Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’

© May 13, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 13, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 11, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 11, 2014 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

Opening Hymn #99: Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #657 (Godly Womanhood – Proverbs 31)

 Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                    Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’

Let us pray…

Good morning and God’s blessings to all, including all the mothers in the congregation, with our best wishes to you on this Mothers’ Day Sunday.

Today’s lesson entitled:Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’, we will examine the influence of an extraordinary woman, who is well known as the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. However, sadly, scholars generally have not acknowledged Mary’s dedicated discipleship to Jesus, the Messiah.

I remember each time Sophie became pregnant with each of our four children, she would call me at work to share with me the happy news.

By contrast, Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, the news of her first pregnancy would come in an unexpected way, with the potential of exposing the engaged couple to ridicule and criticism for a pre-marital pregnancy.  We read this account in Luke 1:26-35 (ESV):

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

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

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

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b. Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! c. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man d. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

We see in this account from Verses 28- 29 of the first Chapter of Luke’s gospel, Mary demonstrating her pragmatic side by her reaction to the angel Gabriel’s initial greeting, 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And when she was told that she was chosen to conceive a son, Jesus, the Son of the God, Verse 34 indicates more pragmatism, when she asks Gabriel, 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary did not demonstrate an overt emotional reaction to the news that she was chosen to be the mother to the Christ, a Messiah that the Jews had waited for over eight hundred years since his birth was first prophesized.

Over the next few years, following the birth of Jesus, the family of Jesus would be visited by a host of angels, three Magi, and be forced to flee for their lives to Egypt.

But how does the responsibility of being a mother to a child destined to become God’s chosen king for her people forever affect Mary? We get a glimpse of how Mary and Joseph chose to treat the child, Jesus in what might be considered to be in a manner no different from any other 12-year-old son, as we see in Luke 2:41-51 (ESV):

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

BLCF: young Jesus in the Temple

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[a] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[b] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:48 Greek they b. Luke 2:49 Or about my Father’s business

In this Scripture  Passage taken from Luke 2, we find an indication of the love and concern Mary had for her son. In an account that sounds a little like the film, Home Alone, Jesus is left behind in Jerusalem, or should I say he elected to remain in Jerusalem, following the annual Passover Feast. The young twelve-year-old Jesus is assumed by Mary and Joseph to be with others in a group of friends and family returning home to Nazareth. However, after a day’s journey, Mary and Joseph then realize that Jesus is missing from the group. Jesus’ parents return to Jerusalem to look for their son. Three days later, Jesus, now missing for several days, was found in the temple, talking to the elders. Those present, including Mary and Joseph, were amazed and astonished at young Jesus’ understanding of the Scriptures. This did not deter Mary, who was worried for her son’s safety, from chastising her son, verses 48 – 50, of Luke 2:

BLCF: Mary_Jesus_Temple

48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

While not making excuses for Mary and Joseph for being separated from Jesus, as we shall see later in the lesson, it is recorded that Jesus was not their only child. The Scriptures indicate Jesus had at least six siblings, four brothers and at least two sisters, (Mark 6:1-6).

We also see that though the “Son of the Most High“ must be in his Father’s house, Jesus did not forget his place with respect to his parents, as we read in Luke 2, Verse 51 that:

51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.

As she had done after her son’s birth, Mary treasured all these things in her heart. And though Jesus was raised to honour his parents, he obviously was instructed well with regard to the Scriptures, as he had demonstrated in the temple in Jerusalem.

It should be pointed out that in Luke 2, Verse 49, that Jesus indicated more than an academic knowledge of the Scriptures when he spoke to his parents, 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”, which reveals an awareness of the identity of his Father, as the temple where he was found is considered to be the house of God. Verse 50 of Luke 2 indicates an understanding of his Father’s identity that came from God, and not from Mary nor Joseph  as his parents initially understand the meaning of their son’s words, 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

This passage in Acts is the last place in the Scriptures to mention Mary’s husband Joseph, who is absent from future gospel accounts of the disciples. I believe that Joseph had passed, as we will see later in our lesson, when Jesus spoke at Nazareth, some present recognized him as Jesus the carpenter and as the son of Mary. Joseph is not mentioned at all (Mark 6:1-6).

Our next Scripture passage, is taken from the second chapter of John’s gospel, has Mary telling Jesus that the wedding at Cana, where they were attending, with the disciples, has run out wine, expecting Jesus to remedy the situation,  John 2:1-11 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

BLCF: Miracle_Wedding_at_Cana

 2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters

We see that Mary was more than a mother traveling with her son, she was traveling with Jesus and his disciples, as a disciple of Christ. And isn’t it just like a mother to ask her son to help provide the host of the wedding with wine. You will note that though Jesus had begun his ministry, that at this time he and his disciples accompanied his mother to a wedding. This indicates the human side of Jesus, who on more than one occasion honored his mother, by referring to himself as the “son of man” rather than the “Son of God”. And not to disparage his Father, we see later that Christ honored his Godly side by chasing out the money changers from the temple, his Father’s house.

Our next verse, Mark 6:1-6, shows us that while Mary had to deal with her son, Jesus, who also happened to be the Son of God, she had at least six other children to be concerned with:

Mark 6:1-6 (ESV): Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

Mary and Joseph, as well as the temple elders, were not the only people amazed by Jesus’ understanding of the Scriptures. We see a similar surprise to the Lord but a different reaction to Jesus’ knowledge of the Scriptures, by those who knew his family, in Mark 6, Verses 2-3:

And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”

In addition to their astonishment to Jesus wisdom and to the miracles that the Lord had performed, the people identified Jesus as a carpenter, the son of Mary, having four brothers and at least two sisters. Since the sisters of Jesus are not named, we only know that there are at least two. And because the people make no mention of Joseph, we might infer that likely he has passed away.

Jesus, in turn, marveled that neighbors had questioned, with some even offended by Jesus’ wisdom and powers. The Lord indicated his disappointment, when he indicated how they had impugned his honour with their negative response, described in Verses 4-6 of Mark 6:

And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

Just as Jesus had separated himself from his family while he had to be about his Father’s Business in the temple, the Lord had indicated who belonged to him as members of the Family of God, were related not by blood, but by faith and action in support to the will of their Father in heaven, Matthew 12:46-50 (ESV):

Jesus’ Mother, Brothers, and Sisters

Pharisees Jesus temple questioning Jesus

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers and sisters[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers and sisters?”49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers and sisters! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 12:46 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 4849 b. Matthew 12:46 Some manuscripts insert verse 47: Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you”

You may ask does Matthew 12:46-50 indicate  a lack of devotion to their Father in heaven on the part of Mary and Jesus’ siblings? The good news answer is the Scripture Passage which describes both the Lord’s mother and his siblings  as being identified as part of the body of devout disciples, who obediently gathered in the Upper Room chamber to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit to the believers on the Day of Pentecost. While they waited in the upper room, they went about their Father’s business, as described in Acts 1:12-14 (ESV):

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers and sisters.

From the accounts of Jesus’ birth and  of his visit as a child to the elders of the temple,  Mary sought to give Jesus all her the love and dedication a son could ever expect, while maintaining both the faith and devotion expected to be given to Jesus, the Christ, as a disciple of the Lord. Her example of faith was followed by all of her children who assembled  faithfully in the Upper Room, demonstrating how the faith of a mother can, by her example, teach an invaluable lesson of discipleship to her children.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30):

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen

 

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Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

© April 29, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on March 13, 2011

BLCF Bulletin April 29, 2018

 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

 Opening Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day (Heaven Came Down); Choruses

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

 Responsive Reading #636 (The Holy Spirit Promised – John 14 and 16)

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. The lesson for this Sunday morning is ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call, where our Scripture passages look at two accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Way of the Lord, Christ Jesus, that were told by Luke in his gospel, The Book of Acts.

