The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

© April 2, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 2, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Opening Prayer

Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God; Choruses

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

 Responsive Reading #620: The Church (Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians)

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God’.

Most of us operate within lines, borders, or thresholds that separate an area where we want to live and function. But history records many such significant geo-political lines.

In 1493, Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI drew a line on the globe, where everything east was open to exploration and exploitation by the Portuguese, and all the lands west would go to the Spanish. This meant that the whole w4estern hemisphere, except Portuguese Brazil, would go to the Spanish. We know that the Danish, Dutch, English, French and Indigenous Peoples might not agree with this line.

And there are the lines drawn throughout history, including the battles, borders and walls. One US president gained fame for wanting to build a wall, while another for wanting to tear down another.

You may recall that Jesus drew lines in the sand when he suggested that whoever was without sin had the right to cast a stone of judgment and condemnation at an adulterous woman. In other words we should judge ourselves before we decide to judge others. And the sins of others do not justify our own and vice-versa.

But the problem here is not so much the existence of sin, that is a given, but how we able to avoid the temptation of crossing that threshold between avoiding a sin and committing it.

We find Jesus who had the distinction of both being God’s Son and a son of humanity, was not exempt from the temptation of sin. And just as happened in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, the devil, whose name is Satan, sought to tempt Jesus from his Godly mission in this world, as we read in Luke 4:1-13 (ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The influence of the devil’s influence is great and far-reaching. We see that no sooner is Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit and acclaimed by his Father in heaven, do we see the devil working at pulling our Lord across the threshold of temptation into sin.

And if Satan chooses to tempt God’s own Son, we should not be surprised that the devil would temp a disciple of Jesus, Matthew 16:13-26 (ESV):

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[c] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord![d]This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance[e] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades c. Matthew 16:19 Or shall have been bound… shall have been loosed d. Matthew 16:22 Or “[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!” e. Matthew 16:23 Greek stumbling block f. Matthew 16:25 The same Greek word can mean either soul or life, depending on the context; twice in this verse and twice in verse 26

You may recall that at the closing of the account where Satan tempted Jesus that the devil left Jesus for an opportune time. What better time than when Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and after the Lord blesses Peter, choosing him to be the rock upon which Christ will build His Church? Sure enough, Satan tries to tempt Jesus by placing the seeds of doubt in the mind of this elected disciple. It shows us that if Satan cannot tempt us directly, he will try to influence us through those whom we love and trust.

Some years ago, I worked for a company that chose to have its annual picnic at African Lion Safari. Employees and their families were allowed a discount for tickets to a catered lunch in an area in the park.

After lunch we were invited to participate in a tug of war with an elephant. I remember many of us strong and foolish participants took up a long rope marked by yellow tape. The first side to pull the rope across the line would win. Needless to say, the elephant won with little or no apparent effort pulling 20 strong individuals across the line.

That is the way of sin. We seem to have our lives and boundaries from sin securely protected by the imaginary an imaginary wall held together by the mortar of the strength of our own determination. And as if using the strength of some imaginary giant pachyderm effortlessly pulls us across the line.

It is only with the power of the Holy Spirit of God are we able to safely keep Satan’s temptations behind us and maintain the line from sin.

Let us pray…

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship "May Day" 2011 Communion Sunday

 Communion – Responsive Reading #626: The Last Supper (Mark 14)

 Closing Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus

Benediction – Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Light In The Darkness: The 34th Crew Member of Copiapo

BLCF" God'shelping_hand

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Light In The Darkness: The 34th Crew Member of Copiapo‘ 

© July 6, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin July 6, 2014

Originally Published October 31, 2010

BLCF_Christ_with_miners

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading # 608 (God’s Omniscience – Psalm 139); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #444: Take Thou My Hand, O Father                                                                                                                                                                

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

Today’s Scriptures: Isaiah 7:11, Colossians 1:13, Psalm 139:1-12 

 

Isaiah 7:11 (NIV)

11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”                                                                                  

Colossians 1:13 (ESV)

 13He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son

Psalm 139:1-12 (ESV) Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

139 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up;     

you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down     

and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue,    

 behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before,     

and lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;     

it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?     

Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!    

