Save the Best for Last and Other Lessons from a Wedding in Cana

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Save the Best for Last and Other Lessons from a Wedding in Cana’

 © October 21, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 21, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #57: I Sing the Almighty Power of God; Choruses 

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

Responsive Reading #601 (Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27) 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                Saving the Best for Last and Other Lessons from a Wedding in Cana’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Sunday Praise and Worship Service. For our lesson this morning, which is entitled Save the Best for Last and Other Lessons from a Wedding in Cana’, where we will examine the account of the first of Jesus’ signs or miracles, at a wedding in Cana, from the second chapter of John’s Gospel:

John 2:1-12 (ESV): The Wedding at Cana

 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers, sisters, and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b. John 2:12 

Some critics seem to place more importance on the metaphorical aspects of the Lord’s first sign, rather than focus on the importance of the miracle.

At one extreme, some authors tend to describe the signs performed by Christ in the Gospels as merely a collection of metaphorical stories, rather than acknowledging that the miracles of the Lord, including the changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana, describe a miracle performed by our Lord as witnessed by John on his gospel, John 2:1-12.

While the use of six stone jars containing water for purification rituals may be laced with religious symbolism, the changing water into wine is what it is, a miracle performed by Jesus, the Word made flesh. It is NOT a symbolic action or metaphor to be interpreted to represent something else. To think otherwise tends demean or diminish the importance of a sign from the Lord.

Jesus came into our world as a Son of Man, but also the Son of God, the Word made flesh, to offer humanity a path to righteousness and salvation by emphasizing a choice centered in faith and obedience to what God provides, rather than what may be gained from this world. With God, all things are possible and in the world, much is not possible:

Matthew 19:23-28 (ESV)

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, 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.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world,[a] when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 19:28 Greek in the regeneration

The choice of stone jars as vessels of Jesus’ miracle, considered by some to be symbolic, was likely more one of convenience. But why were the vessels made from stone:

 Archaeologist Yitzhak Magen explains why in “Ancient Israel’s Stone Age” in BAR:

 What was it that connected these stone vessels to Jewish purity laws? Simply this: Stone vessels, unlike ceramic and glass vessels, were not subject to impurity.

Laws of ritual purity and impurity are of Biblical origin (Leviticus 11:33 ff.). During the Second Temple period, however, the rules were greatly expanded. Most of the purity laws relate to rites in the Temple. But the territory of the Temple was at least metaphorically expanded beyond the Temple confines, and ritual cleanliness was not limited to the bounds of the Temple but spread through the Jewish community. The laws affected ordinary people.

It made sense to purchase a vessel that could not become unclean, for once a vessel became ritually unclean, it had to be taken out of use. An impure pottery vessel, for example, had to be broken.

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/daily-life-and-practice/jewish-purification-stone-vessel-workshop-galilee/

Laws intended for the Temple had been expanded metaphorically to outside the bounds of the temple to include ordinary people, not just the priests of the Temple. So it is not surprising that the Pharisees perceived those who had committed actions considered to be contrary to traditional rules, even though the disciples by  not washing their hands through a violation of Jewish tradition, reacted as if they had broken a Commandment of God:

Mark 7:1-4 (ESV): Traditions and Commandments

 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly,[a] holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.[b] And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.[c])

Footnotes: a. Mark 7:3 Greek unless they wash the hands with a fist, probably indicating a kind of ceremonial washing b. Mark 7:4 Greek unless they baptize; some manuscripts unless they purify themselves c. Mark 7:4 Some manuscripts omit and dining couches

The stone jars of water which were used to symbolically remove the soil that was thought to defiled the hands of the guests, allowing a ceremonial purification, became containers where the true power of the Lord became manifest: water was transformed to wine. Not just ordinary wine but what the master of the wedding feast indicated that the groom, who was responsible for providing the wine for the wedding banquet, had apparently saved the best for last as we see in John 2:8-10:

And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

We should not confuse what the stone jars, which was a man-made tradition with the miracle that occurred inside. Changing water to wine was a miracle performed by the Son of God taking place in a jar made from stone. The miracle was from God in a vessel for man. Just as Jesus is God expressed in the vessel of a man, or the Word made flesh.

Since Jesus came to humanity in the form of a man, does that not mean that he be considered the greatest among all men. The Lord’s answer to this very question may surprise you, as it did to the disciples:

Luke 22:24-30 (ESV): Who Is the Greatest?

24 A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

In this life, we honour the Lord, and in turn the Father in heaven, when we acknowledge their authority and Lordship by serving others. In this life, we are expected to take a place at the banquet table not as the greatest, but alongside the youngest who role it is to be considered last. This is where least in this world, those who serve will be honored as the greatest in the next kingdom, which belongs to the Father in heaven.

When Jesus performed the miracle of changing water into wine at a wedding banquet in Cana, he did so not to impress the bride or groom, nor officials of the wedding, but to engender faith hope in the hearts of the disciple, those who chose to follow and serve the Lord, John 2:9 and 11:

When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew) 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Jesus used his response to a simple request from his mother, Mary, to provide wine for a wedding banquet, as a lesson to show his disciples that the Son of Man is truly the Son of God who has come not to rule humanity, but to serve them. In doing his service, the Lord would humbly forfeit his own life to pay the debt for the sins of humanity. In return, humanity would be offered salvation, given in exchange for faith expressed by humble trust and obedience to the Lord.

