Claiming a Blessed Inheritance, by Loving Our God and Our Neighbour 2019

BLCF: Doing what Jesus would do at BLCF Cafe

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Claiming a Blessed Inheritance, by Loving Our God and Our Neighbour 2019’

 © September 22, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 22, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 25, 2014,

BLCF: Bulletin May 25, 2014

BLCF: L_O_V_E

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #450 Jesus, Still Lead On; Choruses

Responsive Reading #660 (The New Way of Life – Luke 6)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                          

‘Claiming a Blessed Inheritance, by Loving Our God and Our Neighbour’ 

  BLCF: Cross_-_Your_Prayer_14195433

Let us pray…

Over the last year, our Sunday morning lessons have examined the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The transformation is the change that the Spirit effects upon believers.

An example of the Spirit’s transformation occurred to the disciples, who locked themselves in an Upper Room, fearing for their safety, and they were changed into apostles or messengers of the gospel or the message of Jesus after the God’s Holy Spirit came to them like a mighty wind. As apostles of Christ Jesus, they had the courage, direction, and words needed to both confidently and courageously share their testimony among the very people who had crucified their Lord. We have people who hid from with fear in that Upper Room until the resurrected Christ had arrived to give them both hope in the resurrection and courage of the Spirit to complete his commission which is to share his gospel. It is with the help of God’s Holy Spirit the apostles undertook the task of bringing the living gospel throughout the world. This is the same gospel or story of Jesus that Christians today are commissioned to share as apostles or messengers of the Lord.

Another example of the Spirit’s power to transform or change lives happened to the Pharisee known as Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Jew, and citizen of Rome, whose sole preoccupation was the eradication of believers of a new faith-based religion known as the Way of Christ, known today as Christianity. Saul’s method of eradication involved: the arrest, imprisonment, and usually ending with the violent death to these Christian men and women.

The Lord revealed himself to Saul, who was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus, with the intention of persecuting Christians in Damascus. Blinded by the encounter, Saul was healed and baptized by the Holy Spirit at the hands of the Apostle Ananias, at the Lord’s request. The Holy Spirit transformed a powerful Pharisee into one of the most outspoken proponents of the message of Christ. As was often the practice of new believers at that time, Saul decided to take along with his new faith, a new name which we know today as Paul, an Apostle of the Way of Jesus and Christ’s gospel.

The third example of the influence of the Holy Spirit was with Mary as the mother of Christ. Mary was chosen by God to be the mother to the Christ, because of her faith and capacity to nurture and love a child, who was both Son of God and son of man. Mary’s faith and trust were so strong that she neither hid with the disciples in the Upper Room nor did she renounce her faith when her son, Jesus, was crucified. It is likely that upon seeing her son’s resurrected by the power of the Spirit, she pondered the miracle in her heart, just as she had done at the time of his birth and when she found her son amongst the elders of the temple, being about his “Father’s business”. Her son demonstrated the same great capacity of love for both his God and his fellow brothers and sisters, by undertaking humanity’s judgment on the cross.

Which brings us two us to today’s Scripture verses: the Lord’s Final Judgment described in Matthew 25 and the account of Mary of Bethany’s anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive oils, from John 12.

 

Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV): The Final Judgment

BLCF: HeavenHelSign

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.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

John 12:1-8 (ESV):  Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

BLCF: Mary_Washing_Jesus_Feet

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

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

At first blush, you might view these two Scriptures as either unrelated or even contradictory. We read that Christ indicates that there will come a Day of Judgment, where our salvation depends upon each person’s righteousness. That righteousness based upon each person’s capacity to love others, specifically strangers, who are less fortunate, not just by words, but by deeds, as we see in Matthew 25:35-36:

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.’

This expression of love to strangers is such a strange and foreign concept to the self-proclaimed righteous, as they question: when did they ever encounter Christ in such a manner, asking:

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 

The Lord’s response to the self-proclaimed righteous is:

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.’

And to make it clear why the self-proclaimed righteous, or should we say self-righteous, will be condemned more because of their inactions than their actions, the Lord rephrases his previous statement:

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Singer, songwriter Phil Collins gives us a modern-day take on how the self-righteous today treat the least of their brothers and sisters in his composition, Another Day in Paradise:

BLCF: Love_Jesus

Phil Collins – Another Day in Paradise Lyrics

Songwriters: COLLINS, PHIL

Another Day In Paradise lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

She calls out to the man on the street
‘Sir, can you help me?
It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?’

He walks on, doesn’t look back
He pretends he can’t hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Oh think twice, it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, ’cause it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

She calls out to the man on the street
He can see she’s been crying
She’s got blisters on the soles of her feet
She can’t walk but she’s trying

Oh think twice, ’cause it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

Oh Lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh Lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she’s been there
Probably been moved on from every place
‘Cause she didn’t fit in there

Oh think twice, ’cause another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, just think about it, think about it

It’s just another day for you and me in paradise
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise, paradise
Just think about it, paradise, just think about it
Paradise, paradise, paradise

[embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiUQE5bJKFU&feature=player_embedded[/embed]

 

There are two interesting illustrations in this passage. We will be judged and sorted by the Lord, with sinners to the left and saints to the right.

In ancient Rome, a person’s sword hand referred to as the dextra or the right hand. The left hand was called the sinistra. Two people greeted each other by shaking the sword hand, as a gesture of peace and good faith. Normally you could not draw your sword if you are grasping the other’s sword hand.  According to some accounts Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in 44BC, was stabbed while shaking right hand with his assassin, who stabbed Caesar with a sword held in the sinistra or left hand. This is where the old expression “right-hand man” being a trustworthy individual, came from. After the Son of God ascended to heaven, he sits at the right hand of God, the father.

The second illustration has sinners described as goats and saints as sheep. In the illustration, we have goats with the reputation as stubborn, stiff-necked creatures, often straying from the herd or flock, with a tendency butt-heads or fight to keep their own territory. By contrast, sheep are more obedient to their shepherd, preferring to stay in the herd, and generally, are more peaceful in nature.

This passage speaks to the difference in attitude towards faith and God as much as describes judgment and righteousness, with respect to others, particularly strangers and the poor. It is interesting to observe that we are judged as much by our inactions as our actions. By ignoring the less fortunate, we dishonour the Lord and invite his judgment, accordingly. Not doing what is right is just as much a sin as breaking God’s Laws. We should ask ourselves, whatever we do and avoid doing: does it show love to God and does it demonstrate love to others, particularly strangers? If the answer is no, then what we have done or have not done has offended the Lord, and we will be judged by it. The Lord describes those judged as being either goats that are sorted to his left or those sorted to his right, which is the place of the truly righteous.

True righteousness demonstrated to others by sharing Christian love to the least of our brothers and sisters is only half of the Lord’s expectation of us. The other half of Jesus’ expectation is the righteous expression of humility and obedience when we worship God in prayer. Jesus gave a clear explanation of this expectation in Matthew 6:5-15.

Matthew 6:5-15 (ESV): The Lord’s Prayer

BLCF: praying_like_Jesus

 “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. 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.

“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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,[b]    

 on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

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.[d]

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

15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

In this passage, Jesus is asked how to pray to God? Jesus’ answer begins with the importance of praying as a form of worship and fellowship with God, not used as an opportunity for self-promotion of one’s faith or to be used as a speech of empty phrases that may be heard by others. Jesus points out that God knows our needs before we even open our mouths. And, like the judgment of the goats and sheep, what we do not do is important to the Lord. If you do not forgive others, the Lord cannot forgive you!

BLCF: Pray to God

Jesus indicates that the prayer should acknowledge the power, holiness, and authority of God, the Father, both on earth and in heaven. The Lord continues to indicate a prayer should ask the father for His Spiritual sustenance, or “daily bread”, along with a plea for forgiveness, in proportion to that which we have given to others. Christ continues by saying prayer should ask for guidance, particularly away from Satan’s temptation. Jesus indicates that prayer should conclude the same way it was opened, by acknowledging God’s power, holiness and authority.

This helps us to understand today’s second Scripture passage in John 12, where Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, a man resurrected from the grave by Jesus, demonstrates her respect for the Lord by anointing his feet with expensive oil and drying them with her hair. Judas Iscariot, who was the money keeper of the disciples, (both figuratively and literally), objects to the use of an expensive oil to anoint Jesus’ feet, saying that its value would be better spent given to the poor. Knowing that Judas was skimming money, and where his heart was towards the Lord, (eventually the disciple would betray him for thirty pieces of silver), Jesus discounted the complaint, saying:

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.

What the Lord was saying, though it is important to take care of the poor, you should not neglect to honor the Lord, who was to take upon himself the judgment and punishment for the sins of all of humanity.  By this account, it seems that Judas did not catch Christ’s mention of his impending death. The expectation of honoring the Lord is best expressed in Mark 12:28-34, where Jesus gives us his two Commandments, which should also serve as a guide for our faith walk, as believers in the Way of the resurrected Christ.

