The Love of Jesus as Expressed in a Parable, a Lesson, and a Judgment

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Love of Jesus as Expressed in a Parable, a Lesson, and a Judgment’

© March 7, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on February 9, 2020, 

BLCF Bulletin February 9, 2020

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                  

Opening Hymn #302: I Love to Tell the Story; Choruses                             

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

Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4)                          

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘The Love of Jesus as Expressed in a Parable, a Lesson, and a Judgment’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for the first Sunday of March. Today’s lesson, entitled The Love of Jesus as Expressed in a Parable, a Lesson, and a Judgment, we will examine three expressions of our Lord’s love, from a parable, a lesson, and events on Judgment Day.

Jesus answered the question, “How does one inherit eternal life”, with the aid of a parable, as described in Luke 10:25-37 (ESV):

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 10:35 A denarius was a day’s wage for a labor

In this passage, a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the legalities of the Scriptures sought to test Jesus by asking him what does he need to do to inherit eternal life, to which the Lord replied what is his understanding of this matter from God’s Word. The lawyer replied by stating the requirement of unconditional love for God and to love our neighbor as ourselves, which is a distillation of God’s Ten Words or Commandments given to Moses to be delivered to the People of Israel, dealing with how God expects his people to relate to Him and to others.

A definition of the 10 Commandments comes from the online Encyclopedia Britannica:

Ten Commandments, also called Decalogue (Greek: deka logoi [“10 words”]), list of religious precepts that, according to various passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy, were divinely revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai and were engraved on two tablets of stone. The Commandments are recorded virtually identically in Exodus 20: 2–17 and Deuteronomy 5: 6–21.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ten-Commandments

When the lawyer asked Jesus to explain,” Who would he consider to be a neighbour?”  Jesus answered the lawyer’s question by telling him a Parable about an act of kindness given to a beaten traveler by a Samaritan passing by. Jesus described how both a priest and Levite, also passing by the beaten man, refused to stop and render assistance to the beaten man. Jesus asked the lawyer, which of the three passers-by proved to be a neighbor to the man who was beaten and robbed, to which the lawyer replied, the Samaritan. Ironically, the Jews were too busy traveling to stop and give assistance to the traveler.

And when ministering to others, Jesus emphasized humility, as we see in his lesson taught washing his disciples’ feet, as described in John 13:1-17 (ESV):  

Jesus Washes The Disciples’ Feet

 13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Footnotes: a.John 13:10 Some manuscripts omit except for his feet b. John 13:10 The Greek words for you in this verse are plural c. John 13:16 Or bondservant, or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

In this passage, Jesus indicated that though we should remember his lesson of washing his disciples’ feet, performing the act as a humble servant. This lesson emphasized a construct that is inverted from how many prioritize their relationships with God and with others.

Often we may behave in a manner where our needs are first, and then help our neighbors, and lastly how we honour God. This is opposite how Jesus taught in his foot-washing exercise, where he sought to have us place ourselves subservient to others, which submissive to God’s will.

Jesus’ lesson has God at the top of our priority list, with our neighbors next, and ourselves last.

Just how important the relationships between ourselves to God and our neighbours are with respect to how we will be judged by the Lord on Judgment Day is described as the parable of the shepherd  sorting out his flock of sheep from the goats described in our final Scripture passage in our lesson today, found in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV):

 The Final Judgment

 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

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

It is obvious how we demonstrate our love and compassion to the least of our brothers and sisters will reveal how we honour our Lord, and how in-turn we will be judged, and in-turn inherits eternal life, on the Day of Judgment.

Closing Hymn  #284: Yesterday He Died For Me

 Benediction – (Romans 8:38-39):

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor’

© February 28, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on August 17, 2014, and on March 26 17, 2017

BLCF Bulletin March 26, 2017

BLCF Bulletin August 17, 2014

 Announcements and Call to Worship:

Opening Prayer: Matthew 6:9-14

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,                                                                                             
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,                                                                                                  12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,                                                                                                      but deliver us from evil.

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

Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know; Choruses

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

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

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome, again, to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Sunday Praise and Worship service, in the heart of Toronto. An important part of a believer’s praise and worship is setting aside part of your day for prayer. In order to sense God’s presence, it is helpful to make that prayer time in the quiet of the day. Often that time is either early in the morning or late at night when it is quiet and free from distractions.  At times of particular need or concern, for oneself or for others, is another good time to converse with the Lord through prayer. And of course, don’t forget to praise Him at times of victory and to thank Him for answered prayer.

For the Mickelson family, prayer time came at the end of the day, at the very least. Sophie and I started this tradition after we were married, and carried it on with our children. With the kids, the prayer would be a time to remember everyone in the family and to remember those in the extended family, as well as prayer concerns for our friends. Often, prayer time included reading from the Bible. I am happy to see that my eldest child, Athena, now married with three children of her own carries on the tradition of prayer before bed.

The Scriptures indicate that for Jesus, the preferred time for prayer was the evening, in a quiet place, such as a mountain top or in a garden. In this morning’s scripture, in Luke 9, we see that Jesus went up on a mountain to pray.

On one occasion, the Scriptures record that Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, John, and James, to pray on a mountain.  It was on this mountain, which many scholars believe to be Mount Tabor, an event described in Luke 9:27-36, that the three disciples bore witness to something more than just the Lord at prayer:

Luke 9:27-36 (ESV)

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,[a] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;[b] listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Footnotes: a. Luke 9:31 Greek exodus b. Luke 9:35 Some manuscripts my Beloved

Jesus brought along with him Peter, James, and John, where it is described in verse 32 that the three became “heavy with sleep”. The scriptures do not say why they started to become drowsy. You might speculate that it was from the exertion of climbing the mount. A similar thing happened to those who joined Jesus when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his crucifixion. I believe part of it may be the effect of being in God’s presence. Needless to say, the three awoke to see that Jesus’ appearance had changed: both his face and clothing were transfigured, and he seemed to be floating among the clouds. And Jesus was observed talking with Moses and Elijah.

Transfigured is an interesting word. It is the English translation from the Greek Scriptures of “metamorpho” meaning to transform, literally or figuratively, to metamorphose, or to change. It is a verb and therefore means to change into another form. Christ’s death and resurrection are often symbolized by the butterfly, which changes or metamorphoses in a chrysalis from a larva, then to a pupa, and then ending as a butterfly. These changes are similar to Christ began in human form before the crucifixion, then as the Resurrected Christ, and finally, as the Ascended Christ.

What a sight that must have been to behold! And then to actually hear the voice of God stating: “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”

It is interesting to note that God appears to make this statement as a response to Peter’s impulsive suggestion that the three disciples should build three tents in honour of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. If you go back to verse 27, you will see that perhaps God’s words were spoken, not as a reaction to the comment by the disciple about building temples. More likely, God spoke in agreement with the statement made by Jesus, as we see recorded in John 9:27“But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

This is not the first time that the disciples struggled to comprehend the meaning and significance of a miracle of Jesus that they had just witnessed. For what they had observed was a glimpse of the glory of Heaven that Jesus alluded to in Luke 9, verse 27.

This miracle, like that where Jesus walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee, was another of the rare miracles in the Gospels, where Jesus was the object of the miracle.

Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration to be “the greatest miracle” in that it complemented the baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.

Another instance in the Scriptures of God speaking occurred just after Jesus was baptized, where the Father spoke from Heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased.” For Jesus, this was his own personal Pentecost, where the power of the Holy Spirit came upon him.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is significant in that we have an account of the promise of Heaven and the Resurrected Life. By contrast Christ’s baptism, the Holy Spirit is observed afterward descending, “like a dove”, upon him. In this passage of Scripture recorded in Matthew 3:16-17, we have a presentation of the trinity of God, God’s voice in Heaven, Jesus the son’s baptism, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. All three are distinct, and each being the presence of God.

There is a third account in the New Testament, where a voice speaks from Heaven, which occurs during the conversion of Paul, known formerly as Saul of Tarsus. That account is given in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9, verses 1-7, when Saul of Tarsus hears the Son of God ask “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Saul, whose job was to arrest the followers of Christ, asks who is speaking? To which Jesus replies “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” indicating that an offense against a believer of Christ is considered to be an offense against Christ. Jesus then instructs him to “rise and enter the city” and that he would be told what to do.

The significance of this passage is how God convicts non-believers of faith, and how even the most stubborn of non-believers can be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Paul sometimes referred to as the thirteenth Apostle, had his conversion after Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is interesting that before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was a member of the religious order which had Jesus put to death, and stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the followers of Christ.

Going back to Luke 9 and the Transfiguration, one may question why John, James, and Peter, were privy to this Heavenly vision of seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus regarding his impending departure in Jerusalem. By departure, we are talking about the crucifixion as the Chosen One.

Though Jesus died for our sins, to redeem believers, so that they may become righteous and be acceptable unto God. All of the disciples, save John, died violent deaths because of their beliefs and their sharing of the miracles that Jesus performed, the most important being his resurrection, his ascension, and his gifting of the Holy Spirit. James was put to death by a sword, by order of King Herod. Peter, being a Roman citizen was not crucified; instead, he was beheaded in Rome, at the order of Nero. John, the first of the twelve disciples to follow Jesus, and the last to die, did not die a violent death. The Apostle John did live long enough to see Jesus, as well as the eleven disciples, including his brother, James, die violently because of their beliefs.

The disciple’s individual faith may have wavered at one time or another,  each disciple, save for Judas Iscariot, was put to death in a violent manner, because of the conviction of the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is Christ’s Gospel.

Further support to the notion is found in Luke 9 verse 27, “some standing here will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God” referring to Peter, James, and John, the three who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who later acknowledged having seen the Kingdom of Heaven.

For Peter, we read in 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV):

 16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

It seems quite clear that Peter refers to the Transfiguration on the mount as a view of the majesty of the risen Christ and the voice of God in Heaven.

With John, we read another acknowledgment of glory in the Transfiguration:

John 1:14 (ESV)

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

Most scholars of the Bible agree that in the vision of the Transfiguration of Jesus, that Moses represents the Laws or the Sacred Scriptures of God, as Moses had authored five of the book of the Old Testament, and he delivered God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people. Elijah represents the Prophets of God. Jesus represents both the authority of God, and fulfillment of both the Word and the Prophets.

The account of Jesus’ baptism records the presence of the Trinity of God. The Trinity is observed again in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus, the son, was observed with Moses and Elijah. God’s presence is found when His words were heard. And the cloud that appears represents the presence of the Holy Spirit.

You may ask: Why were Peter, James, and John were selected to witness Jesus’ Transfiguration?  Many scholars view that while Moses and Elijah represent God’s Faith in the Prophets and the Laws that preceded Jesus. The three disciples represent aspects of God’s Faith after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension: Peter represents the Faith of the Church, James represents Hope of love (i.e. loving one’s neighbor as oneself), and John represents the application of Charity in the good works of man. Together, we have a symbolic representation of the Trinity the faith in the Holy Spirit, the Hope through the Salvation of Christ, and the Charity of God our Father in heaven who provided a means that we might be sanctified in spite of our sinful nature.

As often occurs in the Gospel accounts, the apostles while witnessing a miracle of Jesus, lose track of its significance. You may recall in a previous message about the miracle where Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, following the feeding of the multitude, also known as the “Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes”. The disciples had yet to conclude that this supernatural miracle not only proved that Jesus had the power of God, but that Christ was God.

Only after Jesus easily walked across a stormy sea, against which the disciples had struggled for hours, did he perform the miracle whereby Peter with Jesus trod water, so long as he had his eyes fixed on Jesus. When Peter does take his gaze from Jesus and looks upon the sea, he sinks. Jesus performs yet another miracle by raising Peter out of the water: “Oh ye of little faith!”

Eventually, Jesus boards the boat containing the disciples and calms the stormy weather, and transports the boat, according to John’s Gospel, instantaneously across the water. It takes a series of supernatural miracles before the twelve finally acknowledge that Jesus is truly the son of God.

Like the people of Israel who kept losing the faith, while being led from Pharaoh’s Egypt, through the desert, to the Promised Land, the disciples kept forgetting who they were following. Perhaps this was the real purpose of the excursion that Jesus made with Peter, John, and James on Mount Tabor:  to remind the disciples that they were following the Son of God. In one account of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the three disciples not to tell anyone what they have seen until three days after His crucifixion.

