Faith’s Reward: Resurrection and Life

BLCF: Extravagant-Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith’s Reward: Resurrection and Life’

© April 24, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 24, 2016

 BLCF: Friday-but-Sunday

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 (Christian Baptism – from Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer                                                                            

Opening Hymn #365:  I Am Weak, but Thou Art Strong; Choruses

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

Scriptures: Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44; John 12:1-8

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at BLCF Church.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Faith’s Reward: Resurrection and Life’, which could have the included a subtitle taken from the illustration on the front of today’s Bulletin: ‘It’s Friday but Sunday’s Coming’.

Our Lesson includes three Scripture passages which describe Jesus visiting two of his disciples and friends who lived in the village of Bethany, Martha and Mary, under three different circumstances, with the second and third Scriptures include a third disciple and friend, the women’s brother, Lazarus.

Our first passage, from Luke’s Gospel, describes how Martha invites Jesus into her home, Luke 10:38-42 (ESV):

 Martha and Mary

BLCF: Mary-of_Bethany

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus[a] entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.[b] Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 10:38 Greek he b. Luke 10:42 Some manuscripts few things are necessary, or only one

While Martha is busy with serving food, she becomes distracted from her serving by observing that her sister sits at Jesus’ feet listening to the Lord’s teaching. Martha is so anxious and upset by Mary not helping her sister serve, that she implores Jesus to instruct Mary to help her, complaining that Jesus does not seem to care that Martha has been left alone to do serving duties. Jesus replies by compassionately rebuking Martha for being anxious and troubled about “many things”, indicating that Mary by choosing to listen to the Lord’s teachings, she has chosen to consume the good portion, which is the “Bread of Life”, which will not be taken from her.

Our second Scripture, from John’s Gospel, gives the account where the sisters ask Jesus to visit their brother Lazarus, who is quite ill, John 11:1-44 (ESV):

 The Death of Lazarus

BLCF: Mary-Martha-Lazarus

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus, when asked to attend his beloved friend Lazarus, gives a seemingly strange reply that Lazarus illness will not lead to death, but will to glory of both God and the Son of God. And Jesus delays departing to visit his friends by two days, as we continue reading in Luke 11:

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus[a] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin,[b] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

After two days, Jesus tell the disciples that it is time to awaken his “sleeping” friend, indicating no fear of the Jews who sought to stone the Lord and that the death of his friend will offer him an opportunity to give them a sign, so that they may believe.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

BLCF: I_ AM._the_Resurrection

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles[c] off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[d] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Jesus arrived to find Martha, Mary and many Jews mourning the death of Lazarus. Martha greets Jesus, indicating her brother would have not passed if the Lord were present.

Jesus replies to Martha, that her brother will “rise again.” Thinking that Jesus is referring to the Judgement Day, when he asks whether she believes Lazarus will be resurrected, Mary acknowledges him as Lord, the Christ, Son of God. Let us continue with John 11:

Jesus Weeps

BLCF: Jesus-wept2

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved[e] in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus then asks for Martha to send for Mary, the Lord choosing to remain at the place where Martha had met him, just outside the village. Assuming Mary is leaving for her brother’s tomb, the Jews follow Mary from the house to where Jesus awaits. Mary falls at Jesus’ feet, weeping that if he were present, he brother would not have died. Jesus was deeply moved and troubled in his spirit by the weeping of Mary and the Jews that asked to be brought to the tomb, where Jesus wept. John 11:35, happens to not only be the shortest verse in the Bible, but speaks volumes about the love and compassion that Christ has for those whom he loves. We see that Jesus now shows a sign that demonstrates the glory of God:

Jesus Raises Lazarus

BLCF: Lazarus

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Footnotes: a. John 11:6 Greek he; also verse 17 b. John 11:16 Greek Didymus c. John 11:18 Greek fifteen stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters d. John 11:25 Some manuscripts omit and the life e. John 11:33 Or was indignant; also verse 38

It is interesting that as the Lord instructs Martha to have the stone removed from the entrance of Lazarus’ tomb, and Martha worries and complains to Jesus that after four days Lazarus’ body will give an odor of death.