 If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!   If I take the wings of the morning     

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,   even there your hand shall lead me,     

and your right hand shall hold me.    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,    

 and the light about me be night,”    

even the darkness is not dark to you;     

the night is bright as the day,    

 for darkness is as light with you

BLCF: Joe Castillo - Face of Christ 

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Praise and Worship Service at, for the first Sunday of July, Communion Sunday at BLCF. This summer, you may want to mark your calendars for a few noteworthy anniversaries. This fall Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, originally founded as The Crusaders Church of Toronto, will mark our 76th Anniversary. But that is not the subject of today’s lesson.

I would like to talk about the anniversary of an event that was observed by hundreds of millions of people around the world. Some of you may speculate that the event being the anniversary of the moon landing.  After all, it was it some 45 years ago this month, on July 20, 1969, that American Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first to land on the moon. This event was widely watched. According to foxnews.com:

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, 1969, viewed by an estimated half a billion television viewers–at that time, the largest audience ever-watched. 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/07/19/16-fast-facts-apollo-11-historic-moon-landing/

The event which is the topic of today’s message, had a larger audience and is some regards had a more profound impact to viewers around the world. It was just four years ago this coming October 13, 2010, that 33 Chilean Miners were rescued from their underground mine, where they were trapped on August 7, 2010, some 69 days previous. Wikepedia.org indicates that twice as many people observed the rescue operation than the moon landing:

After winching the last trapped miner to the surface, the mine rescue paramedics, the best available drawn from multiple national agencies and military services, all still underground, held up a sign for the TV cameras reading “Misión cumplida Chile” (English: ““Mission accomplished Chile”), which was seen by a TV/Web audience estimated at more than 1 billion viewers around the world watching the rescue live.                                                                                               

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_accident

 

BLCF: Miner_Miracle

 

The lesson I would like to share with you this morning has several elements that are important to the Christian walk: trusting God in times of danger and adversity; faith in the Scriptures when tempted by Satan; and why God allows believers to be placed in harm’s way in order to convict others in faith.

It is interesting that that as with Job in the Old Testament, God allowed Jesus to be tempted by Satan, an account recorded in Luke 4:1-13.

 

BLCF: the_temptation_of_Jesus

Luke 4:1-13(ESV) The Temptation of Jesus

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”

 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

We studied this verse last Sunday, when we spoke of temptation, where I highlighted several aspects of the story of Jesus temptation and comparing it to what we may face today. You may recall that Jesus, having been baptized by John, known as John the Baptist, received the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit to a place in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When you think about it, this is not quite the path or journey you would expect one who has just received the Holy Spirit.

When Satan tempted Jesus, he appealed to three things: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.

First he challenged Jesus, after a 40-day fast, to use his powers to make food and satisfy His needs of the flesh. Then he challenged Jesus to look at the world from a high place and offered Him dominion over all He saw. Finally, he tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from a tower, saying that surely, as God’s son, He would be saved – an appeal to pride. We find to each challenge, not only did Jesus resist Satan, that in fact Jesus rebuked the devil with the Holy Scripture.

Interesting enough, we read in Luke 4:13 that the devil departed from tempting Jesus until an opportune time, indicating that Satan would return again when he had the opportunity. We see that even the Son of God may be subject to temptation and testing by Satan. Just like Jesus, we may defeat the devil by way of a determined faith and the appropriate use of Scripture. We must trust that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

 

BLCF: creation-of-33

Romans 8:38-39 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.    

The 33 miners were rescued in the middle of the month of October, just a couple of weeks before the eve of Dia de los Muertos or des los Difuntos in Hispanic countries, known as Dia de Finados in those that speak Portuguese. In English we translate both as Day of the Dead. Because this day happens to occur on the calendar shortly after Halloween or All Hallows Eve, many mistakenly believe the two are similar or related, while the two have little in common. The Day of the Dead is a time of celebration, where partying and eating are common. In Spain, there are festivals and parades and, at the end of the day, people gather in cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches observe the day as All Souls’ Day, though the Eastern Orthodox celebrate it on a Saturday because of Jesus’ resting in the tomb on the Saturday. In Lebanon, Israel and Syria, the observance is called Yom el Maouta. Unlike its Hollywood portrayal, Day of the Dead is a day to commemorate departed loved ones, and pray for the day of the Rapture when all believers will be reunited.