As believers in the Gospel, what can you and I take home from the message of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor? There are four key points to today’s lesson:

First, we have hope, through our faith, just as Jesus was transfigured into another form in Heaven,  we, too, will be resurrected to heave, by faith in the resurrected Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Second, just like the disciples, in spite of lapses in judgment and though we may continue to sin, if we continue to confess our sins, God will forgive our sins and by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, God has a place for us in Heaven. “Though we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sin.”

And third, in spite of our inequities, Christ does not give up on us. As many times as it takes, he will patiently take us to the holy places, to remind us that “He will never leave or forsake us!”

Finally, as was observed earlier in today’s message, as Christ was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, and then be reborn, in spirit and transfigured into a new, that on this earth, as believers we may be transfigured through faith in the Word and the promise of the salvation of the lamb, Jesus. We, too, may have the same vision that what we do on this world in the name of Jesus has the promise and power to transfigure us into a creature that is Holy and Sanctified. However, since Jesus has already died and arisen on the third day, there is no expectation of death’s darkness and silence, but an expectation that we may share the promise of having a new body, transfigured by faith in the fulfillment of Word, now made flesh in Jesus our Savior.

The Scriptures, through the disciples’ accounts of their observation of the   Transfiguration of Jesus, give believers a glimpse of the glorious afterlife we may expect to see when we are resurrected on the day Christ returns in his glory. This will be a day when we will sing, along with the angels of Heaven praises of hallelujah to the glory of the Lord.

The Day that Jesus returns in all of his glory will be a day of judgment; a day of deliverance; a day of our transfiguration.

Until that glorious day that we, as resurrected, transfigured believers are united with the Lord, we ae commissioned by our faith to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus that he died to make us holy and believing the truth of his message will set others free.

Let me finish today’s message by reading from Transfigured by Jay C. Treat, as a prayer (found on the back of today’s Bulletin):

(Dear God in Heaven)

We went up the mountain with Jesus,    

but quite unprepared for a surprise.

We never expected to see him    

transform right in front of our eyes!

His face was as bright as the sunlight;    

his clothes were as bright as the skies.

He talked with Elijah and Moses,    

who stood right in front of our eyes.

We thought we could build them three temples:    

one shrine for the giver of laws,

and one for Elijah the prophet,    

and one for this master of ours.

A bright cloud then covered the mountain.    

A Voice echoed deep from within,

Said, “This is my son, my beloved one!    

He pleases me! Listen to him!”

We came down the mountain with Jesus,    

now ready for any surprise.

We’re ready to listen and follow    

and change right in front of his eyes                                                                        

(In name of Jesus we pray – AMEN)

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #522: Battle Hymn of The Republic

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.

Standing on God’s Promises: The Rainbow Covenant

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Matthew 26_26-28

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Standing on God’s Promises: The Rainbow Covenant’

© February 21, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared with BLCF on  June 13, 2010, on August 10, 2014, and on September 29, 2019

BLCF Bulletin September 29, 2019

BLCF: Bulletin August 10, 2014

June 20_2010 BLCF Bulletin

BLCF: Double-rainbow

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                     

Opening Hymn #225: Standing On the Promises

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

Responsive Reading #668 (The New Life of Prayer – Colossians 3)

Message by Steve Mickelson:  Standing on God’s Promises: The Rainbow Covenant’

Let us pray…

The story of Noah, God’s judgment, the ark full of animals, the great flood and the rainbow found in Book of Genesis is one of the best known to believers and non-believers, alike. The story has been retold in recent movies, where God’s truth is sometimes replaced by science or the imagination of Hollywood Screen Writers.

For this morning’s lesson at BLCF, we will focus our study on the “The Rainbow Covenant”. You may ask the question: “What is meant by the term covenant?” Webster’s Online gives us a couple of definitions which may help us understand. Webster’s definition is as follows:

Cov´e`nant   Pronunciation: k?v´?-n?nt noun

  (Theology) The promises of God as revealed in the Scriptures, conditioned on certain terms on the part of man, as obedience, repentance, faith, etc.I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.- Genenesis xvii. 7.
  A solemn compact between members of a church to maintain its faith, discipline, etc.
  (Law) An undertaking, on sufficient consideration, in writing and under seal, to do or to refrain from some act or thing; a contract; a stipulation; also, the document or writing containing the terms of agreement.

http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Covenant

The Biblical use of covenant describes an agreement between God and either an individual or people. Scholars generally agree that the Scriptures contain about ten covenants. These ten can be divided into one of two types: as either unilaterally coming from God or bilaterally between God and the individuals or people.

Looking at the chart inside the bulletin, near the bottom left, you can get a brief overview with respect to the covenants found in the Holy Scriptures. Six of the Unilateral Covenants are concerned with obedience, sin, the Flood, the descendants of Abraham, the Ten Commandments. The three Bilateral Covenants are referred to as Blood Covenants, involving the patriarchs, Israel and all believers’ salvation. The final covenant is unilateral, which we refer to as the New Covenant between God and believers in the Gospel of Christ.

Let us continue with the story of Noah and God’s Rainbow Covenant, which begins at Genesis 6:1, ending at Genesis 9:17.

Noah’s Ark and the Flood – Story Summary (from about.com):

God saw how great wickedness had become and decided to wipe mankind from the face of the earth. However, one righteous man among all the people of that time, Noah, found favor in God’s eyes. With very specific instructions, God told Noah to build an ark for him and his family in preparation for a catastrophic flood that would destroy every living thing on earth.

God also instructed Noah to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, along with every kind of food to be stored as food for the animals and his family while on the ark. Noah obeyed everything God commanded him to do.

After they entered the ark, rain fell on the earth for a period of forty days and nights. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days, and every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out. As the waters receded, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Noah and his family continued to wait for almost eight more months while the surface of the earth dried out.

Finally after an entire year, God invited Noah to come out of the ark. Immediately, he built an altar and worshiped the Lord with burnt offerings from some of the clean animals. God was pleased with the offerings and promised never again to destroy all the living creatures as he had just done. Later God established a covenant with Noah: “Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” As a sign of this everlasting covenant God set a rainbow in the clouds.

Points of Interest from the Story:

  • God’s purpose in the flood was not to destroy people, but to destroy wickedness and sin. • With more detail, God instructed Noah to take seven of every kind of clean animal, and two of every kind of unclean animal. Bible scholars have calculated that approximately 45,000 animals might have fit on the ark. • Genesis 7:16 interestingly points out that God shut them in the ark, or “closed the door,” so to speak.
  • The ark was exactly six times longer than it was wide. According to the Life Application Bible study notes, this is the same ratio used by modern ship builders. • In modern times researchers continue to look for evidence of Noah’s Ark.
  • Noah was righteous and blameless, but he was not sinless (see Genesis 9:20). Noah pleased God and found favor because he loved and obeyed God with his whole heart. As a result, Noah’s life was an example to his entire generation. Although everyone around him followed the evil in their hearts, Noah followed God.

 http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/p/noahsarkflood.htm

Noah’s Ark was huge! Genesis 6:15 in the Bible tells us the Ark’s dimensions were at least 135 meters long (300 cubits), 22.5 meters wide (50 cubits), and 13.5 meters high (30 cubits). That’s 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high! It could have been larger, because several larger-sized cubits were used. But the 45-centimeter (18-inch) cubit is long enough to show the enormous size of the Ark. A cubit was the length of a man’s arm from fingertips to elbow.

Noah’s Ark was three stories high (Genesis 6:16). Its total deck area was equivalent to the area of about 20 standard college basketball courts or 36 lawn tennis courts. The world had to wait until AD 1884 before the Ark’s size was exceeded, when the Italian liner Eturia was built.

The rectangular dimensions of the Ark show an advanced design in ship-building. Its length of six times its width and 10 times its height would have made it amazingly stable on the ocean. Remember it was made more for floating than sailing, because it wasn’t headed anywhere. The Ark was made to withstand a turbulent ocean voyage, not to be at a certain place at a certain time.

Recent thought on the Ark’s design is that it could have had a slightly tapered top at the front and back, instead of being squared off. But the famous rock formation near Mount Ararat with pointed ends, which some think is Noah’s Ark, is definitely not!

Interestingly, British civil and mechanical engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel built a steamship (the Great Britain) in 1843 that had almost the same proportions as the Ark, although it was smaller. This was regarded as a remarkable feat of Victorian and maritime engineering. The Great Britain was the first large vessel to be propelled by a screw propeller.

In summary, Noah’s Ark was taller than a 3-story building and had a deck area the size of 36 lawn tennis courts. Its length was 300 cubits (450 feet, or 135 meters); its width was 50 cubits (75 feet, or 22.5 meters); it had three stories and its height was 30 cubits (45 feet, or 13.5 meters).

http://www.creationtips.com/arksize.html

Questions and Answers, from: biblia.com

Question: “How long did it take Noah to build the ark? How long was Noah on the ark?”

Answer:  The Bible does not specifically say how long it took Noah to build the ark. When Noah is first mentioned in Genesis 5:32, he was 500 years old. When Noah entered the ark, he was 600 years old. The time it took to build the ark would depend on how much time had passed between Genesis 5:32 and the time that God commanded Noah to build the ark (Genesis 6:14-21). At the absolute most, it took 100 years.

Question: How long was Noah on the ark?

Answer:  Noah entered the ark in the 600th year of his life, on the 17th day of the 2nd month (Genesis 7:11-13). Noah left the ark on the 27th day of the 2nd month of the following year (Genesis 8:14-15). Therefore, assuming a lunar calendar of 360 days, Noah was on the ark for approximately 370 days, the flood lasting for 150 days. Genesis 7:11-13 (ESV):

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12 And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark…

BLCF" Noah's Ark

Genesis 8:14-15 (ESV):

14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15 Then God said to Noah…

Question: How many of each type of animal did Noah take on the ark? Seven pairs of each kind of clean animal and two pairs of each kind of other animals were taken on the ark (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:2-3). By “clean” the Bible means animals that were “acceptable for sacrifice.” That is why seven pairs of the clean animals were taken – so some of them could be sacrificed after the Flood was over without endangering the species. Genesis 6:19-20 (ESV):

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.

Genesis 7:2-3 (ESV):

Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals,[a] the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs[b] of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 7:2 Or seven of each kind of clean animal b. Genesis 7:3 Or seven of each kind

Question: How many people were on Noah’s ark? 

Answer: According to Genesis 7:13, Noah, his wife, Noah’s three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), and their wives were on the ark. Therefore, there were eight people on the ark.

13 On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark,

Question: Who was Noah’s wife?

Answer: The Bible nowhere specifically gives us the name or identity of Noah’s wife. There is a tradition that she was Naamah (Genesis 4:22). While possible, this is not explicitly taught in the Bible, Genesis 4:11 (ESV):

22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

http://biblia.com

It must have been quite a curiosity to others seeing Noah, spending decades building the ark. The dedication of Noah to the task is undeniable. Others continued to offend God and ultimately their fate was sealed by the waters of the Great Flood.

Now let me make a few observations about both God’s judgment and His covenant. Actually, there are two covenants from God; the first was the judgment by God, the penalty of death. We observe that God decides to do a reset and bring the earth back to Day two of creation as told in Genesis 1:6-8, where there are only the waters, with no land. The land came on the third day of creation.

While the judgment may seem harsh, God did not destroy all life by the flood, but He had in the ark, a means to preserve animal life and the human race, both precious to Him. The waters cleansed the world of evil.

It is interesting that Noah sent a dove to determine whether the world was safe in Genesis 8:6-12 (ESV) we read:

6At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove and she did not return to him anymore.

