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

 

 

Advertisements

Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, 2019

© February 10, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 10, 2019     

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 26, 2015

BLCF Bulletin April 26, 2015 

BLCF: God_is_Love

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                    

Opening Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness; Choruses      

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

Responsive Reading #665 (Love, The Greatest Thing – 1 Corinthians 13)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                 ‘Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love’                                                                  

BLCF: Gods Everlasting Love

Let us pray…

The title of this morning’s lesson is Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, describing the Christian’s assurance that the reward for faith is to be filled with a steadfast love from God.

Before we being the lesson, let us first take a brief look at the terms used in the title.

Faith is our hope, trust, and obedience to God. And most of us have some idea of the meaning of love, either having given or received love. God’s love is described as agape, which is a love given unconditionally. Jesus personified that love when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross for the sins of the world.

But who is the giver of love? Here is what two children revealed about what God is like, while in prayer, (- from ‘Our Daily Bread’ November 15, 2012):

 “Dear God, what does it mean that You are a ‘jealous’ God? I thought You had everything.”

“I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset You made on Tuesday. That was cool.”

http://odb.org/2012/11/15/gods-description/

BLCF: 1_John_4_7-8

The Apostle John describes God as love, 1 John 4:16 (ESV):

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John says that God is Love.  In this morning’s Responsive reading, which is taken from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, and the Apostle Paul gives us an idea of what our lives would be like both with and without love.

BLCF: faith-hope-love

Paul begins by describing what would God’s gifts be like without love. Since John told us that God is love, and if we accept the converse that love is an expression of God, and then the same passage gives us an understanding as we read ‘love’, we substitute ‘God’.  The result would be a description of life without God: We see that without God, the speaking in tongues would be just noise. And what good would be having the gift of prophecy without God? What good would it be to possess the faith to move mountains without God? If we gave all that we had to the poor, were martyred for preaching the Gospel and did not have God to others, it would be of no value whatsoever.

BLCF: Love never fails

While Paul gives a good description of how our existence would be like devoid of love, he continues in 1 Corinthians 13 by giving us some characteristics of love. Let us continue our exercise by again substituting God for love in this passage:

God is patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.

God does not demand His own way. He is not irritable or touchy.

God does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do Him wrong.

God is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

If you are loyal to someone no matter what the cost is an expression of God. You will always expect the best of Him, and always stand your ground defending Him.

When all the special gifts and powers someday come to an end, God goes on forever.

There are three things that remain – faith, hope, and God – and the greatest of these is God.

The two Scripture verses that we featured in the bulletin today, Exodus 3:1-15 and Acts 9:1-19, describe two men who lived sinful lives but were transformed by God’s love.

BLCF: burningbush

Exodus 3:1-15 (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. 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. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 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.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 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.

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

Footnotes: a. Exodus 3:14 Or I am what I am, or I will be what I will be b. Exodus 3:15 The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14

The first Scripture describes the encounter between the Prophet Moses and God. Moses was born a Hebrew but raised as a prince of Egypt by his adopted mother. Moses discovered his true heritage was Hebrew. After Moses killed an Egyptian while defending a Hebrew slave, he was sent by Pharaoh into the desert to die for the crime. But God had a plan for Moses and  He called to Moses from a burning bush. God answered Moses’ questions and doubts about himself by assuring Moses that He will accompany Moses,  providing the words and the means to free the people of Israel from their bondage. God also indicated to Moses, that after he delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses would return to Mt. Horeb to worship the Lord.

How do we know that God loved Moses and the people of Israel? We find the answer to this question in the following passage, where the Lord describes himself, Exodus 34:6-7(ESV):

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

BLCF: love_never_fails

 

We see that the Lord’s description of Himself is very similar to Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.                                                                                                

The second of today’s Scriptures, Acts 9:1-19, talks about the conversion of another sinner, Saul of Tarsus, a notorious persecutor of followers of Christ, who like Moses receives a Devine calling to be an instrument of the Lord.

BLCF: Sul'sconversion

 

Acts 9:1-19 (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.

