God is Love

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Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, 2019

© February 10, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 10, 2019     

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 26, 2015

BLCF Bulletin April 26, 2015 

BLCF: God_is_Love

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                    

Opening Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness; Choruses      

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

Responsive Reading #665 (Love, The Greatest Thing – 1 Corinthians 13)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                 ‘Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love’                                                                  

BLCF: Gods Everlasting Love

Let us pray…

The title of this morning’s lesson is Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, describing the Christian’s assurance that the reward for faith is to be filled with a steadfast love from God.

Before we being the lesson, let us first take a brief look at the terms used in the title.

Faith is our hope, trust, and obedience to God. And most of us have some idea of the meaning of love, either having given or received love. God’s love is described as agape, which is a love given unconditionally. Jesus personified that love when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross for the sins of the world.

But who is the giver of love? Here is what two children revealed about what God is like, while in prayer, (- from ‘Our Daily Bread’ November 15, 2012):

 “Dear God, what does it mean that You are a ‘jealous’ God? I thought You had everything.”

“I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset You made on Tuesday. That was cool.”

http://odb.org/2012/11/15/gods-description/

BLCF: 1_John_4_7-8

The Apostle John describes God as love, 1 John 4:16 (ESV):

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John says that God is Love.  In this morning’s Responsive reading, which is taken from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, and the Apostle Paul gives us an idea of what our lives would be like both with and without love.

BLCF: faith-hope-love

Paul begins by describing what would God’s gifts be like without love. Since John told us that God is love, and if we accept the converse that love is an expression of God, and then the same passage gives us an understanding as we read ‘love’, we substitute ‘God’.  The result would be a description of life without God: We see that without God, the speaking in tongues would be just noise. And what good would be having the gift of prophecy without God? What good would it be to possess the faith to move mountains without God? If we gave all that we had to the poor, were martyred for preaching the Gospel and did not have God to others, it would be of no value whatsoever.

BLCF: Love never fails

While Paul gives a good description of how our existence would be like devoid of love, he continues in 1 Corinthians 13 by giving us some characteristics of love. Let us continue our exercise by again substituting God for love in this passage:

God is patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.

God does not demand His own way. He is not irritable or touchy.

God does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do Him wrong.

God is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

If you are loyal to someone no matter what the cost is an expression of God. You will always expect the best of Him, and always stand your ground defending Him.

When all the special gifts and powers someday come to an end, God goes on forever.

There are three things that remain – faith, hope, and God – and the greatest of these is God.

The two Scripture verses that we featured in the bulletin today, Exodus 3:1-15 and Acts 9:1-19, describe two men who lived sinful lives but were transformed by God’s love.

BLCF: burningbush

Exodus 3:1-15 (ESV): The Burning Bush

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

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

The first Scripture describes the encounter between the Prophet Moses and God. Moses was born a Hebrew but raised as a prince of Egypt by his adopted mother. Moses discovered his true heritage was Hebrew. After Moses killed an Egyptian while defending a Hebrew slave, he was sent by Pharaoh into the desert to die for the crime. But God had a plan for Moses and  He called to Moses from a burning bush. God answered Moses’ questions and doubts about himself by assuring Moses that He will accompany Moses,  providing the words and the means to free the people of Israel from their bondage. God also indicated to Moses, that after he delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses would return to Mt. Horeb to worship the Lord.

How do we know that God loved Moses and the people of Israel? We find the answer to this question in the following passage, where the Lord describes himself, Exodus 34:6-7(ESV):

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

BLCF: love_never_fails

 

We see that the Lord’s description of Himself is very similar to Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.                                                                                                

The second of today’s Scriptures, Acts 9:1-19, talks about the conversion of another sinner, Saul of Tarsus, a notorious persecutor of followers of Christ, who like Moses receives a Devine calling to be an instrument of the Lord.