Mark 12:28-34; 41-44 (ESV): The Great Commandment

BLCF: Love-God_Love-People

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

We must love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind; and love our neighbours, as we love ourselves.

What about those who live in poverty? We find an interesting illustration, again from Mark 12, where the Lord honours the sacrifice and offering of a poor widow over the greater contributions given by the wealthy.

The Widow’s Offering

BLCF: widowsoffering

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.[a] 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 12:42 Greek two lepta, which make a kodrantes; a kodrantes (Latin quadrans) was a Roman copper coin worth about 1/64 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer)

We see that the Lord values the poor widow’s gift, a true reflection of her trust and faith, then greater sums given by the wealthy.

I would like to conclude today’s message by saying, based on the Scriptures we have just read, that it is not how great an offering you give;  or how loudly you pray; or your concern over what others do to honour God that is important to the Lord. What matters to the Lord is whether our motives to praise him comes as a sincere expression of faith from or a heartfelt expression of love for both him, as well as for others. That is how we become righteous in the eyes of the Lord.

BLCF: patience

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #483: We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: benediction

 

Deception, Disobedience, and Destruction from the Mouth of a Serpent 2019

BLCF: Jesus_next

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Deception, Disobedience, and Destruction from the Mouth of a Serpent’

© September 15, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 15, 2019

 Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on April 21, 2013, and April 12, 2015 

BLCF Bulletin April 12, 2015

BLCF: Gods_fruit

Opening Hymn #1: Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #640 (Redemption in Christ – from Romans 5)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                          ‘Deception, disobedience, and destruction from the mouth of a serpent’

BLCF: tree_of_life_bread_of_life

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. For today’s lesson, we will take a look at both the reasons for, and the importance of, God’s Salvation Plan through Christ Jesus. And in our lesson, we shall see how His plan of salvation will restore access to Paradise to all who believe. “Paradise” is an Old Iranian term for a “walled garden”. It is a higher or better place than our current existence.

In order to better understand salvation, let us talk about sin in general, but specifically what is often described as the ‘original sin’.

When people talk about committing a sin, it is usually some reference to a violation of the Mosaic Laws, which we commonly call ‘The Ten Commandments’. These were the Laws God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai to the people of Israel. Jesus later simplified the ten to two, loving God with all your heart, mind and soul; and loving your neighbor as yourself. But the ‘original sin’ happened back in the Garden of Eden and is described in the Book of Genesis.

We begin in Genesis 1:26-29 (ESV), with the creation, and how Adam was created and given dominion or charge over all creatures on the land, sea, and air:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

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

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Footnotes: Genesis 1:26 The Hebrew word for man (Adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam

BLCF: creacion_genesis_ 1_26-29

So with the responsibility for the flora and fauna, God gave Adam one caveat; one item to beware of, which we might say one rule or law. We see this in Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV):

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

BLCF: dont touch wet paint

Because Adam’s descendants today know, or should understand what is good, from what is evil, or right from wrong, we could understand how a rule might be broken. If you doubt what I am saying, just put a ‘Wet Paint Do Not Touch Sign’ on a door or wall and watch how many people will touch it to see if it is actually wet. But, when God gave the commandment, Adam and Eve were innocent of this type of thought and had to be tricked or fooled into challenging the authority of God. That is where Lucifer, also known as Satan or the devil, the original rebel who fell from God’s Grace, by challenging His authority enters the picture, as we read in Genesis 3:1-13,19,22 (ESV), entitled appropriately, The Fall:

BLCF: temptation-karen-sirard

1Now 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 shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 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.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 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, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 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. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 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.”

BLCF: Eve and serpent Garden

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. 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.

BLCF: Adam_and_Eve

Satan had enticed Eve and Adam to break God’s rule, and in doing so challenging the Creator’s authority by telling Eve, as well as Adam who was with her, see verse 6, that by eating the fruit, they would become like God in understanding good from evil and by assuring them that they would not suffer death as God had warned. Because of the alluring appearance of the fruit and possibly because of a naive belief that being similar to God would bring them closer to God when just the opposite is true. Having eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve, being fully aware of the significance of breaking God’s rule, and likely now realize how Satan, disguised as a serpent, desires to have them to challenge God’s authority.

This is the crux, or central point, of the ‘original sin’ not so much the act of breaking God’s rule, but more the challenge to His authority. This sin causes a rift between Adam and Eve. And because God’s concern that this pair of rebels might eat from the ‘tree of life’ giving the power of eternal life to those who have already chosen to follow the directions of Satan to challenge God’s authority, Adam and Eve are evicted from Paradise.

But God loves his creation and desires that the human race has an opportunity to be reconciled to God’s Grace. Consuming the forbidden fruit lead to our fall from God’s Grace, and the knowledge of the difference between good from evil only brought pain and guilt for such actions.

God’s simple solution was to remove the judgment of sin, through Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, taking upon Himself the judgment and punishment of death, and providing through the resurrection, the assurance that God’s death penalty eliminated. And so believers, who confess their sins and decide to follow Jesus, are forgiven their sins and granted the promise of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, as well as the assurance of their own resurrection from the grave, as we see in Romans 6:20-23 (ESV):

BLCF: 1st_Adam_2nd_Adam

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. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

BLCF: Eden Fall Illustration

We see that Jesus’ resurrection assures us of Jesus’ power over death, but what about the sinner and our return to Paradise. Some scholars argue that Paradise or the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis is just a parable for the state of grace and not an actual physical place. I would argue that Moses, who most Biblical scholars agree, authored Genesis did not use parables in his writings. And we do see an example in the scriptures, not only asking for and receiving forgiveness but being given the assurance of the resurrection, the company of the Lord in Paradise, in Luke 23:39-43 (ESV):

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

BLCF: Crucified_trio

And like God, we must forgive those who trespass against us, Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV):

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Remember that the foundation of our faith in the power of God, and both trust and belief in His promises and abilities. To unbelievers, all this seems to be just nonsense, as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) entitled: Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

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

And if we choose not to turn away from Satan’s promptings to ignore God’s authority, we remain locked in to sin and doomed to suffering and death. Being beings, capable of knowing right from wrong, and therefore having the ability to choose the good, righteous path for ourselves, God has given us control or dominion over our destinies. We may choose to continue along Satan’s way of rebellion and with Satan suffer judgment and death. Or, we may choose the way of Jesus, confessing our sins, admitting to our sinful nature, accepting the gift and leadership of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to lead us on the righteous path, which we see in Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV):

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

BLCF: the-lord-jesus-is-the-tree-of-life-kathy-clark

So by following Christ, we renounce the desire to be equal with God or to forsake His authority. We must choose to serve God as His servant, humbled, as Jesus had taught when he washed the disciples’ feet just before Christ’s crucifixion. We must pledge our obedience to God. As believers, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us keep our faith to the Lord on the right track and to keep us on the righteous path to Paradise and avoid the consequences of sin.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Revelation_2_7

Closing Hymn #350: Open My Eyes, That I May See

Benediction (1 Corinthians 15:20-22):                                                               

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

BLCF: Proverbs 13-12

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ, Baptized with the Holy Spirit and Fire 2019

BLCF: baptism_and_filling_spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ, Baptized with the Holy Spirit and Fire’

© September 8, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 8, 2019

Based on a message shared at BLCF on April 19, 2015

BLCF Bulletin April 19, 2015

BLCF: christianity_101

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #154 King of My life, I Crown Thee Now; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #616 (Christian Baptism – from Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6)                                                                                                    

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                         

Dead to Sin; Alive in Christ; Baptized with the Holy Spirit and Fire’

 

BLCF: baptised into the body of Christ

Let us pray…

The expression “Terms of surrender” is a familiar one to anyone who is familiar with the history of war. These are conditions by which a party surrenders to the authority of an opposing army.

For our lesson today, I would like to examine the conditions by which a believer surrenders to the authority of the Lord. First, let us examine the conditions that we surrender to authority of Jesus.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter gave a sermon, which highlighted the terms by which we surrender to the lordship of Jesus, Acts 2:36-41 (ESV):

Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

BLCF: worship-early-church

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

In this passage, we learn that if we repent of our sins in the name of Jesus Christ, we see that we will be baptized with the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift is not just for a single generation but is given all generations throughout the world, as read in Peter’s message in Acts 2:38-39:

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

All who respond to the call from God, the Father. For Peter was no longer a disciple or student of the Lord, but now a messenger or apostle of the Gospel of Christ as we see in rest of the passage, Acts 2:40-41:

40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

BLCF: Pentecost

But one thing we have to bear in mind that our battle was not with God or Jesus, our battle is with sin. You may recall from last Sunday’s lesson, that all of us are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. It is a legacy handed down to every descendant of Adam and Eve. Our sin separates us from God and brings a death sentence upon us. The only way to commute that sentence is to accept God’s gift of salvation and redemption through Jesus Christ, by confessing our sins and accepting the lordship of Jesus. Otherwise, like the convict on death row, we face a death sentence from God. Canada may have abolished capital punishment for serious crimes however the Canadian Parliament is powerless as far as being able to strike down the penalty for sin. All of us face the death penalty in the hereafter if we reject Christ’s gift of salvation. Christ did not die for us, but he died for our sins because he loves us. And with the Lord’s death, there is an expectation upon us as believers, to follow a new path in Christ, Romans 6:1-14:

Romans 6:1-14 (ESV): Dead to Sin, Alive to God

BLCF: Acts 2_19

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

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

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

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

When we confess our sin and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we are no longer subject to the old Mosaic Laws but become believers governed by our faith, now considered instruments for righteousness.

