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

BLCF: the-beatitudes-header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Guided by the Beatitudes’ – Part 1

 (Part 2 – Sunday, August 18, 2019)

© August 4, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 4, 2019

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

BLCF Bulletin Sunday, October 18, 2009

BLCF: Bulletin June 22, 2014

BLCF: bulletin-February-12-2017

BLCF: 10-Commandments

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

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

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

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

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

BLCF: beatitudes

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: What_the_Holy_Spirit_does

What is the Holy Spirit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: fruit-of-the-spirit1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: LSS

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

BLCF: LSS-policy

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

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

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

Let us pray…

BLCF: be-the-church

Closing Hymn #451: I Have Decided To Follow Jesus

Benediction (Numbers 6:24-26):                                                                        

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Know Jesus – Know Peace!

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

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

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© July 28, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 28, 2019

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

BLCF Bulletin May 21, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

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

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

 Message by Steve Mickelson:

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ministers of the New Covenant

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

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

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

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

By Faith

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

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

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

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

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

The Work of the Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #451: I Have decided to Follow Jesus

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

On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind 2019

BLCF: leaving_your_baggage_behind

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© July 14, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

  BLCF Bulletin July 14, 2019

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

BLCF Bulletin May 19, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 24, 2016

Unwanted Baggage

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer Prayer                                                    

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

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

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

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

BLCF: excess_baggage

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 2.  A self-righteous person; a hypocrite.

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

You Must Be Born Again

BLCF: YouMustBeBornAgain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Law and the Promise

BLCF: the_Law_and_the_Promise

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

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

Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

BLCF: Covenant-of-Grace-chart

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

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

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

BLCF: righteousness-by-faith

 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

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

Alive in Christ

BLCF: alive-in-Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

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

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

BLCF: by-Gods-grace

 

 

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

BLCF: Forgiveness

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© July 7, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 7, 2019

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

BLCF Bulletin January 4, 2015

BLCF: Ephesians 4_32

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                               

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

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

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

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

 

 

BLCF: to_be_a_Christian                                                                     

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

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

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

 Let us pray…

BLCF: forgive in prayer

Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)

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

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

Give us each day our daily bread,[a]

and forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation.”

– Amen

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

BLCF: forgive_us_our_sins

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

Unbroken

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

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

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

 “Unbroken” the Biography of Louis Zamperini by Laura Hillenbrand

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

BLCF: Louis_Zamperini_at_announcement_of_2015_Tournament_of_Roses_Grand_Marshal

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: forgive-those

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

BLCF: forgiveness

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

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

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

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

OCTOBER 24, 2014  |  Ivan Mesa  ARTS & CULTURE

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

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

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

Conversion Under Billy Graham

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

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

His new life had begun

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

The portrayal of Conversion in Zamperini’s Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sinful Woman Forgiven (Parable of the Two Debtors)

BLCF: forgiveness2

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

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

Footnotes: a. Luke 7:49 Or to

BKCF: Parable_of_Two_Debtors

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

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

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

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

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus_and_Jesus

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

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

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

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

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

BLCF: Peter-Preaching-Solomons-Portico

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

BLCF: Communion

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

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b]

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

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

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

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

BLCF: Forgiveness - Ephesians_4-32

The Awesome God, Who keeps His Covenant with a Steadfast Love 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Awesome God, Who keeps His Covenant with a Steadfast Love’

© June 16, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2019

Based upon messages shared at BLCF on June 16, 2013, and on June 15, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin June 15, 2014

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2013

BLCF: Happy Father's Day Tie

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #22: Stand Up and Bless the Lord; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #593: God and the Family (- Genesis 1, Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 5 & 6)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Awesome God, Who Keeps Covenant and Steadfast Love’

Let us pray…

For our lesson on this Father’s Day Sunday, I would like to share with you the story of Sam Rayburn Jr. High, a middle school located in a small subdivision located just west of San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas. As BLCF is a church that is located in the heart of Toronto, I found that the lesson found in today’s Scripture verses from Nehemiah, Chapter 9 have relevance on giving insight and understanding to the stories of the two buildings.

Some fifty years ago, in response to the needs of a growing, vibrant community, the local school district contracted to build a new middle school. The builders wanted to construct not just an ordinary run of the mill school building, but a structure that was ahead of its time, having a form that was practical in purpose, though innovative and appealing in its design.

