Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary Mother of Jesus 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary Mother of Jesus 2019’ 

© May 12, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 12, 2019

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on May 11, 2014, and May 8, 2016

BLCF: Bulletin May 11, 2014

BLCF Bulletin May 8, 2016

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

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

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

Responsive Reading #628: The Child Jesus (– Luke 2)   

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                     ‘Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary Mother of Jesus’ 

                                                                                                                                                                     

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Since today is Mother’s Day, I would like to share best wishes to all the mothers in the congregation this morning. I think of the many special things a mother may ponder in her heart with regards to the actions of their children.

For our lesson today, I would like to examine Mary, the mother of Jesus, a special mother recorded in the Scriptures, including today’s scripture verses. These verses are listed in your bulletin, in their chronological order.

I would like to begin with reading Luke 1:26-35, where Mary receives some special news from God, by way of the angel, Gabriel:

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

Not only does Mary, who is betrothed or engaged to marry Joseph, find out that she will become pregnant, but she has been chosen by God, to be the mother of a holy child, the Son of God, whom she is to name “Jesus”.

Luke 2:15-20 describes the visit to Bethlehem by shepherds of the field after they were informed by God’s angels of the birth of the Christ child.

Luke 2:15-20 (ESV)

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

After the shepherds departed, Luke indicates that Mary treasured up or pondered these things in her heart.

Our next Scripture passage gives us an idea of how Mary raised her son, Jesus, and the mother-son relationship Luke 2:41-51.

Luke 2:41-51(ESV): The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Young Jesus In The Temple Hofmann Painting by Frans Schwartz.jpg

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

We have in this Scripture, 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 elected to remain in Jerusalem, following a Passover Feast. The young twelve-year-old Jesus is assumed to be with others in a group from 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 who was missing for five days, was found in the temple, talking to the elders. Those present were amazed at young Jesus’ understanding of the Scripters, and his parents were astonished. This did not deter Mary, who was worried for her son’s safety, from chastising the boy, verses 48 – 50, of Luke 2:

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.

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 verse 51 that:

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

And we read, again that Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. And though Jesus was raised to honor his parents, he obviously was instructed well with regard to the Scriptures, as he had demonstrated in the temple in Jerusalem.

The relationship between Mary and Jesus is described further in what I would like to refer as a Wiki bits reference, though found at the Web site, biography.com:

According to the Gospel of John 2:1-11, as Jesus was beginning his ministry, he and his disciples traveled with his mother, Mary, to a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The wedding host had run out of wine and Jesus’s mother came to him for help. At first, Jesus refused to intervene, but then he relented and asked a servant to bring him large jars filled with water. He turned the water into a wine of higher quality than any served during the wedding. John’s gospel depicts the event as the first sign of Jesus’s glory and his disciples’ belief in him.

After the wedding, Jesus, his mother Mary and his disciples traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. At the temple, they saw moneychangers and merchants selling wares. In a rare display of anger, Jesus overturned the tables and, with a whip made of cords, drove them out, declaring that his Father’s house is not a house for merchants.                                                              

http://www.biography.com/people/jesus-christ-9354382#jesuss-ministry&awesm=~oDNPn11WRqG16j

We see that Mary was more than a mother traveling with her son; she was traveling with Jesus and his disciples. And isn’t it just like a mother to ask her son to help provide the host with wine? You will note that though Jesus had begun his ministry, that 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, Christ honored his Godly side by chasing the money changers from the temple.

But being both the son of Mary and the Son of God did not confuse Jesus with respect to the importance of his ministry, as we see in Luke 11:27-28. (ESV):

True Blessedness

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Jesus used the woman’s remark to emphasize that God’s blessings do not come by birthright, but by honoring and keeping the word of God. This statement is reinforced by Jesus’ remarks n Matthew 12:46-50.

 Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

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

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

At first glance, it seems that Jesus disavowed his mother and siblings, indicating that the designation of a mother, brother or sister, in his view, should apply only to those who do the will of the Father in heaven.

But you may ask, “Did Mary not demonstrate obedience to God’s will by bearing and raising His Son?” For the answer to this question, let us look at John 19:5-30:

John 19:25-30 (ESV)

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.