Not only are we no longer subject to a worldly authority. And we discover another aspect of God’s unconditional love, for not only is available to all generations, with no geographic limits, as we had read before, but the gift of salvation is given to Jew and Gentile, alike:

Romans 10:5-13 (ESV): The Message of Salvation to All

BLCF: acts-great-commission

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 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); 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.”

The final condition placed upon the believer is to follow a new path, guided with the help of the Holy Spirit. We have the debt of our sin is paid in full, by the sacrifice that Jesus gave on the cross:

Colossians 2:6-15 (ESV): Alive in Christ

BLCF: Body of Christ

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities[b] and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.[c]

Footnotes: a. Colossians 2:8 Or elementary principles; also verse 20 b. Colossians 2:15 Probably demonic rulers and authorities c. Colossians 2:15 Or in it (that is, the cross)

While Parliament is powerless to set aside the death sentence that we face for our sins, Christ alone has set aside our conviction for sin if we confess to God and accept His love and mercy through His son Jesus. And unlike the governance of the old law, where every sin mandated a new baptism in water and sacrifice for that sin, God’s New Covenant provided that Jesus be the final sacrifice for our sin, that we may receive God’s grace and baptism of the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 3:11 (ESV)

BLCF: the-holy-spirit

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

We must pledge our obedience to God. As believers, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us keep our faith to the Lord on the right track and to keep us on the righteous path, by God’s grace, through our Lord Jesus Christ who paid for us all at Calvary. Let us show our faith through confession of our sin, keep the faith by living in His Word with the help of the Spirit and peach the faith by sharing the Gospel of Christ to fulfill the Lord’s Commission to all who follow the Way of Christ.

Let us pray…

BLCF: before_the_cross

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

Benediction – 2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: baptised_with_fire

Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’

© September 1, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 1, 2019

Based on Messages Shared with BLCF on October 4, 2015, and on July 23, 2017

BLCF Bulletin July 23, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                 

Opening Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!; Choruses                                                  

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

Responsive Reading #638 (The Holy Spirit Promised – John 14 and 16   

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service, on the first Sunday of September, which makes today a Communion Sunday. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’.

Through a series of verses, we will find how the Lord answers humanity’s collective cry for help: for companionship, guidance, understanding, peace, mercy, grace, the Holy Spirit, love, the Lord’s testimony, baptism, and unity of faith, to enable us to implement the “Great Commission’ of Sharing the Gospel of Christ. The Scripture verses which we may use as a roadmap to guide us on the path as apostles or messengers of the Gospel are found in your bulletin.

We need faith in the Lord, and acknowledge Whom will guide us on our journey, as we see in Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV):

My Help Comes from the Lord 

 A Song of Ascents.

121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.     

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,     

who made heaven and earth.

Our help comes from our creator, our Lord who made heaven and earth. The Lord knows where help is needed among His creation. The first need was Adam’s need for a companion or helper. And so, God created Eve, Genesis 2:18-24 (ESV):

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for[a] him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed[b] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam[c] there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made[d] into a woman and brought her to the man.

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”[e]

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:18 Or corresponding to; also verse 20 b. Genesis 2:19 Or And out of the ground the Lord God formed c.Genesis 2:20 Or the man d. Genesis 2:22 Hebrew built e. Genesis 2:23 The Hebrew words for woman (ishshah) and man (ish) sound

God created woman not just as a helper, but a wife to man, so that the husband and wife may physically be one in the eyes of the Lord.

We know the story of how the first man and woman fell from God’s grace by the sin of disobedience. This disappointed Him and brought separation of the man and woman from His grace, as well as the judgment of death.

God continued to have love and compassion for His creation, and so He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, as a final sacrifice to bring forgiveness, grace and a New Covenant to humanity. We acknowledge this sacrificial gift and Covenant, as a united body of believers, every time we partake in Communion.

This New Covenant from the Lord includes not only the promise of our resurrection from death but also the gift of the continuous presence of God’s Holy Spirit, John 14:25-27 (ESV):

 Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper[a], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Footnotes: a. John 14:26 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also John 14:16; 15:2616:7

Just as the Lord provided for man’s need for companionship, by creating woman as a physical helper; He sends men and women, grace through Jesus, and Spiritual companionship by way of a Spiritual helper, the Holy Spirit.

Christ’s answer’s humanity’s need for grace and mercy from the Lord. Jesus sends his helper, the Holy Spirit, to provide the faithful with companionship, guidance, understanding, and peace.

Having been forgiven by faith in Jesus as our Lord and savior, and gifted as vessels of the Holy Spirit, we may draw closer to God’s throne of grace in the time of need, with Jesus being our intercessor, the Great High Priest, Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV):

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Having received mercy, grace, and the gift of the Spirit, we may gather together, as a Body of Believers or Christ’s Church, where we may ask and receive from God anything according to His will, Matthew 18:19-20 (ESV);

19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Salvation is a gift of God, given to us as an expression of His love, 1 John 4:10 (ESV):

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Having accepted the gifts of salvation and grace from the Lord, we are equipped to share the Gospel of Christ, which is his testimony of love, and our testimony of faith, 1John 5:6-10 (ESV):

Testimony Concerning the Son of God

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

Part of our testimony of faith is expressed through the observance of Communion as a single body of believers, where on the first Sunday of each month, we eat and drink the elements of Communion to acknowledge the Lord’s sacrifice on our behalf, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV):

One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

When we partake in eating and drinking the tangible elements of Communion, we acknowledge our faith in the intangible gifts of mercy, grace and the Holy Spirit. These gifts allow us to embark on the Great Commission of being sent out to share the gospel unto the ends of the earth, John 20:21 (ESV):

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (Mark 14)

Closing Hymn #434: Sweet Hour of Prayer

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.

 

Vessels of the Holy Spirit 2019

BLCF: 2-corinthians-4_7

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’

© August 25, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 25, 2019

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF Church on May 12, 2013, and on February 21, 2016

BLCF Bulletin February 21, 2016

BLCF: Holy Work Earthen-Vessels

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                

Opening Hymn #513: In Christ, There Is No East or West; Choruses                                  

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

Responsive Reading #642 (Call to Consecration – from Romans 12)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’

BLCF: earthen_vessels_with_heavenly_treasure

Let us pray…

As you may have surmised from today’s Scripture verses, our lesson today is on the common theme: of how God shapes, forms and molds the Christian believer, in much the same manner that a potter molds clay pottery. The transformation of a lump of earth or clay into something that has a useful purpose, which is symbolic as to how God transforms the believer from something that is of this world to a vessel that carries the Holy Spirit. That is why today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’. In our first Scripture passage, we read how the apostle Paul utilizes this representation in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (ESV):

Treasure in Jars of Clay

BLCF: TREASURES IN JARS OF CLAY

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

In the Old Testament we see the same analogy in the Book of Isaiah 64:8 (ESV):                      

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;   we are all the work of your hand.

To make a vase or jar, a potter needs the following materials: clay, a potter’s wheel and a plan or purpose for the creation. But the clay must be of the right consistency and moisture content. Too dry, the clay won’t hold its form and will tend to crumble. The moisture provided for the clay in the scripture analogy represents the Holy Spirit, which allows the potter to work and shape the clay.

BLCF: jars of clay with precious content

The potter uses a kiln to fire the clay in order to extract the moisture and to harden clay. This firing transforms the pliable clay into a hardened jar.

Earthen clay is an appropriate choice of illustration for the apostles and prophets since we see that a similar material used by God to create Adam in Genesis 2:7 (ESV):

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

By itself, clay, earth or dust is inert, similar to the world when it was first created, without life and without form. Like a potter with clay, God formed the dust from the ground and breathed life into man’s nostrils, which transformed something dead and inert material into a living creature, a man.

But man and woman, both living creations of God are not just given life. They are also given a spirit, as we read in Job 10:8-12 (ESV):

Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.

If you recall, it was the spirit of Job that allowed him to endure testing, hardship, and pain in his life. And Job was given that spirit through his faith, trust and love for God.

