God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit

February 18, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 18, 2018 

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on April 14, 2013

BLCF Bulletin April 14, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                             

Opening Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior; Choruses                                             

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

Responsive Reading #624 of Prayer: (The Great Commission – from Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, and Mark 16)                                                                                                        

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit’

Let us pray…

Last Wednesday, called by some Christian churches as Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent, which is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. It interesting that the first day of Lent for 2018 happens to also fall on Saint Valentine’s Day, which occurred last in 1945,  Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

For our lesson today, let us look at the significance to what happened during Lent and the days following.

Much of today’s lesson is taken from the Book of Acts of the Apostles. We embark on a new chapter of the God’s Plan, where our Lord makes available a part of God or the Holy Trinity, which is the Holy Spirit, to all of humanity who call upon the name of the Lord; confess their sins; and decide to follow the Way of the Lord, being baptised in Holy Spirit.

The sequence of Events that occurred in the Holy Week is the basis of our faith and a proof of the Power of God, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19 (ESV):

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[a] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.                                                                                     

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:19 Or we have hoped

This passage points out that not only is the Resurrection of the Lord important critical proof that Jesus is Lord and the truth of the Gospel and allows us to be confident in God’s promises to forgive our sins, trust in the promise of the our own resurrection from death as well judgement and validates the truth of our sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as a foundation of our faith and trust in the Lord.

God’s Plan for our Salvation is through Jesus Christ. Those elements being how Jesus rode a young donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; Jesus’ washing of the feet of the 12 Disciples; the Last Supper of the Lord on the Passover; the Lord’s Crucifixion on Good Friday; the Resurrection on Easter Sunday; The Lord’s Ascension into Heaven  and the Gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. Each element of Holy Week was foretold by God to the prophets and recorded in Scripture and is a necessary step in a ladder of events to fulfill God’s Salvation Plan.  We even talked about the two prophets on the Emmaus Road, who encountered the resurrected Christ and brought the good news back to the remaining 11 disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. What was this Upper Room referred to in the Scriptures?

The Last Room

It is funny how we will often refer to the name of a place, not knowing where it is located or what its purpose was. I recall when I first dated Sophie and visited her house, which was often filled with the extended family: brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and of course the notorious “last room.” If a visitor came and was offered a ginger ale or coke, the duty of retrieving the pop usually fell upon a young niece or nephew. Pop was usually kept in a place referred to as “The Last Room.” If something was needed or missing, such as an umbrella, a slipper, a shoe, a hat, a coat or a broom, the searcher would usually be directed to look in “The Last Room.” It was only after a month or so that I figured out that this “Last Room” was an enclosed porch at the back, north side of the house. The Last Room served as a combination cold room, cloak room, and broom closet. This porch was not insulated and had windows which opened to allow access to a clothesline which ran from the back wall of thr house to an ancient large pear tree in the backyard. If someone in the household was looking for a lost or missing item, the first and last place to look for it was usually the “Last Room”. Sadly, an addition to the house of a family room and washroom eliminated the notorious “last room” from the floor plan of the house, relegating the location to just a fond memory of the past.

The Last Room

This photo is a stock photo intended to represent the enclosed back porch at my mother-in-law’s house, which the family would refer to as “The Last Room.”

This brings today’s lesson to a place of similar notoriety in the Scriptures, which is called the “Upper Room.”

Most Bible scholars seem to agree that this Upper Room was the place where Jesus washed the feet of the 12 Disciples; where the Last Supper of Passover served by Jesus took place; where, later, the remaining 11 Disciples received the good news that the Lord had arose from the grave; where Thomas examined Jesus’ wounds from the crucifixion; where the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 believers, after Jesus ascended; and where Christ’s Church began..

But where and what was this place called the Upper Room or sometimes called the Upper Chamber? The Cenacle (from Latin cenaculum), also known as the Upper Room, is the site of The Last Supper. The word is a derivative of the Latin word cena, which means dinner. In Christian tradition, based on Acts 1:13,the “Upper Room” was not only the site of the Last Supper (i.e. the Cenacle), but the usual place where the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, and following the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the arrival of”the first Christian Church”.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Jerusalem (A.D. 71–1099): “During the first Christian centuries the church at this place was the centre of Christianity in Jerusalem, “Holy and glorious Sion, mother of all churches” (Intercession in “St. James’ Liturgy”, ed. Brightman, p. 54). Certainly no spot in Christendom can be more venerable than the place of the Last Supper, which became the first Christian church.”