BLCF: Sul'sconversion

 

Acts 9:1-19 (ESV): The Conversion of Saul

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Like Moses, Saul heeds the calling, and as an Apostle of the Lord describes how the love of Christ transformed him, Galatians 2:20 (ESV):

BLCF: Agape

 

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

If God is Love, how is it that we, as believers in the Resurrected Christ, are transformed? It is by the power of the Holy Spirit which is given to us as a reward for our faith, Romans 5:2-5 (ESV):

Through him we have also obtained access by faith[a] into this grace in which we stand, and we[b] rejoice[c] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.                                                                                              

Footnotes: a. Romans 5:2 Some manuscripts omit by faith b. Romans 5:2 Or let us; also verse 3 c. Romans 5:2 Or boast; also verses 3, 11

Just as Moses and Paul were transformed into instruments of the Lord, we are gifted by God in reward for our faith, 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV):

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 By receiving God’s gifts of power, love, and self-control, we are transformed, through faith and by the power of HIS Holy Spirit into HIS instruments; expressions of God by the love we share with others. It is God’s desire that we shine as instruments of His love and His wisdom.    

 Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #39: God Is Love; His Mercy Brightens

Benediction – (Ephesians 5:2):  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

BLCF: Gods-love

Salvation through Faith and Trust 2019

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘Salvation through Faith and Trust 2019’

© February 3, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 3, 2019

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF Church on August 1, 2010, and July 19, 2015

BLCF_Aug_1__2010_Bulletin

BLCF Bulletin July 19, 2015

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #365: I Am Weak, but Thou Art Strong; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading – (Adapted from Psalm 91):

Leader:  Let we who live with faith in God proclaim,
People: “Lord, You are my refuge and my fortress, my God I will trust forever.”
Leader:  Let we who trust in the Lord know that holy love surrounds us.
People:  God’s protection will follow us throughout our days.
Leader:  When we call out to the Lord,
People:  We know that we are heard.
Leader:  God is with us in every trial and temptation,
All:         Therefore we will rejoice in the salvation of the Almighty!

               Amen!

Message by Steve Mickelson: Salvation through Faith and Trust 

                             

Let us pray…

Good morning, the lesson I would like to share bring today, Salvation Through Faith and Trust, begins with a Scripture taken from the Book of Acts, that deals with Faith and trust in the Lord. The message deals with why faith and trust are required to receive God’s gift of Salvation, and the rewards for our faith and trust in the Lord.

Acts 1:1-14 (ESV): The Promise of the Holy Spirit

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.[c]

Footnotes: a. Acts 1:4 Or eating b. Acts 1:5 Or in c. Acts 1:14 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 15

Up to the time that Jesus ascended into Heaven and sent us the Holy Spirit, the biggest obstacles to a close relationship between God and his people were faith and trust. The Bible is filled with testaments of chosen prophets, leaders and disciples who had either misgiving with respect to their ability to fulfill God’s calling, and in some instances, questions as to whether it was really God who called them in the first place!

What is faith or belief? The Greek word translated faith or belief is pistis, which Strong’s defines as persuasion, moral conviction, assurance, or belief. The word for trust is elpidzo, meaning to expect, or to have confidence in.

The three terms, faith, belief, and trust then, basically mean the same thing: to be persuaded of something, to hold something to be true, or to have confidence in something.

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV): By Faith

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

When each of you entered the church this morning, you walked in the Sanctuary, perhaps greeted a friend or two and took a bulletin and proceeded to sit down in a pew or chair of your choosing. When you approached the pew, you became seated. I am sure before you took your seat you didn’t inspect the pew for structural integrity. You didn’t test the pew to see whether or not it would support you. You likely didn’t give a second thought as to whether the hidden dowels and screws which hold the pew together, the unseen components would keep their structural integrity and not collapse under your weight. You just acted in faith that the pew would support you, without tipping or collapsing. Yours was an act of faith. The only conscious decision might be whether the pew had a hymnal and Bible, whether its location provided a good view of the service, perhaps you may have given conscious as to its location with respect to a fan or an easy exit at the end of the service.

That same faith-based decision is needed as Christians. We may give some thought as to which church we attend, whose sermon we would like to hear, but the act of faith in God is made on an unconscious level, just like our decision to sit in the pew. We may stand to sing or pray, but we then resume our seat again without a thought.

Acts 10:43 (ESV)

To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.

Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. We had a friend of the family, name Earl D., who became known by many as Elder Earl, a sign of respect for his service in his church. Earl had known Sophie’s family for years, often dropping by for a visit. Though he was never married, I believe Earl felt a part of the family. I remember on one occasion, the extended family was having a bar-b-cue at my mother in law’s house and Earl dropped in for a visit. Around the back yard were a number of old wooden folding chairs, not unlike the deck chairs portrayed in the movie Titanic. The chairs were made from oak and were almost the same shade as the pews in this church, which are also made of oak. They looked much sturdier and were much more comfortable than the nylon and aluminum folding lawn chairs that were popular at the time.