Speaker of the House, Sam ayburn

Now the Wiki bits of this story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Rayburn). The community built Sam Rayburn, a middle school whose namesake Samuel Taliaferro “Sam” Rayburn (January 6, 1882 – November 16, 1961) was a Democratic lawmaker from Bonham, Texas, who served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years, the longest tenure in U.S. history. Rayburn was born in Roane County, Tennessee, on January 6, 1882, 24 days before Franklin D. Roosevelt, a fact noted by the news media while Roosevelt was President and Rayburn was Speaker.

Rayburn was baptized by Elder H.G. Ball in the Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Old Line Baptist or Hard Shell Baptist Church. Rayburn graduated from Mayo College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) in Commerce, which was located in northeast Texas. He attended the University Of Texas School Of Law while teaching school, and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1908.

Although many Texas legislators were on the payroll of public service corporations, Rayburn refused to do so. Later, while serving in Congress, a wealthy oilman had a very expensive horse delivered to Rayburn’s farm in Bonham. No one apparently knew the oilman delivered the horse except him, Rayburn, and a Rayburn staffer. Rayburn returned the horse. This practice of refusing to accept fees from clients who had interests before the Legislature was “virtually unheard-of” at the time, but sadly no so much today.

In shaping legislation, Rayburn preferred working quietly in the background to being in the public spotlight. As Speaker, he won a reputation for fairness and integrity. In his years in Congress, Rayburn always insisted on paying his own expenses, even going so far as to pay for his own travel expenses when inspecting the Panama Canal when his committee was considering legislation concerning it, rather than exercising his right to have the government pay for it. When he died, his personal savings totaled only $15,000, and most of his holdings were in his family ranch.

I guess you would classify Sam Rayburn as a person who put into practice his Christian values, rather than a Christian who practiced politics. He was an exemplary model for all those involved in politics today. Now class, let us get back to school!

Sam Rayburn Jr. High, like its namesake, was quite different from its predecessors. The school was clad by louvered panels, set some six feet from the windows and afforded shade from hot Texas sun from May to October while allowing cool breezes caught from the hillside location. The louvers were angled so that in the winter the sun helped warm the classrooms. Built on the top of the west side of a large valley that afforded a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. The two-story school was comprised of two wings. One wing consisted of a gymnasium and cafeteria, under them ran a lengthy hallway designed to shelter students and staff from the ravaging winds of a passing tornado.

Perhaps the most innovative design was the two air-conditioned multimedia lecture halls, which were located in the centre of the classroom wing. Sound-proofed and windowless, the lecture halls had staggered seating on a gradient like a slope found in the sanctuary of BLCF. The halls were equipped with a stage and a retractable projector screen for presentations, variable lighting control, and a built-in PA sound system. These halls provided a good environment for students to view films, slide or filmstrip presentations, music concerts, lectures, for tests and exams. They also provided an additional safe place to ride out a tornado if students or staff could not get to the safe hallway under the cafeteria wing of the school.

I attended grades 6 and 7 of my education at Sam Rayburn. In grade 7 English class, we observed the explosion of a Quonset hut at Medina Air Force Base on the opposite side of the valley, generating a mushroom cloud above the valley and rain of ash the next day. I was at my locker in the school a week or so later, a passing student told me that John Kennedy had been shot in the head. Less than an hour later, our Principal solemnly announced on the PA system that the president had passed.

Medical expenses for my sister Rhona, a victim of a traumatic spinal injury, had caused us to lose our home and furnishings and move into a rental property in the city, closer to my father’s workplace.

Fast forward some 3 years to 1967, and my family had immigrated to my mother’s birthplace of Toronto. Canada had offered better medical care for Rhona, and gave the family refuge from the riots and social unrest; America’s version of Arab spring. In the next 13 years, I graduated from Secondary School, attended University, returning home after my mother suffered a massive heart attack. I entered the workforce and stayed home until Mom passed away some fourteen months later. A couple of years later, I met Sophie, the love of my life who first led me to the Lord and then later to the altar. Then in 1980, after having resigned after seven years at Pitney Bowes, I had a month’s hiatus before starting my new job at Kodak Canada. Thanks to Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor’s providing a safe haven for the Americans in Iran, our family was able to take a vacation to Texas, courtesy of Greyhound Coach Lines’ “Thank you Canada” discount rates. After seeing the sites, we traveled to the old neighborhood. The house showed changes from time. Trees were bigger and Sam Rayburn Jr. High looked older and in need of a coat of paint. I did not return to Texas again for some 17 years when our family drove to San Marcos to visit my brother-in-law at a rehab facility for people with severe head injuries. I wanted to show my kids my old neighborhood. Time and tide had not been kind to our old house, which looked quite run down, sporting iron bars on the exterior windows and doors. No longer manicured, the back yard now featured an old rusty pickup truck sitting on blocks.