The early history of the Cenacle site is uncertain; scholars have made attempts at establishing a chronology based on archaeological evidence and historical sources.

Biblical archaeologist Bargil Pixner offers these significant dates and events in the building’s history:

The original building was a synagogue later probably used by Jewish Christians. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the building was spared during the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus (AD 70), though Pixner thinks it was likely rebuilt right after the war, and claims three walls of that structure are still extant: the North, East and South walls of the present King David’s Tomb. Roman emperor Theodosius I built an octagonal church (the “Theodosian Church” or “Holy Zion Church”) aside the synagogue (that was named “Church of the Apostles”). The Theodosian Church, probably started on 382 AD, was consecrated by John II, Bishop of Jerusalem on 394 AD. Some years later, c. 415 AD, Bishop John II enlarged the Holy Zion Church transforming it in a large rectangular basilica with five naves, always aside the Church of the Apostles. This building was later destroyed by Persian invaders in 614 AD and shortly after partially rebuilt by patriarch Modestus. In 1009 AD the church was razed to the ground by the Muslim caliph Al-Hakim and shortly after replaced by the Crusaders with a five aisled basilica named for “Saint Mary”, today the site of Dormition Abbey. It is thought that the Cenacle occupied a portion of two aisles on the right side of the altar.

While the church was destroyed sometime after 1219, the Cenacle was spared. In the 1340s, it passed into the custody of the Franciscan Order of Friars, who maintained the structure until 1552, when the Ottoman Empire took possession of it. After the Franciscan friars’ eviction, this room was transformed into a mosque, as evidenced by the mihrab in the direction of Mecca and an Arabic inscription prohibiting public prayer at the site. Christians were not officially allowed to return until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

When they returned to the Upper Room after Christ’s Ascension, the disciples numbered some 120, did not sit idly by, but began selected a replacement for Judas and continued in fervent prayer to prepare for the arrival of God’s gift, Acts 1:1-11 (ESV):

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Jesus instructed the disciples to wait upon the Lord, as we read in Acts 1:4 (ESV):

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; Footnotes: a. Acts 1:4 Or eating

Note in verse 11 that Jesus was described as being taken up to heaven. Five times New Testament writers employ the Greek term analambano (to take up) of the Lord’s ascension (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:2,11,22; 1 Timothy 3:16). Each time the verb is in the passive voice, he “was taken up.” The passive voice represents the subject of the verb as being acted upon, thus, in this instance, indicating that the “taking up” was empowered from above, namely by God.

This is almost comical as the disciples were asked, “Hey why are you looking up to heaven? Did Jesus not just tell you he would return in the same manner that he just left? Perhaps, it was the vision of our Lord’s ascension that had them transfixed. But remember that two had witnessed Jesus ascend on the day of the transfiguration. But that is another topic for another message.

But it is important to note in verse 8, that teacher now passes upon the student, the disciples, the torch of teaching God’s Grace, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit.

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus gave his blessing, Luke 24:51 (ESV):

51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

The blessing that Jesus gave, Luke 24:51, is often interpreted as a priestly act where Jesus leaves his disciples in the care of God the Father. The return to Jerusalem after the Ascension ends the Gospel of Luke where it began, in Jerusalem. And where in Jerusalem did the disciples go? The Upper Room! The meeting is described in Acts 1:12-26 (ESV):

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. [c]

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.                                                                                                                          

Footnotes: 1. Acts 1:4 Or eating 2. Acts 1:5 Or in 3. Acts 1:14 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 15 4. Acts 1:18 Or swelling up

And in this Upper Room, the promised gift from God, the Holy Spirit was given to those who had gathered and prayed, Acts 2:1-4 (ESV):

1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

We have a good idea what the Upper Room was and the significance of events that occurred there. But what about the Pentecost event that took place in the Upper Room?

