Bluegrass Concert right in the Heart of Toronto at BLCF Saturday October 19, 2013

Bluegrass Concert  on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7PM, featuring the talents of ‘A Cup of  Cold Water’ in an encore performance.

Suggested Admission $15. All proceeds go to BLCF Cafe  Community Dinner. BLCF Cafe operates every Wednesday evening between 6-8 PM and feeds over 150 homeless and marginalized  guests weekly, without any government funding or corporate sponsorship.


Enjoy ‘A Cup of Cold Water’ perform  Traditional Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel in the heart  of Toronto at:

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, 1307  Bloor Street West, Toronto, Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7PM BLCF is located  just 1 block west of the Lansdowne Station, on the south side of Bloor Street.

BLCF: 416-535-9578  blcfcafe.blogspot.com

BLCF Church: volunteers the heart of the community

Can you imagine catering a dinner for 200 every week for almost 6 years? That is what Sophie Mickelson has done since January 2008. And that includes shopping for food, plates, cups and utensils; food prep; setting up tables and chairs;setting up the sound system;setting up the tables for 200 guests;preparing beverages urns of juice,coffee and tea for 200; preparing deserts;training volunteers; welcoming guests; and when its over cleaning the eating area, kitchen and bathrooms;taking down tables, chairs and sound system, closing and locking up the church. Sometimes there are volunteers to help, but when there are none, Sophie sees that the job is done. And the next Wednesday at BLCF CAFE Community Dinnerr Sophie starts all over again. The 200 dinner guests are not the social elite and high rollers, but the homeless and marginalized men, women and children in the heart of Toronto. Sophie does not seek praise or glory, but needs help feeding the vulnerable. You can help the cause by attending the Bluegrass Concert Fundraiser Saturday October 19 at  7PM. You CAN make a difference!

 

The Parables and the Miracles of the Ministry of Jesus Christ

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

Jesus performs the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

                                                                         

         The Parables and the Miracles of the Ministry of Jesus Christ’   

    ©September 22, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 22, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship:

 Responsive Reading 664: About Spiritual Gifts (1Corinthians 12); Prayer        Today’s Opening Hymn is #200: The Church’s One Foundation inspired from 1Corinthians 3:11(ESV): 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Let us pray…

IN THE HEART OF TORONTO

IN THE HEART OF TORONTO

Every Wednesday since January 2008, at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, we have been challenged to prepare for, serve to, minister upon, and clean-up after a gathering of to as many as 150 to 200 guests. Many of our volunteers, though attending post secondary schools are ESL students. That is to say that they grew up speaking another language and have volunteered at the cafe to hone their English skills as well as to serve a compassionate cause. I have observed some of the tricks used by Sophie to communicate how to run the dinner a complex set of activities in a short period of time.

George Brown volunteers with Sophie at the BLCF Cafe

George Brown volunteers with Sophie at the BLCF Cafe Community Diner in the heart of Toronto

 

Sophie will demonstrate of how we prepare to serve our guests, in what order, how to demonstrate friendship and respect, how to deal with unacceptable behaviour from guests, when to take breaks, what to do during the message portion of the dinner, when we serve dessert, how to avoid serving a guest twice before all guests have been served, and even how to serve the dinner. To avoid misunderstanding Sophie will demonstrate the process by example and often will pair experienced volunteers with new ones so that the new volunteers may observed and learn by following the example of their respective assigned partner. A simple, but effective approach to both acquainting new volunteers with the processes involved with the running the dinner, while forging a team bond among the dinner’s volunteers.

Prior to his crucifixion on the cross for our sins, Jesus ministered for some three and a half years.  Jesus was challenged with teaching matters of a spiritual nature to people who have yet to experience Pentecost and before they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s expectations and plans for His people.

To meet this challenge, Christ’s used a number of miracles and parables performed to reveal power of faith in the Holy Spirit and to help teach God’s expectations, promises and plans for His children. To emphasize God’s compassion for our needs and teach how He can overcome the seemingly impossible, He would perform a miracle. The miracles of Jesus are the supernatural deeds of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels.  A miracle, being supernatural by definition, is action which defies the laws and rules of nature and is beyond the abilities of the common person. The miracle demonstrates the fact that the power of the Lord exceeds the laws and rules of science and of the world. However, in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Jesus refuses to give a miraculous sign to prove his authority. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is said to have performed seven miraculous signs that characterize his ministry, from changing water into wine at the start of his ministry to raising Lazarus from the dead at the end. We find a good example in the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude in the gospel of Mark 6:30-44 (ESV) Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand:

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii[a] worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Footnote: a. Mark 6:37 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer

Miracle of Feeding the Multitude

Miracle of Feeding the Multitude

The miracle of the feeding of the multitude happened because Jesus felt compassion for the multitude who seemed like sheep without a shepherd and having taught the multitude with his sermon, Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes so that those who heard the word knew that it had come from the Father Who is both in heaven and in Christ.

