BLCF Cafe Community Dinner Reports Feeding A Record Number of Homeless and Marginalized in the Heart of Toronto

On March 15, 2020, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, BLCF Cafe Community Dinner has suspended operations as we are not equipped for take-out service and are unable to provide Personal Protection Equipment to our vulnerable volunteers and guests as a sit-down dinner. Please follow our social media channels for postings of when BLCF Cafe would open after health officials post the all clear for reduced social-distancing guidelines which are currently in place. Be safe.

Sophie Mickelson

Director-Coordinator BLCF Cafe Community Dinner BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

BLCF: Love God Love others

Q: When is a church more than just brick and mortar?
A: When the people of the church decide to provide for those who are homeless and disadvantaged in the heart of Toronto with a warm meal in an environment that is safe and friendly: BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, Est. 2008.

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BLCF Cafe Community Dinner 3 (1)

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner Est. 2008

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, operated under the auspices of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, serves dinner to upwards of 150 homeless and marginalized guests weekly, (that’s over 7,500 annually). Located right in the heart of Toronto, BLCF Cafe reported serving a record 250 guests Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner 2013 and served meals on both Christmas Dinner (2013) and New Years Day (2014). BLCF Cafe receives neither government funding nor corporate sponsorship.  BLCF Café depends solely on a core of dedicated volunteers to get the job done and private donations and fund-raising to finance the community dinners. Volunteers (individuals and groups) are welcome, contact Sophie at 416-535-9578 or blcfcafe@yahoo.ca.

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BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner Reports Feeding A Record Number of Homeless and Marginalized in the heart of Toronto

If you or your group are interested in volunteering to help feed the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto, please contact Sophie at BLCF Cafe: Phone 416-535-9578 or email blcfcafe@yahoo.ca. You can make a difference in the life of Toronto’s disenfranchised as a BLCF Cafe volunteer!

BLCF: Jesus_next

Note: All photographic images, documents, web-designs, and graphic images may be subject to (c) copyright and are the property of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship or the author, and may not be duplicated or reproduced by any means without written permission from Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Violators of said (c) copyright may be subject to penalties and legal remedies under Canadian and International Copyright Laws. 

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Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is living-water-jesus.jpg

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone’

 © July 25, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared with BLCF September 2, 2018 and on October 9, 2011 

BLCF Bulletin September 2, 2018

BLCF Bulletin October 9, 2011 Bulletin  

Blood from a Stone
Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                             

Opening Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride; Choruses                        

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

Responsive Reading #606: (Blessings from God – Psalm 103)

Message by Stephen Mickelson: 

‘Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone’ 

Exodus 17 1-7

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. On the first Sunday of every month we give thanks to the Lord’s gifts of Salvation, Sanctification, and the Holy Spirit by taking the elements of communion. This leads us to the following questions:

What does the Bible indicate the importance of giving thanks to God? The following Scripture is taken from the 12th Book of the New Testament, which is  Colossians 3:15-17 (ESV):

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The above scripture is attributed to have been authored by Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, to the church in Colossians, so named for being located within Colossae. Colossae is in the region of the seven churches of Revelation 1-3. In Colossians 4:13 there is mention of local brethren in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Colossae was approximately 12 miles from Laodicea and 14 miles from Hierapolis. Members of the congregation at Colossae had incorporated pagan elements into their practice, including the worship of elemental spirits.

The Epistle to the Colossians declares Christ’s supremacy over the entire created universe and exhorts Christians to lead godly lives. The letter consists of two parts: first a doctrinal section, then a second regarding our conduct. In both sections, false teachers who have been spreading terror in the congregation are opposed. But just we find in Biblical times, as today, some people conduct their worship or faith practices incorporating pagan beliefs. In time the worship ignores and forsakes our Lord.

And what is the Lord’s view of such pagan observances?  We read in Nehemiah 9:1-3; 15-17: (ESV):

The People of Israel Confess Their Sin

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month, the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.  And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.  And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day

 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

The key part about this scripture is that in spite of their sins, that some refused to obey God’s Laws or even to acknowledge what the Lord had provided for his people, God’s love remained steadfast. That He is a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, in spite of our sinful, ungrateful tendencies.

Colossians 3:17 –  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Many in today’s society seem to have found themselves wandering in the wilderness, stiffening their necks to their Lord as had happened in the time of Moses, in Exodus 17:1-7 (ESV):                           

Water from the Rock 

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”

And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah [a] and Meribah, [b] because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

It is sad to see that as a reminder of the people’s ungrateful attitude, Moses saw fit to name this spring created by the Lord as Massah and Meribah, which as you see in the footnotes translates as  [a]Exodus 17:7 Massah means testing [b] Exodus 17:7 Meribah means quarreling.

We often find ourselves in a place where instead of counting our blessings, we end up creating a litany of complaints and criticisms.

I remember some years, as a young man, new to the Christian faith, I attended a church meeting. The associate Church Pastor had taken great pains to prepare coffee for those in attendance. When offered a cup, I not only said no thank you, saying that “I am all ‘coffeed-out’ and that I should not be drinking so much coffee”, to which several others in attendance acknowledged the same. By adding those remarks, I had made the Pastor’s efforts appear to be something worthy of complaint, instead of just an act of love and kindness to others.

It was only some years later when I had the opportunity to really understand how we can harm others with our casual comments.

Steve Mickelson, President and Newsletter Editor for the 9T9 Users Group, Toronto

For several years, as President of a local computer club, (9T9 Users Group for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Home Computer), I also edited the clubs newsletter which consisted of 20 pages per issue, with ten issues a year. In those days, computer technology lacked high-resolution scanners and word recognition software. Since many of the articles we printed came from printed articles from other clubs with whom we exchanged newsletters, and the newsletters were not in electronic form, we either had to transcribe articles, a difficult task for this two-finger typist or photocopy, cut and paste master copies for the local photocopy shop. Needless to say, I chose the latter. Still, the process of producing 20 pages of a newsletter, which included a page or two outlining the clubs activities in my own bi-line translated into 8-10 hours of labour effort every month.

You can imagine my feelings when I proudly presented the new issue of the newsletter, which one or two members, instead of acknowledging many hours of effort, seemed to take delight in obvious typos or spelling errors. Needless to say, after four years of what seemed to be a thankless job, I decided to step down as president and newsletter editor. But I have a good idea of how that Associate Pastor felt, as, after my remarks, he stopped making coffee for our church meetings. Yet, in spite of all our bickering and complaints, God still loves us. He has not given up on us. Now that is something for which we may be thankful.

With a little faith, Moses produced water from a rock, and to be grateful for God’s work, which is for some people, like getting blood from a stone. That is why we all should obey God’s law as described in Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV):

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

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Have you ever wondered why we partake communion?