Even the Psalmist acknowledges the soul’s sense of God’s plan and purpose for each person before their birth in Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV): 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

The Scriptures give another, somewhat different, application of the earth being used to transform or change, in John 9:1-7 (ESV):

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

BLCF: John_9

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

In the verses from John 9, the Lord spits on the ground to make clay, transforming it into the mud, which is used to anoint a blind man’s eyes. But the mud has no immediate effect upon the blind man’s vision until the man follows the directions of Jesus to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. By going and washing his eyes, the blind man demonstrates faith and obedience by following the Lord’s instructions and is rewarded with his sight. Many Jews believed that a person born blind is so afflicted because of a sin or transgression caused by that person or the person’s ancestors. In this case, it is difficult to imagine a newborn baby able to commit a sin at birth. By healing this blind man, Jesus shows us that those who are afflicted are entitled to the same grace and love as anyone else. It shows us that we must not blame or judge the afflicted or disabled as being so afflicted because of sin.

But for those who are guilty of sin, God, the potter, has the ability to repair or transform a broken or defective body into a new one, see Jeremiah 18:2-6 (ESV):  

“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

In other words, God has the desire and ability to restore a people, who are broken and ‘spoiled’ because of sin, into something better and new.

But how does God change someone spoiled by sin into someone new and sinless? We may find our answer in John’s account found in John 4:4-15 (ESV):

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

BLCF: Jesus&Samaritan_Woman_at_the_well

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.  And he had to pass through Samaria.  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

In this passage, the living water John described is the Holy Spirit. But being creatures of free will and choice, we are given the choice between: to allowing our vessel, our souls, hearts, and minds to be vessels filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit, by faith, or to staying vessels of the unholy world, destined to return to dust. Like in the account of the blind man, the Holy Spirit can only work its healing upon those who believe and are obedient to the Lord.

By contrast, those who challenge God’s power and authority, as did Adam, Eve, and Satan (in the guise of a serpent), in the Garden of Eden, failed to demonstrate either an understanding or acceptance of God’s will in their lives, which is the point of the clay analogy found in Isaiah 29:16 (ESV):

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Those who defy the Lord are denied the gift of the Spirit, Romans 12:2 (ESV):

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 good and acceptable and perfect.

So it is not enough just to worship God, we must demonstrate faith and trust in God that is both honest and true, John 4:24 (ESV): 

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

To further demonstrate that though we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve, like the blind man, we will be given the opportunity to choose the Way of Jesus, to accept God’s will in our lives and receive God’s grace through the Holy Spirit, by faith and obedience to Christ, or to continue living a life unchanged and untouched by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we will not be judged based on the sins of our parents, but by our own choice between the way of sin and the Way of forgiveness through Christ Jesus, Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV):

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

By accepting the gift of salvation and grace, through our Lord Jesus, by confessing our sins, and following the Lord, we are forgiven our sins and receive the Holy Spirit, which will reshape us and guide us on the righteous path, Proverbs 3:6 (ESV): 

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Let us pray…

BLCF Living our values

Closing Hymn #403: Walking in Sunlight All of My Journey

Benediction: Romans 12:1-2 – A Living Sacrifice:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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 good and acceptable and perfect.

BLCF: God transforms us

 

Guided by the Beatitudes – Part 2 – (Part 1 – Sunday, August 4, 2019)

BLCF: beatitudes3

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 2 – (Part 1 was shared Sunday, August 4, 2019)

© August 18, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 18, 2019

Based on a Messages shared at BLCF on October 18, 2009, and on February 26, 2017

BLCF: bulletin-February-26-2017

BLCF: beatiful-atitudes

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                

Opening Hymn #177: Rejoice, The Lord Is King; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #617: (The Beatitudes – Matthew 5)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Guided By The Beatitudes’ – Part 2 (Part 1 Last Sunday)

BLCF: 10-commandments-and-beatitudes

Let us pray…

You may recall in our lesson two Sunday’s ago, that we examined the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law, understanding that in spite of our sinful nature which began in the Garden of Eden, the Bible records that God has faithfully provided mechanisms for guiding believers along the “A Path of Righteousness”.

Before the advent of Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross, subsequent resurrection, and ascension to Heaven, allowed those who believed to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

God gave the People of Israel the Ten Commandments, as described in Exodus 20:1-17. These laws gave a nation of former slaves’ rules to guide the people along God’s path.

Over time, the Commandments have been expanded by the Jews into the Laws of Moses, comprising three Codes.

The first Code is the 10 Commandments.

The second Code consists of the Ordinances, a set of Spiritual specifications which include: description of the Tabernacle, Holy Days, acceptable offerings and activities or responsibilities of the priesthood.

The third Code may be described as a set of Social rules governing such things as diet, sanitation, quarantine, soil conservation, taxation, marriage, slavery, etc.

Many consider these comprehensive Mosaic Laws as the foundation or template of our modern legal system.

While the first code was given by God to Moses, the second and third were a human attempt to expand or embellish the original ten by covering every possible facet of society. Most importantly, as the manmade Laws grow in number and complexity, in an attempt to address each new situation, there is a tendency to forget the importance of the original 10 Commandments and who authored them.

Some mistakenly think that Jesus came to do away with the Laws of Moses, as we read in Mathew 5:17, Jesus said that not that he came to destroy the law or the prophets: but he came to fulfill them, and by his death and resurrection bring the Holy Spirit to those who believe. The Holy Spirit is the key to God’s plan for providing guidance to believers to keep along His path.

As believers in Christ, God has removed the old rules or laws and provided, through the Holy Spirit, provided a beautiful and simple way for us to grow and mature, by accepting the responsibility of our spiritual maturity. He has given us his Beatitudes by which each of us may use to measure our spiritual growth on a personal level. By doing so we may grow and develop our fruit of the Spirit and draw closer to his presence with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The Gifts of the Spirit given by faith in Christ’s act of salvation are free, and not of works, lest anyone should boast. To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in a garden, you must realize that it takes time and you may not get fruit in the first season. You must wait for the trees and vines to mature. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree or vine. And you must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. Finally, you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

BLCF: Fruit_of_Spirit_Galatians_5_22-23

You may ask: “What are some concrete evidence or expressions of these spiritual gifts and are these expressions truly an example of using the Spirit’s Gifts in a manner that is producing fruit?” Jesus gave us a list of expressions Godly Gifts, which he described as Beatitudes, in his Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:3-10:

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
  9. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you … for great is your reward in Heaven.

Some Biblical scholars consider the 9th Beatitude as part of the 8th one. But what is the significance of the Beatitudes? Described in Christ’s Discourse? We find part of the answer from gotquestions.org:

BLCF: beatitudes

Question: “What are the Beatitudes?”

Answer: The Beatitudes are the eight declarations of blessedness spoken by Jesus at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12), each beginning with “Blessed are…” It is debated as to exactly how many beatitudes there are. Some speak of seven, nine, or ten beatitudes, but the number appears to be eight (verses 10-12 of Matthew 5 being one beatitude).

The Greek word translated “blessed” means “happy, blissful” or, literally, “to be enlarged.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the word to refer to more than a superficial happiness; in this context, blessed refers to a state of spiritual well-being and prosperity. The happiness is a deep joy of the soul. Those who experience the first aspect of a beatitude (poor, mourn, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and persecuted) will also experience the second aspect of the beatitude (kingdom of heaven, comfort, inherit the earth, filled, mercy, see God, called sons of God, inherit the kingdom of heaven). The blessed have a share in salvation and have entered the kingdom of God, experiencing a foretaste of heaven. Another possible rendering of the beginning of each beatitude is “O the bliss [or blessedness] of . . . .”

The Beatitudes describe the ideal disciple and his rewards, both present and future. The person whom Jesus describes in this passage has a different quality of character and lifestyle than those still “outside the kingdom.” As a literary form, the beatitude is also found often in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms (1:1; 34:8; 65:4; 128:1) and in the New Testament as well (John 20:2914:22James 1:12Revelation 14:13).

https://www.gotquestions.org/beatitudes.html

BLCF: code-of-conduct

Ronald G. Falconberry writing in Moral Ethics and the Beatitudes: Righteous Code of Conduct is Revealed in the Sermon on the Mount helps us to further understand the importance to the Lord of his Beatitudes:

Each beatitude reveals a moral philosophy or code of ethics which God desires in everyone. Those who embrace those moral values will receive God’s blessings.

While the Law of Moses judged men by their actions without looking at their motives, the Beatitudes reveal that God looks at each person’s heart because whatever is in the heart is what leads one to actions:

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight statements known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). Each beatitude reveals a moral philosophy or code of ethics which God desires in everyone. Those who embrace those moral values will receive God’s blessings.