Over the centuries Christian authors have reviewed, discussed and analyzed the miracles attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. In most cases, authors associate each miracle with specific teachings that reflect the message of Jesus. Miracles performed by Jesus are mentioned in two sections of the Quran (suras 3:49 and 5:110) in broad strokes with little detail or comment.

Christian authors also view the miracles of Jesus not merely as acts of power and omnipotence, but as works of love and mercy: they were performed not with a view to awe men by the feeling of omnipotence, but to show compassion for sinful and suffering humanity. And each miracle involves specific teachings.

Since according to the Gospel of Johnit was impossible to narrate all of the miracles performed by Jesus, the miracles presented in the Gospels were selected for a twofold reason: first as a manifestation of God’s glory, and then for their evidential value. Jesus referred to his “works” as evidences of his mission and his divinity, and in John 5:36 he declared that his miracles have greater evidential value than the testimony of John the Baptist. John 10:37-38 (ESV) quotes Jesus as follows:

37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

We see the miracles of helped teach us Jesus plan and the manner by which it would be achieved. While the miracles were self evident, the Lord, also made use of the Parable as a teaching aid to teach his purpose and plan. The parables of Jesus can be found in all the Canonical gospels as well as in some of the non-canonical gospels but are located mainly within the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke). They represent a key part of the teachings of Jesus, forming approximately one third of his recorded teachings. Jesus’ parables are seemingly simple and memorable stories, often with imagery, and each conveys a message. Scholars have commented that although these parables seem simple, the messages they convey are deep, and central to the teachings of Jesus. Christian authors view them not as mere similitude’s which serve the purpose of illustration, but as internal analogies where nature becomes a witness for the spiritual world.

Many of Jesus’ parables refer to simple everyday things, such as a woman baking bread (parable of the Leaven), a man knocking on his neighbor’s door at night (parable of the Friend at Night), or the aftermath of a roadside mugging (parable of the Good Samaritan); yet they deal with major religious themes, such as the growth of the Kingdom of God, the importance of prayer, and the meaning of love.

Still the disciples had a problem understanding the purpose of the Lord’s use of the parable. So Jesus explains why in the gospel of Matthew 13:10-16 The Purpose of the Parables:

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Now we return to our outreach ministry at Wednesday’s BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. To non-believing guests and volunteers, our actions of serving and fellowship are a living parable of the love and sacrifice of Christ. And by the miracle of the power of the Holy Spirit, those who accept our unconditional gift can relate to God’s unconditional love for His children. And this understanding through the power of the Holy Spirit helps non-believers understand and by Grace of the Spirit, accept by faith, God’s unconditional gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. And by conviction of the Holy Spirit, believers may preach and teach others the love of God by similar acts that are a living parable and testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit.

In that regard, Wednesday’s Community Dinner is regarded by many of our guests and volunteers as their church. For the church, God’s holy temple, is not the mortar, wood and bricks of this building at 1307 Bloor Street West, but rather the people who gather here to study His word, who sing and praise His name, to glorify God as a body of believers who are God’s holy temple: Ephesians 2:19-22:

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The church or temple of God is not a building that contains a body of worshipers, but rather it is the body of believers that contain the Holy Spirit. By sharing the gospel of Jesus in word, thought and deeds to others, we invite them to join His church and share grace of his gifts of salvation and the Holy Spirit through faith, and thus becoming a part of His Church. And the miracles of the Spirit are described in 1 Corinthians 12:1-12 (ESV) Spiritual Gifts:

12 Now concerning[a] spiritual gifts,[b] brothers,[c] I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

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

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.

Footnotes: a.1 Corinthians 12:1 The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians’ letter; see 7:1  b. 1 Corinthians 12:1 Or spiritual persons c. 1 Corinthians 12:1 Or brothers and sisters

While on earth Jesus performed his many miracles to demonstrate that God the Father is within him and that he is in the Father as John 10:38:

38 “but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

There are four additional miracles that Jesus performed which form the foundation of Christ’s church:

The first is the miracle by Jesus was assuming the judgment of sin on behalf of all humanity and freely giving his life on the cross. The second miracle by Jesus was the resurrection from the grave. The third miracle of Jesus was his ascension to heaven to assume the role of our advocate beside God the Father. And the fourth miracle of Jesus is to send the Holy Spirit to reside in the heart of all believers, so that like Jesus God may be in the body of believers as the believers are in God thus forming the church of Jesus our redeemer and shepherd.

