Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness’

© June 24, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 24, 2018

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on September 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin September 29, 2013

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn: #32: How Great Thou Art; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #605: Prayer of Penitence (Psalm 51)

Message by Stephen Mickelson:                                                                                                                           

‘Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness ’

 

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Praise and Worship service at BLCF Church. Today’s lesson is entitled: Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness.’

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we profess our faith that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins, Romans 5:8 (ESV):

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But ask Christians: “What is meant by sin?”,  and you may get any of variety definitions: a sin is an act, it is state of grace or lack of, it is the legacy or birthright we carry as descendants of Adam and Eve; it is in our nature; it a manifestation of a defiant attitude towards our Maker; and so on.

No wonder there is some confusion among both believers and non-believers alike! It is very difficult to have a meaningful dialog or to witness about sin and salvation unless we have a mutual understanding and agreement of the terms that we discuss. The definition of salvation is fairly clear, but what about sin?

Let us have a look of how the Online Farlex Free Dictionary defines sin:

sin 1 (s n) n.

  1. A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate.
  2. Theology
  3. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.
  4. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.
  5. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.

intr.v. sinned, sin·ning, sins

  1. To violate a religious or moral law.
  2. To commit an offense or violation.

[Middle English sinne, from Old English synn; see es- in Indo-European roots.]

sin 2 (s n, s n) n.

The 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet. See Table at alphabet.

[Hebrew în, modeled on în, shin (the following letter).]

Sin (s n)

  1. Mythology

The Babylonian god of the moon.

[Akkadian Sîn.]

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Sin

We might have a better idea of what is a sin if we look at what Bible scholars commonly refer to as the original sin. In recent sermons, we looked at how Adam and Eve violated God’s singular rule: not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan stepped in and rationalized that eating the forbidden fruit would elevate them to the same level as God. Let us look at what happened after Adam and Eve chose to ignore God’s rule. In Genesis 3:17-18; 22-23 (ESV), we read:

17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

I find it interesting to note that the tree of life was not forbidden to Adam and Eve, which implies that they were able to eat from this tree and live forever before they ate from the tree of knowledge.

Note that Verse 18 states: in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; which indicates that Adam’s days are numbered and finite and eventually will end as indicated in Verse 19: 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

So the consequence of sin is death, but God has a plan, a solution, as we read in Paul’s epistle of Romans 5:12-18 (ESV):

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[a] because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass[b] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[c] leads to justification and life for all men.

Footnotes: a.Romans 5:12 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women; also twice in verse 18 b.Romans 5:18 Or the trespass of one c. Romans 5:18 Or the act of righteousness of one

But was sin the result of an act or the thought something else? Let us look at Romans 7:12-14 (ESV):

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

“Sold under sin” sounds like slavery. This is confirmed in John 8:34 (ESV):

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[a] to sin.

 Footnotes: a. John 8:34 Greek bondservant

But if, by definition, a sinner is a slave to sin, then what is the remedy? The remedy is Christ, Galatians 5:1 (ESV):

Christ Has Set Us Free

5 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

We have seen the consequences of sin and God’s solution in Jesus Christ. What does God expect from us in this equation? Let us next look at Colossians 3:5-6 (ESV):

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[a] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[b]

Footnotes: a. Colossians 3:5 Greek therefore your members that are on the earth b. Colossians 3:6 Some manuscripts add upon the sons of disobedience

So from Colossians 3, we see some expressions of sin and understand that sin is earthly or worldly in contrast to being spiritual. And the solution the Lord provided to us for sin is unconditional, Romans 5:8 (ESV):

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Still, God expects us not to surrender our commitment and drive, but that instead of allowing ourselves to be slaves to sin, which is associated with things that are of the world which is Satan’s realm, we must surrender ourselves to matters of spiritual reality which is the domain of God, Romans 6:16-22 (ESV):

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[a] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Footnotes: a.Romans 6:16 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface (twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20)

In addition to commitment to follow the righteous path which leads to sanctification and the promise of eternal life, we must remain vigilant to avoid temptation from Satan to given in to the impulses of our own carnal or worldly desires, which will lead us down the path to sin, James 1:12-15 (ESV):

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

God does not tempt us for He cannot be tempted. But knowing the law can lead to temptation. And temptation then leads to sin, Romans 3:20-25 (ESV):