Pentecost means Fifty. The Fiftieth is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, which coincides in the Christian liturgical year as the date commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the remaining eleven Apostles of Christ (Judas had hung himself), and over 100 others, a total of 120 Disciples in the Upper Room, after the Resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the day of Pentecost occurred some 50 days after Jesus was crucified and 10 days after our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven.

So let us back up a bit to Christ’s Ascension, an event most scholars believe took place above the Mount of Olives, near Bethany. Beth anya which translates as “house of misery/Poor house?” Bethany is recorded in the New Testament as the home of the siblings Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as that of Simon the Leper. Jesus is reported to have lodged there after his entry into Jerusalem, and it could be from Bethany that he parted from his disciples at the Ascension.

In Luke, Jesus leads the eleven disciples to Bethany, not far from Jerusalem and Luke describes the Ascension in Luke 24:50-53 (ESV):

The Ascension

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

We know that the Holy Spirit had been at work previously. We see him working through different people throughout the Old Testament. We see Jesus’ close connection with the Spirit in the Gospels. Now, though, something different was happening.

According to what Jesus had told his disciples in Luke 24:49 (ESV), And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” and what Peter said later in Acts 2:38 (ESV), “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit was working in a new manner, that is, in a way that he had not worked previously but in a way that had been promised or prophesied.

A thousand years before the Savior’s birth, David prophesied the ascension of Jesus when he announced the Lord’s enthronement at the Father’s right hand in Psalm 110:1 (ESV):

Sit at My Right Hand A Psalm of David:

110 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

No other psalm is so frequently quoted in the New Testament, which acts as a good indicator of the importance of the event. And because the disciples had struggled with the concept of Jesus’ death, he told them plainly that he was going back to the Father, John 14:12 (ESV):  

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

And, while on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Jesus told high priest that soon he would be “seated at the right hand of Power”, see Matthew 26:64 (ESV):

64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

So we conclude today’s lesson with a better understanding as the significance of the upper room as the location for the events of the teaching by our Lord by washing of the disciple’s feet, Jesus’ instruction to the disciples with regard to the elements of the Last Supper, the appearance of the Lord after the resurrection, the disciples’ selection of Matthias to replace the deceased Judas, the place where God’s gift of the Holy Spirit comes upon the men and women believers who prayed and waited there, and the location where Peter, having received the Spirit delivers the first sermon, and the place where 3,000 hear the Spirit-filled receive Christ as Lord and Saviour and are baptised in the Spirit. And with the Ascension of Jesus, we see the passing of the ministry of the Gospel of Christ to the body of believers, baptized with God’s power and comfort through the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

 

Closing Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding

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.

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The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’                  

© February 11, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 11, 2018

Based on a Message shared by Steve Mickelson at BLCF on November 28, 2010

BLCF Nov_28_2010 Bulletin

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                                           

Opening  Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone; Choruses                                                                         

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

Responsive Reading #648 ( A Challenge to Faith – from Hebrews 11 and 12) 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                           

‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service, in the heart of Toronto.

Our lesson today is a study of the ‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’, taken from Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV):

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a]and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Footnotes: a. Matthew 25:14 Or bondservants; also verse 19 b. Matthew 25:15 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer c. Matthew 25:21 Or bondservant; also verses 232630

The ‘Ten Talents’ was number 21 of some 40 Parables that Jesus used during his earthly ministry. Jesus often used parables to help us understand the teachings of His ministry. By definition, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. These parables of Jesus, found in the three synoptic gospels, or the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are a key part of the teachings of Jesus, forming approximately one third of his recorded teachings.

What did Jesus talent as mentioned in title of this passage of scripture? A talent was the largest measurement of money in those days. Since a talent was actually a measurement of weight, it did not have a constant value. A talent of gold, for example, would be worth a whole lot more than a talent of bronze. While commentators differ somewhat over the approximate value of a talent in today’s economy, all would agree that it was a large amount of money. Talents were used as a unit of currency, worth about 6,000 denari. Since a denarius was the usual payment for a day’s labor, a talent would translate roughly the value of twenty years of work by an ordinary person.

