Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed 2019

what_are_you_dong_here_Elijah

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed, 2019’

© March 3, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 3, 2019

Based on messages shared at BLCF on February 23, 2014,

and February 28, 2016

 BLCF Bulletin February 28, 2016

BLCF Bulletin February 23, 2014

BLCF:WhispersOfGod

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #413: God Is My Strong Salvation; Choruses                               

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

Responsive Reading #611 (Comfort from God – Isaiah 40)

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed’    

BLCF:Whispers-of-God-Emerson             

Let us pray…

When I was 6 years of age, I found that it was good to have parents of strength around, on those occasions where fear overcame the joys of childhood innocence. I recall well when my younger sister Rhona suffered a traumatic spinal injury at the age of 3 years and was not expected to survive the night. Because of her dismal prognosis, dad was allowed to bring me to my sister’s hospital room, for what was possibly a final visit. Though dad did not mention how critical her condition, seeing a Rhona connected to tubes and monitors was a frightening specter, which she must have sensed, as upon seeing me, she told me to “Go Away”.

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Our family prayed to God and Rhona pulled through, though, for the next 39 years of her life, she would face a lifetime of many or death surgeries and health challenges. At those times, we would often pray to God with the hope that he would give the family, especially Rhona, the courage to face these challenges.

Which brings us to today’s lesson, from the 1 Kings 19. Some of you may recall reading from 1 Kings 18, where the prophet Elijah, a devout servant of God, was concerned about the waning faith of the people of Israel towards the one true God where some had begun to worship the pagan god Baal.

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This where Elijah had proposed a challenge to the 450 priests of Baal, where both he and the priests would set up sacrificial altars to their respective god, asking him to light the altar. Elijah gave the priests of a Baal a handicap by ordering a dozen urns of water be poured on the altar he had built. The priests of Baal were unsuccessful, while Elijah prayed to God, acknowledging His authority and asking God to start the altar fires to help restore and renew the faith of His chosen people. God responded with a fire so fierce that it not only burned the wood and water but destroyed the very rocks upon which the altar sat. After the victory, Elijah had all of the priests of Baal put to death.

BLCF: Elijah_map

You would think, after this decided victory, Elijah would use the victory as an opportunity to promote God to those who had may still harbor any doubts about Who was the real God, and who wasn’t. Instead, Elijah fled upon learning that Jezebel had sought to give Elijah the same fate that was given to the priests of Baal. As we see in 1 Kings 19:

1 Kings 19 (ESV): Elijah Flees Jezebel

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

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Elijah was so overcome with self-fear and loathing because he felt that by not convincing Jezebel of the one true God, that he had failed Him.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

BLCF:elijah-and-the-angel

God had seen the faith of his servant Elijah, and in this case, denied Elijah’s request to be put to death. We see that God twice sent angels to attend to Elijah by giving him food and water. The first meal to restore Elijah’s strength, while the second to fortify Elijah for a forty-day journey to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai, the sacred place of God.  God had planned to not only converse with Elijah but to give His prophet a lesson in what matters most in restoring faith to those who have strayed from God. Let us continue in 1 Kings 19, at verse 9:

The Lord Speaks to Elijah

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.[a] 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence

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We see that God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” In other words, why have you fled to the wilderness? Elijah confesses that following God’s demonstration where He had started the sacrificial fire on the altar made in His honor, the people of Israel had destroyed God’s altar and killed all His prophets, save for Elijah And because he had failed to convince the people to keep their covenant with God, Elijah had failed God. To Elijah, it seems that the glass is not just half empty, but totally so.

BLCF:1kings19-12

God’s answer to Elijah, is quite interesting. The Lord instructs Elijah to go out of the cave and to stand on the mount before the Lord. Perhaps, Elijah expected God to cast him off the mount, as punishment for his perceived failure. It is also interesting to note, that God does not speak to Elijah in a voice that is great and thunderous as one might imagine. Thanks to the likes of Cecil B. Deville, we have God speaking to Moses in a mighty, booming voice and coming from a pillar of fire. There is no reason to believe that God spoke any differently to Moses than the way He conversed with Elijah, in a quiet whisper, like a Father to a beloved child.

BLCF:Cecil_B_DeMille_Ten_Commandments

We see that as the Lord passes by, three great natural events occur: first strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally a fire. In each of these events, God was not present. Then Elijah hears God speaking in a low whisper, which prompts Elijah to cover his face, as he recognized God’s presence. We see that, though extreme natural events such as earth-shattering winds, earthquakes, and fire or even four blood moons and eclipses of the sun may occur after God passes, they do not indicate the presence of God. Only when we hear God speak, even though in a whisper, can we know for certain that God is present. Otherwise, we may mistakenly believe any and all such extreme events are a sign from God. God is quite clear and explicit that He communicates to us by his word, not through natural events or disasters. God was not in the wind.