By all expert calculations, in Chile’s northern Atacama desert, near the town Copiapo, the Day of the Dead should have been a day of mourning for 33 miners trapped 700 meters, 2300 feet below the surface, about 5 kilometers or 3 miles from the entrance of the San Jose, an old gold and copper mine. For two massive cave-in’s had seemed to seal the fate of any survivor. All that could be done was to pray for the 33 lost souls. Chile is a mineral-rich country, approximately the size of  the U.S. state if California in North America, Chile stretches along the western portion of the South American continent, bordered by mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. And like California, Chile is located on an active earthquake belt.

Unlike Chile’s larger, newer mines, the San Jose Mine where the miners were trapped was very old having been opened in 1889 and lacked many of the safety features of more modern mines, such as an alternate entrance which could allow a means of escape for those surviving a cave-in. Since the year 2,000, about 34 miners die each year in Chilean mines. In the past 12 years, 8 miners had lost their lives at the San Jose mine. Chile is the world’s leading copper suppliers. Because of the demands for copper by emerging industrialized nations such as China, such mines as the San Jose were kept open and offered an appealing livelihood in an otherwise sluggish world economy. Several of the miners trapped in the San Jose had migrated from other regions after losing jobs in a worldwide recession. In spite of the risks, the San Jose offered the miners the means to put food on the table and a better life. That is until that fateful day in August when the miner’s world literally collapsed.

On the surface, news of the disaster and the fact that the miners were 700 meters below the surface seem to indicate that the fate of any survivors was sealed, as a ventilation shaft viewed as the only means of rescue had collapsed in a second cave-in. No rescue from such a depth had ever been contemplated, let alone attempted. It seemed that the 2010 Day of the Dead observances would include a visit to the San Jose tomb of the lost 33 miners.

This is where the tale took a turn. In their moment of profound loss and in spite of any real hope of rescue, the families of the 33 miners, showed uncommon strength of purpose; demanded that the Chilean government recover the bodies of their lost loved ones. This is where next surprise occurred, as the government bowed to the families’ demands and began drilling pilot holes to locate the miners’ bodies. Over the next 17 days, seven 700 meter-deep holes were drilled without any success. On the eighth attempt, according to one report, the drill bit was deflected by some hard rock strata and then penetrated into a cavity deep beneath the earth.

“It was 75% engineering and 25% a miracle,” said topographer Macarena Valdes.

Ms. Valdes was speaking of her own role in the rescue, as she augmented science with a touch of gut instinct to help guide rescuers’ probe drills into the rock, in hopes of finding survivors, in the days after the miners’ disappearance.

Her method paid off after more than two weeks, when searchers sent one of their narrow probe drills down through the rock, punched it into the chamber where the men had taken refuge and, from more than 2,000 feet above, and felt someone tap back. Even more astonishing was the note attached to the retracted drill bit to which a piece of paper was attached with the message:

“Estamos bien en el refugio los 33” (English: “We are well in the shelter, the 33 [of us]”).

BLCF: message los 33

 

It was a miracle beyond belief that all of the 33 missing miners were alive, but would anyone dare to hope for a rescue? No miners were ever rescued from 700 meters. Trapped miners had been rescued from a cave in Pennsylvania, but they were only one tenth the depths of the 33 in the San Jose. For 17 days the miners has survived on meager rations of two spoonfuls of tuna and half a glass of milk every 48 hours.

While still trapped in the mine, there emerged several stories of faith in God and how He sustained the entombed 33. In a letter to his brother, miner Jorge Galeguillos says he believes a white butterfly saved his life the day the mine caved. Mining consultant Miguel Fortt is not given to flights of fancy. He says white butterflies flutter around purple flowers that blossom in the desert early in the morning, but they rarely fly deep into a mineshaft. He says the two miners slowed down to observe the butterfly and that saved them from driving into rock falls triggered by the first cave-in. Fortt says:

“People who are religious would call this a miracle. From a scientific perspective the butterfly may have flown into the mine on air currents. You can draw your own conclusions but that butterfly saved lives,”

Galeguillos’ brother, who is also a miner, can’t explain how a butterfly flew more than 500 meters deep into the mine. But like most of the miners there, he believes the butterfly was protecting his older brother’s life. The butterfly was a sign from God.

BLCF: aop3111.pmd

Isaiah 7:11

“Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

It is interesting that the butterfly is often used to represent the resurrected Christ freed from the chrysalis tomb.