The Lord expects those who accept his gift of salvation, to follow His example of humbly serving the least of our brothers and sisters as the only way of inheriting the Kington that has been prepared for the faithful:

Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV): The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’                                                                                                                              

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #74: Shepherd of Eager Youth                                                     

Benediction (Ephesians 3:20-21):  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit’        

 © October 13, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 14, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 6, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 4, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

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

Responsive Reading #601 (Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27)

Message by Steve Mickelson: Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, on this Communion Sunday.

In past lessons, on previous Sundays, we have looked at how sin can cause fear, guilt, and shame, which in turn result in a separation from God. Our examples have included: how both Adam and Eve, being aware of their nakedness, felt shame; Cain experienced the guilt of killing his brother, Abel; and Jesus’ disciples had hidden in fear in the Upper Room, after Christ’s crucifixion.

Adam and Eve, having eaten the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge” became aware of their nakedness and hid their bodies in guilt. Their sin was disobeying God.

Cain, in a fit of jealousy, killed his brother and denied knowing Abel’s whereabouts. His sin was murdering another.

Having seen their Lord die on the cross, the disciples hid in the Upper Room, fearful of their own safety. When Peter denied knowing Jesus and his allowing him to go to die the cross for sin’s he did not commit, produced in him and the other disciples a guilt so great, that they locked themselves in a room.

We see three accounts of how sin pushes people from God, as each felt that the sin could not be undone. And all three reactions to sin could be viewed not only as introspective and self-serving, perhaps even selfish in nature.

Which brings us to David, who authored today’s first Scripture verse, which is taken from Psalm 27, Verse 1.

Psalm 27:1 (ESV): The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation

Of David.

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

Footnotes: a. Psalm 27:1 Or refuge

The Psalmist expresses no guilt, shame or fear, even though he had committed the sin of adultery. The difference was that he had been forgiven by the Lord for his transgression. This brings us to today’s second Scripture passage, Acts 4:1-22.

Acts 4:1-22 (ESV): Peter and John before the Council

4 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus[a] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[b] 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[c] by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

Footnotes: a. Acts 4:11 Greek This one b. Acts 4:11 Greek the head of the corner c. Acts 4:12 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women

The boldness of Peter and John, who were filled by the Holy Spirit by their resurrected Lord after he had given them his Commission, (John 20:21), was so powerful that the temple priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducee released the apostles from their custody. Besides, it is rather difficult to deny the man who was healed from a lifelong affliction, standing before them.

John 20:19-23 (ESV): Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time

Though Peter and John were released with the warning not to continue to preach in the name of Jesus, this did not happen, as the two apostles prayed to God for strength from the Spirit, to continue to be bold in their ministry.

These were the same men who had hid in fear for their own safety, now boldly ministering to those who they feared. Remember, Christ had breathed into them the Holy Spirit to become messengers of his Gospel. The Spirit gave the apostles courage to boldly go forth on Christ’s Commission. For Christ had died on the cross for their sins, and our sins. Jesus had paid the penalty for all sin, so it was no longer necessary to carry sin’s burdens of guilt, shame, and fear. The apostles had both faith and the gift of the Spirit which gave them confidence not only to spread the Gospel message but to heal a crippled man, through the grace and power of the Spirit. They had now changed their focus from worrying only about themselves to caring about the salvation of others, including the very same group responsible for the death of Jesus and sought to persecute them: the temple priest, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees.

So who were these Sadducees, who sought to suppress the apostles?

The Sadducees

Let us check our Wiki Bits reference:

The Sadducees (Hebrew: צְדוּקִיםṢĕdûqîm) were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BCE through the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole, the sect fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple. The Sadducees are often compared to other contemporaneous sects, including the Pharisees and the Essenes. Their sect is believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, but it has been speculated that the later Karaites may have had some roots or connections with old Sadducee views.

The religious responsibilities of the Sadducees included the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. Their high social status was reinforced by their priestly responsibilities, as mandated in the Torah. The Priests were responsible for performing sacrifices at the Temple, the primary method of worship in Ancient Israel. This also included presiding over sacrifices on the three festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Their religious beliefs and social status were mutually reinforcing, as the Priesthood often represented the highest class in Judean society. Sadducees and the priests were not completely synonymous. Cohen points out that “not all priests, high priests, and aristocrats were Sadducees; many were Pharisees, and many were not members of any group at all.”

The New Testament, specifically the books of Mark and Matthew, describe anecdotes that hint at hostility between the Jesus movement and the Sadduceean establishment. These disputes manifest themselves on both theological and social levels. Mark describes how the Sadducees challenged Jesus’ belief in the Resurrection of the Dead. Jesus subsequently defends his belief in resurrection against Sadduceean resistance, stating, “and as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Jesus challenges the reliability of the Sadducees’ interpretation of Biblical doctrine, the authority of which enforces the power of the Sadduceean priesthood. The Sadducees address the issue of resurrection through the lens of marriage, which “hinted at their real agenda: the protection of property rights through patriarchal marriage that perpetuated the male lineage.” Furthermore, Matthew depicts the Sadducees as a “brood of Vipers,” and a perversion of the true Israel. The New Testament thus constructs the identity of Christianity in opposition to the Sadducees.