The destruction of the altars set by the priests of Baal, by wind, earthquake, and fire are just as meaningless signs if the Devine presence unless God whispers. And what did God whisper? Continuing at 1 Kings 19, verse 13:

And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

First, Elijah gives the same refrain as an answer that we read beginning back in verse 9. This time God instructs Elijah to do what is likely what he should have done after the altar was lit instead of fleeing into the wilderness, which was: to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah in place of himself.  In other words, God tells Elijah to appoint new rulers and names Elisha to be His new prophet. God not only names a successor but informs Elijah that seven thousand people of Israel have not broken their covenant to God. So the glass is not as empty as Elijah had thought.

BLCF:1-Kings-19-19-Elijah-casting-his-mantle-on-Elisha

Elijah then departs to do as the Lord commanded, 1Kings 19, verse 19:

The Call of Elisha

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.

Just as God had provided food to restore Elijah, before whispering to and restoring his prophet, Elisha celebrates his calling, first by honoring and showing affection to his parents; then by making a sacrifice of the twelve oxen, which he shares as a feast with the people; and finally, Elisha leaves to follow Elijah.

BLCF:holy-yearnings-of-the-heart-a-god-johann-wolfgang-von-goethe

God had not only restored Elijah’s confidence and faith, but He raised Elijah to a more prominent place than before. And God had anointed those who kept His covenant. When we are afraid, God is our refuge and shelter, as we read in Psalm 91:

Psalm 91 (ESV): My Refuge and My Fortress

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[
a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Not shown in today’s bulletin are the last three verses from Psalm 91, which indicate that God not only provides refuge and protection to the faithful but abide by the faithful, giving honor and reward of salvation. Psalm 91, verse 14:

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

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What is faith and how does God value it? Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11 (ESV): By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

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By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

BLCF: Exodus Numbers

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

BLCF Church: sinner saved

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

We see God has acknowledged and commended the faith of His prophets, though many suffered dearly, some even paying with their lives. In verse 38 we read:

They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

I can think of one such prophet who was destitute, afflicted, mistreated; who wandered in the deserts and mountain wilderness, in dens and caves of the earth. Sound familiar?

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A few years back, the Christian singing group, The Newsboys, gave a great lyrical expression of how the voice of God’s Holy Spirit whispers to us, in their song Something Beautiful, which begins with the lyrics:

I wanna start it over
I wanna start again
I want a new beginning
One without an end
I feel it inside
Calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

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And God’s love is the underlying emotion expressed in His whisper:

I’ve heard it in the silence
Seen it on a face
I’ve felt it in a long hour
Like a sweet embrace
I know this is true
It’s calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

(Link to song Something Beautiful:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xukUTizrkTU )

BLCF:Sometimes_you_need_silence_for_God_whispers

But God provided something better for us, than just His commendation. We received, through Christ Jesus, salvation, forgiveness and a new covenant. Through Jesus, sacrifice, we are lifted up and restored to God, not in a cave or upon a remote mount, but everywhere we walk. For as believers in Christ, we walk with the gift of God’s eternal presence through his Holy Spirit:

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Deuteronomy 33:27a (ESV):

27 The eternal God is your dwelling place,[a] and underneath are the everlasting arms.[b]

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place   c. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old

Know His presence, when you hear His voice whisper your name through His Holy Spirit.

 Remember, all believers can take heart and comfort expressed in Psalm 27, verse 1, which begins with the assurance us that:

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[
a] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

BLCF:Psalm27_14

And Psalm 27, verse 14, closes by urging us to not lose our faith, but to:

14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Footnotes: a. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old         

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #663 (- from 1 Corinthians 11)

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

Benediction – (Psalm 27:14):  Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!   

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Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit’        

 © October 13, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 14, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 6, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 4, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior; Choruses                 

Responsive Reading #601 (Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27)

Message by Steve Mickelson: Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, on this Communion Sunday.

In past lessons, on previous Sundays, we have looked at how sin can cause fear, guilt, and shame, which in turn result in a separation from God. Our examples have included: how both Adam and Eve, being aware of their nakedness, felt shame; Cain experienced the guilt of killing his brother, Abel; and Jesus’ disciples had hidden in fear in the Upper Room, after Christ’s crucifixion.

Adam and Eve, having eaten the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge” became aware of their nakedness and hid their bodies in guilt. Their sin was disobeying God.