The dove is an interesting choice. Though it is mentioned over fifty times the scriptures, we that the dove is significant in appearance and what it represents in two passages:

Immediately after Jesus was baptized in water by John, we read the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ: Mark’s Gospel 1:10 (ESV): 10And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

So as Jesus was baptized and reborn with the Spirit, the earth is cleansed by water and a dove descends with an olive leaf. I would like to point out that the olive branch has been used as a universal symbol of peace and reconciliation. The city-states of ancient Greece sought to end wars between its states, replacing competition and conflict with the Olympic Games. Wars and battles were suspended for the duration of the competition. The winner a specific event was rewarded not with the medallions of the modern Olympics, but instead a garland of olive branches woven into a crown, the Olympian being crowned as a king of that event. That crown of olive branches brings to mind the crown of thorns Christ wore, as he suffered and died to atone for our sins. In the times of Christ, the oil from olives was used to fuel the lamps of the empire. And the dove carrying the olive leaf to Noah after the flood could be viewed to symbolize the Spirit bringing life, hope, and light to the world.

God made a promise never to destroy human or animal life by flood, again.

Genesis 9:8-17 (ESV)

8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”   

The rainbow is significant in several ways. Like a prism, water mist can diffract or break a beam of light into a spectrum or rainbow of component colours. But you need the presence of water vapour and sunlight, under the right conditions, invisible light becomes visible as a rainbow of colours. Not only does the rainbow symbolize God’s covenant not to kill man or beast by flood, but the rainbow is also an example of the world of the invisible becoming visible. For many people God does not exist, he is invisible. Through faith, as with Noah’s obedience by building the ark and gathering the animals and his family, he was rewarded by being saved from the flood and given the rainbow as a symbol never to bring this judgment upon the people or beasts again.

A few years ago, Sophie and I took a trip to Niagara Falls. Every time we go to the falls, I am always humbled by the beauty and splendor of God’s natural creation. Looking at the millions of liters of water cascading over the waterfall creating the sound of thunder and clouds of mist, you cannot but marvel at the site. I remember as I was walking ahead towards the more spectacular Horseshoe Falls, I saw many in the crowd turning their backs on this natural wonder, looking across to the relatively less spectacular American Falls. Some were taking pictures. As I approached these people, I looked in the same direction and saw nothing. I could not figure out why they were taking pictures of the ordinary downstream gorge when the full power and beauty of the falls were just behind them?

It wasn’t until I continued 20 or 30 meters upstream, along the walkway, towards the falls did I have a glimpse of the object of the crowd’s attention. For as I walked towards the falls, did the mist of the falls mingle with the sunlight to reveal a beautiful rainbow. A few meters down, away from the falls, the rainbow disappeared from view.

It was then that I reflected that this rainbow is truly like God’s presence. For those who believe, who pray, and honour Him, we are rewarded by the rainbow of His presence. But for those unfortunate who reject Him and do not accept Him, there is no rainbow. And like those who cannot see the rainbow, because they lack faith or refuse to accept His gift of love and salvation, the unbelievers believe God does not exist. While they may look at the light, they do not see the hidden beauty of the rainbow that signifies God’s presence. Belief in God is like seeing the beauty hidden within. Faith is rewarded through confessing our sins, reading the scriptures, praying to God, and practicing brotherly love to our neighbors, as well as helping the least of our brothers. Only then are the conditions correct to see God’s rainbow of faith.

BLCF: Matthew_10-16

As followers of Christ, we are admonished to use our intelligence and integrity of faith to meet the challenges and persecution that we face in our Christian walk.

Matthew 10:16 (ESV) tells us that persecution will come:

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

The Holy Spirit helps us to preserve what is Godly in ourselves. We must maintain the innocence of the dove and bring the good news to others as the dove had to Noah, in spite of being persecuted for our faith.

My brother-in-law, Chuck is an avid flier, having obtained his pilot’s license before his license for a car. He spent several years building his open cockpit airplane. My sister Penny told me of the occasion on one of their trips, they passed through a deck of clouds, only to witness what is called a flier’s or pilot’s rainbow, which tradition has it to indicate good fortune, as they are leaving turbulent weather. The pilot’s rainbow is distinctive in that instead of being an arch of colour, the rainbow is a perfect circle surrounding the entire aircraft. I like to think that this might be the heavenly view of the rainbow. The rainbow God sees is a perfect circle, like a wedding band, the circle is continuous, unending, and just like God’s love for us is perfect and without end.

BLCF: Flier's_rainbow

God made another covenant; this one is bilateral but just as perfect, as beautiful, and as unending as the rainbow. Instead of the rainbow, God gave us Jesus Christ, to fulfill His promise, which states that we shall not perish or be destroyed. As Noah had shown by building the ark, filling it with the animals, and his family, we are expected to confess our sins and follow His directions by accepting that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, this sacrifice is God’s gift to us. If we accept the gift of Christ, the lamb, we are saved and we are given the Holy Spirit as a comforter, plus the promise that as Christ overcame death and was resurrected, we too have the promise of overcoming death and eternal life. Jesus Christ is both our ark and rainbow. He provides for us the only way to forgiveness and the promise of life eternal.

BLCF: Jesus-Christ-Cross-Rainbow

In conclusion, anytime you want to witness to others who have yet to accept the sacrifice of Christ, or at times when you find that your own faith falters, remember the Rainbow, it is always there waiting to be revealed to us, when we provide the right conditions by our reading the scriptures, praying for others and ourselves, by showing the love of Christ in all that we think, all that we say, all that we do to all whom we encounter. And remember, it took Noah nearly a century of practicing faith before he saw the fulfillment of God’s promises. But Noah’s legacy was not only a covenant to Noah and his descendants and to us as well. The rainbow is a reminder to Noah, to us, and to God, that our God is just and faithful, and that our faith will be rewarded so long as we allow him to pilot us through life’s troubled waters.

Let us pray…

BLCF: covenant-of-grace

Closing Hymn #446: Jesus Saviour Pilot Me

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.

BLCF: dove_ark_hope_olive_branch

 

 

Demonstrating God’s Love by Actions, Not Just Words

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Demonstrating God’s Love by Actions, Not Just Words’

© February 14, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on June 26, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June-26-2016

 BLCF: Gods_love_for_the_Lost

Reading #645 (Christian Conduct – Galatians 5 and 6); Prayer  

Opening Hymn #512 Lord, Whose Love Through Humble Service; Choruses 

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

Today’s Scriptures: Genesis 4:1-16, Matthew 23:29-35, Romans 6:1-14

BLCF: love_is_a_verb

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship for our Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Happy Valentines Day, a day the world recognizes and honors those for whom we care and love.

Our lesson this morning, entitled Demonstrating God’s Love by Actions, Not Just Words’, where we will look at the importance of a  Christian’s actions as well as words while ministering the Gospel of Jesus as an expression of God’s love as expressed in answering our Commission from the Lord.

Before the advent of Jesus, his ministry on earth, his sacrifice on the cross for our sins, his resurrection from the grave as proof of his supernatural powers, his ascension to heaven, and his gift of the Holy Spirit of God on the Day of Pentecost, humanity was expected to make offerings to the Lord both as a demonstration of faith and a sacrifice for sin.

With the advent of sin which began by the sin of Adam and Eve by eating the forbidden fruit, came a self-awareness of their nakedness, a denial of their sin to their Lord, and a gradual widening of the gap between God and His children.

With the next generation, humanity’s sinful nature did not diminish as we read in the account of Cain and Abel:

Genesis 4:1-16 (ESV) Cain and Abel

BLCF:cain_and_abel

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten[a] a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?[b] And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for[c] you, but you must rule over it.”

Cain spoke to Abel his brother.[d] And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.[e] 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod,[f] east of Eden.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 4:1 Cain sounds like the Hebrew for gotten b. Genesis 4:7 Hebrew will there not be a lifting up [of your face]? C. Genesis 4:7 Or against d. Genesis 4:8 Hebrew; Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate add Let us go out to the field e. Genesis 4:13 Or My guilt is too great to bear f. Genesis 4:16 Nod means wandering

God had asked Cain where his brother Abel, Cain replied, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”  This statement would become a key part of  Christ’s teaching that we love others as Christ loved us.

It is interesting that God does not bring the judgment of death upon Cain for the sin of killing his brother and lying to the Lord, but was to become a homeless refugee, bearing a mark from God less he be killed as well. Before he killed his brother, God had detected an anger and jealousy within Cain towards Abel and had warned Cain not to be consumed by sin which was crouching at his doorstep.

The sins of hatred and murder continued to plague the subsequent generations of humanity, including the actions of the scribes and Pharisees, whom the Lord singled out in Matthew 23:29-35:

Matthew 23:29-35 (ESV)

BLCF: sons_of_Abraham

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,[a] whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 23:35 Some manuscripts omit the son of Barachiah

The Lord’s answer to the sins of hatred is contrary to Cain’s words, that we should act as our “brother’s keepers’ and demonstrate love towards our brothers and sisters as Christ loved us, as we see in 1 John 3:11-18:

1 John 3:11-18 (ESV) Love One Another

BLCF: love-God-neighbor-2

11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Just the Lord admonished Cain to avoid the trap of sin, Christians are admonished to become “dead to sin” and at the same time “alive to God”, as indicated in Romans 6:1-14 :

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

BLCF: dead2sin

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

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

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

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

BLCF: Love-all-serve-all-Mark

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #408: I Will Sing of My Redeemer 

Benediction – (Jude 24-25 – Doxology):                                                                         

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen

 

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

© February 7, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Lesson Shared at BLCF on June 7, 2015

BLCF Bulletin June 7, 2015

BLCF: Power of the Spirit

BLCF: dynamic-duo

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #634: Christian Unity (John 10 and 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4); Prayer

Hymn #188: Come, Holy Ghost, Our souls inspire; Choruses

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

Scripture Verses: Matthew 6:5-13, John 17:1-26, Romans 8:26-27

BLCF: Come-Holy-Spirit

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship for the Sunday, February 7, 2021.

For our lesson today, we will be looking at Prayer and the Holy Spirit, as the two dynamic elements of Faith in Jesus, whose sacrifice is remembered in church when we partake communion. Just as in communion, we are drawn together as a body of believers, in our prayers we are drawn closer to God’s Holy Spirit.

We are living in a time of great challenge that comes with a COVID-19 Pandemic, just as Jesus encouraged us to take communion together, we find with places of worship closed to preserve life and health, the Lord has given us prayer and the gift of the Holy Spirit of God, as a means to overcome the pandemic shutdown and connect with Him and each other by way of prayer. We may pray to the Lord and for each other, unencumbered by physical limitations and restraints caused by the pandemic. Prayer and the Holy Spirit are not bound by the boundaries and limitations of the world, both are pure expressions of the love of God. Love and God may be viewed as synonymous, as we read in 1John 4:16.

If the Holy Spirit is an expression of God’s love, then prayer could be considered the language of His love.

We know that the elements of communion are the bread and juice, but what are the elements of a prayer? Jesus gave us an idea in his response to the disciples’ question: “How should we pray?” in what we commonly refer to today as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

The Scriptures give us two accounts of Jesus’ example as of how to pray in Matthew, Chapter 6 and Luke, Chapter 11. For our lesson, I have chosen the example recorded in Matthew 6:5-13. While most references indicate the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew beginning at verse 9 and ending with verse 13, I find that the four verses previous to verse 9 are just as important, as they explain not just the content of our prayers, but the attitude and manner of expression of the prayers.

Matthew 6:5-13 (ESV) The Lord’s Prayer

BLCF: stop-praying-like-a-pagan

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come,

your will be done,[b]

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

12 and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.[d]

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

There is the common practice among many Churches of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at every service. Such practice runs the risk of just heaping many words publicly as described in Matthew 6:7-8. When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, it was before the Day of Pentecost and so we could understand why the disciples did not discern or understand how to construct a prayer. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s presence brings dynamism to our prayers, and the Spirit with prayer acts as a ‘Dynamic Duo‘ to our faith requests. I am not talking about a Super Hero, but the Spirit delivers dynamism to the prayer. But what do we mean by the term dynamism? Let us check our Wikibits for an answer:

dynamism [dahy-nuh-miz-uh m] /ˈdaɪ nəˌmɪz əm/ noun 1. any of various theories or philosophical systems that seek to explain phenomena of nature by the action of force.

Comparemechanism(def 8),vitalism(def 1).

 2. great energy, force, or power; vigor:

the dynamism of the new governor.
3. Psychology. a habitual mode of reducing or eliminating tension.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dynamism

This synergy of Spirit and faith together make our prayers more than just hollow words. Faith in the Lord brings the Spirit and the Spirit mediates our prayers and His reply.

