The Power of Patient, Persistent, and Purposeful Prayer

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Luke_11_10-11e_animated

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

 © August 15 2021, by Steve Mickelson

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

BLCF Bulletin January 19, 2020

BLCF Bulletin January 31, 2016

BLCF: cross_praying_hands

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                       

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

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                               

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

BLCF: hold on_

Let us pray…

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

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

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

BLCF: Discipleship_Wheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: prayerwheel-prayerclock

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

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

The Lord’s Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: Pray_for_Others

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

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

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

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

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

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

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

BLCF: Ephesians 1_13

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

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

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

BLCF: Always_Pray

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #434: Sweet Hour of Prayer

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

BLCF: faith trust salvation

The Awakening of the Prodigal

 

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

© August 8, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

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

BLCF Bulletin June 17, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

To the Church in Sardis

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

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

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

The Message to Sardis (Biblegateway.com Commentary)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

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

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

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

Definition of prodigal (adjective)

1characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure lavish 

  • prodigalfeast 
  • prodigaloutlays for her clothes

2recklessly spendthrift 

  • the prodigalprince

3yielding abundantly luxuriant often used with of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF:P The_Hour_I_First_Believed

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘‘Finding What Is Lost: 

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

© August 1, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

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

BLCF Bulletin October 20, 2013

BLCF Bulletin March 22, 2015

BLCF: lost_sheep 

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

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

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

BLCF: lost

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Lord God Will Seek Them Out

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

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

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

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

 The Righteous Branch

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

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

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

BLCF: Parables_of_The_Lost

                     

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

The Parable of the Lost Sheep   

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

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

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

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

The Parable of the Lost Coin

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

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

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

The Parable of the Prodigal Son     

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

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

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

BLCF: prodigal_definition

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

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

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

BLCF: thr-prodigal-son

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

Let us pray…

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

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

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.[a]

3 He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]

for his name’s sake.

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

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

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

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e]

shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell[f]

in the house of the Lord forever.[g]    

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

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

Benediction Hebrews 13:20-21(ESV):

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

BLCF: The_Lord_Is_My_Shepherd

Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is living-water-jesus.jpg

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone’

 © July 25, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

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

BLCF Bulletin September 2, 2018

BLCF Bulletin October 9, 2011 Bulletin  

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

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                             

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

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

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

Message by Stephen Mickelson: 

‘Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone’ 

Exodus 17 1-7

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People of Israel Confess Their Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water from the Rock 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is communion-header.jpg

Have you ever wondered why we partake communion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 1:3 (ESV): Fellowship

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

Communion

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 10:1 – Warning Against Idolatry

Wilderness Test

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

give Thanks to the Lord

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

David’s Song of Thanks

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

Let us pray…

Hymn #569: When upon Life’s Billows

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is giving-thanks-to-god-1thessalonians5-18.jpg

A Childlike Faith – Expressed By Our Trust, Obedience and Hope

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Child-Like Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘A Childlike Faith – Expressed By Our Trust, Obedience and Hope’

 © July 18, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on June 5, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June 5, 2016

BLCF: Childlike-Faith

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #610:

Christ in Prophecy (-from Isaiah 11 and 42, Jeremiah 23, Malachi 4); Prayer

Opening Hymn #41: Children of the Heavenly Father;

Choruses 

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

Prayer Requests                                                                                                          

Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-6, Matthew 18:1-6, Matthew 19:13-14

 

BLCF: called to have childlike faith

Let us pray…

Good  morning and welcome to our BLCF Church’s morning Praise and Worship Service., where we have for our lesson this Sunday morning, entitled: A Childlike Faith – Expressed By Our Trust, Obedience and Hope.

But before we begin our lesson, let us examine what is meant by the term “childlike”, not to be confused with “childish”, as we see in our Wikibits sources:

Childlike vs Childish

BLCF: childlike vs childish

Childlike – resembling, suggesting, or appropriate to a child or childhood; especially :  marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness <childlike delight>

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/childlike

Childish –  1.  Of, relating to, or befitting a child or childhood

  1. Marked by or suggestive of immaturity and lack of poise <a childish spiteful remark> b : lacking complexity : simple <it’s a childish device, but it works> c :  deteriorated with age especially in mind :  senile

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/childish

Question: “Does the Bible instruct us to have childlike faith?”

