God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’

 © September 26, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared with BLCF Church, on October 28, 2018 and on June 12, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June 12, 2016

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                       

Opening Hymn #199: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #594: God’s Commandments (-from Exodus 20 and Matthew 22)                             

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                  ‘

God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

Let us pray…

There is a challenge to the Christian Church today, especially as completing Christ’s Gospel, unto the ends of the earth. It can be a challenge to demonstrate to other people who dwell in a tangible world, the reality of a God who may seem to have an intangible existence.

But before we begin today’s lesson: ‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’, let us check a definition of terms used within today’s lesson. The first is from dictionary.com:

Tangible – 1580-90; < Late Latin tangibilis, equivalent to Latin tang (ere) to touch + -ibilis -ible

adjective

  1. capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.
  2. real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of sunshine.
  3. definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.
  4. (of an asset) having actual physical existence, as real estate or chattels, and therefore capable of being assigned a value in monetary terms.

noun

  1. something tangible, especially a tangible asset.

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

intangible

adjective

  1. not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; impalpable.
  2. not definite or clear to the mind: intangible arguments.
  3. (of an asset) existing only in connection with something else, as the goodwill of a business.

noun

  1. something intangible, especially an intangible asset: Intangibles are hard to value.

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

For bookkeepers and accountants, who must balance ledgers and deal with assets that are either tangible or intangible. Sometimes the intangible assets are called goodwill assets. The interesting aspect of a tangible asset is that it depreciates each year so that after several years, the tangible asset no longer has any book value. By contrast, intangible assets hold their value and very often grow in value over time. Consider the trademark for McDonald’s Restaurants, the double arches. The value of this intangible asset is far more valuable today than when the trademark was first adopted:

Q: What is the difference between goodwill and tangible assets?

By Investopedia | January 8, 2015 — 2:11 AM EST

A: Companies can own two type of assets: tangible and intangible. Tangible assets are assets that take physical form. These are made up of fixed assets, such as buildings, vehicles and machinery. They are also composed of current assets, which include cash and inventory. Goodwill is a form of intangible asset, along with the likes of contracts and patents. Although an intangible asset does not have a physical form, it still provides value to the company. Tangible assets are far easier to liquidate than intangible assets; machinery and buildings have a secondary market.

Goodwill is created as the result of the purchase of one company by another at a premium. It represents the difference between the price paid by the purchaser and the target company’s book value. It reflects the premium paid for a company’s reputation, technology, brands and other less tangible attributes.

Given that goodwill arises as a residual portion of the purchase price, it cannot be measured directly. It can be independently appraised on assumptions based on the excess value of the business being purchased.

For tangible assets, if there is an anticipated useful life of more than one year, then there is a requirement for the assets’ worth to be depreciated over their useful lives. Prior to 2001, accounting rules required goodwill to be amortized over a period of up to 40 years. However, in 2001, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an accounting pronouncement that ended automatic amortization of goodwill. As a result, goodwill is now measured annually to determine whether there has been an impairment loss. If there is no impairment, goodwill can remain on a company’s balance sheet indefinitely.

http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/010815/what-difference-between-goodwill-and-tangible-assets.asp

Thinking of the phrase “Peace on Earth to men of goodwill” makes me consider how the growth of believers or the faith of Christians, that is the growth of this goodwill or intangible aspect of Christ’s Gospel message, adopted by members of Christ’s Church, which continues to accumulate and grow over time, unaffected by the rules of depreciation that occur if these assets were tangible in nature.

We know that there is the promise, that where two or more are gathered in the Lord’s name, then He is there in Spirit. I believe this call indicates that two or more people are gathered together in His name, then He will be there in the Spirit, indicates how the Spirit rewards those believers who gather and call on the Lord, as we find in BLCF at each Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service, as well at Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study, and at other functions of BLCF Church. By definition, the Church is comprised of the believers who assemble together in this space. For the last 18 months, we see our faith in ourselves and each other challenged by a deadly COVID-19 Pandemic, which continues to test the bonds of our faith by the safety rules and restrictions necessary to protect others and ourselves from infection to a deadly virus that increases when people gather together in places of worship and while celebrating communion and dinner gatherings. We remain unified in the Holy Spirit of God, whether alone or assembled as a congregation.

Often non-believers, and some believers – remember Thomas, the disciple, seek tangible proof of the Gospel of Jesus, including Christ’s resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is at times. because of health, travel, sickness, or a pandemic, Christians find that are not able to gather together physically in the same place as a congregation, that we are challenge to support each other and maintain ties that bind by way of phone, text, and email.  While unable to pray for each other, we may support one another by prayer over the phone when we address our Father, in the name of His Son, by praying in the Spirit. We should consider that this Pandemic has placed the burden of physical isolation upon us all, but we remain united together in the Holy Spirit. Supporting others in a the congregation who are unable to assemble in a tangible way, through the intangible means of prayer, by phone and message is a perfect example of expressions of the intangibles of love, faith, and prayer that are characteristics the Holy Spirit!

Let us look at the first Scripture passage in today’s lesson, from  Jeremiah 2:1-22,  where the people of Israel forsake God, to worship tangible idols and non-existent gods such as Baal:

  Jeremiah 2:1-22 (ESV): Israel Forsakes the Lord

2 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 

 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord.”

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.                                                                                                                   

The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’  Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds[a] transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.

“Therefore I still contend with you, declares the Lord, and with your children’s children I will contend.10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing. 11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,13 for my people have committed two evils:                                                                                                                 

they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant? Why then has he become a prey? 15 The lions have roared against him; they have roared loudly. They have made his land a waste; his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved[b] the crown of your head. 17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way?

18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?[c] 19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts.

20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.

21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? 22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.

Footnotes: a. Jeremiah 2:8 Or rulers b. Jeremiah 2:16 Hebrew grazed c. Jeremiah 2:18 Hebrew the River

The Gospel of Christ is filled with intangibles such as love, faith, hope, sin, guilt, worship, prayer, forgiveness, sanctification and God’s Covenants. Then there are some of the tangible aspects of Jesus which include: the crucifixion, the Scriptures, providing for the needs of the poor, the partaking of the elements of communion.

Now there is a third category, which I would like to  describe as physical or tangible expressions of our intangible God: the miracles, including the Word, Made Flesh, the Resurrection of Christ, the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit to every believer, as well our promised resurrection and eternal life with the Lord.

Hebrews 12:18-29 (ESV): A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 12:23 Or church

The Kingdom of God is not of this world and therefore not subject to the destruction that occurs to structures and other tangibles, today.

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV): The Great Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Of all the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses for the People of Israel, the two that Jesus spoke about describe an intangible aspect of our relationship with God and our neighbor, which is love. Love is not subject to worldly influences. The other Eight Commandments deal with property, and physical tangible aspects of our relationships, which makes them of lesser importance than how we deal with our God and neighbor. If we apply love to any or all of the Ten Commandments, we would expect a positive outcome in our relationship with God, except for the issue of sin.