Sadly, Sam Rayburn School was more shocking to see, being the victim of more neglect than the old homestead. The shutters were dilapidated, some cracked and broken; others dangling awkwardly from their supports. The name of the school, once boldly displayed in steel letters mounted on the brick facade of the school had eroded to the wind, rain, and possible vandalism so that letters were missing or illegible. It seemed that the hope and vision that gave birth to a unique place of learning and a beacon of education had met its demise.

Just an update, I recently looked at the Google photos of my old Valley Hi neighborhood and was pleased to see that Sam Rayburn Jr. High, now called Sam Rayburn Middle School, has undergone a Nehemiah-like change, having been totally rebuilt. Kudos to those who restored the vision of their ancestors, giving this lesson a Scriptural-like positive ending, or should I say beginning.

BLCF: rebuilt_Sam_Rayburn_School

The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible, which we Christians refer to today as the Old Testament. When we read the story in the 9th Chapter of Nehemiah, we can easily see how neglect and loss of a community’s faith and vision can lead to the path of destruction as had happened to my old school.

Nehemiah Rebuilding the Walls

Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, Nehemiah concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who was a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God’s laws (Torah). The events take place in the second half of the 5th century BC, and together with the Book of Ezra, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible.

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, (445/444 BC), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. Learning that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild them, and Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild the walls. Once there he defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days, from the Sheep Gate in the North, the Hananel Tower at the northwest corner, the Fish Gate in the West, the Furnaces Tower at the Temple Mount’s South West corner, the Dung Gate in the South, the East Gate and the gate beneath the Golden Gate in the East.

Jerusalem rebult by Nehemiah

He then took measures to repopulate the city and purify the Jewish community, enforcing the cancellation of debt, assisting Ezra to promulgate the Law of Moses, and enforcing the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.

After 12 years as governor, during which he ruled with justice and righteousness, he returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa, he returned to Jerusalem, only to find that the people had fallen back into their evil ways. Non-Jews were permitted to conduct business inside Jerusalem on the Sabbath and to keep rooms in the Temple. Greatly angered, he purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the Law of Moses.

nehemiah map susa - jerusalem_map

While Nehemiah did seek to rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem and restore the Temple as a holy place of worship, his narrative accurately points to his real concern about the faith or should I say lack of faith of and ingratitude to God as was demonstrated by the people of Jerusalem, as we read in Nehemiah 9:6-21 (ESV):

6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.

Nehemiah 9 verse 6

9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. 11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. 12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. 15 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.

Nehemiah-9-Verse-21

16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They 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. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

The story of how the walls of Jerusalem had deteriorated can be viewed as a metaphor for the church, which we know is not brick and mortar, but a body of believers. Many of God’s Chosen have repeatedly drifted away from their true God and had chosen other gods. In this case, the faith of the body of believers had decayed almost to ruin and needed to be rebuilt in order that the members of the body could revive their faith and trust in the Lord. It is not surprising that many businesses and groups currently use the name Nehemiah or a derivative of the name as their corporate badge. The Nehemiah narrative indicates that the people have lapses of faith more than on one occasion. Still, God is an awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love for His people, Nehemiah 9:32-36 (ESV):

32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.

As Christians reading the Nehemiah account, we should not only concern ourselves with the rebuilding the fallen body of the church, we need to understand and avoid the circumstances that caused the church to fall in the first place. We do know that since the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity carries the stolen gift of knowledge of good and evil, as well as the burden of sin. People are given the choice between following God in faith and listening to Satan at our peril.