Earl was a large man, both in height and girth. I remember that he chose an empty oak chair for his seat. As Earl dropped his frame in the chair, it promptly collapsed and disintegrated into a pile of broken pieces under him. It was quite a funny moment, and luckily Earl suffered no injuries, except to his pride. My mother-in-law had only two of those folding wooden chairs and one was broken beyond repair. The other chair suffered the same fate, when a couple of years later at a back yard function, when. The perpetrator of its demise was the same Earl who again escaped unscathed, except for a bruised pride.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”

A man is drowning in the sea, and a lifeline is thrown to him from a passing ship. The man grasps for and clings to that lifeline believing that it is his salvation. He has faith that it will hold him. He trusts in it. Like that drowning man, by ourselves, we are doomed to die from our sins. Alone our fate seems hopeless. But God loves you and me so much that He has thrown us a lifeline that we may use to save ourselves. That lifeline is Jesus Christ, who has taken the burden of our sins, has taken our doom, our death upon himself. He is our hero, our lifeguard, our Saviour. He died so we may live.

 John 3:16 (ESV)

 God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

This verse tells us that whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life.

But how does one qualify in the easy of God to receive the gift of salvation and the comforter in the Holy Spirit? What does the Lord expect us to do?

Acts 2:38 (ESV)

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

After confessing our sins, what else is expected to become justified to God?

Galatians 2:16 (ESV)

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

Salvation is God’s gift, given under His terms.

Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

Up to the time that Jesus ascended into Heaven and sent us the Holy Spirit, the biggest obstacles to a close relationship between God and his people were faith and trust. The Bible is filled with testaments of chosen prophets, leaders and disciples who had either misgiving with respect to their ability to fulfill God’s calling, and in some instances, questions as to whether it was really God who called them in the first place!

Matthew 17:20 (ESV)

 If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

The Bible does record miraculous achievements, when God is allowed to guide the way, whether it is surviving the Great Flood, the Exodus from Egypt, the Crossing the Red Sea, being sustained by manna from Heaven, the tearing down the walls of Jericho, the feeding the multitude, and Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee, that none of these miracles would have happened without faith in the power of the Lord and trust that He has power over everything in Heaven and Earth.

John 3:36 (ESV)

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life. Sadly, Satan often uses as obstacles, our lack of faith and trust, to try to keep us at arm’s length from believing or having faith that Jesus had died for our sins, or if we do believe, keep us from trusting in Him. Satan wants to keep us from God’s glory. For, as believers in the Gospel, not only do we receive redemption in God’s eyes, we are given the gifts of power and comfort in through the Holy Spirit!

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV): Peace with God Through Faith

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Footnotes: a. Romans 5:1 Some manuscripts let us b. Romans 5:2 Some manuscripts omit by faith c. Romans 5:2 Or let us; also verse 3 e. Romans 5:2 Or boast; also verses 3, 11

Romans 5:2 (ESV)

Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

By faith, we are justified and have access to grace. How much power and comfort we receive is directly proportional to how much we trust we have in Him in our lives. For many, Sunday worship is a time where we attempt to renew and replenish our faith, so that we may coast through the rest of the week. Our faith should be sustained through the week by daily prayer, reading of Scripture, fellowship and witnessing to others by our thoughts, words, and deeds. Sunday’s should not only be a day of worship but a day of praise and celebration of the achievements of the previous week, with a renewed recommitment to continue Our Christian walk in faith and trust.

The disciples showed their faith and trust the Lord by remaining in Jerusalem as instructed by the Lord. And that is the Lord’s expectation for us at Bloor Lansdowne, so that we may have salvation. He wants us to keep His faith and to trust in Him, in our thoughts, words, and deeds. What we do and how we act, must be motivated by faith and guided by the Spirit.

Reverend Billy Graham: On Faith

The late Reverend Billy Graham once said:

“Faith is essential for salvation. But we must be absolutely clear on what we mean when we speak of “salvation by faith.” There are various kinds of belief or faith, and not all are linked to salvation. In the New Testament, faith means more than intellectual belief. It involves trust and commitment. I may say that I believe a bridge will hold my weight. But I really believe it only when I commit myself to it and walk across it. Saving faith involves an act of commitment and trust, in which I commit my life to Jesus Christ and trust Him alone as my Savior and Lord.”

 Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626: The Last Supper (- Mark 14)

Closing Hymn #287: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place

Benediction – (- from Romans 5:1-11):
May your faith give you peace and may God’s Spirit give you love. May the grace of God give you hope and may the love of Christ give you strength.

The Divine Inheritance Wrought by Humble Faith and Obedience 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Divine Inheritance Wrought by Humble Faith and Obedience 2019’

© January 13, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

blcf bulletin January 13, 2019

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on February 12, 2017

BLCF: bulletin-February-12-2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn #318: When We Walk with the Lord; Choruses                         

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

Responsive Reading #667 (Humility and Exaltation – Philippians 2 and Matthew 23)                                                                                                                              

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     

‘The Divine Inheritance Wrought by Humble Faith and Obedience’

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Praise and Worship Service, where the lesson today, entitled: ‘The Divine Inheritance Wrought by Humble Faith and Obedience’, we will look at the account of Ruth, a woman of compassion, obedience, and faith in the face of a series of tragic events in her personal life not unlike those experienced by Job.

To understand the scale of the tragedies that Ruth experienced, let us begin by reading the first of today’s Scripture passages, found in Ruth 1:1-17 (ESV):

Naomi Widowed

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth’s Loyalty to Naomi

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

We have in Ruth Chapter 1, the sad and tragic account of an Ephrathite man, named Elimelech, who fled famine in his home Bethlehem in Judea, bringing his wife, Naomi, and sons, Mahlon and Chilon, into the country of Moab.

Here we have an account of a Middle Eastern family, who become refugees, as they are forced by a famine to flee their homeland, taking refuge in Moab.

The family’s troubles continue as Elimelech dies.  We are not sure of how long the family had lived in Moab, before Elimelech’s death.

Naomi’s two sons marry Moabite wives; Malon weds Orpah, and Chilon weds Ruth.  However, within 10 years, both of Naomi’s sons have also died.

Naomi finds herself in the unenviable circumstance of being widowed and childless in a foreign land.

Saddened by her loss, Naomi releases her two daughters-in-law from any obligation, and speaks the following (Ruth 1:8-14):

“Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? 12 Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” 14 Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.

The two daughters-in-law are free to leave Naomi, but Ruth refuses to go, even after Naomi says (Ruth 1:8-14):

“See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Obviously, Ruth’s reply is a testament to her faith conversion to the same God that Naomi worships.  Though Ruth no is longer obligated to care for Naomi under the law, she has assumed a moral obligation to Naomi and a makes a covenant of faith to God.

Upon returning to Judea, the lot of Naomi and Ruth is only marginally better, as Ruth is forced to live on the stubble gleamed from the fields belonging to Boaz, a relative of Naomi.

But the loyalty and faith of Ruth impress Boaz, so much so, that Boaz seeks not only to purchase the land left by Naomi’s dead son but to marry Ruth, in order to restore and perpetuate the bloodline of Elimelech, Ruth 4:1-17 (ESV):

Boaz Redeems Ruth

 Now Boaz had gone up to the gate and sat down there. And behold, the redeemer, of whom Boaz had spoken, came by. So Boaz said, “Turn aside, friend; sit down here.” And he turned aside and sat down. And he took ten men of the elders of the city and said, “Sit down here.” So they sat down. Then he said to the redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from the country of Moab, is selling the parcel of land that belonged to our relative Elimelech. So I thought I would tell you of it and say, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here and in the presence of the elders of my people.’ If you will redeem it, redeem it. But if you[a]will not, tell me, that I may know, for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I come after you.” And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth[b] the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.” Then the redeemer said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption yourself, for I cannot redeem it.”

Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it for yourself,” he drew off his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. 10 Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day.” 11 Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you act worthily in Ephrathah and be renowned in Bethlehem, 12 and may your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring that the Lord will give you by this young woman.”

Ruth and Boaz Marry

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. 14 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! 15 He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” 16 Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. 17 And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Footnotes: a. Ruth 4:4 Hebrew he b. Ruth 4:5 Masoretic Text you also buy it from Ruth

Boaz becomes a kinsman redeemer to both Naomi and Ruth. But what is meant by this term “kinsman redeemer”? For an answer, let us check with gotquestions.org:

Question: “What is a kinsman redeemer?”