We, as contemporary converts, can easily understand and identify with many of the aspects of Saul’s conversion.

Both Saul’s conversion, as well as our own conversions, took place after the Lord’s glorification, which is to say after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, and the Day of Pentecost.

For a look at the significance of the conversion of Saul, let us look at some of the points, courtesy of Grace Communion International:

Luke begins his description of Paul’s conversion in chapter 9 by continuing the story of his persecution of the church. “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” says Luke of Paul’s campaign of persecution against the church in Jerusalem (9:1).

Paul even travels to other towns, Damascus in particular, in order to round up Christians. As he later tells King Agrippa, “I even hunted them down in foreign cities” (26:11). To Paul, stamping out the Christians is a necessary part of doing God’s will. They are teaching a blasphemous heresy that threatens the people of God (the Jews) and the sanctity of the law and temple. It is surely God’s will that such people should be silenced.

Paul can justify his actions against the church by looking to the heroes of Israel’s history. Phinehas killed an Israelite man and Midianite woman who were defying the law of God (Numbers 25:6-15). Elijah killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees, used violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people (1 Maccabees 2:1-28, 42-48).

Thus it is that Paul sets out toward Damascus with the zeal of an avenging prophet. He has letters from the high priest with authority to extradite any Christians he finds in the synagogues of Damascus. Paul will capture them and return them to Jerusalem for trial and punishment (9:2). Most likely those being hunted down are the Hellenistic Christians who fled Jerusalem, not those who lived permanently in Damascus. So far as we know, the high priest has no direct authority over the latter, since they are not in his immediate jurisdiction.

Later, Paul explains that the entire council signed the order of extradition he was given (22:5). Luke is pointing out that the Jewish leaders continue to be in the forefront of trying to eradicate the new sect of Jesus believers. Some questions have arisen over exactly what powers of extradition the letters from the high priest gave Paul. Two centuries earlier, Rome had decreed that Jews who fled to Egypt could be extradited to Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 15:15-24). They were then to be punished according to Jewish law.

Whether this authority to extradite exists in the time of Paul is not known. It’s possible the high priest still holds the power of extradition from the Roman authorities. If not, the Sanhedrin may be relying on its clout with local synagogues to cooperate in this matter. The political situation in Judea is unstable, with the Roman governor not wanting to intervene in “Jewish matters.” Thus, the council may hope to punish as many Christians as possible without the advance knowledge or intervention of the Roman authority.

https://www.gci.org/bible/acts9

Stoning of Stephen – Acts 7

We share with Saul, the burden of sins. Though we may not have been responsible for persecuting others based upon their beliefs, seeking to punish and ultimately execute others, who Saul was convinced were teaching a blasphemous heresy against the faith and God.

Just like some modern day religious zealots, Saul sought to use “violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people.”

After all, Saul reasoned, he was only doing God’s will. Violence against these Christians was God’s will, he believed.

Saul was 100% wrong, for he was singled out in a direct encounter with our Lord on the way to Damascus, Acts 9:1-16 (ESV):

The Conversion of Saul

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”      

God has chosen prophets and leaders by revealing Himself or His will through dreams, visions, angels, and even a burning bush.

In the above Scripture passage, we see that it is Saul of Tarsus who is a living example of a person who twists God’s Word and HIS will, in order serve his own interest by committing great evil and by offends the Lord, which prompts the Lord to reveal himself to Saul and ask:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6)

In our second Scripture passage, taken from Acts 2, Luke tells the amazing account of the conversion of Saul to discipleship to the Lord. The reborn disciple gives the following testimony, Acts 22:6-16 (ESV):

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In our second Scripture passage, Paul identifies the Lord as speaking to him from heaven with a light brighter than the noonday sun:

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22)

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In acknowledging and renouncing his own sins, Paul is baptized in the Holy Spirit and becomes an apostle or messenger of the Lord.

Paul had offended God, by persecuting followers of the Way of Christ, though he had been deluded into believing that by persecuting and harming them he was somehow fulfilling the will of God. Again we see repeated, the sins of Adam and Eve, who sought to raise themselves to the same level of God, as well as their son Cain, who sought to murder Abel, who was perceived as a threat.

Through the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus, Saul could be forgiven of his sins against God by confessing these sins and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Paul had heard the Lord’s voice and had heeded the call of the Lord, which is all that He expects from us. As for what benefit(s) do the Apostle Paul and we, as believers in the resurrected Christ, receive at the time of the Spirit’s baptism? The answer is found in John 16:7-13 (ESV):

Jesus and Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit and Christ

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Jesus, having borne the judgment for all sinners’, which is everyone on the face of the earth, since the Day of Pentecost, had to ascend to and be glorified in heaven, beside God, in order give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Only then will understand and follow God’s will in our lives:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  (John 16)

Let us pray…

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

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30): “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen.

 

Four Blood Moons, a Sign from God: Prophetic Fallacy or Fact?

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Four Blood Moons, a Sign from God: Prophetic Fallacy or Fact?

© April 22, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 22, 2018

Originally Shared at BLCF on February 2, 2014

BLCF Bulletin February 2, 2014

 

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God                                                

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 47:1-15 and Galatians 2:11-21

Message by Stephen Mickelson:

‘Four Blood Moons, a Sign from God: Prophetic Fallacy or Fact?‘ 

 

First Scripture Reading: Isaiah 47:1-15 (ESV): The Humiliation of Babylon

47 Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
tender and delicate.
2 Take the millstones and grind flour,
put off your veil,
strip off your robe, uncover your legs,
pass through the rivers.
3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
and your disgrace shall be seen.
I will take vengeance,
and I will spare no one.
4 Our Redeemer—the Lord of hosts is his name—
is the Holy One of Israel.

5 Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans;
for you shall no more be called
the mistress of kingdoms.
6 I was angry with my people;
I profaned my heritage;
I gave them into your hand;
you showed them no mercy;
on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.
7 You said, “I shall be mistress forever,”
so that you did not lay these things to heart
or remember their end.

8 Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
who sit securely,
who say in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
or know the loss of children”:
9 These two things shall come to you
in a moment, in one day;
the loss of children and widowhood
shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries
and the great power of your enchantments.

10 You felt secure in your wickedness,
you said, “No one sees me”;
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me.”
11 But evil shall come upon you,
which you will not know how to charm away;
disaster shall fall upon you,
for which you will not be able to atone;
and ruin shall come upon you suddenly,
of which you know nothing.

12 Stand fast in your enchantments
and your many sorceries,
with which you have labored from your youth;
perhaps you may be able to succeed;
perhaps you may inspire terror.
13 You are wearied with your many counsels;
let them stand forth and save you,
those who divide the heavens,
who gaze at the stars,
who at the new moons make known
what shall come upon you.

14 Behold, they are like stubble;
the fire consumes them;
they cannot deliver themselves
from the power of the flame.
No coal for warming oneself is this,
no fire to sit before!

15 Such to you are those with whom you have labored,
who have done business with you from your youth;
they wander about, each in his own direction;
there is no one to save you.