Just before giving up his spirit on the cross, Jesus saw his mother and John, who is referred to as the disciple who he loved. He then told Mary to behold her son, the disciple John. And to the disciple John, he said to behold your mother, Mary. Jesus was not talking about Mary as his birth mother. In accordance with what he had spoken to the people in Matthew 12:46-50, he was acknowledging the faith and discipleship of Mary.  In this regard, Mary was his mother by birth and by Spirit.

We have confirmation of this observation, when we read in the next Scripture verse, that Mary was again with the disciples in the Upper Room, after Jesus Ascended to heaven, obediently praying and awaiting the arrival of the promised Comforter, God’s Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:6-14 (ESV): The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 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 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.”

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.[c]

Footnotes: a. Acts 1:4 Or eating b. Acts 1:5 Or in c. Acts 1:14 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church

Mary was special, not only because God had chosen her to give birth, and to raise His only Son; unlike most woman of the day, Mary choose not to stay at home and maintain a household. We see Mary as a loving, caring parent and as a disciple of faith and obedience, to the Father in heaven.

The Scripture’s account of Mary’s journeys with Jesus and the disciples indicate how she was involved with the first miracle where Jesus turned water to wine and her presence at Jesus’ cleansing of the temple of the merchants and money changers. Mary continued to follow Jesus and demonstrated both her love for her son and obedience to her God. Mary understood that she had been favored by God to be a mother to God’s Son, Jesus, and was present at many of the important events in the life and ministry of her son.

Mary was present at his birth, his death; witness to his resurrection; and present in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost when God’s Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and believers that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the true Son of God. To Jesus, Mary was his mother, not just because she gave birth to him, but as an obedient woman of faith who heard God’s word and kept it. Mary is an example to Christians, both as a loving parent and follower of God’s word, by taking care of Jesus, the son of man, who was also the Son of God.

Let us pray…

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

Benediction – (Galatians 1:3-5):                                                                                                                   

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives’

© May 5, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 5, 2019

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on September 28, 2014, and February 5, 2017

BLCF: bulletin-february-5-2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                        

Opening Hymn #55: For the Beauty of the Earth; Chorus

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

Responsive Reading #607 (Creator and Sustainer – Psalm 104); Prayer                                               

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                         ‘Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives’

Let us pray…

Today’s lesson at BLCF, we will have a look at surviving in the wilderness of life’s trials and tests with comfort and mercy from the Lord.

Recently, there has been on television, a number of popular “Reality Series” which document peoples’ ability to overcome the challenges of surviving in a hostile environment. While a working knowledge of survival skills is useful, the key to successfully meeting the challenges and tests in the wilderness rests in one’s attitude or their frame of mind.

But this morning, I would like to discuss what is meant by the “wilderness,” that is described in the Scriptures?

We find one definition of the wilderness, specifically in the region of Judaea, from the web site bibleplaces.com:

Judean Wilderness

Also known as Desert of Judah, Jeshimon, Midbar Yehuda, Wilderness of Judaea, Wilderness of Judah Place of Refuge.

Because of its lack of water and good routes, the Judean wilderness has been (mostly) uninhabited throughout history. Consequently it was an ideal place for those seeking refuge from enemies or retreat from the world. When on the run from King Saul, David hid in various places in the Judean wilderness (the Wilderness(es) of Ziph, Maon, and En Gedi are part of the Judean Wilderness).

John the Baptist preached here, and it seems likely that this was the wilderness where Jesus was tempted. Herod the Great built two fortresses (Herodium and Masada) in this area for protection should his people ever revolt against him.

http://www.bibleplaces.com/judeanwilderness.htm

So when Moses sojourned in the wilderness, he found more than a refuge from Pharaoh, as we find in Exodus 3:1 (ESV):

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

In Exodus 3, we have the account of God revealing Himself to Moses by way of a burning bush upon a mountain. God revealed to Moses His intention to free the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt. Moses was the key to the Lord’s plan, which included leading them through the same wilderness.

