To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday

‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within’

© September 30, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn # 410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day; Choruses                Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                            Responsive Reading #667: Humility and Exaltation (-from Philippians 2 and Matthew 23)                                                                                                                      Message by Steve Mickelson:‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Morning Prayer and Worship Service for the last Sunday of September 2018.

Today’s lesson is entitled: To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within was partly inspired from an online article by Jon Lockett, about a mysterious 1,000-year-old map, published by the UK Sun, online on September 10, 2018, entitled:

CRACKING THE CODE: 1,000-year-old Medieval map ‘reveals the location of          Noah’s Ark and other biblical mysteries’

Mappa Mundi

By Jon Lockett

10th September 2018, 3:12 pm

Updated: 10th September 2018, 6:43 pm

 Hereford’s Mappa Mundi contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical events.

 A HISTORIC map which marks the supposed sites of religious events is still being decoded – nearly 1,000 years after it was made.

The Mappa Mundi, in Hereford Cathedral, contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical happenings.

Measuring 1.59 x 1.34 metres (5ft 2ins by 4ft 4ins), the map is constructed on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin).

The huge masterpiece is seen by many history scholars as one of the greatest surviving artworks of the Middle Ages.

On the map the world is depicted as a circle with East at the top of the map – to mark the rising of the sun and the second coming of Christ.

Jerusalem sits at its centre as was common at the time.

Noah’s Ark is clearly pictured on the bottom-left of the map on the modern-day Iran-Armenia border.

And that ties in with the theory that the ruptured remains of the legendary vessel can now be found on Mount Ararat, in eastern Turkey.

Close to the very centre of the Mappa Mundi can be found the Tower of Babel – said to have been built after the great flood.

According to the Bible, the tower was so tall it was seen as a challenge to God, who caused humanity to speak in different languages as a punishment.

It has been long claimed that Shinar, where the Bible says the tower stood, was in south Mesopotamia and that Babel was located at Babylon.

However those that have studied the incredible and beautiful map put it in what is now Syria.

Eden is represented by a circular island at the very top of the map surrounded by a ring of fire and separated from the land masses by water.

Eve is seen taking fruit from the tree of knowledge from a terrifying serpent perched in the tree.

Hereford Cathedral’s commercial director Dominic Harbour said: “The map disarms anybody who stands in front of it.

“It’s really a cacophony of too much going on at the same time. The map’s unfathomable, really.

“You have to immerse yourself into it.”

Scholars believe it could be 1,000 years old and shows the history, geography and destiny of humanity as it was understood in Christian Europe in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

The inhabited part of the world as it was known then, roughly equivalent to Europe, Asia and North Africa, is mapped within a Christian framework.

Jerusalem is in the centre, and east is at the top. East, where the sun rises, was where medieval Christians looked for the second coming of Christ.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7219987/ancient-map-reveals-location-noahs-ark/

Since the above article describes the biblical accounts of the Tower of Babel and the Garden of Eden, I thought that it worthwhile to review these two accounts, as they appeared in the Bible:

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV): The Tower of Babel

Confusion Of Tongues

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for con\used

I would like to point out that in Genesis 11:7, the Lord refers to Himself in the plural, which is appropriate for the Godhead or Holy Trinity.

The Lord takes great exception to the people who migrated from the east, settling in the land of Shinar, and together decided to build there a tower with its top in the heavens.

At that time, people spoke the same language, and the Lord decided the easiest way to foil their plan to build this tower, which He found to be an abomination, was to confuse the people by causing to speak in different languages. This was to ensure that the people could not understand each other so as to prevent them from understanding one another, which in-turn would foil the people’s plans to collectively build a tower to heaven.

While it may not be the actual construction of the tower which concerned the Lord, but the reasons why the people sought to use the building as to reach the heavens for their own glorification. In other words, to elevate their perception by others to be elevated to a level equal to God, a motivation not unlike that which the serpent used to entice Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit described in Genesis 3:1-13 (ESV):

The Fall

Temptation in the Garden

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[d] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Not only were Adam and Eve’s eyes opened to an awareness of good and evil, which brought them an awareness of their sin and being naked, which prompted them to hide because of their nakedness because of their fear.

And their fear and guilt of their transgression to God, caused Adam to blame Eve, and Eve to blame the serpent for their sins. Not only had they disobeyed God, but they also lied to Him when they refused to take responsibility for their own actions.

We see in the account of the Tower of Babel, there were consequences from the Lord for Adam and Eve, ejection from the garden of Eden, which they had walked together with God. This separation from the Lord, where they walked together with Him to enjoy conversation in the cool of the day, was perhaps the greatest punishment because it also brought them a judgment of death:

Genesis 3:20-24 (ESV)

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.[a] 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Footnotes: a Genesis 3:20 Eve sounds like the Hebrew for life-giver and resembles the word for living

The Tower of Babel was constructed after Adam and Eve were punished for their sin, bringing the punishment of the loss of fellowship with God and the punishment of death. There was no manner of works, including building a tower to heaven, which would allow people to restore what the Lord had decided to remove as a punishment for their sins.

