Abiding in the Way of the Lord

“I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant – Jesus should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.”                                                                                                                                                Napoleon I Bonaparte (1809)     

BLCF: abiding in Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

© January 25, 2015, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on April 3, 2011 

BLCF Bulletin January 25, 2015

 BLCF: faith hope and love

Responsive Reading #597 (Gr of Prayerod’s Attributes- Psalm 19); Prayer

Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet

Understanding; Choruses

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

Scripture Verses:  Mark 9:2-8, Mark 12:18-33 and John 4:19-26

BLCF: to-love-is-to-receive-a-glimpse-of-heaven

Let us pray…

For our lesson today, Abiding in the Way of the Lord, we have three Scripture Passages, two from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-8) and (Mark 12:18-33) and the third Scripture Passage comes from the 12 Chapter of John’s Gospel (John 12:19-26).

BLCF: glimpse_of_heaven

The Scriptures from Mark give us a glimpse of what it like in Heaven, by giving an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, as well what I may expect after our resurrection, as well as the most important of GOD’s Commandments, also known as HIS Great Commandment.

In today’s third Scripture passage, from John, the Lord instructs the Woman of Samaria on where and how to worship God.

The three Scriptures illustrate how easy it is to be misguided and confused when we attempt to seek GOD’s grace and presence, which is HIS spirit and truth, on an earthly plane, at some special sacred place, such as a Holy Mountain.

Such was the case where Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, where the Lord’s appearance became transfigured into a radiant, intensely white figure as he spoke with the prophets, Elijah and Moses, as we read in Mark 9:2-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

BLCF: the transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,[b] it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;[c] listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Footnotes: a. Mark 9:3 Greek launderer (gnapheus) b. Mark 9:5 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master c. Mark 9:7 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

The disciples were initially terrified by what they had witnessed. Then Peter suggested that they erect some tents to be used as temples marking the place of this miracle; one each, for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. I do not think that is what the Lord had in mind when he brought his disciples up on the mountain. We read next that a cloud comes above them, and the disciples hear GOD’s voice speak: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him,” after which Moses and Elijah, who scholars view represent the Law and the Prophets, are no longer visible.

BLCF: Church-of-the-Transfiguration-Mount_of_transfiguration_is

Church of the Transfiguration

On Mount Tabor, we see that the Church of the Transfiguration has been erected to signify the place of the miracle, just as Peter had suggested to the Jesus. Peter, as well as those on who built the church, chose to venerate the sight of the Transfiguration, rather than just focusing solely on the event. The Lord did not intend to reveal the miracle of his transfiguration in order for people to plant a monument or a church on the mountain. Instead, Jesus’ miracle demonstrated the Devine nature of the Lord, giving us a glimpse of what heaven must be like. This interpretation of the vision is confirmed when the Heavenly Father identifies HIS son to the disciples and instructs them to listen to Him.

BLCF: God-Speaks

Our second verse offers another glimpse of life after our resurrection when a group of Sadducees asks the Lord about a hypothetical situation and the resurrection.

Wikibits on the Sadducees

Sadducees_Pharisees

The Sadducees (/ˈsæəˌsz, ˈsædjə/; Hebrew: צְדוּקִים Ṣĕdûqîm) were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BCE through the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees are historically seen as antitheses of one another. Josephus, the author of the most extensive historical account of the Second Temple Period, gives an extensive account of Jewish sectarianism in both Jewish War and Antiquities. In Antiquities, he describes “the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their father, which are not written in the law of Moses, and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them and say that we are to esteem those observance to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers.”  The Sadducees rejected the Pharisaic use of the Oral Law to enforce their claims to power, citing the Written Torah as the sole manifestation of divinity.

The New Testament, specifically the books of Mark and Matthew, describe anecdotes that hint at hostility between the Jesus movement and the Sadduceean establishment. These disputes manifest themselves on both theological and social levels. Mark describes how the Sadducees challenged Jesus’ belief in the Resurrection of the Dead.

