Anticipating the Company of Christ

BLCF: Jesus_and_Mary_manger_by_bnw-cross

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Company of Christ 

© December 25, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin-December-25-2016

BLCF: Wishing-You-A-Blessed-Peaceful-Christmas-animated

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Lighting the Christ Candle – (Galatians 4:1-6): 

                                      BLCF: animation_candle_flame-free                                                                  

4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

BLCF; Nativity

Responsive Reading #627: The Savior’s Advent (Luke 2); Prayer                                                             

Opening Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Carols (Hymnal)                                              

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

Scripture Verses: Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 1:18-25  

                                                                            

       Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

BLCF: Mary-Nativity

 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

 

 Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) The Birth of Jesus Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Christmas 2011

 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.                                  

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

BLCF: Christ-candle

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church on this Christmas Sunday, where we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Messiah to become the final sacrifice for the sins of humanity and to bring the Divine light to world as  is symbolized by lighting the Christ Candle today.

While the main focus of Christmas seems to be the birth of our Lord and Savior, there is much more to consider about Jesus’ arrival.

God’s plan was to send His Son, Jesus, to be born of a woman, Mary. So Jesus had a lineage traced back to Jesse, the father of King David and to God, our King in heaven.

Though Jesus was the ‘Son of God’, he would often refer to himself, humbly as the ‘son of man’. And as the son of man, he sought to be baptized before receiving the Holy Spirit and beginning his ministry, which we read in Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV):

Jesus is Baptized

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16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”    

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or theBeloved

A few days ago, Sophie and I received word that a good friend of ours, who happens to be a brother in Christ, was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis does not look very promising. Which brings us to the conundrum we face as Christians: ‘Why’?

Sure, we know that our bodies have an expiration date and one day we will be called home by our Maker, but skeptics and those with little faith may ask: ‘Why not ask God to bring a healing and restoration of full health to our friend’?

While we have anointed friends who suffer from afflictions at BLCF Church and even had our faithful petitions answered by God, there are times when healing is not part of God’s plan. We must also be cautious that our requests are not putting God to the test, as was the perception of when the devil tested Jesus after the Lord was baptized in the Spirit, as described in Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV):

 Jesus is Tested

BLCF: even_Jesus_was_tempted

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’  and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

While you may recall that the shepherds and angels joyfully celebrated the birth of Jesus, our Lord faced a grim prognosis for himself, as we see in Matthew 27:45-50 (ESV):

The Death of Jesus

BLCF: Jesus-Picture-On-The-Cross-It-Is-Finished-Crucifixion

 45 Now from the sixth hour[a] there was darkness over all the land[b] until the ninth hour.[c] 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.                                        

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:45 That is, noon b. Matthew 27:45 Or earth c. Matthew 27:45 That is, 3 p.m.

God could have intervened and prevented the death of His only Son. But this was not part of our Father’s Divine Plan, as Jesus was totally abandoned by his Father, and our Lord met his gruesome, painful death without comfort from his loving Father, which is the only way Christ could assume humanity’s judgment for their sins.

But now we get to the part of Christ’s Gospel which had caused the angels to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Not only did Jesus remove the scourge of sin and the judgement of death, which he took upon himself to die as the son of man, Christ proved that he was the Son of God, by his resurrection from death. Jesus returned not as a proof of his own Divinity, but with an assignment and a promise to his disciples, described in Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV):

 The Great Commission

BLCF: the_great_commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 28:19 Or into

The proof of the love and commitment of Jesus was first confirmed on the Day of Pentecost, which we find on the Scripture Passage found in Acts 2:1-4  (ESV):

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

BLCF: Pentecost_Dove

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.                                                                                                                      

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

So I would like to conclude our Christmas Lesson today, to remind you that Jesus could not have fulfilled God’s Plan for salvation without being born as the son of a woman and by being the Son of God. Christ defeated the devil, restored humanity’s place as Children of God, which we see in the same passage that I read as we lit the Christ Candle at the beginning of today’s service, Galatians 4:1-6 (ESV):

Sons and Heirs

BLCF: Galatians-4_1-6

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles[b] of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”                        

Footnotes: a. Galatians 4:1 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface; also verse 7 b. Galatians 4:3 Or elemental spirits; also verse 9

Though Jesus came as an infant, the son of a woman, he raised by a women, he took our place to be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a judgment of death for sins of which he was innocent.

Though he was convicted, jesus died on the cross, and was buried, the Son of God, he arose from the grave, which demonstrated his Divinity.