Cain, in a fit of jealousy, killed his brother and denied knowing Abel’s whereabouts. His sin was murdering another.

Having seen their Lord die on the cross, the disciples hid in the Upper Room, fearful of their own safety. When Peter denied knowing Jesus and his allowing him to go to die the cross for sin’s he did not commit, produced in him and the other disciples a guilt so great, that they locked themselves in a room.

We see three accounts of how sin pushes people from God, as each felt that the sin could not be undone. And all three reactions to sin could be viewed not only as introspective and self-serving, perhaps even selfish in nature.

Which brings us to David, who authored today’s first Scripture verse, which is taken from Psalm 27, Verse 1.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV): The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation

Of David.

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

Footnotes: a. Psalm 27:1 Or refuge

The Psalmist expresses no guilt, shame or fear, even though he had committed the sin of adultery. The difference was that he had been forgiven by the Lord for his transgression. This brings us to today’s second Scripture passage, Acts 4:1-22.

Acts 4:1-22 (ESV): Peter and John before the Council

4 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus[a] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[b] 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[c] by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

Footnotes: a. Acts 4:11 Greek This one b. Acts 4:11 Greek the head of the corner c. Acts 4:12 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women

The boldness of Peter and John, who were filled by the Holy Spirit by their resurrected Lord after he had given them his Commission, (John 20:21), was so powerful that the temple priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducee released the apostles from their custody. Besides, it is rather difficult to deny the man who was healed from a lifelong affliction, standing before them.

John 20:19-23 (ESV): Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time

Though Peter and John were released with the warning not to continue to preach in the name of Jesus, this did not happen, as the two apostles prayed to God for strength from the Spirit, to continue to be bold in their ministry.

These were the same men who had hid in fear for their own safety, now boldly ministering to those who they feared. Remember, Christ had breathed into them the Holy Spirit to become messengers of his Gospel. The Spirit gave the apostles courage to boldly go forth on Christ’s Commission. For Christ had died on the cross for their sins, and our sins. Jesus had paid the penalty for all sin, so it was no longer necessary to carry sin’s burdens of guilt, shame, and fear. The apostles had both faith and the gift of the Spirit which gave them confidence not only to spread the Gospel message but to heal a crippled man, through the grace and power of the Spirit. They had now changed their focus from worrying only about themselves to caring about the salvation of others, including the very same group responsible for the death of Jesus and sought to persecute them: the temple priest, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees.

So who were these Sadducees, who sought to suppress the apostles?

The Sadducees

Let us check our Wiki Bits reference:

The Sadducees (Hebrew: צְדוּקִיםṢĕdûqîm) were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BCE through the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole, the sect fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple. The Sadducees are often compared to other contemporaneous sects, including the Pharisees and the Essenes. Their sect is believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, but it has been speculated that the later Karaites may have had some roots or connections with old Sadducee views.

The religious responsibilities of the Sadducees included the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. Their high social status was reinforced by their priestly responsibilities, as mandated in the Torah. The Priests were responsible for performing sacrifices at the Temple, the primary method of worship in Ancient Israel. This also included presiding over sacrifices on the three festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Their religious beliefs and social status were mutually reinforcing, as the Priesthood often represented the highest class in Judean society. Sadducees and the priests were not completely synonymous. Cohen points out that “not all priests, high priests, and aristocrats were Sadducees; many were Pharisees, and many were not members of any group at all.”

The New Testament, specifically the books of Mark and Matthew, describe anecdotes that hint at hostility between the Jesus movement and the Sadduceean establishment. These disputes manifest themselves on both theological and social levels. Mark describes how the Sadducees challenged Jesus’ belief in the Resurrection of the Dead. Jesus subsequently defends his belief in resurrection against Sadduceean resistance, stating, “and as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Jesus challenges the reliability of the Sadducees’ interpretation of Biblical doctrine, the authority of which enforces the power of the Sadduceean priesthood. The Sadducees address the issue of resurrection through the lens of marriage, which “hinted at their real agenda: the protection of property rights through patriarchal marriage that perpetuated the male lineage.” Furthermore, Matthew depicts the Sadducees as a “brood of Vipers,” and a perversion of the true Israel. The New Testament thus constructs the identity of Christianity in opposition to the Sadducees.

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

The Holy Spirit that Jesus “breathed upon the disciples” transformed them from disciples or students of the Lord, who locked themselves out of fear in the Upper Room, to apostles or messengers of the Gospel, boldly witnessing in faith to the very same people who had Christ crucified! The power of the Spirit had transformed the apostles into bold witnesses of Christ’s Gospel.