Answer: The kinsman-redeemer is a male relative who, according to various laws of the Pentateuch, had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. The Hebrew term (go el) for kinsman-redeemer designates one who delivers or rescues (Genesis 48:16Exodus 6:6) or redeems property or person (Leviticus 27:9–2525:47–55). The kinsman who redeems or vindicates a relative is illustrated most clearly in the book of Ruth, where the kinsman-redeemer is Boaz.

The story of Ruth and Boaz begins when Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, return to Bethlehem from Moab where they had been living. Naomi’s husband and both sons, one the husband of Ruth, had died, leaving the women penniless and without a male protector. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Naomi sends Ruth to glean in the fields of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi to whom they, through a series of divinely appointed circumstances, appeal as their go’el. Boaz acquiesces, willingly takes Ruth as his wife, and together they bear a son named Obed who became the grandfather of David, the forefather of Jesus.

Yahweh is Israel’s Redeemer, the one who promises to defend and vindicate them. He is both Father and Deliverer (Exodus 20:2). There are numerous Old Testament appeals to God as rescuer of the weak and needy (Psalm 82:4Daniel 6:27Jeremiah 20:13) and preserver of the sheep of Israel (Ezekiel 34:10–1222).

In the New Testament, Christ is often regarded as an example of a kinsman-redeemer because, as our brother (Hebrews 2:11), He also redeems us because of our great need, one that only He can satisfy. In Ruth 3:9, we see a beautiful and poignant picture of the needy supplicant, unable to rescue herself, requesting of the kinsman-redeemer that he cover her with his protection, redeem her, and make her his wife. In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ bought us for Himself, out of the curse, out of our destitution; made us His own beloved bride; and blessed us for all generations. He is the true kinsman-redeemer of all who call on Him in faith.

https://www.gotquestions.org/kinsman-redeemer.html

It could be argued that Ruth, a Moabite woman, married a member of God’s Chosen People, the people of Israel, and under the law having lost her husband, her father, and her birthright, under the law.  And while she no longer had a legal obligation to continue to care for Naomi, her compassion and faith led her to work as a humble scavenger in the fields to provide for Naomi.

Naomi’s faith in God contributed to Naomi’s faith decision, which impressed Boaz so much that he chose to marry Ruth and become her kinsman redeemer by marrying her. The son of Ruth and Boaz becomes the heir to Elimelech’s estate as his birthright. Naomi has her lineage restored.

Perhaps the most important lesson from Ruth is the reward for her faith and loyalty. She is rewarded with the blessing of a son named Obed, who will become the father of Jesse and grandfather of David, and from whose lineage is born our Lord, Jesus.

In the same manner, Jesus has decided to become our kinsmen redeemer from the judgment of sin and by accepting the Lord’s gift, we are joined together as brothers and sisters in Christ, Hebrews 2:11 (ESV):

11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have are one. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #503: Jesus Calls Us; o’er the Tumult

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

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

Social Media and the Word of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Social Media and the Word of the Lord’

© January 6, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

blcf bulletin january 6, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on October 2, 2016

blcf-bulletin-october-2-2016

Announcements & Call to Worship of Prayer; Prayer

Opening Hymn #392: Take Time to Be Holy

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

Responsive Reading #651 (The Holy Scriptures – 2 Peter 1, 2 Timothy 3, Hebrews 4, Romans 15, Psalm 119, Isaiah 40)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Social Media and the Word of the Lord’

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Worship and Praise Service. As today is the first Sunday of October, we will be observing Communion. There is no requirement that you must be a member of BLCF in order to receive the elements of Communion.

To receive Communion, participants must be a member of the body known as Christ’s Church. This membership means that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, having  confessed to Him that you are a sinner;  and that Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, sent God’s Holy Spirit as companion to all believers until the day He returns to judge all.

Our lesson today, entitled: Social Media and the Word of the Lord, we will examine some aspects of what we commonly refer to as social media. Social media today may include Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, any other media methodology that permits the user to communicate with others in real time.

Dennis Moles, author of the booklet: Being Jesus Online,  Biblical Wisdom for a Wired World, published as part of Our Daily Bread Ministries’ Discover Series, attempted to answer the rhetorical questions:

“What would Jesus tweet? Would He have social media accounts? And if He did, what would He say and share? How would He relate to his ‘friends’ and “followers” and to those who disagreed with Him?”

