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

80-year-emblem

BLCF Church Est. 1938

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!

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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The Awakening of the Prodigal

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

© June 17, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 17, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #49:  A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #659: ‘First Things First’ (Matthew 6 and 16)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

Let us pray…

Good morning and a happy Father’s Day to the dads who are in the BLCF Church congregation today, as we also celebrate the Day of our Father in heaven.

BLCF Church Sunday June 19,2011

For the lesson this morning, we will examine The Parable of the Prodigal Son, as recorded in Luke 15:11-22. But before we look at Luke’s Gospel, let us read a warning written to the Church in Sardis, to give us an insight to the story of the Prodigal Son, from Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV):

To the Church in Sardis

 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Biblegateway.com gives the following Commentary on the Message to Sardis, which helps us with what is perhaps the most damaging and urgent warning that was issued to a church in the Book of Revelations.

The Message to Sardis (Biblegateway.com Commentary)

The message to Sardis lists no specific enemies, internal or external. There is no name calling–no liars, no Balaam or Jezebel, no deep secrets of Satan, no synagogue of Satan, no throne of Satan. Consequently, of all the congregations in Asia, we know least about Sardis and its problems. Yet no other message is more damaging or more urgent than this one.

Too often, when we encounter no spiritual adversaries, it is because we are the enemy. The only enemy named at Sardis is the angel to whom the message is addressed.

Sardis was situated almost directly south of Thyatira, in the direction of Smyrna and the sea. Its greatest days were behind it, but this once proud capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia (later the western capital of the Persian Empire) was still, under Roman rule, an important center of the woolen industry. Abundant archaeological remains include a temple to Artemis, a huge gymnasium and the largest synagogue yet found in the ancient world, suggesting a Jewish community numbering in the thousands (Finegan 1981:177-78). A sermon of Melito, a Christian bishop at Sardis, entitled On the Passover (see Hawthorne 1975:147-75), testifies to a spirited, sometimes bitter, debate with this Jewish community in the second century. Yet as far as we are told, the problem of the congregation in John’s time was not with the Jews, nor with the Roman Empire, nor with false prophecy, but solely with itself.

Clean, white clothing in the book of Revelation is consistently a symbol of religious and moral purity, especially in the face of persecution (see 3:18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13), while soiled or disheveled clothing, or no clothing at all, is a symbol of religious and moral impurity and shame (see 3:17-18; 16:15). It is likely that the problem at Sardis was a strong tendency to compromise Christian faith for the sake of conformity to social and cultural standards set by Asian society and the Roman Empire. This spirit of compromise was linked not to one particular faction in the Christian community (as at Pergamum and Thyatira) but to the majority. The ones who had not soiled their clothes had become marginalized. They were the small faction. This explains the severe tone of the message, but it is impossible to be more specific as to the exact nature of the compromises made at Sardis.

 https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Rev/Message-Sardis

While we contemplate the warning to Sardis, I would like to point out a key part of the Revelation 3 warning, found in Verses 2 to 4, where the members of the church are accused of sleeping or have “closed eyes” towards being faithful in completing their assigned task of living witness and sharing, in word and deed, the Message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus:

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

Sardis is admonished to wake up, complete their tasks, and to not only remember the Message of the Gospel but adhere to their part of the New Covenant and to repent. If the people in the church of Sardis do wake up, they will face severe consequences.

With the Message to Sardis fresh in our minds, let us now read from Luke 15:11-22 (ESV), where a son who is blinded to the love and provisions from his father, and in the process becomes a prodigal, by squandering his inheritance:

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

Footnotes: a. Luke 15:15 Greek joined himself to b. Luke 15:21 Some manuscripts add treat me as one of your hired servants c. Luke 15:22 Greek bondservants

Definition of prodigal (adjective)

1characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure lavish 

  • prodigalfeast 
  • prodigaloutlays for her clothes

2recklessly spendthrift 

  • the prodigalprince

3yielding abundantly luxuriant often used with of

  • nature has been so prodigalof her bounty
  • —H. T. Buckle

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prodigal

In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells the story of an impatient, ungrateful son who demands to receive from his father his share of an inheritance before the death of his father. The father agrees to give the young son the share of the property to be given to the son and the son’s older brother, in advance of the Father’s death. Usually, a son has to earn an inheritance

Rather than acknowledging the gift, the son journeys from his father to a far-off country and squanders away all of the inheritance. A famine falls upon the land leaving the son destitute and desperate for food and the necessities of life, that he hires himself to feed pigs. Not only were pigs considered to be an unclean food, but feeding pigs would be considered the most undesirable of occupations.

It is while the son, who is starving, contemplates eating the pods that he is feeding to the pigs, wakens to the fact that his father feeds his servants better than what he is providing for himself.

The son then returns to his father to confess his sins against God and his father, asking for forgiveness and offering to work as a servant to his father.

The father feels compassion to his son and demonstrates the joy of his return by having a celebration feast and restoring the son by having him clothed in the best robe, giving him a ring and shoes.

The obvious lesson learned from Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son is that believers who have chosen to leave their Lord and faith practices, not unlike the members of the church in Sardis, are not forgotten or without hope. We see in the Parable which is the third in series that addresses the subject of “finding what has been lost”. The other two Parables deal with a lost sheep and a lost coin, respectively.