Like Moses, Saul heeds the calling, and as an Apostle of the Lord describes how the love of Christ transformed him, Galatians 2:20 (ESV):

BLCF: Agape

 

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

If God is Love, how is it that we, as believers in the Resurrected Christ, are transformed? It is by the power of the Holy Spirit which is given to us as a reward for our faith, Romans 5:2-5 (ESV):

Through him we have also obtained access by faith[a] into this grace in which we stand, and we[b] rejoice[c] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.                                                                                              

Footnotes: a. Romans 5:2 Some manuscripts omit by faith b. Romans 5:2 Or let us; also verse 3 c. Romans 5:2 Or boast; also verses 3, 11

Just as Moses and Paul were transformed into instruments of the Lord, we are gifted by God in reward for our faith, 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV):

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 By receiving God’s gifts of power, love, and self-control, we are transformed, through faith and by the power of HIS Holy Spirit into HIS instruments; expressions of God by the love we share with others. It is God’s desire that we shine as instruments of His love and His wisdom.    

 Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #39: God Is Love; His Mercy Brightens

Benediction – (Ephesians 5:2):  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

BLCF: Gods-love

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

© April 29, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

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

BLCF Bulletin April 29, 2018

 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stoning of Stephen – Acts 7

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

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

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

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

The Conversion of Saul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus and Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit and Christ

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

 

Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’

© May 14, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 14, 2017

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

Opening Hymn #411: Happiness Is to Know the Savior; Choruses

 Responsive Reading #629: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10)                      

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’  

                       

Let us pray…

 Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service. We would ask the Lord’s Blessings for all the mothers in the congregation today.

This Wednesday, the Bluegrass / Gospel group Cold Water Roots will perform a musical Benefit Concert on behalf of the BLCF Café Community Dinner, which will take place during the dinner.

On May 28, two Sunday’s from now, BLCF will have a hat trick of activities within the Praise and Worship Service: Presentation of BLCF’’s Annual Report; the serving a Pot Luck Luncheon and the Inductance of New Members.

Today’s lesson is entitles ‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’, and involves the lone disciple of the Lord who was called upon by Jesus to heal and baptize Saul of Tarsus to become an instrument of Christ.

While the Scriptures contain accounts of three individuals bearing the name Ananias:

Three different people in the New Testament are named Ananias          

 (from enterthebible.org):

  • One Ananias was a member of the church in Jerusalem in the days when the believers had all things in common. Along with his wife, Sapphira, he sold a piece of property, secretly kept some of the money, and misreported the sale price when he gave the rest of the money to the church. When Peter confronted him, Ananias fell down and died (Acts 4:32-5:11).
  • Another Ananias was a follower of Jesus in Damascus. Instructed by a vision, he sought out Paul (then still known as Saul) and helped to restore his sight (Acts 9:10-19).
  • A third Ananias was the high priest in Jerusalem who convened a meeting of the Jewish ruling council to examine Paul after his arrest in the temple (Acts 23:1-5).

https://www.enterthebible.org/resourcelink.aspx?rid=1177

Our lesson will focus upon the second of the three accounts of individuals named Ananias, the disciple of Jesus who lived in Damascus and was involved in the restoration of the vision to Saul of Tarsus.

We do know a little more about Ananias involved in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus:

Ananias – (bible study tools.com)

In late tradition, he is placed in the list of the seventy disciples of Jesus, and represented as Bishop of Damascus, and as having died a martyr’s death.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/ananias/

The first account that involved the Bishop of Damascus is found in Acts 9:1-22 (ESV) is told in the third person:

The Conversion of Saul

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.

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.

The passage from Acts 9:1-22 contains two narratives of two protagonists, Saul of Tarsus and Ananias of Damascus, both of whom receive visions from Jesus. Our Lord has ascended to be with the Father in heaven, sending God’s Holy Spirit to all believers in the Resurrected Christ.

This conversion, healing and baptism of Saul resulted in a zealous persecutor of Christians becoming one of the greatest evangelists of the Gospel of Christ.

We see as a result of the two visions from the Lord, a sinner is struck blind, left helpless, weak from three days of hunger and thirst, in need a being healed and nourished by a believer who must overcome a reluctance to deal with a notoriously evil persecutor of those who were believers in the Way of Christ.

The second account that included the disciple Ananias is found in Acts 22:1-16 (ESV):

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

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

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

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) b. Acts 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

From the two accounts of Ananias healing and baptism of Saul of Tarsus, we see that the Lord sent his good and faithful disciple to minister to Saul by restoring his sight and baptize him in Spirit, by calling on the name of the Lord.

In ministering to Saul of Tarsus, Ananias was instructed to visit, heal and baptize a stranger who was imprisoned by his blindness; weak, hungry, and thirsty from fasting for three days. The sins of Saul would be washed away, after he followed Ananias’ instructions to call on the name of Jesus. By his conversion to the Way of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus would later be known as the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest proponents of the Christian faith to both Jews and Gentiles, alike.