But what do we mean by faith? The Apostle Paul gave us a good understanding of faith, by explaining what believers may accomplish by faith, in Hebrews 11:1-16.

Hebrews 11:1-16 (ESV): By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The first paragraph acts both as an overview and summary of the power of actions performed by walking boldly faith, with courage from the Holy Spirit:

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Let us pray…

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

Benediction (Ephesians 3:20-21):  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed

BLCF: God-whispers-to-me

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed’

© February 28, 2016, by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin February 28, 2016

Based on a message shared at BLCF on February 23, 2014

BLCF Bulletin February 23, 2014

 BLCF: God Whispers

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #611 (Comfort from God – Isaiah 40); Prayer

Opening Hymn #413: God Is My Strong Salvation; Choruses                                                                                                                                    

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

Scripture Verses: 1 Kings 19:1-21 and Hebrews 11:1-3; 32-40

 

BLCF: Boy Praying

Let us pray…

When I was 6 years of age, I found that it was good to have parents of strength around, on those occasions where fear overcame the joys of childhood innocence. I recall well when my younger sister Rhona suffered a traumatic spinal injury at the age of 3 years and was not expected to survive the night. Because of her dismal prognosis, dad was allowed to bring me to my sister’s hospital room, for what was possibly a final visit. Though dad did not mention how critical her condition, seeing Rhona connected to tubes and monitors was a frightening specter, which she must have sensed, as upon seeing me, she told me to “Go Away”. Our family prayed to God and Rhona pulled through, though, for the next 39 years of her life, she would face a lifetime of many life or death surgeries and health challenges. At those times, we would often pray to God with the hope that He would give the family, especially Rhona, the courage to face these challenges.

Which brings us to today’s lesson, from the 1 Kings 19. Some of you may recall reading from 1 Kings 18, gives the account of the prophet, Elijah, a devout servant of God, who had a concern about the waning faith of the people of Israel towards the one true God as some had begun to worship the pagan god, Baal.

 

BLCF: Elijah calls on God

This where Elijah had proposed a challenge to the 450 priests of Baal, whereby both he and the priests would set up sacrificial altars to their respective god, asking him to light the altar. Elijah gave the priests of a Baal a handicap by ordering a dozen urns of water be poured on the altar he had built. The priests of Baal were unsuccessful, while Elijah prayed to God, acknowledging His authority and asking God to start the altar fires to help restore and renew the faith of His chosen people. God responded with a fire so fierce that it not only burned the wood and water but destroyed the very rocks upon which the altar sat. After the victory, Elijah had all of the priests of Baal put to death.

You would think, after this decided victory, Elijah would use the victory as an opportunity to promote God to those who may still harbor any doubts about Who was the real God, and who wasn’t. Instead, Elijah fled upon learning that Jezebel had sought to give Elijah the same fate that was given to the priests of Baal. As we see in 1 Kings 19 (ESV):

 Elijah Flees Jezebel

BLCF: Elijahs Flight

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

Elijah was so overcome with self-fear and loathing because he felt that by not convincing Jezebel of the one true God, that he had failed Him.

BLCF: Elijahs fear and self-loathing

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

BLCF: Elijah visited by angel

God had seen the faith of his servant Elijah, and in this case, denied Elijah’s request to be put to death. We see that God twice sent angels to attend to Elijah by giving him food and water. The first meal to restore Elijah’s strength, while the second to fortify Elijah for a forty-day journey to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai, the sacred place of God.  God had planned to not only converse with Elijah but to give His prophet a lesson in what matters most in restoring faith to those who have strayed from God. Let us continue in 1 Kings 19, at verse 9:

The Lord Speaks to Elijah

LCF: Where are you doing here Elijah

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.[a] 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence

 

BLCF: 1kings19-12

We see that God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” In other words, why have you fled to the wilderness? Elijah confesses that following God’s demonstration where He had started the sacrificial fire on the altar made in His honor, the people of Israel had destroyed God’s altar and killed all His prophets, save for Elijah And because he had failed to convince the people to keep their covenant with God, Elijah had failed God. To Elijah, it seems that the glass is not just half empty, but totally so.

BLCF: God-speaks-to-elijah

God’s answer to Elijah, is quite interesting. The Lord instructs Elijah to go out of the cave and to stand on the mount before the Lord. Perhaps, Elijah expected God to cast him off the mount, as punishment for his perceived failure. It is also interesting to note, that God does not speak to Elijah in a voice that is great and thunderous as one might imagine. Thanks to the likes of Cecil B. Demille, we have God speaking to Moses in a mighty, booming voice and coming from a pillar of fire. There is no reason to believe that God spoke any differently to Moses than the way He conversed with Elijah, in a quiet whisper, like a Father to a beloved child.