20 For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Footnotes: a. Romans 3:20 Greek flesh

So the sin of humanity, as initiated by Adam, was removed by the righteous act of Christ in the Death in Adam, and changed to the Life in Christ verse we read earlier in Romans 5:12:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.  Thus, requiring faith on our part, as we read in Romans 3:22, which then leads to a Redemption through Christ: 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This passage indicates that though all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, all are entitled to redemption and grace to be received by faith. Faith or lack of faith is the key to sin. Adam and Eve sinned as a result of trusting Satan more than God. And the only way we can receive God’s redemption, grace and glory are to give up our faith in things of the world and return to having faith in God, by accepting the unconditional gift of Jesus Christ paid on the cross at Calvary.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn is #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Benediction (2 Peter 1:2): May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

– Go in Peace of the Lord

 

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The Awakening of the Prodigal

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

© June 17, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 17, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #49:  A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #659: ‘First Things First’ (Matthew 6 and 16)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

Let us pray…

Good morning and a happy Father’s Day to the dads who are in the BLCF Church congregation today, as we also celebrate the Day of our Father in heaven.

BLCF Church Sunday June 19,2011

For the lesson this morning, we will examine The Parable of the Prodigal Son, as recorded in Luke 15:11-22. But before we look at Luke’s Gospel, let us read a warning written to the Church in Sardis, to give us an insight to the story of the Prodigal Son, from Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV):

To the Church in Sardis

 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Biblegateway.com gives the following Commentary on the Message to Sardis, which helps us with what is perhaps the most damaging and urgent warning that was issued to a church in the Book of Revelations.

The Message to Sardis (Biblegateway.com Commentary)

The message to Sardis lists no specific enemies, internal or external. There is no name calling–no liars, no Balaam or Jezebel, no deep secrets of Satan, no synagogue of Satan, no throne of Satan. Consequently, of all the congregations in Asia, we know least about Sardis and its problems. Yet no other message is more damaging or more urgent than this one.

Too often, when we encounter no spiritual adversaries, it is because we are the enemy. The only enemy named at Sardis is the angel to whom the message is addressed.

Sardis was situated almost directly south of Thyatira, in the direction of Smyrna and the sea. Its greatest days were behind it, but this once proud capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia (later the western capital of the Persian Empire) was still, under Roman rule, an important center of the woolen industry. Abundant archaeological remains include a temple to Artemis, a huge gymnasium and the largest synagogue yet found in the ancient world, suggesting a Jewish community numbering in the thousands (Finegan 1981:177-78). A sermon of Melito, a Christian bishop at Sardis, entitled On the Passover (see Hawthorne 1975:147-75), testifies to a spirited, sometimes bitter, debate with this Jewish community in the second century. Yet as far as we are told, the problem of the congregation in John’s time was not with the Jews, nor with the Roman Empire, nor with false prophecy, but solely with itself.

Clean, white clothing in the book of Revelation is consistently a symbol of religious and moral purity, especially in the face of persecution (see 3:18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13), while soiled or disheveled clothing, or no clothing at all, is a symbol of religious and moral impurity and shame (see 3:17-18; 16:15). It is likely that the problem at Sardis was a strong tendency to compromise Christian faith for the sake of conformity to social and cultural standards set by Asian society and the Roman Empire. This spirit of compromise was linked not to one particular faction in the Christian community (as at Pergamum and Thyatira) but to the majority. The ones who had not soiled their clothes had become marginalized. They were the small faction. This explains the severe tone of the message, but it is impossible to be more specific as to the exact nature of the compromises made at Sardis.

 https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Rev/Message-Sardis

While we contemplate the warning to Sardis, I would like to point out a key part of the Revelation 3 warning, found in Verses 2 to 4, where the members of the church are accused of sleeping or have “closed eyes” towards being faithful in completing their assigned task of living witness and sharing, in word and deed, the Message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus:

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

Sardis is admonished to wake up, complete their tasks, and to not only remember the Message of the Gospel but adhere to their part of the New Covenant and to repent. If the people in the church of Sardis do wake up, they will face severe consequences.