Sin inhibits our ability to successfully adhere to or follow the Ten Commandments. In this regard, all of us fail and fall short of God’s glory. However, God loved us so much, that He gave us His only Son, Jesus as a propitiation for sin. While Jesus’ sacrifice does not eliminate sin, it takes away the judgment of death for sin. In place of death of the death penalty, God makes provision for the final sacrifice by way of Jesus’ death on the cross. And the resurrected Christ, who ascended to heaven leads to the gifting of the companion of the Holy Spirit. We see that each stage of salvation and reconciliation has a tangible and intangible aspect. Christ was born,  he ministers, then died, was resurrected from death and ascended to heaven, all are tangibles. And all of these aspects of Christ’s Gospel are impossible without the intangible Godly attributes of love, compassion, faith, hope, and the Spirit’s influence.

John 1:14 (ESV): Word Made Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Let us pray…

BLCF: God is Love

Closing Hymn #374: Take Thou Our Minds, Dear Lord

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

Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Jesus-died-for-our-sins

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?’

© September 19, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared With BLCF on October 16, 2016 and on September 14, 2014

BLCF-bulletin-october-16-2016

BLCF: Bulletin September 14, 2014

BLCF: cant-to-can

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                  

Responsive Reading #633 (The Good Shepherd – John 10); Prayer                                                              

Opening Hymn #237: What Can Wash Away My Sin? ; Choruses                                             

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

BLCF: miughty-to-sin.jpg

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 John 1:7-9 (ESV)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV) Mystery and Victory

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

BLCF: Who_do_you_say_I_Am

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. For the lesson today, I would like to pose a few questions: Who is Jesus? What is sin? What do they mean to me?

To answer these questions, we must first understand their relevance to each other and their mutual context, as found in the Scriptures. Jesus came to propitiate God for sin by his crucifixion on the cross. And what is meant by sin? Romans 3:23 indicates all humanity have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Is sin the act By Adam and Eve of disobedience to God’s ordinance, which was the command not to eat fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge”, as described in Genesis 3?

The Apostle Paul describes manifestations of sin as “works of flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV):

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Our hope comes from the blood that Christ shed on our behalf to cleanse us from the unrighteousness of sins which we confess or admit, as describe in 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And with salvation, by faith in Jesus, comes the promise of the resurrection from death and a life immortal, as described in our next Scripture passage, from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV), entitled the Mystery and Victory:

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

But some might ask: “Who is Jesus, that he might be capable of removing sin’s stain from each and every believer’s life?”

BLCF: I-Am-Jesus

For Jesus is more than a Saviour, as even Christ describes himself using more than a dozen distinct terms, which you will find on the back of today’s bulletin. In the passages, taken from various passages in John’s Gospel, are a set of descriptors, theologians refer today as the “I Am’s of Jesus”:

John 6:51 (ESV) 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 8:23 (ESV) 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:12 (ESV) 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:58 (ESV) 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 10:9 (ESV) I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

John 10:11 (ESV) 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:36 (ESV) 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

John 11:25 (ESV) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 15:1 (ESV) 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

And what does Christ mean when repeatedly exclaims that “I am”’? let us check an online dictionary:

Am – verb – 1st person singular present indicative of be.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/am?s=t

In other words, Jesus states that he describes himself as: living bread; not of this world; the light of the world; before Abraham (he existed before Abraham); the door; the good shepherd; one with the Father (God); Son of God; the resurrection; the life; the way; the truth; the true vine.

Jesus exists is multifaceted and multidimensional in relation to our needs.

If the verses above, containing a descriptor that is preceded by “I am” sounds familiar, you may recall Moses’ encounter with God, the latter appearing as a “burning bush” in Exodus 3:13-15 (ESV):

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

Footnotes: a. Exodus 3:14 Or I am what I am, or I will be what I will be b.Exodus 3:15 The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14

It is totally fitting that Jesus describe himself in the same manner in John’s Gospel as God described Himself in Exodus 3. After all, Jesus tells us in John 10:30 (ESV), that:

I and the Father are one

Both Christ and the Father are part of the Godhead, commonly called the Holy Trinity, with the third part being the Holy Spirit.

So far we have answered the first two questions I raised at the beginning of today’s lesson: “Who is Jesus?” and “What is sin?” But what about the third question, referring to the previous two: “What do the mean to me?”

This question was answered within some the verses that we studied today. Each of us is guilty of sin, as indicated in Romans 3:23 (ESV):

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We only need to believe that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as we see in John 11:25 (ESV):

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

As followers of the Resurrected Christ, we walk in the light, cleansed from all of sins unrighteousness, remember the Scripture passage from, 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

BLCF: walking_in_light_vs_darkness

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn # 158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth – A 911 Message for 9-11-2021

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship: Lest We Forget 911Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship: Lest We Forget 911

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth

© September 12, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 11, 2016

BLCF: bulletin-september-11-2016

True Worship

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #613 (God’s Invitation – Isaiah 55); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit; Choruses

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

BLCF: Isaiah-55-6-seek-ye-the-lord-while-he-may-be-found-call-ye-upon-him-while-he-is-near

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church Praise and Worship Service on this Sunday, September 12, 2021. This happens to be one day after the twentieth anniversary of the 911 attack against our neighbors to the south. While it was not the first or last time the United States suffered the loss to innocent members of society, the events that happened on that fateful morning in September 2001 dramatically changed many aspects of life in the USA.

The country was drawn into two wars, leading to casualties of soldiers and civilians, became a more anxious nation, and still seems to have not completely healed from the losses on 911 and the subsequent wars and attacks. We pray that the country and its leaders can find enough closure to pursue a healing to the national psyche in order to focus on a future of peace, harmony, renewal, and hope.

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth’, we will examine several positive affects that occur while a Christian seeks God during trying times.

The lessons Christians learn while seeking the Lord when death, disaster, and destruction comes our way, apply not only apply to 911 and the aftermath of the events September 11, 2001, but are just as valid today, during a COVID-19 Pandemic, where 677,017 Americans  and 27,170 Canadians have died from COVID-19 (and counting), also apply to such current disasters such as massive floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and droughts.

Sadly, the first responders who were 911 heroes are no longer treated as heroes of the Pandemic, where vocal protestors in both  Canada and the US have engaged hospital staff and patients with loud protests. The protestors who seem oblivious of the fact that any masking or vaccine policies designed to protect the public are mandated from the seats of government legislature. I call any such aberrant behavior an expression of a “COVID Malaise“. Please treat our heroes, who have sacrificed more than we can imagine, in a manner befitting their dedication and sacrifice.

come from away musical

Friday, Sophie and I were able to see streamed the musical “Come From Away” which tells the story of 7,000 airplane passengers who were stranded in Gander, Newfoundland, and the 9,000 townsfolk of Gander and the surrounding villages, who shared their homes, meals, clothes, and friendship during the 911 crisis in 2001. The musical is an entertaining, poignant, funny, and endearing narrative that demonstrates how love and kindness can elevate both the giver and the recipient at a time of great crisis. Two thumbs up from Sophie and me. I would classify the events portrayed in “Come From Away” as a great example of the lessons found in Matthew 25:31-46 being put into practice:! 👍👍

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

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.”

The unfortunate the emotional toll and damage, a type of PTSD, that collaterally is the result of great calamities like the events of 911, the Pandemic, or other catastrophes, can result in some blaming God, doctors, politicians, friends, family, and hospital workers for their circumstances, unaware that they are part of the problem not the solution. The majority of people currently hospitalized in ICU’s in Canada and the US, (90% in many areas, with 100% in British Columbia), are the unvaccinated.