BLCF: childlike_vs_childish

So, as the disciples focus on what constitutes “greatness” in heaven, Jesus provides a new perspective: the way “up” is “down.” Meekness is required (cf. Matthew 5:5). Jesus exhorts the disciples (and us) to seek to possess a childlike modesty in addition to their faith. Those who willingly take the lowest position are the greatest in heaven’s eyes. A young child is destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness and is therefore a good example for us. Children are characteristically humble and teachable. They aren’t prone to pride or hypocrisy. Humility is a virtue rewarded by God; as James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

http://www.gotquestions.org/childlike-faith.html

The Bible indicates in Isaiah 11:1-6, that in the final days, “a child will lead them”:

Isaiah 11:1-6 (ESV) The Righteous Reign of the Branch

BLCF: Root_of_Jesse

11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.

 In the above Scripture, the “a shoot from the stump of Jesse” and “a branch from his roots shall bear fruit”, where Jesse is the father of David, and the branch from the roots is Mary, whose offspring or fruit is her child Jesus, also the Son of God.

Traditionally in Jewish tradition, a child who is under age is not allowed to worship in the temple. In the Temple in Jerusalem, the presence of God in the Ark of the Covenant could only be approached by the High Priests, then followed in order of proximity a succession of courts: Court of Israelites (men), Court of Women, and Court of Gentiles.

1_temple_4_courts

With the arrival of Jesus, all who have faith and confess their sins are permitted access to God.

Matthew 19:13-14 (ESV) Let the Children Come to Me

BLCF: children

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, 14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Childlike behavior notwithstanding, we see in Matthew 18:1-6, two of the disciples allowing their proximity to the Lord go to their head, asking Jesus who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 18:1-6 (ESV): Who Is the Greatest?

BLCF: faith-like-a-child-1

18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,[a] it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:6 Greek causes… to stumble; also verses 8, 9

Matthew 181-6 childlike humility

Jesus tells  the disciples ,that in order to achieve a great status in heaven, must humble themselves here in the world. Just like the lesson of the Goats and Sheep that we studied last week where we honor and serve the Lord when we serve the least of our brothers and sisters, Christ reinforced this idea when, like a servant, he washed the feet of the disciples as an example of humility in faith. And we must teach the Gospel of Christ  to others and receive members to the church, which is the body of believers, we have to preserve and protect their faith as we would do with the life of a child.

Let us pray… 

Closing Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

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.

A Child Shall Lead Them Isaiah 11-6

Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones

 

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’

© July 11, 2021, by Steve Mickelson           

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on January 28, 2018 and on July 27, 2014

BLCF Bulletin January 28, 2018   

BLCF: Bulletin July 27, 2014

 

Opening Hymn #155: “Man of Sorrows,” What a Name; Choruses                                           

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     

‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’

 

Let Us Pray…

Welcome to BLCF. Our lesson today is about discernment with respect to people, objects or circumstance that have the ability to act to either facilitate or hamper us from walking the righteous path, which is what the Lord desires for all his children.

You may recall a few years ago, a television commercial for a portable label printer, where a person received such a label maker for Christmas and proceeded to label everything in sight, including the family pet. While we may have a laugh and giggle at the idea of getting carried away with a label maker, it does reflect the human tendency to place a sign or label on things.

A sign can have on of several functions: it can denote a significant location by its distance from a specified starting point or to identify it as a destination point. Other signs are erected to convey to the reader specific information, to post a caution or warning, or to give the reader instructions or directions.

If you were to go by BLCF Church, this morning, you likely passed over a dozen such signs for every block off travel. If you walked here, you passed signs indicating: street names, which side of the street to cross; company names and a description of the product or service offered;  restaurant menus and pricing; and so on. Those who travelled by bus or the subway saw additional signs denoting bus or train direction or destination, caution signs and markings; potential fine or punishment for pushing the emergency stop; and so on. Drivers to BLCF, encountered signs indicating traffic directions, detours, corner stops, pedestrian crosswalks, and so on. And all travelers looked for the number, name of the church building.