BLCF: Sadducees_vs_Pharisees

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

In short, the Sadducees focused on the letter of the law; in contrast to the Pharisees, who seemed to construct the law on the fly, with the temple being key to their worship. Both groups, while opposite in their respective focus of the Scriptures and the Temple, to the point that their worship seemed to exclude GOD. The Law and Temple became treated like idols. This faith practice not only to be self-serving but tended to focus more upon their own authority over the authority of GOD.  Let us now look at, Mark 12:18-33 (ESV):

The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

18And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man[a] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

  24Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”      

In this glimpse of life after the Resurrection, we see that we are no longer in human form but appear as the angels in heaven. No longer are we under the laws of this world. Like Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on Mt. Tabor, we will be transfigured, being radiant and glowing bright as the sun.

Having answered the Sadducees’ challenge to the resurrection, by reminding them that God revealed himself to Moses from a burning bush, when he spoke in Mark 12:26-27, saying:

26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Upon hearing the Lord answer the question of the resurrection in a satisfactory manner, one of the scribes or experts of the law asked the Lord a question with respect to the law, or the Law of Moses, part of some 613 Commandments, as our Wiki bits describe:

BLCF: The-Bible-is-not-God-Gomes

The content of the instructions and its interpretations, the Oral Torah, was passed down orally, excerpted and codified in Rabbinical Judaism, and in the Talmud were numbered as the 613 commandments. The ‘Jewish Law given to Moses at Sinai‘ (Hebrew Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai הלכה למשה מסיני) is a halakhic distinction.

The Law of Moses or Torah of Moses (Hebrew Torat Moshe תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה, Septuagint Greek nomos Moyse νόμος Μωυσῆ) is a biblical term first found in the Book of Joshua 8:31-32 where Joshua writes the Hebrew words of “Torat Moshe תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה” (translated as “Law of Moses”, meaning “instructions of Moses”) on the altar at Mount Ebal. The text continues “And afterward he read all the words of the teachings, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the Torah.” (Joshua 8:34)

  • Moral laws – on murder, theft, honesty, adultery, etc.
  • Social laws – on property, inheritance, marriage and divorce,
  • Forward looking instructions for time when Israel would demand a king.

 The Lord’s answer as to which was the Greatest Commandment is found  in Mark 12:28-33:                                    

The Great Commandment

BLCF: Love-God-others

  28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”      

 Footnotes: a. Mark 12:19 Greek his brother  

 BLCF: chan-on-loving-god-and-others

We see that the both loving God and loving our neighbor are keys following and worshipping GOD.

BLCF: love-God-and-others

Does GOD expect us to undertake a pilgrimage to Holy places such as Mt. Tabor, in order to meet HIS expectation of our expression of faith? Let us look at three places considered to be sacred to many of Abraham, The Wailing Wall, The Hajj in Mecca and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel (Hebrew:  הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי (help·info), translit.: HaKotel HaMa’aravi; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Kosel; Arabic: حائط البراق‎, translit.: Ḥā’iṭ Al-Burāq, translat.: The Buraq Wall) is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small western segment of the walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount (or Har Habayit) by Jews, Christians and most Western sources, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram ash-Sharīf).

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. The original, natural and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever larger Temple compound to be built at its top.

BLCF: Jews-pray-at-the-Wailing-Wall-on-Yom-Kippur_

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

The Hajj in Mecca

The Hajj (/hæ/; Arabic: حجḤaǧǧpilgrimage“) is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence.[2][3][4] It is one of the five pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, and Sawm. The gathering during Hajj is considered the largest annual gathering of people in the world. The state of being physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj is called istita’ah, and a Muslim who fulfills this condition is called a mustati. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah). The word Hajj means “to intend a journey”, which connotes both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions.