When we walk in faith in the Lord, we contribute to a strong church body that can resist the attacks of an opponent whose sole desire is to tear down and destroy God’s Eternal Kingdom and replace it with his own worldly domain. A domain like the walls of the city of Jerusalem that were not maintained, can crumble and deteriorate over time, falling into dust and debris.

But do not despair. All is not lost. While Scriptures do record the accounts of many fathers, many of whom are exemplary models for the Christian fathers of today. If you turn to the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see several fathers who were keepers of the faith. This summary comes by way of About.com:

Famous Fathers in the Bible Who Set Worthy Examples – About.com

God the Father God the Father, the first Person of the Trinity, is the father and creator of all. Jesus, his only Son, showed us a new, intimate way of relating to him. When we see God as our heavenly Father, provider and protector, it puts our life in a whole new perspective. Every human father is also a son of this Most High God, the constant source of strength, wisdom, and hope.

Adam – The First Man As the first man and first human father, Adam had no example to follow except God. He faltered on that, plunging the world into sin. He also had to deal with the tragedy of his son Cain murdering his other son, Abel. Adam has much to teach today’s fathers about the consequences of our actions and the absolute necessity of obeying God.

Noah – A Righteous Man Noah stands out among fathers in the Bible as a man who clung to God in spite of the wickedness all around him. What could be more relevant to today? Noah was far from perfect, but he was humble and protective of his family. He bravely carried out the task God assigned to him. Modern fathers may often feel they are in a thankless role, but God is always pleased by their devotion.

Abraham – Father of the Jewish Nation What could be more frightening than being the father of an entire nation? That was the mission God gave Abraham. He was a leader with tremendous faith, passing one of the most difficult tests God ever gave a man. Abraham made mistakes when he relied on himself instead of God. Still, he embodied qualities that any father would be wise to develop.

Jacob – Father of the 12 Tribes of Israel Jacob was a schemer who tried to work his own way instead of trusting God. With the help of his mother Rebekah, he stole his twin brother Esau’s birthright. Jacob fathered 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. As a father, however, he favored his son Joseph, causing jealousy among the other brothers. The lesson from Jacob’s life is that God works with our obedience and in spite of our disobedience to make his plan come to pass.

Moses – Giver of the Law Moses was the father of two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, yet he also served as a father figure to the entire Hebrew people as they escaped from slavery in Egypt. He loved them and helped discipline and provide for them on their 40-year journey to the Promised Land. At times Moses seemed to be a larger-than-life character, but he was only a man. He shows today’s fathers that overwhelming tasks can be achieved when we stay close to God.

King David – A Man After God’s Own Heart One of the great strugglers in the Bible, David was also a special favorite of God. He trusted God to help him defeat the giant Goliath and put his faith in God as he was on the run from King Saul. David sinned greatly, but he repented and found forgiveness. His son Solomon went on to become one of Israel’s greatest kings.

Joseph – Earthly Father of Jesus Surely one of the most underrated fathers in the Bible was Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. He went to great pains to protect his wife Mary and their baby, and then saw to Jesus’ education and needs as he was growing up. Joseph taught Jesus the carpentry trade. The Bible calls Joseph a righteous man, and Jesus must have loved his guardian for his quiet strength, honesty, and kindness.

jesus-can-restore

As believers in the Resurrected Christ and as vessels of the Spirit of the Living God, it is our responsibility to edify or build the body of believers in our church, not in numbers, but in faith. Each member of Christ’s Church must help build the church, by edifying and restoring the faith of its fellow members to counter the tendency towards decay and destruction over time.

Throughout the ages, the key to building and maintaining a strong church body, that is able to resist the onslaught brought by Satan, having strength in faith and not through numbers. In other words, the quality of the faith of a church body is more important than the quantity or number of members within the church.

And our hope and promise come from Jesus Christ, who by having been crucified for our sins, has removed God’s judgment and restored us to God’s favour. Through Jesus, we are forgiven, sanctified, and given the promise of a comforter in the Holy Spirit. Additionally, we are given the covenant of our own resurrection upon Christ’s return.

In a similar manner, a church with limited resources, yet strong in faith, is buoyed by the Spirit so that may achieve much more than a larger corporate body of members with tepid faith. Even though the latter may have vast financial resources, the Spirit is absent.