Another interpretation of The Prodigal Son is, as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven, sin has forced us away from Him, leaving us dying and destitute spiritually. However, we are offered the gift of full forgiveness and restitution of the inheritance lost by Adam and Eve when they abandoned their Father by eating the forbidden fruit in Garden of Eden.

By humbly confessing our sins, we are promised to be reunited with our Father in heaven forever, restored by the sacrifice made by His Son, Jesus for our behalf.

Like The Prodigal Son, we deserve His disdain, but God loves us. His greatest desire is for sinners to awaken to our Lord’s soft and tender calling to return home and to be reunited with our Father in heaven. On that day, there will be a great celebration of unbounded joy, Luke 15:7 (ESV):

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #266: Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling

Benediction – (Romans 12:2): 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 the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Suffer the Children

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

Suffer the Children’

© June 10, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 10, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #325: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #621: ‘Christ and Children’ (Matthew 18, Mark 9 and 10)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Suffer the Children’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today is entitled, Suffer the Children. But what is meant by “Suffer the children come to me” or, as some Translations state, “Let the children come to me”? We are not talking about harming or hurting children, instead, we have an explanation of this passage from the commentary published in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

 14of such is the kingdom of heaven – Love, the simplicity of faith, innocence, and above all, humility, are the ideal characteristics of little children, and of the subjects of the kingdom.

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/19-14.htm

The first characteristic is love, not an ordinary love, but what Christians commonly describe as agape or the unconditional love associated with God and humanity:

Agape is commonly used by Christians to describe God’s love, defining it as unconditional love. Agape may also refer to Agape feast, certain meals celebrated by early Christians.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape_(disambiguation)

What happens when someone decides to take an action that is directly opposite to the agape or unconditional love that the Lord expects us to demonstrate towards God and towards others?

The opposite of actions that demonstrate an unconditional love, might be those which express an unbridled hatred towards others. Today, we see such examples of such hatred towards others commonly expressed by the use of weapons, such as guns, to harm others. In extreme cases, the gun is used as a “weapon of choice” to be used to harm as many victims of rage as possible.

On the 19th Anniversary of the Mass Shooting at Columbine High School, CNN recently originally published on November 17, 2017, (updated on April 20, 2018), a list of Mass Shootings posted as, Top Dozen Mass Shootings in the USA. Sadly, this list includes five schools. The names of these schools have become synonymous with the names of some of the worse mass shootings in US history. Here are the five:

  1. Virginia Tech: 32 killed – April 16, 2007 – Student Seung-Hui Cho, 23, goes on a shooting spree, killing 32 people in two locations and wounding an undetermined number of others on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The shooter dies by suicide.                                                                                                     
  2. Sandy Hook: 27 killed – December 14, 2012 – Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before turning the gun on himself. Investigators later find the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, dead from a gunshot wound.               
  3. University of Texas: 18 killed – August 1, 1966 – Charles Joseph Whitman, a former US Marine, kills 16 and wounds at least 30 while shooting from a tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy shoot and kill Whitman in the tower. Whitman had killed his mother and wife earlier in the day.                                                                                                                       
  4. Parkland, Florida: 17 killed – February 14, 2018 – A former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing a teacher, coach, athletics director, and 14 students. Nikolas Cruz, 19, confessed to being the gunman, according to a probable cause affidavit, and is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.                                                                                                                                        
  5. Columbine High School: 13 killed – April 20, 1999 – Eric Harris, 18, and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold kill 12 fellow students and one teacher at their high school in Littleton, Colorado. The pair then committed suicide in the school library.

https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/07/health/deadliest-mass-shootings-columbine-in-modern-us-history-trnd/index.html

The American flag flies at half-staff over the US Capitol                         (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

In addition to the five school shootings, there are seven additional mass shootings included in the CNN Dirty Dozen Shootings List. But these terrible shootings did not occur at schools and had victims who were adults. Our lesson will focus our attention upon incidents that involved the lives of the young students, mostly innocent children or young people, who were either murdered, injured, or threatened with death, at the beginning their lives.  We will also see what the Bible says about the killing of children.

Flags at half-staff at Peace Arch Canada-US Border

But before we, as Canadians, become too smug about student shootings being an act of violence being exclusive to our neighbors south of the border, let us examine another list, which is exclusive to our country. This second list was published on March 14, 2018, by Huffington Post Canada:

  1. La Loche Community School, Sask.: Four people were killed and two were critically wounded in a shooting in a northern Saskatchewan Dene community Jan. 22, 2016. Shots were fired at the La Loche high school building around 1 p.m. 
  1. Les Racines de vie Montessori, Gatineau, Que.: On April 5, 2013, two men die during a shooting at the school’s daycare. The shooter is identified as Robert Charron. Thirty-eight-year-old Neil Galliou is killed before Charron takes his own life. Charron told staff to take the 53 children to safety before he opened fire. 
  1. C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute, Toronto: On May 23, 2007, 15-year-old Jordan Manners is found in a hallway with a single gunshot wound to the chest. He later dies in hospital. Two teens were charged with first-degree murder and were later acquitted. 
  1. Dawson College, Westmount, Que: On Sept. 13, 2006, 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa was killed and 20 others were hurt when gunman Kimveer Gill, 25, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon. Gill was killed in a police gunfight.​​​​​ 
  1. Dawson College in Montreal, Sept. 18, 2006, a gunman dressed in a black trench coat opened fire at the school killing one student and injuring 19 others. 
  1. W.R. Myers High: Taber, Alta.: On April 28, 1999, a 14-year-old Grade 9 student shoots three students, killing 17-year-old Jason Lang before he is arrested.
  1. Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal: On Dec. 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lepine shot more than two dozen people, killing 14 women before killing himself.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/03/14/school-shootings-in-canada_a_23385842/