With the Message to Sardis fresh in our minds, let us now read from Luke 15:11-22 (ESV), where a son who is blinded to the love and provisions from his father, and in the process becomes a prodigal, by squandering his inheritance:

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

Footnotes: a. Luke 15:15 Greek joined himself to b. Luke 15:21 Some manuscripts add treat me as one of your hired servants c. Luke 15:22 Greek bondservants

Definition of prodigal (adjective)

1characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure lavish 

  • prodigalfeast 
  • prodigaloutlays for her clothes

2recklessly spendthrift 

  • the prodigalprince

3yielding abundantly luxuriant often used with of

  • nature has been so prodigalof her bounty
  • —H. T. Buckle

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prodigal

In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells the story of an impatient, ungrateful son who demands to receive from his father his share of an inheritance before the death of his father. The father agrees to give the young son the share of the property to be given to the son and the son’s older brother, in advance of the Father’s death. Usually, a son has to earn an inheritance

Rather than acknowledging the gift, the son journeys from his father to a far-off country and squanders away all of the inheritance. A famine falls upon the land leaving the son destitute and desperate for food and the necessities of life, that he hires himself to feed pigs. Not only were pigs considered to be an unclean food, but feeding pigs would be considered the most undesirable of occupations.

It is while the son, who is starving, contemplates eating the pods that he is feeding to the pigs, wakens to the fact that his father feeds his servants better than what he is providing for himself.

The son then returns to his father to confess his sins against God and his father, asking for forgiveness and offering to work as a servant to his father.

The father feels compassion to his son and demonstrates the joy of his return by having a celebration feast and restoring the son by having him clothed in the best robe, giving him a ring and shoes.

The obvious lesson learned from Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son is that believers who have chosen to leave their Lord and faith practices, not unlike the members of the church in Sardis, are not forgotten or without hope. We see in the Parable which is the third in series that addresses the subject of “finding what has been lost”. The other two Parables deal with a lost sheep and a lost coin, respectively.

Another interpretation of The Prodigal Son is, as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven, sin has forced us away from Him, leaving us dying and destitute spiritually. However, we are offered the gift of full forgiveness and restitution of the inheritance lost by Adam and Eve when they abandoned their Father by eating the forbidden fruit in Garden of Eden.

By humbly confessing our sins, we are promised to be reunited with our Father in heaven forever, restored by the sacrifice made by His Son, Jesus for our behalf.

Like The Prodigal Son, we deserve His disdain, but God loves us. His greatest desire is for sinners to awaken to our Lord’s soft and tender calling to return home and to be reunited with our Father in heaven. On that day, there will be a great celebration of unbounded joy, 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.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #266: Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling

Benediction – (Romans 12:2): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Suffer the Children

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

Suffer the Children’

© June 10, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 10, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #325: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #621: ‘Christ and Children’ (Matthew 18, Mark 9 and 10)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Suffer the Children’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today is entitled, Suffer the Children. But what is meant by “Suffer the children come to me” or, as some Translations state, “Let the children come to me”? We are not talking about harming or hurting children, instead, we have an explanation of this passage from the commentary published in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

 14of such is the kingdom of heaven – Love, the simplicity of faith, innocence, and above all, humility, are the ideal characteristics of little children, and of the subjects of the kingdom.

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/19-14.htm

The first characteristic is love, not an ordinary love, but what Christians commonly describe as agape or the unconditional love associated with God and humanity:

Agape is commonly used by Christians to describe God’s love, defining it as unconditional love. Agape may also refer to Agape feast, certain meals celebrated by early Christians.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape_(disambiguation)

What happens when someone decides to take an action that is directly opposite to the agape or unconditional love that the Lord expects us to demonstrate towards God and towards others?

The opposite of actions that demonstrate an unconditional love, might be those which express an unbridled hatred towards others. Today, we see such examples of such hatred towards others commonly expressed by the use of weapons, such as guns, to harm others. In extreme cases, the gun is used as a “weapon of choice” to be used to harm as many victims of rage as possible.

On the 19th Anniversary of the Mass Shooting at Columbine High School, CNN recently originally published on November 17, 2017, (updated on April 20, 2018), a list of Mass Shootings posted as, Top Dozen Mass Shootings in the USA. Sadly, this list includes five schools. The names of these schools have become synonymous with the names of some of the worse mass shootings in US history. Here are the five:

  1. Virginia Tech: 32 killed – April 16, 2007 – Student Seung-Hui Cho, 23, goes on a shooting spree, killing 32 people in two locations and wounding an undetermined number of others on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The shooter dies by suicide.                                                                                                     
  2. Sandy Hook: 27 killed – December 14, 2012 – Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before turning the gun on himself. Investigators later find the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, dead from a gunshot wound.               
  3. University of Texas: 18 killed – August 1, 1966 – Charles Joseph Whitman, a former US Marine, kills 16 and wounds at least 30 while shooting from a tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy shoot and kill Whitman in the tower. Whitman had killed his mother and wife earlier in the day.                                                                                                                       
  4. Parkland, Florida: 17 killed – February 14, 2018 – A former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing a teacher, coach, athletics director, and 14 students. Nikolas Cruz, 19, confessed to being the gunman, according to a probable cause affidavit, and is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.                                                                                                                                        
  5. Columbine High School: 13 killed – April 20, 1999 – Eric Harris, 18, and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold kill 12 fellow students and one teacher at their high school in Littleton, Colorado. The pair then committed suicide in the school library.

https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/07/health/deadliest-mass-shootings-columbine-in-modern-us-history-trnd/index.html

The American flag flies at half-staff over the US Capitol                         (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

In addition to the five school shootings, there are seven additional mass shootings included in the CNN Dirty Dozen Shootings List. But these terrible shootings did not occur at schools and had victims who were adults. Our lesson will focus our attention upon incidents that involved the lives of the young students, mostly innocent children or young people, who were either murdered, injured, or threatened with death, at the beginning their lives.  We will also see what the Bible says about the killing of children.

Flags at half-staff at Peace Arch Canada-US Border

But before we, as Canadians, become too smug about student shootings being an act of violence being exclusive to our neighbors south of the border, let us examine another list, which is exclusive to our country. This second list was published on March 14, 2018, by Huffington Post Canada:

  1. La Loche Community School, Sask.: Four people were killed and two were critically wounded in a shooting in a northern Saskatchewan Dene community Jan. 22, 2016. Shots were fired at the La Loche high school building around 1 p.m. 
  1. Les Racines de vie Montessori, Gatineau, Que.: On April 5, 2013, two men die during a shooting at the school’s daycare. The shooter is identified as Robert Charron. Thirty-eight-year-old Neil Galliou is killed before Charron takes his own life. Charron told staff to take the 53 children to safety before he opened fire. 
  1. C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute, Toronto: On May 23, 2007, 15-year-old Jordan Manners is found in a hallway with a single gunshot wound to the chest. He later dies in hospital. Two teens were charged with first-degree murder and were later acquitted. 
  1. Dawson College, Westmount, Que: On Sept. 13, 2006, 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa was killed and 20 others were hurt when gunman Kimveer Gill, 25, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon. Gill was killed in a police gunfight.​​​​​ 
  1. Dawson College in Montreal, Sept. 18, 2006, a gunman dressed in a black trench coat opened fire at the school killing one student and injuring 19 others. 
  1. W.R. Myers High: Taber, Alta.: On April 28, 1999, a 14-year-old Grade 9 student shoots three students, killing 17-year-old Jason Lang before he is arrested.
  1. Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal: On Dec. 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lepine shot more than two dozen people, killing 14 women before killing himself.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/03/14/school-shootings-in-canada_a_23385842/

Canadian Parliament Building with the Canadian at half-staff

Preventing the lives of children from being snuffed out by bullets seems to be the main takeaway from these lists. While it is an important concern for us that we find ways to mitigate the use of guns as weapons of mass destruction or debate whether rage or mental illness is the root cause of these mass shootings at schools, there is a more subtle and more dangerous threat to our society.  I feel it is our society’s tendency today to become inured to the idea that the mass killings of our children as a normal thing, part of the price we pay for our life and liberty. We should consider how each killing of a child robs us of part of our most precious commodity. And if we do not act to prevent the loss of life among our children, we become deprived of the most valuable assets for our future, which was best expressed by Mother Teresa:

Mother Teresa

“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” 
– Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic nun 

Before Columbine, Nelson Mandela, who suffered much personal pain and injustice in his lifetime, made the following observation in May 1995:

Nelson Mandela

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. 
– Nelson Mandela (8 May 1995)

But, you might argue that Mandela was a politician and not a religious leader, though in this statement he expressed a moral and spiritual concern and outrage more openly than many faith leaders have about the mass shootings of children.