Mr. Moles seemed to apply the old standard questions Christians are encouraged to apply to their conversations with others: “What would Jesus Say?”  Or “What would Jesus do?” with respect to the content of what we express on social media conversations and postings. Moles basically indicated that we should conduct our social media conversations and postings under the same guidelines as how we would personally interact with other people, by asking whether what is posted demonstrated a love for God and a love for our neighbor, which is also known as Jesus’ Great Commandment, described in Matthew 22:36-40, where the Ten Commandments or Laws that God gave to Moses may be considered as expressions of love and honor to either God or your neighbor:

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV):

 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.”

Dennis Moles indicated that anything we post on social media should be scrutinized to ensure that will not fail to demonstrate love to God and love to our neighbor. If it fails scrutiny, then it should not be posted.

With all due respect to Mr. Moles’ message, I chose to examine the questions,

“What would Jesus tweet? Would He have social media accounts? And if He did, what would He say and share? How would He relate to his ‘friends’ and “followers” and to those who disagreed with Him?” when applied to believers in the Resurrected Christ, sharing Jesus’s Great Commission of sharing the Lord’s Gospel unto the ends of the earth, as well as any other Scripture account.

My consideration is based more on the issues and limitations of the form of social media, than the content focus of Mr. Moles.

To examine an example of the form limitation, let us look at Twitter which has a size restriction on the Tweets or messages of a maximum of 140 characters.

In my recent Sunday lesson lesson, ‘David Over Goliath: A Victory of Faith’, I used the first 54 Verses from 1 Samuel 17 to present the argument that David’s victory over Goliath happened because of the shared faith by both Saul and David, that God would accompany David to provide the victory, in the same way, He enabled David to succeed against the bear and lion. Imagine trying to express this Scripture passage in 140 characters or less. For that matter, imagine trying to condense all the lessons of the Bible, each one restricted to the limitations of a Tweet and make it comprehensible.

If it were possible, God would have chosen to inspire the Scriptures as such short segments. This would be like considering a movie preview tells the same story of the entire film or that a brief snippet from a speech expresses everything spoken in a one-hour speech.

The dramatic editing of a movie or speech results in a tremendous loss of intended message. In the same manner, shortening God’s Word not only changes the Scriptures meaning, but it also dishonors God by not conveying the complete message that the Lord intended to be expressed.

To understand the importance of keeping God’s Word unchanged and not abbreviated, let us look at Isaiah 40:1-8 (ESV):

           Comfort for God’s People

40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[
a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The Word of God Stands Forever

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said,[
c] “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty[
d] is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 40:2 Or hardship b. Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one crying  c. Isaiah 40:6 Revocalization based on Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Vulgate; Masoretic TextAnd someone says d. Isaiah 40:6 Or all its constancy

Not only would a 280 let alone a 140 character Tweet fail to express this thought, but Twitter has also placed other restrictions on what we may Tweet.

If, for example, I decided to Tweet the same message: “Jesus Saves” to ten or more recipients, Twitter would intervene and warn that my Twitter messages, being worded the same, exhibit behavior that Twitter considers SPAM-like in nature. If I continued sending identical messages, I risk suspension or cancellation of my Twitter account.

If I chose to randomly send 140 character Tweets out from my account, there is little likelihood that it would be read at all. I could choose to Tweet out a message containing a link to a site containing a sermon or longer message, but with the same unlikelihood of successfully being read, just like a futile “voice in the wilderness.”

Speaking of voices in the wilderness, Twitters cannot completely convey the words, beliefs, and actions of either John the Baptist or Jesus, as described in John 1:19-34 (ESV):

 The Testimony of John the Baptist

 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight[a] the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Behold, the Lamb of God

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son[b] of God.”

Footnotes: a. John 1:23 Or crying out, ‘In the wilderness make straight b. John 1:34 Some manuscripts the Chosen One

Even Facebook viewers of the above Scripture passage would not be inclined to read the above passage, because it far exceeds the length of the average post. And if I randomly messaged strangers by Twitter or Facebook messages, the recipients could complain to the respective administrators about receiving unsolicited SPAM-like messages and result in having the respective Twitter and Facebook accounts closed down.