Because Toronto is a multi-cultural city populated by a diverse multi-national population, a sign in the English or French Language is insufficient to convey a message for which it is purposed. That is why signs follow an international signage  standard, with the colour, shape and orientation help to convey important information. Red or hexagon indicates stop; yellow or triangle tells us caution and green circles or arrows represent that it is safe. To control vehicle and pedestrian traffic, lights are used, using colour lights augmented by the characters of a walking person or hand, respectively for go or stop, with a numeric countdown to when the signal will change being displayed. Those who are colour blind know, that red, yellow, and green lights are located respectively at the top, middle, or bottom or left, middle and right, depending upon the light’s orientation. For the visually impaired, traffic lights may emit different pitched sounds to indicate their status, while signs may have Braille markings. For travelers, besides maps, we have GPS devices or GPS Aps for cell phones and other devices, to help us know our location and destination. But using signs to mark the way is not a new invention. Street numbers and milestones have been with us for some time, as we see in our Wikibits description:

Milestones were originally stone obelisks – made from granite, marble, or whatever local stone was available – and later concrete posts. They were widely used by Roman Empire road builders and were an important part of any Roman road network: the distance travelled per day was only a few miles in some cases. Many Roman milestones only record the name of the reigning emperor without giving any place names or distances.[1] The first Roman milestones appeared on the Appian Way. At the Centre of Rome, the “Golden Milestone” was erected to mark the presumed Centre of the empire: this milestone has since been lost. The Golden Milestone inspired the Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C., intended as the point from which all road distances in the United States should be reckoned. Odometers were used to measure the Roman milestone spacing, most likely based on Ancient Greek Technology.[citation needed

A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile. They are typically located at the side of the road or in a median. They are alternatively known as mile markers, mileposts or mile posts (sometimes abbreviated MPs). Mileage is the distance along the road from a fixed commencement point.

Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travelers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination. Today, such references are also used by maintenance engineers and emergency services to direct them to specific points where their presence is required. This term is sometimes used to denote a location on a road even if no physical sign is present. This is useful for accident reporting and other record keeping (e.g., “an accident occurred at the 13 mile mark” even if the road is only marked with a stone once every 10 miles).

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

We have touched upon the purpose of signs we may encounter in our commute to and from church, but what about the signs used by the church? BLCF Church can be identified by the street number, 1307; by the name placed on the signs on side and the marquee on the front; by person helping another LOGO on the signs; and finally by the cross placed on the front of the building. For our Wednesday community dinner, we place a sign with the name “BLCF Café Community Dinner, the hours 6-8PM, and All Are Welcome” with a picture of a steaming bowl of soup placed beside the front entrance of BLCF Church.

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In spite of the redundancy of function and smart technologies, we still can get lost or confused. In that regard the milestone becomes a millstone for our journey. And what do I mean by millstone? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us, the following definition:

mill·stone noun \ˈmil-ˌstōn\

: either one of two large, round stones used for grinding grain in a mill

: a problem or responsibility that does not go away and that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/millstone

When misdirected or lost, if we are fortunate, we may find someone to give us directions. And if we are very fortunate, that person gives us the correct and accurate directions.

A few birthdays ago, we traveled with my daughter, the birthday girl, for a day in High Park. During the visit, I noted how often signs were posted: park benches dedicated in honour of a deceased friend or family member, there were signs posted at the zoo identifying, by means of both illustration and description, the various animals at their enclosures. The animal’s identification included the species, place of origin, and other pertinent facts.

On a recent visit to the Royal Ontario Museum, I noted how all the displays contained signs which identified the artifact, indicating the place and date of origin, its use and significance to the society of the time, as well as location and date that it was made. If you venture to the Royal Botanical Gardens, you will see signs identifying the name, species and origin of a variety of flora throughout the gardens and greenhouses.

What about the various signs and symbols in the Scriptures? How do we navigate and understand their meanings. How can we best utilize God’s signs to guide us on our Christian walk? And how can we discern whether a sign is really from the Lord? There as signs and indicators found on today’s Scripture, which gives us the account of an encounter between the Lord and a Samarian woman at a well.

John 4:1-45 (ESV) Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

4 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.[a]

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.                               Footnotes: a. John 4:6 That is, about noon b. John 4:14 Greek forever

We have in today’s Scriptures, an account of Jesus encountering a Samaritan woman at a well, asking for water, using the request to speak to her about the Water of Life. What does it signify? In his reference to water that is living literal or metaphorical? Let us check our Wikibits for a definition:

Wikibits: Water of Life (Christianity) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Depiction of Fleuve de Vie, the “River of Life”, from the Book of Revelation, Urgell Beatus, (f°198v-199), c. 10th century

In Christianity the term “water of Life” (Greek: ὕδωρ ζωῆς hydōr zōēs) is used in the context of living water, specific references appearing in the Book of Revelation (21:6 and 22:1), as well as the Gospel of John.[1] In these references, the term Water of Life refers to the Holy Spirit.[1][2][3

In the secular world, we do have examples of signs that are represent something quite literal, for example Alberta’s “Wild Rose Country” and Pennsylvania’s “Keystone State” in contrast to more ethereal examples found with Ontario’s “Yours To Discover” and Texas’ “Drive Friendly”. But the term “living water” is a term that falls in the spiritual realm. Jesus was speaking about something that could be described as being either tangible or intangible, or simply supernatural, but something related to faith and the soul, something supernaturally of and about God.