The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham. During Hajj, pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka’aba, the cube-shaped building and the direction of prayer for the Muslims, runs back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, spends a night in the plain of Muzdalifa, and performs symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the three day global festival of Eid al-Adha.

BLCF: Eid-kabaa-circle_The_Hajj

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

The Church Of The Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (sometimes spelled sepulcher; Arabic: كنيسة القيامة kanīssat al Qi’yāma; Hebrew: כנסיית הקבר הקדוש Knesiyat HaKever HaKadosh) also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled Old City of Jerusalem. It is a few steps away from the Muristan.

The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha),[1] where Jesus was crucified,[2] and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. Within the church are the last four (or, by some definitions, five) Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of Jesus’s Passion. The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus.

BLCF: the-church-of-holy-sepulchre-during-a-holy

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

But does the Gospel of Jesus agree with the idea that a pilgrimage to any or all of these sites is an important expression of our faith in GOD? When we worship GOD, is all that matters is: location, location, location? We find the answer in today’s third Scripture verse, John 4:19-26 (ESV):

The Woman of Samaria

Samaritan_Woman

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

BLCF: learn_to_worship

Jesus responded to the woman of Samarian’s question where was more important: to worship GOD on the mountain or in Jerusalem? Jesus answers that it does not matter, whether you worship GOD upon a mountain top, in Jerusalem, or any other place.

BLCF: true worshipers of God

What is important is how we worship HIM, in spirit and truth. The best expression of this worship is love.  I have listed a series of verses on the back of today’s bulletin, where the Lord spoke GOD’s Great Commandment over and over again:

BLCF: to_love_receive_a_glimpse_of_heaven

John 3:16 (ESV)

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 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.”

  John 15:12-14 (ESV)

 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you.

  John 15:17 (ESV)  

17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

BLCF: abiding-in-the-true-vine

 John 15:4-5 (ESV)

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 3:16 (ESV)

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 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.”

  John 14:21 (ESV)

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.”          

  John 15:10 (ESV)  

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

BLCF: abiding

Let us review the key points of today’s lesson: Our GOD is a loving GOD  who exits in spirit and truth. We are to worship God in spirit and truth, through expressions of love to both God and to our neighbours. Through GOD’s son Jesus, we a provided a path to our own salvation and resurrection, by the power of the Holy Spirit. As believers in the resurrected Christ, we are comforted and guided by the Spirit, until the day of Resurrection, where we will be transformed into a glorious, luminous form.

Until that day, God expects us to love HIM and others, in spirit and truth, sharing the Gospel of Christ, until the day the Lord returns.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484:  It Only Takes A Spark (Pass It On)

Benediction: (2 Corinthians 13:14) 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: great-church-definition

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Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

BLCF: hearing Gods voiceheeding the call

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call’

© January 18, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

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

BLCF Bulletin January 18, 2015

BLCF: Proverbs 16_9

BLCF: living_the_Great_Commission

 

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

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

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

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

BLCF: forgive-those

 

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

BLCF: Sauls_conversion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Conversion of Saul

BLCF: Saul of Tarsus

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

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

 

BLCF: Ananias-was-praying

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

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

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

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

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

BLCF: sauls-conversion

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

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

 

BLCF: Ananias_and_Paul

heeding the call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: hearing Gods voice

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

heeding the call

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

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

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

BLCF: Paul_and_Ananias

BLCF: living_the_Great_Commission

 

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

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

BLCF: a_godly_response_to_lifes_circumstances

Let us pray…

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

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

BLCF: called_by_God

Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord

BLCF: Jesus_died_for_you 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord’

© January 11, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on June 26, 2011

BLCF Bulletin January 11, 2015

 

Responsive Reading #602 (Divine Deliverance – Psalm 33), Prayer

Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain

Choruses

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

Scriptures: Acts 12:1-11; 20-25

 

BLCF: All-who-call-on-God-in-true-faith-earnestly-from-the-heart-will-certainly-be-heard-and-will-receive-what-they-have-asked-and-desired1

 

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where we have a lesson entitled ‘Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord’, taken from Chapter 12 of the New Testament’s Book of Acts of the Apostles. You may recall that after the Day of Pentecost, where God’s Holy Spirit came upon all the believers, and with the resurrection and ascension of the Lord, Jesus, the disciples or students of their teacher, Jesus, became apostles, or messengers, of the Gospel or story of Jesus. As believers in the resurrected Christ, we too are messengers or apostles of the Lord.