While the Law of Moses judged men by their actions without looking at their motives, the Beatitudes reveal that God looks at each person’s heart because whatever is in the heart is what leads one to actions.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

The “poor in spirit” in the first beatitude are those who are not self-centered. According to Proverbs, “The Lord detests all the proud of heart” (16:5) but God will bless those who acknowledge their need for God’s grace and humble themselves.

As James writes, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)

Blessed are Those Who Mourn for They Will be Comforted

The second beatitude refers to a spiritual mourning. Those who recognize that they are lost in sin can, in their sorrow, accept the gift of salvation from God and be comforted to know they have the promise of eternal life in heaven.

As it is written in Revelation 7:17, “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Blessed are The Meek for They Will Inherit the Earth

The word meek in the third beatitude does not refer to a weak or spineless person but to a strong person who submits to God’s control. Although Jesus was meek, he overturned tables in the temple and drove the money changers out on two separate occasions (John 2:2-25; Matthew 21:12-17) and publicly denounced the Jewish leaders’ corruption of the Law (Matthew 23).

The meek are those who submit to God’s will but are willing to stand up and confront evil and injustice. As Jesus stated in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Blessed are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

The fourth beatitude alludes to those who desire to live moral and virtuous lives. Those who accept Jesus as their savior and attempt to live Christ-centered lives will receive righteousness. Paul writes, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22).

Blessed are the Merciful for They will be Shown Mercy

In the fifth beatitude, the merciful are those who reach out to help those in need or forgive those who wrong them. God will remember their love as James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13)

Blessed are the Pure in Heart for They will See God

The pure in heart work to keep themselves unpolluted by the spiritual filth of the world. The sixth beatitude promises that God will bless those who try to keep themselves morally clean. In Ezekiel 36:26, the prophet writes, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you” and, as Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Blessed are the Peacemakers for They will be Called Sons of God

The seventh beatitude refers to those who love peace and work to prevent or resolve conflicts or disagreements. This does not mean simply appeasing people or watching quietly while contentious activities occur; instead, peacemakers attempt to establish a healthy relationship based on truth and righteousness.

Romans 14:19 says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted Because of Righteousness for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Paul writes that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Even Jesus died for his righteousness; however, the eighth beatitude promises the ultimate blessing.

As Paul later wrote, “Now, there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)

Beatitudes Help Develop Quality of Character

https://suite.io/ronald-g-falconberry/1txm2fy

BLCF: faith

People work their entire lives to achieve wealth, fame and power, which may bring material rewards. Christians believe, however, that those who live by the code of conduct outlined in the Beatitudes and pursue righteous lives will develop the quality of character that God wants His followers to have and will ultimately be blessed with the reward of an eternity in Heaven.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #79: We Come, O Christ, to Thee

Benediction (Numbers 6:24-6):                                                                                                             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.

BLCF: No Jesus No Peace

Guided by the Beatitudes – Part 1  (Part 2 – Sunday, August 18, 2019)

BLCF: the-beatitudes-header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 1

 (Part 2 – Sunday, August 18, 2019)

© August 4, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 4, 2019

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on October 18, 2009, June 22, 2014, and February 19, 2017

BLCF Bulletin Sunday, October 18, 2009

BLCF: Bulletin June 22, 2014

BLCF: bulletin-February-12-2017

BLCF: 10-Commandments

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #664: About Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 1

BLCF: beatitudes

Let us pray…

For our lesson today and next Sunday, we will examine how Christians, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, are guided along the Righteous Path, with the goal of a life that is best described as a beautiful expression of His gifts.

To understand this expression of God’s gifts of the Spirit, under His New Covenant through Jesus, let us look at the old Covenant, under the Old Law of what we refer today as the Ten Commandments.

In spite of our sinful nature, that began in the Garden of Eden, the Bible records that God has faithfully provided mechanisms for guiding believers along the “Paths of Righteousness”.

Before the advent of Jesus, whose sacrifice on the cross, subsequent resurrection, and ascension allowed those who believe to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit, God gave the People of Israel the Ten Commandments, which we find in Exodus 20:1-17. These laws gave a nation of former slaves’ rules to guide the people along God’s path.

Over time, the Commandments have been expanded by the Jews into the Laws of Moses, comprising three Codes. The first Code is the 10 Commandments. The second Code consists of the Ordinances, a set of Spiritual specifications which include: description of the Tabernacle, Holy Days, acceptable offerings and activities or responsibilities of the priesthood. The third Code may be described as a set of Social rules governing such things as diet, sanitation, quarantine, soil conservation, taxation, marriage, slavery, etc. Many consider these comprehensive Mosaic Laws as the foundation or template of our modern legal system.

While the first Code was given by God to Moses, the second and third were a human attempt to expand or embellish the original ten by covering every possible facet of society. Most importantly, as the man-made Laws grow in number and complexity, in an attempt to address each new situation, there is a tendency to forget the importance of the original 10 Commandments and who authored them.

Jesus came not to do away with the Laws of Moses, but to fulfill them, as we read in Mathew 5:17, Jesus said that not that he came to destroy the law or the prophets: but he came to fulfill them, and by his death and resurrection bring the Holy Spirit to those who believe.

Jesus did not come to end sin in the world but to take upon himself the judgment for sin, which is death. And to those who receive Christ’s Gift of Salvation, also receive the Gift of God’s Holy Spirit, and the Spirit brings believers Gifts of the Spirit which are characteristics that are expressed as beatitude.

The Holy Spirit is the key to God’s plan for providing guidance to believers to keep along His path.

What is the Holy Spirit? Let us go to wikipedia.org for our Wiki bits answer.

BLCF: What_the_Holy_Spirit_does

What is the Holy Spirit?

Within mainstream Christianity the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Trinity. As such he is personal and also fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Son. He is different from the Father and the Son in that he proceeds from the Father (or from the Father and the Son) as described in the Nicene Creed. His sacredness is reflected in the New Testament gospels (e.g., Mark 3:28-30, Matthew 12:30-32, and Luke 12:8-10), which proclaim blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as unforgivable.

The Holy Spirit is believed to perform specific divine functions in the life of the Christian or the church. These include:

  • Conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit acts to convince the unredeemed person both of the sinfulness of their actions, and of their moral standing as sinners before God.
  • Bringing to conversion. The action of the Holy Spirit is seen as an essential part of the bringing of the person to the Christian faith. The new believer is “born again of the Spirit”.
  • Enabling the Christian life. The Holy Spirit is believed to dwell in the individual believers and enable them to live a righteous and faithful life.  The word Paraclete is specifically applied to the Holy Spirit in this regard. A paraclete is one who intercedes on our behalf, a comforter or an advocate.
  • Inspiration and interpretation of scripture. The Holy Spirit both inspires the writing of the scriptures and interprets them to the Christian and/or church.

The Holy Spirit is also believed to be active especially in the life of Jesus Christ, enabling him to fulfil his work on earth. Particular actions of the Holy Spirit include:

  • Cause of his birth. According to the gospel accounts of the birth of Jesus, the “beginning of His incarnate existence”, was due to the Holy Spirit.
  • Anointing him at his baptism.
  • Empowerment of his ministry. The ministry of Jesus following his baptism (in which the Holy Spirit is described in the gospels as “descending on Him like a dove”) is conducted in the power and at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

And most importantly the Holy Spirit is God’s way of pouring his love into our hearts Romans 5:5(NIV): And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

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

BLCF: fruit-of-the-spirit1

As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit enables direct communication with God through the discernment of God’s will. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers. But what can a believer do to draw closer to our Lord, to facilitate or augment the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives?

First, as believers, God, through the Holy Spirit makes available to us what is described as fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is described by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23:

“The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

As a Christian, I believe that the Holy Spirit enables direct communication with God giving discernment of God’s will. The Holy Spirit guides and empowers. But what can a believer do to draw closer to our Lord and to facilitate or augment the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives?

First, as believers, God, through the Holy Spirit makes available to us what is described as the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit is described by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23:

“The fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

The Fruit of the Spirit which includes charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, is gifted by the Holy Spirit is free, “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in the garden, you must realize that it takes time, you may not get fruit in the first season. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree. You must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. And you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

You may ask what are some concrete examples or evidence of Spiritual Fruit.

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with eight statements, known as the Beatitudes, which may be considered as overt expressions of the Spirit’s Fruit, as we read in Matthew 5:3-11:

Matthew 5:1-11 (ESV): The Sermon on the Mount

5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:9 Greek huioi; see Preface

Some Biblical scholars consider the 9th Beatitude as part of the 8th one.

BLCF: LSS

I was fortunate to attend a high school in Richmond Hill which had no bells between classes. If you were absent you wrote your own notes to sign yourself in or out. The expectation was if a student were given responsibility, he or she would grow and mature if the rules of conduct were minimized.