Just prior to his crucifixion for all our sins, the Lord gave his “High Priestly Prayer.

John 17 (ESV) The High Priestly Prayer

BLCF: John_17

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth.

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Footnotes: a. John 17:15 Or from evil b. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God) c. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God) d. John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God) In verses 17-26 of John 17,

Jesus asks the Father that those who believe and follow him be sanctified, unified and that the love of God that is in Christ will be in them. The manner by which this request by the Lord may be achieved is by way of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ Prayer in John 17 describes how the Lord delivered on his promise to ask the Father to provide another Helper, described as “the Spirit of truth” earlier in John 14:12-17.

John 14:12-17 (ESV)

BLCF: Dove

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[a] anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[b] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[c] in you.

Footnotes: A. John 14:14 Some manuscripts omit me B. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7 C. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

How does the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is part of the Holy Trinity of God, change the manner in which we pray. Here is an excerpt from Ray C. Stedman’s article on The Holy Spirit and Prayer, from a Series: Jesus Teaches Prayer:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Author: Ray C. Stedman:

Read the Scripture: John 14:12-17

BLCF: Prayer_Family

It is significant to note that, though Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, he did teach them how to pray. Much of his teaching on prayer is found in this rich and fragrant passage, which is called The Upper Room Discourse, found in John, Chapters 13 through 17. It is a passage that is filled with astonishing concepts.

I know of no more challenging part of the Word of God than this. It is a vast area of mystery and beauty and glory. I never read it without feeling tremendously humbled in the experience of it. Perhaps in this place, more fully than anywhere else, our Lord unfolds to us the unique secret of Christianity, that aspect of life that has been called “the exchanged life.”

This is the secret of a Christian: He is not living his own life, he is living another’s life. Or, more accurately, another is living his life in him. Until you have grasped that as the mystery and key of Christian living you have not graduated from the kindergarten level of the Christian life.

This is what Jesus says: “In you” means that you are under the control of the Holy Spirit, and yielding obedience to his totalitarian sovereignty. It means the total collapse of all your rebellion against him.

“Oh,” you say, “I’m not in rebellion against the Spirit of God. Why, I’m a Christian. I don’t rebel against him.” Let me ask you: “What kind of life are you living? Is it God-centered, or is it self-centered? Is it to please yourself that your activities are done and your desires aimed?” Then you are in rebellion against the Spirit of God, and to have him dwelling in you means the total collapse of all that revolt until you are saying, “Lord Jesus, whatever you say, your word is my command. I am ready to obey.”

It is not our relationship with Jesus Christ which counts before the world, it is our resemblance to him.

http://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/prayer/the-holy-spirit-and-prayer

Unlike the disciples in Matthew 6 or Luke 11, we need not worry how to word our prayers, as we are accompanied by the Holy Spirit to help us express our concerns and to intercede on our behalf, as we see in Romans 8:26-27:

Romans 8:26-27

BLCF: Lord's Prayer

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Footnotes: a. Romans 8:27 Or that

In spite of understanding that the Holy Spirit facilitates prayer, many Christians struggle with how to receive the Holy Spirit. For we receive the Spirit by faith. Author Bill Bright describes three steps in the Scriptures to our being filled with the Holy Spirit in his article, The Steps to Being Filled with the Holy Spirit:

The Steps to Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

By faith, you can trust God right now to fill you

by Bill Bright

BLCF: broken_sinned_forgiven_saved

Millions of Christians are begging God, as I once did, for something which is readily available — just waiting to be appropriated by faith. They are seeking some kind of emotional experience, not realizing that such an attitude on their part is an insult to God — a denial of faith. But faith is the only way you can please God. Though you are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith and faith alone, it is important to recognize that several factors contribute to preparing your heart for the filling of the Spirit.

First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord. You have the promise of our Savior, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul admonishes in Romans 12:1, 2: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Third, confess every known sin which the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness which God promises in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I call this process “Spiritual Breathing.”

Just as you exhale and inhale physically, so you also breathe spiritually. You exhale spiritually when you confess your sins.

http://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/classics/transferable-concepts/be-filled-with-the-holy-spirit.7.html

The Holy Spirit provides for a dynamic dialog between God and the believers. Without the Spirit, prayer consists of hollow words with little hope of being heard by the Lord, let alone any reply. It is the Spirit acting as an Intermediary between the Lord and the believer that brings a Devine understanding to our deepest concerns far better than we can put them into words. As an Intercessor, the Spirit brings Devine comfort, encouragement, and eventually understanding to the issues that we raise. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we may be assured that anything, for which we pray, according to the Lord’s will, will be heard and answered, 1 John 5:14 (ESV):

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Let us pray…

Hymn #392: Take Time to Be Holy

Benediction – (Psalm 19:14): Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

BLCF: faith_thanking-God_in_advance

Faith like a Kite

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: a Bird and a Kite

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith like a Kite’

© January 31, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Base on a Lesson Shared at BLCF on March 15, 2015

BLCF Bulletin March 15, 2015

BLCF: fly_a_kite

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #611 (Comfort from God – from Isaiah 40); Prayer

Opening Hymn #191: Spirit of God in the Clear Running Water; Choruses

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

 Scripture Verses: Leviticus 11:13-19, Mark 7:1-23, Ezekiel 10:8-22

BLCF: Red Hi-Flier Kite

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where I would like to share with you a lesson entitled: ‘Faith like a Kite.’

January is a month frequented by clear, blustery days. Just the other day, as the wind picked up the paper and other debris, I was reminded of a day in my youth, well over fifty years ago in San Antonio, Texas.

My family lived in a house in a new subdivision, that bordered on some old ranch or farmland that seemed to have been neglected for many years, where the Prickly Pear cacti, Spanish Dagger, Live Oak, and Honey Mesquite had returned, growing over most of the landscape.

Our house was located on a corner lot, located on the border of the subdivision, called “Valley Hi”. To the east of the house was Lackland Air Force Base, which located west of the city of San Antonio. To the west of our house, was a field, beyond which was a six-lane highway that looped around the city. West of Loop 410, was the overgrown forest that was eventually to be developed into Phase 2 of the Valley Hi Housing development. With no apologies to composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II or to author James A. Michener, it seemed to me that the local Valley Hi Mall would constantly play, as background music for shoppers, the Soundtrack from stage play/movie South Pacific, including “Bali Hi.”

BLCF: boy_flying_kite

At this time of my life, my favorite activities included riding my bike, exploring the local overgrown woods, and on windy days, flying a kite. Often my mom would send me to the local ice house, the Texas equivalent of Ontario’s milk stores, to pick up any grocery items that she required for dinner that day. For my efforts, I was allowed to keep a dime or quarter of the change from the purchase, which I could use as I pleased. A penny would buy a stick of Double Bubble gum or two of Bazooka gum. Six cents would get me a Popsicle from a Cravy Ice Cream truck.

BLCF: Cravy Ice Cream Truck

With a dime, I could purchase a comic book. While a quarter was the price of a copy of Mad Magazine or a kite kit. I chose the kite. Now you may wonder why not make my own? Well to construct a kite, you would need to have paper for the kite, wood (like that found on the side of orange crates), string, and glue to secure the seam of a loop around the kite’s perimeter, through which string would be threaded and attached to a wooden cross that secured the frame of the kite.

BLCF: diamond_kite

A large grocery bag and string could easily be procured, but the orange crate would be more difficult to obtain. And a small bottle of Elmer’s glue would cost 15 cents. If I saved up a dime more, I could purchase a complete kite kit, which included a small plastic piece that held the two wooden cross pieces together. I would have to save an additional 15 cents to buy a spool of 100 yards of twine or string for the kite. The kites sold by the ice house came in only one color, dark red.

The simple diamond kit could be assembled in five minutes, but I learned early on that the kite needed a tail, made of cloth for stability. Otherwise, the kite would circle in ever-larger cycles, until it dove into the ground. Mom kept a bag of rags, made from worn shirts and blouses, for cleaning jobs around the house and provided the ideal material needed to construct a tail for the kite.

BLCF: Hi-Flier Kite 2

My dad worked six days a week at two jobs to pay the bills, including the medical expenses for my sister, Rhona, who was confined to a wheelchair, after suffering from a spinal injury when she was just three years old. Sunday was our family day, where we would have an evening bar-b-que dinner. Dad would serve as master of the grill or the grill meister.

It was on a warm windy afternoon that dad had invited  Malcolm, a co-worker over for dinner. Malcolm was a young man, about half dad’s age, but still, he was over twice my age.  On that blustery day, in order to pass the time while waiting for the Mesquite charcoal to burn white, I had decided to fly my new kite which I had assembled the day before.

When Malcolm had arrived, my kite was airborne and I had played out about a third of the 100 yards of twine. The strong wind, from the east, had caused the kite to rise up only 10 yards above the ground. Usually, the weight of the string prevented you from using more than a spool before the kite would fall to the earth. But this was not the case on this windy Sunday afternoon. Soon, I had reached the end of the spool of twine, but I had another spool inside the house. Malcolm has sensed that this flight was unusual and agreed to take control of the string while I retrieved the other spool of twine and tied it to the first.

BLCF: red-diamond-kite-10

Dinner was served, and rather than reel in the kite, Malcolm, my dad and I, each took turns manning the kite string, while the others ate. It was after supper, as we neared the end of the second spool that Malcolm offered to go to the ice house and purchase more twine, commenting that we might have the makings of a world record in the kite world.  And so the third spool of twine was added, and the red kite seemed like a dot in the late afternoon sky. Eventually, Malcolm made two more trips to get more twine, making the total length of the five spools some 500 yards. The twine ran west from the back yard, over 200 yards of the field, the six lanes of the highway, and far over the woods that lay beyond, disappearing into the red setting sun. But, at sunset, as often happens in that part of the country, the winds that chased the sun paused, as if to catch its breath, and suddenly the red kite, like the sun, fell down from sight, its four-hour flight had ended.

BLCF: KiteFlying

I realized that the kite was lost. It was dark, tomorrow was a school day, and by the time I came home in the afternoon of the next day, it would be difficult to find the remnants of the twine across the highway, as passing cars and trucks would have severed the string.

For a time, with the help of a stiff wind, the kite had overcome the force of gravity, the combined weight of five hundred yards of twine, and provided us with a flight to remember.

BLCF: how-does-a-kite-fly

As a Christian, I believe that, in some respects, flying a kite is like faith in God. In part, our faith relies upon the invisible Holy Spirit to lift us, spiritually, towards God in Heaven. Both the wind and the Spirit are invisible and without form, but are capable of doing something supernatural, beyond nature.

The kite, by design, provides lift in the presence of the wind, overcoming gravity, and rising above the earth. The string provides, by way of tension, the resistance required to facilitate the upward lift for the kite. The tail provides stability to the kite while keeping it in a vertical orientation.

The Holy Spirit acts as the wind with the kite, enables our faith to be lifted closer to God. The Bible, which is the Word of God, acts as the tail of the kite; keeping our faith stable and oriented towards Him. The string is like our belief in the Gospel of Christ and the truth in the Scriptures. All of these aspects of faith are necessary and work together to enable us to transcend the limitations of the world and climb towards that which is Spiritual.

After I wrote this message, I looked online for some graphics to illustrate today’s bulletin, when I post it on our BLOG. In my search, I found that several others had authored similar posts that compared flying a kite to some aspect of Christian faith, though with mixed reactions from readers. Many of the negative responses included comments that comparing faith to flying a kite was to trivialize one’s faith in God and the Gospel of Christ. After all , there is no mention of kites in the Bible, or is there?