Communion celebrates the Gospel: Jesus was broken for us so that we can be fixed by Him.

Celebrating communion marks the story of Jesus, how He gave Himself completely to give us a better life, a new start, and a fresh relationship with God (1 Peter 3:18). It’s not about a ritual to revere, but a person to worship. Jesus is less concerned about the method of celebrating communion and more concerned that we celebrate it.

As often as we remember Jesus, we should celebrate Jesus.

Communion is important because it’s a command to remember. Jesus wants us to remember every time we taste bread and wine, and even when we sit at the tables in our own homes, that He is the one who provides all we need. He gives us the physical food that we need to survive and the spiritual nourishment we need to keep taking our next steps with Him.

https://newspring.cc/articles/what-is-communion-and-why-do-we-do-it

Communion – An Act of Fellowship and Demonstration of Our Faith:

1 John 1:3 (ESV): Fellowship

 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Communion

Communion began on the annual celebration of Passover Supper when Jesus told his disciples to remember his sacrifice as they ate the bread and drank the wine.

Just as Israel celebrates the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, when the angel of death passed over their homes, so believers in Jesus celebrate and remember his sacrifice for the judgment of all of our sins when he died on the cross.

Communion uses bread as a symbol of his body and juice as a symbol of his blood. The act of taking communion does not save us, it is an act of worship and remembrance our Lord, who instructed his followers to continue, until the day he returns.

Luke 22:14-20 (ESV): Institution of the Lord’s Supper

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.                                                                                                                                        

[b] Footnotes: a. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again b. Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood)

1 Corinthians 10:1 – Warning Against Idolatry

Wilderness Test

10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown[b] in the wilderness.

give Thanks to the Lord

Let us conclude today’s lesson by taking to heart a demonstration of our gratitude to both our Lord, as well as our neighbours as expressed by David in 1 Chronicles 16:8-12:

David’s Song of Thanks

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
11 Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles and the judgments he uttered,

Let us pray…

Hymn #569: When upon Life’s Billows

Benediction –  (Colossians 3:15): And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

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A Childlike Faith – Expressed By Our Trust, Obedience and Hope

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Child-Like Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘A Childlike Faith – Expressed By Our Trust, Obedience and Hope’

 © July 18, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on June 5, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June 5, 2016

BLCF: Childlike-Faith

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #610:

Christ in Prophecy (-from Isaiah 11 and 42, Jeremiah 23, Malachi 4); Prayer

Opening Hymn #41: Children of the Heavenly Father;

Choruses 

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

Prayer Requests                                                                                                          

Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-6, Matthew 18:1-6, Matthew 19:13-14

 

BLCF: called to have childlike faith

Let us pray…

Good  morning and welcome to our BLCF Church’s morning Praise and Worship Service., where we have for our lesson this Sunday morning, entitled: A Childlike Faith – Expressed By Our Trust, Obedience and Hope.

But before we begin our lesson, let us examine what is meant by the term “childlike”, not to be confused with “childish”, as we see in our Wikibits sources:

Childlike vs Childish

BLCF: childlike vs childish

Childlike – resembling, suggesting, or appropriate to a child or childhood; especially :  marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness <childlike delight>

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/childlike

Childish –  1.  Of, relating to, or befitting a child or childhood

  1. Marked by or suggestive of immaturity and lack of poise <a childish spiteful remark> b : lacking complexity : simple <it’s a childish device, but it works> c :  deteriorated with age especially in mind :  senile

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/childish

Question: “Does the Bible instruct us to have childlike faith?”

BLCF: childlike_vs_childish

So, as the disciples focus on what constitutes “greatness” in heaven, Jesus provides a new perspective: the way “up” is “down.” Meekness is required (cf. Matthew 5:5). Jesus exhorts the disciples (and us) to seek to possess a childlike modesty in addition to their faith. Those who willingly take the lowest position are the greatest in heaven’s eyes. A young child is destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness and is therefore a good example for us. Children are characteristically humble and teachable. They aren’t prone to pride or hypocrisy. Humility is a virtue rewarded by God; as James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

http://www.gotquestions.org/childlike-faith.html

The Bible indicates in Isaiah 11:1-6, that in the final days, “a child will lead them”:

Isaiah 11:1-6 (ESV) The Righteous Reign of the Branch

BLCF: Root_of_Jesse

11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.

 In the above Scripture, the “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” and “a branch from his roots shall bear fruit”, where Jesse is the father of David, and the branch from the roots is Mary, whose offspring or fruit is her child Jesus, also the Son of God.

Traditionally in Jewish tradition, a child who is under age is not allowed to worship in the temple. In the Temple in Jerusalem, the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant could only be approached by the High Priests, then followed in order of proximity a succession of courts: Court of Israelites (men), Court of Women, and Court of Gentiles.

1_temple_4_courts

With the arrival of Jesus, all who have faith and confess their sins are permitted access to God.

Matthew 19:13-14 (ESV) Let the Children Come to Me

BLCF: children

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Childlike behavior notwithstanding, we see in Matthew 18:1-6, two of the disciples allowing their proximity to the Lord go to their head, asking Jesus who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 18:1-6 (ESV): Who Is the Greatest?

BLCF: faith-like-a-child-1

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:6 Greek causes… to stumble; also verses 8, 9

Matthew 181-6 childlike humility

Jesus tells  the disciples ,that in order to achieve a great status in heaven, must humble themselves here in the world. Just like the lesson of the Goats and Sheep that we studied last week where we honor and serve the Lord when we serve the least of our brothers and sisters, Christ reinforced this idea when, like a servant, he washed the feet of the disciples as an example of humility in faith. And we must teach the Gospel of Christ  to others and receive members to the church, which is the body of believers, we have to preserve and protect their faith as we would do with the life of a child.

Let us pray… 

Closing Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

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.

A Child Shall Lead Them Isaiah 11-6

Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones

 

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’

© July 11, 2021, by Steve Mickelson           

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on January 28, 2018 and on July 27, 2014

BLCF Bulletin January 28, 2018   

BLCF: Bulletin July 27, 2014

 

Opening Hymn #155: “Man of Sorrows,” What a Name; Choruses                                           

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

Responsive Reading #664:  About Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)   

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     

‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’

 

Let Us Pray…

Welcome to BLCF. Our lesson today is about discernment with respect to people, objects or circumstance that have the ability to act to either facilitate or hamper us from walking the righteous path, which is what the Lord desires for all his children.

You may recall a few years ago, a television commercial for a portable label printer, where a person received such a label maker for Christmas and proceeded to label everything in sight, including the family pet. While we may have a laugh and giggle at the idea of getting carried away with a label maker, it does reflect the human tendency to place a sign or label on things.