But why would God want His people, who suffered greatly at the hands of their Egyptian taskmasters, venture through the wilderness before reaching their “Promised Land”? To help us understand why let us look at another take on the usage of the term “wilderness” in the Scriptures, is that posted by Jeff A. Benner at ancient-hebrew.org:

Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings:
Wilderness ~ midvar
By Jeff A. Benner

For forty years God had Israel wander in the ‘wilderness’. Insights into why God had chosen the wilderness for their wanderings can be found in the roots of this word. The root word is ‘davar’ and is most frequently translated as a thing or a word. The original picture painted by this word to the Hebrews is the arrangement of things to create order. Speech is an ordered arrangement of words. In the ancient Hebrew mind words are ‘things’ and are just as ‘real’ as food or other ‘thing’. When a word is spoken to another it is ‘placed in the ears’ no different than when food is given to another it is ‘placed in the mouth’.

The Hebrew name Devorah (Deborah) means ‘bee’ and is the feminine form of the word davar. Bees are a community of insects which live in a perfectly ordered arrangement. The word ‘midvar’ meaning wilderness is actually a place that exists as a perfectly arranged order as its ecosystem is in harmony and balance. By placing Israel in this environment he is teaching them balance, order and harmony.

http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_wilderness.html

To recap, the trek of the Hebrew people was intended to help them become reacquainted with their God, with the wilderness as their school. But the balance, order, and harmony to be restored in the Lord’s people come with His promise of a pardon for all sins. As we see in Isaiah 40:1-5 (ESV), entitled:

                Comfort for God’s People

40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[
a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 40:2 Or hardship b. Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one crying

The Scriptures description of a voice crying out in the wilderness is echoed again by John the Baptist’s testimony in John 1:19-23 (ESV):

The Testimony of John the Baptist

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight[a] the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Footnotes: a. John 1:23 Or crying out, ‘In the wilderness make straight

The wilderness, where John the Baptist refers to himself as “voice in the wilderness” was prophesized by the prophet Isaiah, describing the restoration of balance, order, and harmony, as well as the promise of a pardon from sins, through Christ, Jesus. Jesus also had a wilderness experience immediately after he was baptized by the Holy Spirit, where the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-11(ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

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

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

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

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

We see that the devil tested Jesus by tempting him to satisfy his hunger; having God rescue him as he leaped from a high precipice; and then offering Christ all the kingdoms of the world if he would worship Satan instead of the Father in Heaven! It is interesting that all the temptations Satan offered Christ were refuted and refused with Jesus responding with Scripture that spoke of actions of obedience and faith.

All of us encounter at some time in our lives, the challenges of a “wilderness trek”, where Satan challenges our faith by tempting us in a time of adversity. And just as Moses and the Hebrew people, as well as Jesus, we can allow the experience to draw comfort, through God’s Holy Spirit, knowing that as believers in the Resurrected Christ, God has blessed us with His goodness and mercy, by our faith in the Lord.

Let us pray…

Communion (Institution of the Lord’s Supper) – Matthew 26:26-29:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn # 440: All the Way My Savior Leads Me

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):

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

God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room

Believe!

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:          

‘God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room’

© April 21, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 21, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 20, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin April 20, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn: #163: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

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

Responsive Reading #623: The Risen Lord (– Matthew 28 and John 20)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                            ‘God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room’  

  

 Let us pray…

‘He is risen!’ 

Congregation’s reply: ‘He is risen, indeed!’

Today is the day we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from his death upon the cross at Golgotha. The world is full of many religions, many false gods, and worship a variety of idols. But only Christ, the Son of the one true God, performed the miraculous and supernatural act of returning from the dead.

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared neither on just a single occasion nor only to the eleven apostles.

For today’s lesson, we will study four events, where the Resurrected Christ came to those who loved and believed their Saviour, which occurred in three places: in a tomb; on a road; and in a room.

Let us look at these meetings with the Lord in their proper chronology and begin with the account in John’s gospel, Chapter 20, verses 1-18, which give the account of Mary Magdalene, who arrived at the tomb of Jesus on the first day of the week, only to find the gravestone rolled away and the tomb empty.

John 20:1-18 (ESV): The Resurrection

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his b.John 20:16 Or Hebrew

The Scriptures indicate that Mary ran to report her discovery to Peter and to another, referred in this passage as the ‘other disciple.’

You may ask what is the identity of the ‘other disciple’ mentioned in this account?

Most scholars agree that the ‘other disciple’ is John. This also makes sense, in that referring to himself as the ‘other disciple’, in the third person, John not only demonstrate humility, but avoids a narrative that uses the personal pronouns I and me, which could cause the reader to stray from the focus of the passage, the Lord’s victory over death.