To unbelievers, my social media, messages of the Word of God is nothing more than folly and foolishness, as we see in 1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (ESV):

 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[a] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 1:21 Or the folly of preaching

Social media fails by rules that limit the length, content, and content filters applied the messages. A personal one-on-one dialog would have a better chance of successfully sharing even the most simple of ideas found in the Bible.

Social media, such as Twitter or Facebook, is useful for “preaching to the choir” or sharing short messages or links to longer messages with other believers.

Now BLOGs, which are vehicles of larger more complex content, are more capable of sharing such content on the web.

I post my weekly sermons, along with illustrations and Scripture passages to a World-Wide readership averaging 30-50 readers each and every day. Because I can post key tag words and phrases, such topics, titles, characters, and Scripture verses, anyone using a search engine will hit upon those key-words and bring the searcher to the BLOG. You will note that a searcher may or may not be a believer. They only require an interest in finding out more about the word, phrase or topic they chose to “Google”.

On many occasions, we have had visitors to our BLOGs communicate questions or comments about a sermon posted online. Some of our readers and visitors have come by on a Sunday morning to participate in the service.

While social media may help introduce people to the Gospel and the Word of God, it is the personal conversation and interaction that allows them to perceive God’s Holy Spirit, the true power that convicts people to believe in the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel of Jesus, which leads to a Christian faith conversion.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance (Responsive reading #663 – 1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #265: I’ve a Message from the Lord

Benediction – (Colossians 3:16-17):

 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.

Brrr… Extreme Cold in the Heart of Toronto to Start 2019

Brrr… Extreme Cold in the Heart of Toronto

January 2019 marks the eleventh anniversary of BLCF hosting a community dinner, serving the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe.

 

And with the advent of bitterly cold weather, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is asking for donations of socks, gloves, scarves, and toques for our homeless and marginalized guests in the heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner.

 

Donations may be brought to the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, (Wednesdays between 6 and 8 PM). To arrange delivery at a different time, contact Sophie by email: blcfcafe@yahoo.ca or call BLCF at 416-535-9578.

 

Not a bread line, food bank or soup kitchen, BLCF Café has been serving wholesome dinners to upwards of 150 of Toronto’s homeless every Wednesday evening since January 2008. Individual and groups of volunteers are welcome.

 

BLCF Cafe/BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, one block west of Lansdowne Avenue. Help bring some warmth to those in need.

 

Jesus – The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jesus: The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God’

© December 30, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

blcf bulletin december 30, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn # 115: Go Tell It on the Mountain

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

Responsive Reading #615: Adoration of the Magi (Matthew 2)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Jesus: The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God’

 Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for the last Sunday of 2019. Next Sunday, we will herald in the new year 2010 and with it a new decade.

As often happens towards the end of a year, we reflect upon the past year and anticipate what the future year may bring us. Looking back over these events, it is not unusual to reflect on both the joys and challenges of the previous year but to contrast them with those of previous years.

Last week, believers in the Resurrected Christ, celebrated the birth of our Lord on what we might consider that first Christmas Day, some 2,000 years ago. Though the birth of Jesus was not marked by a mass per se, visitors did come to the Lord’s birthplace to worship the Christ Child, some bringing gifts to celebrate the newborn King of kings.

And annually, the birthday of Jesus is celebrated with worship, song, visitation and sharing gifts and fellowship with others. At BLCF, we celebrate Christmas both on Sunday and Wednesday.

Looking back on past Christmases, I recalled one particular Christmas that resonates with our lesson today, ‘Jesus: The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God.’

It was Christmas 1959. I was just eight years old. I remember for the Mickelson family living in San Antonio, Texas celebrating Christmas had its challenges. My younger sister, Rhona had suffered a traumatic spinal injury two years previously leaving her paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. Though dad had a job in the US Air Force, stationed at a local base, many of the medical treatments and medications for Rhona were neither covered nor available to military dependents. The costs to the family meant that there were not a lot of surplus funds in the family budget to pay for decorations or gifts at Christmas. Still, the family made due.

To help pay the bills, Dad took additional work after his daytime job, working as a public information officer with the Air Force during the day, he would work delivering newspapers and as a journalist by night. Somehow, dad managed to get by with little sleep or no sleep for six days of the week.