Canadian Parliament Building with the Canadian at half-staff

Preventing the lives of children from being snuffed out by bullets seems to be the main takeaway from these lists. While it is an important concern for us that we find ways to mitigate the use of guns as weapons of mass destruction or debate whether rage or mental illness is the root cause of these mass shootings at schools, there is a more subtle and more dangerous threat to our society.  I feel it is our society’s tendency today to become inured to the idea that the mass killings of our children as a normal thing, part of the price we pay for our life and liberty. We should consider how each killing of a child robs us of part of our most precious commodity. And if we do not act to prevent the loss of life among our children, we become deprived of the most valuable assets for our future, which was best expressed by Mother Teresa:

Mother Teresa

“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” 
– Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic nun 

Before Columbine, Nelson Mandela, who suffered much personal pain and injustice in his lifetime, made the following observation in May 1995:

Nelson Mandela

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. 
– Nelson Mandela (8 May 1995)

But, you might argue that Mandela was a politician and not a religious leader, though in this statement he expressed a moral and spiritual concern and outrage more openly than many faith leaders have about the mass shootings of children.

Mandela’s statement agrees with the view of our Lord, Christ Jesus, who is known to have admonished his disciples to suffer the children to come unto me

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV): Let the Children Come to Me

 13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The focus of this lesson is about protecting the children, Jesus was very clear about his love for his children and the sadness that our Lord feels, should any one of these little ones perish because of our lack of diligence. Jesus explained this in the following Parable of the Lost Sheep:

 Matthew 18:10-14 (ESV): The Parable of the Lost Sheep

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.[a] 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my[b] Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:10 Some manuscripts add verse 11For the Son of Man came to save the lost b. Matthew 18:14 Some manuscripts your

The loss of even a single child reflects the failure of guardianship of what our Lord holds dearest and values the most and has entrusted to us. As Christians, we should expect our society to uphold the same values towards its children as our Father in heaven. Otherwise, we fail the Lord just as much as society has failed us by not protecting the safety of our children.

A recent example of unconditional love that Jesus spoke about may be found in the actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill a man who admitted to have a mental disorder and to be off his medications.

It was faith that permitted Antoinette Tuff to set aside her own personal troubles in order to show a Christ-like compassion and love towards an angry troubled stranger, and as a result, saved that stranger and many innocent children from danger and destruction

In his depressed state, Hill had stolen an AK-47 rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, and entered a school to fight with police and end his life, which he found no longer worth living. All that stood between Hill and his suicidal objective, was a woman of faith who had recently contemplated her own suicide having suffered through a recent divorce and being left alone to raise a child with multiple disabilities.

But God had a plan to use Antoinette’s faith and suffering as testimony to His compassion and love at a time of great testing. Here is an excerpt of an article authored by Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s on this potential deadly encounter defused by a woman of faith’s, who took a bold step of intervention trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. This article comes from the August 20, 2013 edition of the Washington Post:

Antoinette Tuff and Michael Brandon Hill

Antoinette Tuff’s Weapon of the Spirit: How Compassion Stopped a Gunman

By Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Ph.D. Theology

‘Our weapons are not carnal, they are spiritual.’ This biblical lesson is found in 2 Corinthians. This week, it can also be learned at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, an elementary school outside of Atlanta.

Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk at McNair, is being credited with averting another horrific school shooting. Tuff met the gunman as he entered the school building, and listened to him say “he didn’t have any reason to live, and he knew he was going to die today.” She chose not to meet violence with violence, but spoke compassionately to the gunman, identifying with his pain and loneliness, a feeling she shared that she had as well after she separated from her husband of 33 years. She encouraged the gunman not to give in to despair.

Tuff used the “weapons of the spirit,” not a gun to stop the gunman. “I give it all to God. I’m not the hero. I was terrified,” she said.

Spiritual strength and compassion were the weapons used here, not a physical gun.

Weapons of the Spirit, not “carnal,” that is, physical weapons are what we need in life, according to the Bible.

Weapons of the Spirit can transform hate into compassion, and violence into peace.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/08/22/antoinette-tuffs-weapon-of-the-spirit-how-compassion-stopped-a-gunman/

There seems to be a common theme that is apparent in most of the US and Canadian school shootings. The shooters suffered from one or a combination of the emotions of anger, fear, pain, loneliness, despair, or hopelessness, and suicide was the final solution. And before the final solution, shooting students and staff was the line they crossed in order write their message first by the blood of their victims and finally themselves. The shooter would use their weapons on themselves or shoot at police in order to commit “suicide by cop”.