There is only one Way by which the separation between God and humanity could be removed, allowing a restoration for the lost fellowship with God, through Christ Jesus. He is the only way that we may restore both the relationship with the Father in heaven that was taken after the fall, but it will restore a unity taken when the tower was constructed at Babel:

Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV): One in Christ

 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[a] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[b] the Spirit.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:19 Or sojourners b. Ephesians 2:22 Or in

Through blood and flesh sacrificed by our Lord, Christ Jesus, we have reunited again in one single body. And by way of the Holy Spirit sent to us from the Father in heaven, in the name of his son, Jesus, we are able to understand each other since that Great day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:1-12 (ESV): The Coming of the Holy Spirit

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

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

God has provided a plan to sanctify us through his son and reconcile us as a body of believers to our Father, so that we may look forward to that day when Christ returns to walk, talk, and fellowship with Him in that garden, at the cool of the day.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

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.

 

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Fullness of Joy from the Promised Spirit

BLCF: rejoice-in-the-Lord

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:      

Fullness of Joy from the Promised Spirit

© June 21, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 21, 2015

BLCF: Come-Holy-Spirit

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #664:                             

About Spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12); Prayer

Hymn #214: We Bless the Name of Christ the Lord; Choruses                        

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

Scripture Verse:  Acts 2:14-41

 

BLCF: Happy Fathers Day Summer Solstice                                                                                  

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship on this Father’s day 2015, which also coincides with Summer Solstice, the day that the North Pole is closest to the Sun; Summer’s first day. Our lesson last Sunday entitled, Standing Firmly in God’s Grace, examined how the Lord never leaves or forsakes us in trying times. We found how a test or trial should not be the cause of us having a diminished faith as the more we persevere, the more we glorify Him, and the greater the reward of God’s grace is given to us.

In today’s lesson, Fullness of Joy from the Promised Spirit, we will examine some of the amazing changes brought to the disciples, now part of a contingent of some 120 apostles or messengers of the Gospel, after they received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. For a brief review of the significance of Pentecost, which Christians generally recognize as the birthday of the Christian Church, let us look to our Wikibits:

Pentecost – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

BLCF: PENTECOST_SHAVOT

Pentecost (Ancient Greek: Πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], Pentēkostē [hēmera], “the fiftieth [day]”) is the Greek name for Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, a prominent feast in the calendar of ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai. This feast is still celebrated in Judaism as Shavuot. Later, in the Christian liturgical year, it became a feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ (120 in all), as described in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1–31.[1] For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes described by some Christians today as the “Birthday of the Church”.

In the Eastern Church, Pentecost can also refer to the whole fifty days between Easter and Pentecost; hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the Pentecostarion. The feast is also called White Sunday, or Whitsunday, especially in England, where the following Monday was traditionally a public holiday. Pentecost is celebrated fifty days inclusively (i.e. 49 days with the first day counted, seven weeks) after Easter Sunday, hence its name.[2] Pentecost falls on the tenth day after Ascension Thursday (which falls 40 days after Easter).

The Pentecostal movement of Christianity derives its name from this New Testament event, as the movement emphasizes direct personal experience with God, akin to the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Pentecost

While the beginning of the Second Chapter of Acts does record with the arrival of the Holy Spirit to the 120 gathered in the Upper Room, our focus will be primarily on the Apostle Peter, whom Jesus described as being the rock upon or foundation for His church.

Before we look today’s Scripture Verse, Acts 2:14-41, which features Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost, let us get some context for Peter’s Message by briefly reviewing the thirteen verses previous to today’s featured Scripture passage:

Acts 2:1-13 (ESV) The Coming of the Holy Spirit

BLCF: Pentecost4

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

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

With respect to those mocking the apostles for their utterances in various tongues, I do not know of any wine, new or old, which enables them to speak in a multitude of languages and be understood. This ability is a gift of the Spirit given to the believer.

Now let us look at Peter’s Sermon delivered in the morning of the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:14-41 (ESV):

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

BLCF: PeterPreaching

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

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be,

God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,     

and your young men shall see visions,     

and your old men shall dream dreams;

18 even on my male servants[b] and female servants     

in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above     

and signs on the earth below,     

blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

20 the sun shall be turned to darkness     

and the moon to blood,     

before the day of the Lord comes,

the great and magnificent day.

21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[c] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,     

for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;

26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;     

my flesh also will dwell in hope.

27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,     

or let your Holy One see corruption.

28 You have made known to me the paths of life;     

you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,

“Sit at my right hand, 35    

until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

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

Peter begins his message by addressing the “men of Israel” gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks. For this targeted group would understand the three Old Testament Passages that Peter refers to within his sermon. The first of these Scriptures comes from Joel 2:28-32 (ESV), where the prophet describes the Lord’s promise to pour His Spirit upon all flesh, both men and women, of all classes, who will experience visions and prophesies:

 The Lord Will Pour Out His Spirit

BLCF: pentecost1

28 [a] “And it shall come to pass afterward,     

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,     

your old men shall dream dreams,     

and your young men shall see visions.