Jesus demonstrates to Martha, Mary and the Jews gathered at the tomb, that he is indeed the resurrection and the life, by calling Lazarus to rise to life and come out of the tomb.

This brings us to our third and final Scripture passage, John 12:1-8 (ESV):

Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

BLCF: Mary-anoints-Jesus-feet07sm

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound[a] of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it[c] for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Footnotes: a. John 12:3 Greek litra; a litra (or Roman pound) was equal to about 11 1/2 ounces or 327 grams b. John 12:5 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer c. John 12:7 Or Leave her alone; she intended to keep it

Jesus returns to the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, this time to be the guest of honor of a dinner, served to celebrate the resurrection of Lazarus.

While Martha serves the meal, with Lazarus reclining at the table with Jesus. Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with an expensive, fragrant ointment, wiping the Lord’s feet with her hair.

For her actions, Mary again becomes the object of ridicule, this time by the disciple Judas. Judas complains that the anointing is a waste of money and a better use of the ointment would have been selling it and giving the money to the poor.

Jesus tells Judas to leave Mary alone as the ointment could be used for his own impending death and burial. After all, anointing Jesus was an act that celebrates God’s glory, Christ’s lordship over death, as witnessed by the resurrection of Lazarus.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God be the Glory

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

BLCF: Holy_Spirit_Romans_8_11

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Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony

BLCF: Jonah_and_Whale

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony’ 

© April 17, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 17, 2016

BLCF: Jonah&Whale

 

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 (Christian Baptism – from Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer                                                                              

 Opening Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again; Choruses

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

 Scriptures: Luke 11:29-36; Romans 6:1-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18                   

Jonah

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning praise and worship service at BLCF Church. For our lesson today, we will examine the Scripture’s account of the Prophet Jonah and the Wale, or to be more precise, a large fish. While a large fish plays a part in the lesson narrative, Jonah’s account is, by no means, a fish story or fishy tale.

Rather than read through the three chapters of the Book of Jonah, let us check what I like to refer to as our Wikibits on the subject, which presents an interpretation that agrees with most Biblical scholars:

Book of Jonah (From Christianity.about.com):

BLCF: Jonah-and-the-Whale

The book of Jonah is different from the other prophetic books of the Bible. Typically, prophets issued warnings or gave instructions to the people of Israel. Instead, God told Jonah to evangelize in the city of Nineveh, home of Israel’s cruelest enemy. Jonah didn’t want those idolaters to be saved, so he ran away.

When Jonah ran from the call of God, one of the oddest events in the Bible occurred—the story of Jonah and the Whale.

The book of Jonah highlights God’s patience and lovingkindness, and his willingness to give those who disobey him a second chance.

Author of the Book of Jonah: The Prophet Jonah, son of Amittai. Date Written: 785-760 B.C.

Jonah and the Whale – Story Summary:

BLCF: jonah_1

The story of Jonah and the Whale, one of the oddest accounts in the Bible, opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

Jonah found this order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Jonah, a stubborn fellow, did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew cast lots, determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First they tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher.

Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. The crew made a sacrifice to God, swearing vows to him.

Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer. He praised God, ending with the eerily prophetic statement, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9, NIV)

Jonah was in the giant fish three days. God commanded the whale, and it vomited the reluctant prophet onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message and repented, wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.

Again Jonah questioned God, because Jonah was angry that Israel’s enemies had been spared. When Jonah stopped outside the city to rest, God provided a vine to shelter him from the hot sun. Jonah was happy with the vine, but the next day God provided a worm that ate the vine, making it wither. Growing faint in the sun, Jonah complained again.

God scolded Jonah for being concerned about a vine, but not about Nineveh, which had 120,000 lost people. The story ends with God expressing concern even about the wicked.