Kate Spade

Like the recent rash of celebrity suicides, including  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, if they had encountered a sensitive and compassionate person such as Antoinette Tuff, they might have been able to a frank conversation about their feelings, especially the feelings of suicide and found that there are better solutions to their emotional state than murder, followed by suicide. Faith brought Antoinette Tuff through her despair and gave her the strength to encourage Michael Brandon Hill not to give in to his despair. When a person suddenly loses interest in activities and friends that were a big part of their lives, a sensitive friend might help them avoid committing a great tragedy by asking them whether they are considering doing harm to themselves or others.

Anthony Bourdain

You may respond to this epidemic of suicides by saying: “leave the problem to the professionals”. But the professionals, such as law enforcement are usually called upon when it is too late, they assist the disturbed individual with the suicide. Most of the politicians seem reluctant to offer any more than hopes, prayers, and moments of silence. They behave as if only God can stop the pandemic of mass murders sweeping across the continent. God may not stop the pandemic, but he will certainly judge those who have been elected to legislate laws to protect the values of life and liberty of innocent children and deliberately do nothing but offer thoughts and prayers. If a child is drowning in a pool and the person hired to guard those in the pool does nothing, isn’t the guard’s inactivity an example of negligent homicide?

Is there anything we as Christians should do? First, we should recognize the symptoms of a person contemplating suicide and then act:

Know Someone Thinking About Suicide?

What are the signs:

High-risk signs for suicide can include talk or threats to harm oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online for materials or means, talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.

If you know someone that is at immediate risk of suicide in Canadacall 911 or toll-free at 1-833-456-4566 .

In the USA, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.

The actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill best exemplify the importance and value of faith in God and sensitivity to others helped her to protect a portion of society that is part of the legacy from God from harm. Tuff’s actions exemplified the legacy of sound character expressed by  her faith as described in this quote, from the late Billy Graham:

Billy Graham

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” 
  — Billy Graham, evangelist 

When it comes to children, we must remember the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.

In closing, as faithful Christians, we are expected to express the teachings of  Christ Jesus in word, deed, and by obeying the Lord’s Commandments:

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

If we ignore the danger facing our children posed by shooters, many seeking suicide for themselves, are we not disobeying our Lord’s Commandment to us?

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #41: Children of the Heavenly Father

Benediction: (Numbers 6:24-26):

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

And know they love you! (click here)

Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

© June 3, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 3, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF Church on August 25, 2013

BLCF Bulletin August 25, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #632: ‘God’s Redeeming Love’ (John 3 and 1 John 4)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                                  Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress’

Let us pray…

Today’s lesson we will Hosea’s expression of faith and love for God, while testing. Unlike Job, whom God allowed to suffer and to be tested by Satan, Hosea was instructed by God to knowingly to undertake actions that would likely bring a degree of suffering, pain, and testing to his faith.

Let us review the Synopsis of Hosea (Wiki bits, from biblia.com, wikipedia.org, bibref.hebtools.com ):

Brief Summary: The Book of Hosea can be divided into two parts: (1) Hosea 1:1-3:5 is a description of an adulterous wife and a faithful husband, symbolic of the unfaithfulness of Israel to God through idolatry, and (2) Hosea 4:1-14:9 contains the condemnation of Israel, especially Samaria, for the worship of idols and her eventual restoration.

The first section of the book contains three distinctive poems illustrating how God’s children returned time after time to idolatry. God commands Hosea to marry Gomer, but after bearing him three children, she walks away from Hosea to her lovers. The symbolic emphasis can be seen clearly in the first chapter as Hosea compares Israel’s actions to turning from a marriage to life as a prostitute. The second section contains Hosea’s denunciation of the Israelites but followed by the promises and the mercies of God.

Chapter two describes a divorce. This divorce seems to be the end of the covenant between God and the Northern Kingdom. However, it is probable that this was again a symbolic act, in which Hosea divorced Gomer for infidelity, and used the occasion to preach the message of God’s rejection of the Northern Kingdom. He ends this prophecy with the declaration that God will one day renew the covenant, and will take Israel back in love.

In Chapter three, at God’s command, Hosea seeks out Gomer once more. Either she has sold herself into slavery for debt, or she is with a lover who demands money in order to give her up because Hosea has to buy her back. He takes her home, but refrains from sexual intimacy with her for many days, to symbolize the fact that Israel will be without a king for many years, but that God will take Israel back, even at a cost to Himself.

Chapters 4-14 spell out the allegory at length. Chapters 1-3 speak of Hosea’s family and the issues with Gomer. Chapters 4-10 contain a series of oracles or prophetic sermons, showing exactly why God is rejecting the Northern Kingdom (what the grounds are for the divorce). Chapter 11 is God’s lament over the necessity of giving up the Northern Kingdom, which is a large part of the people of Israel, whom God loves. God promises not to give them up entirely. Then, in Chapter 12, the prophet pleads for Israel’s repentance. Chapter 13 foretells the destruction of the kingdom at the hands of Assyria because there has been no repentance. In Chapter 14, the prophet urges Israel to seek forgiveness and promises its restoration, while urging the utmost fidelity to God.

Matthew 2:13 cites Hosea’s prophecy in Hosea 11:1 that God would call His Son out of Egypt as foretelling the flight into Egypt and return to Israel of Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus Christ.

The capital of the Northern Kingdom fell in 722 BC. All the members of the upper classes and many of the ordinary people were taken captive and carried off to live as prisoners of war.