Pandemic Not A Hoax Wear A Mask See You Soon

What is a Christian, as described in the verses from the Bible quoted in today’s lesson? We will have more of an in-depth examination of what it means to be a Christian during next Sunday’s lesson, which is entitled: Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?  But, to give a brief answer to the question, a Christian is someone who has either read or heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus. A Gospel which says that Jesus came to us, as both the Son of God and son of man, to die on the cross to remove the Father’s judgment for humanity’s sin.

Any person seeking Christ as  his or her Saviour must be willing to confess any sins and acknowledge a sinful nature. This decision of  faith also includes a belief that Christ died for our sins, was resurrected from death, ascended to heaven, and sent to the believer the  gift of God’s Holy Spirit.

We find a description of how the Lord encourages us to actively seek Him out in our next Scripture verse, which is Isaiah 55:6-13:

             Isaiah 55:6-13 (ESV)

Seek the Lord Isaiah 55 6-13

 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

It is interesting that in the above Scripture that a seeker of God may only find compassion and a pardon from Him, has a stumbling blocking in the path to successfully achieving the goal in finding the glory that comes from God. Though any may seek God’s favour and pardon, sins separates the seeker from finding them.

But even seekers of the presence of the Lord fail when they attempt to rely on a worldly, physical approach to finding Him. As a result, many seekers believe that they may find God by obeying His Commandments and by overt actions in their worship. You may recall the lesson from the account of The Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-22, where a wealthy young man who had observed all of God’s Commandments and still question Jesus as to what else did he have to do to get into heaven?

Because the Lord detected that the rich young man valued his wealth more than his God and really was not inclined to get rid of his riches and give to the poor in order to be “perfect” enough to follow Jesus. In this regards, the young man had fully loved neither God nor others more than his wealth, which means that wealth was his idol, his false god.

But the rich man was not the only person who worshipped, as we see in our second Scripture verse, Acts 17:22-34, where Paul Addresses the Areopagus. Before we discuss Paul’s address, let us check our Wikibits for a definition of the meaning of Areopagus:

Areopagus – from Wikipedia.com

Areopagus_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)

The term “Areopagus” also refers to the judicial body of aristocratic origin that subsequently formed the higher court of modern Greece.

The Areopagus, like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times, and it was from this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God, that the Apostle Paul is said to have delivered the famous speech, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Acts 17:24)

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

The Areopagus literally meant the rock of Ares in the city and was a center of temples, cultural facilities, and a high court.

Let us continue with Paul’s address to a people who were very religious in their behavior, but not finding the true Spirit of God:

Acts 17:22-34 (ESV): Paul Addresses the Areopagus

Acts 17 22-34

 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[c]

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Footnotes: a. Acts 17:24 Greek made by hands b. Acts 17:28 Probably from Epimenides of Crete c. Acts 17:28 From Aratus’s poem “Phainomena”

In his message to the Areopagus, Paul drew a comparison of the true God to the “unknown” god, one of many gods that they worshipped.

The true God could not be adequately be described or represented by a sculpture, a painting, or even by words. How can we properly describe a Creator, Whom no one has ever seen? So how can we relate or understand our God, beyond our faith?

God sent us His, son Jesus so that we could better understand Him and his love for us. Jesus taught us the importance of understanding that God reveals Himself by His Spirit and truth, and to make the sacrifice providing a way to salvation, as was promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (ESV): 

2 Chronicles 7 14-15 Lord Heal Our Land

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

Christians accept that Jesus died for our sins, was resurrected from death, and ascended to heaven, both as our advocate to the Father in heaven and in order to gift believers with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit not only convicts us of God’s truth, but it also admonishes us to continue to follow in the path of Christ and to share the Gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the earth.

This Great Commission is not something that Christians can postpone or put off to a later time. We must continue to minister the Gospel, until the day that Christ returns to judge all. This day, known as The Day of the Lord is described in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (ESV): The Day of the Lord

Standing Firm The Day of the Lord 1 Thessalonians 5 1-11

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

God is Spirit

We must keep sharing the Gospel today, helping the less fortunate brothers and sisters, for not only do we seek Him, but God seeks us to worship Him in spirit and truth:

John 4:23-24 (ESV)

 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Remember, when you trust in the Lord as you encounter trials of various kinds, that test your faith, you will learn steadfastness, which in-turn will become perfect, complete and lacking in nothing, James 1:1-4 (ESV): 

1 James, a servant[a] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1 1-4 Joy

Let us pray…                                                                                                                                          

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

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.

Romans 15-13

 

Resting with the Lord and the Spirit that Surpasses All Understanding

BLCF: Holy_Spirit

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Come and Rest

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Resting with the Lord and a Spirit that Surpasses All Understanding’

© September 5, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on August 31, 2014 and October 30, 2016

BLCF Bulletin August 31, 2014

BLCF Bulletin-October-30-2016

BLCF: I-will-give-you-rest

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                                                            

Responsive Reading # 670 (The Day of the Lord – 2 Peter 3); Prayer           

Opening Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine                                      

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

BLCF: happy labour day

Exodus 33:14 (ESV)

14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, ministering the Gospel in the heart of Toronto, on this, the first Sunday of September 2021. A day that falls in the middle of the Labour Day Weekend, where most Canadians traditionally mark the end of  their summer vacations and a return to work and school.

For additional background on our Labor Day, let us check our Wikibits, from timeanddate.com:

BLCF: Labour-Day

Labour Day Background

 The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada’s first significant demonstration for worker’s rights. The aim of the demonstration was to release the 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union who were imprisoned for striking to campaign for a nine-hour working day. At this time, trade unions were still illegal and striking was seen as a criminal conspiracy to disrupt trade. In spite of this, the Toronto Trades Assembly was already a significant organization and encouraged workers to form trade unions, mediated in disputes between employers and employees and signaled the mistreatment of workers.

There was enormous public support for the parade and the authorities could no longer deny the important role that the trade unions had to play in the emerging Canadian society. A few months later, a similar parade was organized in Ottawa and passed the house of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John Macdonald. Later in the day, he appeared before the gathering and promised to repeal all Canadian laws against trade unions. This happened in the same year and eventually led to the founding of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1883.

Labour Day was originally celebrated in the spring but it was moved to the fall after 1894. A similar holiday, Labor Day is held on the same day in the United States of America. Canadian trade unions are proud that this holiday was inspired by their efforts to improve workers’ rights. Many countries have a holiday to celebrate workers’ rights on or around May 1.

http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/canada/labour-day

BLCF:Understanding_Baptism

For this morning’s message, I would like to talk about a different type of labour among the faithful, just prior to when Jesus gave the world his gift of salvation by way of his sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Before Calvary, sinners sought to be cleansed of their sins by sacrificial offerings at the temple and immersion in water, in an effort to be cleansed of their sins, as we read in following history from bible.ca:

Baptism

When John the Baptist came to the deserts of Judea “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” he was met with great success. Matthew 3:5 says, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Luke adds that crowds were coming out to be baptized by him. And, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.” (Luke 3:7, 21).