A sign can have on of several functions: it can denote a significant location by its distance from a specified starting point or to identify it as a destination point. Other signs are erected to convey to the reader specific information, to post a caution or warning, or to give the reader instructions or directions.

If you were to go by BLCF Church, this morning, you likely passed over a dozen such signs for every block off travel. If you walked here, you passed signs indicating: street names, which side of the street to cross; company names and a description of the product or service offered;  restaurant menus and pricing; and so on. Those who travelled by bus or the subway saw additional signs denoting bus or train direction or destination, caution signs and markings; potential fine or punishment for pushing the emergency stop; and so on. Drivers to BLCF, encountered signs indicating traffic directions, detours, corner stops, pedestrian crosswalks, and so on. And all travelers looked for the number, name of the church building.

Because Toronto is a multi-cultural city populated by a diverse multi-national population, a sign in the English or French Language is insufficient to convey a message for which it is purposed. That is why signs follow an international signage  standard, with the colour, shape and orientation help to convey important information. Red or hexagon indicates stop; yellow or triangle tells us caution and green circles or arrows represent that it is safe. To control vehicle and pedestrian traffic, lights are used, using colour lights augmented by the characters of a walking person or hand, respectively for go or stop, with a numeric countdown to when the signal will change being displayed. Those who are colour blind know, that red, yellow, and green lights are located respectively at the top, middle, or bottom or left, middle and right, depending upon the light’s orientation. For the visually impaired, traffic lights may emit different pitched sounds to indicate their status, while signs may have Braille markings. For travelers, besides maps, we have GPS devices or GPS Aps for cell phones and other devices, to help us know our location and destination. But using signs to mark the way is not a new invention. Street numbers and milestones have been with us for some time, as we see in our Wikibits description:

Milestones were originally stone obelisks – made from granite, marble, or whatever local stone was available – and later concrete posts. They were widely used by Roman Empire road builders and were an important part of any Roman road network: the distance travelled per day was only a few miles in some cases. Many Roman milestones only record the name of the reigning emperor without giving any place names or distances.[1] The first Roman milestones appeared on the Appian Way. At the Centre of Rome, the “Golden Milestone” was erected to mark the presumed Centre of the empire: this milestone has since been lost. The Golden Milestone inspired the Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C., intended as the point from which all road distances in the United States should be reckoned. Odometers were used to measure the Roman milestone spacing, most likely based on Ancient Greek Technology.[citation needed

A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile. They are typically located at the side of the road or in a median. They are alternatively known as mile markers, mileposts or mile posts (sometimes abbreviated MPs). Mileage is the distance along the road from a fixed commencement point.

Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travelers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination. Today, such references are also used by maintenance engineers and emergency services to direct them to specific points where their presence is required. This term is sometimes used to denote a location on a road even if no physical sign is present. This is useful for accident reporting and other record keeping (e.g., “an accident occurred at the 13 mile mark” even if the road is only marked with a stone once every 10 miles).

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

We have touched upon the purpose of signs we may encounter in our commute to and from church, but what about the signs used by the church? BLCF Church can be identified by the street number, 1307; by the name placed on the signs on side and the marquee on the front; by person helping another LOGO on the signs; and finally by the cross placed on the front of the building. For our Wednesday community dinner, we place a sign with the name “BLCF Café Community Dinner, the hours 6-8PM, and All Are Welcome” with a picture of a steaming bowl of soup placed beside the front entrance of BLCF Church.

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In spite of the redundancy of function and smart technologies, we still can get lost or confused. In that regard the milestone becomes a millstone for our journey. And what do I mean by millstone? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us, the following definition:

mill·stone noun \ˈmil-ˌstōn\

: either one of two large, round stones used for grinding grain in a mill

: a problem or responsibility that does not go away and that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/millstone

When misdirected or lost, if we are fortunate, we may find someone to give us directions. And if we are very fortunate, that person gives us the correct and accurate directions.

A few birthdays ago, we traveled with my daughter, the birthday girl, for a day in High Park. During the visit, I noted how often signs were posted: park benches dedicated in honour of a deceased friend or family member, there were signs posted at the zoo identifying, by means of both illustration and description, the various animals at their enclosures. The animal’s identification included the species, place of origin, and other pertinent facts.

On a recent visit to the Royal Ontario Museum, I noted how all the displays contained signs which identified the artifact, indicating the place and date of origin, its use and significance to the society of the time, as well as location and date that it was made. If you venture to the Royal Botanical Gardens, you will see signs identifying the name, species and origin of a variety of flora throughout the gardens and greenhouses.

What about the various signs and symbols in the Scriptures? How do we navigate and understand their meanings. How can we best utilize God’s signs to guide us on our Christian walk? And how can we discern whether a sign is really from the Lord? There as signs and indicators found on today’s Scripture, which gives us the account of an encounter between the Lord and a Samarian woman at a well.

John 4:1-45 (ESV) Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

4 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.[a]

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.                               Footnotes: a. John 4:6 That is, about noon b. John 4:14 Greek forever

We have in today’s Scriptures, an account of Jesus encountering a Samaritan woman at a well, asking for water, using the request to speak to her about the Water of Life. What does it signify? In his reference to water that is living literal or metaphorical? Let us check our Wikibits for a definition:

Wikibits: Water of Life (Christianity) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Depiction of Fleuve de Vie, the “River of Life”, from the Book of Revelation, Urgell Beatus, (f°198v-199), c. 10th century

In Christianity the term “water of Life” (Greek: ὕδωρ ζωῆς hydōr zōēs) is used in the context of living water, specific references appearing in the Book of Revelation (21:6 and 22:1), as well as the Gospel of John.[1] In these references, the term Water of Life refers to the Holy Spirit.[1][2][3

In the secular world, we do have examples of signs that are represent something quite literal, for example Alberta’s “Wild Rose Country” and Pennsylvania’s “Keystone State” in contrast to more ethereal examples found with Ontario’s “Yours To Discover” and Texas’ “Drive Friendly”. But the term “living water” is a term that falls in the spiritual realm. Jesus was speaking about something that could be described as being either tangible or intangible, or simply supernatural, but something related to faith and the soul, something supernaturally of and about God.

Back to the Scripture account, it was interesting that the disciples returned and were surprised to find Jesus in conversation with a Samaritan woman. The reason why they were surprised may be echoed in the parenthetical  comment in the passage: (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans).

While the  Samaritan woman, and later others from the town believed the message of the Lord, there are others who are without true faith in the Lord not only expected, but demanded,  a supernatural sign from God to authenticate the testimony that they head or the Scriptures read.

Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV) The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.       Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:2 Some manuscripts omit the following words to the end of verse 3

The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the teachings of Jesus, where he often used both the parable and metaphor. In John 4, we have an account where Jesus uses the literal request to the Samaritan woman for a drink of water, to discuss baptism by the Holy Spirit as a metaphoric baptism in “living water,” John 4, starting at verse 7:

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[a] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”                                                                                                                             

Footnotes: a. John 4:14 Greek forever

Some Christians may have difficulty discerning when Jesus uses a metaphorical example from the literal. In his discussion with the Samarian woman, he compares water drawn from a well with the living water, which is a metaphor for the God’s Holy Spirit. Christ is not telling the woman to jump in the well nor to go into the Jordan River.

Sometimes even the Disciples, as well, have difficulty with Christ’s metaphors, as we read in the account of The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, from Matthew 16:5-12, which is another example of Jesus teaching by metaphor, where Christ uses bread as a metaphor for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He is not warning his Disciples about the dangers of baked goods!

In spite of the gift of Christ’s salvation and the help from the Spirit, some will ignore the promptings from the Spirit, allowing themselves to be misguided and separated from the Lord.

Matthew 24:15-28 (ESV) The Abomination of Desolation

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

But do not lose hope. For while we sometimes stray or lose our way, we our blest not just by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. We share, in one body, other vessels of the Holy Spirit, who are able to help us get back on track, in direction that God intended us to follow. Let us rely upon the love and support of our fellow believers in our time of need, as integral parts of the body of believers comprising the church. For God intended that we not to be left alone, when we get lost on our Christian Walk or feel bereft in our hour of need. The Lord desires us to rely upon our fellow believers as we are united in the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV) One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or servants; Greek bondservants

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction – (Philemon 1:25):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: hearing Gods voice
heeding the call

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

© July 4, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Message Originally Shared at BLCF on April 29, 2018, on January 18, 2015 ,and on March 13, 2011

BLCF Bulletin April 29, 2018

BLCF Bulletin January 18, 2015

mar_13_2011-bulletin-2

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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’

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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):

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“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

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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.

Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’

© June 27, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on August 13, 2017

BLCF Bulletin August 13, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                       

Opening Hymn #466: God of Grace and God of Glory; Choruses                         

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

Responsive Reading #646 (Spiritual Warfare – Ephesians 6, 2 Corinthians 10, 2 Timothy 4)     

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. This Thursday happens to be July 1, the date when Canadians celebrate Canada Day, and in many parts of the country, Canadians will sing the National Anthem, O Canada. The last stanza of the anthem is “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” To stand on guard, in times of conflict, we are guarded by soldiers and police officers, who must dress appropriately to face the nature of the threat.

Our lesson today, entitled: ‘Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’, we will examine what the Apostle Paul referred to as The Whole Armor of God in his letter addressed to the Church, composed of God’s holy people in Ephesus, found in Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV):

 The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

At first blush, we might mistake Paul’s Epistle as describing instructions, telling the members of the Church of Ephesus to don a soldier’s armor for battle. Such misinterpretation of the scriptures happens when the reader has difficulty differentiating between when a Scripture passage is read literally and when read as a metaphor.

Clearly, in Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul intends the Armor of God to be a metaphor for the aspects of what the church needs to prepare for the spiritual battle that occurs when the devil unleashes an onslaught of spiritual forces of evil against the Church of Christ, Jesus.

I recall as a youth in San Antonio, Texas, Hurricane Carla brought heavy rain and wind for hours and suddenly, as the eye or centre of the storm passed overhead, the rain abruptly stopped, the sun came out, and a quiet calm arrived. It was eerie, that while eye of the storm appeared as a pleasant reprieve from the violent storm front, there were still signs of impending danger. The birds reinforced this sense of dread by the conspicuous silence; no singing or calls. Dogs in the neighborhood were strangely silent as well. Looking west, in the distance, I could see the storm wall which is the boundary of the eye. It was at the boundary of the hurricane’s eye, I could make out two distinct funnel clouds indicating a pair of sister tornadoes showing why the eye wall is considered to be a hurricane’s most devastating region. But before I had a chance to fully appreciate the beauty and danger of Carla’s eye, the trail edge of the storm arrived in its fully fury!

Tornado generated at the eye wall of a Hurricane

The devil continuously attacks the Church in many ways, because through Christ Jesus, the members are saved and the devil wants to separate us from the grace of the Lord that we receive. Satan will try to lull Christ’s Church by drawing attention to the calm of the eye of the storm, while ignoring  the dangers.

But Christ does not bring us a temporary calm from life’s storms, but promises us  to save us from the fury of the storm waves, launched upon us by the devil, We are saved by His amazing grace, Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV):

And God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

We find a good description of meaning of the Armor of God protects us from a storm of evil in a commentary authored by Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia:

 Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20

Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

The active role of the church is not altogether surprising, given the writer’s previous indication that God has “raised us up with [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (2:6). This exaltation is a unique expression of the church’s identity among New Testament writings. However, it is interesting to note that, while Christians are already seated with Christ in the heavenly places, this position does not eliminate the need for struggle. The wrestling “against the spiritual forces of evil” also takes place “in the heavenly places” (6:12).

While modern Christians are likely to have a view of heaven as a paradise in which no evil dwells, the writer of Ephesians is drawing on a different set of cultural assumptions, one in which a struggle between cosmic forces occurs within the heavenly realm. Christians, who already reign with Christ in some sense, are obligated to participate in this struggle.

The armor of God that the church takes up relates to the message that the author has already laid out. The theological message of Ephesians 1-3 is now depicted metaphorically as preparation for a spiritual battle in which believers engage through their actions. By girding themselves with the “belt of truth” (6:14), readers metaphorically prepare themselves for the work to which they have already been called: they are to “speak the truth in love” to one another (cf. 4:15, 25). Similarly the “breastplate of righteousness” relates to the “new self” with which they are to clothe themselves, as beings “created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24).

The author has earlier explained the “gospel of peace” (6:15), for which readers should ready themselves by putting on shoes. In reconciling Jews and Gentiles into one body, Christ “is our peace” (2:14). The elimination of hostility through Jesus’ death on the cross is central to the letter’s understanding of the heart of the gospel message. It is this message of reconciliation that should lead the church to the behavior indicated here and in the rest of Ephesians 4-6.

In addition to these, the reader is exhorted to take up “the shield of faith” (6:16). According to Ephesians, faith activates the power of God (cf. 1:19; 2:8). Salvation is God’s gift, yet it also comes through the believer’s faith (3:12). It is “through faith” that Christ dwells in the believer’s heart (3:17). Metaphorically, taking up the shield of faith communicates the protection that faith activates. The salvation that comes as God’s gift through faith is depicted as the ability “to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (6:16).