In spite of his treatment and sacrifice, Jesus proved his love and Lordship by ascending to sit beside the Father, to be our advocate in heaven and gift us with the Holy Spirit of God. Thus our Lord is granting us the company of His Spirit forever. What a blessing!

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Benediction – (Romans 15:13): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

holy-spirit-teaches

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Anticipating the Love of Christ

BLCF: Romans-8_38-39

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Love of Christ

© December 18, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin-December-18-2016

BLCF: 4_advent-candle_wreath

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, where over the last four Sundays, including today, we lit four Advent Candles to honor four of the virtues brought to this world by the birth of Jesus, as son of Mary and son of God. The four virtues: hope, peace, joy, and love. As we light the Advent Candle, representing the Lord’s love, we have a Scripture passage which includes His four virtues:

Lighting Fourth Advent Candle (Love) – Romans 5:1-8 (ESV):

BLCF: animation_candle_flame-free

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.                                                                                                                   

Footnotes: a. Romans 5:1 Some manuscripts let us b. Romans 5:2 Some manuscripts omit by faith c. Romans 5:2 Or let us; also verse 3 d. Romans 5:2 Or boast; also verses 3, 11

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #632:                                             God’s Redeeming Love (John 3, 1 John 4); Prayer                                                    

Opening Hymn #137: What Wondrous Love Is This?; Christmas Hymns          

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

Scriptures: Isaiah 54:10, Psalm 107:1-3, 1 Corinthians 2:9, John 15:13,                                      1 John 3:1, John 3:16

BLCF: love-one-another-feet-washing

Let us pray…

The title of today’s lesson is Anticipating the Love of Christ’. The Bible says that we are created in God’s image and those good characteristics reflect those good virtues of God.

So how important is the virtue of Love, represented by the fourth candle of Advent? For an answer, let us look at the Scripture passage 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV), found on the back of today’s Bulletin, entitled:

The Way of Love

BLCF: greatest-is-love

 13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Footnotes: a.1 Corinthians 13:3 Some manuscripts deliver up my body [to death] that I may boast b. 1 Corinthians 13:5 Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing

Today’s featured Scriptures give us a better idea of the greatest virtue, love, beginning with  Isaiah 54:10 (ESV):

 10 For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

BLCF: isaiah-54-10

 

While the virtues of hope, peace and joy may grow and diminish, for believers the virtue of love endures, as we read in our next Scripture, Psalm 107:1-3 (ESV), entitled:

BLCF: his-steadfast-love-endures-forever

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

107 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble[
a]
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 107:2 Or from the hand of the foe

And if love is the greatest virtue, the greatest example of love by the sacrificial love that the Lord demonstrated when he gave up his life on Calvary’s Cross, in order to pay for the sins of humanity, John 15:13 (ESV):

 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

BLCF: nogreaterlove

Our faith in Christ’s love and sacrifice not only separates us from the world, which does not understand His love or our faith, 1 John 3:1 (ESV):

 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

BLCF: child-of-God

But why did God have His son come as a child, who is both son of man and Son of God. We find the plan and the purpose of Jesus’ birth in John 3:16 (ESV), which has the title:

For God So Loved the World

BLCF: John_3_16

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

Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world

And remembering the Lord’s commandments to love God and love our neighbors, we find God has prepared more than we have seen, heave heard of, or even imagined as a reward, 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV):

But, as it is written,

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

BLCF: 1-corinthians-2-9

 

The greatest virtue, the Lord’s Love, transcends or surpasses all obstacles that could separate us from His love and His presence, Romans 8:38-39 (ESV);

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

BLCF: Romans-8_31-39

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #120: Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

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: do-everything-in-love

Help Toronto’s Homeless Keep Warm In The Extreme Cold

BLCF: extreme-cold-weather-alert-logo

BLCF: cold-2016-12-16t20-14-04-133z-1280x720

Now that the weather’s turning cold, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is asking for donations of socks, gloves, scarves and toques for our homeless and marginalized guests in the heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. Donations may be brought to the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, (Wednesdays between 6 and 8 PM). To arrange delivery at a different time, contact Sophie by email: blcfcafe@yahoo.ca or call BLCF at 416-535-9578.

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Not a bread line, food bank or soup kitchen, BLCF Café has been serving wholesome dinners to upwards of 150 of Toronto’s homeless every Wednesday evening since January 2008.

BLCF: cold-windchills

BLCF Cafe/BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, one block west of Lansdowne Avenue. Help bring some warmth to those in need.