I would like to conclude today’s message with prayer for the new year by reciting the following poem by Bobbie J. Davis:

Jesus is a Miracle Worker

He healed the blind, He raised the dead.   

5000 hungry souls He fed.  

He only had 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread.  

He stilled the storm on the raging sea.   

He gave His life for you and me.     

He walked on water and even turned water into wine. 

He did all of this in His short life time.  

He healed the sick and even raised the dead.   

He did everything that he said. 

He cast demons out of possessed souls.  

Can I tell you our Lord Jesus was bold.     

He performed these many miracles for you and I.      

Now we need to do our part before we meet Him in the sky.       

We need to lead others to this miracle man.       

We need to all just take a stand,                     

And let others know they can have eternal life too.  

For this is what He wants all of us to do.               

Yes, Jesus is still a miracle worker for you see,    

 He worked a mighty miracle in you and me.

-authored by Bobbie J Davis
Bobbie J Davis’ Main Page

Let us pray…

Today’s Closing Hymn is #12: Praise the Lord, His Glories Show

Benediction: Romans 15:5-7 (ESV):

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. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

– Go in  Peace of the Lord!

BLCF: BLCF Cafe

The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity

Trinity of God

Trinity of God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity’

©September 15, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 15, 2013 

BLCF Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 641: “Christian Assurance”

Prayer                                                                         

Opening Hymn: #204 There’s a Quiet Understanding

Let us pray…

For the lesson today, I would like talk about similarities and differences between the trinity of God, sometimes referred to as the Godhead and 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 context of the other. And the other trinity, though spoken about frequently, is often misunderstood. Hopefully, by the end of this message we will have a 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, the trinity of God. This trinity is used to describe three Devine aspects or expressions of God: the Father/Creator, the Son/Word-made-flesh and the Holy Spirit. Here are we 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.   

   – 1 John 5:7 (KJV)

Recently, some Biblical scholars have questioned whether the disciple John authored this verse of scripture as there may be some indication to believe that this verse was altered in a later translation and that the translation from the original scripture may be found in the English Standard Version as follows:

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

   – 1 John 5:7-8 (ESV)

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 implies the same message as the King James more by inference than by words, and as a more subtle expression of the same thought. If this verse were the only passage of scripture which supports the trinity of God, then we could say that existence of the trinity is open to debate. And only Satan and the Pharisees desire believers to waste the Lord’s time and mission debating theology.

Fortunately, we have many other verses which support the singularity of God. In 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 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 comprised the ”we” and ”us” mentioned this passage, describing the beginning of the Bible? We find the answer in John 1:1.

 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 Scriptures are 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 our. We are told that Jesus, the Word made flesh was there in the beginning of creation, as was the Holy Spirit. Not three Gods, but three distinct aspects of the same God.

It would be presumptuous of us to expect that we fully understand all the aspects of the the Holy Trinity, or of God, our Creator. But by faith and grace of the Spirit we may accept the Holy Trinity or Godhead.

The Godhead or Triune of God is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as follows:

trin·i·ty (tr                                                                       n           -t      )n. pl.trin·i·ties1. A group consisting of three closely related members. Also called triunity.2. Trinity Theology In most Christian faiths, the union of three divine   persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in one God. Also called Trine.

3. Trinity Trinity Sunday.


[Middle English trinite, from Old French, from Latin tr      nit      s, from tr      nus, trine; see   trine.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Triune+God

This is where  our bulletin has some illustrations that may help us. On the first inside page of today’s bulletin are two triangles. On the left, we have the triangle of the Godhead, Go the Father, Son and Holy Spirit pointing upwards towards heaven above a triangle pointing downwards illustrating the human triangle, consisting of body, mind and Spirit. Next, the illustrator through a bit of insightful genius  combines the two triangles combine to form a Star of David, illustrating a union of mankind and God, by way of the Holy Spirit. And then beside this symbol, is an illustration indicating God is the Father; is the Son and is the Holy Spirit, but also indicating that the Father is not the Son;  the Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. By Faith and way of the Holy Spirit we may accept this description of God, even though the limitations our humanity prevent us from fully understand Him. Fortunately, God’s salvation is based upon our faith and not our understanding of God.