Well, yes and no. One of our Scripture verses, used in today’s lesson, does mention a kite; in Leviticus 11:13-19 (ESV):

Clean and Unclean Animals

BLCF: unclean_food

13 “And these you shall detest among the birds;[a] they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle,[b] the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 14 the kite, the falcon of any kind, 15 every raven of any kind, 16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, 18 the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, 19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Footnotes: a. Leviticus 11:13 Or things that fly; compare Genesis 1:20 b. Leviticus 11:13 The identity of many of these birds is uncertain

But what kind of kite is described in Leviticus 14? We have three common definitions for a kite:

BLCF: scissortailedkite

Kite kīt noun: kite; plural noun: kites                                                                                

1. a toy consisting of a light frame with thin material stretched over it, flown in the wind at the end of a long string.                                                                              

2. Sailing informal – a spinnaker or other high, light sail.                                          

3. A medium to large long-winged bird of prey that typically has a forked tail and frequently soars on updrafts of air.

https://www.google.ca/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=&oq=kite+definition&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4RVEB_enCA601CA602&q=kite+definition&gs_l=hp…0l5.0.0.2.79948………..0.EdKQjgwemhg

Kite, as used in this Scripture, is a bird that is unclean and not fit to eat. I do not think it likely to have a flying toy or part of the watercraft on the menu! That is why many readers object to us saying faith is like an unclean bird. Is the kite really unclean, as stated in the old Mosaic Laws? We find our answer in Mark 7:1-12(ESV):

Traditions and Commandments

BLCF: dietary_rules

7 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly,[a] holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.[b] And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.[c]) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,     

but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,     

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)[d]12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Well if the Lord said that, spiritually speaking, we are not defined by what we eat, which makes kites no longer unclean, what is it that does make a person unclean? Let us continue reading Mark 7, Mark 7:14-21(ESV):

What Defiles a Person

BLCF: defiles

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”[e] 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”[f] (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 7:3 Greek unless they wash the hands with a fist, probably indicating a kind of ceremonial washing b. Mark 7:4 Greek unless they baptize; some manuscripts unless they purify themselves c. Mark 7:4 Some manuscripts omit and dining couches e. Mark 7:11 Or an offering f. Mark 7:15 Some manuscripts add verse 16: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear g. Mark 7:19 Greek goes out into the latrine

But even though kite, the toy, is designed to imitate the bird having the same name, some continue to argue that we demean our belief in God by comparing our faith to an object that is just a toy and behaviour that is not serious. After all, we all understand the meaning of the phrase: “Go fly a kite!”

Go fly a kite! Verb See Go chase yourself! See also: fly

Go fly a kite!   (mainly American informal) – something that you say in order to tell someone who is annoying you to go away Go fly a kite! It’s just not funny anymore.

http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Go+fly+a+kite!

BLCF: kite warning

But flying a kite is not a trivial pursuit. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin used a kite, an iron key, a thin metal wire, and a Leyden jar to confirm that lightning was static electricity.

BLCF: Franklin Kite

Hargrave kites were used in the early 1900s to carry weather instruments aloft.

BLCF: Hargrave_weather-kite

The Nares Life Kite was used to save sailors from stormy seas.

BLCF: Nares Life Kite

The Wright Brothers Flyer, the world’s first heavier than aircraft was developed on a design based on a large kite that carried the first human aloft.

BLCF: WrightBrothers1900Glider

And the world’s first suspension bridge across Niagara Gorge began with a kite-flying contest.

The following kite article was posted on:

MEETING IN THE CLOUDS BLOG – by Angela (No Surname)

The Massive Bridge Started From A Kite String (Posted on June 27, 2014 )

 BLCF: Niagra_bridge_started_with_a_kite

Nearly 170 years ago, the mighty Niagara Falls, previously known only to the local Native Americans, was becoming the new tourism Mecca, but the only way to cross the imposing gorge was to go upstream and take a turbulent ride in a small ferry. A bridge spanning the gorge was envisioned to provide a highway over the gorge and allow commerce and people to pass more freely between Canada and the United States.

The Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company in Canada, and the International Bridge Company in USA were given the charter to build a bridge but leading engineers of Europe and North America quickly advised it could not be done.

Charles Ellet, Jr. was hired to construct the bridge. The building of a suspension bridge is commenced with stretching a line or wire across the stream. However, the turbulent roaring rapids, the 800-foot wide gap, and the 225-foot high sheer cliffs of the Whirlpool Gorge made a direct crossing impossible. Ellet and his colleagues held a dinner meeting at the Eagle Hotel in the Village of Niagara Falls, to brainstorm the problem. Ellet proposed the use of a rocket. A bombshell hurled by a cannon was also suggested. Local ironworker, Theodore G. Hulett suggested offering a cash prize to the first boy who could fly his kite to the opposite bank.

Ultimately the bridge engineer chose the idea inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s experiment with a kite. Organizing a kite-flying contest, he offered $5 to any boy who flew a kite across the gorge and secured the kite string to the other side. Youths from nearby towns flocked in to participate. 16-year-old Homan Walsh finally got his kite across the gorge and secured its line to a tree.

Using the kite line across the 800-foot chasm, Charles Ellet and his team tied a heavier line to the kite string and pulled the joined lines across. They pulled successive heavier and stronger lines across until the final bridge cable—7⁄8 inch thick—was hanging across the gorge.

He built a temporary suspension bridge as the first part of his plan. On January 31, 1848 the Buffalo Dailey Courier published this account; “We have this day joined the United States and Canada with a cord, and are making preparations to extend a foot bridge across by the first of June” 

Not long after, Ellet left the project after a bitter financial dispute with the bridge companies. A three-year hiatus followed before the companies hired John Augustus Roebling to complete the project. Roebling used Ellet’s bridge as scaffolding to build the double-decked bridge. By 1854 his bridge was nearly complete, and the lower deck was opened for pedestrian and carriage travel. On March 18 1855, a fully laden passenger train drove across the upper deck at 5 miles per hour and officially opened the completed bridge. This massive structure started with a kite string.

https://meetingintheclouds.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/this-massive-bridge-started-from-a-kite-string/

So while flying a kite may seem like a trivial pursuit, serving no practical purpose, we see that having faith in God is viewed by unbelievers in the same light.

Ezekiel 10:8-22 (ESV)

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The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings.

And I looked, and behold, there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub, and the appearance of the wheels was like sparkling beryl. 10 And as for their appearance, the four had the same likeness, as if a wheel were within a wheel. 11 When they went, they went in any of their four directions[a] without turning as they went, but in whatever direction the front wheel[b] faced, the others followed without turning as they went. 12 And their whole body, their rims, and their spokes, their wings,[c] and the wheels were full of eyes all around—the wheels that the four of them had. 13 As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing “the whirling wheels.” 14 And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of the cherub, and the second face was a human face, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.

15 And the cherubim mounted up. These were the living creatures that I saw by the Chebar canal. 16 And when the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them. And when the cherubim lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the wheels did not turn from beside them. 17 When they stood still, these stood still, and when they mounted up, these mounted up with them, for the spirit of the living creatures[d] was in them.

18 Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.

20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces, and each four wings, and underneath their wings the likeness of human hands. 22 And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the Chebar canal. Each one of them went straight forward.

Footnotes: a. Ezekiel 10:11 Hebrew to their four sides b. Ezekiel 10:11 Hebrew the head c. Ezekiel 10:12 Or their whole body, their backs, their hands, and their wings e. Ezekiel 10:17 Or spirit of life

What does this passage, which describes a vision of a creature having the face of an eagle mean?

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Ezekiel 10:8-22

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Ezekiel sees the working of Divine providence in the government of the lower world, and the affairs of it. When God is leaving a people in displeasure, angels above, and all events below, further his departure. The Spirit of life, the Spirit of God, directs all creatures, in heaven and on earth, so as to make them serve the Divine purpose. God removes by degrees from a provoking people; and, when ready to depart, would return to them, if they were a repenting, praying people. Let this warn sinners to seek the Lord while he may be found, and to call on him while he is near, and cause us all to walk humbly and watchfully with our God.

http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=26&c=10

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Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #355: I’m Pressing on the Upward Way

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.

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David Over Goliath: A Victory of Faith

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: david-vs-goliath

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘David Over Goliath: A Victory of Faith’

 © January 24, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 25, 2016

BLCF: September-25-2016

BLCF: God_Lord

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #602 (Divine Deliverance – Psalm 33) of Prayer; Prayer

Opening Hymn #255: Would You Be Free from the Burden

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

Today’s Scripture: 1 Samuel 17:1-54, (Additional Scriptures: Psalm 33:13-19, Matthew 4:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service here at BLCF Church.

For our lesson today, we will discuss the contest between David of the People of Israel and Goliath the champion of the Philistines, described in today’s featured Scripture, 1 Samuel 17:1-54 (ESV). Because of the length of the passage, we cannot include the Scripture in today’s Bulletin and ask that you follow along in the pew Bibles.

David and Goliath

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 17 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six[a] cubits[b] and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels[c] of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years.[d]13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah[e] of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock,35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath[f] and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

Footnotes: a. 1 Samuel 17:4 Hebrew; Septuagint, Dead Sea Scroll and Josephus four b. 1 Samuel 17:4 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters c. 1 Samuel 17:5 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams d. 1 Samuel 17:12 Septuagint, Syriac; Hebrew advanced among men e. 1 Samuel 17:17 An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters f. 1 Samuel 17:52 Septuagint; Hebrew Gai

BLCF: david-and-goliath-bible-story

I would like to make some observations with respect to the account of David versus Goliath. It is clear that Goliath was a very tall individual, over 6 cubits tall. A cubit being approximately 18 inches, which makes the Philistine warrior over 9 feet or 270 cm feet tall. To understand the size of Goliath’s frame, we read that the weight of his chainmail coat was some 125 lbs. or about 56.7 Kilos!

Goliath, acting as a champion for the Philistine army, challenged the army of Israel to provide a champion so that the two champions would fight to the death. The people of the victor would find the people of his opponent surrendering to enslavement to the side of the victor.

While members of the army of Israel, fled in fear from the Philistine giant, young David, a juvenile who was deemed to be too young and small to join the ranks of the army of Israel, was outraged by the offensive remarks made by Goliath against God. He sought to answer Goliath’s challenge to Israel by volunteering to his people’s champion in the contest.

BLCF: the-battle-belongs-to-the-Lord

The key part of this passage is 1 Samuel 17:31-37 (ESV), is where David acknowledges that God delivered him from the lion and the bear, and God will deliver him from the hand of Goliath:

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock,35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

When King Saul heard of David’s remarks about the challenge, he had young David brought before him. But when the King saw the conviction of faith in young David, he granted the request, saying “Go, and the Lord be with you.” Saul’s comment about God going to battle with David reveals that both Saul and David shared a strong faith in the power of God to protect the champion for God’s chosen people, Israel.

We see that David refused the armor and weapons offered by Saul as he had not tested or trained with them, choosing instead to face his opponent armed solely with a sling, five smooth stones from a nearby brook, and confidence that the Lord will deliver him.

And after David arrived at the place of combat between the two armies, we see the two combatants exchange words, 1 Samuel 17:41-47:

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

David’s victory over an enemy of God’s chosen people, the People of Israel, was a victory of faith and trust in God. For it is only the supernatural power of God, given as faith’s reward, not any earthly weapon or tool, which enables us to defeat the devil, sin and death, as we see in Psalm 33:13-19 (ESV):

BLCF: keep_calm_power_in_name_of_jesus

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

The eye of the Lord was upon David, who came upon the field of combat, not as a king or might warrior, but a humble shepherd. David was chosen because of his great faith, not because of his physical strength, stature, or soldering experience. King Saul could have searched, and possibly found a giant warrior among his ranks to battle Goliath, electing instead to select a young warrior of great faith. A victory by a similar sized warrior of similar stature to Goliath would likely have been credited to human skill or weapons, but David’s victory would reveal God’s greater power at work.

Not only was David, a young shepherd, with no experience as a warrior, but with an abundance of faith in God, who deftly demonstrated how the Lord empowers the meek to defeat those who oppose Him.

Another example of God electing to demonstrate His power through a humble personage is our Lord, Jesus,  the Son of God, who was born in a modest stable, arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey, washed the feet of his disciples as an example of his ministry, and  surrendered his life in payment for the judgment of the sins of humanity.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we know Jesus was tested by the devil immediately after his baptism where he received the Holy Spirit, Matthew 4:1-11 (ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

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 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus fought the devil’s  temptation of both body and spirit, using the Word of God to defeat the devil.