And Mary Magdalene, the first to find the tomb empty, became the first to meet Jesus after his resurrection. We see that Mary, while weeping at the tomb, first encounters two angels inside the tomb, where the head and feet of Christ’s body had lain.

You may recall in Exodus 3:2, when Moses first approached God’s Presence within the Burning Bush on Mount Horeb, he encountered an angel of God.

 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.

We read in Exodus 25:18-21, that two angels adorned the Ark of the Covenant, positioned in much the same manner as the two Mary Magdalene encountered in the tomb of Christ:

18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you.

In contrast to the angels on the Ark of the Covenant, the angels encountered by Mary Magdalene in Christ’s tomb do not face inwards, but outwards. By Christ’s sacrifice, the judgment seat of God has been removed and God’s presence is no longer contained in the Ark of the Covenant, as all believers now contain God’s presence, as we become Arks of God’s New Covenant. And so the angels look outward.

As believers in Christ, who took our judgment upon himself, we are saved from the eternal death judgment for sin, and like the Lord, we will be resurrected from the grave, when Christ returns. This is God’s covenant.

The next encounter with the Resurrected Christ occurs with two Disciples of Christ on the Road to Emmaus, described in Luke 24:13-35.

Luke 24:13-35 (ESV): On the Road to Emmaus

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Footnotes: a. Luke 24:13 Greek sixty stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters

In the Emmaus account, which gives the name of one of the two disciples as Cleopas, we have the pair telling the Lord how they had hoped before his crucifixion; they had hoped that Israel had been delivered. To which the Lord chides them, saying (in verses 25-25):

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

It is only after breaking of the bread, does Christ reveal himself.

It is important to note that these two disciples did not initially recognize this stranger as Christ, which is similar to Mary Magdalene’s mistaking the Lord as a gardener or groundkeeper at the cemetery.

Our next encounter with the Resurrected Christ comes from John 20:19-29, where our Lord appears before the disciples. This occurs on the evening of the same day after he had met Mary Magdalene in the morning and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. This time Jesus meets the disciples in the same Upper Room where he shared the Passover Supper before his crucifixion, as described in John 20:19-23 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

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

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

In this encounter, Jesus announces his presence by saying:

“Peace be with you.” And after showing them his hands and side, the Lord gives the eleven the assignment or commission to share his Gospel, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Having received the Holy Spirit and been instructed that the Lord is sending them, as he was sent by the Father, the disciples no longer are disciples or students of the Lord but become his Apostles. Wikipedia defines an apostle as:

The word “apostle” derives from the Ancient Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstólos), meaning “messenger” or “envoy” that was formed from the prefix ἀπό- (apó-, “from”) and root στέλλω (stéllō, “I send”, “I depart”).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle_(Christian)

However, in spite of the testimonies of Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on Emmaus Road, and to his fellow disciples, now apostles, the disciple Thomas refuses to believe in the resurrection of Jesus without visible proof, as we read in John 20:24-29 (ESV):

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[a] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

The fourth and final encounter with the Resurrected Lord takes place in the same Upper Room that he appeared before other disciples, some eight days later. This time Thomas is present and the Lord instructs him to touch the wounds on his hands and side, and telling the disciple, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Though Jesus did not initially reveal himself to the two disciples encountered on the Emmaus Road, he was not recognized by Mary Magdalene at the tomb where he was buried. Mary mistook our Lord at first as a gardener or groundskeeper, until he spoke her name.

After being informed by Mary Magdalene of the empty tomb, the disciples Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. While John 20 indicates that the disciples believed, it also indicates that they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.

When Christ first appeared to the eleven disciples, in the Upper Room, he showed them his hands and side, revealing the wounds from the crucifixion. Jesus returned again to the twelve disciples in the Upper Room, this time to show Thomas the same wounds he had shown to the other disciples some eight days previous.

The question arises: Why did the disciples not believe the reports that Christ was alive and risen from the dead? And why was it necessary for Jesus to show them tangible evidence, such as the wounds from the cross, to convince the disciples? After all, the disciples were part of Jesus’ inner circle for over three years. They had seen Christ’s miracles and had heard his gospel, and still, they had to see tangible evidence of the miracle of the Lord’s resurrection! That is why the Lord breathed God’s Holy Spirit into the disciples in order to equip them for their new Commission as Apostles of Christ’s Gospel.