The ministering of Ananias of Damascus to Saul of Tarsus sounds very familiar, as it is described in the Scripture passage which we have adopted as a Mission statement for our BLCF Café Community Dinner, Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV):

The Final Judgment

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

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

While the world may view ministering to the least of our brothers and sisters as strictly taking care of their physical needs, if we were to substitute the name of “Saul of Tarsus” in place of “least of my brother and sisters” or replacing “the least of these”, in the above Matthew 25 passage, we have a description of how Ananias ministered to the spiritual needs of a brother in need, who was blinded, starving, and condemned to the death sentence of his sins. The first example would read:

 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to Saul of Tarsus, you did it to me.’

And the second example would read:                                                                                       ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to Saul of Tarsus, you did not do it to me.’ 

In other words, on that Final Judgement Day, our salvation and eternal life depends upon how well we “ministered” to sinners the gospel of Christ, feeding them with the Good News of the Lord and sharing as living witnesses our testimony of faith.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #501:  Reach Out to Your Neighbor

 Benediction – (John 13:35):  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 

May all mothers enjoy blessings on this Mother’s Day Sunday!

Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love

 BLCF: God_is_Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love

© April 26, 2015, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 26 2015

BLCF: Gods Everlasting Love

 Announcements and Call to Worship: Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #665 (Love, The Greatest Thing – 1 Corinthians 13); Prayer

Opening Hymn #37 Great Is Thy Faithfulness; Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: Exodus 3:1-15 and Acts 9:1-19

BLCF: 1_John_4_7-8

Let us pray…

The title of this morning’s lesson is Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, describing the Christian’s assurance that the reward for faith is to be filled with a steadfast love from God.

Before we being the lesson, let us first take a brief look at the terms used in the title.

Faith is our hope, trust, and obedience to God. And most of us have some idea of the meaning of love, either having given or received love. God’s love is described as agape, which is a love given unconditionally. Jesus personified that love when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross for the sins of the world.

But who is the giver of love? Here is what two children revealed about what God is like, while in prayer, (from ‘Our Daily Bread’ November 15, 2012):

 “Dear God, what does it mean that You are a ‘jealous’ God? I thought You had everything.”

“I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset You made on Tuesday. That was cool.”

http://odb.org/2012/11/15/gods-description/

The Apostle John describes God as love, 1 John 4:16 (ESV):

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John says that God is Love.  In this morning’s Responsive reading, which is taken from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13,  the Apostle Paul gives us an idea of what our lives would be like both with and without love.

BLCF: faith-hope-love

Paul begins by describing what would God’s gifts be like without love. Since John told us that God is love, and if we accept the converse that love is an expression of God, then the same passage gives us an understanding as we read ‘love’, we substitute ‘God’.  The result would be a description of life without God: We see that without God, the speaking in tongues would be just noise. And what good would be having the gift of prophecy without God? What good would it be to possess the faith to move mountains without God? If we gave all that we had to the poor, were martyred for preaching the Gospel and did not have God to others, it would be of no value whatsoever.

BLCF: Love never fails

While Paul gives a good description of how our existence would be like devoid of love, he continues in 1 Corinthians 13 by giving us some characteristics of love. Let us continue our exercise by again substituting God for love in this passage:

God is patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.

God does not demand His own way. He is not irritable or touchy.

God does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do Him wrong.

God is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

If you are loyal to someone no matter what the cost is an expression of God. You will always expect the best of Him, and always stand your ground defending Him.

When all the special gifts and powers someday come to an end, God goes on forever.

There are three things that remain – faith, hope, and God – and the greatest of these is God.

The two Scripture verses that we featured in the bulletin today, Exodus 3:1-15 and Acts 9:1-19, describe two men who lived sinful lives but were transformed by God’s love.

BLCF: burningbush

                                                                                             

Exodus 3:1-15 (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. 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. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 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.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 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.

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

Footnotes: a. Exodus 3:14 Or I am what I am, or I will be what I will be b. Exodus 3:15 The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14

The first Scripture describes the encounter between the Prophet Moses and God. Moses was born a Hebrew but raised as a prince of Egypt by his adopted mother. Moses discovered his true heritage was Hebrew. After Moses killed an Egyptian while defending a Hebrew slave, he was sent by Pharaoh into the desert to die for the crime. But God had a plan for Moses and  He called to Moses from a burning bush. God answered Moses’ questions and doubts about himself by assuring Moses that He will accompany Moses,  providing the words and the means to free the people of Israel from their bondage. God also indicated to Moses, that after he delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses would return to Mt.  Horeb to worship the Lord.