There is a possibility for readers of this account to confuse the identity of those named in Acts, Chapter 12. Let us briefly review who were, as there may be some confusion among some here today, not necessarily with respect to what happened, but with whom and to whom, the narrative in the Scriptures describe:

Acts 12:1-11(ESV) James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

BLCF: Bible-says-quot-trust-God

12 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

We have the Apostle James, one of the Lord’s original disciples, executed by sword at the order of King Herod. When Herod saw that it pleased the Jews, he had another Apostle, Peter, arrested with the intent to also be executed, following Passover or the days of Unleavened Bread.

But the church of the Way of the Lord, which are the people, prayed to God. And how did the people pray, earnestly.

Peter Is Rescued

BLCF: Acts_12

 

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

On the night that Peter was to be executed, the apostle was enchained, sleeping between two guards, when an angel of the Lord arrived in an illuminated cell, woke Peter, causing the two chains to fall off. The angel ordered Peter to get dressed and put on his sandals, wrap himself in his cloak and to follow the angel.

Uncertain that what was happening was a dream or vision, Peter obeyed the angel.

Peter followed the angel, as they passed the guards and went outside the Iron Gate leading to the city, which was opened.

Eventually Peter realized that what was happening was not a vision, remarking that: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Acts 12:11).

Acts 12:20-25 (ESV) The Death of Herod

BLCF: death_of_Herod

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain,[a] they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Footnotes: a. Acts 12:20 That is, trusted personal attendant b. Acts 12:25 Some manuscripts to

Though Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, who he assumed were responsible for freeing Peter. Being dependent on Herod for their food, the people asked the King for forgiveness, an on an appointed day, following a speech from the King, proclaimed Herod as a god.

Though Herod observed the Passover tradition of not executing Peter, the king did not acknowledge God, but accepted the people’s proclamation. This offence sealed the king’s fate, as an angel of God struck Herod down.

The word of God increased and multiplied, with Barnabas and Saul returning from Jerusalem, bringing with them John, who was also called by the name Mark.

For those who followed these Scriptures may ask: “Who is John Mark described in Acts 12:25?”

And recalling the description of The Visit of the Wise Men, from the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-15, didn’t Joseph, Mary and Jesus flee to Egypt, only to return at the death of Herod?

It is time for a little research or as I lie to call them: Wikibits, to understand the answer to these questions. First, let us look at the identity of John Mark:

Identifying John, Mark and John Mark (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

BLCF: Frans_Hals_St_Markjpg

John Mark is named in Acts as an assistant accompanying Paul and Barnabas on one of their missionary journeys. By some he is regarded as identical with Mark the Evangelist.

From these it may be gathered that John’s mother Mary had a large house in Jerusalem to which Peter fled after escaping prison; that John assisted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey in Cyprus but then returned to Jerusalem; and that later controversy over receiving John Mark back led to Paul and Barnabas parting ways, with Barnabas taking Mark back to Cyprus and both thereafter disappearing from the narrative of Acts. The reasons for John Mark’s departure to Jerusalem and the subsequent disagreement between Paul and Barnabas have been subject to much speculation, but there is simply too little data to regard any explanation with confidence.

It was common for Jews of the period to bear both a Semitic name such as John and a Greco-Roman name such as Mark. But since John was one of the most common names among Palestinian Jews, and Mark was the most common in the Roman world, caution is warranted in identifying John Mark with any other John or Mark.