 

BLCF: hebrews13_7

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 Above the miners, a rescue planned was formed, though chances of a successful rescue of the miners alive were calculated at a meager 2%. I would speculate that no politician in North America would even consider embarking upon planning any action that had a 98% chance of failure. I give kudos to president of Chile for bold and compassionate action of initiating a rescue plan. Three separate rescue holes were drilled, using technologies from Germany and the U.S.A.  NASA scientists were consulted and a rescue capsule designed by engineers of the Chilean Navy.

The world watched, prayed and waited as the drama of the trapped 33 unfolded. And more stories of God’s presence. Miners acknowledge that they survived thanks to a 34th member of the crew.

jesus-christ-arm-wrestling-satan-devil-lucifer-animated.gif

 Mario Sepulveda, the second miner rescued said: “I was with God, and I was with the devil,” he said through a translator. “But God won, I held onto God’s hand, the best hand, and at no point in time … did I doubt that God wouldn’t get me out of there.”

It was Sepulveda’s faith in God that assured him of his rescue. Satan used temptation and  was defeated. And who other than the Son of God could understand and support those who are tested by temptation by Satan.

 

BLCF" Hebrews2_18

Hebrews 2:18

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 Miner Ricardo Villaroel describes the incident as a moment of faith renewal:

 “I never use to pray. Here I learned to pray. I got closer to God.”

 

BLCF: Romans_8_38

Romans 8:38-39

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.                            

Nineteen-year-old miner Jimmy Sanchez wrote in a letter sent up prior to his rescue:

 “There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down there.”

 

isaiah_41_v_10j

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

It was reported that while trapped underground, three of the miners and one of the miner’s wives accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

 

BLCF: Isaiah_41_13

Isaiah 41:13

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

Finally, the main drill punched through and one by one the 33 were brought out to safety. Faith is also a major theme of the national rhetoric. At the beginning of the rescue Chilean President Sebastian Pinera stated, “When the first miner emerges safe and sound, I hope all the bells of all the churches of Chile ring out forcefully, with joy and hope. Faith has moved mountains.”The first action of several, as they emerged, immediately gave thanks to God for being delivered from the shadow of death.

 

BLCF: Col1_13-14

Colossians 1:13

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

There are a number of similarities between the plight of the 33 Chilean miners and Jesus’ temptation described in Luke 4. Both involved a confrontation between God and the devil, while taking place in an isolated desert place. Both are examples of courage and faith in the face of adversity, where the devil tempted and was defeated. Finally, both teach Christian believers valuable lessons in the power of faith and trust in God and His Holy Word.

The Chilean story shows how God may allow the devil to tempt believers and how faith can defeat temptation. Without trust and faith all of the miners would have perished. One can only ponder many aspects of this story which indicate God was the 34th Crew Member in the mine.

What if those drilling who sought the miners had given up after only seven attempts? What if on the eighth try, the bit wasn’t deflected by a stone, which how it reached the miners? What if President Pinera had decided not to attempt a rescue with 2% odds? What if the miners had given up after the cave in and not rationed food in the darkness and allowed death and Satin to have their way?

We know from Christ’s example, that as Christian believers, we will be tempted by Satan and that God will battle the devil on our behalf. I believe that the story of the faith and courage of the trapped miners is meant to show us all that the devil will tempt us and faith and trust in God will deliver us.

BLCF:Jesus-is-Light-Pic

BLCF: Chilean 33

 

Miner Mario Gomez’s wife, Lilianett Gomez, said her emotions had changed dramatically. She said, though, that people here had shown that they have the strength to weather the crisis, and now the whole world knows it:

“God put these 33 miners together,” she said. “It must have been for something, perhaps to send a message to the world.”

Perhaps God’s message that Lilianett Gomez alluded to can be found in the Scriptures, particularly in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV):

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,”Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

Let Us Pray…

 

BLCF: Chilean_mine_disaster

 

Closing Hymn #322: The Lord’s Our Rock, in Him We Hide

Communion: Responsive Reading #663 (Communion Observance – 1 Corinthians 11)

Benediction (Psalm 51:11-12): Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.   

 

BLCF: i-will-hold-your-right-hand-and-i-will-help-you-isaiah-41_13   

BLCF: jesus_escobedo