Second Scripture Reading: Galatians 2:11-21 (ESV) Paul Opposes Peter

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.[a] 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Justified by Faith

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Footnotes: a. Galatians 2:12 Or fearing those of the circumcision b.Galatians 2:16 Or counted righteous (three times in verse 16); also verse 17 c. Galatians 2:21 Or justification

Let us pray…

We begin today’s lesson by reading an excerpt of a sensational Headline science news article published in the UK Daily Express online newspaper article published bearing the byline of  SEAN MARTIN , PUBLISHED: 15:00, Wed, Jan 31, 2018 | UPDATED: 15:21, Wed, Jan 31, 2018:

A BIBLICAL prophecy came true during the lunar eclipse as an earthquake struck as the blood moon rose – just as a Pastor had predicted. Blood Moon 2018 bible prophecy TRUE: Earthquake hits Papua New Guinea same time as eclipse

In the early hours of January 31, the moon began to turn red as it started coming out of the shadow of Earth.

Many had linked the super blue blood moon phenomenon to a sign from God, and none more so that Pastor John Hagee, whose book Four Blood Moons sparked worldwide interest in the event.

At 9.48 local time over the Pacific, the moon began to turn red.

However, just 60 seconds later, a strong 5.8 magnitude struck Papua New Guinea.

Pastor Hagee pointed to the Book of Joel, claiming that this was a sign from God.

Chapter Two of the Book of Joel says that the “sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood” before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Hagee said: “God is sending us a signal. Something huge is about to happen. Something is going to change, forever.

“It’s not just a single story. It’s in Genesis and repeated in Joel and again in Joshua and again in Luke and then, finally, in Revelation.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/912596/blood-moon-bible-meaning-eclipse-2018-prophecy-earthquake

One may ask the question “What is wrong with the above article, crediting natural events that link a pastor’s prediction with the Bible?” A better question might be: “Who does the Bible indicate can predict the second coming? Is it any person, or the angels of heaven,  or Jesus, or the Father in heaven?”

One may also ask: What is the relationship between today’s two Scriptures, Isaiah 47:1-15 and Galatians 2:11-21? One describes the ‘Humiliation of Babylon’; the other ‘Paul’s Opposition to Peter’. While the topics seem to differ, both describe conduct that is not in step with the Gospel and therefore in opposition to God.

We see in Isaiah 47, particularly Verses 12 to 14 the dangers of using cosmic events to predict the actions of God:

12 Stand fast in your enchantments
and your many sorceries,
with which you have labored from your youth;
perhaps you may be able to succeed;
perhaps you may inspire terror.
13 You are wearied with your many counsels;
let them stand forth and save you,
those who divide the heavens,
who gaze at the stars,
who at the new moons make known
what shall come upon you.

14 Behold, they are like stubble;
the fire consumes them;
they cannot deliver themselves
from the power of the flame.

The Prophet Isaiah compares using stars to create prophecies attributed to God as an act of sorcery, condemning the stargazer to a judgment of fire and ultimately death.

The practice of using the relative location of the stars and planets to predict God’s actions falls within the realm of astrology. Astrology focuses upon the position and relationship of heavenly bodies as an omen or portent to predict significant future events.

The Galatians 2 Scriptures describe how the Apostle Peter (Cephas) erroneously believed that in order to become a follower of the Way of Christ, the Gentiles must first convert to the Judaism. The Apostle Paul, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, is able to convince Peter of the fallacy of the practice that required an individual’s conversion to one religion, as a prerequisite for the other. More significantly, the New Covenant through Christ eliminated many of the old Mosaic observances and practices that were mandated to become justified unto God.

Though the Lord did instruct the disciples to partake the elements of Communion at his ‘Last Supper’, which happened to occur at the Jewish Celebration of a Passover Supper, Jesus’ death on the cross removed many of the dietary rules and observances as a path to being justified before God. By the same token, circumcision was no longer necessary to qualify as a member of God’s chosen people. The New Covenant required confession of sin, faith in Jesus’s sacrifice for the sin of the world, a willingness to be baptized of the Spirit and to follow the Way of Christ. The feasts, sacrificial offerings, and governance of the Mosaic Law had given way to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Understanding the dangers of astrology and misinterpreting the Gospel of Jesus, it is surprising to see the rise in popularity, particularly in Christian circles, an attempt to predict the return of Jesus, through celestial events, such as the event described as the “Four Blood Moons”. According to some self-proclaimed prophets, four blood red moons are supposed to be a sign of the Lord’s return. This prophecy, just as the circumcision prerequisite for Christian conversion by Cephas in Galatians 2, makes the fundamental mistake of attempting to color events of God’s New Covenant in Christ, under the constraints of the old Jewish Feasts and practices. To understand what is meant by the four blood moons, let me refer to an article from the jewishpress.com, authored by Yori Yanover:

Messianic Blood Moon Rising on Passover Seder Night

By: Yori Yanover

Published: October 6th, 2013, Latest update: October 11th, 2013

There will be a string of four “blood moons” in the year 5775, and one of them will shine over the Passover Seder. Whenever this happened in the past, enormous events took place in Jewish history.

It starts with the Book of Joel, Chapter 3:3-4: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”

The verse about the sun turning dark and the moon turning to blood, is at the center of a new, hot, Christian bestseller titled “Four Blood Moons,” by Pastor John Hagee. It is based on a discovery by Pastor Mark Biltz, who runs a “Hebrew roots” ministry in Tacoma, Washington: Red Moons.

Biltz’s website declares: “We do not want to convert Jews to Christianity or Christians to Judaism,” which works for me. He based his observation on the verse in Genesis 1:14: “And God said, Let there be lights in the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”

God originally plans to use the heavenly lights as signs, and the prophet Joel foretells that a blood moon would mark the day of the Lord – then it stands to reason that some dramatic stuff should be taking place when a blood moon is up in the sky.

The science of the “blood moon” phenomenon is fairly simple. It is created by a partial lunar eclipse. When the Earth’s shadow covers the moon completely, we get a total eclipse. A partial lunar eclipse happens when the Earth’s shadow covers the moon only partially. The earth atmosphere bends light around its edge, and scatters out shorter-wavelength light (green through violet), leaving longer-wavelength light (red, orange, and yellow) in the Earth’s shadow. This is also why sunsets and sunrises generally appear red.

As is the case with most miraculous events that can be explained scientifically, the miracle is not in the natural phenomenon, but rather in its timing. So the Book of Joel describes solar eclipse, followed by a partial lunar eclipse, as precursors of the Day of the Lord.

The prophecy in Joel, like most prophecies, is surreal, beautiful, and open to many interpretations. But we can take away from it the notion of a blood moon as a sign, and check out the calendar for the next bunch of partial lunar eclipses.

That’s what Pastor Biltz did, he looked at NASA’s tables for solar and lunar eclipses and found a string of lunar and solar eclipses happening in 2014 and 2015 and then nothing like it for the rest of the 21st century. In 2015 there will be two solar and lunar eclipses two weeks apart (on the new moon and full moon) one in the spring and one in the fall. This could possibly produce four blood moon eclipses in a row, which is definitely something to write home about.

OK, now hold on to your seats, please: we’ve had the Tetrad phenomenon (a string of four moons partially or completely eclipsed,) twice in the last century, both times on the night of the Passover Seder: in 5710 (1949-50) and in 5728 (1967-68).