When Christmas Eve came around, our mom and dad would go to the local farmer’s market late in the evening, just as the stalls selling Christmas trees were closing on. Mom would negotiate the best price on a tree, which had little or no value as it would otherwise be destined to go to the dumpster at the closing time.

This is when it seemed like some Christmas magic would take place in the Mickelson home. My sisters and I would have gone to bed, and my parents would get to work decorating the tree with lights, ornaments, and popcorn on a string. Stocking would be hung, filled with mandarin oranges, apples, new socks, and some candy canes or chocolates.

Since we had financial constraints, mom initiated a Secret Santa gift exchange. Sometime in early December, family members would put their name on a piece of paper, which would be folded and placed in a bowl. We would each draw a name from the bowl, selecting whom we would buy a gift as a Secret Santa. Mom had saved up for the entire year to provide each of us with $5.00 to spend on a gift for the selected family member.

On that particular year, I had drawn my name from the bowl, which normally meant drawing another name and placing my name back in the bowl. However, I told my parents that since I had drawn my name I insisted that I should be allowed to buy a Christmas present for myself. I was surprised when they agreed to my request.

That Saturday we embarked to the Las Palmas plaza. I made a beeline to Neisner’s Store with a $5.00 bill in my wallet to purchase a gift for myself.  I ended up buying myself a Lone Ranger cap gun with holster. The set considered by many today as politically incorrect was at the time the rage among young boys at the time. When we arrived home, I wrapped my present, so it could be placed under the tree on Christmas Eve. But as Christmas Day approached, I was saddened by the fact that unlike the rest of the family, I knew what my Secret Santa gift was. There was no mystery or surprise in my gift which removed any joy of anticipation for me.

Christmas morning arrived and the family opened their only gift from a Secret Santa, with much excitement and anticipation, except for me, there was no mystery or Secret Santa as I already knew what was under the tree. That Christmas Day I learned some valuable lessons about the sharing of gifts on Christmas Day, particularly the joy of giving over receiving and excitement of anticipating the arrival of a Christmas gift given in a loving, selfless manner.

Our lesson today contains some parallels to my life lesson. While the Jews had anticipated the arrival of s Messiah sent by God, no one knew day or time the Christ would arrive. Even the mother of the Messiah was initially unaware that she was chosen by God to give birth to him, Luke 1:26-35 (ESV):

Birth of Jesus Foretold

 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b.Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! C. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man e. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

 Not only was Mary unaware of her selection to be the mother of the Christ, but she was also surprised that she would conceive her child as a virgin.

Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed, had similar concerns to the news of her pregnancy, but his fears were allayed by the visit of an angel, Matthew 1:18-24 (ESV):

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

While it seems that Mary and Joseph may have been aware of the arrival of a Christ or Messiah for the People of Israel, it appears that neither knew that God would choose a woman betrothed to a carpenter as parents to raise His Christ child. The lord had to send His angels them the important place they would have in fulfilling His plan.

We know that there were also Magi or Wise Men, though not Jews, they were aware that God had placed signs in the heavens, so they followed a star to Bethlehem, where the Christ was to be born, Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV):

 The Visit of the Wise Men

 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 716 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

We see that the Wise Men, the chief priests, scribes, and King Herod were aware of the prophecy of God sending a Christ, the wise men sought him in the palace of the king in Jerusalem and Herod was uncertain as to where to find the Messiah.

The chief priests and scribes indicated that Scriptures indicated that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.

King Herod plotted to kill the Christ child, asking the Wise Men to return to him with the location of the baby’s birth. But warned in a dream, the Wise Men returned to their homeland by another way, not telling Herod about the child.

Joseph was warned in a dream as well, by an angel of the Lord of Herod’s plan, and fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt until receiving word of the king’s death.

As we read through the New Testament, we see that many of the Jews, including the disciples, had not anticipated the reason why God sent His only Son, Jesus nor in what manner Jesus would eventually redeem humanity for the sins that they had committed and was facing a judgment of death, John 3:16-17 (ESV):

For God So Loved the World

 16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world

The first Christmas marks the arrival of a much anticipated Messiah, but the manner of how, when, and where God executed His plan and promise of salvation through His only Son, revealed events that were unexpected, filled with mystery, wonder, and joy. This is the message of Christmas being blessed with His most precious gift to all who have faith.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                        

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