Back to the Scripture account, it was interesting that the disciples returned and were surprised to find Jesus in conversation with a Samaritan woman. The reason why they were surprised may be echoed in the parenthetical  comment in the passage: (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans).

While the  Samaritan woman, and later others from the town believed the message of the Lord, there are others who are without true faith in the Lord not only expected, but demanded,  a supernatural sign from God to authenticate the testimony that they head or the Scriptures read.

Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV) The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.       Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:2 Some manuscripts omit the following words to the end of verse 3

The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the teachings of Jesus, where he often used both the parable and metaphor. In John 4, we have an account where Jesus uses the literal request to the Samaritan woman for a drink of water, to discuss baptism by the Holy Spirit as a metaphoric baptism in “living water,” John 4, starting at verse 7:

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[a] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”                                                                                                                             

Footnotes: a. John 4:14 Greek forever

Some Christians may have difficulty discerning when Jesus uses a metaphorical example from the literal. In his discussion with the Samarian woman, he compares water drawn from a well with the living water, which is a metaphor for the God’s Holy Spirit. Christ is not telling the woman to jump in the well nor to go into the Jordan River.

Sometimes even the Disciples, as well, have difficulty with Christ’s metaphors, as we read in the account of The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, from Matthew 16:5-12, which is another example of Jesus teaching by metaphor, where Christ uses bread as a metaphor for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He is not warning his Disciples about the dangers of baked goods!

In spite of the gift of Christ’s salvation and the help from the Spirit, some will ignore the promptings from the Spirit, allowing themselves to be misguided and separated from the Lord.

Matthew 24:15-28 (ESV) The Abomination of Desolation

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

But do not lose hope. For while we sometimes stray or lose our way, we our blest not just by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. We share, in one body, other vessels of the Holy Spirit, who are able to help us get back on track, in direction that God intended us to follow. Let us rely upon the love and support of our fellow believers in our time of need, as integral parts of the body of believers comprising the church. For God intended that we not to be left alone, when we get lost on our Christian Walk or feel bereft in our hour of need. The Lord desires us to rely upon our fellow believers as we are united in the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV) One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or servants; Greek bondservants

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction – (Philemon 1:25):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: hearing Gods voice
heeding the call

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call

© July 4, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Message Originally Shared at BLCF on April 29, 2018, on January 18, 2015 ,and on March 13, 2011

BLCF Bulletin April 29, 2018

BLCF Bulletin January 18, 2015

mar_13_2011-bulletin-2

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Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

Opening Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day (Heaven Came Down); Choruses

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call’

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Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. The lesson for this Sunday morning is ‘Hearing HIS Voice; Heeding the Call, where our Scripture passages look at two accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Way of the Lord, Christ Jesus, that were told by Luke in his gospel, The Book of Acts.

We, as contemporary converts, can easily understand and identify with many of the aspects of Saul’s conversion.

Both Saul’s conversion, as well as our own conversions, took place after the Lord’s glorification, which is to say after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, and the Day of Pentecost.

For a look at the significance of the conversion of Saul, let us look at some of the points, courtesy of Grace Communion International:

Luke begins his description of Paul’s conversion in chapter 9 by continuing the story of his persecution of the church. “Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” says Luke of Paul’s campaign of persecution against the church in Jerusalem (9:1).

Paul even travels to other towns, Damascus in particular, in order to round up Christians. As he later tells King Agrippa, “I even hunted them down in foreign cities” (26:11). To Paul, stamping out the Christians is a necessary part of doing God’s will. They are teaching a blasphemous heresy that threatens the people of God (the Jews) and the sanctity of the law and temple. It is surely God’s will that such people should be silenced.

Paul can justify his actions against the church by looking to the heroes of Israel’s history. Phinehas killed an Israelite man and Midianite woman who were defying the law of God (Numbers 25:6-15). Elijah killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Mattathias, the father of the Maccabees, used violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people (1 Maccabees 2:1-28, 42-48).