Before Jesus died, because of sin, people practiced a religion filled with good works in order to worship God. They had to make sacrifices to God for their transgressions and communicated with God through such intermediaries as holy prophets or high priests. Worship involved performing visible, tangible actions to honor God.

Through Jesus, God reveals His new Paradigm for His relationship with His people. The term “paradigm” was a popular buzzword that was perhaps overused throughout the 1990s. For those unfamiliar with it, let us consult dictionary.com:

par·a·digm /ˈpærəˌdaɪm, -dɪm/ Show Spelled [par-uh-dahym, -dim] Show IPA noun  

an example serving as a model; pattern. Synonyms: mold, standard; ideal, paragon, touchstone.

 such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group: the company’s business paradigm.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paradigm

Jesus implemented the new paradigm for humanity’s relationship with God, by removing the stigma for the sin of humanity by taking upon himself both the judgment and punishment for sin. At his first appearance in the Upper Room, we see in John 20, that he commissioned the disciples, sending them to go forth, as the Father in heaven had sent him. And knowing that he was soon to ascend to heaven, Jesus breathed upon them the Holy Spirit of God, which was the first Pentecost. Some forty days after his ascension to heaven, Christ sent God’s Holy Spirit to the rest of the believers gathered in the same Upper Room. After that, the Spirit, which is God’s presence, came upon those believers, who accepted Christ as savior; confessed their sins; and have chosen to follow the Way of the Lord.

At this point, the disciples were no longer students of the Lord, but having received the Spirit, become Apostles or messengers of his gospel of forgiveness, sanctification, and following the Day of Pentecost. As Apostles, believers are vessels of God’s Holy Spirit or Arks of God’s New Covenant. God’s new Paradigm is His New Covenant, which not only includes salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit but the promise of our own resurrection. And like the twelve Apostles, we are commissioned as messengers of Christ’s gospel.

The most important part of this passage, which all Christians who did not live in the time when Christ walked before his crucifixion should note, are the words that were spoken by Jesus to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Though after his ascension, Jesus did appear to Stephen, Saul or Paul and John, most Christians have made a faith conversion base upon what they believe, not what they have seen.  This is God’s new Paradigm for humanity. Since the Day of Pentecost, all believers in the unseen receive by faith, the Holy Spirit of God to become Apostles of Christ. As Apostles, we are charged to share his gospel of salvation and God’s New Covenant, which is eternal life.

So let us close today’s message with the same exclamation that awaits the believers reply, “He is risen!”

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain                                                      

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24):                                                                                 

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Join Us Good Friday 11 AM: BLCF and Toronto Vineyard Combined Service

Good Friday 11 AM: BLCF and Toronto Vineyard Combined Service

Order of Service

BLCF Bulletin April 19, 2019

Announcements and Call to Worship; Opening Prayer                                                            

Choruses: Led by Terry Sywanyk, Toronto Vineyard                                     

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

Pastor Bob Buckley, Toronto Vineyard Message: Good Friday Darkness

Mark 15:22-39 (ESV):

22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour[a] when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.[b] 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

The Death of Jesus

33 And when the sixth hour[c] had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.[d] 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he[e] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son[f] of God!”                                  

Footnotes: a. Mark 15:25 That is, 9 a.m.  b.  Mark 15:27 Some manuscripts insert verse 28And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “He was numbered with the transgressors” c. Mark 15:33 That is, noon d. Mark 15:33 That is, 3 p.m.   e.Mark 15:39 Some manuscripts insert cried out and f. Mark 15:39 Or a son

Communion, Steve Mickelson, BLCF Church: Mark 14:12-25

Mark 14:12-25 (ESV): The Passover with the Disciples

 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Institution of the Lord’s Supper

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”                                           

Footnotes: a. Mark 14:24 Some manuscripts insert new

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday, He Died for Me

Yesterday He Died For Me (on Youtube)

Benediction – (John 6:35-40) – The Bread of Life:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  

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.