BLCF: LSS-policy

The slogan of Langstaff Secondary School was and is “Maturity through Responsibility”. As believers in Christ, God has removed the old rules or laws and provided, through the Holy Spirit, provided a beautiful and simple way for us to grow and mature, by accepting the responsibility of our spiritual maturity. He has given us his Beatitudes by which each of us may use to measure our spiritual growth on a personal level. By doing so we may grow and develop our fruit of the Spirit and draw closer to his presence with the help of the Holy Spirit.

However, Fruit of the Spirit given through salvation, which the gift of the Holy Spirit is free, not of works, lest anyone should boast. To grow the fruit of the Spirit does require a conscious effort on our part as believers. For any of you who have grown fruit in the garden, you must realize that it takes time, you may not get fruit in the first season. You must plant, water, prune, fertilize, spray, and protect a tree. You must provide the right soil and climate to allow the fruit to grow and prosper. And you must be persistent and patient to see fruit grow and mature.

People work their entire lives to achieve wealth, fame and power, which may bring material rewards. Christians believe, however, that those who live by the code of conduct outlined in the Beatitudes and pursue righteous lives will develop the quality of character God wants his followers to have and will ultimately be blessed with an eternity in Heaven.

Let us pray…

BLCF: be-the-church

Closing Hymn #451: I Have Decided To Follow Jesus

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.

Know Jesus – Know Peace!

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

 Three Steps in the Christian Walk: Faith, Confidence, and Assurance 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 Three Steps in the Christian Walk: Faith, Confidence, and Assurance 2019

© July 28, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 21, 2017

BLCF Bulletin May 21, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

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

 Responsive Reading #636: The Holy Spirit Promised (John 14 and John 16)                      

 Message by Steve Mickelson:

Three Steps in the Christian Walk: Faith, Confidence, and Assurance’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service here in the heart of Toronto at BLCF.

Our lesson today is entitled: Three Steps in the Christian Walk: Faith, Confidence, and Assurance’, where we will look at the three steps of Spiritual transformation Christians experience, as they undertake to walk with the Lord.

The first step is the decision to accept that Jesus died for the sake of humanity, in order to remove the judgment we all face for our sins.

Simply put: everybody has sinned and face the penalty of paying for those sins with their lives, as we read in today’s first Scripture passage, Galatians 3:22 (ESV):

22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Jesus allowed himself to be judged for our sins and to pay the penalty for them with his life. However, being the Son of God, Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, establishing a New Covenant with God. And as believers in Christ’s Resurrection, we are elevated to become Ministers of the New Covenant, as we see in our next Scripture, 2 Corinthians 3:1-4 (ESV):

Ministers of the New Covenant

3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our[a] hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.[b]

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

Footnotes: a. 2 Corinthians 3:2 Some manuscripts your b. 2 Corinthians 3:3 Greek fleshly hearts

Christ’s resurrection gives us the assurance that: not only are we are forgiven for our sins, we now, by our faith, become living testaments for the Lord. That same faith described in Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And this assurance or confidence by faith in the Resurrection of the Lord brings to us His blessing, John 20:29 (ESV):

29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Along with the Lord’s blessing for faith, we have the promise of our own resurrection and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who was granted to all believers after Jesus ascended up to heaven.

The reason why Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit is explained in John 16:4-15 (ESV):

The Work of the Holy Spirit

 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

 “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

It is this assurance in the promise in Christ, which is God’s New Covenant that we are to share as our testament of the Good News or Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

To recapitulate the ‘three steps in the Christian walk’ are:

  1. Faith – that God loves you so much, that he sent Jesus, his only Son to die for your judgment and reconcile you to Him. A relationship that Adam and Eve had lost through sin has been restored once and for all through Jesus.
  2. Confidence – that  Jesus was raised by the Holy Spirit from the dead and walked for a time on the earth both as a proof of his identity as part of the Triune, God’s Holy Trinity, and show the promise of God’s New Covenant to those who have faith in Him.
  3. Assurance – in the promise from Jesus, that on that appointed day, our Lord will return to raise his flock of believers to his eternal kingdom and to judge those who have denied and rejected him, by word or deed.

In conclusion, your walk throughout eternity begins with the Lord three important steps; or to coin a phrase based on Lao Tzu’s well-known proverb, ‘the journey of a thousand miles towards eternity begins with but three steps.’

And the Bible is clear what direction and in whose footsteps defines our journey to eternity, 1 Peter 2:21 (ESV):

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #451: I Have decided to Follow Jesus

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

On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind 2019

BLCF: leaving_your_baggage_behind

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind 2019’ 

© July 14, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

  BLCF Bulletin July 14, 2019

Based on Messages shared with BLCF Church on May 19, 2013, and January 24, 2016

BLCF Bulletin May 19, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 24, 2016

Unwanted Baggage

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer Prayer                                                    

Opening Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; Choruses                  

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

Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Love – from John 3 and 1 John)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind’

BLCF: excess_baggage

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind’ where we will not literally be talking about luggage that we travel around with, but the emotional and spiritual burdens that act to impede our Christian walk.

One of the biggest impediments to a non-Christian’s acceptance of the Gospel of Christ is the excess baggage, in the form of the cultural practices and values that the person carries. The excess baggage can include regrets, negative thinking, worries, drama and chaos, anger and hostility, resentment, pessimism, bad habits, useless fears, negative relationships, and toxic people.

These natural or worldly values cloud the person’s vision of the spiritual world, which is perceived by way of faith and trust.

This is what Paul meant when he wrote in his letter to the church in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV):

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Ironically, this lack of spiritual trust or perception, at times, caused problems amongst the disciples in understanding the message of our Lord. You may recall John’s account of the Pharisee named Nicodemus. Here are two definitions of a Pharisee (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.

Back to Nicodemus, John 3:1-14 (ESV):

You Must Be Born Again

BLCF: YouMustBeBornAgain

3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

While Nicodemus acknowledged Jesus in this passage as a Rabbi and a teacher sent by God, he chose to visit our Lord at night, so as not to be seen by other Pharisees.  Here a ruler of the Jews, whose understanding of the miracles and teachings of Christ are limited and restricted by a legalistic interpretation and understanding of these events. What is clear in this account is Nicodemus’ lack of spiritual insight evident by his question to Jesus about one being “born again” which describes a spiritual transformation, symbolized by baptism in the water.  Christians will often demonstrate their faith by being baptized or immersed in water, after making a decision to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. It is the act of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit that makes one born again, not being immersed in a body of water.

Imagine an inmate locked inside a prison, where there is no available pool, river or even bath for immersion, making a decision to confess past sins and a sinful nature, accept gifts of salvation from Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This raises the question, “Does the absence of a body of water to baptize this prisoner, prevent the person from becoming a Christian?” After all, did the Holy Spirit not come upon Christ until after Jesus was baptized by John, the Baptist?

Well, for those of you who recall the lesson on the Day of Pentecost, shared here earlier at BLCF, may recall that the Holy Spirit came upon about 120 believers cloistered in a room for 10 days after Christ’s ascension, 50 after his resurrection. The account describes the Spirit arriving like a mighty wind, with each individual alighted by a flame-like glow. The detailed account of the Spirit’s arrival gives no mention of water baptism of those believers or of the 3,000 additional converts who received the Holy Spirit after hearing the Apostle Peter’s sermons and being convicted by the Spirit. The believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit, not in water.

Nicodemus did not understand, asking Jesus “How can these things be?” Jesus expressed a concern that this religious leader of the people of Israel not understanding something that is of the Spirit. For God, Heaven and even Jesus before he came to earth are not of the world, but of the Spirit.  How can one teach about things that are Holy and of the Spirit, when they have trouble understanding the Spirit’s purpose and actions in the world? It was evident that Nicodemus’ problem was the absence of belief or lack of faith.

Nicodemus had a “head” knowledge of God and the Holy Scriptures but lacked the faith to receive the Spirit’s help in understanding God’s purpose and plan. He was a captive, held prisoner by following the letter of the law, and not allowing the power of the Spirit to set him free from the captivity of legalism, Galatians 3:23-29 (ESV):

The Law and the Promise

BLCF: the_Law_and_the_Promise

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

So Christ came to the world, not to end or replace the law, but to assume the guilt, judgment and punishment under the law for everyone’s transgressions, Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV):

Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

BLCF: Covenant-of-Grace-chart

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In other words, the standards of the law are so great, no one can be considered righteous enough to enter Heaven. But God has a plan to enable us to overcome the guilt of sin by faith in Jesus, Romans 3:21-26 (ESV):

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

BLCF: righteousness-by-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. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

And by receiving righteousness through faith in Jesus, we must keep out faith and trust in Christ,   Colossians 2:6-14 (ESV):

Alive in Christ

BLCF: alive-in-Christ

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

There are many ways that the excess baggage we carry could hamper our walk in the Spirit. If like Nicodemus, we tend to rely strictly upon the letter of law, we will hamper the work of the Spirit in our faith walk. Satan uses such baggage to draw believers away from the Lord. Thus admonition: See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Even after God sent Jesus to die for our sins and overcome the judgment for the law, we still hear those who non-spiritual questions, for example:  “What is the proper attire for the church; do I wear a suit and tie?” Or when in prayer we may ask: “Is it necessary to cover one’s head and must we observe a diet that is in agreement with the law?” And so on…

The original Ten Commandments God gave to Moses for the People of Israel, had literally hundreds of additional Mosaic Laws added by people over the following years, which I believe was not what God had intended to guide His People. Otherwise, Moses would have been given additional tablets to Moses in the first place!