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

The Holy Spirit that Jesus “breathed upon the disciples” transformed them from disciples or students of the Lord, who locked themselves out of fear in the Upper Room, to apostles or messengers of the Gospel, boldly witnessing in faith to the very same people who had Christ crucified! The power of the Spirit had transformed the apostles into bold witnesses of Christ’s Gospel.

But what do we mean by faith? The Apostle Paul gave us a good understanding of faith, by explaining what believers may accomplish by faith, in Hebrews 11:1-16.

Hebrews 11:1-16 (ESV): By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

The first paragraph acts both as an overview and summary of the power of actions performed by walking boldly faith, with courage from the Holy Spirit:

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering

Benediction (Ephesians 3:20-21):  Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’      

© October 7, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 7, 2018

Revisited Message Shared at BLCF on October 8, 2017

BLCF Bulletin October 8, 2017 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                    Opening Hymn #448: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah; Choruses                     Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings         Responsive Reading #619: The Waiting Harvest (- from Matthew 9, Romans 10, John 4, Psalm 126)                                                                                               Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                             ‘Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’       

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service, on this Thanksgiving Sunday.

To begin our lesson today, I would like to ask the congregation what is the definition of “thanksgiving”?

For those who have not already read the definition posted in this morning’s bulletin, you may be surprised to find to that dictionary.com, (as well as other dictionaries), define it as follows:

thanksgiving – noun (dictionary.com)

  1. the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.
  2. an expression of thanks, especially to God.
  3. a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness.
  4. a day set apart for giving thanks to God.
  5. (initial capital letterThanksgiving Day.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/thanksgiving

We find a historical account of the origin of Thanksgiving in Canada on the site, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca:

Origins and History of Thanksgiving in Canada

Indigenous peoples in North America have a history of holding communal feasts in celebration of the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers. The Smithsonian Institute has noted that some First Nations “sought to insure a good harvest with dances and rituals.” The European settlers brought with them a similar tradition of harvest celebrations (for which the symbol was the cornucopia or horn of plenty), which dates back to European peasant societies.

The first Thanksgiving by Europeans in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in the Eastern Arctic in 1578. They ate a meal of salt beef, biscuits and mushy peas to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in Newfoundland. They celebrated Communion and formally expressed their thanks through the ship’s Chaplain, Robert Wolfall, who, according to explorer Richard Collinson, “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places [sic].”

 In 1606, in an attempt to prevent the kind of scurvy epidemic that had decimated the settlement at Île Ste. Croix in the winter of 1604–05, Samuel de Champlain founded a series of rotating feasts at Port Royal called the Ordre de Bon Temps (“Order of Good Cheer”). Local Mi’kmaq families were also invited. The first feast was held on 14 November 1606 to celebrate the return of Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt from an expedition. Having attended the festivities, Marc Lescarbot remarked that they consisted of “a feast, a discharge of musketry, and as much noise as could be made by some fifty men, joined by a few Indians, whose families served as spectators.”           

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day/

It should be pointed out that in Canada, Thanksgiving was legislated not just a holiday day, as we see in this description of Thanksgiving, from kidsworld.com, that Parliament correctly applied the designation of Thanksgiving as a day when Canadians are encouraged to give thanks to God:

Official Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday

For a few hundred years, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November, before it was declared a national holiday in 1879. It was then, that November 6th was set aside as the official Thanksgiving holiday. But then on January 31st, 1957, Canadian Parliament announced that on the second Monday in October, Thanksgiving would be “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” Thanksgiving was moved to the second Monday in October because, after the World Wars, Remembrance Day (November 11th) and Thanksgiving kept falling in the same week. This year Canadian Thanksgiving is October 9th!

http://www.kidzworld.com/article/2614-canadian-thanksgiving#ixzz2hXOhQaCi

Shopeasefoods.com  helps answer the question, “Did Canada invent Thanksgiving?” with the following:

Thanksgiving in Canada originated purely as a harvest festival. On Jan 31, 1957 Canadian parliament proclaimed a day of general thanksgiving to the almighty God for the bountiful harvest Canada has been blessed with and was to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October. English Explorer Martin Frobisher hosted the first Thanksgiving held in what is now Newfoundland in 1578 to mark their safe arrival to the new world.

The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated 43 years later in 1621 at the site of Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. They thanked God and the Wampano for teaching them how to grow crops that enabled them to have a plentiful harvest in time for winter.

http://www.shopeasefoods.com/blog//did-canada-invent-thanksgiving

This brings us to our lesson today, entitled: ‘Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’, where the definition of watchword is a guiding principle, a word, or phrase expressing a person’s or group’s core aim or belief.

It is interesting to see that Thanksgiving, (or giving thanks to God), is a key component of our faith, salvation, and our worship of the Lord. Let us look at our first Scripture verse, which also just happens to be today’s Benediction – Colossians 3:15-17(ESV):

 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. 16And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In addition to having each verse begin with the conjunction “And”, we are encouraged to be thankful that we have been “called” to Christ, having been gifted with the Holy Spirit, who has been sent to dwell within us to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and to encourage us to worship God, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs –how: with thankfulness in our hearts.

We see that we are exhorted to be thankful for our faith or belief that Jesus died for our sins and promises us life eternal, but we are urged to not just worship God with songs of thanks and gratitude, we are called on  to do everything in word or deed in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Christ.

There are two important reasons why we are encouraged to continuously offer our thanks to God.