BLCF: cold-polar-vortex

Anticipating the Joy of Christ

BLCF: christmas_angel_joy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Joy of Christ

© December 11, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: bulletin-december-11-2016

joy-banner

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #631:                        Incarnate Christ (John 1); Prayer                                                              

Lighting Third Advent Candle (Joy) – Hebrews 12:1-2

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

BLCF: hebrews-12_1-2

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee                                                                    

Hymn #106: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing   

Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel                                                                     

Hymn #103: O Come, All Ye Faithful                                                                  

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

Today’s Scriptures: Luke 2:7-20, Luke 15:7, Luke 10:21-24, John 16:16-24     

BLCF: Good News of Great Joy

Let us pray…

Before I begin our lesson today, by acknowledging some thirty or so volunteers from Wednesday’s BLCF Café Community Dinner who attended last Friday’s Volunteer Appreciation Potluck Dinner. It is great to have an opportunity to recognize the hours of dedicated service spent serving the least of our brothers and sisters.

I would to remind the BLCF Congregation of our own Church Potluck Luncheon, next Sunday afternoon following the Worship Service. We hope that you are able to attend.

Our lesson for this the third Sunday of Advent is entitled: ‘Anticipating the Joy of Christ’, where the world anticipated the joy that arrived with the birth of the Christ Child, Jesus, as we read in the first of today’s Scripture passages, Luke 2:7-20 (ESV), where one of a host of angels of the Lord shares the news with the shepherds:

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

BLCF: shepherds-and-angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[
a]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

BLCF+Angels+Nativity

The shepherds and the angels account found in Luke 2 does remind me of another passage about joy among those in heaven, Luke 15:7 (ESV):

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

I find it interesting that all of heaven, including God’s angels celebrate, when a sinner accepts the gift of Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lord the Lord explained at the conclusion of his ‘Parable of the Lost Sheep’.

I think it is fair to conclude that the Heavenly Host broke into song at the birth of the Christ child, because they knew that Jesus came to fulfill Gods’ desire to demonstrate His love and desire for reconciliation Himself and all people, of their sins and the promise of a New Covenant for all who have faith and trust in His Divine plan. Thus sinners who repent receive His forgiveness, because He loves us, John 3:16 (ESV), because:

For God So Loved the World

BLCF: John-3_16

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

Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world

And with the birth of Jesus, let us reflect upon the message of joy from the angels witnessed by the shepherds. God gave us, through His only son Jesus, a path to reconciliation and salvation leading to humanity’s joy as represented the third Advent Candle lit at the beginning of our service today.

Jesus finds joy with those who find knowledge and understanding of God’s will and purpose, as we read in our next Scripture passage, Luke 10:21-24 (ESV):

Jesus Rejoices in the Father’s Will

'The Joy found in Christ's Friendship' (John 15:11)

‘The Joy found in Christ’s Friendship’ (John 15:11)

21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 10:21 Or for so it pleased you well

Through Jesus, the sorrows suffered by humanity will turn into joy, which is told in today’s third Scripture passage, John 16:16-24 (ESV):

 Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

BLCF: joy_in_heaven

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

God’s joy and humanity’s joy are both made complete when we accept and believe in His message of salvation through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son, our Lord, Jesus. We find this Word of Life on the front of today’s BLCF Bulletin, found in 1 John 1:1-4 (ESV);

The Word of Life

BLCF: Word became flesh

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete.

Footnotes: a. 1 John 1:4 Some manuscripts your

This Christmas, let us not only remember the joy associated with the birth of the Christ Child, but honor the Lord’s gifts of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life, through Jesus which truly completes our joy.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #120: Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF: ac_header_image

 

Advent – Christ’s Promise and Reward Beyond the Dash

BLCF: live-expectantly-header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Advent – Christ’s Promise and Reward Beyond the Dash’

© December 4, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

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Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #614: Peace and Renewal (Micah 4 and 7); Prayer                                                                                   

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, where today we have a dual Advent Observe Service: the first being second Sunday of Advent and we shall observe the second advent of Jesus by partaking the elements of Communion.