Just as David used a faith in God, along with sling and a pebble, to defeat a mighty opponent, Goliath, which in turn led to the defeat of the Philistine army, Jesus used the Scriptures to defeat a greater foe, the devil. David used a sling to fire pebbles that were smoothed in a natural stream by the hand of God, not in the forge of man. The victory came from God’s supernatural power given in reward to David’s stalwart faith.

The Word of God has power, when spoken by a believer, but is perceived as foolishness to those lacking faith, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (ESV):

 Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

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

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

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

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[b] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[c] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[d] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 1:21 Or the folly of preaching b. 1 Corinthians 1:26 Greek according to the flesh c. 1 Corinthians 1:29 Greek no flesh d. 1 Corinthians 1:30 Greek And from him

Only God can enable a young shepherd armed with a sling and pebble and heart of faith defeat a giant opponent and ultimately an army.

In the same manner, God empowers his son, Jesus, to overcome the judgment of death for all believers, defeating the devil’s plan to bring death and destruction upon humanity. The key word in this statement is believers, who have unconditional faith in the unconditional love of God.

Faith in Christ gives us a victory over the devil, over the judgment for sin. Faith in the Lord rewards believers with the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit and a victory over death by the promise of eternal life, our own resurrection, and life eternal on the day Jesus returns.

Let us pray…

BLCF: holy-spirit-as-power

Closing Hymn #225: Standing on the Promises

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):                                                                            

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: david-goliath

Four Blood Moons, a Sign from God: Prophetic Fallacy or Fact?

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Prologue

If you have arrived at this page as a result of using a search engine to find a publication on Blood Moons, eclipses, or other astronomical or heavenly phenomena as related to the end times or final days or end of the world, congratulations you are not alone. Perhaps the COVID-19 Pandemic has caused more fear resulting in more  attention being given to such heavenly events. This is an updated revision of one the more popular lessons shared from this virtual pulpit.

Contrary to Hagee and other self-proclaimed prophets who attempt to use NASA Charts to sell their books, we should remember the message of the Gospel of Jesus is intended to be shared freely, not purchased from a book. God’s wealth is spiritual. not intended to be commercialized.

It should be pointed out that contrary to the Bible, no eclipse (solar or lunar) and no Blood Moon (Regular or Super), found in NASA’s charts referenced by Yanover, Hagee, and Martin is visible to all people and locations around the world, at the same time. By contrast, the Bible verses referenced by these self-proclaimed prophets describes heavenly events visible to all of humanity at the same time. The claim that events such blood moons and eclipses predicted by NASA are portents of celestial events referenced in the Scriptures, signaling God’s Day of Judgment, known as the End of Days or Armageddon is near, is simply wrong.

14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 

16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Today is a time fraught with many potential dangers. such as a deadly Pandemic and political strife, making it easy to listen to warnings especially from those who claim a prophetic understanding of such events that give us pause. It is at such times the Lord wants us to view such circumstances with open eyes, by reading the Bible, through prayer, and listening to the guidance of His Holy Spirit, so that the devil is not allowed to lead us astray from God’s Word, as Satan always tries to do. Be skeptical of anyone who claims to be a prophet or spokesperson of God, but for the price of their book or a donation to their mission. The Lord intended His Gospel to be shared freely to people. unto the ends of the earth, not part of the Book of the Month Club.

Today’s lesson will challenge flawed prophetic assertions with Biblical truths. Please read the lesson for yourself and see whether their “scientific” facts presented as a prophetic explanation  of celestial events are actually just a case of conflating one thing for another, whether they be similar or not. You be the judge of what are Biblical truths and what are not and what is given with the intention of selling a book or promoting a lecture tour, and what is the Gospel of the Lord.

Blessings,

Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Four Blood Moons, a Sign from God: Prophetic Fallacy or Fact?

© January 17, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF, on April 22, 2018 and on February 2, 2014

BLCF Bulletin April 22, 2018

BLCF Bulletin February 2, 2014

 Romans 16:17-19

17 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God                                                

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 47:1-15 and Galatians 2:11-21

Message by Stephen Mickelson:

‘Four Blood Moons, a Sign from God: Prophetic Fallacy or Fact?‘ 

 

First Scripture Reading: Isaiah 47:1-15 (ESV): The Humiliation of Babylon

47 Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
tender and delicate.
2 Take the millstones and grind flour,
put off your veil,
strip off your robe, uncover your legs,
pass through the rivers.
3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
and your disgrace shall be seen.
I will take vengeance,
and I will spare no one.
4 Our Redeemer—the Lord of hosts is his name—
is the Holy One of Israel.

5 Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans;
for you shall no more be called
the mistress of kingdoms.
6 I was angry with my people;
I profaned my heritage;
I gave them into your hand;
you showed them no mercy;
on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.
7 You said, “I shall be mistress forever,”
so that you did not lay these things to heart
or remember their end.

8 Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
who sit securely,
who say in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
or know the loss of children”:
9 These two things shall come to you
in a moment, in one day;
the loss of children and widowhood
shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries
and the great power of your enchantments.

10 You felt secure in your wickedness,
you said, “No one sees me”;
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me.”
11 But evil shall come upon you,
which you will not know how to charm away;
disaster shall fall upon you,
for which you will not be able to atone;
and ruin shall come upon you suddenly,
of which you know nothing.

12 Stand fast in your enchantments
and your many sorceries,
with which you have labored from your youth;
perhaps you may be able to succeed;
perhaps you may inspire terror.
13 You are wearied with your many counsels;
let them stand forth and save you,
those who divide the heavens,
who gaze at the stars,
who at the new moons make known
what shall come upon you.

14 Behold, they are like stubble;
the fire consumes them;
they cannot deliver themselves
from the power of the flame.
No coal for warming oneself is this,
no fire to sit before!

15 Such to you are those with whom you have labored,
who have done business with you from your youth;
they wander about, each in his own direction;
there is no one to save you.

Second Scripture Reading: Galatians 2:11-21 (ESV) Paul Opposes Peter

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.[a] 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Justified by Faith

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[b] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness[c] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Footnotes: a. Galatians 2:12 Or fearing those of the circumcision b.Galatians 2:16 Or counted righteous (three times in verse 16); also verse 17 c. Galatians 2:21 Or justification

Let us pray…

We begin today’s lesson by reading an excerpt of a sensational Headline science news article published in the UK Daily Express online newspaper article published bearing the byline of  SEAN MARTIN , PUBLISHED: 15:00, Wed, Jan 31, 2018 | UPDATED: 15:21, Wed, Jan 31, 2018:

A BIBLICAL prophecy came true during the lunar eclipse as an earthquake struck as the blood moon rose – just as a Pastor had predicted. Blood Moon 2018 bible prophecy TRUE: Earthquake hits Papua New Guinea same time as eclipse

In the early hours of January 31, the moon began to turn red as it started coming out of the shadow of Earth.

Many had linked the super blue blood moon phenomenon to a sign from God, and none more so that Pastor John Hagee, whose book Four Blood Moons sparked worldwide interest in the event.

At 9.48 local time over the Pacific, the moon began to turn red.

However, just 60 seconds later, a strong 5.8 magnitude struck Papua New Guinea.

Pastor Hagee pointed to the Book of Joel, claiming that this was a sign from God.

Chapter Two of the Book of Joel says that the “sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood” before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Hagee said: “God is sending us a signal. Something huge is about to happen. Something is going to change, forever.

“It’s not just a single story. It’s in Genesis and repeated in Joel and again in Joshua and again in Luke and then, finally, in Revelation.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/912596/blood-moon-bible-meaning-eclipse-2018-prophecy-earthquake

One may ask the question “What is wrong with the above article, crediting natural events that link a pastor’s prediction with the Bible?” A better question might be: “Who does the Bible indicate can predict the second coming? Is it any person, or the angels of heaven,  or Jesus, or the Father in heaven?”

One may also ask: What is the relationship between today’s two Scriptures, Isaiah 47:1-15 and Galatians 2:11-21? One describes the ‘Humiliation of Babylon’; the other ‘Paul’s Opposition to Peter’. While the topics seem to differ, both describe conduct that is not in step with the Gospel and therefore in opposition to God.

We see in Isaiah 47, particularly Verses 12 to 14 the dangers of using cosmic events to predict the actions of God:

12 Stand fast in your enchantments
and your many sorceries,
with which you have labored from your youth;
perhaps you may be able to succeed;
perhaps you may inspire terror.
13 You are wearied with your many counsels;
let them stand forth and save you,
those who divide the heavens,
who gaze at the stars,
who at the new moons make known
what shall come upon you.

14 Behold, they are like stubble;
the fire consumes them;
they cannot deliver themselves
from the power of the flame.

The Prophet Isaiah compares using stars to create prophecies attributed to God as an act of sorcery, condemning the stargazer to a judgment of fire and ultimately death.

The practice of using the relative location of the stars and planets to predict God’s actions falls within the realm of astrology. Astrology focuses upon the position and relationship of heavenly bodies as an omen or portent to predict significant future events.

The Galatians 2 Scriptures describe how the Apostle Peter (Cephas) erroneously believed that in order to become a follower of the Way of Christ, the Gentiles must first convert to Judaism. The Apostle Paul, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, is able to convince Peter of the fallacy of the practice that required an individual’s conversion to one religion, as a prerequisite for the other. More significantly, the New Covenant through Christ eliminated many of the old Mosaic observances and practices that were mandated to become justified unto God.

Though the Lord did instruct the disciples to partake the elements of Communion at his ‘Last Supper’, which happened to occur at the Jewish Celebration of a Passover Supper, Jesus’ death on the cross removed many of the dietary rules and observances as a path to being justified before God. By the same token, circumcision was no longer necessary to qualify as a member of God’s chosen people. The New Covenant required confession of sin, faith in Jesus’s sacrifice for the sin of the world, a willingness to be baptized of the Spirit and to follow the Way of Christ. The feasts, sacrificial offerings, and governance of the Mosaic Law had given way to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

 

Understanding the dangers of astrology and misinterpreting the Gospel of Jesus, it is surprising to see the rise in popularity, particularly in Christian circles, an attempt to predict the return of Jesus, through celestial events, such as the event described as the “Four Blood Moons”. According to some self-proclaimed prophets, four blood red moons are supposed to be a sign of the Lord’s return. This prophecy, just as the circumcision prerequisite for Christian conversion by Cephas in Galatians 2, makes the fundamental mistake of attempting to color events of God’s New Covenant in Christ, under the constraints of the old Jewish Feasts and practices. To understand what is meant by the four blood moons, let me refer to an article from the jewishpress.com, authored by Yori Yanover:

Messianic Blood Moon Rising on Passover Seder Night

By: Yori Yanover

Published: October 6th, 2013, Latest update: October 11th, 2013

There will be a string of four “blood moons” in the year 5775, and one of them will shine over the Passover Seder. Whenever this happened in the past, enormous events took place in Jewish history.

It starts with the Book of Joel, Chapter 3:3-4: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”

The verse about the sun turning dark and the moon turning to blood, is at the center of a new, hot, Christian bestseller titled “Four Blood Moons,” by Pastor John Hagee. It is based on a discovery by Pastor Mark Biltz, who runs a “Hebrew roots” ministry in Tacoma, Washington: Red Moons.

Biltz’s website declares: “We do not want to convert Jews to Christianity or Christians to Judaism,” which works for me. He based his observation on the verse in Genesis 1:14: “And God said, Let there be lights in the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.”

God originally plans to use the heavenly lights as signs, and the prophet Joel foretells that a blood moon would mark the day of the Lord – then it stands to reason that some dramatic stuff should be taking place when a blood moon is up in the sky.

The science of the “blood moon” phenomenon is fairly simple. It is created by a partial lunar eclipse. When the Earth’s shadow covers the moon completely, we get a total eclipse. A partial lunar eclipse happens when the Earth’s shadow covers the moon only partially. The earth atmosphere bends light around its edge, and scatters out shorter-wavelength light (green through violet), leaving longer-wavelength light (red, orange, and yellow) in the Earth’s shadow. This is also why sunsets and sunrises generally appear red.

As is the case with most miraculous events that can be explained scientifically, the miracle is not in the natural phenomenon, but rather in its timing. So the Book of Joel describes solar eclipse, followed by a partial lunar eclipse, as precursors of the Day of the Lord.