Points of Interest from Jonah and the Whale:

  • God commands everything in his Creation, from the weather to a whale, to carry out his plan. God is in control.
  • Jonah spent the same amount of time—three days—inside the whale as Jesus Christ did in the tomb. Christ also preached salvation to the lost.
  • It’s not important whether it was a great fish or a whale that swallowed Jonah. The point of the story is that God can provide a supernatural means of rescue when his people are in trouble.
  • Some scholars believe the Ninevites paid attention to Jonah because of his bizarre appearance. They speculate that the whale’s stomach acid bleached Jonah’s hair, skin, and clothing a ghostly white.
  • Jesus did not consider the book of Jonah to be a fable or myth. While modern skeptics may find it impossible that a man could survive inside a great fish for three days, Jesus compared himself to Jonah, showing that this prophet existed and that the story was historically accurate.

http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/a/Jonah-And-The-Whale.htm

BLCF: jonah7

I would like to suggest to those who have studied animal classification, who might have objections to referring to a whale, a mammal, as being a fish, we should not allow the author some slack, as the inventor of modern scientific classification, Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), had not been born.

While the interchangeable use of whale and fish can be overlooked, the conclusion that the Jonah account parallels the story of Jesus is not completely accurate.

Both Jonah and Jesus came to evangelize the message of God’s plan of forgiveness and salvation, Jonah was God’s Prophet, with Jesus being the Word made flesh. In other words, while Jonah preached God’s plan for saving humanity from the judgement of sin, Jesus’ sacrifice provided humanity with the means to become saved and forgiven, by faith.

The parallel between Jonah and Jesus ends, when we see that Jonah rebelled against God and ran away in the opposite direction.

Jonah willingness to sacrifice his own life to appease God’s anger, in order to save the crew of the boat, has drawn comparisons with the Lord’s self-sacrifice for humanity. The comparison fails when we consider that Jonah had committed the sin of offending God and Jesus was innocent of any sin.

Then, we have the comparison between Jonah and Jesus with regards to the three day’s Jesus’ body was kept in the tomb until his resurrection, being akin to the same number of days Jonah stayed inside the fish. It must be noted that Jonah’s being kept alive by God inside the fish for the three days is not the same as Jesus being dead in the tomb for three days, before being resurrected.

This raises the comparison to what did the Lord mean when he described his own resurrection in Luke 11:29-36 (ESV), as being the The Sign of Jonah:

The Sign of Jonah

BLCF: sign_of_Jonah2

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

While both Jonah and Jesus ministered to a sinful world, offering God’s forgiveness, we see the Lord pointed out in verse 32 that his sign or miracle would be not only greater than Jonah’s given to the people of Nineveh, and the Lord’s wisdom is greater than that of King Solomon. For after the Lord death, resurrection and ascension, comes the light of God’s Holy Spirit to all who forgiven by faith, Christ warns us not to hide or extinguish the light of the Spirit and fall back into the darkness of sin, as we continue to read from Luke 11:

The Light in You

BLCF: Jonah4

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

Like Jonah, believers in the resurrected Christ are commissioned to evangelize the Gospel of Christ unto the ends of the world.

I feel that the lesson to be learned from Jonah’s account does present an example to us of God’s forgiveness and preserving a life for His plan to evangelize to the sinners of the world. However, instead of comparing Jonah’s salvation to Christ’s, we need to view it in the context of the rebirth of Christian believers, who must evangelize, as apostles or messengers to the world of the salvation message contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we see in Romans 6:1-14 (ESV);

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

BLCF: dead2sin

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Footnotes: a. Romans 6:6 Greek man b. Romans 6:7 Greek has been justified

While we are instructed by the Lord to evangelize the Gospel message not as Jonah had to a single people, but the Good News of Jesus unto the ends of the world. We should never lose our hope and faith in Christ’s resurrection and encourage one another in this hope, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV):

The Coming of the Lord

BLCF: 2nd-coming-dramatic

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Footnotes:a. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Or by the word of the Lord

Finally, as believers in the Resurrected Lord, we should take comfort that Jonah, in spite of being confined in the belly of a giant fish, facing his own uncertain fate, did not allow the surrounding darkness  to extinguish the light of his own faith in God, as we see in Jonah’s testimony that is also his prayer, Jonah 2 (ESV), which I would like to read as a closing prayer for today’s lesson.