Mandela’s statement agrees with the view of our Lord, Christ Jesus, who is known to have admonished his disciples to suffer the children to come unto me

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV): Let the Children Come to Me

 13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The focus of this lesson is about protecting the children, Jesus was very clear about his love for his children and the sadness that our Lord feels, should any one of these little ones perish because of our lack of diligence. Jesus explained this in the following Parable of the Lost Sheep:

 Matthew 18:10-14 (ESV): The Parable of the Lost Sheep

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.[a] 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my[b] Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:10 Some manuscripts add verse 11For the Son of Man came to save the lost b. Matthew 18:14 Some manuscripts your

The loss of even a single child reflects the failure of guardianship of what our Lord holds dearest and values the most and has entrusted to us. As Christians, we should expect our society to uphold the same values towards its children as our Father in heaven. Otherwise, we fail the Lord just as much as society has failed us by not protecting the safety of our children.

A recent example of unconditional love that Jesus spoke about may be found in the actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill a man who admitted to have a mental disorder and to be off his medications.

It was faith that permitted Antoinette Tuff to set aside her own personal troubles in order to show a Christ-like compassion and love towards an angry troubled stranger, and as a result, saved that stranger and many innocent children from danger and destruction

In his depressed state, Hill had stolen an AK-47 rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, and entered a school to fight with police and end his life, which he found no longer worth living. All that stood between Hill and his suicidal objective, was a woman of faith who had recently contemplated her own suicide having suffered through a recent divorce and being left alone to raise a child with multiple disabilities.

But God had a plan to use Antoinette’s faith and suffering as testimony to His compassion and love at a time of great testing. Here is an excerpt of an article authored by Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s on this potential deadly encounter defused by a woman of faith’s, who took a bold step of intervention trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. This article comes from the August 20, 2013 edition of the Washington Post:

Antoinette Tuff and Michael Brandon Hill

Antoinette Tuff’s Weapon of the Spirit: How Compassion Stopped a Gunman

By Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Ph.D. Theology

‘Our weapons are not carnal, they are spiritual.’ This biblical lesson is found in 2 Corinthians. This week, it can also be learned at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, an elementary school outside of Atlanta.

Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk at McNair, is being credited with averting another horrific school shooting. Tuff met the gunman as he entered the school building, and listened to him say “he didn’t have any reason to live, and he knew he was going to die today.” She chose not to meet violence with violence, but spoke compassionately to the gunman, identifying with his pain and loneliness, a feeling she shared that she had as well after she separated from her husband of 33 years. She encouraged the gunman not to give in to despair.

Tuff used the “weapons of the spirit,” not a gun to stop the gunman. “I give it all to God. I’m not the hero. I was terrified,” she said.

Spiritual strength and compassion were the weapons used here, not a physical gun.

Weapons of the Spirit, not “carnal,” that is, physical weapons are what we need in life, according to the Bible.

Weapons of the Spirit can transform hate into compassion, and violence into peace.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/08/22/antoinette-tuffs-weapon-of-the-spirit-how-compassion-stopped-a-gunman/

There seems to be a common theme that is apparent in most of the US and Canadian school shootings. The shooters suffered from one or a combination of the emotions of anger, fear, pain, loneliness, despair, or hopelessness, and suicide was the final solution. And before the final solution, shooting students and staff was the line they crossed in order write their message first by the blood of their victims and finally themselves. The shooter would use their weapons on themselves or shoot at police in order to commit “suicide by cop”.

Kate Spade

Like the recent rash of celebrity suicides, including  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, if they had encountered a sensitive and compassionate person such as Antoinette Tuff, they might have been able to a frank conversation about their feelings, especially the feelings of suicide and found that there are better solutions to their emotional state than murder, followed by suicide. Faith brought Antoinette Tuff through her despair and gave her the strength to encourage Michael Brandon Hill not to give in to his despair. When a person suddenly loses interest in activities and friends that were a big part of their lives, a sensitive friend might help them avoid committing a great tragedy by asking them whether they are considering doing harm to themselves or others.

Anthony Bourdain

You may respond to this epidemic of suicides by saying: “leave the problem to the professionals”. But the professionals, such as law enforcement are usually called upon when it is too late, they assist the disturbed individual with the suicide. Most of the politicians seem reluctant to offer any more than hopes, prayers, and moments of silence. They behave as if only God can stop the pandemic of mass murders sweeping across the continent. God may not stop the pandemic, but he will certainly judge those who have been elected to legislate laws to protect the values of life and liberty of innocent children and deliberately do nothing but offer thoughts and prayers. If a child is drowning in a pool and the person hired to guard those in the pool does nothing, isn’t the guard’s inactivity an example of negligent homicide?