The Book of Hosea is a prophetic accounting of God’s relentless love for His children. Since the beginning of time, God’s ungrateful and undeserving creation has been accepting God’s love, grace, and mercy while still unable to refrain from its wickedness.

The last part of Hosea shows how God’s love once again restores His children as He forgets their misdeeds when they turn back to Him with a repentant heart. The prophetic message of Hosea foretells the coming of Israel’s Messiah 700 years in the future. Hosea is quoted often in the New Testament.

Hosea (הושֵעַ) prophesied during a dark and melancholic era of Israel‘s history, the period of the Northern Kingdom’s decline and fall in the 8th century BC. The apostasy of the people was rampant, having turned away from God in order to serve the calves of Jeroboam[1] and Baal, a Canaanite god.[2]

During Hosea’s lifetime, the kings of the Northern Kingdom, their aristocratic supporters, and the priests had led the people away from the Law of God, as given in the Pentateuch. Forsaking the worship of God, they worshiped other gods, especially Baal, the Canaanite fertility god. Other sins followed, including homicide, perjury, theft, and sexual sin.[3] Hosea declares that unless they repent of these sins, God will allow their nation to be destroyed, and the people will be taken into captivity by Assyria,[4] the greatest nation of the time.

The prophecy of Hosea centers on God’s unending love towards a sinful Israel. In this text, God’s agony is expressed over the betrayal of Israel.[5][6][7] Stephen Cook asserts that the prophetic efforts of this book can be summed up in this passage “I have been the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and beside me there is no savior” (Hosea 13:4) Hosea’s job was to speak these words during a time when that had been essentially forgotten.[2]

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

It is interesting, that an account of a nation’s decline and its falling from God’s grace some 700 before the birth of Jesus years could easily describe the world in Noah’s time prior to the flood, or Sodom and Gomorrah prior to their destruction; the Roman Empire prior to its decline and fall; and even to the moral decline of nations around the world, today.

We should not dwell on the negative aspects of Hosea’s testimony, instead, we must keep our focus on the positive portions of his testimony of his response to God’s directions. Hosea was not instructed to just minister to the Gomer, a harlot, but to marry the prostitute. And through the covenant of marriage, Hosea would give her his good name as his wife and remove the stigma associated with being a harlot. Sound familiar?  You may recall  in admonition found in Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV):

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 5:27 Or holy and blameless

We see the story of Hosea teaches, by analogy, God’s covenant of love for not just the people of Israel, but for all people humanity, despite humanity’s sinful nature. Jesus brings the covenant of Salvation not only to the people of Israel but to all people. His gift of salvation is offered to all, as we read in Romans 1:16-17 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[a] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Romans 1:17 Or beginning and ending in faith b. Romans 1:17 Or The one who by faith is righteous shall live

Is the lesson from Hosea just a lesson of God’s love for his chosen people? I believe that God expects all of us to demonstrate to others, including those whom we would normally despise, the same unconditional love that Hosea showed towards Gomer.

Hosea was instructed by God to give unconditional love to Gomer, a sinner, just as God gave us the same agape or unconditional love to His people, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. And even though we strayed from God, becoming like the unfaithful wife, Gomer, God did not sever His Covenant, 2 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV):    

2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.                                              

God’s instructions to Hosea to take back his wife, is a living Parable to the manner to the way of He has provided us with the means to return to His good grace, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Redeemer. In the Parable, Jesus is represented by the groom and the church of believers represents the bride, as indicated in Ephesians 5:24-27 (ESV):

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]                                                                                                                                                                                  

 Footnotes: a. Ephesians 5:27 Or holy and blameless              

We, who are the church, or the body of believers, must turn to Christ and keep our vow of faith and trust, until the day that Jesus returns, Revelation 19:7-9 (ESV):

7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

9 for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 

And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”                                                                                                          

 Footnotes: a. Revelation 19:9 Greek he said                                        

It is a strong faith that Job kept throughout his testing and adversity. It was faith that allowed Hosea to love and forgive his wife, Gomer, and to trust God’s plan, Revelation 21:1-2 (ESV):

The New Heaven and the New Earth

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Let us pray…

Communion:

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)

Closing Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Benediction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4): Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Thanks For Supporting Our One For All Fundraiser – BLCF Cafe

Thanks For Supporting Our One For All Fundraiser – BLCF Cafe – Serving the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto since 2008

 

 

One For All Fundraiser at the BLCF Cafe Wednesday 6:00 PM

·

One for All Concert – featuring Cold Water Roots – Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 6:00 PM at the BLCF Cafe – 1307 Bloor Street West – Take the Bloor Line to Lansdowne Station and go 1 Block west on the South Side of Bloor at BLCF Church All proceeds go to feeding the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe Community dinner, every Wednesday since January 2008.

Satisfy Your Righteous Hunger with the Bread of Life

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Satisfy Your Righteous Hunger with the Bread of Life’

© May 27, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 27, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 13, 2015

BLCF Bulletin September 13, 2015

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #14: Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart

Offering & Prayer: Hymn #572 Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Responsive Reading #632: God’s Redeeming Love (John 3 & 1John 4)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                  ‘Satisfy Your Righteous Hunger with The Bread of Life

 

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church Praise and Worship Service.  Remember this Wednesday is our “All For One Fundraiser,” featuring the music of Cold Water Roots, takes place during the BLCF Café Community Dinner. All proceeds from the concert go to feeding the homeless and marginalized at the café. The dinner does not benefit from any government or corporate help or support.

