Dear BLCF Friends,
Effective April 10, 2022, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church will reopen by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF. In order to protect those who are vulnerable at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship from COVID-19 Virus infection, the BLCF Board mandates that the church will be open by reservation, with the following rules:
- attendees must wear a mask while on the premises
- attendees give their contact information upon arrival
- attendees observe two meters of social distance while seated
- attendees use hand sanitizer as needed
- attendees follow any additional directions given by members of the board, while inside the church
Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to reopen safely more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.
– Pastor Steve
Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Perseverance through Troubled Times’
© January 15, 2023, by Steve Mickelson
Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on November 20, 2022, and October 6, 2013
Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer
Prayer and Tithing; Prayer Requests
Hymn #572: Praise God; Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow) Instrumental – https://youtu.be/Mk4p3rihONU
Responsive Reading #648 (A Challenge to Faith from Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer
Opening Hymn: #43: Praise to the Lord, Almighty – (Nockels, Hymn with Lyrics, Contemporary) – https://youtu.be/BNq0WtMSmIY
Music Special – Open My Eyes That I May See – Jordana Machado (Lyrics) – https://youtu.be/vDJaE1o5CUk
Music Special: Open the Eyes of My Heart – Paul Baloche (Lyrics) – https://youtu.be/Jfz5CSBGyqU
Message by Steve Mickelson: Perseverance through Troubled Times
Let us pray…
Welcome to our Sunday morning Prayer and Worship Service here at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship.
Today’s lesson is entitled Perseverance through Troubled Times. I would like to share my experience of a time of trouble and personal challenge.
On a Sunday afternoon in 2009, after our Worship Service here at BLCF, I faced one of the most difficult challenges to my personal health, as well as a test of faith. It began in the middle of October, right here in this church sanctuary, immediately following the Sunday morning service, that I started to see what appeared to be light flashes, not unlike the flashes of a camera, in the corner of my right eye. It appeared as if I perceived, in my peripheral vision, regular flares of light, as if someone were taking flash photos nearby. Then, just as suddenly as the flashes had begun, they stopped, not to return until the next Sunday, accompanied by dark spots of jet-black floating in my field of vision. By alternately closing each of my eyes, I determined that the flashes and spots were only viewed by my right eye. My brain had somehow merged the images so I thought I was seeing them with both eyes.
I recalled reading an article some years ago that described visions similar to what I was experiencing as symptomatic of when the retina of the eye has become detached. The next day, I arranged to get an emergency appointment to see (no pun intended) my Ophthalmologist. After a careful examination and some tests, the doctor told me that he could see no evidence of a detachment or what is sometimes referred to as a hole or tear of the retina and that my symptoms were likely caused when the fluid in the eye thickens from age, slides down in front of the retina. He did say that I had a cataract starting in the other eye, my left eye, but that it would not become an issue requiring treatment for a number of years, and he would be retired by that time. I was sent home.
Over the next few days, however, my symptoms progressed and worsened. Now I could see a dark shadow in my field of vision that bothered me so much that I resorted to covering my right eye with a tissue. The next morning, I returned to the Eye Doctor and was informed that not only did I have a retinal tear, but one so severe that I needed emergency surgery as soon as possible in order to save the vision in my eye! The Doctor apologized that he did not see the tear at my previous visit.
Of the two hospitals in Toronto that could perform the procedure, only St. Michaels Health Care could take me in on such short notice and an appointment was made for the next day. That night, with all the lights out and even my eyes closed, the hole made it appear as if I were viewing some strange green moonscape, its illumination indirect, much like the landscape illuminated by the light from a full moon. My worry and concern about losing vision to the eye were high. I had done all the right things: recognizing the significance of my symptoms and promptly seeking out a specialist. Still, I faced the prospect of losing the vision in the eye, unless I underwent surgery in the same hospital where both my sister and father had died. I was stressed and overwhelmed beyond belief until my phone rang.
On the phone was Diane, a sister in Christ who attended Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, who had called to find out how my visit with the doctor went. It was interesting as Diane was blind from untreated Diabetes in her youth. When I told her that I was to undergo surgery the next day on my eye, Diane offered to say a prayer with me. As we prayed, I felt the peace and presence of God’s Holy Spirit fall upon me. The peace continued at the Hospital and throughout the three and half hours of emergency eye surgery, during which I was not totally under the anesthetic, so I was able to hear, throughout the procedure, the dialog between Dr. Louis Giavedoni, one of Canada’s top ophthalmologists and his student a Dr. Casey (not Ben).
Later, after the procedure, a couple from our church dropped by the hospital to visit, to whom remarked that for the week before the operation, I felt like a person without a vision, (pun intended). But a year later and two more procedures, one for a new lens and another to clear the sheath by laser, the eye is like it was before the tear. Actually, my visual acuity improved with the new lens.
From this experience, the Spirit taught me patience, trust, and the importance of prayer when facing adversity. I find that the Lord has made me more empathetic than before. I recall tears welling up in my eyes as we followed on TV, as it happened, the rescue of those 33 Chilean miners who had been trapped by a cave-in deep underground. With my vision restored, the Holy Spirit had given me an extra dose of compassion for others who suffer.