The year 5710 came right after the establishment of the State of Israel.

The year 5728 came right after the liberation of Jerusalem.

The next string of four blood moons is coming Passover Seder night, 5775 (2014-15) – a year from this Pesach.

Oh, and the last time this event had taken place before the 20th century was in 5654. That’s 1493-94 to you and me, one year after the exile from Spain.

Now the much better connected Pastor Hagee has picked up Biltz’s notions and authored a very popular book about the blood moons and what they mean – of course, the second coming of you know who.

No, Virginia, we don’t believe in this stuff, we really don’t follow anything up in the heavens except our Father in Heaven, but you have to admit, this is pretty curious.

It’s also interesting to note that those moon strings each appeared only after the miraculous events, like a kind of confirmation on the part of God: I did this. Which means the coming year or so should be very eventful.

Like you didn’t know this without the moon…

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/messianic-blood-moon-rising-on-passover-seder/2013/10/06/

While researching this message, I observed one of the pastors named in this article on a Huntley Street interview posted on YouTube, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK4O0um1gwo ), as he pleads with viewers to buy copies of his book from amazon.com for family and friends in order to get his message out. The other pastor promotes his message on a BLOG which solicits donations. I find it difficult to imagine that the Holy Spirit would allow God’s prophecy to be distributed in such a commercial way.

The other obvious flaw in both Tetrad and Blood-Moon theories is the erroneous assumption that these celestial events are God’s way of announcing Christ’s Return to the entire world. Their mistake is in believing that the events will be visible to everyone on the globe. No way. Europe and the Middle East (Jerusalem) will not see the first of these events. So the bad news is no Tetrad for Zion! Here is Space.com’s explanation of what happened at the most recent blood moon and the next lunar eclipse:

From Space.com, Dateline January 31, 2018: Skywatchers around the world were treated to a rare Super Blue Blood Moon today (Jan. 31). While this was the first time in over 150 years that this particular type of eclipse has happened in the U.S., Americans can look forward to another “blood moon” eclipse coming on Jan. 21, 2019.

This next immediate total lunar eclipse — when the moon appears to turn red as it passes through Earth’s dark inner shadow, or the umbra — will occur later this year on July 27. But that eclipse won’t be visible from North America. However, much of the rest of the world — South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia — will have a great view of that eclipse.

https://www.space.com/39557-next-blood-moon-eclipses-2018-2019.html

Contrary to the Scriptures, we must acknowledge that note that none of the blood moons or eclipses predicted by astronomers at NASA are visible everywhere on earth. In other words, the self-appointed prophets’ suffer a common flaw by citing celestial events which are visible only to a fraction of the population of the world. By contrast, the final days described in the Scriptures are events that will be visible to all of humanity. The authors’ common flaw seems to reveal that they more interested in selling books by promoting their own inaccurate prophecies at the expense of the truth found in God’s Word.

If we are truly living in the end times, with the return of Christ imminent, would it not make more sense from a Christian standpoint, to freely distribute the information to the world as a free eBook or file? Imagine Jesus’ disciples offering to the world the path to salvation and redemption from sin offered by God, but for a price. And if you have no money to purchase the information, you are out of luck! Sorry, but is not the way my God works! For my salvation, only one individual had to pay, that was Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 1:17-19 (ESV)

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

The final debunking of these self-appointed prophets is that they have the arrogance to claim to be able to determine the time our Lord Jesus returns from celestial events. But what does our Saviour say to any man’s ability to use the position and alignment of heavenly bodies to predict the day Christ, Jesus will return:

Matthew 24:29-42 (ESV): The Coming of the Son of Man

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

No One Knows That Day and Hour

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[a] but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 24:36 Some manuscripts omit nor the Son

The important part of the passage from Matthews’s gospel was not his description of how the heavens look, but Verse 36:

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[a] but the Father only.

And Jesus repeats the warning again in Verse 42:

42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

In my estimation, any person who claims to know that which only the Father in heaven knows is standing on dangerous grounds! No one means no man, woman or child! Even the angels of heaven and Christ, Jesus are not privy to date that Lord returns!

While some manuscripts omit nor the Son, all of the Scripture sources indicate that God the Father alone; which means not the angels or even Jesus the Son, knows the day that Christ will come again. This means that the authors of the “Four Blood Moon” prophecy seem to claim knowledge that is strictly the within the domain of God. Does this claim sound a little familiar? I seem to recall an encounter with a fallen angel, in the guise of a serpent that offered the knowledge of God for the price of defying the Father’s single commandment:

Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV)

4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Temptation in the Garden

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

You may recall a message that we shared concerning the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, all three, playing important parts in God’s plan for his beloved children. Jesus died in our stead, paying the price for everyone’s sins. Christ was resurrected from the dead, which is part of God’s New Covenant to all who trust and obey the message of the Gospel. And the Lord ascended to Heaven to sit beside the Father, intercede as an advocate for all believers, and to send the Holy Spirit of God, in order to bring a rebirth through Christ. But at his ascension, what did the disciples do? Let us review the account from the Book of Acts, Chapter 1, starting with Verse 6:

Acts 1:6-11 (ESV): The Ascension

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

So Jesus reminds the disciples, in Acts 1, Verse 7, they are not to know the time of his return, we see in the following verse, his Great Commission which is Christ’s command to the disciples to go witness throughout the world, the gospel of Christ: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

And we see how the disciples responded, Acts 1, verse 9-11: 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Some translations describe the men in white robes as angels of the Lord, who speaks to the disciples, addressing them as “men of Galilee” asking them why are they staring at heaven, say that the Lord would return from heaven, the same way that he left.

The disciples were having what I like to call a “Ferris Bueller moment”. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, Matthew Broderick appears after the final credits on screen and asks the audience: “You’re still here? It’s over! Go home! Go!” ( See Bueller clip starting at 3:39 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDfbWDLNjjE )

The disciples having just been commanded by the Lord to go forth and minister, are still peering into the heavens as if they have nothing else to do. People who focus on events in the heavens for signs of the Lord’s return, be they blood red moons or any other sign, are not doing what he commanded. Remember his words, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”

But playing the devil’s advocate, as if he needs more advocates in the world, one might claim that the “Four Blood Moons” only describes signs of God, that is found throughout the Scriptures, including the Book of Revelations:

Revelation 12:1-12 (ESV): The Woman and the Dragon

12 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Satan Thrown Down to Earth

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

When reading the Revelation 12 passage, we see that there is no urgency to focus on the time Christ returns. The only urgency to act due to time constraints described in this Scripture passage belongs to Satan:

Revelation 12: 12

12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!

But those stubborn proponents of the “Four Blue Moons” prophecies might direct us to Genesis 1: 14-15, saying that God intended for us to use the signs from the heavens for prophecy:

Genesis 1:14-15 (ESV)

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,[a] and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

Footnotes: a, Genesis 1:14 Or appointed times

While God provided that there be signs in the heavens, did He intend them to enable us to predict the return of Christ? If you read the first paragraph of Luke 21:25-35, you might say “yes indeed”. Let us read this passage all the way through, and we see otherwise:

Luke 21:25-35 (ESV): The Coming of the Son of Man

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Watch Yourselves

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.

On the day that our Saviour returns, he will come suddenly upon those who dwell on the face of the earth, including the prophets of the “Four Blue Moons”, assuming their prophecy correct. In other words, no one knows the day or time, except only God. And those who claim that knowledge are not God!