Let us pray:

Jonah’s Prayer

 BLCF: Jonah3

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
    at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (AMEN)

10 And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Closing Hymn #248: One Day When Heaven Was Filled

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: Jonah-Woodcut

Blessed Quietness in the Storms of the Soul

BLCF: Spiritual-war-wave-vs-light

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Blessed Quietness in the Storms of the Soul’

© April 10, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin April 10, 2016

Sparling_2_4_1_08, 4/3/08, 12:25 PM, 8C, 9324x10101 (0+1252), 117%, Custom, 1/50 s, R16.1, G8.2, B15.3

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #650 (Trials and Temptations – from James 1 and 1 Peter 1); Prayer                                         

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

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

Scriptures: Leviticus 11:4-8; Mark 4:35-41; Mark 5:1-20; Mark 7:14-30

BLCF: Jesus_calms_the_storm

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and worship Service. This morning’s lesson, Blessed Quietness in the Storms of the Soul, will examine the two types of storms or challenges to our faith and salvation, often encountered by followers of Christ. These challenges may be thought of as being either internal or external in nature, or more precisely viewed as having characteristics that are mostly of a mental/emotional nature or existing in the physical environment.

We have a good example of the physical/external threat in the Scripture passage found in Mark 4:35-41(ESV), entitled:

Jesus Calms a Storm

BLCF: Jesus calms the sea

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

BLCF: Jesus_Apostles-17

Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, sailing from Capernaum south and east to the Region Gerasenes. The Sea of Galilee, also described as a large long lake, similar to Ontario’s Lake Nipissing, being subject to the effects of the prevailing winds which generate large rolling waves. These storms can be sudden and unpredictable, posing a threat to even moderately size vessels.

BLCF: Jesus-troubled-man

The storm described in Mark 4 was so severe, that they threatened to swamp and sink the vessel. Fearing for their lives, the disciples woke Jesus, who was sleeping upon a cushion located at the bow of the boat.

Jesus rebuked the wind and commanded the sea to be at “peace” and to “be still”.

Jesus then turned to his disciples asking them why they were so fearful and questioning why they were still lacking in faith’

It was almost as if part of the reason for the cruise was to test the faith of the disciples in the face of the threat of a great storm and affording the Lord with an opportunity to demonstrate that he was in fact the Son of God.  Jesus brought peace and calm by giving commands to these elements of nature to become calm, Mark 5:1-20 (ESV):

Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon

BLCF: freedom

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.[a] And when Jesus[b] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

BLCF: herd-of-pigs

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed[c] man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus[d] to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Footnotes: a. Mark 5:1 Some manuscripts Gergesenes; some Gadarenes b. Mark 5:2 Greek he; also verse 9 c. Mark 5:15 Greek daimonizomai; also verses 16, 18; elsewhere rendered oppressed by demons d. Mark 5:17 Greek him

 

Leviticus 11:4-8 (ESV)

BLCF: clean_unclean_food_chart

Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.

 Mark 7:14-30 (ESV) What Defiles a Person

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”[a] 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”[b] (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Jesus is neither telling anybody that what you eat or drink. is unimportant. nor whether or not you should wash your hands. He is challenging the legalism of behavior professed by the Scribes and Pharisees, which they used as a criteria of judging “the faith” of others.

What really matters is our faith for God, not whether we observe a set of rules disguised as expectations from on high.