The Jewish people to whom John’s ministry was directed were familiar with the concepts of repentance and forgiveness of sins (1 Kings 8:33-34; Isa 55:6, 7) even though complete forgiveness was not possible apart from the shed blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:15). But what about baptism? What familiarity did the Jews of the first century have with the practice of baptism?

Baptism Spirit

The New Testament clearly points out that the baptism of John was from God. It came from heaven (Matthew 21:25). It was administered for the spiritual purpose of proclaiming repentance and receiving forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4).

http://www.bible.ca/ef/topical-baptism-a-prechristian-history.htm

BLCF: Hebrews-8-7-Old-and-New-Covenants

So prior to baptism of the Holt Spirit after Pentecost, Jews practiced the rituals of circumcision, sacrifice, and baptism in an effort to cleanse themselves of unrighteousness. As John the Baptist expressed the futility of these rituals in Matthew 3:11:

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.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we know that our salvation comes as a gift from God, not from ritual works, so that we may not become prideful and boast. This brings us to our second set of Scripture verses found in Matthew 11.

You may recall the Baptism of Jesus account that we read from Matthew 3, verses 16-17, where God acknowledges his son, Jesus, saying:

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

BLCF:Jesus_Baptism

Even though God acknowledges Jesus as His son, John the Baptist, who is now in prison, sends messengers to the Lord asking if he is the Christ, Matthew 11:1-6 (ESV):

11 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

The next verses, Jesus speaks of how several cities have not responded to or accepted the good news and miracles of Jesus, as a Gospel from God, (Matthew 11:11-24):

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Woe to Unrepentant Cities

BLCF: isaiah-5_20-woe

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Salvation comes not by way of mighty works of the Lord, but by  way of repentance or a change in attitude and a desire to stop a life of sin, as expressed in the last part of this Scripture passage, (Matthew 11:25-30):

BLCF: Matthew_11_28

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What did the Lord mean by his comments, which were are couched in a prayer to the Father in Heaven, where he thanked the Father for revealing Himself and His Son, Jesus to children, but not to the wise? For the answer, let us look at Matthew 11:25-26 (ESV):

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

The answer to this question as to who is wise mentioned in Matthew 11:25, let us look to our next Scripture, Genesis 3:4-7 (ESV):

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

The problem of eating from the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, which was desired to make one wise described in Genesis 3:6, is that resulted in a sin and separation from God.

Through Jesus, the judgment of sin has been removed from all who repent and approach God with the faith of a child and we are given rest from our futile toils made to remove sin’s stain. Hopefully, we have a better understanding of the rest from labour, as described in the Scripture verse written as banner along the wall behind me, Matthew 11:28 (ESV):

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

And by trusting Jesus, by repenting our sin and seeking God by faith, we receive the gift of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, to comfort, console and guide us on the righteous way of the Lord. And by receiving the rest and peace of the Spirit, we may walk in a manner like that which God promised to Moses in Exodus 33:14 (ESV):

14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

With our surrender to the Lord, we are gifted a rest in God’s Holy Spirit, as Jesus has taken upon himself the burden of our sins, giving us salvation as a free gift, and removing the burden of labouring in vain for our salvation. Living for God begins with resting in Him.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn # 373: All to Jesus I Surrender

Benediction: ( Philippians 4:7):

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

BLCF: Philippians-4_7

Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Jonah_and_Whale

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony’ 

© August 29, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 17, 2016

BLCF Bulletin April 17, 2016

BLCF: Jonah&Whale

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 (Christian Baptism – from Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer

Opening Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again; Choruses

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

 Scriptures: Luke 11:29-36; Romans 6:1-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18                   

Jonah

Let us pray.

Welcome to our Sunday morning praise and worship service at BLCF Church. For our lesson today, we will examine the Scripture’s account of the Prophet Jonah and the Wale, or to be more precise, a large fish. While a large fish plays a part in the lesson narrative, Jonah’s account is, by no means, a fish story or fishy tale.

Rather than read through the three chapters of the Book of Jonah, let us check what I like to refer to as our Wikibits on the subject, which presents an interpretation that agrees with most Biblical scholars:

Book of Jonah (From Christianity.about.com):

BLCF: Jonah-and-the-Whale

The book of Jonah is different from the other prophetic books of the Bible. Typically, prophets issued warnings or gave instructions to the people of Israel. Instead, God told Jonah to evangelize in the city of Nineveh, home of Israel’s cruelest enemy. Jonah didn’t want those idolaters to be saved, so he ran away.

When Jonah ran from the call of God, one of the oddest events in the Bible occurred—the story of Jonah and the Whale.

The book of Jonah highlights God’s patience and lovingkindness, and his willingness to give those who disobey him a second chance.

Author of the Book of Jonah: The Prophet Jonah, son of Amittai. Date Written: 785-760 B.C.

Jonah and the Whale – Story Summary:

BLCF: jonah_1

The story of Jonah and the Whale, one of the oddest accounts in the Bible, opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

Jonah found this order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Jonah, a stubborn fellow, did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew cast lots, determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First they tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher.

Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. The crew made a sacrifice to God, swearing vows to him.

Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer. He praised God, ending with the eerily prophetic statement, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9, NIV)

Jonah was in the giant fish three days. God commanded the whale, and it vomited the reluctant prophet onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message and repented, wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.

Again Jonah questioned God, because Jonah was angry that Israel’s enemies had been spared. When Jonah stopped outside the city to rest, God provided a vine to shelter him from the hot sun. Jonah was happy with the vine, but the next day God provided a worm that ate the vine, making it wither. Growing faint in the sun, Jonah complained again.

God scolded Jonah for being concerned about a vine, but not about Nineveh, which had 120,000 lost people. The story ends with God expressing concern even about the wicked.

Points of Interest from Jonah and the Whale:

  • God commands everything in his Creation, from the weather to a whale, to carry out his plan. God is in control.
  • Jonah spent the same amount of time—three days—inside the whale as Jesus Christ did in the tomb. Christ also preached salvation to the lost.
  • It’s not important whether it was a great fish or a whale that swallowed Jonah. The point of the story is that God can provide a supernatural means of rescue when his people are in trouble.
  • Some scholars believe the Ninevites paid attention to Jonah because of his bizarre appearance. They speculate that the whale’s stomach acid bleached Jonah’s hair, skin, and clothing a ghostly white.
  • Jesus did not consider the book of Jonah to be a fable or myth. While modern skeptics may find it impossible that a man could survive inside a great fish for three days, Jesus compared himself to Jonah, showing that this prophet existed and that the story was historically accurate.

http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/a/Jonah-And-The-Whale.htm

BLCF: jonah7

I would like to suggest to those who have studied animal classification, who might have objections to referring to a whale, a mammal, as being a fish, we should not allow the author some slack, as the inventor of modern scientific classification, Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), had not been born.

While the interchangeable use of whale and fish can be overlooked, the conclusion that the Jonah account parallels the story of Jesus is not completely accurate.

Both Jonah and Jesus came to evangelize the message of God’s plan of forgiveness and salvation, Jonah was God’s Prophet, with Jesus being the Word made flesh. In other words, while Jonah preached God’s plan for saving humanity from the judgement of sin, Jesus’ sacrifice provided humanity with the means to become saved and forgiven, by faith.