Ancient sources in fact consistently distinguish John Mark from the other Marks of the New Testament and style him Bishop of Byblos. Nor was John Mark identified in antiquity with any other John, apart from rare and explicit speculation.

Medieval sources, on the other hand, increasingly regarded all New Testament references to Mark as Mark the Evangelist, and many modern scholars have agreed in seeing a single Mark. The very fact that various writings could refer simply to Mark without further qualification has been seen as pointing to a single Mark.

First, there is Mark the cousin of Barnabas, mentioned by Paul as a “fellow worker” in the closings of three Pauline epistles. In antiquity he was regarded as a distinct Mark, Bishop of Apollonia. If, on the other hand, these two Marks are to be identified, the fact that these epistles (if authentic) were written after the departure of John Mark with Barnabas in Acts must suppose some later reconciliation. But a majority of scholars, noting the close association of both Marks with Paul and Barnabas, indeed regard them as likely the same person.

Mark the Evangelist, however, is known only from the patristic tradition, which associates him only with Peter and makes no mention of Paul. Jerome alone suggests that the Mark of whom Paul speaks may be the Evangelist. But modern scholars have noted that as Peter fled to the house of John Mark’s mother, the two men may have had a longstanding association.

Several scholars have argued, on the other hand, for identifying John the Evangelist and/or John the Elder with John Mark;] there is, in fact, a great deal of controversy surrounding the various New Testament people named John.

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

While it is not clear whether John Mark in Acts 12, describes the Apostle Mark or a different Apostle, named John Mark, we do know that the arrest of Peter in this passage refers to the Apostle Peter. The Devil loves theologians to debate the identity of John Mark, which missing God’s response the peoples’ fervent prayer where He sent His sending his angel to free Peter in quite a dramatic way. And then God sent His angel to strike Herod dead, for refusing the people’s declaration that the king was a god.

Which brings us to the question of the identity: who is the King Herod in Acts 12?. Again let us look at our Wikibits:

Herod the Great (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Herod (/ˈhɛrəd/; Hebrew: הוֹרְדוֹס‎, Hordus, Greek: Ἡρῴδης, Hērōdēs; 74/73 BCE – 4 BCE), also known as Herod the Great and Herod I, was a Roman client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian kingdom. He has been described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis“, “the evil genius of the Judean nation”,”prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition” and “the greatest builder in Jewish history”. He is known for his colossal building projects throughout Judea, including his expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Herod’s Temple), the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the fortress at Masada and Herodium. Vital details of his life are recorded in the works of the 1st century CE Roman–Jewish historian Josephus.

Upon Herod’s death, the Romans divided his kingdom among three of his sons—Archelaus became ethnarch of the tetrarchy of Judea, Herod Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, and Philip became tetrarch of territories east of the Jordan.   

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

BLCF: Acts_12_28jpg

King Herod Agrippa (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Herod Agrippa, also known as Herod or Agrippa I (11 BC – 44 AD), was a Judean monarch during the 1st century AD. The grandson of Herod the Great and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice,  he was born Marcus Julius Agrippa, so named in honour of Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. He is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Bible, “Herod (Agrippa)” (Ἡρώδης Ἀγρίππας). He was, according to Josephus, known in his time as “Agrippa the Great”.  Christian and Jewish historiography take different views of this king, with the Christians largely opposing Agrippa and the Jews largely favoring Agrippa.

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

The Herod referred to in Acts 12, was King Herod Agrippa, grandson to the deceased King Herod the Great, or Herod I, who met with the Magi, or Wise Men, as described in Matthew 2. We see in the case of King Herod of Agrippa, the grandson to Herod the Great that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Both kings sought to kill anyone who posed a perceived threat of to keeping the people from worshipping the king as a god, by proclaiming the deity of Jesus, the son of God.