Why did Jesus give us a parable about treasure and money? In Matthew 10:17-25 (ESV), the Bible says this about Christ’s encounter with a rich young man:

The Rich Young Man

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

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,[b] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Footnotes:a. Mark 10:24 Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches b. Mark 10:26 Some manuscripts to one another

In Mark 6:7-9 (ESV) Jesus told his disciples: “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.”

Keep in mind that in the ‘10 Talents’, Jesus presents us with a story that that is a parable. And that by definition, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. Therefore we should not take the events the in the story literally, but as an allegorical lesson to give us insight and understanding to our Lord’s expectations of us. This will allow us to develop a better, richer relationship with our Lord.

Traditionally, the parable of the talents has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the God’s Kingdom. These gifts have been seen to include personal abilities (“talents” in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth. Failure to use one’s gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgment.

The poet John Milton was fascinated by the parable (interpreted in this traditional sense), referring to it repeatedly, notably in the sonnet “On His Blindness“:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent, which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He, returning, chide

This interpretation seems to be the origin of the word “talent” used for an aptitude or skill.

There are a number of hymns that mention the parable, notably  John Wesley‘s “Servant of God, Well Done!” which refers to Matthew 25:23 (ESV):

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Wesley authored the hymn after the death of Anglican Minister George Whitfield,  who helped spread the Great Awakening throughout Britain and the colonies in British North America, being one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally. Whitefield became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America in the 18th century, and because Wesley traveled through all of the American colonies, he drew great crowds and media coverage, being one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America.

Wesley’s hymn begins:

Servant of God, well done!
Thy glorious warfare’s past;
The battles fought, the race is won,
And thou art crowned at last.

This passage is offered as a comparison allegory to the coming of Christ. Christ came and gave us a great gift, through Grace, and then “went away on a long journey.” Christ will come back. How have we responded to the freedom and power given to us through Jesus Christ? Have we cowered in fear or are actively living out God’s will?

With the help of the Spirit, the Bible is its own interpreter.  We may understand the meaning of this passage from the Scriptures by reading it in context of other scripture on the same or related topics. The key to the passage may be found in Matthew 25:29 (ESV):

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Jesus used these very same words in the “Parable of the Sower”, found in Matthew 13. We know from that parable that the seed sown is the Bible and the message about ‘The Kingdom’ found in verses 18-23. In the two parables are the ‘Seed Sown’ and the ‘Talent Entrusted‘ appear to be one in the same. In both parables, Jesus speaks taking action to bring an increase in your understanding and knowledge of God in your life by acting on it and putting it to work. This is the great commission. We find more scriptures that refer to knowledge being like money or something of value having been given to us?
In 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (ESV) we read:

13 Follow the pattern of the sound[a] words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

Footnotes: a. 2 Timothy 1:13 Or healthy

In Colossians 2:1-3 (ESV), we read:

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In the ‘10 Talents’, the first two servants undertook to grow what was entrusted to them. They acted with confidence and faith that their endeavors to increase that which was entrusted to them. They had a confidence and assurance of faith that they would be successful in caring for that of value which was entrusted to them.

God expect us to minister to others with the His Spirit providing us with not only confidence and assurance of faith, but also with endurance, as we see in Hebrews 10:35-36 (ESV):

 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

The third servant acted out of fear and misunderstanding of his master and did nothing. His actions were more rooted in fear of the wrath of his master, and lacked a true understanding as to what his Master’s expectations were. Our take away from this is we are to walk with confidence in the Lord, see Ephesians 5:8 (ESV):

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Our Christian walk should be characterized by: faith, wisdom, and awareness of His and the time we have, Ephesians 5:15-17(ESV):

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

And contrary to the notion once saved, always saved, we may lose the promise of salvation if our actions are not in line with what the Lord expects of us. We see this in Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV):

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Consider the usage of the word “Earth” elsewhere in Jesus’ parables. The word earth is always used in reference to a man’s heart. We sow seeds (the Word) in the earth (men’s hearts). Likewise, earth is used in this parable. He who was only given one talent (given one gift) hid it in his heart, afraid to use it for God’s gain, and he lost it.