The parallel between Jonah and Jesus ends, when we see that Jonah rebelled against God and ran away in the opposite direction.

Jonah willingness to sacrifice his own life to appease God’s anger, in order to save the crew of the boat, has drawn comparisons with the Lord’s self-sacrifice for humanity. The comparison fails when we consider that Jonah had committed the sin of offending God and Jesus was innocent of any sin.

Then, we have the comparison between Jonah and Jesus with regards to the three day’s Jesus’ body was kept in the tomb until his resurrection, being akin to the same number of days Jonah stayed inside the fish. It must be noted that Jonah’s being kept alive by God inside the fish for the three days is not the same as Jesus being dead in the tomb for three days, before being resurrected.

This raises the comparison to what did the Lord mean when he described his own resurrection in Luke 11:29-36 (ESV), as being the The Sign of Jonah:

The Sign of Jonah

BLCF: sign_of_Jonah2

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

While both Jonah and Jesus ministered to a sinful world, offering God’s forgiveness, we see the Lord pointed out in verse 32 that his sign or miracle would be not only greater than Jonah’s given to the people of Nineveh, and the Lord’s wisdom is greater than that of King Solomon. For after the Lord death, resurrection and ascension, comes the light of God’s Holy Spirit to all who forgiven by faith, Christ warns us not to hide or extinguish the light of the Spirit and fall back into the darkness of sin, as we continue to read from Luke 11:

The Light in You

BLCF: Jonah4

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

Like Jonah, believers in the resurrected Christ are commissioned to evangelize the Gospel of Christ unto the ends of the world.

I feel that the lesson to be learned from Jonah’s account does present an example to us of God’s forgiveness and preserving a life for His plan to evangelize to the sinners of the world. However, instead of comparing Jonah’s salvation to Christ’s, we need to view it in the context of the rebirth of Christian believers, who must evangelize, as apostles or messengers to the world of the salvation message contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we see in Romans 6:1-14 (ESV);

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

BLCF: dead2sin

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

While we are instructed by the Lord to evangelize the Gospel message not as Jonah had to a single people, but the Good News of Jesus unto the ends of the world. We should never lose our hope and faith in Christ’s resurrection and encourage one another in this hope, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV):

The Coming of the Lord

BLCF: 2nd-coming-dramatic

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Footnotes: a. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Or by the word of the Lord

Finally, as believers in the Resurrected Lord, we should take comfort that Jonah, in spite of being confined in the belly of a giant fish, facing his own uncertain fate, did not allow the surrounding darkness  to extinguish the light of his own faith in God, as we see in Jonah’s testimony that is also his prayer, Jonah 2 (ESV), which I would like to read as a closing prayer for today’s lesson.

Let us pray:

Jonah’s Prayer

BLCF: Jonah3

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
    at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (AMEN)

10 And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Closing Hymn #248: One Day When Heaven Was Filled

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: Jonah-Woodcut

Are You Part of the Church or the Body of Christ?

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: the-church-works-best-when-we-work-together

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:          

Are You Part of the Church or the Body of Christ?

© August 22, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on August 16, 2015

BLCF Bulletin August 16, 2015

BLCF: dont_go_to_church_be_the_church

 

Announcements and Call to Worship – Responsive Reading #620:                                       

The Church (Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians1)              

Opening Hymn #470: Onward, Christian Soldiers; Choruses                                      

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

Prayer Requests                                                                                                        

Today’s Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 and Colossians 1:15-29 

                                               

1 Corinthians 12:4-31 (ESV)

BLCF: gifts-of-the-Holy-Spirit

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

One Body with Many Members

BLCF: Christ-head-of-church-body

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.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or servants; Greek bondservants b. 1 Corinthians 12:20 Or members; also verse 22

Colossians 1:15-29 (ESV) The Preeminence of Christ

BLCF: Christ above all

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[a] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation[b] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Paul’s Ministry to the Church

BLCF: San_Paolo_St_Paul

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Footnotes: a. Colossians 1:16 That is, by means of; or in b. Colossians 1:23 Or to every creature

BLCF: Church_bounty_of_Christ 

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service for the forth Sunday of the month.

The lesson for this morning is worded as a question: Are You Part of the Church or the Body of Christ? On first blush, you may conclude that the question posed is a trick question with two valid answers, but that was not the intention of the question. Many Christians perceive themselves as strictly members of a Church, while others consider themselves connected spiritually to the Holy Spirit of God.

If you were paying attention to this morning’s Responsive Reading, you will recall that the answer to the question is found in the final paragraph of that reading: that we are in fact both part of Christ’s Church and part of the Body of Christ, as we read in the first of today’s Scripture Verses, Colossians 1:15-18 (ESV), which has the sub-heading; The Preeminence of Christ:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church.

Jesus Christ is Lord

The Apostle Paul, while seemingly uses the “Church” and “Body of Believers” interchangeably, there some aspects where the two terms differ. The church is often viewed as a group of people who worship together in a building. Sadly, some people identify with either the building or the denomination.

How often do we reply to the question: “Which church do you belong?” with the answer: Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, knowing full well that Christ views his Church as the people and not a building. Sometimes, people will answer the question with the Denomination of their church, rather than indicating they are a part of Christ’s Church.

We have in two additional Scriptures where the Apostle speaks of first of the Lord’s calling as described in Galatians 1:11-24 (ESV):

Paul Called by God

BLCF:apostle-paul

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.[a] 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,[b] and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to[c] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;[d] 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Footnotes: a. Galatians 1:11 Greek not according to man b. Galatians 1:15 Greek set me apart from my mother’s womb c. Galatians 1:16 Greek in e. Galatians 1:16 Greek with flesh and blood

We know that our faith conversion, where we acknowledge Jesus as Lord in our lives and with the confession of sins, that our faith’s reward is the baptism by God’s Holy Spirit and the gifts that the Spirit gives us, as we see in Paul’s Epistle to the Church of Rome or, more accurately, to the people of Church in Rome. Romans 12:3-8 (ESV):

Gifts of Grace

BLCF: Gifts-of-Grace

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members,[a] and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[b] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Footnotes: a. Romans 12:4 Greek parts; also verse 5 b. Romans 12:8 Or gives aid

It is important to note that the gifts given to the members of the Church differ and are meant to be used together in a complementary manner. To clarify how Jesus defines his Church, let us look our Wikibits reference from gotquestions.org:

Question: “What is the church?”

BLCF Church Toronto Canada

Answer: Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.

Joe Elkerton Disclaimer - BLCF Church

The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until Christ’s return.

The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:

BLCF: the-church-is-a-body

1) The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

2) The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—what we call local churches. A Baptist church, Lutheran church, Catholic church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.

In summary, the church is not a building or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church. The local church is where the members of the universal church can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12: encouraging, teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-the-church.html

How do we, as members of the body of believers encourage, teach and build one another in the knowledge and race of the Lord?

We may find a perfect example of the body of the church working together at the BLCF Café community Dinner every Wednesday. Just like parts of a body, we see volunteers working together throughout the day cleaning up the church, preparing meals, setting up tables and chairs, the sound system, preparing beverages, cutlery and dishes, instructing and briefing new volunteers – all for some 100 to 150 guests. Then guests are greeted, meals are served, music and a message/testimony shared. After the guests finish their dinner and fellowship, the cleanup begins, and we begin to prepare for next Wednesday’s meal.