29 Even on the male and female servants     

in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

Footnotes: a. Joel 2:28 Ch 3:1 in Hebrew

But Joel’s prophecy warns that the gifts of the Spirit and the salvation on the day the Lord returns will be given to those believers who call on the name of the Lord, Jesus. It is these believers whom the Lord calls.

Peter continues his discourse by reminding his audience of the prophet David’s comment of the joy, gladness, security and confidence that he will never be abandoned or forsaken by the Lord, which is a reference to Psalm 16:8-11 (ESV):

I have set the Lord always before me;     

because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[a] rejoices;    

 my flesh also dwells secure.

10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,     

or let your holy one see corruption.[b]

11 You make known to me the path of life;     

in your presence there is fullness of joy;     

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 16:9 Hebrew my glory b. Psalm 16:10 Or see the pit

Peter continues to describe how the Saviour sent by God, overcame death to be raised up and exalted at the right hand of God, as we read in Psalm 110:1 (ESV):

   Sit at My Right Hand

      A Psalm of David

110 The Lord says to my Lord:     

“Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Peter reminds the congregation that Jesus, a descendent of David, was resurrected by God and ascended to Heaven, as was prophesized in the Scriptures.  The arrival of the same Holy Spirit to the apostles is yet another prophecy, and promise from God, come to past.

The truth of Peter’s message cut to the heart of those listening, and they became convicted by the Spirit to repent of their sins in the name of Jesus and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This gift from Lord is not available only to that generation, but to their decedents, as well all others whom the Lord calls.  Some 3,000 souls responded to the call from the Lord and on that day Jesus saw the birth of His Church. The Church today is the single body of believers that we now call Christian.

The boldness of Peter’s speech to the multitude is in stark contrast to his behavior just few weeks prior; where upon the arrest of Jesus, Peter fearing for himself, denied knowing the Lord not once but three times. The rest of the disciples had the same fear for their own safety after Christ’s crucifixion had cloistered themselves in the Upper Room. Their feared turned to joy when Jesus, now resurrected from the grave, appeared to them in the same room. But the disciples’ joy was short lived when the Lord announced that he had to leave them, but he promised to send the Holy Spirit in His place. The Spirit would bring guidance, understanding and the continued presence of God with each of them at all times. This included Thomas, who was absent when the Lord first returned to the Upper Room and actually had to see the wounds from the cross on the Lord before he believed.

Upon the arrival of the Spirit to the 120 believers who were gathered in the Upper Room, some ten days after the Lord ascended to Heaven, we see how the Spirit gave them the ability to speak in all tongues and be understood by all those present. The joyful behavior demonstrated by the apostles after they became filled with the Spirit was mistaken by some as intoxication. Peter set the record straight by delivering the Good News that Jesus had come to fulfill Gods promises to bring forgiveness to sinners who confessed; the gift of the Spirit to those who believed; and the reward of the resurrection. Peter spoke with boldness of Spirit gifted by the Lord on that Day of Pentecost.

That is how the Spirit works then, but you may ask is that same fullness of Spirit at work today?

I witnessed on CNN the answer to that question, which came this week from the families of a prayer group who had gathered last Wednesday at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was at this prayer meeting, that a disturbed young man, with designs on creating a racial war, murdered nine prayer warriors who had welcomed him into their midst. Two days later, at the court arraignment that the grieved family members, whom the judge permitted to speak, revealed the power and love of God given by the Holy Spirit by forgiving the man who admitted to murdering the nine victims. Many of the victims’ families included in their statements to the court, that they prayed for God’s forgiveness and mercy upon the disturbed young man. It is how amazing to see the love, grace and joy flow, even through tears of grief, like a river from the Lord, when the Holy Spirit is present.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #192: Joys Are flowing Like a River

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: Come-Holy-Spirit

Baptized with the Holy Spirit and the Refiner’s Fire

God revealed as a Burning Bush

God revealed as a Burning Bush

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

   © July 28, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2013

 

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 Lordfell 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

Let us pray…

The invention of fire had a profound effect upon 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 mankind.

The first use of fire is lost in prehistory and the subject of much conjecture and speculation. According 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 associate fire, we observe a manifestation of the power and presence of God. We find a clear example of His power and presence in this morning’s Scripture from 1Kings 18.

A severe drought and famine in 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 illicit 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 this summer 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, not deter him from calling upon God. Elijah had proceeded as the Lord instructed. He acknowledged the soveirnty 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 judgement 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 is 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.

 

Moses and the Burning Bush

Moses and the 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 dessert 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 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 water baptism 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.   

Pentecost

 

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 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

 

The Transfiguration of Jesus

The Transfiguration of Jesus

 

I believe Matthew’s of 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.