Trinity ofGod and Trinity of Humanity

Trinities of God and Humanity

On the next page, we see a graphic that illustrates how God interacts with us: John 1:14 shows that God became flesh through Jesus: 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)

And we know Jesus became Christ, the Messiah, by dying on the cross for our sins. The Jesus was resurrected from the grave and ascended to heaven. On the day of Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to all believers, 1 Corinthians 15:45:

45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.                                                                                                 

  – 1 Corinthians 15:45 (ESV)

And God, in the form of the Holy Spirit enters into all who believe.

How the Trinity influences humanity

How the Godhead influences humanity

Our third illustration on the back page of the bulletin indicates that our Lord, Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, translated from Greek to English as the First and Last or the Beginning and End.

Alpha-Omega

Another verse to help us understand specific characteristics of the members of the Godhead or Trinity may be found in 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.

    – 2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV)

Those expressions of God, Paul indicates that we receive grace from Jesus, the son; love from God the Father and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. These three gifts are distinct and inseparable aspects of God’s presence in the life of the Christian believer, in the same way that the elements of the Trinity are distinct but inseparable.

Trinity Diagram

Trinity Diagram

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:

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 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, 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 read the consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God described 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 judgement of death upon themselves and their descendents. 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 for the problem of sin, let us now talk about the 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 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:

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.                                                                                                                                  

   

 – 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV)

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:

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.                                                                                         

   – John 20:20–23 (ESV)

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 trusting God.”

And we see the importance of receiving the Holy Spirit in revealing God’s purpose and presence explained in 1 Corinthians 2:9-11:

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.                                                            

     – 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 (ESV)

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.

Holy Trinity

Bluegrass Music to Feed the Homeless in the Heart of Toronto at BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

 

Bluegrass Concert on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7PM, featuring the talents of ‘A Cup of Cold Water’ in an encore performance. Admission $15. All proceeds go to BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, BLCF Cafe operates every Wednesday evening from 6-8 PM and feeds over 150 homeless and marginalized guests weekly, without any government funding or corporate sponsorship.
Enjoy ‘A Cup of Cold Water’ perform Traditional Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel at: Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship- BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7PM BLCF is located just 1 block west of the Lansdowne Station, on the south side of Bloor Street. BLCF: 416-535-9578.

Cherishing HIS Gift

The Grat Commission

The Great Commission

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Cherishing HIS Gift’

©September 8, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 8, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #632: ’God’s Redeeming Love’  (- taken from John 14 and 16)

         Opening Prayer Hymn #102, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Let us pray…

It was not that long ago that my son Jeff purchased his first pair of prescription lenses. Unlike the lenses available in my youth, the frames and comfort available for the youth today are far better today. However, I found it interesting that Jeff’s comments regarding what he could now see with his new glasses were identical to my own and my first pair. Jeff marvelled at the fact that he could now see the individual leaves on the trees. No longer were the leaves a clump of green. Before he had glasses, Jeff’s view of the world could be characterized by the expression of “not being able to see the trees for the forest”. The improved focus brought a better understanding as to the detailed nature of each tree.

At times, our view of our surroundings often lack clarity and we miss an appreciation for what it is we see. Sometimes we need to focus on the small details like the leaves to understand the whole tree.  In other words, while it is good to be able to get the big picture or the general overall view of one’s circumstances, often it is more important to see the small details, so that we correctly understand what it is that we see.

Now to see the gospel of Jesus and the details in the Bible, God has provided us with the Holy Spirit, so that we may view both with a spiritual perception or. Without the Holy Spirit our vision is missing the spiritual details and our understanding is greatly diminished. For non-believers, it is a matter of receiving, by faith, the gift salvation through Jesus and then receiving the Holy Spirit.  We have in the Holy Spirit, the Lords perfect prescription for our spiritual nearsightedness.

BLCF: discipleship

And for believers in the gospel of Jesus, it is allowing the same Holy Spirit help see the path that God has intended us to follow.

We need to appreciate what we see, as God intended it to be seen, from a spiritual perspective. In our faith walk, as believers in the Resurrected Christ, we need to allow the Spirit’s guidance to help us see the scriptures from a Spiritual rather than worldly perspective. The Holy Spirit allows us to see and understand the Lord’s Way and truth, as well as to see the path which he desires us to follow.

When asked their opinion as to which chapter in the Bible is the most important, Biblical scholars can give one of a variety verses, including Psalm 23, John 15, or Revelation 5. Many Biblical scholars choose a chapter from the Book of Romans.

Why Romans? Here are a cross section of scholars and their reasons for choosing Paul’s epistle:

  • Ray Stedman: “the most powerful human document that has ever been penned.”
  • John Piper: “Which of us, who has tasted the goodness and glory of God in this great gospel, does not count the book of Romans precious beyond reckoning? . . . there is no greater exposition of the Gospel of God than the book of Romans.”
  • Donald Grey Barnhouse: “Every movement of revival in the Christian church has been connected with the teachings set forth in Romans.”