The first is gratitude for our faith’s reward from God, which are His grace and blessings, as we read in our next Scripture passage, Psalm 67 (ESV):

Make Your Face Shine Upon Us

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

A Psalm. A Song.

67 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, 
Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. 
Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!

The second reason for us to continue to express thanksgiving is giving thanks to God affirms the sincerity of our faith and our gratitude all God’s creation which is sanctified by His word and by prayer. Come judgement day, the Lord will separated true believers from the non-believers, by how we conduct ourselves in our faith practices and our testimony, both must demonstrate a sincere gratitude to God for all that He gives us in reward for our faith, as we read in the Scripture passage from 1 Timothy 4:1-10 (ESV):

Some Will Depart from the Faith

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

A Good Servant of Christ Jesus

If you put these things before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive,[a] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.                                                                                                                               Footnotes: a. Some manuscripts and suffer reproach

This passage comes with the warning that the only way to truly honour the gifts given us from God, including salvation through His Son, Jesus, is to thank Him for that He gives. What God offers us is made holy by His word. (made flesh in Christ Jesus), and can only be received when we acknowledge it by our expression of thanksgiving in our actions and inwardly in our prayers.

 Let us pray…

 Communion: Matthew 26:26-29 (ESV): Institution of the Lord’s Supper

         

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn #526: God of Our Fathers

Benediction – Colossians 3:15-17:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday

‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within’

© September 30, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn # 410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day; Choruses                Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                            Responsive Reading #667: Humility and Exaltation (-from Philippians 2 and Matthew 23)                                                                                                                      Message by Steve Mickelson:‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Morning Prayer and Worship Service for the last Sunday of September 2018.

Today’s lesson is entitled: To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within was partly inspired from an online article by Jon Lockett, about a mysterious 1,000-year-old map, published by the UK Sun, online on September 10, 2018, entitled:

CRACKING THE CODE: 1,000-year-old Medieval map ‘reveals the location of          Noah’s Ark and other biblical mysteries’

Mappa Mundi

By Jon Lockett

10th September 2018, 3:12 pm

Updated: 10th September 2018, 6:43 pm

 Hereford’s Mappa Mundi contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical events.

 A HISTORIC map which marks the supposed sites of religious events is still being decoded – nearly 1,000 years after it was made.

The Mappa Mundi, in Hereford Cathedral, contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical happenings.

Measuring 1.59 x 1.34 metres (5ft 2ins by 4ft 4ins), the map is constructed on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin).

The huge masterpiece is seen by many history scholars as one of the greatest surviving artworks of the Middle Ages.

On the map the world is depicted as a circle with East at the top of the map – to mark the rising of the sun and the second coming of Christ.

Jerusalem sits at its centre as was common at the time.

Noah’s Ark is clearly pictured on the bottom-left of the map on the modern-day Iran-Armenia border.

And that ties in with the theory that the ruptured remains of the legendary vessel can now be found on Mount Ararat, in eastern Turkey.

Close to the very centre of the Mappa Mundi can be found the Tower of Babel – said to have been built after the great flood.

According to the Bible, the tower was so tall it was seen as a challenge to God, who caused humanity to speak in different languages as a punishment.

It has been long claimed that Shinar, where the Bible says the tower stood, was in south Mesopotamia and that Babel was located at Babylon.

However those that have studied the incredible and beautiful map put it in what is now Syria.

Eden is represented by a circular island at the very top of the map surrounded by a ring of fire and separated from the land masses by water.

Eve is seen taking fruit from the tree of knowledge from a terrifying serpent perched in the tree.

Hereford Cathedral’s commercial director Dominic Harbour said: “The map disarms anybody who stands in front of it.

“It’s really a cacophony of too much going on at the same time. The map’s unfathomable, really.

“You have to immerse yourself into it.”

Scholars believe it could be 1,000 years old and shows the history, geography and destiny of humanity as it was understood in Christian Europe in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

The inhabited part of the world as it was known then, roughly equivalent to Europe, Asia and North Africa, is mapped within a Christian framework.

Jerusalem is in the centre, and east is at the top. East, where the sun rises, was where medieval Christians looked for the second coming of Christ.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7219987/ancient-map-reveals-location-noahs-ark/

Since the above article describes the biblical accounts of the Tower of Babel and the Garden of Eden, I thought that it worthwhile to review these two accounts, as they appeared in the Bible:

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV): The Tower of Babel

Confusion Of Tongues

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for con\used

I would like to point out that in Genesis 11:7, the Lord refers to Himself in the plural, which is appropriate for the Godhead or Holy Trinity.

The Lord takes great exception to the people who migrated from the east, settling in the land of Shinar, and together decided to build there a tower with its top in the heavens.

At that time, people spoke the same language, and the Lord decided the easiest way to foil their plan to build this tower, which He found to be an abomination, was to confuse the people by causing to speak in different languages. This was to ensure that the people could not understand each other so as to prevent them from understanding one another, which in-turn would foil the people’s plans to collectively build a tower to heaven.

While it may not be the actual construction of the tower which concerned the Lord, but the reasons why the people sought to use the building as to reach the heavens for their own glorification. In other words, to elevate their perception by others to be elevated to a level equal to God, a motivation not unlike that which the serpent used to entice Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit described in Genesis 3:1-13 (ESV):

The Fall

Temptation in the Garden

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 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[c] 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?”[d] 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.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Not only were Adam and Eve’s eyes opened to an awareness of good and evil, which brought them an awareness of their sin and being naked, which prompted them to hide because of their nakedness because of their fear.