The final Scripture passage that “Four Blue Moons” advocates use to justify their prophecies, comes from the sermon by the Apostle Peter from the second chapter of the Book of Acts:

Acts 2:14-24 (ESV): Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[a] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants[
b] and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord 
shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[c] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:15 That is, 9 a.m. b. Acts 2:18 Greek bondservants; twice in this verse c. Acts 2:23 Greek this one

The key part of this passage from Acts 2 is found in Verses 22 -24, indicating just Who is responsible for mighty works, wonders, and signs; with the events that occur according to Whose plan and foreknowledge; and these events are by way of Whose power: God and God, alone! Let us read Acts 2:22-24 again:

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[c] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

So let us not desire, as did Adam and Eve, to have the knowledge of God, especially with respect to events such as Christ’s return. That, alone, is the sole purview belonging to our Father in heaven. Remember, that Jesus said that neither he nor the angels know the time when he returns, only God the Father knows. As long as we follow the Lord, we have nothing to fear. Let us keep the faith in the task to which he gave us when he ascended to heaven; to return on a day and time known to our Father in heaven. So by claiming that the Blood moons are a sign from God of His final judgment, we claim to know something only God knows, we are misleading others and ourselves, and when He does not come, we have turned people away from God. Only Satan would like that, for his time, and that of his followers is short!

Deuteronomy 4:19 (ESV):

19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #313: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

The Good Friday Story

Message Shared with Toronto Vineyard and

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘The Good Friday Story’

© March 30, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin Good Friday March 30, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus                                                                           

Choruses: Toronto Vineyard                                                                                    

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

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Good Friday Story’

Let us pray…

Welcome to the annual Good Friday Worship Service, with the combined congregations of Toronto Vineyard and BLCF Church. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Good Friday Story’ we will examine the Crucifixion of Jesus on that Friday following Passover nearly 2,000 years ago from the perspective of several key people, who either witnessed or were involved in the events of the day.

We begin our story with the Simon Peter, from Matthew 16:13-19 (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 in heaven.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades

While one disciple receives a blessing for correctly identifying Jesus as the Son of God, another is cursed for betraying the Lord, Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV):

Judas Hangs Himself

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Footnotes:a.Matthew 27:3 Greek he

While Jesus indicated that the perception and faith of the Peter had earned the disciple the promised appointment as the foundational rock of his church, with an entitlement to the keys to the kingdom of heaven, the Lord had also predicted that the Galilean would betray his master on three times in the on the night of his betrayal, Mark 14:66-72 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway[a] and the rooster crowed.[b] 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.[c]

Footnotes: a. Mark 14:68 Or forecourt b. Mark 14:68 Some manuscripts omit and the rooster crowed c. Mark 14:72 Or And when he had thought about it, he wept

The feeling of guilt had driven one disciple to tears of remorse and another to suicide.

The Son of God, would receive a crown of thorns in a sadistic coronation, crucified upon the cross bearing a sign written by Pilate signifying Jesus as King of the Jews,  John 19:16-30 (ESV):

16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.[a]But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Footnotes: a. John 19:23 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin

As Jesus had both his life and blood drained on that wooden tree of death, and just before committing his spirit to the Father in heaven, he committed his mother and his disciple John to care for each other. Later, Mary and the other women would go to a tomb provided by a wealthy disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, for the lifeless body of Christ, and John cloistered himself with the other disciples fearful of the same fate as their Lord, Matthew 27:51-66 (ESV):    

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[a] of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[b] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:54 Or a son b. Matthew 27:65 Or Take a guard

As Jesus had surrendered his life and spirit on the lonely cross of death, the earth shuddered and trembled. Pilate fearing the removal of body of Christ from the tomb had the entrance cover stone secured with a seal and placed guards at the entrance.

Jesus was perceived to pose such a great a threat to the chief priests, elders, and other members of the mob, they conspired with the assistance of Pilate to accomplish what King Herod I of Judea’s soldiers could not do: put baby to death, when the king ordered his soldiers to kill all the male babies, in what was described as the Massacre of the Innocents. With the death of Jesus on the cross, they felt the Prince of Peace was now dead to the world and was no longer a threat to their hypocrisy and their business of running the temple. The self-righteous expected that they would no longer have to deal with his biting remarks, regardless of how accurate or truthful.

It seemed now to be the end of an era for this gifted teacher who preached a new faith in God and promised a New Covenant, where the sinner and righteous would be treated the same way, if they demonstrated faith and trust in the Lord.

To those involved, it seemed all that remained after the death of Jesus would be the grieving. Passover or Pesach had come, and neither bitter herbs nor marked door posts or lintels could stop the cloud of death from taking the life of Mary’s first-born son.

On that day, it was as if all the disciples had forgotten the message of hope announced by the host of angels, when a heavenly star had pointed to the humble birth place of the long-awaited Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords, the only Son of God, who also was God the Son.

The disciples were thrust into a world of lost hopes, of grief and fear, of unfulfilled promises that were devoid of joy. It seemed that the all miracles and lessons from their Lord were forgotten and made hollow by the death of their teacher. I wonder if at this time the disciples remembered Jesus’ lesson of the Breaking of the Bread and the meaning Sharing of Chalice of the Wine taught at the Passover Meal before his death? Did the disciples share these elements of Communion in an act of faith, awaiting their Lord’s promise to return? Or were the disciples so fearful and introspective in absence of the Holy Spirit, that they remained barricaded in that Upper Chamber fearing the same fate of Jesus would befall them?

From the Scriptures, it appeared none of the disciples would go outside that Upper Chamber, save for the women who ventured to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Christ. Perhaps Mary still had in her possession some of the myrrh, an oil used to embalm the dead, brought by one of the Magi as a tribute to the baby Jesus?

We do not know what became of the Thomas in the days following the burial of Jesus, but the Scriptures indicate the disciple was absent from the Upper Room.

Luke 24:13-35 gives the account of two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed companion, who felt that the teachings of Jesus had ended with his death on the cross, as they were departing on the Road to Emmaus. It is likely the two were not the only followers of Christ who felt when Jesus announced, “It is finished” viewed the Lord’s pronouncement to be about his ministry, though he was actually talking about the completing the payment off the debt for the sins of humanity.

Paul Harvey and The Rest of the Story

In the latter half of his career, Paul Harvey was also known for the radio series The Rest of the Story, described as a blend of mystery and history, which premiered on May 10, 1976. The series quickly grew to six broadcasts a week, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009. The Rest of the Story series was written and produced by the broadcaster’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr., from its outset and for its thirty-three year duration. Harvey and his radio network stated that the stories in that series, although entertaining, were completely true.[14] 

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

Over the span of 30 years a journalist named Paul Harvey had a radio broadcast, where he would deliver what at first blush, seemed to be innocuous news stories that my father, a career media journalist, would classify as “puffball news”. A puffball news story named for the puffball, a member of any of several groups of fungi in the division Basidiomycota. The distinguishing feature of all puffballs, which look like a very large mushroom, is the absence an open cap with spore-bearing gills, as its spores are produced internally. Puffballs grow to a rather large size on the outside, however when cut open are found to be hollow and empty on the inside, save for some spores which may puff upwards and out from the cap on a hot day.

Back to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story,” the first two minutes of his broadcast sounded like a light-news puffball story typically broadcast on a slow news cycle. A puffball is used as filler on a slow news day.