Sometimes we who claim Jesus Christ as Saviour can behave like the slothful servant in that we may become too comfortable just sitting in the pews only keeping company with other Christians, just praying for each other, talking only to those we know about the goodness of God. While this may be a good start, as we need to fellowship as a body of believers. However, God wants us to get outside of that cozy comfort zone. Like Peter take a step of faith outside the boat, as it were. He has given us each a measure of faith, His Word, the sacrifice of His only begotten Son and presence of the Holy Spirit to empower us, so that we spread the ‘Good News’ about our faith to those whom we do not know. Many who claim to believe, lack the faith in their own God given talents to make a difference in somebody’s life. They say that they just are not gifted to share the gospel in a significant way. This brings to mind The Starfish Story, an abbreviated version of this story may be found on the front page of today’s bulletin. Here is a longer version of the same story:

The Starfish Story, adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

There once was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are entrusted and expected now, and until the day He returns, to reach out to share our faith in Him, to boldly take risks of faith. Our talent of responsibility is to make an investment in someone, other than those we know or with whom we are comfortable, and share our testimony in word and deed. For this our Lord will hold each of us accountable. It is on the basis of this we will be judged.

In this regard, Jesus’ ‘The Parable of the 10 Talents’ is offered as a comparison allegory to the coming of Christ. Christ came and gave us a great gift, through Grace, and then “went away on a long journey.” Christ will come back. How have we responded to the freedom and power given to us through Jesus Christ? Have we cowered in fear or are we actively living out God’s will? For the Great Commission entrusted to us, as good and faithful servants described in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV):

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 choice is ours, as to whether we faithfully trust our Lord and invest what gifts the Master has entrusted to our care. You can make a difference, even if it be to a single starfish or an unsaved soul.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness    

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13): Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.  – Amen

God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP’

© February 4, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 4, 2018

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on January 8, 2012

BLCF_Bulletin_January_8_2012

Announcements & Call to Worship of Prayer, Opening Prayer

Opening Hymn #204: There`s a Quiet Understanding; Choruses                                      

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God 

Responsive Reading #655: The Final Word (Revelation 22) 

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Great Banquet: God`s Invitation’

Let us pray…

The focus of our lesson today will be what we may learn from the Lord’s parable which Jesus described as the “king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

Several years ago this spring, my nephew Steve married his fiancée, Elise. This was the fourth wedding held on Sophie`s side of the family. The wedding consisted of a memorable service, followed by a joyful banquet. The wedding was the culmination of many months of planning and preparation for the blessed event.

If we were to turn on the television, we may see any of number of reality shows about various aspects of the wedding, including such aspects as: choosing a wedding planner, selecting the right wedding dress, or four brides who attend each other’s wedding and then rate aspects of the weddings.

Millions of viewers anticipate another royal wedding in the UK, between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, to be broadcast this spring. Only those with invitations will be privy to the reception and the following banquet. It is appropriate that only those familiar with the hosts and who appreciate the significance of the celebration to the bride and groom, would be given a RSVP invitation to attend.

Most people enjoy attending and observing moments of nuptial bliss, where a bride and groom embark upon the journey of a new life together, not expecting to see reality show dramatics nor royal pomp and circumstance in the event. We all can imagine the various elements involved in a wedding ceremony and the celebration that followed the exchange of vows, where a couple embark upon a new life, united in both heart and spirit. The expectation of the invited is to witness a happy, joyful wedding and celebration afterward, which makes it is not surprising that Jesus used a wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, as a parable of to illustrate God`s covenant for dealing with our sinful nature through Jesus, and to illustrate the gospel of Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV):

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

  

 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’  And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” 

The parables of our Lord Jesus are earthly stories meant to explain heavenly truths. Each person or object is symbolic of someone or something else. Understanding the symbolism is crucial to discovering the lesson of the parable. This is entirely consistent with literal, historical, grammatical interpretation, since the passage is clearly described as a parable, and in fact gaining the theological impact of this parable requires such an understanding. In fact, Jesus best explains His purpose for using the parable in Matthew 13:10-17 (ESV):

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

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Back to the lessons from The Parable of the Wedding Feast, the servants sent out to announce the wedding are ignored by some, as were the first disciples who share the good news about Jesus have been ignored. But the Lord is patient and does not want us to rashly reject the gift of salvation, so he sends out more servants, or more disciples, with His invitation. But we see that there are those who choose not only to reject the invitation, but choose to kill those bearing His message. This represents those who have imprisoned, or humiliated, or even killed God`s disciples. But, the King, will kill the murders and destroy their city.