We know Jesus condensed original ten down to two; loving God and loving your neighbour.

To test whether the law is given from God and being of the Spirit or from man and being of the world; we should ask whether it matches one of God’s Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai or the two given to us by Jesus. If the answer to this test is “no”, then the law came from man, not from God, and observing such a law may be more important to other men than it is to God. Jesus said that we cannot go to Heaven on good works but by faith.

Keeping any of His laws is meaningless without faith, as many people have a tendency to muddle and confuse God’s Law with worldly laws. That is why God provided a Spiritual solution to a worldly problem of sin.

Satan would love us be preoccupied as to whether we eat pork, or cover our heads in prayer, or should we be baptized in water, or ask which is more important: whether we observe the Sabbath on a Saturday or Sunday? All of these types of questions act to distract us from worship and perhaps even diminish our faith in Christ. Let us keep our focus on our faith in Jesus and our growth in the Spirit while observing God’s Laws. All the other things in this world are of little importance to God, except our faith in Him, which God desires most from us. To grow our faith, let us discard the excess baggage of the world, focus on the gift of the Holy Spirit and Gospel of the Lord.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

Benediction: (Ephesians 1:3-4) – Spiritual Blessings in Christ:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

BLCF: by-Gods-grace

 

 

Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed by Salvation and Forgiveness 2019

BLCF: Forgiveness

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed by Salvation and Forgiveness’

© July 7, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 7, 2019

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on January 4, 2015

BLCF Bulletin January 4, 2015

BLCF: Ephesians 4_32

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                               

Opening Hymn #63: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name; Choruses                                             

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

Responsive Reading #605 (Prayer of Penitence – Psalm 51); Prayer                                                       

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                          ‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed with Salvation and Forgiveness’

 

 

BLCF: to_be_a_Christian                                                                     

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship for the first Sunday of July 2019. Last Monday happened to be Canada Day and in honour of the July 1 celebration, I have included a bit of trivia on the front of today’s bulletin, namely that the Canadian flag is unique in that we are the only country to have a flag that is twice as long as it is wide.

And this being the first Sunday Praise and Worship Service of the month, our service at BLCF will also be a Communion Service.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed with Salvation and Forgiveness’  And in line with the topic of Salvation and forgiveness, I would like to open with an appropriate prayer on the subject from the Scriptures, found in the eleventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel, which is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer”:

 Let us pray…

BLCF: forgive in prayer

Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)

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

“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread,[a]

and forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation.”

– Amen

Footnotes: a. Luke 11:3 Or our bread for tomorrow

BLCF: forgive_us_our_sins

From the Lord’s Prayer, it is important to note that Jesus indicated that the degree of our forgiveness from God, the Father, is predicated upon our complete and total forgiveness of others. It is ironic that many people Christians give considerable thought and focus upon their own forgiveness through our Lord, Jesus Christ while giving little or no thought to forging others and yet our salvation is predicated only on God’s love for us, but how we demonstrate our love to others. And I mean all others, including those whom we considered who have wronged us, that is those who have “trespassed against us!” A factual account of this love towards those who have wronged us is described in Olympian, Louis Zamperini’s autobiography, which was made into a movie Unbroken in 2014. Here is a short synopsis of this film:

Unbroken

After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Unbroken is the Louis Zamperini’s biography, authored by Laura Hillenbrand, and made into a  film a few years ago. Those who have both read the book and viewed the film noted that the movie omitted how after the war, Zamperini who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) had suffered from depression which led him to turn to alcohol. Omitted from the film was how Zamperini while attending a Billy Graham Campaign Service, Zamperini chose to accept Jesus, as his Lord and Saviour. Then, by God’s Grace, Zamperini was not only healed from his PTSD and dependence on alcohol, but he was also able to forgive the Japanese guards who had brought him so much pain and suffering while he was a Prisoner of War. After the war, his PTSD nightmares had nearly led to him losing his sanity. Unfortunately, the movie director and producers of the film did not think it worthwhile to include Zamperini’s faith experience and how his heart was transformed by the Holy Spirit. They chose to omit from the film, the story of the true triumph achieved by Zamperini which is a story of the power of faith and the ability of the Spirit to heal deep emotional wounds and give us the strength to love our enemies.

As a broadcast journalist, the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Here is the rest of the story”:

 “Unbroken” the Biography of Louis Zamperini by Laura Hillenbrand

-From the Wall Street Journal (Online) by Steve Oney

BLCF: Louis_Zamperini_at_announcement_of_2015_Tournament_of_Roses_Grand_Marshal

“Unbroken” details a life that was tumultuous from the beginning. As a blue-collar kid in Southern California, Mr. Zamperini fell in and out of scrapes with the law. By age 19, he’d redirected his energies into sports, becoming a record-breaking distance runner. He competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where he made headlines, not just on the track (Hitler sought him out for a congratulatory handshake), but by stealing a Nazi flag from the well-guarded Reich Chancellery. The heart of the story, however, is about Mr. Zamperini’s experiences while serving in the Pacific during World War II.

A bombardier on a B-24 flying out of Hawaii in May 1943, the Army Air Corps lieutenant was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive a crash into a trackless expanse of ocean. For 47 days, Mr. Zamperini and pilot Russell Allen Phillips (tail gunner Francis McNamara died on day 33) huddled aboard a tiny, poorly provisioned raft, subsisting on little more than rain water and the blood of hapless birds they caught and killed bare-handed. All the while sharks circled, often rubbing their backs against the bottom of the raft. The sole aircraft that sighted them was Japanese. It made two strafing runs, missing its human targets both times. After drifting some 2,000 miles west, the bullet-riddled, badly patched raft washed ashore in the Marshall Islands, where Messrs. Zamperini and Phillips were taken prisoner by the Japanese. The war still had more than two years to go.

For 25 months in such infamous Japanese POW camps as Ofuna, Omori and Naoetsu, Mr. Zamperini was physically tortured and subjected to constant psychological abuse. He was beaten. He was starved. He was denied medical care for maladies that included beriberi and chronic bloody diarrhea. His fellow prisoners—among them Mr. Phillips—were treated almost as badly. But Mr. Zamperini was singled out by a sadistic guard named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known to prisoners as “the Bird,” a handle picked because it had no negative connotations that might bring down his irrational wrath. The Bird intended to make an example of the famous Olympian. He regularly whipped him across the face with a belt buckle and forced him to perform demeaning acts, among them push-ups atop pits of human excrement. The Bird’s goal was to force Mr. Zamperini to broadcast anti-American propaganda over the radio. Mr. Zamperini refused. Following Japan’s surrender, Mr. Watanabe was ranked seventh among its most wanted war criminals (Tojo was first). Because war-crime prosecutions were suspended in the 1950s, he was never brought to justice.

Ms. Hillenbrand’s research was complicated by her disease. But as she likes to remind people, she came down with chronic fatigue syndrome before starting her writing career, and she has learned to work around it. “For ‘Seabiscuit,’ ” she says, “I interviewed 100 people I never met.” For “Unbroken,” Ms. Hillenbrand located not only many of Mr. Zamperini’s fellow POWs and the in-laws of Mr. Phillips, but the most friendly of his Japanese captors. She also interviewed scores of experts on the War in the Pacific (the book is extensively end-noted) and benefited from her subject’s personal files, which he shipped to Washington for her use. “A superlative pack rat,” she writes, “Louie has saved virtually every artifact of his life.”

During her exploration of Mr. Zamperini’s war years, Ms. Hillenbrand was most intrigued by his capacity to endure hardship. “One of the fascinating things about Louie,” she says, “is that he never allowed himself to be a passive participant in his ordeal. It’s why he survived. When he was being tortured, he wasn’t just lying there and getting hit. He was always figuring out ways to escape emotionally or physically.”

Mr. Zamperini owes this resiliency, Ms. Hillenbrand concluded, to his rebellious nature. “Defiance defines Louie,” she says. “As a boy he was a hell-raiser. He refused to be corralled. When someone pushed him he pushed back. That made him an impossible kid but an unbreakable man.”