BLCF: second-sunday-of-advent2

But what is meant by coming of the Lord, which has yet to take place, by observing Communion as a single Church or Body of Believers. The Wikibits definition of Advent found on the back of today’s Bulletin indicates:

ad·vent ˈadˌvent/noun
noun: advent; plural noun: advents

  1. The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
    G. “the advent of television”
  2. Synonyms: arrival, appearance, emergence, materialization, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, development; 
    approach, coming
    G. “the advent of a new school year”
  3. antonyms: disappearance

Advent is the first season of the Christian Church Year leading up to Christmas, and including, the four preceding Sundays.
noun: Advent

In Christian Theology; Advent denotes the coming, or second coming, of Christ.
noun: Advent

https://www.google.ca/search?q=advent+definition&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&gws_rd=cr&ei=_gRbVobdA8O9eZb4tNgF

Lighting of the Second Advent Candle

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Many Christians in Canada celebrate the beginning of the Advent season on the first Sunday of Advent. It marks the start of the Christian year in western Christianity.  And each of the four Sunday’s prior to Christmas, most Christians light a candle representing a virtue associated with Jesus. The candles often are set within an evergreen wreath. The evergreen boughs signifying renewal and eternal life and the circular shape is symbolic of the eternal perfection of God.  In the centre of the wreath it is common to place a fifth candle, called the Christ Candle that is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas day to signify the Savior’s birth.

Last Sunday, we lit the first of our four Advent Candles, called Candle of Prophecy or Hope, to represent the 800 years humanity waited for the prophecy to be completed, which is the arrival the Christ, the Messiah.

Today, we light a second Advent Candle, also known as the Candle of Peace and Fulfilment. And as the candle is lit, I will read from Ephesians 2:13-18, which is found inside today’s bulletin, within the Order of Service:

Lighting of the Second Advent Candle – Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV):

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Opening Hymn #104: It Came upon the Midnight Clear; Choruses                 

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

Today’s Scriptures: Micah 5:1-5, Isaiah 9:6, Haggai 2:1-9

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Let us pray…

Just as Sunday is a time to rest and reflect on what God had accomplished in the preceding six days all that is good, on Advent Sunday we should focus upon the virtues brought to the world with the birth of Jesus.

Unlike the life of other people, whose accomplishments are bracketed between their date of birth and the day of their passing, represented by the dash found between the day of birth and time of death, Jesus impacted the world before and after the period which he lived with the humanity of this world.

The prophecy of Christ’s birth engendered hope among the people, which led to faith. The birth in Bethlehem, of the ‘Prince of Peace’, is prophesized in Micah 5:1-5 (ESV):

The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

BLCF: messianic-prophecy

[a] Now muster your troops, O daughter[b] of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
2 [
c] But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

Footnotes: a. Micah 5:1 Chapter 4:14 in Hebrew b. Micah 5:1 That is, city . Micah 5:2 Chapter 5:1 in Hebrew

But it is the events before the Lord’s birth and after His crucifixion that make the true foundation of our faith. The anticipation of His birth and what happened after His crucifixion inspire humanity’s faith. Advent anticipates the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, who is the Son of God.

In our second Scripture passage, from Haggai 2:1-9 (ESV), we have prophesied  the shaking of the heavens and the earth, including the dry land and sea, and all the treasures will be reclaimed. But the Lord promises to keep His covenants, to have his Spirit present in the midst of His flock and in place of the worldly destruction, he will provide a chosen one who will bring the peace of God, by way of a cross, in order to restore His temple, which is the Body of Believers:

 The Coming Glory of the Temple

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2 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

Christ came not to just fulfill prophecy, but implement God’s plan. That plan was not to revoke God’s judgement and punishment for our sin, but Christ would take both the judgement and punishment for sin upon Himself.

Jesus was born and raised among humanity as both the son of man and Son of God, who in time taught, ministered, healed, and ultimately sacrificed His life for His brothers and sisters.

If that were all there was to the story of Christ, the world might conclude that Jesus was caring, loving prophet of God. But Jesus was not a prophet, but God’s fulfillment of His prophecy. Though Jesus died for our sins, he overcame death by the power of the Spirit, proving that he is truly the Way, the Resurrection, and the Life. Jesus, alone, is the door to heaven.

After Christ stayed on earth after His resurrection, he ascended to heaven, seated beside his Father to act as our advocated. Then from heaven, the Lord sent God’s Holy Spirit to consul, to comfort, to admonish, and to lead humanity on the path of righteousness. What Jesus before and after the dash of his time on earth is as important as what he accomplished here, for it respectively represents the promise and reward of our faith.

Our final Scripture, Isaiah 9:6, refers to the Godhead or Holy Trinity of our might God, Who as the Holy Spirit is a Wonderful Counselor; Who  also is: the Maker, the Everlasting Father; and as Jesus our Savior, the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (ESV):

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For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[
a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[
b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (Mark 14)                                                   

Closing Hymn #117: Silent Night! Holy Night!                             