And within Romans, which is the greatest chapter? Opinions differ, of course, but most will answer, “Romans 8.”

Romans Chapter 8 includes the following familiar verses, which give us a better understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

                             

  • 1-6) Life in the Spirit:  1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • 12-17) Heirs with Christ 12 So then, brothers,[d] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[e] of God.  15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
  • 28)  Future Glory: 28And we know that God causes all things to work together for good[f] to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
  • 31-39) God’s Everlasting Love: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[g] against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[h] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Footnotes:

  1. a.       Romans 8:1 Some manuscripts add who walk not according to the flesh (but according to the Spirit)
  2. b.      Romans 8:2 Some manuscripts me
  3. c.       Romans 8:3 Or and as a sin offering
  4. d.      Romans 8:12 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 29
  5. e.      Romans 8:14 See discussion on “sons” in the Preface
  6. f.        Romans 8:28 Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good
  7. g.       Romans 8:31 Or who is
  8. h.      Romans 8:34 Or Is it Christ Jesus who died… for us?

Paul is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest proponents of the Christian Faith in general, and specifically the Gospel of Christ. Paul’s contribution to spreading the Gospel of Jesus included authoring over half of the books of the New Testament, as well as performing the Lord’s Great Commission by actively spreading the gospel of Jesus. The Great Commission, which in the Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing missionary work, evangelism, and baptism.

If we look in Matthew 28:16-20, we read the instructions the Resurrected Christ gave the disciples before His Ascension to Heaven, referred to as The Great Commission:

Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV) The Great Commission

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

BLCF: great_commission

This was not the first time that the disciples had doubts, and possibly misgivings as how to embark on such a Commission. Having received the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room, at Pentecost, one would think that understanding the Lord would not be a problem, particularly for the eleven disciples, who had first hand exposure to lessons that Christ taught. But many times we read those students of Christ would take a parable for a factual story or tend to mistakenly take either a literal or worldly view on a statement intended to be strictly spiritual parable. Perhaps because of these doubts, and the tendency of both believers and non-believers, to take Christ word’s literally, when they were not intended, we see that the disciple Paul was called by Jesus, as Paul was on the Road to Damascus.

Paul’s conversion was significant to us, and Christ’s Commission in many ways. Paul was raised in the Jewish tradition, and had Roman citizenship. Interestingly, before his conversion, Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus, a non believer, employed as a persecutor of Christians, having watched the garments of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Saul’s profession was to see that believers in the Resurrected Christ arrested and eventually executed, as a threat to the State of Rome.

Several years ago, I had an interesting exchange with an American Customs Officer at Pearson Airport while passing through U.S. Customs on a business trip to the States. It was a year or so before 911, and Canadian visitors to the U.S. could enter if they provided two pieces of identification such as a birth certificate and valid driver’s license. The American Customs Officer, having noted that I was born in the US told me that I could get a US Passport, to which I replied that I was a Canadian Citizen. The officer replied that that did not matter, that being born on US soil entitled me to citizenship by right of birth. I tried to explain that in order to become a Canadian Citizen, I had to renounce my US Citizenship.

In the Rome of Christ’s time, a similar attitude of entitlement existed, based on your status of citizenship. On the top of this pyramid of class distinction was the Roman Citizen, which gave the person rights and freedoms under Roman law.

Next were the so called free individuals, though not entitled to the benefits of a citizen, they had many freedoms of travel in the Empire and to practice commerce, within limitations. This group included foreigners who did not have birthright. One way these individuals would be able to earn status of being a citizen of Rome, was to enlist in the Roman Legion or Army. If you managed to survive five years of service fighting wars and insurrections, you would be granted your status.

Finally, on the bottom rung of the Roman social ladder, we have the slave, who had no status or entitlement under law. The slave was considered to have equal status as chattel or property, and could even be put to death at the whim of the master, with no legal repercussions under Roman Laws. There was no legal protection for the life of a slave. A slave had to remain within the confines of his master’s property or suffer punishment or death. On rare occasions, slaves might be granted their freedom, at the whim or discretion of their master. A slave’s legacy to his descendants is enslavement, sadly this is their birthright.

In some respects, many Jewish believers viewed themselves as Citizens of God’s Kingdom, with a birthright to God’s favour similar to the Roman Citizen’s view of having a birthright to Caesar’s favour. A non-believer, under certain circumstances, could convert to Judaism, provided they were deemed acceptable. Any perceived history of violation of Mosaic Law, such as divorce, adultery, disease or even physical disability was believed justification to disallow conversion of the gentile and expulsion from the faith congregation for existing members. Such judgement should be reserved solely for the Lord.