In the Wedding Feast Parable, the King represents God the Father; His Son is our Lord Jesus.  The Invited guests represent Israel and the servants He sent symbolize the prophets and disciples. The city the king had his troops burn because the people invited not only refused to attend, but has killed the king’s servants, represents a defiant Jerusalem.

We find further clarification of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Mark`s gospel, in Chapter 2:18-20 (ESV):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

God has prepared a banquet with His son Jesus the bridegroom and His bride is the church, being the body of believers, not the mortar and brick. Some say those He then sent His servants out to invite represent the church, which can contain both good and bad believers. However, the symbolism and timing are wrong. The Church is the Bride of Christ, not a group of last minute substitute guests. Since Israel had already refused their invitation, and the Church (being the bride) would not need an invitation, so who are the guests in the parable and what else are we to take from the lesson?

The wedding garment, worn by the guests represents His righteousness. This is a concept explained on numerous occasions in both Old and New Testaments.

The fact that a guest is thrown out into the darkness for not wearing  proper wedding attire indicates these last minute guests have to be clothed in “garments of salvation” to publicly identify themselves as believers.

The parable makes it clear that there is no reason, none at all, for people to reject a gracious invitation from the King to come to the wedding feast and enjoy all good things. The only reason they reject the invitation is that they do not believe the King, or they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Since this is a call from the King or from God, the people are not free to take it or leave it, even if they think they can be non-committal. To reject the invitation from God to share in His Kingdom is folly, it is choosing death, as it not only constitutes a rejection of God’s offer of grace, and it is a rejection of His only provision for eternal life.

The poorly dressed guest might also be considered one of those who profess to be followers of Christ when in the company of other believers, but who hide their light under a bushel when in the presence of non-believers. This brings us to the next Scripture verse for this morning`s message, Romans 1:16 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The wedding garment not worn by the guest who is removed from the banquet in Our Wedding Banquet Parable has another interesting aspect, which is represented by what the guest chose to wear to the banquet.

First century Jewish wedding customs held that the father of the groom was in charge of the event and bore all the expense associated with the wedding and reception. In case of royalty or the very wealthy this often included providing a specially made garment to be worn over a guest’s regular clothing. This wedding garment was presented to the guest upon arrival and donned immediately. Wearing it wasn’t mandatory, but was considered a great insult to the Father of the groom if refused and could get a guest ejected from the festivities. In case of large gatherings it also served as identification to discourage uninvited guests from crashing the party.

The guests gathered by the servants for the wedding represent both the good and the bad. That is they represent either those who repent their sins, or those who have not. The guest who accepted the invitation, calling themselves righteous, while claiming to be entitled to His mercy. However, it takes more than just words to claim redemption.

The wedding guest not properly dressed for the banquet is like the person who claims to be a child of God, but his thoughts and actions reveal whether or not his actions matched the words. This is like the expression: you may talk the talk, but did you walk the walk.  There are many so called Christians whose focus and service is performed in the name of the Lord, but their true focus is self-promotion. While they may fool some into believing that they are serving the Lord, God knows that they are only seeking to benefit themselves. Unfortunately, for them, at the Lord`s Banquet, their actions and our motives become visible, like their outer garments. Those who are not servants of the Lord will be judged. Those who were not sincere in their faith practices will be bound and ejected from Heaven. Not all who have been invited will be allowed to stay.