 

The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith

BLCF: Annibale_Carracci,_Cristo_e_la_Cananea,_1595,_Parma

24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.[c] And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Footnotes: a. Mark 7:15 Some manuscripts add verse 16: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear b. Mark 7:19 Greek goes out into the latrine c. Mark 7:24 Some manuscripts omit and Sidon

As born-again believers in the resurrected Christ we must turn away from old beliefs and habits that do not glorify God or edify the body of believers. If we do find some aspects of our Christian walk that is not in line with Christ’s Commandments, like the son who said that he would not work for his father and then changed his mind, we too can change by the grace of our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #192: Joys Are Flowing Like a River (Blessed Quietness)                     

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: SIN-CAN-DEFILE-MANY-BIBLE-QUOTES-HD-WALLPAPERS-HEBREWS-12-15-spreadjesus.org

 

The Word by Name is Jesus Christ

BLCF;Word became flesh John_1_14

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Word by Name is Jesus Christ’

© April 3, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on July 14, 2013

BLCF Bulletin April 3, 2016

BLCF: Word became flesh

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading  #631 (Incarnate Christ – from John1); Prayer         

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

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

Scriptures: John 1:1; John 1:14; Acts 20:28-31; Matthew 21:23-32; Colossians 2:16-22 

BLCF: Word was God

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this the first Sunday of April 2016, and being the first Sunday of the month, happens to be Communion Sunday. This Tuesday also happens to be BLCF’s turn at hosting a community prayer walk, where five other area churches participate. So spread the work and join our walk.

Speaking of Word, I would like to begin this morning’s lesson, which is about another type of Word, by repeating verses 1 and 14 from Chapter 1 of John 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And 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.

We read in this short passage, consisting of only two relatively short verses, John using the proper pronoun ‘Word’ no less than four times. Or should I say more precisely ‘the Word’.  The Word was there in the beginning, that is to say, existing at the time of Creation. And the Word was there with God, the Creator of everything.  That is because the Word was God. Then the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Sounds a little like the Game of Jeopardy, where the players are given an answer and must phrase a question to match the corresponding question. In this case, our question might be phrased as: “Who was Jesus Christ?”

Yet, there are many people, including many Christians, who would incorrectly attempt to match with the definition of the Word, the question: “What is the Bible?”

When you stop and think about it, it seems quite silly to imagine that a Book, inspired by God, created for humanity just happened to be there, existing before Creation. That the Word is God was really the Scriptures or Bible, we must then view Godhead Trinity as a quartet of sorts: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Bible. And finally, if “the Word became flesh” meant the Bible, then we have a description of a sort of ‘Illustrated Man of Scriptures’, to dwell amongst us, which is really twisting God’s message.

I believe that it is safe to conclude that the Word in John Chapter 1 does not refer to the Holy Scriptures. Besides, we need the presence of the Holy Spirit, to admonish and to convict us of the truth of the Scriptures, not vice versa. And this conviction will only happen after we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

What we can say about the John 1 passage is that Jesus, not the Bible, existed in another form at the time of the creation, and before the creation. And that the Word is part of the Holy Trinity, who was with and is   God. It was later, that the Word took the form of human flesh, as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who ministered to us, fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, ultimately becoming a living sacrifice for all of humanity on the Cross and after ascending to Heaven sent a comforter to all who believe in the form of the Holy Spirit. The Bible did not send us the Holy Spirit.

By contrast, we have the Scriptures, or the Bible, as the inspired word (spelled with a lower case w) of God. So let us see what our Wiki bits, from the Wikipedia, say about the Greek word Logos, which we translate in English as the Word:

Logos – Word

BLCF: Word - John_1_1_2

The Old Testament has given an essential contribution to the New Testament Christological message for Christ as Logos, translated as the Word. The Word is with God from the beginning (Gen 1:1 John 1:1), powerfully creative (Gen 1:1-2:4 Isa 55:10-11 Ps 33:6,9;107:20 Judith 16:14) and God’s personified self-expression. Like wisdom, the word expresses God’s active power and self-revelation in the created world. Solomon‘s prayer for wisdom takes word and wisdom as synonymous Even so, John’s prologue does not open by saying: “In the beginning was Wisdom, and Wisdom was with God, and Wisdom was God” (cf. John 1:1).