In some respects, we tend to apply the same harsh judgement upon ourselves and others within Christ’s Church. This is why the Lord elected to send Paul to correct this mistaken view. If all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, who are we to judge or say who may or may not enter God’s church? Remember the criminal who was crucified beside Jesus at Cavalry? He was given the promise to  join the Lord in Paradise within the day, because of his faith, in spite of his transgressions.

Though we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins, giving all the gift of salvation and sanctification, without discrimination or qualification. This removes any restrictions to receiving God’s gift to the Jew and Gentile, Greek and Roman, man and woman, alike. As we are all born into slavery of sin, what sins we have committed, and what good deeds we have done does not cut it with the Lord, we all share the judgement of death.

However, if we confess our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are washed of sins, no ifs, ands or buts about it. In other words, through Christ, we are freed from the shackles of our sins, and are born again free from further judgement or persecution. We are exempt from condemnation and the judgement of death. In return, the only expectation of us by the Lord is to agree to undertake the Lord’s Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)

In his response to Christ’s Commission, Paul made three Missionary journeys to spread the Gospel. Paul’s work included visits and letters to Church’s to help clarify the Gospel message to many of the new Christian churches. This clarification was necessary, to bring a better vision and understanding of the important details found in the Gospel Message.

Paul's Vision

Paul’s Vision

When we read John 8:34, we see a reference to being a slave to sin:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

 

If we were to interpret the reference to a slave in John 8:34 literally, we might see someone in chains forced to do the bidding of a master. And take this view with the fact that an Angel of the Lord freed Paul, who was chained in a prison; it is easy to see that someone might tend to misunderstand what is being said.

Paul helped to clarify the meaning of enslavement caused by sin in Romans 8:2:

For the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

But how is it possible that we, as Spirit led believers in the Resurrected Christ, confuse the meaning of the Lord’s Word?

The idea of mistakenly taking a literal view of enslavement could come from thinking confusing thinking that Jesus was talking about the Hebrews, who were enslaved in Egypt. If we recall how obstinate and ungrateful the people were after God freed them from Egypt, it seems that Moses was not chosen to free his people from enslavement to Pharaoh, but rather to end their enslavement to worshiping worldly idols such as the golden calf and separation from the Lord.

We see this in Nehemiah 9:1 and 16-17:

1Now 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.

Cross references:

A.Nehemiah 9:1 : Nehemiah 8:2

B.Nehemiah 9:1 : 1 Sam 7:6

C.Nehemiah 9:1 : 2 Sam 3:31

D.Nehemiah 9:1 : Josh 7:6

16“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They 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 encouraging aspect of this verse in Nehemiah is the hope that in spite of all that they heard and saw, they chose to turn away from God’s leadership and return towards a life of slavery in sin, God still loves enough to forgive and not willing to forsake them.

The Bible is a powerful work, with themes and quotes often used in many of the great works of literature. Leaders, politicians and social activists have used the scriptures to illustrate their cause or to put “punch” in a speech.

When Dr. Martin Luther King, a renowned  minister and social activist gave the speech where he said  that the “ truth will set you free”, he was speaking more about social injustice towards the Black American, including a history of literal enslavement, rather giving a Gospel Sermon on spiritual freedom as found in John8:31-37(ESV):

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.

Jesus speaks of believers or followers who desire to kill him because they have yet find the faith to accept the truth of his words. This is in line with what is said 1Corinthians 1:18:

“For the message of the cross seems folly to those on their way to destruction, but to us, the saved, it is God’s power.”

The challenge for us as believers and teachers of the Gospel, is to keep our focus on the words of the scriptures, and in that sense understanding what is written to be taken literally and what is written to be taken as a parable. This is where we need to allow the Holy Spirit to temper our understanding of the scriptures, rather than relying on our worldly knowledge to misinterpret God’s Word.

BLC: until_the_end_of_the_age

As the descendants of Adam and Eve, we all are born as slaves to sin. It is our birthright and legacy. Alone, we cannot overcome sin’s judgement of death. If, however, we have faith in God’s gift of Salvation from sins condemnation through the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, confess our sins, and trust in Him. We are rescued from sin, no longer a slave to the world. The truth of the gospel of the ‘Word made flesh’ who is our Lord Jesus has set us free as found in Luke 2:68 (see front of the bulletin):

May the Lord God of Israel be blessed indeed! For God’s intervention has begun, and he has moved to rescue us, the people of God.