BLCF: forgive-those

Although Mr. Zamperini came back to California in one piece, he was emotionally ruined. At night, his demons descended in the form of vengeful dreams about Mr. Watanabe. He drank heavily. He nearly destroyed his marriage. In 1949, at the urging of his wife, Cynthia, Mr. Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where he became a Christian. (The conversion of the war hero helped put the young evangelist on the map.) Ultimately Mr. Zamperini forgave his tormentors and enjoyed a successful career running a center for troubled youth. He even reached out to Mr. Watanabe. “As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment,” Mr. Zamperini wrote his former guard in the 1990s, “my post-war life became a nightmare … but thanks to a confrontation with God … I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you.” A third party promised to deliver the letter to Mr. Watanabe. He did not reply, and it is not known whether he received it. He died in 2003.

BLCF: forgiveness

Mr. Zamperini’s internal battles and ultimate redemption point to a key difference between “Unbroken” and Ms. Hillenbrand’s previous book. “Seabiscuit’s story is one of accomplishment,” she says. “Louie’s is one of survival.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703514904575602540345409292 

Ivan Mesa writing in thegospelcoalition.org, has the following take on the Louie Zamperini’s story:

Broken: The Power of Conversion in Louie Zamperini’s Life

OCTOBER 24, 2014  |  Ivan Mesa  ARTS & CULTURE

Louie Zamperini’s amazing life is the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. It has remained on the New York Timesbestseller list for almost four years (a remarkable feat!), and on Christmas Day the much-anticipated movie adaptation is slated for release. Although it is one of my favorite books, I have to agree with Collin Hansen: “The title is all wrong.” After the war, Louie returned home a broken man.

Louie survived 47 days adrift in a lifeboat after his plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. He narrowly escaped marauding sharks and strafing from passing Japanese airplanes. And he survived on rainwater, fish, and seabirds until he was picked up by a Japanese patrol boat. After two brutal years as a prisoner of war in Japan, World War II ended, and Louie returned home a hero.

Soon thereafter, he married a beautiful blonde woman named Cynthia. On the outside all seemed well, but hatred for one of his captors metastasized. “A once singularly hopeful man now believed that his only hope lay in murder,” Hillenbrand writes. Louie’s life spiraled downward as he gave himself over to drunkenness and reckless behavior. Money he had invested in get-rich-quick schemes foundered. Despite appeals and warnings from friends, he made no reform. His wife initiated a divorce.

Conversion Under Billy Graham

In September 1949 a young Billy Graham came to Los Angeles for a three-week campaign to bring the city to Christ. Cynthia attended and received Christ as Savior. She returned home, informed Louie of her new life in Christ, and made clear she would no longer pursue a divorce. Although relieved, Louie wanted no part of this religious awakening. Nevertheless, eventually Louie also attended and, although indignant at first, on the second day he came forward to receive Christ. Here is his account:

I dropped to my knees and for the first time in my life truly humbled myself before the Lord. I asked him to forgive me for not having kept the promises I’d made during the war, and for my sinful life. I made no excuses. I did not rationalize, I did not blame. He had said, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” so I took him at his word, begged for his pardon, and asked Jesus to come into my life.

His new life had begun

Joy replaced anger in Louie’s heart, and he freely forgave his former captors. Throughout his life he gave testimony of Christ, particularly with troubled youth near his home in Los Angeles. He was a faithful husband until Cynthia died in 2001 of cancer. Louie died earlier this year at 97.

The portrayal of Conversion in Zamperini’s Life

The inclusion of the tent meeting and Billy Graham’s sermon in Hillenbrand’s Unbroken was an answer to prayer for Louie. “Unbroken is Laura’s book,” Louie later told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, “so all I could do was pray that she would somehow have the gospel in it.” We should all be thankful that Louie’s conversion was included, even if not explained in robustly theological terms.

Not surprisingly, however, major news outlets have minimized Louie’s conversion and offered man-centered interpretations. For example, the New York Times devoted only one sentence to this transformation in its obituary for him: “Mr. Zamperini straightened out his life . . . after hearing a sermon preached by Billy Graham.” According to The Guardian Louie “was overcome and born-again as a Christian.” But perhaps most disappointing was Hillenbrand’s own eulogy:

What made his life transcendent, what made it resonate in millions of hearts, was not the hardship he encountered, but the way in which he greeted it, how he turned it to joy, and what that told the rest of us about the potential that sleeps within ourselves. (emphasis mine)

In a recent profile of the film, Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie on Louie’s life, the Los Angeles Times indicates that the movie will end with Zamperini’s liberation and will not include his alcoholism, Billy Graham’s preaching, or Louie’s conversion. This is tragic. Louie was clear that one could not tell his story apart from his new birth in Christ. When CBS wanted to air a documentary of his life in the 1990s, he insisted on including his conversion:

My whole life is serving God. If you want this to be authentic, you have to have my conversion in there. . . . I want you to show a picture of Billy Graham to confirm it. When people hear the name Billy Graham they think of one thing: the gospel.

The first trailer of the film included some small hints of Christianity. We hear Louie addressing God, “If you get me through this, I swear I’ll dedicate my whole life to you,” which is a bargain he made at sea while in the raft. 

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/broken-louie-zamperini/

Unfortunately, the Jolie film omits the key fact that Zamperini’s faith in Christ was the key to his triumph over alcoholism and depression due to his PTSD. This omission not only dodges Louie’s healing through faith It does also little to honor the memory or testimony of Louie Zamperini.

The site, deadline.com reports that Pure Flix produced a film sequel in 2018 to Unbroken:

A sequel of Unbroken is on the way from the film’s original producer Matt Baer and God’s Not Dead franchise director Harold Cronk which looks at the life of hero Louis Zamperini post WWII. The faith-based film — to be distributed by Pure Flix — is based on the second half of the book from author Laura Hillenbrand. The film is entitled Unbroken: Path to Redemption.

The film will pick up where the first left off and follows Zamperini’s life after the war and his struggle to get back on his feet after suffering PTSD, falling into despair and alcoholism. The young soldier would be put back on the right path by the Rev. Billy Graham

https://deadline.com/2017/09/unbroken-sequel-billy-graham-louis-zamperini-path-to-redemption-movie-1202160181/

Our first Scripture passage speaks of how the Lord brought a restoration, by forgiving their sins, as we read in Luke 7:36-50 (ESV): 

A Sinful Woman Forgiven (Parable of the Two Debtors)

BLCF: forgiveness2

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 7:49 Or to

BKCF: Parable_of_Two_Debtors

It is interesting to observe that A Sinful Woman Forgiven also described as Parable of the Two Debtors tells how two debtors, which in reality alludes to the sins of the Pharisee, named Simon, and the sinful woman. Jesus compares how his host offered Jesus, no water to wash his feet, which was the Jewish custom, not embrace or kiss, and no anointing of his head with oil, and yet the sinful woman lovingly gave the Lord all of those.

Not only did the Lord forgive the woman of her sins, Jesus indicated that his Pharisee host eluded his own forgiveness by not forgiving the trespasses of the woman. The other mistake of the Pharisee, as well as others,  gathered at the table, was in not acknowledging Jesus’ true identity, as Christ, the Anointed One, an observation that was only made by the woman who carried and was forgiven of the burden of her many sins.

Finally, the Pharisee made the mistake of harshly judging both the woman, as well as the Lord, while failing to acknowledge his own transgressions, though not as great as the woman.

The next Scripture passage in today’s lesson comes from Luke 19:1-10 (ESV):

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus_and_Jesus

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Christ acknowledged the tax collector Zacchaeus, though not Pharisee or leader of faith, had practiced great faith in his own life, by giving half of his goods to the poor, and seeking restitution to those that he had defrauded fourfold.

Just as had happened at the house of Simon, the Pharisee, those around Jesus and Zacchaeus had wrongly judged both the Lord and Zacchaeus, again, unaware that the Lord already knew Zacchaeus’ name, but likely the heart of this man, whom others had wrongly judged as a sinner. This is a reminder that we are wrong to judge others when we do not know what is truly in their hearts. It is not for us the judge others, as we would be placing ourselves in the dangerous position of usurping our Lord. Both Adam and Eve had already made that mistake when they ate the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge.”

For us, Jesus came on earth on earth as the Anointed One, the Christ, bringing salvation and forgiveness to all who chose to confess their sins and to turn away from a life of sin. This was the message that Peter shared, shortly after healing a lame beggar in the name of the Lord, on the steps to the temple, as we read in Acts 3:11-21 (ESV):

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

BLCF: Peter-Preaching-Solomons-Portico

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[a] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[b] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

Footnotes: a. Acts 3:13 Or child; also verse 26 b. Acts 3:16 Greek him

BLCF: If-God-forgives-us-we-must-forgive-ourselves_CS_Lewis

As Christians, we receive God’s grace not only by confessing sin and by turning away from sin; the Lord expects us to not judge others or to hold others in contempt. And by judging others, we bring the same judgment from the Lord upon ourselves, eluding our own salvation in the process.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Communion

Communion (Luke 22:14-20) – 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 #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: Forgiveness - Ephesians_4-32