Speaking of feeding the hungry, our lesson today will give us a chance to examine how to ‘Satisfy Your Righteous Hunger with the Bread of Life.’

When we look at today’s two key Scripture verses, which are Exodus 17:1-7 and John 6:22-59, we see two accounts of the People of Israel not only dissatisfied with their lot, actually grumbling about it. I suppose the message could have been given the title: “A Tale of Two Grumblers.” Still, grumbling and quarreling happen amongst members of His Church, though it is not reflective of the Spirit of God.

The first account, from Exodus 17, concerns Moses as prophet and leader of the People of Israel, as he  has to deal with not just their complaints of thirst, but also their demands to be provided with water, Exodus 17:1-7 (ESV):

Water from the Rock

17 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?”

Footnotes: a. Exodus 17:7 Massah means testing b. Exodus 17:7 Meribah means quarreling

The People of Israel not only grumbled against Moses (Exodus 17:3), they questioned Moses about the presence of God (Exodus 17:7).

It seems that the People of Israel had lost their faith, in spite of all the miracles of God that they had witnessed, including the 10 Plagues of Egypt, the Pillar of Fire, the parting of the Red Sea, and the manna God sent from heaven to feed them.

Rather than honouring God by prayer and trusting Him in faith, the people began to quarrel with Moses and questioned the presence of God in their midst.

We see that God provided for the needs of His people (Israel), by providing manna to eat and water from the rock at (Mount) Horeb. In honour of the bickering Moses received from his people, he named the place “Massah and Meribah”, the respective meaning of Massah being testing and Meribah being quarreling, as the people had quarreled with Moses and they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Our second Scripture verse, John 6:22-59, gives us of another account of grumbling and testing by God’s Chosen People, found in John 6:22-59 (ESV):

I Am the Bread of Life

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[a] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus[b] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

Footnotes: a. John 6:58 Greek lacks the bread b. John 6:59 Greek He

 

 

Following the miracle that Jesus had performed, where he multiplied the bread and fish to feed the gathered multitude, a crowd had followed the Lord to Capernaum. Like their forefathers, these Jews sought not because of the miracles performed by God’s supernatural power, but because they hungered for more bread, as we see in John 6:26-27 (ESV):

26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Jesus uses his understanding that the crowds have followed him to Capernaum because of hunger for food, rather than to satisfy their spiritual hunger, which is more important.

Jesus speaks of God’s desire to fill his children’s need for the Spiritual sustenance  through Jesus, who is described as being “the Bread of Life.”

And like their forefathers, the Jews grumbled. They grumbled about Jesus (John 6:41), refusing to believe or to have faith in the Lord being the true manifestation of the “Bread of Life.” Jesus continues to explain that the only path to God’s salvation and grace is by faith in Jesus as the Son of God, (John 6:55-57).

The anxiety that People of Israel exhibited in Exodus 17 and by their descendants, the Jews, in John 6, were hunger of a worldly and physical nature, for water and bread, respectively. Along with their hunger and thirst, came an anxiety that demonstrated a lack of faith in God. Even after being fed, they would eventually die when their physical lives reached their end, (John 6:58-59).

Those who believed and ate from the eternal bread and water that Christ offered would not die, but live forever, (John 6:53-57).

At times, we often see a similar reaction among guests and some volunteers at the BLCF Café Community Dinner. Over the last ten years of its existence, the BLCF Café has hosted a minimum of 100 guests a night, served by 15 to 20 volunteers. Multiply that number by 52 weeks per year and 10 years, we see that we have a conservative estimate of over 62,000 people attending the dinner.

But, it is not the free dinner or bags of bread being the point of the exercise, any more than the feeding fish and bread to the multitude gathered to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Unfortunately, some of our guests and volunteers see the BLCF Café strictly as serving food to hungry people. The prime reason for the dinner is to serve the good news message found in the Gospel of Christ, Jesus.

The importance of nourishing the Spirit should be a greater priority than the feeding the body. Regardless of how much food we serve, unless the Lord returns, we should expect to eventually die. When our guests consume the Spiritual nourishment that comes from Christ’s sacrifice, we may expect the reward of our own forgiveness from the judgment of our sins; our own resurrection from the grave; and our ascension to join the Lord in heaven.

If we grumble and complain amongst ourselves, we are not demonstrating to the world a love and joy that comes from faith in the Lord to believers in the Resurrected Christ. Rather than complaining and grumbling, we should always rejoice in the Lord as seen in Philippians 4:4-8, which is printed on the back of today’s bulletin:

Rejoice in the Lord always

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This expression of prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and joy leads to a peace which surpasses all understanding. Our focus should be on the positive aspects of a faith which is pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Seeking these is characteristic of the pursuit of righteousness, which we should be the focus of our attention and which leads us no room for us to grumble. By seeking them, we follow a righteous path and are promised to receive the Lord’s blessing:

Matthew 5:6 and 11 (ESV)

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

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Let our hunger and thirst be of a righteous in nature, for in this pursuit we cannot find fault in others, as such grumbling is not an expression of Christ-like love and an acknowledgement of the joy that comes from grace of God, by allowing Jesus to be our Lord, Saviour, an example in how we treat others.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #177: Rejoice, the Lord is King

Benediction – (Romans 15:5): May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Lacking Nothing, While Banking Our Treasure in Heaven

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Lacking Nothing, While Banking Your Treasure in Heaven‘

© May 20, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 20, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on January 5, 2014

BLCF Bulletin January 5, 2014

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #63: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #618 (Heavenly Treasure – Matthew 6)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                 ‘Lacking Nothing, While Banking Our Treasure in Heaven’

Let us pray…

Welcome to the house of the Lord in the heart of Toronto, where the lesson today is entitled: Lacking Nothing, While Banking Our Treasure in Heaven’.