BLCF: Community-Dinner

Just like the parts of the body, if volunteers cannot prepare the food. Without beverages or music, the meal is not complete. We cannot serve 150 guests without tables or chairs. Every Wednesday since January 2008, the BLCF Cafe serves the Lord’s Gospel by way of a meal, a message and manner by which we serve.

As our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, both Christian and non-Christian, the former have an opportunity to share the Gospel with other volunteers as well as with the guests. Fortunately, the Lord sends His Spirit to all who are involved, which infuses the dinner with the blessings of a unity of purpose.

Let us recapitulate, that the Church of Christ consists of a Body of Believers, whose members are united by faith and by a common Spirit. Each member receives one or more a variety of gifts from the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit differ from one member to another, forcing each of us to work together in unison, as a team. This is part of God’s plan to depend upon one-another and to help each other achieve His goal of growing the Lord’s Church by sharing the Gospel of Christ.

Paul uses the parts of the body to illustrate how each of us serves a different function, with none being of greater importance than the other. Our body’s strength comes from the variety of its parts working together in harmony to achieve a common goal. The Spirit gives the diverse members of the Church Body strength and stamina, by enabling them to work together in harmony. In this way, the members achieve far more together, than is possible to achieve alone. With the Spirit, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

BLCF: Body-of-Christ

 

Though Jesus described Peter as the one foundation of His Church, with Christ the important cornerstone, each of us hold an integral member, who combine to make the Church complete. A church that is both built and operates according to Lord’s plan.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation

Benediction – (Galatians 1:3-5): Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: the Church is

The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Luke_11_10-11e_animated

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer’

 © August 15 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on January 19, 2020 and on January 31, 2016

BLCF Bulletin January 19, 2020

BLCF Bulletin January 31, 2016

BLCF: cross_praying_hands

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                       

Opening Hymn #392: Take Time to Be Holy; Choruses                                                              

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

Responsive Reading #630 (Christ Teaches Prayer – from Luke 11 and John 16)                         

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                               

‘The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer’

BLCF: hold on_

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service. Our lesson, today, entitled ‘The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer’, where we will explore the purpose and need for prayer in our Christian walk.

As Jesus ascended into heaven, our Lord instructed his Disciples to become Apostles or messengers of the Gospel. Jesus said to obediently share his Gospel unto the ends of the earth.

If you look below, you will see a graphic that illustrates how a believer may best achieve the goal of actively sharing the Lord’s Gospel.

BLCF: Discipleship_Wheel

You will note that there is a wheel that encircles a cross, bearing the label “the Obedient Christian in Action”.

At the center of the cross or the hub of the wheel, we find the Lord, as Jesus is the center of our faith. In order to share Christ’s Gospel, we must evangelize or preach the Gospel, by sharing the Word of God, gather together to worship God in fellowship and in faith, drawing closer to God in prayer.

This Action wheel has additional Scripture verses which we may study later to understand how to achieve each aspect of an active ministry in Christ.

Our lesson today will focus on one of these aspects of the Christian Ministry, which is prayer. Prayer is found on the top spoke or the top of cross our wheel illustration.

Today’s lesson has the title, ‘The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer’. Besides the obvious use of alliteration, we see that prayer needs to be patient, persistent, and purposeful.

The Apostle Paul implores us to pray without ceasing, as we see in the Scripture passage, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

But what did Paul mean when he said to “pray without ceasing”? We find an answer to the question posed on the site “gotquestions.org:

Question: “What does it mean to pray without ceasing?” (gotquestions.org)

For Christians, prayer should be like breathing. You do not have to think to breathe because the atmosphere exerts pressure on your lungs and essentially forces you to breathe. That is why it is more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe. Similarly, when we are born into the family of God, we enter into a spiritual atmosphere where God’s presence and grace exert pressure, or influence, on our lives. Prayer is the normal response to that pressure. As believers, we have all entered the divine atmosphere to breathe the air of prayer.

Unfortunately, many believers hold their “spiritual breath” for long periods, thinking brief moments with God are sufficient to allow them to survive. But such restricting of their spiritual intake is caused by sinful desires. The fact is that every believer must be continually in the presence of God, constantly breathing in His truths, to be fully functional.

It is easier for Christians to feel secure by presuming on—instead of depending on—God’s grace. Too many believers become satisfied with physical blessings and have little desire for spiritual ones. When programs, methods, and money produce impressive results, there is an inclination to confuse human success with divine blessing. When that happens, passionate longing for God and yearning for His help will be missing. Continual, persistent, incessant prayer is an essential part of Christian living and flows out of humility and dependence on God.

http://www.gotquestions.org/pray-without-ceasing.html

As followers in the resurrected Christ, we must pray as frequently as we breathe the air. Just as breathing sustains our physical life, prayer sustains our spiritual life.

Prayer is multifaceted, having many aspects, which we find illustrated by the second wheel, a prayer wheel, sown below:

BLCF: prayerwheel-prayerclock

This prayer wheel is drawn to resemble the face of a clock, having 12 elements of prayer, and indicating 12 goals, one for each respective prayer element. Each prayer goal and element has corresponding Scripture verse(s) as an illustration.

When we may see the variety of reasons and goals of prayer, it is not difficult to imagine that the Lord’s Disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, as we see in Luke 11:1-13 (ESV), where the Lord, who had just completed his prayer, answered how they should pray:

The Lord’s Prayer

BLCF: lord-teach-us-to-pray-Luke_11_1

11 Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

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

Jesus followed his prayer with a Parable to help Disciples understand the motives and goals of prayer, as we continue in Luke, Chapter 11:

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence[c] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Footnotes: a. Luke 11:1 Greek he b. Luke 11:3 Or our bread for tomorrow c. Luke 11:8 Or persistence e. Luke 11:11 Some manuscripts insert bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for

BLCF: Pray_for_Others

You see that the persistent person asks not for himself, but for something for a friend. And what father could deny a request from a son whom he loves.

Jesus said we are to pray to God, the Father in Heaven, asking persistently and purposely, with the patient expectation, to be answered His child. A “child of God” is loved by the Father, as well as being blessed with the Holy Spirit, by the grace of the Lord, Christ Jesus. We, as His children, only need to ask.

Jesus then tells another Parable of a persistent widow, whose persistent petitions are eventually answered by a judge, who has neither fear of God nor respect for others. We must understand that only the righteous prayer made by a believer, who has faith in God and respect for others, will be answered promptly, as we see in Luke 18:1-8 (ESV):

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

BLCF: Prayer-is-the-key-to-heaven-but-Faith-unlocks-the-door

18 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

We see that Jesus concluded the Parable by raising the question: “Will find faith on the day that he returns?” We must understand that only faith in the Son of Man can mitigate the certain judgment to be given to those who have sinned and lack faith and prayer without faith is futile.