And their fear and guilt of their transgression to God, caused Adam to blame Eve, and Eve to blame the serpent for their sins. Not only had they disobeyed God, but they also lied to Him when they refused to take responsibility for their own actions.

We see in the account of the Tower of Babel, there were consequences from the Lord for Adam and Eve, ejection from the garden of Eden, which they had walked together with God. This separation from the Lord, where they walked together with Him to enjoy conversation in the cool of the day, was perhaps the greatest punishment because it also brought them a judgment of death:

Genesis 3:20-24 (ESV)

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.[a] 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

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. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Footnotes: a Genesis 3:20 Eve sounds like the Hebrew for life-giver and resembles the word for living

The Tower of Babel was constructed after Adam and Eve were punished for their sin, bringing the punishment of the loss of fellowship with God and the punishment of death. There was no manner of works, including building a tower to heaven, which would allow people to restore what the Lord had decided to remove as a punishment for their sins.

There is only one Way by which the separation between God and humanity could be removed, allowing a restoration for the lost fellowship with God, through Christ Jesus. He is the only way that we may restore both the relationship with the Father in heaven that was taken after the fall, but it will restore a unity taken when the tower was constructed at Babel:

Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV): One in Christ

 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[a] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[b] the Spirit.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:19 Or sojourners b. Ephesians 2:22 Or in

Through blood and flesh sacrificed by our Lord, Christ Jesus, we have reunited again in one single body. And by way of the Holy Spirit sent to us from the Father in heaven, in the name of his son, Jesus, we are able to understand each other since that Great day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:1-12 (ESV): The Coming of the Holy Spirit

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

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

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

God has provided a plan to sanctify us through his son and reconcile us as a body of believers to our Father, so that we may look forward to that day when Christ returns to walk, talk, and fellowship with Him in that garden, at the cool of the day.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

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.

 

Rejoice and Be Renewed In HIS Image

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:           

‘Rejoice and Be Renewed In HIS Image’

© September 23, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Message Shared with BLCF on August 9, 2015

 Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                    Opening Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee; Choruses                             Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests                     Responsive Reading #667: Humility and Exaltation (Philippians 2 and Matthew 23)                                                                                                                               Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Rejoice and Be Renewed In HIS Image’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service.

Our lesson this morning is entitled:Rejoice and Be Renewed In HIS Image’, where we will have an opportunity for some self-reflection upon our personal walk with the Lord. We will look at the pitfalls of hypocrisy in our faith practices when we reflect upon God’s Word, primarily using today’s Scripture verses, .

It is through the Bible, along with the Spirit’s guidance, that we may understand not only the path God has set for us but examine our behavior as a true reflection of God’s grace. Let us first look at Psalm 119:57-64, which happens to take from not only the longest of the Psalms but also happens to be the longest chapter of Scripture found in the Bible, comprised of some 176 verses:

Psalm 119, verses 57 to 64 indicate the importance of attitude over actions as an expression of our faith which is pleasing to the Lord:

Psalm 119:57-64 (ESV)

Heth

57 The Lord is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
58 I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60 I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
63 I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
64 The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!

Our second Scripture verse contrasts that from Psalm 119, where Jesus gives a litany of failings in the faith practices of the Scribes and the Pharisees, Matthew 23:1-36 (ESV):

Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear,[a] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi[b] by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.[c] And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.[d] 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell[e] as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,[f] whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 23:4 Some manuscripts omit hard to bear b. Matthew 23:7 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master; also verse 8 c. Matthew 23:8 Or brothers and sisters d. Matthew 23:13 Some manuscripts add here (or after verse 12) verse 14: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation e. Matthew 23:15 Greek Gehenna; also verse 33 f. Matthew 23:35 Some manuscripts omit the son of Barachiah

Henry’s Concise Commentary helps us understand the Lord’s concerns found in today’s second Scripture verse, Matthew 23:

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary: Matthew 23 Chapter Contents:

Jesus reproves the scribes and Pharisees (1-12); Crimes of the Pharisees (13-33); The guilt of Jerusalem. (34-39):

Commentary on Matthew 23:1-12

(Read Matthew 23:1-12)

The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but God searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These were scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written four paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left arms, Exodus 13:2-10; 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21.

{The phylacteries are illustrated on the inside of today’s BLCF Bulletin.}

They made these phylacteries broad, that they might be thought more zealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to make fringes upon their garments, Numbers 15:38, to remind them of their being a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger than common, as if they were thereby more religious than others. Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all occasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the word to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for him that teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful. How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! The consistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chief places. But who that looks around on the visible church, would think this was the spirit required? It is plain that some measure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religious society, and in every one of our hearts.

Commentary on Matthew 23:13-33(Read Matthew 23:13-33):

The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him…

The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners’ hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts’ lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.

Commentary on Matthew 23:34-39 (Read Matthew 23:34-39):

Our Lord declares the miseries the inhabitants of Jerusalem were about to bring upon themselves, but he does not notice the sufferings he was to undergo… There is nothing between sinners and eternal happiness, but their proud and unbelieving unwillingness.

http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=40&c=23

The Bible refers to Christ, Jesus as the “Word made flesh.” But what is meant by this description of our Lord?