One other observation regarding the freeing of the Apostle Peter from prison by angel of God described in Acts 12, is the state of Peter when thee angel came upon him. Peter was fast asleep. This is quite out of character for an apostle who was not noted for his patience or inactivity at times of challenge. It was Peter who wanted to join the Lord, walking on the stormy Sea of Galilee, and who did not hesitate to rush into the empty tomb of Jesus, on the day of the Lord’s resurrection. It seems strange that the man of action had nodded off just before the day of his trial and execution, unless he had the confidence and faith that the Lord would rescue him from his dire circumstances.

In conclusion, the faithful prayers of the people of God’s church were answered by the Lord, when he had his angels release of the Apostle, Peter from prison and with the death of King Herod, as a judgment for not acknowledging the authority of God.

Let us pray…

 

BLCF: Peter and the angel

 

Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound

 

Benediction: (1 Peter 5:10-11) And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever.  – Amen.

BLCF Church Sermon Header

 

Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed by Salvation and Forgiveness

BLCF: Forgiveness 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed by Salvation and Forgiveness’

© January 4, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 4, 2015

 BLCF: Ephesians 4_32

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #605 (Prayer of Penitence – Psalm 51); 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

Scripture Verses: Luke 7:36-50, Luke 19:1-10, Acts 3:11-21

 

BLCF: to_be_a_Christian

 

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, as we observe the first Sunday Praise and Worship Service for the year, 2015, which happens to mark our first Communion Service as it is the first Sunday of January.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed with Salvation and Forgiveness’  And in line with the topic of Salvation and forgiveness, I would like to open with an appropriate prayer on the subject from the Scriptures, found in the eleventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel, which is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer”:

 Let us pray…

                            Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)

BLCF: forgive in prayer

2  And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread,[a]

and forgive us our sins,     

for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation.”

                                                                                – Amen

Footnotes: a. Luke 11:3 Or our bread for tomorrow

BLCF: forgive_us_our_sins

 

From the Lord’s prayer, it is important to note that Jesus indicated that the degree of our forgiveness from God, the Father, is predicated upon our complete and total forgiveness of others. This is a common sentiment spoken when we consider making any New Year’s resolutions.

It is ironic that many people observed Christmas Day, by taking in a newly released movie, as several were released on that day. One of the new movies released was Unbroken, based on the autobiography of Olympian Louis Zamperini. Here is a short synopsis of this film, as released from the studio:

Unbroken

After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Although I have yet to see the film, I am familiar with the Louis Zamperini’s story, particularly how his suffering and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), led Zamperini to make a decision to accept Jesus, as his Lord and Saviour, and in turn, by God’s grace, Zamperini was healed from PTSD and able to forgive the guards who brought him so much pain and suffering as Prisoner of War, as his nightmares nearly led the loss of his sanity. Unfortunately, according to reviewers of Unbroken, it seems that the producers of the movie did not think it worthwhile to include the faith experience of Zamperini, where he was transformed by the Holy Spirit. The producers chose to omit from the film, telling the true triumph by Zamperini , which is the story of the power of faith and the ability of the Spirit to heal deep emotional wounds.

As broadcast journalist, the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Here is the rest of the story”:

From the Wall Street Journal (Online) by Steve Oney:

 “Unbroken” the Biography of Louis Zamperini

BLCF: Louis_Zamperini_at_announcement_of_2015_Tournament_of_Roses_Grand_Marshal

“Unbroken” details a life that was tumultuous from the beginning. As a blue-collar kid in Southern California, Mr. Zamperini fell in and out of scrapes with the law. By age 19, he’d redirected his energies into sports, becoming a record-breaking distance runner. He competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where he made headlines, not just on the track (Hitler sought him out for a congratulatory handshake), but by stealing a Nazi flag from the well-guarded Reich Chancellery. The heart of the story, however, is about Mr. Zamperini’s experiences while serving in the Pacific during World War II.