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship

An Evangelical Church of Christ – located in the heart of Toronto: Come and worship with us

1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, M6H 1P1

416-535-9578 ~ blcfchurch@yahoo.ca

Web Page: www.blcfchurch.ca

Twitter: @blcfca

That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.            – Galatians 3:14

 

 

Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed 2019

what_are_you_dong_here_Elijah

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© March 3, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 3, 2019

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

and February 28, 2016

 BLCF Bulletin February 28, 2016

BLCF Bulletin February 23, 2014

BLCF:WhispersOfGod

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

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

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed’    

BLCF:Whispers-of-God-Emerson             

Let us pray…

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

BLCF:praying-hands

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

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

BLCF:1kings18

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

BLCF: Elijah_map

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

1 Kings 19 (ESV): Elijah Flees Jezebel

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

BLCF:Elijahunder_a_broom_tree

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

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

BLCF:elijah-and-the-angel

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

The Lord Speaks to Elijah

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

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

BLCF:god-speaks-to-elijah

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

BLCF:1kings19-12

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

BLCF:Cecil_B_DeMille_Ten_Commandments

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Call of Elisha

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

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

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

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

Psalm 91 (ESV): My Refuge and My Fortress

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF:hebrews-11

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

Hebrews 11 (ESV): By Faith

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

BLCF:Hebrews11v1

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: Exodus Numbers

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

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

BLCF Church: sinner saved

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF:WhispersHearingTheVoiceOfGOD

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

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

It’s a voice that whispers my name

BLCF:When_I_wait

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

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

It’s a voice that whispers my name

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

BLCF:Sometimes_you_need_silence_for_God_whispers

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

BLCF:Deuteronomy_33-27

Deuteronomy 33:27a (ESV):

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF:Psalm27_14

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

BLCF:God-whispersyou-are-Mine

 

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

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

 © February 23, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 24, 2019

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

BLCF Bulletin August 27, 2017

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                  

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

Tithing and Prayer Requests; Hymn #572: Praise God                                       

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

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                         

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Burning Bush

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

The Supremacy of God’s Son

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

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

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

The Transfiguration

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

Benediction – (Numbers 6:24-26): The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ, 2019

BLCF: conversion_of_paul

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ’ 

© February 17, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 17, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 18, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 18, 2014

BLCF: 51_Psalm

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #553: Morning Has Broken; Choruses                               

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

Responsive Reading #605: Prayer of Penitence (– Psalm 51)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                            ‘Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ’                                            

CreatInMe                                                                   

Let us pray…

In a Pentecost Sunday Lesson, last year, you may recall that we examined how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was chosen because she had found favor with God and lived an exemplary life, not just as the mother of Jesus, but as a faithful disciple to the Lord as well. We also saw how the disciples hid in the Upper Room, until Jesus, on the evening of the day that he resurrected from the grave, came to give them his Commission and then breathed upon them God’s Holy Spirit to enable them to achieve the goal. Still, one may question, whether Mary and the Apostles could be anything other than the best choice to trust and serve the Lord, as well as to share the gospel of Christ. And by asking this question, we, as every-day sinners, may seek to be excused from serving as the Lord’s apostles or messengers.

Our lesson this Sunday, we revisit for closer examination, a topic touched upon in recent message: how God chose, as His instrument, the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, an individual, who with the exception of Emperor Nero, was considered the least likely candidate to become a preacher of the Way of Jesus, more commonly known today as the gospel of Christ.

Let us briefly look at our Wiki bits for the background of Saul of Tarsus, who became the Christian Apostle, Paul:

BLCF" Acts_Map_Paul_to_Damascus

The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, was, according to the New Testament, an event that took place in the life of Paul the Apostle which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus. It is normally dated by researchers to AD 33–36.[1][2][3] The phrases Pauline conversion, Damascene conversion and Damascus Christophany, and road to Damascus allude to this event. Within the New Testament, Paul’s conversion experience is discussed in both Paul’s own letters and in the book known by the title Acts of the Apostles. According to both sources, Paul was never a follower of Jesus and did not know Jesus before his crucifixion. Instead, he severely persecuted the early Christians. Although Paul refers to himself as an “Apostle” of Jesus, it is clear that Paul was not one of “The Twelve” apostles.[1 Cor. 9:1-2] Paul’s conversion occurred after Jesus’ crucifixion. The accounts of Paul’s conversion experience describe it as miraculous, supernatural, or otherwise revelatory in nature. Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a “zealous” Pharisee who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus. Some scholars argue that Paul was a member of the “Zealot” party.