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7): And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

BLCF: isaiah-9-6

The Case for Faith – On The First Advent Sunday

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church    

Praise and Worship Service

Order of Service 

11 AM Sunday, November 27, 2016

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Advent Sunday at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship

    First Advent Sunday at BLCF Church

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Lighting First Advent Candle –  ‘Prophecy Candle’ or ‘Candle Of Hope’  Romans 15:12-13E (ESV):

12 And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Lee Strobel’s:  ‘The Case for Faith, The Film’   

  LgPoster

Case for Faith – L. Strobel on Vimeo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaQxCyoalJQ

case-for-faith-the-book

The Case for Faith – Lakeside Christian Academy

 =http://www.lakesidechristianacademy.org/uploads/1/4/7/7/14775794/the_case_for_faith.pdf

 

The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates

the Toughest Objections to Christianity

 Was God telling the truth when he said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”? In his #1 bestseller The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel examined the claims of Christ, reaching the hard-won verdict that Jesus is God’s unique son. In The Case for Faith, Strobel turns his skills to the most persistent emotional objections to belief—the eight “heart barriers” to faith. This Gold Medallion-winning book is for those who may be feeling attracted to Jesus but who are faced with difficult questions standing squarely in their path. For Christians, it will deepen their convictions and give them fresh confidence in discussing Christianity with even their most skeptical friends. “Everyone –seekers, doubters, fervent believers– benefits when Lee Strobel hits the road in search of answers, as he does again in The Case for Faith. In the course of his probing interviews, some of the toughest intellectual obstacles to faith fall away.” –Luis Palau “Lee Strobel has given believers and skeptics alike a gift in this book. He does not avoid seeking the most difficult questions imaginable, and refuses to provide simplistic answers that do more harm than good.” –Jerry Sittser, professor of religion, Whitworth College, and author of A Grace Disguised and The Will of God as a Way of Life

Lee Strobel was the award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and is the bestselling author of The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for Grace. With a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale, Lee has won four Gold Medallions for publishing excellence and coauthored the Christian Book of the Year, Experiencing the Passion of Jesus. He serves as Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University. Visit Lee’s website at leestrobel.com

 

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Power of the Spirit: Purchased by Faith, Not by Silver or Gold

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Power of the Spirit: Purchased by Faith, Not by Silver or Gold’

© November 20, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

Based on Message Shared with BLCF on February 16, 2014

B LCF: Bulletin-November-20-2016

BLCF: Simon heresy

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #669:                       (The Lord’s Servant – 2 Timothy 2 and 3); Prayer   

Opening Hymn #255: Would You Be Free from the Burden; Choruses 

Scripture Verses: Mark 16:14-20 and Acts 8:4-25

Nucci,_Avanzino_-_Petrus'_Auseinandersetzung_mit_Simon_Magus_-_1620

Let us pray …

Welcome to BLCF ‘s Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service.

Our lesson today, entitled: ‘Power of the Spirit: Purchased by Faith, Not by Silver or Gold’, we will examine the signs and miracles associated with the Spirit, which is gifted to believers. This signs are exhibited through the faith of the believer, solely as a testament to the power of the Lord, not to the person who demonstrates a miracle and belief in Christ.

In giving His Great Commission, the Lord did say there will be signs associated with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, as they preach his gospel, which was his final instructions before he ascended to heaven, as we read in Mark 16:14-20 (ESV):

The Great Commission

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

Another way of reading Mark 16:17-18 would be:

17 And these signs will accompany:

Those who believe in my name they will cast out demons.

Those who believe in my name will speak in new tongues.

 Those who believe in my name will pick up serpents with their hands.

Those who believe in my name, if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them.

 Those who believe in my name will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Remember, as Jesus was tempted by Satan from a high place in the desert, after he was baptized by John-the-Baptist, we are not to put God to the test by deliberately performing any of the acts described in Mark 16, as a public demonstration of faith. Miracles that come by the power of God are not intended to be part of a magician’s sideshow, or to sell books, Matthew 4:7 (ESV):

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

The only signs we are to concern ourselves with, are those that come by way of our preaching of the gospel in the name of the Lord. Those signs not being celestial, but associated with true believers in verses 17 and 18 of Mark 16:  

17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

In spite of the signs provided by God’s Holy Spirit for His disciples, as they shared the gospel, both in the time of Jesus and today, there are self-proclaimed prophets who present themselves as God’s messenger, using signs of magic to fool the people. The Scriptures provide an account of one self-proclaimed prophet and false disciple of the Lord, named Simon, (Simon Magus) who preached his false gospel in Samaria, in Acts 8:4-25 (ESV):

Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria

BLCF: Acts-8_5

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city[a] of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

Simon the Magician Believes

BLCF: Simon Sorcerer

But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles[b] performed, he was amazed.