BLCF: Ephesians 1_13

The title of this Parable is The Parable of the Persistent Widow. From the perspective that Christ is the bridegroom and the believers, who comprise his Church, are his bride. When the members of the church, the bride, see the groom, Jesus dies, and do not believe that he was resurrected, the bride becomes a widow in faith. Without faith, there is no sanctification, no savior, with no hope of a resurrection. It is only by faith in the groom’s resurrection may the bond of marriage be restored. Without faith in the resurrected Christ, there will be no response, no answer from God, and no hope in justice earned by way of the Lord’s sacrifice.

But Jesus did rise from the dead, walked on the earth for some 40 days, and was seen by several hundred witnesses before he ascended back to heaven.

Unlike the widow in the Parable, who pleas for justice from a judge who has no regard for God or others, we have an advocate who loves both His Father in Heaven, as well as others. Jesus, the Son of Man, gifts those who believe in him with salvation, sanctification and an advocate in the Holy Spirit. Jesus demonstrates unconditional love for others and trusts in his Heavenly Father by surrendering himself to the judgment on the cross for the sins of humanity.

BLCF: Always_Pray

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #434: Sweet Hour of Prayer

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18): Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

BLCF: faith trust salvation

The Awakening of the Prodigal

 

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

© August 8, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on June 17, 2018

BLCF Bulletin June 17, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Morning Praise and Worship Service. You may recall last week, on August 1, 2021, I shared a lesson entitled: ‘Finding What Is Lost: A Sheep (Luke 15:1-7); A Coin (Luke 15:8-10); A Son (Luke 15:11-22)” which examined the rescuing of what was lost, namely a sheep, a coin, and a son, from the perspective of party who lost each of them. These three parables help us to understand how the Lord feels when he has restored to Himself a soul that had gone astray from Him.

For our lesson this Sunday, entitled: The Awakening of the Prodigal, I would like us to look again at the parable describing the return of a lost soul,  but this time from the perspective of a lost son. 

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

To the Church in Sardis

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

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

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

The Message to Sardis (Biblegateway.com Commentary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

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

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

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

Definition of prodigal (adjective)

1characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure lavish 

  • prodigalfeast 
  • prodigaloutlays for her clothes

2recklessly spendthrift 

  • the prodigalprince

3yielding abundantly luxuriant often used with of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like The Prodigal Son, we deserve His disdain, but God loves us. His greatest desire is for sinners to awaken to our Lord’s soft and tender calling to return home and to be reunited with our Father in heaven. On that day, there will be a great celebration of unbounded joy, Luke 15:7 (ESV):

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Let us pray…

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

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

Finding What Is Lost: A Sheep (Luke 15:1-7); A Coin (Luke 15:8-10); A Son (Luke 15:11-22)

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF:P The_Hour_I_First_Believed

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘‘Finding What Is Lost: 

A Sheep (Luke 15:1-7); A Coin (Luke 15:8-10); A Son (Luke 15:11-22)”

© August 1, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

 Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on October 20, 2013 and on March 22, 2015

BLCF Bulletin October 20, 2013

BLCF Bulletin March 22, 2015

BLCF: lost_sheep 

BLCF Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #598 (The Shepherd Psalm – Psalm 23); Prayer                       

Opening Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound

Scripture Verses: Ezekiel 34:11-16, Luke 15:1-22, Jeremiah 23:1-8 

BLCF: lost

Let us pray…

Amazing Grace, our opening hymn this morning, is a testimony in song authored by John Newton whose faith conversion was as dramatic a change as the apostle Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Here are the Wiki bits of John Newton:

“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn with words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807), published in 1779. With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world.

Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed (forced into service involuntarily) into the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. However, he continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.

Ordained in the Church of England in 1764, Newton became curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he began to write hymns with poet William Cowper. “Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is unknown if there was any music accompanying the verses; it may have simply been chanted by the congregation. It debuted in print in 1779 in Newton and Cowper’s Olney Hymns, but settled into relative obscurity in England. In the United States however, “Amazing Grace” was used extensively during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century. It has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named “New Britain” to which it is most frequently sung today.

Author Gilbert Chase writes that “Amazing Grace” is “without a doubt the most famous of all the folk hymns,” and Jonathan Aitken, a Newton biographer, estimates that it is performed about 10 million times annually.  It has had particular influence in folk music, and has become an emblematic African American spiritual. Its universal message has been a significant factor in its crossover into secular music. “Amazing Grace” saw a resurgence in popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and has been recorded thousands of times during and since the 20th century, occasionally appearing on popular music charts.

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

For the Trekkers out there, Amazing Grace was piped by Commander Scott at the funeral of First Officer Spock in the movie The Wrath of Kahn.  If you are not a follower of Star Trek, the point is that Amazing Grace has become synonymous with the life testimony of Christians, often sung at a believer’s funeral to praise and express gratitude in the promise of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But John Newton, not to be confused with contemporary singer Olivia Newton John, before his conversion, lived the life of a lost sheep described in Ezekiel 34, without love for God or fellow man. He became wealthy at the expense of the lives and freedom of others. But like Saul of Tarsus, the Lord had a plan for Newton: a plan of conviction and conversion of faith that led John Newton to become a minister of God, spreading the gospel of Jesus.

But more than gathering together His lost sheep, the Lord will send the lost sinners a new shepherd and reclaim from a life of sin and destruction His beloved human sheep. Ezekiel 34:11-16 (ESV):

 The Lord God Will Seek Them Out

BLCF: Jesus-seeks-and-saves-the-lost-sheep

11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.[a] I will feed them in justice.

Footnotes: a. Ezekiel 34:16 Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate I will watch over

To reaffirm how Jesus fits in the picture, let us look at the prophecy, where the Lord is described as the “Righteous Branch” in Jeremiah 23:1-8 (ESV):

 The Righteous Branch

23 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”   

BLCF: Parables_of_The_Lost

                     

The love that the Lord has for us is so great that he rejoices every time a lost human sheep returns to his flock, as is expressed in the three parables we have printed in today’s bulletin. The first is found in Luke 15:1-7 (ESV):

The Parable of the Lost Sheep   

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.    

We all have experienced the loss of something valuable. We worry and fret over what is lost. But like the lesson from Ezekiel, the Lord will go out and seek the lost sheep, bring it back to the fold and celebrate its return. For every lost soul or sinner that is saved, there is a celebration in heaven.

For those who may not identify with the sheep in the first parable, we have the parable of the Lost Coin, Luke 15:8-10 (ESV):

The Parable of the Lost Coin

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 15:8 Greek ten drachmas; a drachma was a Greek coin approximately equal in value to a Roman denarius, worth about a day’s wage for a laborer

And just in case we still do not understand what the Lord has told us, he teaches us the lesson again, in the parable of a son that is lost in Luke 15:11-22 (ESV):

The Parable of the Prodigal Son     

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

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

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

BLCF: prodigal_definition

The Parable of the Prodigal Son not only teaches how the Lord desires us to return to Him, but how He has compassion for us and is willing to forgive us all of our transgressions.

By teaching the same lesson three times in three different parables, the Lord indicates how much He cares for His lost sheep and the priority He places returning sinners back to a righteous place.

I remember some years ago, how Sophie had lost her engagement ring at a church function. Sophie looked everywhere in her pockets for the ring. She had retraced her steps through the evening. Eventually, Sophie received a call from a friend that the young daughter of one of the ladies had found her ring. How relieved and happy she was when it was returned.