The first two or three minutes of the broadcast began as a normal, ordinary news story with a seemingly predictable conclusion, until Harvey would pause and announce, “And now for the rest of the story. The next segment of the story would then take an unexpected, often surprising turn in direction towards its final conclusion. This unexpected turn of events in the story’s narrative was hook that drew a large audience who followed the Harvey stories to hear these “truth is often stranger than fiction,” conclusions to the Harvey stories.

So it seems that life and promise brought by Jesus may appear initially to the disciples just a predictable account of events, following the Lord’s death on the cross.

At this point of our Good Friday lesson, we say would say: “And now for the rest of the story of Jesus,” which the disciples might have described an ending considered that considered as unexpected, earth-shattering, and life-changing. It seems as if that they had forgotten or suppressed much of what Jesus had prophesized about his death and resurrection, until they witnessed the events unfolded as Jesus had prophesized.

On this Good Friday let us not make the same mistake as had  many, if not most, of the Lord’s disciples. Today we need not cover our heads with ashes or wear robes of mourning, instead we should rejoice in the gift from God through His Son Jesus, who though he died on the cross for our sins.

Our Lord and Savior overcame death, which is our judgment for sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was raised from dead. Jesus not only defeated death, he defeated the devil, who had deceived Adam and Eve so they had disobeyed God the Father, and brought this judgement of death for sin upon themselves and upon all their descendants.

When we eat the bread element and drink the juice element of Communion today, we should remember the Lord’s body was broken and of the blood Jesus shed in order to pay for the judgement for humanity’s sins Though neither gift, of salvation or life eternal, is deserved by any of us, we should celebrate and rejoice in the sacrifice and victory of Jesus, because we do know “the rest of the story,” which is the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as a sign of God’s love for each one of us! He died as the son of man, only to be resurrected as Son of God, or should I say God the Son.

I invite all of you to return here this Easter Sunday to celebrate the “rest of the story” of Christ, Jesus.

Let us pray…

Communion: Toronto Vineyard

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday, He Died for Me

Video: Yesterday He Died For Me                                          

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 15:56-57): The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Palm Sunday:

‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’

© March 25, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 25, 2018 Palm Sunday

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn:  Hosanna (See Front of Bulletin); Choruses:

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

Responsive Reading #631: The Incarnate Christ (-from John1)

 Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Palm Sunday Celebration Service. Our lesson today is about: ‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’.

Palm Sunday is the date that the Christian Church observes the fulfillment of the long-awaited prophecy that God would send His only Son, as a Savior to the people of the world suffering under the death for sins, which hovers over all like an ominous dark cloud of death. That prophecy is found in Zechariah 9:9-10 (ESV):

  The Coming King of Zion

 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River[a] to the ends of the earth.

Footnotes: a. Zechariah 9:10 That is, the Euphrates

Many of the faithful believed that the deliverer sent by God would be arrive at Jerusalem as a mighty king as described in Zechariah 9  and lead his people in a battle against Rome, not unlike the Battle of Jericho described in Joshua 6:2-20, a lesson topic that we studied in our March 6 Worship Service.

The events of Jesus’ arrival, described as The Triumphal Entry may be found in several of the disciples gospels. For our lesson, we will look at the account from Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV):

The Triumphal Entry

 21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
   on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”               

Footnotes: a, Matthew 21:5 Or donkey, and on a colt

You will note that as Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, many of the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 

What do the crowds mean when the people shouted Hosanna?

When used in a liturgical context, Hosanna refers to a cry expressing an appeal for divine help.[5]

Judaism

In Jewish liturgy, the word is applied specifically to the Hoshana Service, a cycle of prayers from which a selection is sung each morning during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.[3] The complete cycle is sung on the seventh day of the festival, which is called Hoshana Rabbah (הושענא רבא, “Great Hosanna”).[6]

Christianity

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship - BLCF Church Palm Sunday 2011 Bulletin

“Hosanna” was the shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem,[3] “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”[7] It is used in the same way in Christian praise.

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

And what about the terms Messiah or Christ, used to describe the Lord?

The Greek translation of Messiah is khristos (χριστός), anglicized as Christ, and Christians commonly refer to Jesus as either the “Christ” or the “Messiah”. Christians believe that Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus and that he will return to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy.

The majority of historical and mainline Christian theologies consider Jesus to be the Son of God and God the Son, a concept of the Messiah fundamentally different from the Jewish and Islamic concepts.

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

Many Christians mistakenly use Christ and Jesus, as if both interchangeably describe the given name of the same man. As instructed by angels who visited both Mary and Joseph, Mary would give birth to her son, who was fathered by the Holy Spirit, and they were instructed to name him Jesus. In time Jesus would grow  to fulfill the prophecies to bring reconciliation and sanctification to all humanity by his death as the Son of God, and he demonstrate his identity of being God the Son by his resurrection. Jesus would later show his love for us, by sending us the Holy Spirit of God to be our companion now and forever.

It is interesting that though the people gathered at the entrance of Jerusalem, awaiting the arrival of Jesus, shouted out to him: “Hosanna,”  which was a plea for mercy that acknowledges the  power and authority of the Messiah or the Christ sent by God the Father. However, we see  in Matthew 21:10-11, some mistakenly identified Jesus as a prophet:

10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Perhaps it was the fact that Jesus arrived on a colt, the foal of a donkey, or  because the Lord did not arrive clothed in royal raiment, along with an entourage befitting a king, many in the crowd assumed Jesus to be just a humble prophet. Contrary to the expectations of some, Jesus did not arrive on a chariot or horse, dressed as a king, dressed in expensive robes worn by kings, and emperors of the day.  The Triumphal Entry did not include horns and a mighty army as Joshua had brought to battle Jericho. The Messiah’s mission was not to battle the army of the Empire and bring down the walls of the city of Rome. Our Christ was on a more important mission: to bring salvation to humanity and to demonstrate the love of God by allowing himself to be the final sacrifice for sin. The disobedience of Adam and Eve, with the help of the devil, would be forgiven through the obedience of the Son of God,  who defeated both sin and the devil on the Cross at Calvary. Christ did not come as a Messiah for the people of Israel, The Lord’s teachings and actions would enact God’s New Covenant of salvation, resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit to all of humanity, for all time, allowing all of us to join God’s Chosen.

That was the same misperception that the Woman of Samaria had in last Sunday’s lesson, John 4:19-26 (ESV), where the Samaritan said in John 4:19 (ESV), also misidentifies Jesus as a prophet:

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

 And later the Samaritan woman acknowledges in John 4:25 (ESV) that a Messiah is coming:

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

It is then, in John 4:26 (ESV), that Jesus corrects the Samaritan woman by identifying himself as the Messiah,

 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

The frequent misidentification of Jesus as a humble prophet instead of the Messiah sent by the Father was not just a case of erroneous identification, but an integral part of the Ministry of Jesus, as we see in Mark 10:42-45 (ESV):

                                                      

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a]44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 10:43 Greek diakonos b. Mark 10:44 Or bondservant, or servant (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos)

The importance of Ministering the Gospel of Jesus with humility is reinforced when Jesus teaches his way of ministry in the most humble way when he washes the feet of the disciples, described in John 13:1-17 (ESV):

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Footnotes: a. John 13:10 Some manuscripts omit except for his feet b. John 13:10 The Greek words for you in this verse are plural c. John 13:16 Or bondservant, or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

If Jesus were just playing the role of servant for the Passover Meal, he would have washed the disciples feet before the meal. But to avoid this perception, an assure that the twelve would understood that he was teaching an important lesson by example of humility. He would humble himself even more by allowing himself to be betrayed, denied, tried and convicted as a criminal, crucified for the judgement,  though he were innocent. Though the Lord was the Son of God, he allowed himself to die the death as the humble son of man.