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall[c] of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.           

Footnotes: a. Acts 8:5 Some manuscripts a city b. Acts 8:13 Greek works of power c. Acts 8:23 That is, a bitter fluid secreted by the liver; bile

Here is our Wikibits assessment of  Simon the Magician:

Wiki Notes on Simon Magus

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Simon the Sorcerer or Simon the Magician, in Latin Simon Magus, (Greek Σίμων ὁ μάγος) was a Samaritan magus or religious figure and a convert to Christianity, baptised by Philip the Evangelist, whose later confrontation with Peter is recorded in Acts 8:9–24. The sin of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is named for Simon. The Apostolic Constitutions also accuses him of lawlessness.[1] According to Recognitions, Simon’s parents were named Antonius and Rachel.[2]

Surviving traditions about Simon appear in orthodox texts, such as those of IrenaeusJustin MartyrHippolytus, and Epiphanius, where he is often regarded as the source of all heresiesJustin wrote that nearly all the Samaritans in his time were adherents of a certain Simon of Gitta, a village not far from Flavia Neapolis. Irenaeus held him as being one of the founders of Gnosticism and the sect of the Simonians.[3][4][5][6] Hippolytus quotes from a work he attributes to Simon or his followers the Simonians, Apophasis Megale, or Great Declaration. According to the early church heresiologists Simon is also supposed to have written several lost treatises, two of which bear the titles The Four Quarters of the World and The Sermons of the Refuter.

In apocryphal works including the Acts of PeterPseudo-Clementines, and the Epistle of the Apostles, Simon also appears as a formidable sorcerer with the ability to levitate and fly at will.

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

 

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Upon reading the Scriptural account in Acts 8 carefully, you will see that the people of Samaria, including the false prophet Simon, were convicted by the miracles performed by the disciple Philip, as they were true signs from God. In verses 12 and 13, we read that the Samaritans, including Simon, were baptized in water,

12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles[b] performed, he was amazed. 

Now the tough part for some Baptists who hold the false belief that water baptism either follows or ensures baptism of the Spirit. We see that in verses 14 to 17:

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Only by a profession of faith, may one receive His Holy Spirit, see Acts 8:17,

  17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

However, the acts of observing God’s miracles, being baptised in water, and even after having received the touch by the hands of a disciple of the Lord does not guarantee one may receive the blessing of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will not enter a heart that is not prepared. Let us continue reading Acts 8, from verse 17:

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall[c] of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

BLCF: SIMON MAGUS

Peter observed that Simon, was still a slave to sin, and therefore subject to the judgment of death, Acts 8, verse 20:

20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!”

Simon acknowledges that his heart is, as Peter had observed, “not right before God”, as he is in the “bond of iniquity”, that he was still a slave to sin. Unfortunately, Simon’s reply, is to ask Peter to “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me”, indicating a reluctance by Simon to surrender completely to God, preventing the magician from receiving the Holy Spirit. This is confirmed by the mistaken belief on the part of Simon, when he attempts to purchase, with money, God’s free gift that was already purchased by Christ on Calvary’s cross. And one can only receive the gift of the Holy Spirit of God through genuine faith in the gift of Jesus; by the confession of, as well as the turning away from a life of sin; and by following the Lord, Jesus Christ.

It seems interesting to note that whenever money enters the picture, as with the offer to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit by Simon, or the sales of books claiming to reveal God’s purpose by way of observing celestial events, we see that God’s Holy Spirit is absent. Offering money in exchange for gifts of the Spirit, as Peter observed, indicates a heart that is not right with God and unworthy of the blessings of God’s Holy Spirit. There is no treasure on earth that can purchase a plan only to be revealed by God, in His chosen time.

I want to close today’s message by posing a question to you, framed in the form of a metaphor, about your own spiritual journey, as the answer has life or death consequences for your soul’s salvation:

“Are you racing alongside a speeding celestial train, as it travels on a magical media tour, hoping to buy salvation in a can, or have you placed your trust in the assurance of salvation by following Jesus’ Way to heaven, being the only true way to avoid the judgement of death?”  After all, the choice is yours.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #318: When We Walk with the Lord

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):                                                                    

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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