A bombardier on a B-24 flying out of Hawaii in May 1943, the Army Air Corps lieutenant was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive a crash into a trackless expanse of ocean. For 47 days, Mr. Zamperini and pilot Russell Allen Phillips (tail gunner Francis McNamara died on day 33) huddled aboard a tiny, poorly provisioned raft, subsisting on little more than rain water and the blood of hapless birds they caught and killed bare-handed. All the while sharks circled, often rubbing their backs against the bottom of the raft. The sole aircraft that sighted them was Japanese. It made two strafing runs, missing its human targets both times. After drifting some 2,000 miles west, the bullet-riddled, badly patched raft washed ashore in the Marshall Islands, where Messrs. Zamperini and Phillips were taken prisoner by the Japanese. The war still had more than two years to go.

For 25 months in such infamous Japanese POW camps as Ofuna, Omori and Naoetsu, Mr. Zamperini was physically tortured and subjected to constant psychological abuse. He was beaten. He was starved. He was denied medical care for maladies that included beriberi and chronic bloody diarrhea. His fellow prisoners—among them Mr. Phillips—were treated almost as badly. But Mr. Zamperini was singled out by a sadistic guard named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known to prisoners as “the Bird,” a handle picked because it had no negative connotations that might bring down his irrational wrath. The Bird intended to make an example of the famous Olympian. He regularly whipped him across the face with a belt buckle and forced him to perform demeaning acts, among them push-ups atop pits of human excrement. The Bird’s goal was to force Mr. Zamperini to broadcast anti-American propaganda over the radio. Mr. Zamperini refused. Following Japan’s surrender, Mr. Watanabe was ranked seventh among its most wanted war criminals (Tojo was first). Because war-crime prosecutions were suspended in the 1950s, he was never brought to justice.

Ms. Hillenbrand’s research was complicated by her disease. But as she likes to remind people, she came down with chronic fatigue syndrome before starting her writing career, and she has learned to work around it. “For ‘Seabiscuit,’ ” she says, “I interviewed 100 people I never met.” For “Unbroken,” Ms. Hillenbrand located not only many of Mr. Zamperini’s fellow POWs and the in-laws of Mr. Phillips, but the most friendly of his Japanese captors. She also interviewed scores of experts on the War in the Pacific (the book is extensively end-noted) and benefited from her subject’s personal files, which he shipped to Washington for her use. “A superlative pack rat,” she writes, “Louie has saved virtually every artifact of his life.”

During her exploration of Mr. Zamperini’s war years, Ms. Hillenbrand was most intrigued by his capacity to endure hardship. “One of the fascinating things about Louie,” she says, “is that he never allowed himself to be a passive participant in his ordeal. It’s why he survived. When he was being tortured, he wasn’t just lying there and getting hit. He was always figuring out ways to escape emotionally or physically.”

Mr. Zamperini owes this resiliency, Ms. Hillenbrand concluded, to his rebellious nature. “Defiance defines Louie,” she says. “As a boy he was a hell-raiser. He refused to be corralled. When someone pushed him he pushed back. That made him an impossible kid but an unbreakable man.”

BLCF: forgive-those

Although Mr. Zamperini came back to California in one piece, he was emotionally ruined. At night, his demons descended in the form of vengeful dreams about Mr. Watanabe. He drank heavily. He nearly destroyed his marriage. In 1949, at the urging of his wife, Cynthia, Mr. Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where he became a Christian. (The conversion of the war hero helped put the young evangelist on the map.) Ultimately Mr. Zamperini forgave his tormentors and enjoyed a successful career running a center for troubled youth. He even reached out to Mr. Watanabe. “As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment,” Mr. Zamperini wrote his former guard in the 1990s, “my post-war life became a nightmare … but thanks to a confrontation with God … I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you.” A third party promised to deliver the letter to Mr. Watanabe. He did not reply, and it is not known whether he received it. He died in 2003.