The Spirit greatly rewards a church’s faith by multiplying modest means to achieve the Lord’s objectives. Just come to BLCF on a Wednesday evening to see not only the proof of how the Holy Spirit multiplies and rewards steadfast faith; you will see but how the Spirit restores the faith of those who keep or renew their trust for a loving caring God.

So when life brings forth challenges, fraught with pain and sorrow, do not despair, but trust in Him and endure, as we read in Hebrews 12:7 (ESV):

Hebrews12:7

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

And on this Father’s Day Sunday, let us not only honour our earthly fathers but also glorify our Father in heaven and remember that He is an awesome God who keeps His covenant and shows a steadfast love for all his children.

Proverbs 23:24 (ESV)

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;

he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.

Happy Fathers Day

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King (to the tune of ‘Michael Row the Boat’)

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):

And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen

Creation-hands-L

 

Mrs. Maria Teresa Pereira June 16, 1950 – October 01, 2019 – A Sister in Christ

 

Mrs. Maria Teresa Pereira

June 16, 1950 – October 01, 2019

 

Obituary

  An insight into the wonderful generosity of Maria Teresa Pereira. Donations for Maria will be used to help honour her life in continuing to support what was meaningful to her. In memory of Maria Teresa Pereira Donations to the Christmas fund for the Homeless BLCF Café  BMO Bank of Montreal Acc. 2795 8940180   


Teresa was very involved in the BLCF. Café, every Wednesday she made sure she was there not only to serve their meals for the homeless but also the word of God was always spoken through her lips among them with such joy.   She loved to work side by side with Sophie and Margaret and Ron. They all navigate a great ship with kindness and dignity. This fund is to carry on the Christmas spirit for gifts of the less fortunate. Teresa held this dear to her heart. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~     
Teresa estava muito envolvida no Café BLCF todas Quarta-feira, ela se certificava de que estava lá não apenas para servir suas refeições para os sem-teto. A palavra de Deus sempre foi dita através de seus lábios para eles com tanta alegria. Ela adorava trabalhar lado a lado com Sophie, Margret e Ron. Todos eles navegam em um grande navio com bondade e dignidade. Esse fundo e para continuar com o Espirito de Natal pelos presentes dos menos afortunados. Teresa manteve isto querido no coração.



Visitation

Date
October 03, 2019
Location
Bathurst Chapel
Time
04:00 PM – 08:00 PM

                                                                 366 Bathurst Street
                                                                   Toronto, Ontario
                                                                      M5T 2S6
                                                              Tel: (416) 603-1444

Service

Date
October 04, 2019
Location
Igreja Novas de Alegria
Time
11:00 AM

 

Map data ©2019 Google

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Map
Satellite
             Memo

Please be mindful to not park in front of the church to allow space for immediate family and funeral home vehicles.

Burial

Date
October 04, 2019
Location
Park Lawn Cemetery & Mausoleum
Time
01:00 PM

 

Map data ©2019 Google

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Satellite
 
               Memo

Arrival time is estimated and is subject to change without notice due to changing weather and road conditions.

Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch’

© June 9, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 9, 2019

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on May 1, 2016

BLCF Bulletin May 1, 2016

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                           

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

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

Responsive Reading #612 (The Lamb of God – from Isaiah 53)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                  Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch            

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at BLCF Church for June 9, 2017. Today’s lesson is primarily focused on the account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, as described in Acts 8:26-40 (ESV):

Acts 8:26-40 (ESV): Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[b] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Footnotes: a. Acts 8:26 Or go at about noon b. Acts 8:36 Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37: And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

The above account, of the encounter between Philip and a eunuch in the remote desert, describes how the Apostle is first directed by an angel of God, on a trek on the road running south Jerusalem towards Gaza.

It is on this road that the Spirit of God directs Philip to approach a chariot carrying an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet, Isaiah. Philip, directed by the Spirit, asks the eunuch whether he understands the Scripture which he is reading.

This affords the eunuch the opportunity to invite Philip to join him in order to understand the Scripture, particularly Isaiah 53:7-8:

 

Isaiah 53:7-8 (ESV)

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?