As disciples of the Resurrected Christ,  we are expected to carry out the Great Commission in the same humble manner of Jesus. Instead of teaching the Gospel of Jesus,  we must follow the humble example of  the Lord, by way of truth of in our words and love in our actions, as explained in Philippians 2:3-11 (ESV):

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c]being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Footnotes: a.Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b. Philippians 2:6 Or a thing to be held on to for advantage c. Philippians 2:7 Or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

Jesus came in the form a humble servant, preferring to identify himself as the son of man: born in a humble stable, arriving to Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey, though innocent, he died the death of a criminal to pay our debt for our sins by surrendering his blood, his body, his life as the perfect love offering. Jesus died a man’s death as the son of man, only to return three days later, as the resurrected Son of God, a Messiah for all of humanity, for all generations, our Lord of lords and King of kings, forever, until the end of time.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

Benediction – 2 Corinthians 13:14: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Abiding in the Way of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

©March 18, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 18, 2018

Based on a Messages Shared at BLCF on April 3, 2011 and January 25, 2015

BLCF Bulletin April_3_2011

BLCF Bulletin April 26 2015

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

Opening Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding

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

Handiwork I SeeResponsive Reading #597 (Gr of PrayerOD’s Attributes- Psalm 19)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

Let us pray…

For our lesson today, Abiding in the Way of the Lord, we have three Scripture Passages, two from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-8) and (Mark 12:18-33) and the third Scripture Passage comes from the 12 Chapter of John’s Gospel (John 12:19-26).

The Scriptures from Mark give us a glimpse of what it like in Heaven, by giving an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, as well what we may expect after our resurrection, as well as the most important of GOD’s Commandments, also known as HIS Great Commandment.

In today’s third Scripture passage, from John, the Lord instructs the Woman of Samaria on where and how to worship God.

The three Scriptures illustrate how easy it is to be misguided and confused when we attempt to seek GOD’s grace and presence, which is HIS spirit and truth, on an earthly plane, at some special sacred place, such as upon a Holy Mountain.

Such was the case where Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, where the Lord’s appearance became transfigured into a radiant, intensely white figure as he spoke with the prophets, Elijah and Moses, as we read in Mark 9:2-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,[b] it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;[c] listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Footnotes: a. Mark 9:3 Greek launderer (gnapheus) b. Mark 9:5 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master c. Mark 9:7 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

The disciples were initially terrified by what they had witnessed. Then Peter suggested building, as temples; one each for Church of the Transfiguration. I do not think that is what the Lord had in mind when he brought his disciples up on the mountain. We read next that a cloud comes above them, and the disciples hear GOD’s voice speak: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him,” after which Moses and Elijah, who scholars view represent the Law and the Prophets, are no longer visible.

On Mount Tabor, today, we see that the Church of the Transfiguration has been erected to signify the place of the miracle, just as Peter had suggested to the Jesus. Peter, as well as those on who built the church, chose to venerate the sight of the transfiguration, rather than just focusing solely on the event. The Lord did not intend reveal the miracle of his transfiguration in order for people to plant a church on the mountain. Instead, Jesus’ miracle demonstrated the Divine nature of the Lord, giving us a glimpse of what heaven must be like. This interpretation of the vision is confirmed when the Heavenly Father identifies HIS son to the disciples and instructs them listen to him. .

Our second verse, offers another glimpse of life after our resurrection when a group of Sadducees ask the Lord about a hypothetical situation and the resurrection.In short, the Sadducees focused on the letter of the law, in contrast to the Pharisees, who seemed to construct the law on the fly. Both groups sought to serve themselves and their own authority over the authority of GOD.  Let us now look at, Mark 12:18-33 (ESV):

The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

18And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man[a] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

24Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

In this glimpse of life after the Resurrection, we see that we are no longer in human form, but appear as the angel in heaven. No longer are we under the laws of this world. Like Jesus, Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor, we will be transfigured, being radiant and glowing bright as the sun.

Having answered the Sadducees’ challenge to the resurrection, by reminding them that God revealed himself to Moses from a burning bush, when he spoke in Mark 12:26-27, saying:

26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Having heard the Lord answer the question of the resurrection in a satisfactory manner, one of the scribes or experts of the law asked the Lord a question with respect to the law, or the Law of Moses which consisted of some 613 Commandments, as well as additional instructions and interpretations derived from the original Ten Commandments. All of these Laws and Commandments could be distilled down to two, which Jesus gave in response to the question of which was the Greatest Commandment,  is found in Mark 12:28-33:

The Great Commandment

The Royal Commandment

 28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 12:19 Greek his brother

We see that the both loving God and loving our neighbor are keys following and worshipping GOD.

Does GOD expect us to undertake a pilgrimage to Holy places such as Mt. Tabor, in order to meet HIS expectation of our expression of faith? Let us look at three places considered to be important to the descendants of Abraham, The Wailing Wall, Mecca and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

Wailing Wall

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small western segment of the walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount (or Har Habayit) by Jews, Christians and most Western sources, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram ash-Sharīf).

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. The original, natural and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever larger Temple compound to be built at its top.

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

The Hajj

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham

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

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha),[1] where Jesus was crucified,[2] and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus.

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

As Christians who see a relationship with God the Father, by trusting in the Gospel of Jesus, we at some time or other face the question: “Is undertaking a pilgrimage to any or all of these sites an important expression of our faith in GOD?”  We find the answer in today’s third Scripture verse, John 4:19-26 (ESV):

The Woman of Samaria

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Jesus responded to the woman of Samarian’s comment that her fathers worshipped GOD on a mountain top, in Jerusalem, or any other place is not as important as how we worship HIM, in spirit and truth, that matters. It because the Christian’s identity is to not dependent upon any physical or geographic location, but upon a faith in God’s love, the sacrifice of His only Son Christ Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, our beliefs are not constrained to physical constraints or controls. This is why Napoleon concluded:

 “I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant – Jesus should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.”                                                                                                                                                 Napoleon I Bonaparte (1809)   

I have listed a series of verses on the back of today’s bulletin, where the Lord spoke GOD’s Great Commandment over and over again:

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

John 3:16 (ESV)

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

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

 John 15:12-14 (ESV)

 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

John 15:17 (ESV)    

17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

John 15:4-5 (ESV)

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 John 14:21 (ESV)

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

 John 15:10 (ESV)

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Rather than embarking upon pilgrimages and building glorious cathedrals, our best and purist expression of Christian worship is truth and love, as defined by the Lord. In this manner, we have an opportunity to share with others a true glimpse of heaven.

Let us pray…

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

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.

 

Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone’

© March 11, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 11, 2018

Based on Messages Originally Shared with BLCF Church on February 27, 2011

BLCF_Bulletin_February_27_2011

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; Choruses                    

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

Responsive Reading #668: The New Life (from Colossians 3)                           

Message by Stephen Mickelson:                                                                                                      ‘Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, for the Sunday, March 11, 2018. To those of you who are here right now, congratulations to you for setting your clocks and alarms ahead one hour. Please be kind to those who may walk in to the service an hour late.