Prayer (6:18) is an activity that is connected to the taking up of God’s armor. The author also prays on behalf of the church for their strength and understanding (cf. 3:13-19). The church is instructed to pray for all of the saints and for the author as well. The cosmic adversaries of 6:12 carry an eschatological tinge, because the imagery of God taking up God’s armor to seek justice was related in first century culture to the notion of the day of the Lord. Yet in Ephesians’ reworking of the imagery, the battle with cosmic forces is not simply a battle delayed for a future day of God’s judgment, but is a present battle believers must engage on a regular basis.

The church’s struggle is a heavenly one against spiritual powers, but it is acted out on a more mundane level in the types of behavior to which the reader is called. The “chains” of the writer’s imprisonment (6:20) are another reminder of the ways that the “cosmic powers of this present darkness” impinge on the lives that believers live in this world. The armor of God does not mean that the church will not encounter difficulties, then, but enables Christians to encounter such difficulties. Through perseverance and prayer, the church may boldly proclaim the gospel even in the midst of persecution and hardship.

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=379

The Armor of God described by Paul in Ephesians 6 is composed of elements, some of which are provided by the Lord, such as: truth, righteousness, salvation, and the Spirit.

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus – The way, the truth, and the life

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) – The righteousness of God

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) – Salvation through Christ

25 Consequently, he is able to save completely those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

 

 

  2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) – Spirit given by God

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

The remaining elements of the Armor of God, come from the church or body of believers, they are: peace, faith, prayer, and fasting.

Hebrews 12:14 (ESV) – Peace with Everyone

14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 1 John 5:5 (ESV) – Faith in Christ

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 1 Corinthians 7:5 (ESV) – Prayer and Fasting

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

In conclusion, when we don the Armor of God, we dwell with confidence in a place of refuge which is a fortress from all the spiritual forces of evil that come forth as schemes of the devil, an assurance described in Psalm 91:1-6 (ESV):

My Refuge and My Fortress

 

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

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

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

In times of distress and spiritual disaster, with the help of Satan, we find that our faith is tested, especially with the advent of such natural disasters, be it flood, wildfires, pandemics, or any other human made crisis such as: riots, shootings, or any of a number of conditions which may generate fear and doubt in ourselves, in each other and even in God. It in such times we must equip ourselves with the armor of God described by Paul in Ephesians 6 to meet and defeat these challenges, with the help of His Holy Spirit. A Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind. This the true power of faith.

Let us pray…

 Closing Hymn #544: When I Cn Read My Title Clear

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.  

On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind!

BLCF: leaving_your_baggage_behind

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

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Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

BLCF: Led by the Spirit1

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is st-philip-and-the-ethiopian-eunich.jpg

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch’

© June 13, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on May 1, 2016 and on June 9, 2019

BLCF Bulletin May 1, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June 9, 2019

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                           

Opening Hymn #237: What Can Wash Away My Sin?; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #612 (The Lamb of God – from Isaiah 53)

Message by Steve Mickelson:

Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch 

           

Rembrandt: The Baptism of the Eunuch (1626)

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at BLCF Church for June 13, 2021. Today’s lesson is primarily focused on the account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, as described in Acts 8:26-40 (ESV):

Acts 8:26-40 (ESV): Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

Philip and the Baptism of the Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[b] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Footnotes: a. Acts 8:26 Or go at about noon b. Acts 8:36 Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37: And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

The above account, of the encounter between Philip and a eunuch in the remote desert, describes how the Apostle is first directed by an angel of God, on a trek on the road running south Jerusalem towards Gaza.

BLCF: Meroe-Africa

It is on this road that the Spirit of God directs Philip to approach a chariot carrying an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet, Isaiah. Philip, directed by the Spirit, asks the eunuch whether he understands the Scripture which he is reading.

BLCF: The_Journeys_Of_Philip

This affords the eunuch the opportunity to invite Philip to join him in order to understand the Scripture, particularly Isaiah 53:7-8:

Isaiah 53:7-8 (ESV)

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?

It is in regard to this passage of Scripture that the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Philip helps the eunuch is to understand that Isaiah 53:7-8 indicates that Christ’s sacrifice was made on behalf of all people, who are oppressed and judged for their transgressions or sins. No doubt, the eunuch was given limited access to the temple, as a eunuch would be considered “blemished’, under the criteria of holiness that the Lord gave Moses in Leviticus 21:16-24:

Leviticus 21:16-24 (ESV): Holiness and the Priests

16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” 24 So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

BLCF: four_courts_of_the_temple

The Temple was partitioned into four courts, beginning with the Court of the Priests; then the Court of Israel; followed by the Court of the Women, and finally by the Court of the Gentiles. But a eunuch was viewed to have a physical blemish that would prohibit him from entering the temple or Assembly of God:

Deuteronomy 23:1 (ESV): Those Excluded from the Assembly

23 “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

Because a eunuch was considered to bear a physical defect or blemish, he would be lucky if he were permitted to enter the Court of the Gentiles, a court most removed from the Holy altar containing the Ark of the Covenant, where the presence of God was considered to reside.

In addition to being a blemish, the eunuch was also considered a foreigner. But Isaiah indicates that the Lord offers a path to salvation to foreigners, as we see in Isaiah 56:1-5:

Isaiah 56:1-5 (ESV): Salvation for Foreigners

56 Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my righteousness be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

But the Lord did instruct his people to offer compassion to the afflicted, such as the deaf or blind:

Leviticus 19:13-14 (ESV)

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13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

But there is a huge difference between have compassion and pity for the disabled, whose afflictions were regarded as a punishment for sin, and being totally forgiven of their transgressions.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is loving-our-neighbor-leviticus-19-13-14.png

By the grace offered by the New Covenant, through the sacrifice of Jesus, the judgment for any blemish or sin is removed. The believer is made both whole and holy in the eyes of God to become an Ark of the Holy Spirit, by way of God’s New Covenant.

The eunuch is sanctified by faith in Christ and asks Philip to be baptized in a stream nearby. At one time, only a eunuch, who is impotent, would be allowed to approach a married woman without being judged guilty of the sin of adultery:

Matthew 19:8-12 (ESV)

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 19:9 Some manuscripts add and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery; other manuscripts except for sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery

As a final reflection, under the Old Law, a eunuch would be barred from entering the temple and drawing close to God because of the blemish of his physical condition. Any priest who suffered injury and thus became physically blemished could no longer perform the rites of a priest and was subject of charity in order to be fed. He could no longer approach the Ark of the Covenant and would be removed from the presence of God because of his affliction.