Question: “What does it mean that the Word became flesh (John 1:14)?”

Answer: The term word is used in different ways in the Bible. In the New Testament, there are two Greek words translated “word”: rhema and logos. They have slightly different meanings. Rhema usually means “a spoken word.” For example, in Luke 1:38, when the angel told Mary that she would be the mother of God’s Son, Mary replied, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word [rhema].”

Logos, however, has a broader, more philosophical meaning. This is the term used in John 1. It usually implies a total message, and is used mostly in reference to God’s message to mankind. For example, Luke 4:32 says that, when Jesus taught the people, “they were amazed at his teaching, because his words [logos] had authority.” The people were amazed not merely by the particular words Jesus chose but by His total message.

“The Word” (Logos) in John 1 is referring to Jesus. Jesus is the total Message—everything that God wants to communicate to man. The first chapter of John gives us a glimpse inside the Father/Son relationship before Jesus came to earth in human form. He preexisted with the Father (verse 1), He was involved in the creation of everything (verse 3), and He is the “light of all mankind” (verse 4). The Word (Jesus) is the full embodiment of all that is God (Colossians 1:19; 2:9; John 14:9). But God the Father is Spirit. He is invisible to the human eye. The message of love and redemption that God spoke through the prophets had gone unheeded for centuries (Ezekiel 22:26; Matthew 23:37). People found it easy to disregard the message of an invisible God and continued in their sin and rebellion. So the Message became flesh, took on human form, and came to dwell among us (Matthew 1:23; Romans 8:3; Philippians 2: 5–11).

The Greeks used the word logos to refer to one’s “mind,” “reason,” or “wisdom.” John used this Greek concept to communicate the fact that Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, is the self-expression of God to the world. In the Old Testament, the word of God brought the universe into existence (Psalm 33:6) and saved the needy (Psalm 107:20). In chapter 1 of his Gospel, John is appealing to both Jew and Gentile to receive the eternal Christ.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 20:9–16 to explain why the Word had to become flesh. “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

In this parable, Jesus was reminding the Jewish leaders that they had rejected the prophets and were now rejecting the Son. The Logos, the Word of God, was now going to be offered to everyone, not just the Jews (John 10:16; Galatians 2:28; Colossians 3:11). Because the Word became flesh, we have a high priest who is able to empathize with our weaknesses, one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).

http://www.gotquestions.org/Word-became-flesh.html

The Bible reminds us that God created us in His image. And while the sin of Adam and Eve separated us from the image of God spiritually, which removed from us the immortality of this Godly image, Jesus, by way of his death on the cross to remove the death penalty, which is the expected judgment for sin and restores in us the promise of immortality to those who are not fettered by condemnation of sin.

Genesis 1:27 (ESV)

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Having been freed of the judgment of sin, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit and born again into a new self, redeemed and sanctified by Christ, Jesus, being a new creation through him. No longer are we judged by the Law, but redeemed by the one who has fulfilled that judgment, by his own sacrifice on the cross.

                                   Colossians 3:9-11 (ESV): Put On the New Self

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[a] with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,[b] free; but Christ is all, and in all.

Footnotes: a. Colossians 3:9 Greek man; also as supplied in verse 10 b. Colossians 3:11 Greek bondservant

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #177: Rejoice, the Lord is King

Benediction:  – (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17): Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

Mark November 7, 2018 On Your Calendar – BLCF Cafe Fall FUNdraiser Time

 

Well, it is that time of year. BLCF Cafe announces that the date for our Fall FUNdraiser is set to November 7, 2018, at 6:30 PM. Support the BLCF Cafe’s cause of serving dinner to Toronto’s homeless and marginalized, right in the heart of the city.

Invite a friend for an evening of great Bluegrass music performed by Coldwater Roots, who are able to put the FUN into FUNdraising.

BLCF Cafe, 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto – 1 Block west of Lansdowne Subway Station (Bloor West TTC Line). 416-535-9578

 

Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart’

© September 16, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 16 2018

Based on a Message Shared with BLCF on Sunday, May 26, 2013

BLCF Bulletin May 26, 2013

Let us pray…

In past lessons shared at BLCF on previous Sundays, we have examined how those who view religion with a purely legalistic outlook without faith carry an attitude which can act like excess baggage and impede their faith walk. A specific example would be the Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had difficulty with Jesus’ teachings about being born again in the Spirit. Though Nicodemus had what can be described as having head knowledge of God’s laws and the Scriptures, he had little or no faith understanding of God’s spiritual intent behind those commandments. Without faith or belief that Jesus came to end our judgment under the law, we face the impossible task of being perfect within the law to prevent our own condemnation.  We should conclude that all the other things of this world are of little importance to God, except our faith in Him, which God desires most from us. To grow our faith, we need to discard the excess baggage of the world, focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus.

So you may ask yourself: “What are the risks of taking a purely legalistic approach to our faith?” Before we discuss the penalty or remedy, let us first look at the laws which govern us in our faith walk.

We have two sets of laws that were given to the people of Israel. First, we have God’s 10 Commandments, written on stone tablets by God, and were carried beside the Ark of the Covenant. Next, we have the Ceremonial Law or Mosaic Law, written by Moses, which was carried as a book on the side of the Arc of the Covenant. There is a chart inside today’s bulletin which helps us to distinguish one from another.

God expects us to abide by His 10 Commandments.  Now the legalist might question the name of these God-given laws.