BLCF: discipleship_def

Even though our birthright is death through sin, we are also entitled through Christ, to being rescued from death, and to receive the gifts of salvation and sanctification, through the Holy Spirit, as heirs with Christ, we see in Romans 8:12-17:

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

While our choice in faith does not preclude us from suffering, it does promise that we may share, with Christ, salvation and glorification as a reward for our faith.

The gift of salvation is free. Let us cherish God’s Holy gifts of forgiveness and sanctification through Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, to convict and guide us. And may we honour these precious gifts by our keeping faith in the Lord and sharing His Gospel throughout the world. This is all the Lord expects in return. God has corrected our spiritual vision by way of the Holy Spirit. He has given the means to see, but it is up to us to use it in the manner God intended.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Ascension-of-Jesus

Hymn #413: God Is My Strong Salvation

 

Benediction (Philippians 4:5-7): A Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

BLCF: Commission_wordle

Walking with the Resurrected Christ – Luke 24:13-49

BLCF: Emmaus Road

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

                        ‘Walking with the Resurrected Christ’ – Luke 24:13-49      

                         © September 1, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Church: Bulletin September 1, 2013 

Responsive Reading #624: ‘The Great Commission’               

 (from Matthew 28; Luke 24; Acts 1; Mark 16)

Let us pray…

Good morning. I wonder how many of you have heard of the reality TV program: “Undercover Boss”? For the uninitiated, “Undercover Boss” is a documentary style show where the head of a corporation, usually the owner or CEO, disguises him or herself and works alongside unknowing employees to understand any concerns with the boss, the organization and find out any needs of those under direction of the boss. Later, the boss removes the disguise and reveals the boss’ true identity.

In this morning’s scripture lesson, Christ takes on a similar tact to find out how two of his disciples, as he approaches Cleopas and a companion, to find out what they were discussing as they walked along. This encounter takes place on the third day after the crucifixion, now called Easter Day; two disciples were going from Jerusalem to a village named Emmaus. Today, the location of Emmaus is not precisely clear. The name Emmaus may be derived from the Hebrew word hammat, “hot spring.” Luke places it about 60 stadia from Jerusalem. At about 607 English feet or 192 meters per stadion, this makes the distance about seven miles or eleven and quarter kilometers.

Jesus hears an accounting of his crucifixion, the empty tomb and rumours that Christ is alive! The account describes the two as being sad as they had hoped that Jesus was going to be the one to redeem Israel.  This demonstrated  a lack of understanding on the part of the two with the true prophesy of the scriptures, as well as a lack of faith in understanding how the redemption of Israel was to be accomplished. That Christ had to suffer on the cross to fulfill the prophecy of the scriptures.

Christ appears to be continuing on, when the two invite him to stay with them, as darkness is approaching. To which Christ agrees. It is not until Christ blessed and broke the bread at their supper, were the two disciples able to recognize the identity of their house guest. It was only then that the two understood   what Jesus was talking about as they were travelling along the Emmaus Road.

BLCF Church: Emmaus Road Gospel

Shortly thereafter, Cleopas and his companion returned to Jerusalem, to share their experience with the 11 disciples. Their experience was validated by the fact that Simon Peter had also encountered the resurrected Christ. Their experience tells us about the importance of the Lord’s revelation to believers. I am not talking about the John’s prophetic epistle we call the Book of Revelation. For any book of the scripture is meaningless without the Holy Spirit presence to give understanding to any passage in the Bible.

The Greek word for Comforter is “parakletos”. The most familiar translation of this Greek word is “Comforter,” another translation would be “Counselor” or “Advocate”.

Faith in Christ is not simply about our free will decision: it requires a revelation from God to understand the truth.  Please note the timeline of this encounter on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus had been crucified a few days previous. The Lord revealed himself soon after his resurrection from the tomb and prior to his ascension to heaven.  The day of Pentecost was still some 40 days in the future, so the Holy Spirit, as a spiritual guide and comforter was not gifted to believers. Prior to Pentecost Jesus was the comforter.  The Greek word for Comforter is “parakletos”. The most familiar translation of this Greek word is “Comforter,” another translation would be Counselor or Advocate, John 14:15-26 (ESV):

                                 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship - BLCF Church - Holy Spirit

                                                                        Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

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

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Footnotes: a. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7                                                b. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

Back to our Emmaus account, where we have two dejected, saddened disciples who are walking away from Jerusalem. After all, Christ who was expected to deliver the people of Israel from subjugation by Imperial Rome is now dead, as were their hopes of liberation. In that regard, the two had misunderstood Christ’s purpose and an inaccurate understanding of his teachings.  While Jesus corrects them by referring to the scriptures, it is only after he blesses and breaks the bread do they realize their companion’s true identity.