In the Acts 8 account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch is significant in so many ways. We see that Philip, an apostle/messenger of Christ’s Gospel, is sent out by an angel of God on a missionary journey and then directed by God’s Holy Spirit to minister to an Ethiopian eunuch, who is converted, Christian.

In contrast to other accounts of conversions of blind, paralytics and others who are considered by Jews as blemished, are first healed of their respective infirmity or blemish in order to enter the temple and worship as a member of the assembly. The eunuch is baptized and received as part of the body of Christ and his blemish is unchanged. Through Christ, he is unblemished in God’s eyes.

We see that being a eunuch with physical deficiencies is no more an impediment to being saved and joining the body of Christ, than are the scars or stripes Jesus bore for our sins an impediment for the Lord to be the head of his church. Through Christ, there is no physical impediment to salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Ethiopian eunuch is the first foreigner to become a convert of Christ and the first black person to convert to the Way of the Lord. In spite of being a student of the Scriptures, who had just returned from worshiping at the Temple, the eunuch’s physical blemish would likely have been allowed by the Temple Priests to worship in the Court of Gentiles, and this conversion is significant as it is the first recorded Christian conversion of a Gentile.

Christ suffered physical affliction on the cross to remove the restrictions and judgments under the Old Covenant and to permit access to God’s Presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, under a New Covenant through Christ.

Come to think of it, under the Old Covenant rules, the Resurrected Christ would not be permitted access to the Temple because the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet and sides would be considered unacceptable defects or blemishes. Under the Old Covenant, the blemishes borne by the Son of God would create the paradox that Christ would neither be allowed to pass through the veil at the Priest’s Temple Court to access Holy of Holies nor allowed to ascend to sit at the side of the Father in Heaven.

But it is because Christ took upon himself to bear the marks or stripes of our sins under the New Covenant, any blemish or defect can no longer be a barrier to the sanctification of the believer. Faith in Christ’s sacrifice guarantees our access to the presence of God, which is the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction – (Philippians 4:23): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. – Amen

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Vessels of the Holy Spirit

BLCF: 2-corinthians-4_7

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Romans 8-11 He Who Raised Christ Dwells In You - Holy Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’

© June 6, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF Church on May 12, 2013, February 21, 2016, and on August 25, 2019

BLCF Bulletin: May 12, 2013 

BLCF Bulletin February 21, 2016

BLCF Bulletin August 25, 2019

BLCF: Holy Work Earthen-Vessels

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #513: In Christ, There Is No East or West; Choruses                                  

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

Responsive Reading #642 (Call to Consecration – from Romans 12)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’

BLCF: earthen_vessels_with_heavenly_treasure

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church on this, the first Sunday of June, 2021. As you may have surmised from today’s Scripture verses, our lesson today is on the common theme: of how God shapes, forms and molds the Christian believer, in much the same manner that a potter molds clay pottery. The transformation of a lump of earth or clay into something that has a useful purpose, which is symbolic as to how God transforms the believer from something that is of this world to a vessel that carries the Holy Spirit. That is why today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’. In our first Scripture passage, we read how the apostle Paul utilizes this representation in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (ESV):

Treasure in Jars of Clay

BLCF: TREASURES IN JARS OF CLAY

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

In the Old Testament we see the same analogy in the Book of Isaiah 64:8 (ESV):                      

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;   we are all the work of your hand.

To make a vase or jar, a potter needs the following materials: clay, a potter’s wheel and a plan or purpose for the creation. But the clay must be of the right consistency and moisture content. Too dry, the clay won’t hold its form and will tend to crumble. The moisture provided for the clay in the scripture analogy represents the Holy Spirit, which allows the potter to work and shape the clay.

BLCF: jars of clay with precious content

The potter uses a kiln to fire the clay in order to extract the moisture and to harden clay. This firing transforms the pliable clay into a hardened jar.

Earthen clay is an appropriate choice of illustration for the apostles and prophets since we see that a similar material used by God to create Adam in Genesis 2:7 (ESV):

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

By itself, clay, earth or dust is inert, similar to the world when it was first created, without life and without form. Like a potter with clay, God formed the dust from the ground and breathed life into man’s nostrils, which transformed something dead and inert material into a living creature, a man.

But man and woman, both living creations of God are not just given life. They are also given a spirit, as we read in Job 10:8-12 (ESV):

Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.

If you recall, it was the spirit of Job that allowed him to endure testing, hardship, and pain in his life. And Job was given that spirit through his faith, trust and love for God.

Even the Psalmist acknowledges the soul’s sense of God’s plan and purpose for each person before their birth in Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV): 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

The Scriptures give another, somewhat different, application of the earth being used to transform or change, in John 9:1-7 (ESV):

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

BLCF: John_9

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

In the verses from John 9, the Lord spits on the ground to make clay, transforming it into the mud, which is used to anoint a blind man’s eyes. But the mud has no immediate effect upon the blind man’s vision until the man follows the directions of Jesus to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. By going and washing his eyes, the blind man demonstrates faith and obedience by following the Lord’s instructions and is rewarded with his sight. Many Jews believed that a person born blind is so afflicted because of a sin or transgression caused by that person or the person’s ancestors. In this case, it is difficult to imagine a newborn baby able to commit a sin at birth. By healing this blind man, Jesus shows us that those who are afflicted are entitled to the same grace and love as anyone else. It shows us that we must not blame or judge the afflicted or disabled as being so afflicted because of sin.

But for those who are guilty of sin, God, the potter, has the ability to repair or transform a broken or defective body into a new one, see Jeremiah 18:2-6 (ESV):  

“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

In other words, God has the desire and ability to restore a people, who are broken and ‘spoiled’ because of sin, into something better and new.

But how does God change someone spoiled by sin into someone new and sinless? We may find our answer in John’s account found in John 4:4-15 (ESV):

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

BLCF: Jesus&Samaritan_Woman_at_the_well

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.  And he had to pass through Samaria.  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

In this passage, the living water John described is the Holy Spirit. But being creatures of free will and choice, we are given the choice between: to allowing our vessel, our souls, hearts, and minds to be vessels filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit, by faith, or to staying vessels of the unholy world, destined to return to dust. Like in the account of the blind man, the Holy Spirit can only work its healing upon those who believe and are obedient to the Lord.