The prophecy in Joel, like most prophecies, is surreal, beautiful, and open to many interpretations. But we can take away from it the notion of a blood moon as a sign, and check out the calendar for the next bunch of partial lunar eclipses.

That’s what Pastor Biltz did, he looked at NASA’s tables for solar and lunar eclipses and found a string of lunar and solar eclipses happening in 2014 and 2015 and then nothing like it for the rest of the 21st century. In 2015 there will be two solar and lunar eclipses two weeks apart (on the new moon and full moon) one in the spring and one in the fall. This could possibly produce four blood moon eclipses in a row, which is definitely something to write home about.

OK, now hold on to your seats, please: we’ve had the Tetrad phenomenon (a string of four moons partially or completely eclipsed,) twice in the last century, both times on the night of the Passover Seder: in 5710 (1949-50) and in 5728 (1967-68).

The year 5710 came right after the establishment of the State of Israel.

The year 5728 came right after the liberation of Jerusalem.

The next string of four blood moons is coming Passover Seder night, 5775 (2014-15) – a year from this Pesach.

Oh, and the last time this event had taken place before the 20th century was in 5654. That’s 1493-94 to you and me, one year after the exile from Spain.

Now the much better connected Pastor Hagee has picked up Biltz’s notions and authored a very popular book about the blood moons and what they mean – of course, the second coming of you know who.

No, Virginia, we don’t believe in this stuff, we really don’t follow anything up in the heavens except our Father in Heaven, but you have to admit, this is pretty curious.

It’s also interesting to note that those moon strings each appeared only after the miraculous events, like a kind of confirmation on the part of God: I did this. Which means the coming year or so should be very eventful.

Like you didn’t know this without the moon…

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/messianic-blood-moon-rising-on-passover-seder/2013/10/06/

While researching this message, I observed one of the pastors named in this article on a Huntley Street interview posted on YouTube, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oK4O0um1gwo ), as he pleads with viewers to buy copies of his book from amazon.com for family and friends in order to get his message out. The other pastor promotes his message on a BLOG which solicits donations. I find it difficult to imagine that the Holy Spirit would allow God’s prophecy to be distributed in such a commercial way.

The other obvious flaw in both Tetrad and Blood-Moon theories is the erroneous assumption that these celestial events are God’s way of announcing Christ’s Return to the entire world. Their mistake is in believing that the events will be visible to everyone around the globe. No way. Europe and the Middle East (Jerusalem) will not see the first of these events. So the bad news is no Tetrad for Zion! Here is Space.com’s explanation of what happened at the most recent blood moon and the next lunar eclipse:

From Space.com, Dateline January 31, 2018: Skywatchers around the world were treated to a rare Super Blue Blood Moon today (Jan. 31). While this was the first time in over 150 years that this particular type of eclipse has happened in the U.S., Americans can look forward to another “blood moon” eclipse coming on Jan. 21, 2019.

This next immediate total lunar eclipse — when the moon appears to turn red as it passes through Earth’s dark inner shadow, or the umbra — will occur later this year on July 27. But that eclipse won’t be visible from North America. However, much of the rest of the world — South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia — will have a great view of that eclipse.

https://www.space.com/39557-next-blood-moon-eclipses-2018-2019.html

Contrary to the Scriptures, we must acknowledge that note that none of the blood moons or eclipses predicted by astronomers at NASA are visible everywhere on earth. In other words, the self-appointed prophets’ suffer a common flaw by citing celestial events which are visible only to a fraction of the population of the world. By contrast, the final days described in the Scriptures are events that will be visible to all of humanity. The authors’ common flaw seems to reveal that they more interested in selling books by promoting their own inaccurate prophecies at the expense of the truth found in God’s Word.

If we are truly living in the end times, with the return of Christ imminent, would it not make more sense from a Christian standpoint, to freely distribute the information to the world as a free eBook or file? Imagine Jesus’ disciples offering to the world the path to salvation and redemption from sin offered by God, but for a price. And if you have no money to purchase the information, you are out of luck! Sorry, but is not the way my God works! For my salvation, only one individual had to pay, that was Jesus Christ:

1 Peter 1:17-19 (ESV)

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

The final debunking of these self-appointed prophets is that they have the arrogance to claim to be able to determine the time our Lord Jesus returns from celestial events. But what does our Saviour say to any man’s ability to use the position and alignment of heavenly bodies to predict the day Christ, Jesus will return:

Matthew 24:29-42 (ESV): The Coming of the Son of Man

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

No One Knows That Day and Hour

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[a] but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 24:36 Some manuscripts omit nor the Son

The important part of the passage from Matthews’s gospel was not his description of how the heavens look, but Verse 36:

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[a] but the Father only.

And Jesus repeats the warning again in Verse 42:

42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

In my estimation, any person who claims to know that which only the Father in heaven knows is standing on dangerous grounds! No one means no man, woman or child! Even the angels of heaven and Christ, Jesus are not privy to date that Lord returns!

While some manuscripts omit nor the Son, all of the Scripture sources indicate that God the Father alone; which means not the angels or even Jesus the Son, knows the day that Christ will come again. This means that the authors of the “Four Blood Moon” prophecy seem to claim knowledge that is strictly the within the domain of God. Does this claim sound a little familiar? I seem to recall an encounter with a fallen angel, in the guise of a serpent that offered the knowledge of God for the price of defying the Father’s single commandment:

Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV)

4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Temptation in the Garden

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

You may recall a message that we shared concerning the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, all three, playing important parts in God’s plan for his beloved children. Jesus died in our stead, paying the price for everyone’s sins. Christ was resurrected from the dead, which is part of God’s New Covenant to all who trust and obey the message of the Gospel. And the Lord ascended to Heaven to sit beside the Father, intercede as an advocate for all believers, and to send the Holy Spirit of God, in order to bring a rebirth through Christ. But at his ascension, what did the disciples do? Let us review the account from the Book of Acts, Chapter 1, starting with Verse 6:

Acts 1:6-11 (ESV): The Ascension

6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

So Jesus reminds the disciples, in Acts 1, Verse 7, they are not to know the time of his return, we see in the following verse, his Great Commission which is Christ’s command to the disciples to go witness throughout the world, the gospel of Christ: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

And we see how the disciples responded, Acts 1, verse 9-11: 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Some translations describe the men in white robes as angels of the Lord, who speaks to the disciples, addressing them as “men of Galilee” asking them why are they staring at heaven, say that the Lord would return from heaven, the same way that he left.

The disciples were having what I like to call a “Ferris Bueller moment”. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, Matthew Broderick appears after the final credits on screen and asks the audience: “You’re still here? It’s over! Go home! Go!” ( See Bueller clip starting at 3:40 https://youtu.be/jDfbWDLNjjE?t=220 )

The disciples having just been commanded by the Lord to go forth and minister, are still peering into the heavens as if they have nothing else to do. People who focus on events in the heavens for signs of the Lord’s return, be they blood red moons or any other sign, are not doing what he commanded. Remember his words, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”

But playing the devil’s advocate, as if he needs more advocates in the world, one might claim that the “Four Blood Moons” only describes signs of God, that is found throughout the Scriptures, including the Book of Revelations:

Revelation 12:1-12 (ESV): The Woman and the Dragon

12 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.

Satan Thrown Down to Earth

7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

When reading the Revelation 12 passage, we see that there is no urgency to focus on the time Christ returns. The only urgency to act due to time constraints described in this Scripture passage belongs to Satan:

Revelation 12: 12

12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!

But those stubborn proponents of the “Four Blue Moons” prophecies might direct us to Genesis 1: 14-15, saying that God intended for us to use the signs from the heavens for prophecy:

Genesis 1:14-15 (ESV)

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,[a] and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so.

Footnotes: a, Genesis 1:14 Or appointed times

While God provided that there be signs in the heavens, did He intend them to enable us to predict the return of Christ? If you read the first paragraph of Luke 21:25-35, you might say “yes indeed”. Let us read this passage all the way through, and we see otherwise:

Luke 21:25-35 (ESV): The Coming of the Son of Man

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Watch Yourselves

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.

On the day that our Saviour returns, he will come suddenly upon those who dwell on the face of the earth, including the prophets of the “Four Blue Moons”, assuming their prophecy correct. In other words, no one knows the day or time, except only God. And those who claim that knowledge are not God!

The final Scripture passage that “Four Blue Moons” advocates use to justify their prophecies, comes from the sermon by the Apostle Peter from the second chapter of the Book of Acts:

Acts 2:14-24 (ESV): Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[a] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants[
b] and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord 
shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[c] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:15 That is, 9 a.m. b. Acts 2:18 Greek bondservants; twice in this verse c. Acts 2:23 Greek this one

The key part of this passage from Acts 2 is found in Verses 22 -24, indicating just Who is responsible for mighty works, wonders, and signs; with the events that occur according to Whose plan and foreknowledge; and these events are by way of Whose power: God and God, alone! Let us read Acts 2:22-24 again:

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[c] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

So let us not desire, as did Adam and Eve, to have the knowledge of God, especially with respect to events such as Christ’s return. That, alone, is the sole purview belonging to our Father in heaven. Remember, that Jesus said that neither he nor the angels know the time when he returns, only God the Father knows. As long as we follow the Lord, we have nothing to fear. Let us keep the faith in the task to which he gave us when he ascended to heaven; to return on a day and time known to our Father in heaven. So by claiming that the Blood moons are a sign from God of His final judgment, we claim to know something only God knows, we are misleading others and ourselves, and when He does not come, we have turned people away from God. Only Satan would like that, for his time, and that of his followers is short!

Deuteronomy 4:19 (ESV):

19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #313: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

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.

Expressions of the Soul through Songs of Gratitude and Joy

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF Praise and Worship Service

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Expressions of the Soul through Songs of Gratitude and Joy’

© January 10, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on October 27, 2019 and on July 9, 2017

BLCF Bulletin October 27, 2019

BLCF: Bulletin July 9, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                          

Opening Hymn #408: I Will Sing of My Redeemer; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #599: The Majesty of God (Psalms 24 and 97)                

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Singing to Express the Joy of the Soul’            

Let us pray…

Psalm 100:1-2 (ESV): His Steadfast Love Endures Forever (Read as today’s prayer)

            A Psalm for giving thanks

100 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

This passage, from Psalm 100, encourages us to make a joyful noise to the Lord”; and to: ”serve the Lord with gladness”; and last but not least to ”come into his presence with singing.”  Each of these actions could be classified as expressions of praising and worshiping the Lord.

The main expressions of our Sunday Praise and Worship Service at BLCF include prayer, song, and studying of the Word. Hopefully, the expressions of worship are infused with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Other aspects include evangelism, fellowship, meditation, and celebration of the Gospel of Christ, Jesus.

Our lesson today, entitled: ‘Expressions of the Soul through Songs of Gratitude and Joy’, we will focus on the importance song in our Worship Service. But what was the importance of music and song to the worship in the Holy Temple? I found an answer to the question in the Wikibits research results:

History of Music in the Biblical Period

– from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

 Knowledge of the biblical period is mostly from literary references in the Bible and post-biblical sources. Religion and music historian Herbert Lockyer, Jr. writes that “music, both vocal and instrumental, was well cultivated among the Hebrews, the New Testament Christians, and the Christian church through the centuries.”[1] He adds that “a look at the Old Testament reveals how God’s ancient people were devoted to the study and practice of music, which holds a unique place in the historical and prophetic books, as well as the Psalter.”

Psalter consists of the Book of Psalms used for liturgical or devotional portions of the worship service.