Is there anything we as Christians should do? First, we should recognize the symptoms of a person contemplating suicide and then act:

Know Someone Thinking About Suicide?

What are the signs:

High-risk signs for suicide can include talk or threats to harm oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online for materials or means, talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.

If you know someone that is at immediate risk of suicide in Canadacall 911 or toll-free at 1-833-456-4566 .

In the USA, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.

The actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill best exemplify the importance and value of faith in God and sensitivity to others helped her to protect a portion of society that is part of the legacy from God from harm. Tuff’s actions exemplified the legacy of sound character expressed by  her faith as described in this quote, from the late Billy Graham:

Billy Graham

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” 
  — Billy Graham, evangelist 

When it comes to children, we must remember the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.

In closing, as faithful Christians, we are expected to express the teachings of  Christ Jesus in word, deed, and by obeying the Lord’s Commandments:

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

If we ignore the danger facing our children posed by shooters, many seeking suicide for themselves, are we not disobeying our Lord’s Commandment to us?

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #41: Children of the Heavenly Father

Benediction: (Numbers 6:24-26):

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

And know they love you! (click here)

Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

© June 3, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 3, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF Church on August 25, 2013

BLCF Bulletin August 25, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #632: ‘God’s Redeeming Love’ (John 3 and 1 John 4)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                                  Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress’

Let us pray…

Today’s lesson we will Hosea’s expression of faith and love for God, while testing. Unlike Job, whom God allowed to suffer and to be tested by Satan, Hosea was instructed by God to knowingly to undertake actions that would likely bring a degree of suffering, pain, and testing to his faith.

Let us review the Synopsis of Hosea (Wiki bits, from biblia.com, wikipedia.org, bibref.hebtools.com ):

Brief Summary: The Book of Hosea can be divided into two parts: (1) Hosea 1:1-3:5 is a description of an adulterous wife and a faithful husband, symbolic of the unfaithfulness of Israel to God through idolatry, and (2) Hosea 4:1-14:9 contains the condemnation of Israel, especially Samaria, for the worship of idols and her eventual restoration.

The first section of the book contains three distinctive poems illustrating how God’s children returned time after time to idolatry. God commands Hosea to marry Gomer, but after bearing him three children, she walks away from Hosea to her lovers. The symbolic emphasis can be seen clearly in the first chapter as Hosea compares Israel’s actions to turning from a marriage to life as a prostitute. The second section contains Hosea’s denunciation of the Israelites but followed by the promises and the mercies of God.

Chapter two describes a divorce. This divorce seems to be the end of the covenant between God and the Northern Kingdom. However, it is probable that this was again a symbolic act, in which Hosea divorced Gomer for infidelity, and used the occasion to preach the message of God’s rejection of the Northern Kingdom. He ends this prophecy with the declaration that God will one day renew the covenant, and will take Israel back in love.

In Chapter three, at God’s command, Hosea seeks out Gomer once more. Either she has sold herself into slavery for debt, or she is with a lover who demands money in order to give her up because Hosea has to buy her back. He takes her home, but refrains from sexual intimacy with her for many days, to symbolize the fact that Israel will be without a king for many years, but that God will take Israel back, even at a cost to Himself.

Chapters 4-14 spell out the allegory at length. Chapters 1-3 speak of Hosea’s family and the issues with Gomer. Chapters 4-10 contain a series of oracles or prophetic sermons, showing exactly why God is rejecting the Northern Kingdom (what the grounds are for the divorce). Chapter 11 is God’s lament over the necessity of giving up the Northern Kingdom, which is a large part of the people of Israel, whom God loves. God promises not to give them up entirely. Then, in Chapter 12, the prophet pleads for Israel’s repentance. Chapter 13 foretells the destruction of the kingdom at the hands of Assyria because there has been no repentance. In Chapter 14, the prophet urges Israel to seek forgiveness and promises its restoration, while urging the utmost fidelity to God.

Matthew 2:13 cites Hosea’s prophecy in Hosea 11:1 that God would call His Son out of Egypt as foretelling the flight into Egypt and return to Israel of Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus Christ.

The capital of the Northern Kingdom fell in 722 BC. All the members of the upper classes and many of the ordinary people were taken captive and carried off to live as prisoners of war.