By contrast, those who challenge God’s power and authority, as did Adam, Eve, and Satan (in the guise of a serpent), in the Garden of Eden, failed to demonstrate either an understanding or acceptance of God’s will in their lives, which is the point of the clay analogy found in Isaiah 29:16 (ESV):

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Those who defy the Lord are denied the gift of the Spirit, Romans 12:2 (ESV):

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

So it is not enough just to worship God, we must demonstrate faith and trust in God that is both honest and true, John 4:24 (ESV): 

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

To further demonstrate that though we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve, like the blind man, we will be given the opportunity to choose the Way of Jesus, to accept God’s will in our lives and receive God’s grace through the Holy Spirit, by faith and obedience to Christ, or to continue living a life unchanged and untouched by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we will not be judged based on the sins of our parents, but by our own choice between the way of sin and the Way of forgiveness through Christ Jesus, Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV):

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

By accepting the gift of salvation and grace, through our Lord Jesus, by confessing our sins, and following the Lord, we are forgiven our sins and receive the Holy Spirit, which will reshape us and guide us on the righteous path, Proverbs 3:6 (ESV): 

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Let us pray…

BLCF Living our values

Closing Hymn #403: Walking in Sunlight All of My Journey

Benediction: Romans 12:1-2 – A Living Sacrifice:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

BLCF: God transforms us

The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity

© May 30, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on November 3, 2019, September 10, 2017,  and September 15, 2013

BLCF Bulletin November 3, 2019

BLCF Bulletin September 10, 2017

BLCF Bulletin September 15, 2013 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn #43: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty; Choruses                         

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

Responsive Reading #641 “Christian Assurance” (-from Romans 8)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity’

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Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service, here at BLCF. Several years ago some of you may recall seeing the 2017 Stuart Hazeldine movie, The Shack, Christian film, based on the William P. Young’s 2007 novel of the same title. The Shack dealt primarily with the topics of how the Godhead or Trinity of God deals with pain and suffering among Christians, and the nature of the love that God has for us in times of darkness and tribulation.

For the lesson today, I would like to talk about similarities and differences between the Trinity of God, sometimes referred to as the Godhead, and another trinity, namely the trinity of the human race. Yes, there is a trinity aspect of people, though not quite the same as the trinity of God. While one trinity is not widely known, or at the least spoken about, particularly in the context of the other. And the other Trinity, (of God), though spoken about frequently, is often misunderstood.

Hopefully, by the end of this lesson, we will have better knowledge and understanding of both trinities, particularly how the two relate to each other.

Let us begin with the one that is more frequently spoken about by Christians and frequently misunderstood, which is the Trinity of God. This Trinity is used to describe three Divine aspects or expressions of God: the Father/Creator, the Son/Word-made-flesh and the Holy Spirit.  It is here that we often encounter some controversy amongst various denominations of the Christian Church, as well as criticism from those who challenge the Christian faith as monotheistic.

When we read the King James Version of 1 John 5:7-8, we see a direct reference to the Trinity being three aspects of one God.

7For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.                    

Recently, some Biblical scholars have questioned whether the disciple John authored this version of the Scripture as found in the King Lames Version translation, since there may be some evidence to indicate verse from the original, which many authorities agree should read as found in the English Standard Version of 1 John 5:7-8 (ESV):

7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

At first blush, it appears that mention of the Trinity, which is clearly described in the King James translation, seems to be omitted by the English Standard translation. However, if we examine the English Standard translation more closely, we see that the ESV implies the same message as the KJV, though more by inference than by words in the ESV, which is a more subtle expression of the same thought.

Godhead Trinity

If this verse were the only passage of Scripture which supports the Trinity of God, then we could say that the existence of the Holy Trinity is open to debate and possibly doubt. Fortunately, we have other verses that support the singularity of the Godhead.

At the beginning of the Bible, we read that God refers to Himself in the plural, using the personal pronouns: “us” and “our” rather than “me” and “my” as we read in Genesis 1:26:

26Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. – Genesis 1:26 (ESV)

But who is it comprised the ”we” and ”us” mentioned this passage, describing the beginning of the Bible:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   – John 1:1 (ESV)

So we know that with God was the Word, but who is the Word? Those of you familiar with the scripture likely already have an idea, as we read from John 1:14:

  

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.            –  John 1:14 (ESV)  

This passage refers to Jesus, also referred to in the Bible as the “Word made flesh”. But was Jesus there in the creation?  From John 1:1 and John 1:14, we may conclude that Jesus or the Word was with God and the Word was God. To help us understand this relationship better, Jesus put it simply in John 10:30:

  

30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 (ESV)     

What about the Holy Spirit? Was the Spirit there at the beginning? The answer to this question is found in Genesis 1:2:

 

2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.         – Genesis 1:2 (ESV)   

Let us recap. We have at the beginning God referring to himself as a plural Entity, using the personal pronouns we and ours. We are told that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was there at the beginning of creation, as was the Holy Spirit. Not three Gods, but three distinct aspects of the same God: a Trinity.

I wonder how many of you know the children’s story of Peter Pan, a free-spirited eternal youth who became separated from his shadow, which both confused and complicated his life until his friend Wendy took and thread in hand and sewed the shadow back to Peter, making him happy and whole again. This somewhat silly child’s tale makes for a good analogy to the human condition.

Adam and Eve, created in the image of God had a good relationship with the Creator. That was until Satan took the form of a serpent and beguiled Eve and Adam to partake of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden We read in Genesis 3, verses 1-6:

Temptation in the Garden

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.   

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.                                           –  Genesis 3:1-6 (ESV)  

 

We see the consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, in verses 22-23 of the same third chapter of Genesis:

22Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.      – Genesis 3:22-23 (ESV)  

  

Adam and Eve were told that they would surely die if they ate from the tree, commonly called the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil or Tree of Life? Having done so, Adam and Eve were not only expelled from the Garden of Eden, they had brought the judgment of death upon themselves and their descendants. Once Adam and Eve broke God’s rule, all members of the human race became like the Peter Pan character. But not severed from their shadow, but severed from the Holy Spirit. While the Scriptures have no Wendy to sew things up, we do have a way to repair what has been broken. Jesus Christ came to the world to repair the tear in our spiritual fabric, to restore our souls, to bring that joy again to those who have inherited the judgment of sin.

To better understand God’s solution to the problem of sin, let us now talk about a human trinity. Let us recall from Genesis 1, that we were made in God’s image, verse 26:

26Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness” – Genesis 1:26 (ESV)

If we are made in God’s image, it is not hard to understand that God gave us three aspects of our character, a Human trinity as described in  1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV):

 

 23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

We see that the Human trinity consists of the body, soul, and spirit. Spirit exists like Peter Pan’s shadow, severed from us by the sin of Eden once the human race having eaten of the tree of knowledge became aware of good and evil and the consequences of choice. God provided us with a way to reconnect with the Holy Spirit, by confessing our sins and receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus and eternal life through the Holy Spirit. The proof and the promise may be found in John 20:20-23 (ESV):

20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Trinity of God and Trinity of Man

Dr. Clarence Larkin in his book, Rightly Dividing the Word expands on the Human trinity mentioned in 1 Thessalonians, by describing the three as follows:

The human body touches the material world through the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.