Despite the fact that, in the literature of pre-Christian Judaism, wisdom, word, and, for that matter, spirit were “near alternatives as ways of describing the active, immanent power of God”, there are several considerations to understand why John chose word and not wisdom. First, given that Sophia (Greek for wisdom) was personified as Lady Wisdom (e.g., Proverbs 1:20-33;8:1-9:6 Wis 8:2), it could have seemed awkward to speak of this female figure “being made flesh” when Jesus was male. Second, in Hellenistic Judaism the law of Moses had been identified with wisdom (Sir 24:23 Bar 4:1-4) and credited with many of her characteristics. To announce then that “Wisdom was God and was made flesh” could have been felt to suggest that “the Torah was God and was made flesh”. Within a few years Christians were to identify the Son of God and Logos with law or the law, but, neither John nor any other New Testament authors identified Christ with the Torah. Third, Paul, Luke (especially in Acts of the Apostles), and other New Testament witnesses prepared the way for John’s prologue by their use of logos for God’s revelation through Christ.

Both in New Testament times and later, the Johannine “Word” offered rich Christological possibilities. First the possibility of identification and distinction. On the one hand, words proceed from a speaker; being a kind of an extension of the speaker, they are, in a certain sense, identical with the speaker (“the Word was God”). On the other hand, a word is distinct from one who utters it (“the Word was with God”). Therefore, Christ was/is identified with, yet distinct from, YHWH. Second, God has been uttering the divine Word always (“in/from the beginning”); the Word “was” (not “came to be”) God. In this context “Word” opens up reflection on the personal, eternal pre-existence of the Logos-Son. God has never been without the Word.

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

 By definition, then the Word, like wisdom, expresses God’s active power and self-revelation in the created world. And to obtain wisdom and understanding in the Scriptures, we need the help of God, the Holy Spirit.

Still many people have the misguided impression that the Scriptures are the Word and therefore must be revered or worship. It is almost as if the Bible is worshiped by itself, which could be viewed as idolatry. Without faith and the Holy Spirit, the message in the Bible which is the gospel of Jesus Christ is meaningless to non-believers in the resurrected Christ. The verses which support this statement (and some people, again, mistakenly believe refer to the word of Scriptures instead of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh are, 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV):

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God 

BLCF: 1Corinthians1-18    

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

1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

     BLCF: 1corinthians_2_14-nonchristianscantunderstand      

 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

The world is filled with many who, through memorization, can recite Scriptures, but who as non-believers lack the understanding or discernment, provided by the Holy Spirit, to appreciate the Gospel message of Salvation or anything else that is of the Spirit of God.

While you recall from recent sermons, it was discussed how Satan distorts and twists the words of God, as he did to Adam and Eve in the garden promoting a desire to be on the same level of God. Sin was passed on to their descendants, which manifested in their son, a jealousy so strong that it led to Cain killing his brother, Abel.

But, Satan is not satisfied with destroying the faith and trust of non-believers. The devil seeks to destroy churches by creating dissension amongst the body of believers, as demonstrated by the zealots who follow the King James Only, treating one English translation of the original Greek and Hebrew Scriptures as the only true Word of God. Anything after King James is considered by this group to be heresy or the work of the devil. Sound familiar? You may recall that how the Pharisees used the Scriptures to promote their agenda and challenge Jesus, who after all being the Word made flesh is God.