The Book of Hosea is a prophetic accounting of God’s relentless love for His children. Since the beginning of time, God’s ungrateful and undeserving creation has been accepting God’s love, grace, and mercy while still unable to refrain from its wickedness.

The last part of Hosea shows how God’s love once again restores His children as He forgets their misdeeds when they turn back to Him with a repentant heart. The prophetic message of Hosea foretells the coming of Israel’s Messiah 700 years in the future. Hosea is quoted often in the New Testament.

Hosea (הושֵעַ) prophesied during a dark and melancholic era of Israel‘s history, the period of the Northern Kingdom’s decline and fall in the 8th century BC. The apostasy of the people was rampant, having turned away from God in order to serve the calves of Jeroboam[1] and Baal, a Canaanite god.[2]

During Hosea’s lifetime, the kings of the Northern Kingdom, their aristocratic supporters, and the priests had led the people away from the Law of God, as given in the Pentateuch. Forsaking the worship of God, they worshiped other gods, especially Baal, the Canaanite fertility god. Other sins followed, including homicide, perjury, theft, and sexual sin.[3] Hosea declares that unless they repent of these sins, God will allow their nation to be destroyed, and the people will be taken into captivity by Assyria,[4] the greatest nation of the time.

The prophecy of Hosea centers on God’s unending love towards a sinful Israel. In this text, God’s agony is expressed over the betrayal of Israel.[5][6][7] Stephen Cook asserts that the prophetic efforts of this book can be summed up in this passage “I have been the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and beside me there is no savior” (Hosea 13:4) Hosea’s job was to speak these words during a time when that had been essentially forgotten.[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Hosea

It is interesting, that an account of a nation’s decline and its falling from God’s grace some 700 before the birth of Jesus years could easily describe the world in Noah’s time prior to the flood, or Sodom and Gomorrah prior to their destruction; the Roman Empire prior to its decline and fall; and even to the moral decline of nations around the world, today.

We should not dwell on the negative aspects of Hosea’s testimony, instead, we must keep our focus on the positive portions of his testimony of his response to God’s directions. Hosea was not instructed to just minister to the Gomer, a harlot, but to marry the prostitute. And through the covenant of marriage, Hosea would give her his good name as his wife and remove the stigma associated with being a harlot. Sound familiar?  You may recall  in admonition found in Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV):

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 5:27 Or holy and blameless

We see the story of Hosea teaches, by analogy, God’s covenant of love for not just the people of Israel, but for all people humanity, despite humanity’s sinful nature. Jesus brings the covenant of Salvation not only to the people of Israel but to all people. His gift of salvation is offered to all, as we read in Romans 1:16-17 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[a] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Romans 1:17 Or beginning and ending in faith b. Romans 1:17 Or The one who by faith is righteous shall live

Is the lesson from Hosea just a lesson of God’s love for his chosen people? I believe that God expects all of us to demonstrate to others, including those whom we would normally despise, the same unconditional love that Hosea showed towards Gomer.

Hosea was instructed by God to give unconditional love to Gomer, a sinner, just as God gave us the same agape or unconditional love to His people, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. And even though we strayed from God, becoming like the unfaithful wife, Gomer, God did not sever His Covenant, 2 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV):    

2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.                                              

God’s instructions to Hosea to take back his wife, is a living Parable to the manner to the way of He has provided us with the means to return to His good grace, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Redeemer. In the Parable, Jesus is represented by the groom and the church of believers represents the bride, as indicated in Ephesians 5:24-27 (ESV):

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]                                                                                                                                                                                  

 Footnotes: a. Ephesians 5:27 Or holy and blameless              

We, who are the church, or the body of believers, must turn to Christ and keep our vow of faith and trust, until the day that Jesus returns, Revelation 19:7-9 (ESV):

7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

9 for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 

And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”                                                                                                          

 Footnotes: a. Revelation 19:9 Greek he said                                        

It is a strong faith that Job kept throughout his testing and adversity. It was faith that allowed Hosea to love and forgive his wife, Gomer, and to trust God’s plan, Revelation 21:1-2 (ESV):

The New Heaven and the New Earth

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Let us pray…

Communion:

Luke 22:14-20 (ESV): Institution of the Lord’s Supper

 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b]

Footnotes: a. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again b.Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood)

Closing Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Benediction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4): Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Thanks For Supporting Our One For All Fundraiser – BLCF Cafe

Thanks For Supporting Our One For All Fundraiser – BLCF Cafe – Serving the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto since 2008