Our lesson today will include three Scripture verses that describe three different accounts of people in need of healing, cleansing and restoration from the Lord. The first two describe men afflicted with Leprosy. To better understand this disease, let us briefly review Hansen’s disease, commonly called Leprosy:

Leprosy – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leprosy /ˈlɛprəsi/,[1] also known as Hansen’s disease (HD) is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae[2] and Mycobacterium lepromatosis.[3] Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to as long as 20 years.[2] Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes.[2] This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain and thus loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries.[4] Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.[ Leprosy is curable with treatment. Globally in 2012, the number of chronic cases of leprosy was 189,000 and the number of new cases was 230,000.[2] The number of chronic cases has decreased from some 5.2 million in the 1980s. In the past 20 years, 16 million people worldwide have been cured of leprosy.[2] About 200 cases are reported per year in the United States.[8]

Leprosy has affected humanity for thousands of years.[4] The disease takes its name from the Latin word lepra, which means “scaly”, while the term “Hansen’s disease” is named after the physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen.[4] Separating people by placing them in leper colonies still occurs in places such as India,[9] China,[10] and Africa.[11] However, most colonies have closed since leprosy is not very contagious.[11] Leprosy has been associated with social stigma for much of history, which is a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment.[2] Some consider the word leper offensive, preferring the phrase “persons affected with leprosy”.[12]

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

The first of today’s Scriptures, from 2 Kings 5:1-27, is the account of Naaman who was a brave commander in the army of king of Syria. Naaman was an effective commander, even being described as being given victory in battle by the Lord. However the soldier was afflicted with Leprosy:

2 Kings 5:1-27 (ESV) Naaman Healed of Leprosy

5 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.[a] Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels[b] of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana[c] and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Gehazi’s Greed and Punishment

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” 21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” 22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. 24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. 25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

Footnotes: a. 2 Kings 5:1 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 b. 2 Kings 5:5 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms; a shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams c. 2 Kings 5:12 Or Amana

Elisha, a prophet of Israel, refused to touch, anoint, touch or even speak to Naaman, instead sending a servant to deliver a letter, instructing the Syrian Commander to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times.

Initially, Naaman was infuriated that Elisha had refused an audience with him and that he was told to bathe in the Jordan River instead of a river in Syria, so he stormed away. But Naaman was convinced by his servants that Elisha was a mighty prophet of God, reminding their master that he was promised to be healed, if he followed Elisha’s directions. Eventually, Naaman did follow the instructions and was completely healed of his affliction.

Naaman is convinced by his wife’s servant of how a prophet in home Israel, could heal her master of his affliction. Naaman tells his lord, the King of Syria of the servant girl’s belief and asks for leave to go to Israel. The king sends Naaman, along with a letter, to the king of Israel. The King of Israel, upon reading the letter, tears his clothing as only God can heal a man of Leprosy and suspects that the request is a ruse by the King of Syria to start a war against Israel. In 2 Kings 5:8   we see how the Lord responds to the faith of the servant from Israel, the Syrian Commander and His prophet Elisha:

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.

It is interesting that Elisha takes Naaman out of his comfort zone, by not greeting the commander’s entourage, accepting the monetary gifts, and by specifying that Naaman immerse himself in the River Jordan seven times. Elisha’s response to Naaman asks the commander for humility and trust from Naaman, while clearly disassociating the healing from any worldly influence, so that credit would go solely to the Lord.

Naaman initially hesitates to obey Elisha’s instructions, angered by both the reception from Elisha and the unexpected method of the healing, is convinced to follow the directions from the prophet. Naaman is healed and acknowledges God, but tries to reward Elisha who reuses a wealth of gifts. Elisha tells Naaman that the healing is a gift from God, not the prophet.

Later, we see that Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, is tempted and accepts the gifts offered by Naaman by telling Naaman that Elisha had a change in heart. Gehazi hides the offering in his house and denies to Elisha that he went out. We see that Elisha is aware and disappointed in Gehazi’s actions as we see in 2 Kings 5:26-27:

“Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants?  Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

We could almost call this passage “A Tale of Two Servants,” where the faith of one servant brings faith and healing to a Gentile, while another servant brings upon himself a harsh judgment for his greed and lack of faith.

We see that by repeating the action of immersing himself in living water action,  Naaman demonstrated his faith and was rewarded with the Lord healing  him of his affliction.  The Scripture shows how God rewards obedience and faith. It is interesting to note that Naaman, like Joshua in last week’s lesson was instructed to repeat an action seven times.  Fortunately, both Joshua and Naaman did not quit after completing only six repetitions, electing instead to faithfully follow their instructions to the end. In both accounts, we see how the repetition of seemingly insignificant actions such as marching in circles or bathing in a river, can have miraculous consequences when God is involved. And also interesting is how God’s Glory is revealed through the faith demonstrated by a servant girl and a prostitute. How marvelous that a leper, who does not have the birthright of the people of Israel, may receive God’s blessing for actions that demonstrate a faith and trust in the Lord!

Our second Scripture Luke 17:11-19 tells of how Ten Lepers are healed by Jesus, but only one of the ten, also a Gentile, returns to acknowledge the Lord:

Luke 17:11-19 (ESV) Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,[a] who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Luke 17:12 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 b. Luke 17:19 Or has saved you

In Luke 17:19, we see that the Lord acknowledges the healed man’s praise:

 “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.

Based upon our first two Scriptures, one might conclude that Jesus first came to heal the world of their physical afflictions. Though the Lord did demonstrate compassion for the afflicted and healed them, this was not the reason why Jesus came to the world, as we see in Mark 2:13-17:

Mark 2:13-17 (ESV) Jesus Calls Levi

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of[a] the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat[b] with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 2:16 Some manuscripts and b. Mark 2:16 Some manuscripts add and drink

Jesus came not heal us of physical ailments; instead the Lord came to cleanse us of our Spiritual afflictions, which is sin. This is why the Lord sought to associate with tax collectors and sinners, described in Mark 2:17:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came to minister and heal sinners, it is important to focus not on the fact that two Lepers were healed, but the faith of those messengers who brought healing. It is interesting that while Naaman came out of his comfort zone by trusting and obeying the instructions of God’s prophet, Elisha, the Syrian commander came to faith based upon the testimony of a nameless servant girl. A servant who took compassion upon a commander of a foreign nation that had taken her into a life of servitude. She left her comfort zone by sharing her faith with a leader in the country which she was held captive.

Remember that the only one of ten Lepers’, who were healed by the compassion of Jesus to acknowledge the Lord, was also a foreigner, a Samaritan. We are reminded that we are commissioned as apostles or messengers of the Lord to share the Gospel of Christ Jesus not just with whom whose company we feel comfortable, but with those whom we may tend to avoid or whose company we do not like. We see this in the Scripture passage that we have adopted as our Mission statement for our BLCF Café Community Dinner, see Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV) The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Footnotes: a Matthew 25:40 Or brothers and sisters

Finally, may we accept that while the Lord, and later the Apostles, did perform many miracles of physical healing, Jesus came solely heal the world of sin. The Apostles’ were given the Great Commission by Christ: to spread the good news, the Gospel, that Christ died for our salvation from the spiritual affliction of sin. We are challenged to step out our comfort zone and associate with those who are untouchable and disenfranchised, considered unrighteous by others.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #318: When We Walk with the Lord                                           

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14): May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.