Is it interesting that when we take the bread element of communion, we do it to remember Christ, as we read in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24:

 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Holy Communion

In Remembrance of me

I believe that Christ having ascended to Heaven has sent us the Holy Spirit to accompany us on our Christian walk. And we need the Lord’s revelation, too. Whatever our human skills and talents, whatever decisions we are capable of making, the life of faith does not start with us. It begins with God revealing himself to us. For us, as Christ has ascended to the Father’s right hand, that conviction comes by way of God, the Holy Spirit.

What implications are there here for us? It reminds us that for anyone to find faith in Christ there must be a revelation from God. Christian witness cannot be reduced just to us saying the right words or doing the right things so that people will come to faith.  So in our witness we rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s presence and love to people.

This does not only apply to the call to conversion. It involves all aspects of the Christian life. We always need the revelation of God. However much we study a Bible passage, we need the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the truth of the scripture.

Just as Cleopas and his companion discovered the importance of a Christ-centred interpretation of Scripture, we too need to seek an understanding through the Spirit, to avoid misunderstanding what is read.

This brings us to the second part of this morning’s lesson, where Cleopas and a companion return to Jerusalem. Then, having heard of Simon’s encounter with the Risen Christ, the pair shares with the eleven disciples their Emmaus experience with Jesus.  Jesus, again, appears, this time to those gathered saying “Peace to you!”  And just like the two on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is aware that not only do the disciples have doubt in their hearts, they have fear thinking the Lord is a ghost or apparition.

You may recall that the disciples experienced a similar reaction as described by John’s account of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. And those in the boat who first saw Jesus thought the Lord to be a ghost or apparition.

And as in the Emmaus encounter, Jesus continued on his way past the group, until the disciples call out to Him. And like the Emmaus encounter, he chastises the disciples for their little faith. So Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Having offered to show his wounds as proof of identity, and just to reinforce the fact that he is not a ghost, he asks for food.  And as he had done to Cleopas and the companion, Jesus reminded the eleven of his teachings prior to his crucifixion:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

These two accounts of the Resurrected Christ, teach us a number of lessons. That it is possible for the disciples to forget what they have witnessed heard and read. That all of understanding of God’s purpose depends upon how willing we are to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. It is encouraging, to see that when we do go down the wrong path in our understanding, that through the Spirit, the Lord will guides back on the righteous way, as through the Spirit, we “are clothed with power from on high.”

And whether we receive the power of the Spirit depends not only upon a declaration of faith, but the manner by which we seek guidance from the Spirit:

Deuteronomy 4:29 (ESV) But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Let us pray…Cross references:

Hymn #252:  Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus

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

Benediction (Acts 22:14): “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth”   

Word made flesh?

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’ 

© August 25, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 25, 2013

Faith in the Lord Wordle

                                                                                      

Let us pray…

Last Sunday, we examined how Job and other believers trusted God and kept their faith even when tested by Satan. As a result of trust, faith acted as a living testimony to God, more than just words alone could convey.

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 knowing to undertake actions that would likely bring a degree of suffering, pain and test his faith.

Let us review the Wiki bits synopsis of Hosea:

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 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 today.

We should not dwell on the negative aspects of Hosea’s testimony, instead, we must keep our focus on the positive 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 only the people of Israel but for all people humanity, in spite of a sinful nature. For 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, 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

BLCF Accept Jesus

Is the lesson from Hosea, just a lesson of God’s love for his chosen people? I believe that God expects us to demonstrate to others, to those whom we would normally despise, the same unconditional love that Hosea showed to his wife. A recent example of such unconditional love may be found in the recent actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill, who admitted to have a mental disorder and to be off his medications.

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 by Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s observations of the power of the Holy Spirit, from the August 20, 2013 edition of the Washington Post:

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/

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. And even though we strayed from God, becoming like an unfaithful wife, like 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.                                              

And in a similar manner to His instructions to Hosea to take back his wife, God has provided us with the means to return to His good grace through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, the groom to his bride, the church of believers, 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              

Holy Wedding

We, the church, 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                                        

For it is faith that Job kept throughout his testing and adversity. And it was faith that allowed Hosea to love and forgive his wife, Gomer and trust God’s plan. And faith that permitted Antoinette Tuff to set aside her own personal troubles in order to show Christ-like compassion and love to an angry troubled stranger, and save that stranger and many innocents from danger and destruction, 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.

BLCF Lesson: hosea

Let us pray…

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.