 

BLCF: forgiveness

Mr. Zamperini’s internal battles and ultimate redemption point to a key difference between “Unbroken” and Ms. Hillenbrand’s previous book. “Seabiscuit’s story is one of accomplishment,” she says. “Louie’s is one of survival.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703514904575602540345409292 

Our first Scripture passage speaks of how the Lord brought a restoration, by forgiving their sins, as we read in Luke 7:36-50 (ESV): 

A Sinful Woman Forgiven

BLCF: forgiveness2

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 7:49 Or to

BKCF: Parable_of_Two_Debtors

It is interesting to observe that the Parable of the Two Debtors describes two debtors, which in reality alludes to the sins of the Pharisee, named Simon, and the sinful woman. Jesus compares how his host offered Jesus, no water to wash his feet, which was the Jewish custom, not embrace or kiss, and no anointing of his head with oil, and yet the sinful woman lovingly gave the Lord all of those.

Not only did the Lord forgive the woman of her sins, Jesus indicated that his Pharisee host eluded his own forgiveness by not forgiving the trespasses of the woman. The other mistake of the Pharisee, as well as others gathered at the table, was in not acknowledging Jesus’ true identity, as Christ, the Anointed One, an observation hat was only made by the woman who carried and was forgiven of the burden of her many sins.

Finally, the Pharisee made the mistake of harshly judging both the woman, as well as the Lord, while failing to acknowledge his own transgressions, though not as great as the woman.

The next Scripture passage in today’s lesson comes from Luke 19:1-10 (ESV):

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus_and_Jesus

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Christ acknowledged the tax collector Zacchaeus, though not Pharisee or leader of faith, had practiced great faith in his own life, by giving half of his goods to the poor, and seeking restitution to those that he had defrauded fourfold.

Just as had happened at the house of Simon, the Pharisee, those around Jesus and Zacchaeus had wrongly judged both the Lord and Zacchaeus, again, unaware that the Lord already knew Zacchaeus’ name, but likely  the heart of this man, whom others had wrongly judged as a sinner. This is a reminder that we are wrong to judge others, when we do not know what is truly in their heart. It is not for us the judge others, as we would be placing ourselves in the dangerous position of usurping our Lord. Both, Adam and Eve had already made that mistake when they ate forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge.”

For us, Jesus came on earth on earth as the Anointed One, the Christ, bringing salvation and forgiveness to all who chose to confess their sins, and to turn away from a life of sin. This was the message that Peter shared, shortly after healing a lame beggar in the name of the Lord, on the steps to the temple, as we read in Acts 3:11-21(ESV):

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

BLCF: Peter-Preaching-Solomons-Portico

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

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Footnotes: a. Acts 3:13 Or child; also verse 26 b. Acts 3:16 Greek him

 

BLCF: If-God-forgives-us-we-must-forgive-ourselves_CS_Lewis

As Christians, we receive God’s grace not only by confessing sin and by turning away from sin; the Lord expects us to not judge others or to hold others in contempt. And by judging other, we bring the same judgment from the Lord upon ourselves, eluding our own salvation in the process.

Let us pray…

 

BLCF: Communion

Communion (Luke 22:14-20) – 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 #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all

 

BLCF: Forgiveness - Ephesians_4-32

Your Invitation To Join Local Toronto Churches In A Community Prayer Walk

START THE YEAR OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT,
JOIN US TO PRAY FOR OUR COMMUNITY !
***********************************
On the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m.,join with those from other local churches
to worship, and to pray for one another and for the surrounding neighbourhood.
*******************************************

 On TUESDAY, JANUARY 6th.

 Toronto Downtown Vineyard

will be hosting us at

 the Swansea Town Hall

95 Lavinia Avenue,Toronto
(south/west of Runnymede and Bloor)

 EVERY PRAYER COUNTS !

 …so let’s join together in faith

looking to God for His blessing
on our community !

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,700 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.