According to Wikipedia, the Ten Commandments are called, in biblical Hebrew, עשרת הדברים (transliterated Asereth ha-D’bharîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew עשרת הדברות (transliterated Asereth ha-Dibroth), both translatable as “the ten words”, “the ten sayings” or “the ten matters”. The Tyndale and Coverdale English translations used “ten verses”. The Geneva Bible appears to be the first to use “tenne commandements”, which was followed by the Bishops’ Bible and the Authorized Version (the “King James” version) as “ten commandments”. Most major English versions follow the Authorized Version.

The English name “Decalogue” is derived from Greek δεκάλογος, dekalogos, the latter meaning and referring to the Greek translation (in accusative) δέκα λόγους, deka logous, “ten words”, found in the Septuagint (or LXX) at Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4.

The stone tablets, as opposed to the commandments inscribed on them, are called לוחות הברית: Luchot HaBrit, meaning “the tablets of the covenant”.

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

It is not surprising that some scholars will even confuse Ceremonial Laws of Moses with God’s Commandments. It is only the Ordinances and Decrees that Jesus removed by His crucifixion, not God’s 10 Commandments.

Just as important as keeping God’s Laws, both to God and ourselves, is the need to keeping faith with the Lord. While a legalist may say that they abide by both the law and the spirit of the law. But that is not the same as abiding by the law of the spirit, which is, in essence, keeping the faith with the Lord.

In today’s first Scripture verse, Luke 11:37-52, we have Jesus invited by a Pharisee to dine with him. Remember from our earlier lesson of Nicodemus that the definition of a Pharisee is as follows:

(noun):

  1. a member of an ancient Jewish sect that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious practices, liberal interpretation of the Bible, and adherence to oral laws and traditions.
  2. a self-righteous person; a hypocrite.

The Pharisee was astonished that Jesus did not wash before dinner, which was a Jewish Ceremonial observance, not for reasons of hygiene. The washing supposedly made one clean before God, something mandated by man, not by God. The reaction of the Pharisee gave Jesus an opportunity to criticize the Pharisee for being focused on the relative superficiality of being focused on outward appearances and what is on the inside, where greed and wickedness contradict an outward demeanor of righteous. Jesus gave the desire to have the best seats in the synagogues and the desire to be acknowledged in the public marketplaces as examples of the Pharisee’s greed. As for wickedness, Jesus pointed to Pharisee injustice to others and avoidance of love to God.

When a lawyer objected to what Jesus said, by characterizing these truthful observations as an insult not just to the Pharisees, but as an insult to lawyers as well. By defending the criticisms that Jesus made of the Pharisees and siding with them, the lawyer attempted to try to make such behaviour as righteous and justified. This opened the door for Jesus to observe how lawyers do behave fit the definition of a Pharisee, being self-righteous hypocrites. Jesus commented on how the lawyers saw fit to burden people, rather than to help them. Jesus spoke of the hypocrisy shown by building tombs and monuments to the prophets who were killed by the fathers of the lawyers. And being educated and learned, the lawyers have had an opportunity to a  faith practice, which they not only avoided but acted as a stumbling block to others finding faith. This is a perfect example of one reading the scriptures with the mind, but not the heart. By obsessing on the words and not the intent of God’s word, they miss the true meaning of the scriptures for both themselves as well as for those to whom they read the verses.

But is missing the mark of comprehending and sharing the scriptures limited to just Pharisees and Lawyers? Do some Christians recite verses from the Holy Word by rote, as if the words alone have some magical power? Let’s have look at how Jesus taught us to pray.

If you look on the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see two examples of what we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. The first recorded in the gospel of Luke, Chapter 11, verses 1-4, was a response to one of the disciples request to be taught how to pray, as John the Baptist had taught to his disciples. Thus we have:

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

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”                                                                           

The other version of the Lord’s Prayer comes from Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 5 to 14, which is also found on the back of the bulletin, which Jesus spoke as part of His Sermon on the Mount. Before he began to pray, Jesus admonished those present not to behave like the hypocrites, who we now know to be the Pharisees:

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:                                                             

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you

But we see a variance between the two versions of the prayer, not only between those recorded in Luke and Matthew. We find differences in the same verse, from one Bible translation to another! How can this be? The best explanation may be found in the history of these translations:

The Lord’s Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity also commonly known as Our Father and in the Latin tongue as the Pater Noster. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew  as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke,which records Jesus being approached by “one of his disciples” with a request to teach them “to pray as John taught his disciples.” The prayer concludes with “deliver us from evil” in Matthew, and with “lead us not into temptation” in Luke. The first three of the seven petitions address God; the second four are prayers related to our needs and concerns. The liturgical form is Matthean. Some Christians, particularly Protestants, conclude the prayer with a doxology, an addendum appearing in some manuscripts of Matthew, but originating in an ancient Christian writing known as the Didache.

Though Matthew 6:12 uses the term debts, the older English versions of the Lord’s Prayer uses the term trespasses, while ecumenical versions often use the term sins. The latter choice may be due to Luke 11:4, which uses the word sins, while the former may be due to Matthew 6:14 (immediately after the text of the prayer), where Jesus speaks of trespasses. As early as the third century, Origen of Alexandria used the word trespasses (παραπτώματα) in the prayer. Though the Latin form that was traditionally used in Western Europe has debita (debts), most English-speaking Christians (except Scottish Presbyterians and some others of the Reformed tradition), use trespasses. The Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as the Congregational denomination follow the version found in Matthew 6 in the Authorized Version (known also as the King James Version), which in the prayer uses the words “debts” and “debtors”.