The music of religious ritual was first used by King David, and, according to the Larousse Encyclopedia of Music, he is credited with confirming the men of the Tribe of Levi as the “custodians of the music of the divine service.”[2] Historian Irene Hesk notes that of the twenty-four books of the Old Testament, the 150 Psalms in the Book of Psalms ascribed to King David, have served as “the bedrock of Judeo-Christian hymnology,” concluding that “no other poetry has been set to music more often in Western civilization.”[3]

The study of ancient musical instruments has been practiced for centuries with some researchers studying instruments from Israel/Palestine dating to the “biblical period.”[4]:145 Archaeological and written data have demonstrated clearly that music was an integral part of daily life in ancient Israel/Palestine. Figurines and iconographic depictions show that people played chordophones and frame drums, and that the human voice was essential as women and men sang love songs along with laments for the deceased. Data also describes outdoor scenes of music and dancing in sometimes prophetic frenzies, often with carefully orchestrated and choreographed musicians and singers within specially built structures.[4]:106

According to ancient music historian Theodore Burgh, “If we were able to step into the . . . biblical period, we would find a culture filled with music . . . where people used music in their daily lives.”[4] “Such music was capable of expressing a great variety of moods and feelings or the broadly marked antitheses of joy and sorrow, hope and fear, faith and doubt. In fact, every shade and quality of sentiment are found in the wealth of songs and psalms and in the diverse melodies of the people.

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

In many Christian Churches today, the Psalter has been expanded to include the Book of Praise or Hymnal Songbooks which contain songs inspired by the Book of Psalms, as well as other passages in both the Old and New Testaments.

And then we have choruses, composed by contemporary authors, with lyrics that are not just restricted to paraphrasing the Scriptures, but may include Spiritual feelings or emotions experienced by Christians. These Christian songs and ballads are often presented to the congregation by way of projectors and may be distributed by electronic sources.

While purists may complain that only the original Psalms should be used in Christian Worship Services, the modern Christian view which holds that every Christian is a vessel of God’s Holy Spirit, and that a modern Christian Chorus could be as much the product of Divine inspiration as were the Psalms.

We get an idea of the use of music and song in Temple Worship in a passage taken from the second Book of Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 5:2-14 (ESV):

The Ark Brought to the Temple

BLCF: temple music 2 solomon-dedicates-the-first-temple

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled before the king at the feast that is in the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites took up the ark. And they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the Levitical priests brought them up. And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary, but they could not be seen from outside. And they are[a] there to this day. 10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. 11 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place (for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, 12 and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; 13 and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,

“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever,”

the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.

Footnotes: a. 2 Chronicles 5:9 Hebrew it is

Did you notice that God’s presence happened after music and songs of praise and thanksgiving. For those of you who are connected to the Web, the cloud in the Temple describes the presence of God, not an online virtual storage place.

Even the angels gave vocal expressions of Praise and Joy when announcing the birth of the Christ child to the shepherds in the fields.

Getting back to the chorus vs Psalm debate, we find that Christian believers are instructed to be filled with the Spirit, which is the presence of God, and to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” as we see in Ephesians 5:17-21 (ESV):

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

We are instructed to make melody from the heart, giving thanks to God the Father in name of and with reverence to Christ, Jesus. This tradition of singing praises accompanied to music is in the same manner and tradition  not unlike that described in Psalm 98:1-7 (ESV):

Make a Joyful Noise to the Lord

A Psalm.

98 Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
with the lyre and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!

And the songs and music of praise is not restricted to the sanctuary of God, but in the heavens as well, as we see in Psalm 150 (ESV) :

 Let Everything Praise the Lord

 

150 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens![
a]
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Footnotes: a. Psalm 150:1 Hebrew expanse (compare Genesis 1:6–8)

BLCF: heavenly hosts sing

We see that music and song should come from our heart or soul, where the indwelt Holy Spirit in each of us demonstrates the Godly virtues which allow us to live peacefully by the Grace of God, through his Son, Christ Jesus, Colossians 3:12-17:

 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Let us pray…

Now, let us sing…

Closing Hymn #51: I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord

Benediction – Colossians 3:12-17:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

Epiphany: Celebrating the Manifestation of Christ

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Manifestation of Christ’

© January 3, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Lessons Shared at BLCF on January 1, 2020, December 29, 2013, and December 28, 2014

BLCF Bulletin December 28, 2014

BLCF Bulletin December 29, 2013 

Welcome and blessings of the New Year to all on this, the first Sunday of 2021, the Sunday closest to January 6, which is the day that many churches observe the Epiphany, marking the manifestation of the Christ or Messiah, who is our Lord Jesus.

When I talk about Epiphany, we should not confuse it with the secular use of epiphany, such as the ‘Eureka!’ moment experienced by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose and he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged, known today as the Archimedes’ principle.

By contrast, the Epiphany which is the subject of today’s lesson is spelled with a capital “E”, a term Christians use to describe when the supernatural powers of Jesus, the Son of God, became manifested, or expressed to all. We find a little more background on Epiphany from the Web site sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances

Observed on January 6th, the Epiphany celebration remembers the three miracles that manifest the divinity of Christ. The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means “to show, make known, or reveal.” The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added – the visit of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.

For many Christians, the definition of Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of mankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.                                                       

http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/definition-of-epiphany.html

Author Johann Roten posted the the following about Epiphany in the East and West, posted on the University of Dayton Web site:

Epiphany

The feast of the Epiphany, as we presently understand it—the adoration of the Magi—is found very early in Gaul, where it probably predates Christmas.  The Council of Saragossa in 380 decreed a three-week fast before Epiphany.  The feast existed in North Africa in the time of Augustine.  Several of Leo the Great’s sermons witness to the feast’s observance in Rome.  The principal object in the Roman liturgy is the adoration of the Magi.

However, the feast of the Epiphany most certainly originated in the East, where it is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria.  It may have been assigned its date in reference to a pagan feast.  In the Egyptian calendar, the winter solstice and the feast of the Sun-god were observed on January 6.  On the previous night, pagans of Alexandria commemorated the birth of their god Aeon, supposedly born of a virgin.  It was also believed that the waters of rivers, especially the Nile, acquired miraculous powers and even turned into wine on this night.

This may be a partial explanation, why it is difficult to circumscribe the original object of this feast in the East.  By the fourth century Epiphany could embrace the birth of Christ, His baptism, the adoration of the Magi, and the miracle at Cana.  According to some liturgists (cf. C. Mohrmann), Epiphany was an idea feast (as opposed to an event feast) from the beginning and admitted any manifestation of the divine power of Christ. As a matter of fact, in classical Greek epiphany and theophany designate the manifestation of a divinity and, later, important events in the life of a king.  Epiphany is first used in a Christian sense by St. Paul for both the first and the final comings of Christ (Titus 2:11-13).  The word epiphany was soon used to describe the miracles of Christ as manifestations of divine power.

St. John Chrysostom explains the eastern meaning of Epiphany with these words: “We give the name Epiphany to the Lord’s baptism because he was not made manifest to all when he was born, but only when he was baptized, for until that time he was unknown to the people at large.”  In similar fashion, St. Jerome, drawing upon his Palestine experience, declares that the idea of showing forth (Epiphany) belonged not to the birth in the flesh, for then he was hidden and not revealed, but rather to the baptism in the Jordan, when the heavens were opened upon Christ.

According to oriental ideas it was through the divine pronouncement “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” that the Savior was first manifested to the great world of unbelievers.  The western tradition of this feast lies more along the line of what we are used to call fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding).  There is no overwhelming Epiphany or divine manifestation on the path of the Magi.  The Magi were wise men who saw the star and its unusual brightness.  Steadfast in the resolution of following the divine call and fearless of danger, they traveled, inquired, explored, and let themselves be conducted by the star to the place where they were to see and worship their Savior.  But again, no divine pronouncement thundering from open skies, only a poor babe in a manger.  As St. Leo the Great put it, “When a star had conducted them to worship Jesus, they did not find him commanding devils or raising the dead or restoring sight to the blind or speech to the dumb, or employed in any divine action; but a silent babe, dependent upon a mother’s care, giving no sign of power but exhibiting a miracle of humility.”

Eastern theology has always been eschatological in thrust, eager and anxious to show the unabridged Godhead in all its splendor and majesty, beyond and in spite of its manifestation in human condition and according to human categories.  Western theology in turn develops according to a different religious sensitivity: it is more incarnational, amazed by and preoccupied with the miracle of humility, God’s being in the flesh and becoming one of us.  The spirituality of the East is a spirituality of vision, based on “ta phota” (what is visible) or illumination, the Jordan experience; the spirituality of the West is the spirituality of journey, originating in God’s call and transformative power, it is the “Magi-experience.”

Yet, both traditions are but two different and complementary facets of the same reality, just as ear and eye are dependent on and complement each other.  In a similar way, the Feast of the Epiphany manifests the comprehensive reality of God’s encounter with humanity: it shows not only God’s self-giving presence in the miracle of humility, but also his authoritative self-disclosure at the baptism of Christ. Epiphany manifests not only God’s gratuitous and hidden presence to us, it also reminds us of our personal and active role in this encounter with God, made explicit through the acts and gestures of the Magi.

The Magi offer to Jesus as a token of homage the richest products their countries afforded – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Gold, as an acknowledgment of Christ’s regal power; incense, as a confession of his Godhead; and myrrh, as a testimony that he has become man for the redemption of the world.  But even more important than gold, frankincense and myrrh were the dispositions the Magi cherished in their souls: their fervent charity, signified by gold; their devotion, figured by frankincense; and their unreserved sacrifice of themselves, represented by myrrh.      

In the Middle Ages it was customary on this day (January 6) to bless homes with the newly-blessed water, and with incense.  Later the initials of the names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) were written with blessed chalk on or above the doors of homes.  CMB stands also for Christus, Manisionem, Benedocal (May Christ bless this home).  May these initials be carved on the doors to our spiritual homes, too, as a reminder, that each one of us is called upon by God’s Epiphany to the world to assume a threefold role: that of the child, the disciple and the steward. 

As a child we receive and cherish God’s Epiphany to us; As a disciple we follow God’s call to crib and cross; and As steward we are accountable to God and the world of what we did to his Epiphany, understood as vision and journey.

 Johann Roten    

http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/meditations/epiphany.html

Depending upon which scholar that you talk with, the passage in the Bible that describes the event of Epiphany of our Lord could be any or all of three different events in the earthy walk of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

1) The first is the arrival of the Wise Men or Magi to visit the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem.

2) The second is the Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana.

3) While the third is the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John.

The first of today’s Scripture verses gives the only account of the visit of the Magi or Wise Men who came from the east, beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, as unlike Joseph and Mary, they came to Bethlehem to worship and bear gifts to the newborn king as foretold by prophecy and guided by a star, and not in response the Census mandated by the Edict of Caesar.

The fact that the Magi were unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, indicates that the three were Gentiles, being ignorant of the prophecy known to the scribes and chief priests, only that a star will mark the location of the birth of the Christ Child as we see in Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

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

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

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

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star, Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):                                                                                            

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the Lord will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you.

And nations shall come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The next manifestation of the Lord, takes place at a wedding considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother, his brothers, his sisters and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters

The changing of water to wine by our Lord is considered by many Biblical scholars to be symbolic how faith in Jesus Christ transforms the believer into a new creature.

Our third Scripture verse for today describes how the spirit of God came upon our Lord, after he was baptized in the River, Jordan, which is found in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

Epiphany  marks three events and aspects of the walk on earth by Jesus: his birth as prophesized in scripture, supported by the visitation by the Magi; the power of the Lord being manifest by his transformation of water to wine; and alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus after His baptism supported by words spoken to John by God.

All three Epiphany Scripture verses demonstrate how our Lord manifests or expresses his Divine power and presence: by his birth, his miracles and by way of the Holy Spirit. All three accounts take place between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, while he walked on the earth as a man who the angels called the son of God, but who chose to refer to himself, more modestly, as the son of man.

The birth of Christ in such humble circumstances, as in a stable, with a manger as a crib, first announced by angels to shepherds, reveals that Jesus came as child to serve all men and women, not to rule from a palace, as he Magi had mistakenly expected. This child, Jesus, grew to become the Savior and Lord, not by power and conquest of battle and destruction, but by an act of love and surrender on the cross at Calvary.

Before he died on the cross, Jesus lived and experienced the world as a man, died a human death, but was resurrected from the tomb, and then ascended into heaven in order to bring Divine forgiveness and sanctification by taking upon himself our judgment for our sins. And Jesus continued to assure that we would have Emmanuel or the presence of God with us by way of the Holy Spirit.

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

Have a blessed and safe New Year 2021, filled with hope in God’s love, grace, and fellowship.