BLCF: thr-prodigal-son

And when a sinner returns to the flock, he has the confidence and peace of mind as well, that he is safe at home with the shepherd, as we see in Psalm 23, which I would like to read for our closing prayer:

Let us pray…

Psalm 23 (ESV): The Lord Is My Shepherd  – A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.[a]

3 He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e]

shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell[f]

in the house of the Lord forever.[g]    

Footnotes: a. Psalm 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest b.Psalm 23:3 Or in right paths c. Psalm 23:4 Or the valley of deep darkness d. Psalm 23:6 Or Only e. Psalm 23:6 Or steadfast love f. Psalm 23:6 Or shall return to dwell g. Psalm 23:6 Hebrew for length of days

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

Benediction Hebrews 13:20-21(ESV):

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: The_Lord_Is_My_Shepherd

Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone’

 © July 25, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared with BLCF September 2, 2018 and on October 9, 2011 

BLCF Bulletin September 2, 2018

BLCF Bulletin October 9, 2011 Bulletin  

Blood from a Stone
Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                             

Opening Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride; Choruses                        

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

Responsive Reading #606: (Blessings from God – Psalm 103)

Message by Stephen Mickelson: 

‘Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone’ 

Exodus 17 1-7

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. On the first Sunday of every month we give thanks to the Lord’s gifts of Salvation, Sanctification, and the Holy Spirit by taking the elements of communion. This leads us to the following questions:

What does the Bible indicate the importance of giving thanks to God? The following Scripture is taken from the 12th Book of the New Testament, which is  Colossians 3:15-17 (ESV):

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

The above scripture is attributed to have been authored by Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, to the church in Colossians, so named for being located within Colossae. Colossae is in the region of the seven churches of Revelation 1-3. In Colossians 4:13 there is mention of local brethren in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Colossae was approximately 12 miles from Laodicea and 14 miles from Hierapolis. Members of the congregation at Colossae had incorporated pagan elements into their practice, including the worship of elemental spirits.

The Epistle to the Colossians declares Christ’s supremacy over the entire created universe and exhorts Christians to lead godly lives. The letter consists of two parts: first a doctrinal section, then a second regarding our conduct. In both sections, false teachers who have been spreading terror in the congregation are opposed. But just we find in Biblical times, as today, some people conduct their worship or faith practices incorporating pagan beliefs. In time the worship ignores and forsakes our Lord.

And what is the Lord’s view of such pagan observances?  We read in Nehemiah 9:1-3; 15-17: (ESV):

The People of Israel Confess Their Sin

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month, the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.  And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.  And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day

 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

The key part about this scripture is that in spite of their sins, that some refused to obey God’s Laws or even to acknowledge what the Lord had provided for his people, God’s love remained steadfast. That He is a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, in spite of our sinful, ungrateful tendencies.

Colossians 3:17 –  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Many in today’s society seem to have found themselves wandering in the wilderness, stiffening their necks to their Lord as had happened in the time of Moses, in Exodus 17:1-7 (ESV):                           

Water from the Rock 

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”

And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah [a] and Meribah, [b] because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

It is sad to see that as a reminder of the people’s ungrateful attitude, Moses saw fit to name this spring created by the Lord as Massah and Meribah, which as you see in the footnotes translates as  [a]Exodus 17:7 Massah means testing [b] Exodus 17:7 Meribah means quarreling.

We often find ourselves in a place where instead of counting our blessings, we end up creating a litany of complaints and criticisms.

I remember some years, as a young man, new to the Christian faith, I attended a church meeting. The associate Church Pastor had taken great pains to prepare coffee for those in attendance. When offered a cup, I not only said no thank you, saying that “I am all ‘coffeed-out’ and that I should not be drinking so much coffee”, to which several others in attendance acknowledged the same. By adding those remarks, I had made the Pastor’s efforts appear to be something worthy of complaint, instead of just an act of love and kindness to others.

It was only some years later when I had the opportunity to really understand how we can harm others with our casual comments.

Steve Mickelson, President and Newsletter Editor for the 9T9 Users Group, Toronto

For several years, as President of a local computer club, (9T9 Users Group for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Home Computer), I also edited the clubs newsletter which consisted of 20 pages per issue, with ten issues a year. In those days, computer technology lacked high-resolution scanners and word recognition software. Since many of the articles we printed came from printed articles from other clubs with whom we exchanged newsletters, and the newsletters were not in electronic form, we either had to transcribe articles, a difficult task for this two-finger typist or photocopy, cut and paste master copies for the local photocopy shop. Needless to say, I chose the latter. Still, the process of producing 20 pages of a newsletter, which included a page or two outlining the clubs activities in my own bi-line translated into 8-10 hours of labour effort every month.

You can imagine my feelings when I proudly presented the new issue of the newsletter, which one or two members, instead of acknowledging many hours of effort, seemed to take delight in obvious typos or spelling errors. Needless to say, after four years of what seemed to be a thankless job, I decided to step down as president and newsletter editor. But I have a good idea of how that Associate Pastor felt, as, after my remarks, he stopped making coffee for our church meetings. Yet, in spite of all our bickering and complaints, God still loves us. He has not given up on us. Now that is something for which we may be thankful.

With a little faith, Moses produced water from a rock, and to be grateful for God’s work, which is for some people, like getting blood from a stone. That is why we all should obey God’s law as described in Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV):

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

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Have you ever wondered why we partake communion?

Communion celebrates the Gospel: Jesus was broken for us so that we can be fixed by Him.

Celebrating communion marks the story of Jesus, how He gave Himself completely to give us a better life, a new start, and a fresh relationship with God (1 Peter 3:18). It’s not about a ritual to revere, but a person to worship. Jesus is less concerned about the method of celebrating communion and more concerned that we celebrate it.

As often as we remember Jesus, we should celebrate Jesus.

Communion is important because it’s a command to remember. Jesus wants us to remember every time we taste bread and wine, and even when we sit at the tables in our own homes, that He is the one who provides all we need. He gives us the physical food that we need to survive and the spiritual nourishment we need to keep taking our next steps with Him.

https://newspring.cc/articles/what-is-communion-and-why-do-we-do-it

Communion – An Act of Fellowship and Demonstration of Our Faith:

1 John 1:3 (ESV): Fellowship

 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Communion

Communion began on the annual celebration of Passover Supper when Jesus told his disciples to remember his sacrifice as they ate the bread and drank the wine.

Just as Israel celebrates the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, when the angel of death passed over their homes, so believers in Jesus celebrate and remember his sacrifice for the judgment of all of our sins when he died on the cross.

Communion uses bread as a symbol of his body and juice as a symbol of his blood. The act of taking communion does not save us, it is an act of worship and remembrance our Lord, who instructed his followers to continue, until the day he returns.

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:1 – Warning Against Idolatry

Wilderness Test

10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[a] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown[b] in the wilderness.

give Thanks to the Lord

Let us conclude today’s lesson by taking to heart a demonstration of our gratitude to both our Lord, as well as our neighbours as expressed by David in 1 Chronicles 16:8-12:

David’s Song of Thanks

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
11 Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles and the judgments he uttered,

Let us pray…

Hymn #569: When upon Life’s Billows

Benediction –  (Colossians 3:15): And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

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