I would like to talk about today’s Scriptures, which give us a good idea what the Lord values in HIS children.

Our first Scripture passage, taken from Exodus 2, describes the circumstances of the birth of Moses, the son of a Levi, a Hebrew slave, who was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as a Prince of Egypt. It turns out that the biological mother of Moses was hired to be nursemaid to the baby found in a basket amongst the bulrushes, which afforded Moses an opportunity to bond with his real mother. It is amazing how God works things out. It is likely that some of the compassion that Moses had for the Hebrews had its origins in the loving care he received from his nursemaid mother.

Exodus 2:1-14 (ESV): The Birth of Moses

2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When
she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes[
a] and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”[b]

Moses Flees to Midian

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.[c] 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.”

Footnotes: a. Exodus 2:3 Hebrew papyrus reeds b. Exodus 2:10 Moses sounds like the Hebrew for draw out c.Exodus 2:11 Hebrew brothers

Eventually, Moses gave up his place as a son of Pharaoh and Prince of Egypt. However by acknowledging his true birthright as a Hebrew would likely result in his own enslavement. But before this happened, Moses killed an Egyptian whom he found beating another Hebrew. Moses fled Egypt to the land of Midian, eventually to have an encounter with God, in the form of a burning bush.  God had chosen Moses to lead the Hebrews out of servitude and enslavement, through the desert, to deliver HIS laws, and eventually to HIS promised land. Moses had the unique understanding of Egyptian Royalty which would be useful when dealing with Pharaoh in the assignment of freeing the Hebrew slaves.

Today’s second Scripture passage is from Luke 16, known as Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus tells the story of a ‘rich’ man who dressed and ate well, while just outside the gate to his house lies Lazarus, a poor, starving man, who is covered with sores. Eventually, both men die, with angels bringing Lazarus to join Abraham in heaven.

Luke 16:19-31 (ESV): The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers[b]—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”                                             

Footnotes: a. Luke 16:22 Greek bosom; also verse 23 b. Luke 16:28 Or brothers and sisters

Lazarus is an interesting name for a character in this Parable, as it has the following meanings (sheknows.com):

Hebrew Meaning:
The name Lazarus is a Hebrew baby name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Lazarus is: God will help.

Biblical Meaning:
The name Lazarus is a Biblical baby name. In Biblical, the meaning of the name Lazarus is: Assistance of God.

Greek Meaning:
The name Lazarus is a Greek baby name. In Greek the meaning of the name Lazarus is: God is my help.

http://www.sheknows.com/baby-names/name/lazarus

This is the only Parable where Jesus gives a name to one of the protagonists, Lazarus. It is worth noting that the other main character remains nameless and, unlike Lazarus who dies and is brought to heaven by angels, is judged and is sent to Hades or Hell. To God, material wealth does not get you to Heaven. And there is a point when it is too late to repent and ask for forgiveness and avoid judgment. The rich man ended up in Hades and sought mercy for his thirst not unlike the compassion that Lazarus desired at the rich man’s doorstep. The man’s request is denied. Next, the rich man asks for the opportunity to notify his brothers who are still living, so that they may avoid the same fate. The man is told that it is unlikely that people who have ignored the words of Moses and the Prophets will be convinced if someone such as Lazarus were raised from the dead.

This is very interesting, as the Parable tells us that there are people who will never believe or have faith, even if the messenger is raised from the dead. From this, we may conclude some people will embrace faith, even if the messenger is known to have been raised from the dead, which is precisely what our Lord  Christ, Jesus did. It is interesting, though sad, for those who refuse to believe. But we as believers must continue to witness to those who do not have faith until it is too late. For we never know whether or when a person may change his heart and embrace faith so as to be saved before it is too late.

Our third Scripture passage, which teaches the same lesson as the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus gives us an account where a young rich man approaches Jesus and asks how he may inherit eternal life. In contrast to the rich man in the ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus Parable’, a wealthy young man asks Jesus what is necessary to enter God’s Kingdom.

 Mark 10:17-25 (ESV): The Rich Young Man

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”                                            

Footnotes: a. Mark 10:24 Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches

The outcome for the young man seems to be more hopeful than the rich man who ends up suffering in Hell after death. In addition to seeking God’s Kingdom before death, the young man has some knowledge of religion and awareness of God, as he has observed all of God’s commandments from the youth. It appears that this rich man will not end up in the same place as the rich man in the Lazarus Parable. But wait, there is one stumbling block.

Jesus perceives that the young rich man’s religious practices are tainted by something the young man values more highly than he should. Jesus instructs the young man to sell all that he has and give all the proceeds to the poor. In other words, the Lord has perceived that young man values his own personal wealth over the welfare of the poor. In spite of a desire for eternal life, the young man is unable to relinquish his material wealth in exchange for heavenly treasure received by demonstrating love and compassion for the poor.