BLCF: cecil_b_demille_ten_commandments

We see that as the Lord passes by, three great natural events occur: first strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally a fire. In each of these events, God was not present. Then Elijah hears God speaking in a low whisper, which prompts Elijah to cover his face, as he recognized God’s presence. We see that, though extreme natural events such as earth-shattering winds, earthquakes, and fire or even four blood moons and eclipses of the sun may occur after God passes, they do not indicate the presence of God. Only when we hear God speak, even though in a whisper, can we know for certain that God is present. Otherwise, we may mistakenly believe any and all such extreme events are a sign from God. God is quite clear and explicit that He communicates to us by his word, not through natural events or disasters.

BLCF: Gods voice

The destruction of the altars set by the priests of Baal, by wind, earthquake, and fire are just as meaningless signs if the Devine presence unless God whispers. And what did God whisper? Continuing at 1 Kings 19, verse 13:

And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

First, Elijah gives the same refrain as an answer that we read beginning back in verse 9. This time God instructs Elijah to do what is likely what he should have done after the altar was lit instead of fleeing into the wilderness, which was: to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah in place of himself.  In other words, God tells Elijah to appoint new rulers and names Elisha to be His new prophet. God not only names a successor but informs Elijah that seven thousand people of Israel have not broken their covenant to God. So the glass is not as empty as Elijah had thought.

Elijah then departs to do as the Lord commanded, 1Kings 19, verse 19:

 

The Call of Elisha

BLCF: The Call of Elijah

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.

Just as God had provided food to restore Elijah, before whispering to and restoring his prophet, Elisha celebrates his calling, first by honoring and showing affection to his parents; then by making a sacrifice of the twelve oxen, which he shares as a feast with the people; and finally, Elisha leaves to follow Elijah.

God had not only restored Elijah’s confidence and faith, but He raised Elijah to a more prominent place than before. And God had anointed those who kept His covenant. When we are afraid, God is our refuge and shelter, as we read in Psalm 91 (ESV):

 My Refuge and My Fortress

BLCF: Lord - light salvation and stronghold

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Not shown in today’s bulletin are the last three verses from Psalm 91, which indicate that God not only provides refuge and protection to the faithful but abide by the faithful, giving honor and reward of salvation. Psalm 91, verse 14:

 

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

What is faith and how does God value it? Hebrews 11 (ESV):

 By Faith

BLCF: hebrews11verse1

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

exodus-numbers

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

BLCF: God Whispers You are Mine

We see God has acknowledged and commended the faith of His prophets, though many suffered dearly, some even paying with their lives. In verses 37b – 38 we read:

They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

I can think of one such prophet who was destitute, afflicted, mistreated; who wandered in the deserts and mountain wilderness, in dens and caves of the earth. Sound familiar?

BLCF: God_Whispers

A few years back, the Christian singing group, The Newsboys, gave a great lyrical expression of how the voice of God’s Holy Spirit whispers to us, in their song Something Beautiful, which begins with the lyrics:

I wanna start it over
I wanna start again
I want a new beginning
One without an end
I feel it inside
Calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

And God’s love is the underlying emotion expressed in His whisper:

I’ve heard it in the silence
Seen it on a face
I’ve felt it in a long hour
Like a sweet embrace
I know this is true
It’s calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

(Link to song Something Beautiful:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xukUTizrkTU )

BLCF: holy-yearnings-of-the-heart-a-god-johann-wolfgang-von-goethe

God provided something better for us than just His commendation. We received, through Christ Jesus, salvation, forgiveness and a new covenant. Through Jesus, sacrifice, we are lifted up and restored to God, not in a cave or upon a remote mount, but everywhere we walk. For as believers in Christ, we walk with the gift of God’s eternal presence through his Holy Spirit:

Deuteronomy 33:27a (ESV)

BLCF: when_i_wait

27 The eternal God is your dwelling place,[a] and underneath are the everlasting arms.[b]

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place   c. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old

 

BLCF: Still-and-Quiet1

Know His presence, when you hear His voice whisper your name through His Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

 

BLCF: whispershearingthevoiceofgod

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

Benediction – (Psalm 27:1 and 14):

Remember all believers can take heart and comfort expressed in Psalm 27, which begins with the assurance us that:

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

And Psalm 27, (verse 14), closes by urging us to not lose our faith, but to:

14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Footnotes: a. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old   

 

BLCF: Psalm27_14