From the beginning of time, God has given humanity a choice. The rags worn by the guest are not unlike that worn by all humanity because of sin. Adam and Eve in an attempt to conceal their sin of disobeying God in the garden felt ashamed and chose to wear fig leaves and loin cloths in an attempt to conceal their guilt from Him. Let us read about this in Genesis 3:7-10 (ESV):

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[a] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[b] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:8 Hebrew wind b. Genesis 3:9 In Hebrew you is singular in verses 9 and 11

God saw Adam and Eve had known sin because they had eaten the forbidden fruit, which caused them to want to hide their nakedness, so God made them garments to wear, not to conceal their sin, but as a reminder of their sin, as described in Genesis 3:21 (ESV):

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

When the Day of Judgement comes, and no one knows the day, only those clothed in righteous will not have their sins exposed, Revelation 16:15 (ESV):

 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

What do we mean when we talk keeping the garments of righteous? Where do these garments come from? We may find our answer in Galatians 3:27 (ESV):

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Like the Wedding Banquet Parable, those who accept God’s gift of salvation, by believing His Son, Jesus died for our sins, so that we may accept the Holy Spirit, and wear new garments of righteous, discarding filthy garments of sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve, and exchange them for pure vestments, free of iniquity, Zechariah 3:3-4 (ESV):

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

Let us discard our rags of sin and accept the gift of the new wedding garment and wear it to celebrate the fact that we were not only we called by Him, but celebrate that He chose us as guests to His banquet. We only need to RSVP his invitation.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: Responsive Reading #663 (1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #210: Here, O My Lord, I See Thee

Benediction – (1 John 1:6-7): If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  – Amen

Prayer Walk in the Heart of Toronto at BLCF Church

JOIN US TO PRAY FOR OUR COMMUNITY !

in the Heart of Toronto at BLCF Church

Every month, on the first Tuesday, believers from several congregations in west

Toronto gather to worship and pray for one another and for the neighborhood.

Standing together in unity our prayers are lifted to God that we may see His blessing

in our churches and in our neighborhood !

On Tuesday, February 6th, we will be gathering at:

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church

1307 Bloor Street West (1 block west of Lansdowne Avenue)

BLCF: 416-535-9578 – blcfchurch@yahoo.ca

EVERY PRAYER COUNTS !   YOUR PRAYER COUNTS !

Let’s join together in faith looking to God for His blessing upon our community !

***Contributions of non-perishable food items for the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner 

 would be greatly appreciated !

Follow-up to the above post:
BLCF Prayer Walk, February 6, 2018. Some thirty people from 7 churches sang, walked, and prayed first at BLCF and later in the Bloor Lansdowne neighborhood.

Question: “What is prayer walking? Is it biblical to go on a prayer walk?”                                                       

 (-from gotquestions.org/prayer-walking)

 

Answer: Prayer walking is the practice of praying on location, a type of intercessory prayer that involves walking to or near a particular place while praying. Some people believe that being close to a location allows them to “pray nearer to pray clearer.” Prayer walks are taken by individuals, groups, and even whole churches. They can be as short as a block or as long as many miles. The idea is to use the five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—to increase the intercessor’s understanding of prayer needs.

For example, if you walk through your neighborhood looking for things to pray about, you might come across a yard that is extremely untidy and rundown. This might prompt you to pray for the health, both physical and spiritual, of the residents inside. Some groups prayer walk around schools, prompting prayer for the teachers and students inside, for their safety and peace, and for the schemes of the devil in their school to be thwarted. Some people feel they can concentrate and direct their prayers more effectively by walking near the people and places they are praying for.

Prayer walking is a relatively new phenomenon, the origin of which is not clear. There is no biblical model for prayer walking, although since walking was the major mode of transportation in Bible times, clearly people must have walked and prayed at the same time. However, there is no direct command that prayer walking is something we should be doing. To believe that prayers offered in any setting, or while in any position, are more effective than those offered at another time or in another manner is not scriptural. In addition, while we may feel we need to be close to a location or situation to pray more clearly, our heavenly Father, who is everywhere at all times, knows exactly what needs are present and will respond to them in His own perfect will and timing. The fact that He allows us to be part of His plans through our prayers is for our benefit, not His.

We are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and since walking is something we do daily, surely part of praying without ceasing is praying while walking. God hears all prayers offered by those who abide in Christ (John 15:7), regardless of time, place, or position. At the same time, there certainly is no command against prayer walking, and anything that prompts us to pray is worthy of consideration.