The Latin version of this prayer has had cultural and historical importance for most regions where English is spoken. The text used in the liturgy (Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, etc.) differs slightly from that found in the Vulgate Jerome is considered to be responsible for changes such as the use of “supersubstantialem” instead of “cotidianum” as a translation of “ἐπιούσιον” (epiousios) in the Gospel of Matthew, though not in the Gospel of Luke.

The doxology associated with the Lord’s Prayer is found in four Vetus Latina manuscripts, only two of which give it in its entirety. The other surviving manuscripts of the Vetus Latina Gospels do not have the doxology. The Vulgate translation also does not include it, thus agreeing with critical editions of the Greek text.

In the Latin Rite liturgies, this doxology is never attached to the Lord’s Prayer. Its only use in the Roman Rite liturgy today is in the Mass as revised after the Second Vatican Council. It is there placed not immediately after the Lord’s Prayer, but instead after the priest’s prayer, Libera nos, quaesumus…, elaborating on the final petition, Libera nos a malo (Deliver us from evil).

There are several different English translations of the Lord’s Prayer from Greek or Latin, beginning around AD 650 with the Northumbrian translation. Of those in current liturgical use, the three best-known are:

Other English translations are also used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_prayer

It is a common fallacy among some Christians and even certain Biblical scholars, that the Bible is based on one single set of manuscripts housed in some library, monastery or museum. All they have to do is go to this place and reference these ancient scrolls to obtain a definitive translation of the scriptures. This misconception likely comes from present law-givers being able to see and reference the original historical documents such as the Canadian Charter of Rights, the US Constitution or the British Magna Charta.

Well, it is not quite that simple. Let us briefly look at where scholars obtained the source for the modern Bibles we use today:

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

 The Hebrew Bible or The Tanakh was mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Biblical Aramaic. From the 9th century to the 15th century, Jewish scholars, today known as Masoretes, compared the text of all known biblical manuscripts in an effort to create a unified, standardized text.

A series of highly similar texts eventually emerged, and any of these texts are known as Masoretic Texts (MT). The Masoretes also added vowel points (called niqqud) to the text, since the original text only contained consonant letters. This sometimes required the selection of an interpretation, since some words differ only in their vowels—their meaning can vary in accordance with the vowels chosen. In antiquity, variant Hebrew readings existed, some of which have survived in the Samaritan Pentateuch and other ancient fragments, as well as being attested in ancient versions in other languages.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

The discovery of older manuscripts, which belong to the Alexandrian text-type, including the 4th century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, led scholars to revise their view about the original Greek text. Attempts to reconstruct the original text are called critical editions. Karl Lachmann based his critical edition of 1831 on manuscripts dating from the 4th century and earlier, to demonstrate that the Textus Receptus must be corrected according to these earlier texts.

The autographs, the Greek manuscripts written by the original authors, have not survived. Scholars surmise the original Greek text from the versions that do survive. The three main textual traditions of the Greek New Testament are sometimes called the Alexandrian text-type (generally minimalist), the Byzantine text-type (generally maximalist), and the Western text-type (occasionally wild). Together they comprise most of the ancient manuscripts.

Alternative word order, the presence or absence of an optional definite article (“the”), and so on. Occasionally, a major variant happens when a portion of a text was accidentally omitted (or perhaps even censored), or was added from a marginal gloss. Fortunately, major variants tend to be easier to correct. Examples of major variants are the endings of Mark, the Pericope Adulteræ, the Comma Johanneum, and the Western version of Acts.

Early manuscripts of the letters of Paul and other New Testament writings show no punctuation whatsoever. The punctuation was added later by other editors, according to their own understanding of the text.

We see that our current Bible comes from a variety of sources. Translators were supposed to use as many as 600 Greek manuscripts in order to avoid a skewed or misleading translation. Unfortunately, some of the early translators relied on as few as 40 Greek manuscripts in their translations, because geography and politics made universal access impractical. Over time the availability to more sources enabled corrections to the translations. A couple of years ago, while researching a message on the Holy Trinity, I came upon a good example of such a change. On the bottom of the second page of your bulletin, you will see two translations of 1 John 5:7-8:

The King James states:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

And the English Standard states:

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

Changes to a verse’s translation by the removal, addition or change of the wording has led to some Christians claiming a demonic conspiracy in effect to alter the Word of God, particularly the King James Version when compared to the newer translations. This would be the kind of reaction one would expect from the Pharisees and scribes. Such disagreements are not the work of the Holy Spirit amongst the Christian body of believers and acts to hinder others from hearing the Gospel. Our commission is not to spend our time on petty arguments amongst ourselves over the merits of one translation over another, for the Spirit is absent from such debates. We are commissioned to share God’s Word and promote an appreciation and love for God, in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul said   in his epistle, Romans 10:5-13 (ESV), entitled:

The Message of Salvation to All’

   

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);    9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.     11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Again, we see that the key to salvation and forgiveness from God lies in our heart, as an expression of our faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, and our testimony to the truth of God’s love.

Let us pray…

Hymn #3: God, Our Father, We Adore Thee

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.