Jesus uses the exchange with the rich man to teach how difficult it is for those who are preoccupied with worldly values to enter he kingdom of God or to follow the Way of Jesus. This gives us some insight to how Moses was able to establish a relationship with God, as he had already surrendered all his worldly wealth and power associated with the position of an Egyptian Prince, and he had demonstrated compassion for the vulnerable: the Hebrew Slaves in Egypt.

But you may say how much does a preoccupation with acquiring and maintaining one’s wealth and worldly possessions interfere with faith? What would happen if our fortunes are reversed? Let me share with you a short article I recently came across which gives just such an account. It was untitled, so I gave it the title: Switched at Birth:

Switched at Birth’ – Julian Ryall

Subtitled: ‘Japanese man accidentally switched at birth grew up in poverty while other baby lived a life of privilege’

Julian Ryall, The Daily Telegraph | November 28, 2013, 7:01 PM ET
(Republished by the National Post)

TOKYO — A Japanese man born to wealthy parents grew up in poverty after being given to another couple in a hospital six decades ago, while the infant who took his place went on to live a privileged life of private tutoring and university, and is today head of a property firm.

The 60-year-old man – who has declined to give his name – was raised reliant on handouts from the state after the man he thought was his father died when he was just two. The woman he considered his mother had to support his three older brothers, and there were few comforts in their one-room apartment as he grew up.

The man had to study at night school while working day shifts in a factory before finding steady employment as a driver with a transport company. He did not marry and now helps take care of three men who are not his brothers, including one who has suffered a stroke.

The infant who was given to the man’s biological parents was born 13 minutes later at the San-Ikukai Hospital, in Tokyo’s Sumida ward, and grew up in relative affluence.

This boy had a personal tutor, went to university and is the head of a successful property company. His three brothers work for major companies, according to media reports.

‘It is impossible to assess the scale of the pain and disappointment the parents and the man had to suffer’

Questions were only raised when those brothers recently realized that he bore little resemblance to any of his relatives.

In 2011, the family requested access to hospital records and DNA tests subsequently confirmed the mistake.

The error apparently happened when a midwife took the newborn babies to be bathed and then returned them to the wrong mothers.

Speaking to media in Tokyo, the man condemned to a life of hardship described his shock at learning the people he grew up believing to be his parents and brothers were unrelated to him.

“I wondered how this could have happened,” he said. “I could not believe it. To be honest, I did not want to accept it.”

The Tokyo District Court this week ordered the hospital to pay the man 38 million yen ($393,000) in damages as a result of the mix-up, significantly less than the 250-million yen ($2.6-million) the plaintiffs had been seeking.

“The links between the man and his real parents were severed and the man was forced to grow up in a poor home,” Judge Masatoshi Miyasaka said in his ruling. “The mental anguish he went through was enormous.

“There were far-reaching differences between the two family environments and the plaintiff suffered an unreasonable loss as a result,” the ruling said.

“It is impossible to assess the scale of the pain and disappointment the parents and the man had to suffer, as they were deprived of opportunities to enjoy their parent-child relationship forever.”

‘I could not believe it. To be honest, I did not want to accept it’

The man’s biological parents both died before the error came to light and he is still coming to terms with the impact of the events of 60 years ago.

“I might have had a different life,” he said. I want [the hospital] to roll back the clock to the day that I was born.”

He is particularly angry at never having the opportunity to meet his real parents.

“As I saw a picture of my parents, I wanted to see them alive,” he said. “For months, I could not hold back the tears every time I saw their pictures.”

He added that the woman who raised him may have suspected something was amiss. “I think my foster mother may have sensed it,” he admitted, pointing to the physical differences between himself and his brothers.

The hospital initially attempted to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the 10-year statute of limitations had run out. The court dismissed that claim and ruled that the statute of limitations only began when the results of the DNA tests were confirmed.

The hospital has not confirmed whether it will appeal against the ruling.    

 http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/11/28/japanese-man-accidentally-switched-at-birth-grew-up-in-poverty-while-other-baby-lived-life-of-privilege/

We have in this sad but true story, the account of two babies: one born of wealthy parents and the other whose parents lived in poverty. After 60 years, the impoverished man, a caretaker for three ‘brothers’ who are not even related to the man, has one main regret: that he never had an opportunity to meet and talk to his biological parents, now deceased.  There did not seem to be any regrets for lost or missed opportunities or wealth that were afforded to the man whose place he had exchanged with, through a mistake made some six decades before.

It is also interesting, according to the story, that the wealthy man, who should have been raised in poverty in his place, seemed to show a callous disregard towards his true biological parents, his true siblings, or the man took in his place to live a life of poverty. Perhaps he was too busy running the property company to care. And the man who lived in poverty gave no indication of abandoning brothers who really are not related to him, from a family that a fateful mistake had been given to him.

In this story, it is not difficult to speculate which of these two men would have difficulty finding God’s Kingdom if both were presented with Christ’s Gospel of salvation, and which would not.  One may live a life of extreme poverty and still have more to share, than someone who is raised in wealthy circumstance. We find a good conclusion to today’s lesson in Luke 12:32-33 (ESV):

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

Let us pray…

Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21): Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen