Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

© July 1, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 1, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on June 7, 2015

BLCF Bulletin June 7, 2015

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                    

O Canada! (See: below)                                                                                                         

Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding; Choruses                                     

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

Responsive Reading #634: Christian Unity (John 10 and 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)    

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                          

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/anthems-canada.html#a11

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship and Happy Canada Day 2018! As today happens to be the first Sunday of the month, it is a Communion Sunday.

For our lesson today, entitled Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith,  we will be looking at Prayer and the Holy Spirit, as the two dynamic elements of Faith in Jesus, whose sacrifice we remember in the communion portion of today’s service. Just as in communion, we are drawn together as a body of believers, in our prayers we are drawn closer to God’s Holy Spirit.

We know that the elements of communion are the bread and juice, but what are the elements of a prayer? Jesus gave us an idea in his response to the disciples’ question: “How should we pray?” in what we commonly refer to today as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

The Scriptures give us two accounts of Jesus’ example as of how to pray in Matthew, Chapter 6 and Luke, Chapter 11. For our lesson, I have chosen the example recorded in Matthew 6:5-13. While most references indicate the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew beginning at Verse 9 and ending with Verse 13, I find that the four verses previous to Verse 9 are just as important, as they explain not just the content of our prayers, but the attitude and manner of expression of the prayers.

Matthew 6:5-13 (ESV) The Lord’s Prayer

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come,

your will be done,[b]

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

12 and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.[d]

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow e. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

There is the common practice among many Churches of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at every service. Such practice runs the risk of just heaping many words publically as described in Matthew 6:7-8. When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, it was before the Day of Pentecost and so we could understand why the disciples did not discern or understand how to construct a prayer. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s presence brings a dynamism to our prayers and the Spirit with prayer act as a ‘Dynamic Duo’ to our faith requests. I am not talking about a Super Hero, but the Spirit delivers dynamism to the prayer. But what do we mean by the term dynamism? Let us check our Wikibits for an answer:

Dynamism [dahy-nuh-miz-uh m] /ˈdaɪ nəˌmɪz əm/ noun 1. Any of various theories or philosophical systems that seek to explain phenomena of nature by the action of force.

Compare mechanism (def 8), vitalism (def 1).

  1. Great energy, force, or power; vigor:

The dynamism of the new governor.

  1. Psychology. A habitual mode of reducing or eliminating tension.

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

This synergy of Spirit and faith together make our prayers more than just hollow words. Faith in the Lord brings the Spirit and the Spirit mediates our prayers and His reply.

Just prior to his crucifixion for all our sins, the Lord gave his “High Priestly Prayer.

John 17 (ESV): The High Priestly Prayer

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth.

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Footnotes: a. John 17:15 Or from evil b. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God) c. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God) d. John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God) In verses 17-26 of John 17,

Jesus asks the Father that those who believe and follow him be sanctified, unified and that the love of God that is in Christ will be in them. The manner by which this request by the Lord may be achieved is by way of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ Prayer in John 17 describes how the Lord delivered on his promise to ask the Father to provide another Helper, described as “the Spirit of truth” earlier in John 14:12-17.

John 14:12-17 (ESV)

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[a] anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[b] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[c] in you.

Footnotes: A. John 14:14 Some manuscripts omit me B. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7 C. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

How does the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is part of the Holy Trinity of God, change the manner in which we pray. Here is an excerpt from Ray C. Stedman’s article on The Holy Spirit and Prayer, from a Series: Jesus Teaches Prayer:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Author: Ray C. Stedman – Read the Scripture: John 14:12-17

It is significant to note that, though Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, he did teach them how to pray. Much of his teaching on prayer is found in this rich and fragrant passage, which is called The Upper Room Discourse, found in John, Chapters 13 through 17. It is a passage that is filled with astonishing concepts.

I know of no more challenging part of the Word of God than this. It is a vast area of mystery and beauty and glory. I never read it without feeling tremendously humbled in the experience of it. Perhaps in this place, more fully than anywhere else, our Lord unfolds to us the unique secret of Christianity, that aspect of life that has been called “the exchanged life.”

This is the secret of a Christian: He is not living his own life, he is living another’s life. Or, more accurately, another is living his life in him. Until you have grasped that as the mystery and key of Christian living you have not graduated from the kindergarten level of the Christian life.

This is what Jesus says: “In you” means that you are under the control of the Holy Spirit, and yielding obedience to his totalitarian sovereignty. It means the total collapse of all your rebellion against him.

“Oh,” you say, “I’m not in rebellion against the Spirit of God. Why, I’m a Christian. I don’t rebel against him.” Let me ask you: “What kind of life are you living? Is it God-centered, or is it self-centered? Is it to please yourself that your activities are done and your desires aimed?” Then you are in rebellion against the Spirit of God, and to have him dwelling in you means the total collapse of all that revolt until you are saying, “Lord Jesus, whatever you say, your word is my command. I am ready to obey.”

It is not our relationship with Jesus Christ which counts before the world, it is our resemblance to him.

http://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/prayer/the-holy-spirit-and-prayer

Unlike the disciples in Matthew 6 or Luke 11, we need not worry how to word our prayers, as we are accompanied by the Holy Spirit to help us express our concerns and to intercede on our behalf, as we see in Romans 8:26-27:

Romans 8:26-27

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Footnotes: a. Romans 8:27 Or that

In spite of understanding that the Holy Spirit facilitates prayer, many Christians struggle with how to receive the Holy Spirit. For we receive the Spirit by faith. Author Bill Bright describes three steps in the Scriptures to our being filled with the Holy Spirit in his article:

 The Steps to Being Filled with the Holy Spirit By Faith,

You can trust God right now to fill you

by Bill Bright

Millions of Christians are begging God, as I once did, for something which is readily available — just waiting to be appropriated by faith. They are seeking some kind of emotional experience, not realizing that such an attitude on their part is an insult to God — a denial of faith. But faith is the only way you can please God. Though you are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith and faith alone, it is important to recognize that several factors contribute to preparing your heart for the filling of the Spirit.

First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord. You have the promise of our Savior, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul admonishes in Romans 12:1, 2: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Third, confess every known sin which the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness which God promises in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I call this process “Spiritual Breathing.”

Just as you exhale and inhale physically, so you also breathe spiritually. You exhale spiritually when you confess your sins.

http://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/classics/transferable-concepts/be-filled-with-the-holy-spirit.7.html

The Holy Spirit provides for a dynamic dialog between God and the believers. Without the Spirit, prayer consists of hollow words with little hope of being heard by the Lord, let alone any reply. It is the Spirit acting as an Intermediary between the Lord and the believer that brings a Devine understanding to our deepest concerns far better than we can put them into words. As an Intercessor, the Spirit brings Devine comfort, encouragement and eventually understanding to the issues that we rise. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we may be assured that anything, for which we pray, according to the Lord’s will, will be heard and answered, 1 John 5:14 (ESV):

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Let us pray…

Hymn #213: Let Us Break Bread Together

The institution or practice of observing Communion was first instituted at the Last Supper, which was the Passover Supper attended by Jesus and his disciple just prior to his arrest and death on the cross, describes the Lord’s suffering and sacrifice. While we must remember the sadness of Christ’s suffering, we must remember the joy experienced when the disciples met Jesus resurrected from the grave, which occurred twice with the breaking of bread on the Road to Emmaus and inside the Upper Room. We should take comfort that the Lord loved us so much that he would not allow the believers in Christ to be judged by, but forgiven of their sins. This is the confidence we have in keeping our faith and trust in Him.

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

Benediction – (Psalm 19:14): Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP’

© February 4, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 4, 2018

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on January 8, 2012

BLCF_Bulletin_January_8_2012

Announcements & Call to Worship of Prayer, Opening Prayer

Opening Hymn #204: There`s a Quiet Understanding; Choruses                                      

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God 

Responsive Reading #655: The Final Word (Revelation 22) 

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Great Banquet: God`s Invitation’

Let us pray…

The focus of our lesson today will be what we may learn from the Lord’s parable which Jesus described as the “king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

Several years ago this spring, my nephew Steve married his fiancée, Elise. This was the fourth wedding held on Sophie`s side of the family. The wedding consisted of a memorable service, followed by a joyful banquet. The wedding was the culmination of many months of planning and preparation for the blessed event.

If we were to turn on the television, we may see any of number of reality shows about various aspects of the wedding, including such aspects as: choosing a wedding planner, selecting the right wedding dress, or four brides who attend each other’s wedding and then rate aspects of the weddings.

Millions of viewers anticipate another royal wedding in the UK, between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, to be broadcast this spring. Only those with invitations will be privy to the reception and the following banquet. It is appropriate that only those familiar with the hosts and who appreciate the significance of the celebration to the bride and groom, would be given a RSVP invitation to attend.

Most people enjoy attending and observing moments of nuptial bliss, where a bride and groom embark upon the journey of a new life together, not expecting to see reality show dramatics nor royal pomp and circumstance in the event. We all can imagine the various elements involved in a wedding ceremony and the celebration that followed the exchange of vows, where a couple embark upon a new life, united in both heart and spirit. The expectation of the invited is to witness a happy, joyful wedding and celebration afterward, which makes it is not surprising that Jesus used a wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, as a parable of to illustrate God`s covenant for dealing with our sinful nature through Jesus, and to illustrate the gospel of Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV):

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

  

 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’  And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” 

The parables of our Lord Jesus are earthly stories meant to explain heavenly truths. Each person or object is symbolic of someone or something else. Understanding the symbolism is crucial to discovering the lesson of the parable. This is entirely consistent with literal, historical, grammatical interpretation, since the passage is clearly described as a parable, and in fact gaining the theological impact of this parable requires such an understanding. In fact, Jesus best explains His purpose for using the parable in Matthew 13:10-17 (ESV):

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:                                                             

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Back to the lessons from The Parable of the Wedding Feast, the servants sent out to announce the wedding are ignored by some, as were the first disciples who share the good news about Jesus have been ignored. But the Lord is patient and does not want us to rashly reject the gift of salvation, so he sends out more servants, or more disciples, with His invitation. But we see that there are those who choose not only to reject the invitation, but choose to kill those bearing His message. This represents those who have imprisoned, or humiliated, or even killed God`s disciples. But, the King, will kill the murders and destroy their city.

In the Wedding Feast Parable, the King represents God the Father; His Son is our Lord Jesus.  The Invited guests represent Israel and the servants He sent symbolize the prophets and disciples. The city the king had his troops burn because the people invited not only refused to attend, but has killed the king’s servants, represents a defiant Jerusalem.

We find further clarification of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Mark`s gospel, in Chapter 2:18-20 (ESV):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

God has prepared a banquet with His son Jesus the bridegroom and His bride is the church, being the body of believers, not the mortar and brick. Some say those He then sent His servants out to invite represent the church, which can contain both good and bad believers. However, the symbolism and timing are wrong. The Church is the Bride of Christ, not a group of last minute substitute guests. Since Israel had already refused their invitation, and the Church (being the bride) would not need an invitation, so who are the guests in the parable and what else are we to take from the lesson?

The wedding garment, worn by the guests represents His righteousness. This is a concept explained on numerous occasions in both Old and New Testaments.

The fact that a guest is thrown out into the darkness for not wearing  proper wedding attire indicates these last minute guests have to be clothed in “garments of salvation” to publicly identify themselves as believers.

The parable makes it clear that there is no reason, none at all, for people to reject a gracious invitation from the King to come to the wedding feast and enjoy all good things. The only reason they reject the invitation is that they do not believe the King, or they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Since this is a call from the King or from God, the people are not free to take it or leave it, even if they think they can be non-committal. To reject the invitation from God to share in His Kingdom is folly, it is choosing death, as it not only constitutes a rejection of God’s offer of grace, and it is a rejection of His only provision for eternal life.

The poorly dressed guest might also be considered one of those who profess to be followers of Christ when in the company of other believers, but who hide their light under a bushel when in the presence of non-believers. This brings us to the next Scripture verse for this morning`s message, Romans 1:16 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The wedding garment not worn by the guest who is removed from the banquet in Our Wedding Banquet Parable has another interesting aspect, which is represented by what the guest chose to wear to the banquet.

First century Jewish wedding customs held that the father of the groom was in charge of the event and bore all the expense associated with the wedding and reception. In case of royalty or the very wealthy this often included providing a specially made garment to be worn over a guest’s regular clothing. This wedding garment was presented to the guest upon arrival and donned immediately. Wearing it wasn’t mandatory, but was considered a great insult to the Father of the groom if refused and could get a guest ejected from the festivities. In case of large gatherings it also served as identification to discourage uninvited guests from crashing the party.

The guests gathered by the servants for the wedding represent both the good and the bad. That is they represent either those who repent their sins, or those who have not. The guest who accepted the invitation, calling themselves righteous, while claiming to be entitled to His mercy. However, it takes more than just words to claim redemption.

The wedding guest not properly dressed for the banquet is like the person who claims to be a child of God, but his thoughts and actions reveal whether or not his actions matched the words. This is like the expression: you may talk the talk, but did you walk the walk.  There are many so called Christians whose focus and service is performed in the name of the Lord, but their true focus is self-promotion. While they may fool some into believing that they are serving the Lord, God knows that they are only seeking to benefit themselves. Unfortunately, for them, at the Lord`s Banquet, their actions and our motives become visible, like their outer garments. Those who are not servants of the Lord will be judged. Those who were not sincere in their faith practices will be bound and ejected from Heaven. Not all who have been invited will be allowed to stay.

From the beginning of time, God has given humanity a choice. The rags worn by the guest are not unlike that worn by all humanity because of sin. Adam and Eve in an attempt to conceal their sin of disobeying God in the garden felt ashamed and chose to wear fig leaves and loin cloths in an attempt to conceal their guilt from Him. Let us read about this in Genesis 3:7-10 (ESV):

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[a] 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?”[b] 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.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:8 Hebrew wind b. Genesis 3:9 In Hebrew you is singular in verses 9 and 11

God saw Adam and Eve had known sin because they had eaten the forbidden fruit, which caused them to want to hide their nakedness, so God made them garments to wear, not to conceal their sin, but as a reminder of their sin, as described in Genesis 3:21 (ESV):

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

When the Day of Judgement comes, and no one knows the day, only those clothed in righteous will not have their sins exposed, Revelation 16:15 (ESV):

 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

What do we mean when we talk keeping the garments of righteous? Where do these garments come from? We may find our answer in Galatians 3:27 (ESV):

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Like the Wedding Banquet Parable, those who accept God’s gift of salvation, by believing His Son, Jesus died for our sins, so that we may accept the Holy Spirit, and wear new garments of righteous, discarding filthy garments of sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve, and exchange them for pure vestments, free of iniquity, Zechariah 3:3-4 (ESV):

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

Let us discard our rags of sin and accept the gift of the new wedding garment and wear it to celebrate the fact that we were not only we called by Him, but celebrate that He chose us as guests to His banquet. We only need to RSVP his invitation.

Let us pray…

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

Closing Hymn #210: Here, O My Lord, I See Thee

Benediction – (1 John 1:6-7): If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  – Amen

Gathered in the Spirit and Gifted with Understanding, Unity, and Blessing of the Lord

BLCF: Isaiah-11-_2-3

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Gathered in the Spirit and Gifted with Understanding, Unity,  and Blessing of the Lord’   

© January 22, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: bulletin-january-22-2017

BLCF: Holy_Spirit_Romans_8_11

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                          

Opening Hymn #570: We Gather Together; Choruses                                              

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

Responsive Reading #634: (Christian Unity – John 10 & 17, Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12)                                                                                                           

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Gathered in the Spirit and Gifted with Understanding, Unity, and Blessing of the Lord’  

 

BLCF: Holy_Spirit_Pentecost                                                                                                              

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service for Sunday, January 22, 2017.

Our lesson today, entitled ‘Gathered in the Spirit and Gifted with Understanding, Unity, and Blessing of the Lord’, will examine how the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit is most effective when more than one believer is present. Remember the Lord’s promise found in Matthew 18:20 (ESV):

20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

You may recall that Jesus, after his resurrection and just before he ascended, to heaven, instructed his disciples to gather in the Upper Room so that together they may receive God’s Holy Spirit as one group on the Day of Pentecost.

But what was Christ’s reason for sending the Holy Spirit? The answer to this question is found in John 14:15-17 (ESV):

 Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

BLCF: United by the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever,17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you.

Footnotes: a. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:2615:2616:7 b. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

The Spirit is described as the Spirit of truth, sent as a Helper, a companion forever, to those who believe in the Gospel of Christ, Jesus.

The Power of the Spirit is expressed by way of Gifts  of the Spirit, which are described in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV):

Gifts of the Spirit

BLCF: HOLY_SPIRIT_DOVE_ANIMATED_GIF

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

You see that no one person receives all the possible Gifts of the Spirit, as collectively all of the gifts are empowers in everyone. That means that when the Spirit of God arrived in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost to the group of believers, each believer received a gift for the common good. The gifts were not intended for the benefit of individual and all are only effective together in a group or gathering of individual believers, acting together in harmony as a single group.

Our Lord intended the Holy Spirit’s Gifts to be distributed amongst a body of believers, gathered as His Church. Together, Christ’s Church becomes the unified expression of His love and power.

It is expected that Christ’s Church expresses the Lord’s Commandments, which Jesus described in Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV):

Commandments of Jesus

BLCF: 2_Commandments

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

The Holy Spirit’s presence helps the Church, the collective group of believers, to best express God’s Gifts.

It is Christian Unity that assures that all of its members are acting in harmony, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This brings us to Paul’s letter to the members of the Church in Corinth, who demonstrated a disharmony or absence of unity of mind and judgment, expressed and quarrels  and disagreement between Church members, as described in  the verses in       1 Corinthians 1:10-31 (ESV):

Divisions in the Church

BLCF: Phillippians-2_2

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

BLCF: 1corinthians_1_26-31

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[c] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[e] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 1:10 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters; also verses 1126 b. 1 Corinthians 1:21 Or the folly of preaching c. 1 Corinthians 1:26 Greek according to the flesh d. 1 Corinthians 1:29 Greek no flesh e. 1 Corinthians 1:30 Greek And from him

Paul implied that the disharmony of the Spirit in Church in Corinth resulted when the church’s members attempted to apply worldly standards and values to matters and actions related to the Spirit.

In this regard, Paul felt that this disharmony acted as a “stumbling block” to the church achieving full Spiritual health.

We see a similar expression of this Spiritual disharmonious  behavior among Christian churches today, when our attendance and activities within the church are focused on upon other people and not the Lord. Our service and commitment should be focused solely on Jesus, as we read in Ephesians 4:1-8 (ESV) :

Unity in the Body of Christ

BLCF: baptised into the body of Christ

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men and women.”[a]

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 4:8 The Greek word anthropoi can refer to both men and women

The other cause of ineffectiveness and disharmony within the body of the church miss attending gatherings or services within the church.

We see this affect described in the following poem by an anonymous author poem someone wrote about people who miss church:

You missed the fellowship that’s there,                                                                                        

You missed the handshake, missed the prayer.                                                                        

You missed the Word of God when read,                                                                                    

You missed the things the preacher said.                                                                                   

You missed the worship’s wondrous hour,                                                                                    

You missed the Holy Spirit’s power.                                                                                                                    

Not only did you miss the chance                                                                                                       

Your life in Jesus to enhance,                                                                                                                                

You missed your chance to do your share,                                                                                                      

To build His church, the house of prayer.                                                                                   

And so the loss is yours indeed,                                                                                                                

God had no chance to meet your need.

–Unknown Author

We are reminded of both the importance and benefit of meeting as a church body in Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV):

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding

Benediction – (2 John 3):

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

BLCF

Anticipating the Return of Christ

BLCF: animated_magi-starstargraphic

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Return of Christ

© January 1, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin-January-1-2017

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #645: Christian Conduct (Galatians 5 and 6); Prayer      

Opening Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!   

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

Scripture Verses: Matthew 2:1-15, Jeremiah 23:16, 1 Peter 2:1-11

BLCF: events-surrounding-Jesus-birth

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s first Sunday Praise and Worship Service for 2017, which happens to be Communion Sunday.

BLCF: happy-new-year-2015

That said, I would like to wish everyone in the congregation, a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2017, blessed by our loving Lord.

BLCF: Noah-Movie

Over the holidays, I watched a documentary on Noah’s Ark which began by stating that since the people of Israel did not have a written language, they adopted a Cuneiform language adapted from that used by the Babylonians. While Daniel and others were captives of Babylon, they were taught Babylonian. The show takes a leap to an ancient scroll written in that same language, apparently by a student regarding a Great Flood, where a Babylonian was inspired to build a great ark which contained two of every available animal. In other words, Daniel or some other scribe apparently took the Great Flood story from his Babylonian teachers so that it ended in the Book of Genesis.

The documentary jumped to India, where another individual had a team both engineering and building an enlarged Babylonian vessel, but according to the build of materials described by Noah used in Genesis.

It seems strange that credit for the ark described in the Scriptures was taken away from Noah and given to an unknown Babylonian, and yet the linguist does not deny whether or not there was a flood. It seems that he is more determined to show an inclination to believe that a Great Flood did occur and ark was built by a Babylonian implying that Noah was a fictional character created in a Jewish retelling of a Babylonian historical event. Even Hollywood attempts to change the Bible’s account of Noah and the ark.

Regardless of whether the ark was built by Noah or some Babylonian, the “giant elephant in the room” is an acknowledgement that an ark was built, populated by the last of humanity and large assortment of animals.

We may conclude from either the Genesis account or the Babylonian scroll, that a Great Flood took place destroying all life and humanity, save for those who survived the deluge inside a giant Ark built especially for that purpose.

Considering the fact that the people of Babylon attempted to elevate themselves to God and heaven, by building a tower, (sounds like when Adam and Eve were temped by the devil to acquire the knowledge and understanding of God by eating forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge), I would be more inclined to accept  Holy Scripture over a Babylonian student’s notes inscribed on a scroll.

Both the Babylonians and the People of Israel, (as the rest of humanity), can trace their lineage to Noah’s sons, who survived the Great Flood aboard the ark, as described in Genesis 9:18-19 (ESV):

Noah’s Descendants

BLCF: the-bible-genesis-9_18-19

 18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.[a]

Footnotes: a. Genesis 9:19 Or from these the whole earth was populated

BLCF: Noah

What impressed me with this documentary was the author by giving credit to a Babylonian over Noah based on an ancient scroll he ignores an array of alternate explanations.

While the Cuneiform language used by the Babylonians may predate the Hebrew language used to write Genesis, the Babylonian account could have been dictated by a Jew to a Babylonian scribe, where the latter changed the name of the main character from Noah to some Babylonian, rather than the other way around. If the Jew who dictated the Noah account could not read Babylonian, he would have no way of knowing that his account had been altered.

BLCF: Know-Christ-Know-Christmas

Unfortunately, this Noah documentary seems to be one of the numerous documentaries that crop up every Christmas and Easter, filmed with the sole intention to debunk the existence of God, his son Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, and therefore negate that the Bible is the inspired Word.

Today’s Bible lesson, Anticipating the Return of Christ , and today’s Communion observance, will give the opportunity to celebrate the promise of the birth of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy,  the Nativity of Jesus, completing one Advent and our Lord’s return, the Advent that Christians observe.

The tough part of challenging the birth of Jesus  associated with the Magi, is  the fact that in this account Jesus’ birth is expected by Magi who come from other nations and are not of the People of Israel. Such is the case in the account described in Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV), entitled:

 The Visit of the Wise Men

BLCF: wisemen_and_star

 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

BLCF: 3-wise-men-visit-jesus-and-flight-to-egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 716 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

BLCF: King-Herod-and-Magi

King Herod, like some rulers today are so insecure of their own authority that they resort to extreme measures such as genocide to removed perceived threats. Herod’s mistake was a lack of faith in manifestation of prophecies from the mouth of only true God.

Whether listening to false prophets or defying the Word of God, there is a great danger the body and soul of those who seek in vain to change the visions that come from God, a warning expressed in Jeremiah 23:16 (ESV);

BLCF: danger-false-prophets

16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.

But what motivates King Herod, as well as all the false prophets today, who seek to displace God’s visions with their own self-serving theologies? We get some idea of the answer to this question and how to keep God at the centre of our faith in 1 Peter 2:1-11 (ESV):

 A Living Stone and a Holy People

BLCF: beware-false-teachers-1-peter-2_1-11

 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”[a]

and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.                                                          

Footnotes: a. 1 Peter 2:7 Greek the head of the corner

BLCF: Martin-luther

The Holy Spirit helps us to recognize and to understand God’s word which is testimony of His only Son, Jesus, John 3:31-36 (ESV):

BLCF: from-above

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Let us pray…

BLCF: communion-sermons

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

 Closing Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding

 Benediction – (Romans 15:13): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF:faith-trust-hope

Christ’s Church: It Speaks Boldly and Believes with Unity of Heart and Soul

blcf: BeTheChurch

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Christ’s Church: It Speaks Boldly and Believes with Unity of Heart and Soul’

© February 14, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Messaged Shared at BLCF on March 2 2014

BLCF Bulletin February 14, 2016

Worship: Responsive Reading #634 Christian Unity – from John 10 and 27, 1Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4); Prayer                                                                                                                        

Opening Hymn #171: Thine is the Glory, Risen, Conquering; Choruses                                                      

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

Today’s Scriptures: Exodus 32:21-24 and Acts 4:23-33

 

BLCF: church-spiritual-contributors-not-cosumers

Let us pray…

“The devil made me do it.” Any of us who lived through the 1970’s may recall the comedian Flip Wilson, who coined this popular catch phrase used whereby any mistake would be blamed upon the devil.

Psychologist use the term “projection” for a form of denial of the truth, by placing the blame or responsibility for an unacceptable attribute(s) upon others.

Here is our Wikibits explanation of the term:

Psychological projection was conceptualized by Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) in the 1900s as a defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects his or her own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world.[1] For example, a person who is rude may accuse other people of being rude.

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

BLCF: Flip-Wilson-Superstar

While we can only guess as to what may have inspired Flip Wilson in blaming the devil for actions or words which might offend others, we see this phrase strikes a harmonic chord among those familiar with the Scriptures. There are numerous examples in the Bible, which describe an individual attributing sinful or evil behavior as being the fault of others. I have listed a few of the more familiar one in today’s bulletin.

The first example comes from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, verses 11-13:

Genesis 3:11-13 (ESV)

BLCF: Adam_Eve

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.”

God finds Adam and Eve have covered their nakedness, and asks: “Who told you that you were naked?” Such awareness could only come from eating from the forbidden fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

Adam blames Eve, and even God for giving him Eve to be with him, by replying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate”, also implying innocence on his part. If you read Genesis, Chapter 3, you will see that Adam was present when the devil, disguised as a serpent, and tempted Eve with eating the forbidden fruit by saying in doing so she would become wise as God. Adam heard the whole conversation between Eve and the devil, and knew that the fruit that Eve had given was from the tree that God said was forbidden to eat.

And when God asks Eve, “What have you done?” we see that Eve responds, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” In other words, “The devil made me do it.” Both Adam and Eve gave responses which betrayed their sin, since they had acquired an awareness of right and wrong, by the clothes they now felt compelled to wear, and by the blaming others for their transgression.

Our second example comes from Genesis, Chapter 4, where Cain, jealous over his brother, Abel’s offerings to God, slays him:

Genesis 4:9-11 (ESV)

BLCF:cain_and_abel

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

Again, we see this sinful tendency in humanity demonstrated by the actions of Cain, who after killing his brother, hid from God and then falsely told God that he does not know where Abel is. He even makes the sarcastic rhetorical response to the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Our third example comes from Exodus, Chapter 32, verses 21-24, when Aaron tries to blame his actions of first blaming “the people”, indicating that “they are set on evil.”

Exodus 32:21-24 (ESV)

BLCF: chagall golden calf

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

Aaron does not acknowledge the sin or his involvement, indicating that “evil people made me do it.” Sounds a little like: “The devil made me do it.”

What make matters worse, after committing a sin, is to blame sinful behavior upon someone else. Now we have two sins to confess: the initial sin and then the bearing false witness by blaming the sin someone else, even as in the case of Adam and Eve, the devil did his best to induce them into sin.

God not only wants us to avoid sin, but when sin happens to confess and acknowledge our sins. Remember, God has already projected the guilt of our sins upon His Son, Jesus, who paid the penalty for those sins, with his life. In effect, we have no excuse to not confess our sins.

And as in the account of the golden calf, God wants us to acknowledge Him for what he provides, whether it is freedom from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt or the gifts of the Spirit. By acknowledging the powers and gifts we receive from God, particularly through Jesus Christ: salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternal life, we are drawn closer to Him.

By accepting Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit, believers become united, through the Spirit, into a “body of believers.”

An account, that is in contrast the above accounts of sinners compounding their sinful behavior by denying God’s authority and not confessing their sins, is that involving the apostles, Peter and John,   who used faith and the Spirit’s power to  heal a lame beggar, as described in Acts Chapter 3, verses 1-16 (ESV):

The Lame Beggar Healed

BLCF: Acts-3-Peter-and-John-Cure-a-Lame-Man

3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

BLCF: Peter-Preaching-Solomons-Portico

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Footnotes: a. Acts 3:1 That is, 3 p.m. b. Acts 3:13 Or child; also verse 26 c. Acts 3:16 Greek him

Not only is the healing by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit, but it allows the lame man to join with the body of worshipers inside the temple. You see, in those times anyone with a physical impairment was not permitted to enter the temple, as their impairment was considered God’s punishment for a sin by the individual or by his or her ancestors. The beggar, having been healed of his affliction, is for the first time in his life, permitted to enter the temple and join the body of the church, or body of believers, as they worship inside the temple. Christ intended for all people to worship together in a unified Spirit, regardless of their physical condition. Through Christ, all who believe and confess become acceptable unto God and become a part of His church.

This healing, as well as others, where the disciples acknowledged  the resurrected Christ as Lord, from whom they had been given the power of the Holy Spirit, had angered the leaders of the temple, resulting in the arrests of Peter and John not just once, but twice!  On one occasion, the two are freed by the words of Peter as he is guided by the Spirit. And on the second occasion, John and Peter are freed from prison by an angel of God, who instructs them to continue sharing the Lord’s Gospel.

After the two arrests, we see that the disciples pray not for their own personal safety, but for the Spirit’s guidance and influence, for courage to continue to praise and glorify God, and to acknowledge the gifts through His Son, Jesus. Acts, Chapter 4, verses 23-33 (ESV):

The Believers Pray for Boldness

BLCF: Psalm-27-14

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[a] said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’[
b]

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants[c] to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

They Had Everything in Common

BLCF: being-the-church

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Footnotes: a. Acts 4:25 Or child; also verses 27, 30 b. Acts 4:26 Or Christ c. Acts 4:29 Greek bondservants

We see that a choice is offered us, between two contrasting paths that we may take:

One choice is to be like Adam, Eve, Cain and Aaron, is to drift away from God towards sin and to make matters worse by not confessing those sins, instead placing blame on others.

The other choice is to draw closer to God, by confessing the sins and accepting God’s path to forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Then, we may pray that the Spirit will give us the courage to boldly witness the Gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the world, which is our Commission as believers in the Resurrected Christ. Just as in the days of Adam and Eve, Cain and Aron, and the disciples of Christ, we see that those without faith exhibit Godlessness, which is an absence of God, in their behavior, 2 Timothy, Chapter 3, verses 1-5 (ESV):

Godlessness in the Last Days

BLCF: dont_just_go_to_church_be_the_church

3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

We should avoid the influence of people who are Godless, but instead being bold in our courage to witness the Gospel of Jesus, for the salvation’s sake! Let us pray to God, as a body of the church of believers, united in God’s Spirit, for a unity of purpose, and a boldness of Spirit, in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

Let us pray…

BLCF:courage-from-God

Closing Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding

Benediction – (Romans 15:5-6):

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: changetheworld