It is in regard to this passage of Scripture that the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Philip helps the eunuch is to understand that Isaiah 53:7-8 indicates that Christ’s sacrifice was made on behalf of all people, who are oppressed and judged for their transgressions or sins. No doubt, the eunuch was given limited access to the temple, as a eunuch would be considered “blemished’, under the criteria of holiness that the Lord gave Moses in Leviticus 21:16-24:

Leviticus 21:16-24 (ESV): Holiness and the Priests

16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” 24 So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

The Temple was partitioned into four courts, beginning with the Court of the Priests; then the Court of Israel; followed by the Court of the Women, and finally by the Court of the Gentiles. But a eunuch was viewed to have a physical blemish that would prohibit him from entering the temple or Assembly of God:

Deuteronomy 23:1 (ESV): Those Excluded from the Assembly

23 “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

Because a eunuch was considered to bear a physical defect or blemish, he would be lucky if he were permitted to enter the Court of the Gentiles, a court most removed from the Holy altar containing the Ark of the Covenant, where the presence of God was considered to reside.

In addition to being a blemish, the eunuch was also considered a foreigner. But Isaiah indicates that the Lord offers a path to salvation to foreigners, as we see in Isaiah 56:1-5:

Isaiah 56:1-5 (ESV): Salvation for Foreigners

56 Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my righteousness be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

But the Lord did instruct his people to offer compassion to the afflicted, such as the deaf or blind:

Leviticus 19:13-14 (ESV)

13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

But there is a huge difference between have compassion and pity for the disabled, whose afflictions were regarded as a punishment for sin, and being totally forgiven of their transgressions.

By the grace offered by the New Covenant, through the sacrifice of Jesus, the judgment for any blemish or sin is removed. The believer is made both whole and holy in the eyes of God to become an Ark of the Holy Spirit, by way of God’s New Covenant.

The eunuch is sanctified by faith in Christ and asks Philip to be baptized in a stream nearby. At one time, only a eunuch, who is impotent, would be allowed to approach a married woman without being judged guilty of the sin of adultery:

Matthew 19:8-12 (ESV)

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 19:9 Some manuscripts add and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery; other manuscripts except for sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery

As a final reflection, under the Old Law, a eunuch would be barred from entering the temple and drawing close to God because of the blemish of his physical condition. Any priest who suffered injury and thus became physically blemished could no longer perform the rites of a priest and was subject of charity in order to be fed. He could no longer approach the Ark of the Covenant and would be removed from the presence of God because of his affliction.

In the Acts 8 account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch is significant in so many ways. We see that Philip, an apostle/messenger of Christ’s Gospel, is sent out by an angel of God on a missionary journey and then directed by God’s Holy Spirit to minister to an Ethiopian eunuch, who is converted, Christian.

In contrast to other accounts of conversions of blind, paralytics and others who are considered by Jews as blemished, are first healed of their respective infirmity or blemish in order to enter the temple and worship as a member of the assembly. The eunuch is baptized and received as part of the body of Christ and his blemish is unchanged. Through Christ, he is unblemished in God’s eyes.

We see that being a eunuch with physical deficiencies is no more an impediment to being saved and joining the body of Christ, than are the scars or stripes Jesus bore for our sins an impediment for the Lord to be the head of his church. Through Christ, there is no physical impediment to salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Ethiopian eunuch is the first foreigner to become a convert of Christ and the first black person to convert to the Way of the Lord. In spite of being a student of the Scriptures, who had just returned from worshiping at the Temple, the eunuch’s physical blemish would likely have been allowed by the Temple Priests to worship in the Court of Gentiles, and this conversion is significant as it is the first recorded Christian conversion of a Gentile.

Christ suffered physical affliction on the cross to remove the restrictions and judgments under the Old Covenant and to permit access to God’s Presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, under a New Covenant through Christ.

Come to think of it, under the Old Covenant rules, the Resurrected Christ would not be permitted access to the Temple because the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet and sides would be considered unacceptable defects or blemishes. Under the Old Covenant, the blemishes borne by the Son of God would create the paradox that Christ would neither be allowed to pass through the veil at the Priest’s Temple Court to access Holy of Holies nor allowed to ascend to sit at the side of the Father in Heaven.

But it is because Christ took upon himself to bear the marks or stripes of our sins under the New Covenant, any blemish or defect can no longer be a barrier to the sanctification of the believer. Faith in Christ’s sacrifice guarantees our access to the presence of God, which is the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction – (Philippians 4:23): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. – Amen