We find a summary of Paul testimony in his Epistle to the Galatians 1:13-14, 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. Paul also discusses his pre-conversion life in his Epistle to the Philippians,[3:4-6] and his participation in the stoning of Stephen is described in Acts 7:57-8:3. Acts of the Apostles discusses Paul’s conversion experience at three different points in the text, in far more detail than in the accounts in Paul’s letters. The book of Acts records that Paul was on his way from Jerusalem for Syrian Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, with the intention of returning them to Jerusalem as prisoners for questioning and possible execution. The journey is interrupted when Paul sees a blinding light, and communicates directly with a divine voice.

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

 

BLCF:apostle-paul

Looking at Saul’s background, we see that he was a citizen of Rome and Jewish, a Pharisee who was generally opposed to the teachings of the Way of Christ or Jesus’ gospel. In fact, Saul of Tarsus was a zealous persecutor of Christian believers, who was present at the killing of the Apostle Stephen, described in Acts 7:58-60:

BLCF:ThestoningofStStephenwithSaulofTars

Acts 7:58-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

BLCF:stephen_dead

Saul not only was present at the stoning of Stephen, as one who watched the garments of those who gathered to observe the execution. His role in the persecution of Christian believers and the ravaging the Christian Church was far darker than described in Acts 7, as we read in Acts 8:1-8.

Acts 8:1-8 (ESV): Saul Ravages the Church

8 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city[a] of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

Footnotes: a. Acts 8:5 Some manuscripts a city

In spite of their continued persecution, we see that the apostles, including Philip, continued to proclaim the gospel of Christ and to heal the afflicted in the name of the Lord, by the power of the Spirit. But on a journey on the Road to Damascus, Saul experienced a life-changing event: an encounter with the Lord, which is described in Acts 9:1-31.

BLCF: WINDOW DEPICTS CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL

Acts 9:1-31 (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.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

BLCF: animated-passion

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

BLCF: Paul_lowered_in_a_basket

 

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews[a] plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket.

BCF: Jerusalem

 

Saul in Jerusalem

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Footnotes: a. Acts 9:23 The Greek word Ioudaioi refers specifically here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, who opposed the Christian faith in that time b. Acts 9:25 Greek through the wall c. Acts 9:29 That is, Greek-speaking Jews

BLCF: the_Apostle_Paul

This passage describes a vision within a vision: the Lord appears to the apostle Ananias to inform him about Saul, who in turn has been a vision that he, Ananias, would heal the blinded Saul by the laying of hands. Ananias’ reservations of having to deal with a man whose reputation was to bind all who profess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour is reduced when the Lord tells him that he has plans to use Saul as his instrument, Acts 9:11-19:

“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.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house.

Ananias complies with Lord’s request by laying his hands upon Saul and saying:

“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

You may recall from our lesson last week, that the Lord called those who were obedient to God, brothers, and sisters. Reading further, we see that not only is Saul healed, but is baptized, not in water, but by the Holy Spirit:

18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

We see that salvation by the Lord is not reserved solely to the good, the pious, or those who are favored by God. We see that He has a purpose for those who oppose and persecute believers, as was the case of the persecutor Saul of Tarsus, who became transformed by God’s Holy Spirit, to the Apostle Paul. And Paul’s past actions as Saul became part of his confession and testimony as an apostle in Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

BLCF: 1Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (ESV): The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6, 31, 50, 58

BLCF: confessing_sin

Saul of Tarsus, as a Roman Citizen, who ran a tent manufacturing business, a merchant, and a Pharisee was eminently qualified to travel throughout the Empire of Rome to interact freely with Jew and Gentile, Greek and Roman, Citizen and King, to attack the Way of Christ movement, which was perceived as a threat to undermine the authority of Rome and the Jewish Faith. These same qualifications enabled the same man, now an Apostle of Christ, called Paul of Tarsus, to preach and minister, provide hope and healing, to spark faith and belief in the gospel of Jesus, as God’s instrument.

BLCF: Psalm51

I would like to read: Psalm 51:1-17, as our closing prayer.

Let us pray…

Psalm 51:1-17 (ESV): Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster.

                       A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him,                                      after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.                          

Footnotes: a. Psalm 51:1 Or Be gracious to me b.Psalm 51:10 Or steadfast

 – Amen

BLCF: Oh_My_God_Jesus

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

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.

BLCF: justification