There are many intelligent reasons why we need to have the Bible translated into other languages, including modern English, it goes back to that Tower of Babel that we discussed a few Sunday’s ago. Regardless of the language, the translation is foolishness to those who do not have the Holy Spirit to understand them. And considering Jesus’ Commandments to love God and love our neighbor, any theology that renders discord and division among the members of the body of Christ’s Church cannot be of the Spirit. By its very nature: to promote one group of people superior over others sounds very much like the temptation of the Garden of Eden all over again. The negative emotions it generates is like what Cain felt as described in Genesis 4, where God warned Cain that sin is crouching at the door:

Genesis 4:6-7 (ESV)

BLCF: Cain_sin

6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

The devil loves to see Christians preoccupied with precious time in debate and dissention instead of building the church body. But like the lesson of the Goats and Sheep in Matthew 25:31-46, we will be judged by how we behave to others. That is why we use Matthew 25 as the Mission Statement for our BLCF Cafe Community Dinner.

Those of you who have attended Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship for the last few years may recall such a zealot proponent of the King James Only disrupting sermons of Pastor Andrew, Pastor Don and me over the last couple of years by interrupting the message in an attempt to launch a debate with the speaker regarding his KJO campaign. Fortunately, by the Grace of the Spirit, the speakers were not drawn into transforming a service intended to worship and praise God into something that does neither. Our KJO friend attempted again to initiate a debate at the end of my message at last Wednesday’s Community Dinner. Realizing that a debate draws me from serving the Lord at the BLCF Cafe, I disengaged from Mr. KJO who wanted to disrupt Terry’s ministry in music.  But what does the Bible say about those who focus on debating theology over actions that help demonstrate the love and compassion of the Lord?

James 1:22-27 (ESV)

BLCF: Jesus_in_mirror

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

It is not surprising to find Satan attacking the body of believers in Christ’s own Church. The Apostle Luke gives warning in Acts 20:28-31 (ESV):

BLCF: wolf_in_sheepsclothing

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

But the danger is not only from such fringe groups, who seem happier with destroying God’s Church, rather than doing something constructive. The danger lies in the fact that members of these groups and those whom they draw into their debates are both body of the Church, which has Christ at its head. This brings us to the lesson taught by the Parable of the Two Sons, Matthew 21:23-32 (ESV):

The Authority of Jesus Challenged

BLCF: Matthew_21_23-32

23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

   The Parable of the Two Sons

BLCF: Parable of Two Sons

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

The lesson of this parable is that tax collectors and prostitutes who are judged by the chief priests and elders as sinners will go to the kingdom of God because they have believed. And the self-righteous chief priest and elders will not because they lack the conviction of faith to back their words.

The final bit of advice, comes from the epistle which scholars generally believe to have been authored by the Apostle Paul, found in Colossians 2:16-22 (ESV):

Let No One Disqualify You

BLCF: walk_by_faith_not_by_sight

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?

As born-again believers in the resurrected Christ we must turn away from old beliefs and habits that do not glorify God or edify the body of believers. If we do find some aspects of our Christian walk that is not in line with Christ’s Commandments, like the Son who said that he would not work for his father and then changed his mind, we too can change by the grace of our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Last_Supper

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

Closing Hymn #240: Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord                       

Benediction – (Romans 1:7):                                                                                                                                                             To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: Word_Made_Flesh

JOIN US FOR A PRAYER WALK IN THE HEART OF TORONTO!

BLCF: prayer walk2

JOIN US FOR A PRAYER WALK IN THE HEART OF

TORONTO!

TO PRAY FOR OUR COMMUNITY !

***********************************

On the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 PM

Join with those from other local churches

to worship, and to pray for one another and for the

surrounding neighbourhood.

*******************************************

On TUESDAY, APRIL 5th, 2016

We will be gathering in the heart of Toronto at

BLOOR LANSDOWNE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

1307 Bloor Street West, 416-535-9578

(Just West of Lansdowne Avenue)

Get an update on the ongoing outreach initiatives

that are giving BLCF Church an important street presence

and ministry !

EVERY PRAYER COUNTS !

So let’s join together in faith looking to God

for His blessing on our community!

BLCF: Prayer-Walk-1