold a grudge or express contempt towards those who have wronged us.

Grace should not be considered a form of mercy from God, but rather the state of tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, granted by God’s grace, an expression of love which gives us His mercy, in spite of our sins. It is manifest when we confess our sins to Him and accept Jesus as our personal Savior. We may not and should not assume that while God grants us grace freely by His own will, and because of His love for us; that we are automatically entitled the Lord’s grace. There is a prerequisite, which has been mentioned several times in this sermon, which I would like to repeat in a different way:

God does not grant us grace to make us faithful and believe in Him. God gives us grace because we do have faith and believe in Him.

And we demonstrate our faith by our words and deeds, particularly towards our enemies and those we do not hold in high regard. We show that we believe in Him, when we place our concerns in His hands and trust that He would grant us the grace to endure those challenges in life that we must endure and mercy and forgiveness for those things that we have done which are not of His liking.

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For our closing prayer, let me read the third of today’s Scripture Verses, Ephesians 1:3-9 (ESV), which is entitled: Spiritual Blessings in Christ.

Let us pray…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us[a] for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known[b] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ .                                                                                                            

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 1:5 Or before him in love, having predestined us b. Ephesians 1:9 Or he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight, making known…

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Closing Hymn #49: Surely Goodness and Mercy                                        

Benediction: O God in Heaven, we thank you for your Mercy and Grace. We thank you for your love. We confess our sins and pray that the Holy Spirit guide our hearts so that they may be only for Him; to accept Him, to believe in Him, to praise and to worship Him for Who He is, the One who redeemed us by the sacrifice of Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ who is God. – Amen

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Finding What Is Lost: A Sheep (Luke 15:1-7); A Coin (Luke 15:8-10); A Son (Luke 15:11-22)

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘‘Finding What Is Lost: 

A Sheep (Luke 15:1-7); A Coin (Luke 15:8-10); A Son (Luke 15:11-22)”

© March 22, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

 Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on October 20, 2013

BLCF Bulletin March 22, 2015

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BLCF Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #598 (The Shepherd Psalm – Psalm 23); Prayer                       

Opening Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound

Scripture Verses: Ezekiel 34:11-16, Luke 15:1-22, Jeremiah 23:1-8 

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Let us pray…

Amazing Grace was our opening hymn this morning is a testimony in song authored by John Newton whose faith conversion was as dramatic a change as the apostle Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Here are the Wiki bits of John Newton:

“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn with words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807), published in 1779. With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world.

Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed (forced into service involuntarily) into the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. However, he continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.

Ordained in the Church of England in 1764, Newton became curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he began to write hymns with poet William Cowper. “Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is unknown if there was any music accompanying the verses; it may have simply been chanted by the congregation. It debuted in print in 1779 in Newton and Cowper’s Olney Hymns, but settled into relative obscurity in England. In the United States however, “Amazing Grace” was used extensively during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century. It has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named “New Britain” to which it is most frequently sung today.

Author Gilbert Chase writes that “Amazing Grace” is “without a doubt the most famous of all the folk hymns,” and Jonathan Aitken, a Newton biographer, estimates that it is performed about 10 million times annually.  It has had particular influence in folk music, and has become an emblematic African American spiritual. Its universal message has been a significant factor in its crossover into secular music. “Amazing Grace” saw a resurgence in popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and has been recorded thousands of times during and since the 20th century, occasionally appearing on popular music charts.

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

For the Trekkers out there, Amazing Grace was piped by Commander Scott at the funeral of First Officer Spock in the movie The Wrath of Kahn.  If you are not a follower of Star Trek, the point is that Amazing Grace has become synonymous with the life testimony of Christians, often sung at a believer’s funeral to praise and express gratitude in the promise of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But John Newton, not to be confused with contemporary singer Olivia Newton John, before his conversion, lived the life of a lost sheep described in Ezekiel 34, without love for God or fellow man. He became wealthy at the expense of the lives and freedom of others. But like Saul of Tarsus, the Lord had a plan for Newton: a plan of conviction and conversion of faith that led John Newton to become a minister of God, spreading the gospel of Jesus.

But more than gathering together His lost sheep, the Lord will send the lost sinners a new shepherd and reclaim from a life of sin and destruction His beloved human sheep. Ezekiel 34:11-16 (ESV):

 The Lord God Will Seek Them Out

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11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.[a] I will feed them in justice.

Footnotes: a. Ezekiel 34:16 Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate I will watch over

To reaffirm how Jesus fits in the picture, let us look at the prophecy, where the Lord is described as the “Righteous Branch” in Jeremiah 23:1-8 (ESV):

 The Righteous Branch

23 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”   

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The love that the Lord has for us is so great that he rejoices every time a lost human sheep returns to his flock, as is expressed in the three parables we have printed in today’s bulletin. The first is found in Luke 15:1-7 (ESV):

The Parable of the Lost Sheep   

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.    

We all have experienced the loss of something valuable. We worry and fret over what is lost. But like the lesson from Ezekiel, the Lord will go out and seek the lost sheep, bring it back to the fold and celebrate its return. For every lost soul or sinner that is saved, there is a celebration in heaven.

For those who may not identify with the sheep in the first parable, we have the parable of the Lost Coin, Luke 15:8-10 (ESV):

The Parable of the Lost Coin

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 15:8 Greek ten drachmas; a drachma was a Greek coin approximately equal in value to a Roman denarius, worth about a day’s wage for a laborer

And just in case we still do not understand what the Lord has told us, he teaches us the lesson again, in the parable of a son that is lost in Luke 15:11-22 (ESV):

The Parable of the Prodigal Son     

 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

Footnotes: a. Luke 15:15 Greek joined himself to b. Luke 15:21 Some manuscripts add treat me as one of your hired servants c. Luke 15:22 Greek bondservants

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The Parable of the Prodigal Son not only teaches how the Lord desires us to return to Him, but how He has compassion for us and is willing to forgive us all of our transgressions.

By teaching the same lesson three times in three different parables, the Lord indicates how much He cares for His lost sheep and the priority He places returning sinners back to a righteous place.

I remember some years ago, how Sophie had lost her engagement ring at a church function. Sophie looked everywhere in her pockets for the ring. She had retraced her steps through the evening. Eventually, Sophie received a call from a friend that the young daughter of one of the ladies had found her ring. How relieved and happy she was when it was returned.

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And when a sinner returns to the flock, he has the confidence and peace of mind as well, that he is safe at home with the shepherd, as we see in Psalm 23, which I would like to read for our closing prayer:

Let us pray…

Psalm 23 (ESV): The Lord Is My Shepherd  – A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.[a]

3 He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e]

shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell[f]

in the house of the Lord forever.[g]    

Footnotes: a. Psalm 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest b.Psalm 23:3 Or in right paths c. Psalm 23:4 Or the valley of deep darkness d. Psalm 23:6 Or Only e. Psalm 23:6 Or steadfast love f. Psalm 23:6 Or shall return to dwell g. Psalm 23:6 Hebrew for length of days

Closing Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering

Benediction Hebrews 13:20-21(ESV):

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

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