How do we know that God loved Moses and the people of Israel? We find the answer to this question in the following passage, where the Lord describes himself, Exodus 34:6-7(ESV):

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

BLCF: love_never_fails

We see that the Lord’s description of Himself is very similar to Paus definition of love in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.                                                                                                

The second of today’s Scriptures, Acts 9:1-19, talks about the conversion of another sinner, Saul of Tarsus, a notorious persecutor of followers of Christ, who like Moses receives a Devine calling to be an instrument of the Lord.

BLCF: Sul'sconversion

Acts 9:1-19 (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.

Like Moses, Saul heeds the calling, and as an Apostle of the Lord describes how the love of Christ transformed him, Galatians 2:20 (ESV):

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

BLCF: Agape

If God is Love, how is it that we, as believers in the Resurrected Christ, are transformed? It is by the power of the Holy Spirit which is given to us as a reward for our faith, Romans 5:2-5 (ESV):

Through him we have also obtained access by faith[a] into this grace in which we stand, and we[b] rejoice[c] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.                                                                                              

Footnotes: a. Romans 5:2 Some manuscripts omit by faith b. Romans 5:2 Or let us; also verse 3 c. Romans 5:2 Or boast; also verses 3, 11

Just as Moses and Paul were transformed into instruments of the Lord, we are gifted by God in reward for our faith, 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV):

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 By receiving God’s gifts of power, love, and self-control, we are transformed, through faith and by the power of HIS Holy Spirit into HIS instruments; expressions of God by the love we share with others. It is God’s desire that we shine as instruments of His love and His wisdom.    

 Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #39: God Is Love; His Mercy Brightens

Benediction – (Ephesians 5:2):  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

BLCF: Gods-love

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

BLCF: hearing Gods voiceheeding the call

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call’

© January 18, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

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

BLCF Bulletin January 18, 2015

BLCF: Proverbs 16_9

BLCF: living_the_Great_Commission

 

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #636 (The Holy Spirit Promised – John 14 and 16); Prayer      

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

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

Scriptures: Acts 9:1-16; 22:6-16

BLCF: forgive-those

 

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

BLCF: Sauls_conversion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saul was 100% wrong, for he was singled out in a direct encounter with our Lord on the way to Damascus,  not to continue to persecute Christians, after his conversion Paul sought to minister the gospel of Jesus, never again to take another life, which was the true will of God, Acts 9:1-16 (ESV):

The Conversion of Saul

BLCF: Saul of Tarsus

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

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.

 

BLCF: Ananias-was-praying

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

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.”       

In the above Scripture passage, we see that it is Saul, a living example of a person who twists God’s Word and HIS will to commit evil and offend the Lord, prompting the Lord to reveal himself to Saul and ask:

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

In our second Scripture passage, taken from Acts 2, Luke records the conversion of Saul, in the convert’s own words, Acts 22:6-16 (ESV):

BLCF: sauls-conversion

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

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

 

BLCF: Ananias_and_Paul

heeding the call

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

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

In our second Scripture passage, Saul, who now goes by the Christian name Paul, identifies who is the Lord, who spoke to him from heaven with light brighter than the noonday sun:

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

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

heeding the call

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

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

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

BLCF: Paul_and_Ananias

BLCF: living_the_Great_Commission

 

But which is the greater act of obedience, and more amazing lesson: the faith-conversion  Saul of Tarsus, the great persecutor of Christians, to become the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest proponents of the Christian church and author of half of the books found in the New Testament; OR the faith of Ananias, who despite knowing that Saul of Tarsus was responsible for the persecution of Christians, obeyed the Lord and ministered to Saul by healing Him by the power of the Holy Spirit, to restore his vision and directing Saul to share his testimony and the Gospel of Christ with everyone he met?

Both conversions are significant lessons, one in the growth of the Christian Church in general, while the other a significant lesson to all believers that the Lord expects us to share his gospel, despite any per-conceived opinions we have about guilt, character or actions of those with whom we share the gospel message. We cannot use another’s reputation or past history as an excuse not to share the love of Christ and God’s provisions for salvation and sanctification through Jesus.

BLCF: a_godly_response_to_lifes_circumstances

Let us pray…

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

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

BLCF: called_by_God