And the gates to the soul are imagination, conscience, memory, reason and the affections.

The spirit receives impressions of outward and material things through the soul. The spiritual faculties of the spirit are faith, hope, reverence, prayer and worship.

To understand God, we must receive the Holy Spirit by faith and trust in God, as we see in 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 (ESV):

9But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

 10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Let us, therefore, pray that we find the faith to trust God’s Plan for Salvation, Reconciliation, and Sanctification, through confession of sin, trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and acceptance of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #1: Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty

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

 

Divine Joy: A Reward Seasoned by His Grace, Illuminated by the Word

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘Divine Joy: A Reward Seasoned by His Grace, Illuminated by the Word’

© May23, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based Upon a Message Shared at BLCF on March 5, 2017 and on August 23, 2015

BLCF Bulletin March 5, 2017

BLCF Bulletin August 23, 2015

BLCF: be_atitudes

Announcements and Call to Worship – Responsive Reading #617: The Beatitudes (Matthew 3, 28; Acts 2; Romans 6)

Opening Hymn #509: Is Your Life a Channel of Blessing?; Choruses

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

Requests Today’s Scriptures: Matthew 5:1-16 and Luke 6:12-26

The Sermon on the Mount

BLCF: Gustave-Dore-Jesus-Preaching-the-Sermon-on-the-Mount

Let us pray…

Good morning, I hope you are enjoying this Victoria day long weekend. For our lesson today at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, I would like to examine Jesus’ sermon on The Beatitudes, which is the longest recorded in the Gospels, also know as The Sermon on the Mount. The message was delivered from a placed called The Mount of Olives, which is why the sermon, also known as The Olivet Discourse,

Remember, to Jesus, who you are is more important than what you do.

In this sermon, Jesus gives emphasis on the importance of who his disciples are over what his disciples do, as we read in Matthew 5:1-16 (ESV):

The Beatitudes

BLCF: beatitudes

5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Salt and Light

BLCF: light_salt

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:9 Greek huioi; see Preface b. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

Luke 6:12-26 (ESV): The Twelve Apostles

BLCF: The_Exhortation_to_the_Apostles_James_Tissot

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Jesus Ministers to a Great Multitude

BLCF: Sermon-on-the-Mount-Graphic

17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

The Beatitudes

BLCF: beatitudes-meaning-and-structure

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

BLCF: beatiful-atitudes

We see that The Beatitudes come from activities motivated from a heart of love, humility and compassion, rather that actions motivated by the expectation of rewards in this world. If the heart is right, then the believer will receive the blessings of a great reward in heaven.

But what do we mean by the term blessing? We can find several definitions:

BLCF: blessings

Definition (from Google): blessing [bles-ing] noun

  1. The act or words of a person who blesses.
  2. A special favor, mercy, or benefit: The blessings of liberty.
  3. A favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.
  4. The invoking of God’s favor upon a person: The son was denied his father’s blessing.
  5. Praise; devotion; worship, especially grace said before a meal: The children took turns reciting the blessing.
  6. Approval or good wishes: The proposed law had the blessing of the governor.

While we see in the above six definitions, some including examples, that are either secular or faith related. Our lesson today will focus upon the second and third definitions:

  1. A special favor, mercy, or benefit: The blessings of liberty.
  2. A favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.

When we combine these two definitions, we a special favor, mercy or benefit (through Jesus’ sacrifice), which gives the believer the God given gifts of liberty from sin and joy to the heart.

Augustine of Hippo comments on the Beatitudes listed in the first of today’s Scripture verses that is Matthew 5:1-16, posted within an article by Steven Rummelsburg published online at crisismagazine.com.

St. Augustine’s Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

BLCF: Saint_Augustine

The Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel are described as “perfect works emanating from virtues perfected by the gifts” of the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine orders and clarifies the relationships between the beatific precepts and their corresponding spiritual gifts:

  • Poverty of spirit corresponds with fear of the lord in which all wisdom begins.
  • Meekness corresponds with piety, honor for the sacred Scriptures and the restrained power to live them out.
  • Mourning corresponds with the gift of knowledge and facilitates the discernment of good from evil.
  • Hunger and thirst for justice corresponds with the gift of fortitude to be truly just.
  • Mercy coincides with the gift of counsel which exhorts us to forgive as we wish to be forgiven.
  • Purity of heart corresponds with the gift of understanding what the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard.
  • Peacemaking corresponds with the gift of wisdom.

St. Augustine explains that “for with peacemakers all things are in proper order, and no passion is in rebellion against reason, but everything is in submission to man’s spirit because that spirit is obedient to God.”

http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/st-augustines-commentary-on-the-sermon-on-the-mount

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The Beatitudes, as listed in Matthew 5, are expressions of the believer’s faith and heart that can be viewed as the seasoning or ‘salt’ that enhances our faith activities, helping to illuminate or shed ‘light’ on the Lord’s Gospel. The ultimate purpose of the salt and light is to glorify our Father in heaven.

The second of today’s Scripture verses, Luke 6:12-26, gives us a background to the events immediately prior to Christ’s Olivet Discourse where Jesus, following a prayer to God, called forth his disciples, selecting twelve Apostles or messengers of his Gospel. In Luke 6:13-16, the Lord names the twelve:

13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Before Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount to the multitude, the Lord heals those afflicted with diseases, cure others troubled with unclean spirits, with others seeking to touch and be healed.

The Lord shares his message of the beatitudes, but tempers the expectation of blessings by his disciples, with caution of woe to those whose appearance lacks the salt and light expected from a true disciple of the Lord, Luke 6:24-26 (ESV):

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

A reminder, to the Lord, who you are is more important that what you do.

These warnings of woe are clarified in Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV), where Jesus describes how we may truly understand how a believer would be separated and judged, based not upon actions, but upon the love, humility and compassion shown to others, In other words as disciples of Christ, we must focus upon the importance of who we are over what we do, as was described at the very beginning of todays lesson:

The Final Judgment

BLCF: sheep-goats

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.’

In order to receive God’s blessing and receive the favor inheriting the kingdom of heaven, we need to first demonstrate our own favor to the least of our brothers and sisters.

In order to receive God’s blessing and receive the favor inheriting the kingdom of heaven, we need to first demonstrate our own favor to the least of our brothers and sisters. If we are made in His image, then our image must be an expression of His love. After all God is Love.

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Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #505: Out in the Highways and Byways of Life

Benediction – (Philippians 4:19):

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.