The Bible has a wealth of verses that tell believers how to persevere in times of trouble. The following verses found below cover many aspects of how we may cope with adversity and by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, in the process become both stronger and more confident in our faith in God:
- Perseverance: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12 (ESV)
- Have Fun: A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. – Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)
- Preparation: Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV)
- Forget Yesterday: Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)
- Confidence: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
- Be Humble: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)
- Don’t Forget: But the Helper, 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. – John 14:26 (ESV)
- Finally, Follow Jesus’ Example, as described in Hebrews 12:1-3:
Jesus, Founder, and Perfecter of Our Faith
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Do Not Grow Weary
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
I feel that experiencing life’s challenges, such as I had with a torn retina, tempered and strengthened my soul for other challenges later on in life. Such as dealing with a cataract in my left eye or the current COVID-19 Pandemic.
I did eventually develop a cataract in the left eye, which was corrected with a new lens in a procedure considered to be routine when compared to a significant retinal tear. The worse part about dealing with the left eye was trying to get new eyeglasses, as the Optometrists were on strike, but after three months the strike ended and I got a pair.
And as you already know dealing with COVID-19 and craziness, which I refer to as the COVID-19 Malaise, that’s a whole different story.
Yes, COVID-19 is real, as I can attest to suffering from this virus at the end of March 2021. My illness was severe enough that I lost about 25 pounds, and was hospitalized for a day. X-rays revealed what was obvious to me, that my lungs were full of COVID, I had two blood tests, an EKG, and was hooked up to an oximeter. The reason I spent over 6 hours in Emerge was thy Blood Oxygen hovered at 89%, which is bad enough to damage major organs and close enough to qualify me for a bed in the ICU, hooked up to a respirator. Eventually, the doctors decided to try administering a steroid treatment, to see whether the O-2 would improve, and it gradually rose. I was instructed to purchase an Oximeter and regularly check my Oxygen level, and if it dropped again below 90%, I was to return to the hospital, this time by ambulance, and tell the paramedics that I have COVID. You see I had Sophie drive me to the hospital and my last words to her at the time were that I loved her and to tell the kids that I loved them as well.
Fortunately, I recovered, though some residual symptoms have resulted in follow-up EKG, blood tests, lung X-Rays, pulmonary function tests, etc. Though I am slowly on the mend, the most aggravating part of having suffered from COVID-19 is ignorant people who are skeptical that I had COVID or that it even exists. One Blogger here on WordPress sent me a scathing message to stop lying to my congregation, as well as to the readers here on the BLOG, and admit COVID is just a hoax. Well, I caught COVID from one of my sons, who in turn was one of about 30 employees who caught COVID after eating cake served for a fellow employee’s retirement. Of the 30 employees infected, five were hospitalized and two of the five died from COVID. Some hoax! This is why we have closed the church twice during waves of COVID, suspended prayer meetings and the BLCF Cafe, and mandated restrictions during Worship Services.
I know what this virus can do, especially to vulnerable people. While politicians claim the Pandemic is over, most Health Authorities say it is not and unfortunately, unvaccinated people who refuse to wear a mask or take other precautions are getting infected, some severely, with deaths. The Lord had two comments about those who want to use COVID-19 as a political weapon or use the Pandemic as a test:
The first test came from his critics, found in Chapter 12 of Mark’s Gospel:
Mark 12:13-17 (ESV):
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances,[a] but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius[b] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
The second test came from the devil himself, as we read in Chapter 4 of Luke’s Gospel:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
The obvious message here is if you choose to leave the politicians, preferring to stick with God, don’t decide to put Him to the test! I would compare not getting vaccinated or wearing a mask to not boarding the Ark before The Great Flood as examples of putting God to the test. Here is an example, in parable form, of what happens to someone who puts God to the test:
The Parable of The Flood
A man was trapped in his house during a flood. He began praying to God to rescue him. He had a vision in his head of God’s hand reaching down from heaven and lifting him to safety. The water started to rise in his house. His neighbour urged him to leave and offered him a ride to safety. The man yelled back, “I am waiting for God to save me.” The neighbour drove off in his pick-up truck.
The man continued to pray and hold on to his vision. As the water began rising in his house, he had to climb up to the roof. A boat came by with some people heading for safe ground. They yelled at the man to grab a rope they were ready to throw and take him to safety. He told them that he was waiting for God to save him. They shook their heads and moved on.
The man continued to pray, believing with all his heart that he would be saved by God. The flood waters continued to rise. A helicopter flew by and a voice came over a loudspeaker offering to lower a ladder and take him off the roof. The man waved the helicopter away, shouting back that he was waiting for God to save him. The helicopter left. The flooding water came over the roof and caught him up and swept him away. He drowned.
When he reached heaven and asked, “God, why did you not save me? I believed in you with all my heart. Why did you let me drown?” God replied, “I sent you a pick-up truck, a boat, and a helicopter and you refused all of them. What else could I possibly do for you?”
So don’t put God to the test, be safe, get a booster, wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let us pray…
Closing Music: Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (Look Up) – [Lyrics] – https://youtu.be/bBfHUrLGzNY
Benediction – Psalm 121 (ESV):
A Song of Ascents.
121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.