Thus it is that Paul sets out toward Damascus with the zeal of an avenging prophet. He has letters from the high priest with authority to extradite any Christians he finds in the synagogues of Damascus. Paul will capture them and return them to Jerusalem for trial and punishment (9:2). Most likely those being hunted down are the Hellenistic Christians who fled Jerusalem, not those who lived permanently in Damascus. So far as we know, the high priest has no direct authority over the latter, since they are not in his immediate jurisdiction.

Later, Paul explains that the entire council signed the order of extradition he was given (22:5). Luke is pointing out that the Jewish leaders continue to be in the forefront of trying to eradicate the new sect of Jesus believers. Some questions have arisen over exactly what powers of extradition the letters from the high priest gave Paul. Two centuries earlier, Rome had decreed that Jews who fled to Egypt could be extradited to Jerusalem (1 Maccabees 15:15-24). They were then to be punished according to Jewish law.

Whether this authority to extradite exists in the time of Paul is not known. It’s possible the high priest still holds the power of extradition from the Roman authorities. If not, the Sanhedrin may be relying on its clout with local synagogues to cooperate in this matter. The political situation in Judea is unstable, with the Roman governor not wanting to intervene in “Jewish matters.” Thus, the council may hope to punish as many Christians as possible without the advance knowledge or intervention of the Roman authority.

https://www.gci.org/bible/acts9


Stoning of Stephen – Acts 7

We share with Saul, the burden of sins. Though we may not have been responsible for persecuting others based upon their beliefs, seeking to punish and ultimately execute others, who Saul was convinced were teaching a blasphemous heresy against the faith and God.

Just like some modern day religious zealots, Saul sought to use “violence to root out the enemies of God and apostates among the people.”

After all, Saul reasoned, he was only doing God’s will. Violence against these Christians was God’s will, he believed.

Saul was 100% wrong, for he was singled out in a direct encounter with our Lord on the way to Damascus, Acts 9:1-16 (ESV):

The Conversion of Saul

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

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”      

God has chosen prophets and leaders by revealing Himself or His will through dreams, visions, angels, and even a burning bush.

In the above Scripture passage, we see that it is Saul of Tarsus who is a living example of a person who twists God’s Word and HIS will, in order serve his own interest by committing great evil and by offends the Lord, which prompts the Lord to reveal himself to Saul and ask:

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (Acts 9:4-6)

In our second Scripture passage, taken from Acts 2, Luke tells the amazing account of the conversion of Saul to discipleship to the Lord. The reborn disciple gives the following testimony, Acts 22:6-16 (ESV):

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“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

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In our second Scripture passage, Paul identifies the Lord as speaking to him from heaven with a light brighter than the noonday sun:

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22)

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

In acknowledging and renouncing his own sins, Paul is baptized in the Holy Spirit and becomes an apostle or messenger of the Lord.

Paul had offended God, by persecuting followers of the Way of Christ, though he had been deluded into believing that by persecuting and harming them he was somehow fulfilling the will of God. Again we see repeated, the sins of Adam and Eve, who sought to raise themselves to the same level of God, as well as their son Cain, who sought to murder Abel, who was perceived as a threat.

Through the redeeming power of the Lord Jesus, Saul could be forgiven of his sins against God by confessing these sins and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Paul had heard the Lord’s voice and had heeded the call of the Lord, which is all that He expects from us. As for what benefit(s) do the Apostle Paul and we, as believers in the resurrected Christ, receive at the time of the Spirit’s baptism? The answer is found in John 16:7-13 (ESV):

Jesus and Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit and Christ

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Jesus, having borne the judgment for all sinners’, which is everyone on the face of the earth, since the Day of Pentecost, had to ascend to and be glorified in heaven, beside God, in order give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Only then will understand and follow God’s will in our lives:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  (John 16)

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #417: What a Fellowship, What a Joy Divine

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30): “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen.

Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’

© June 27, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on August 13, 2017

BLCF Bulletin August 13, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                       

Opening Hymn #466: God of Grace and God of Glory; Choruses                         

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

Responsive Reading #646 (Spiritual Warfare – Ephesians 6, 2 Corinthians 10, 2 Timothy 4)     

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. This Thursday happens to be July 1, the date when Canadians celebrate Canada Day, and in many parts of the country, Canadians will sing the National Anthem, O Canada. The last stanza of the anthem is “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” To stand on guard, in times of conflict, we are guarded by soldiers and police officers, who must dress appropriately to face the nature of the threat.

Our lesson today, entitled: ‘Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’, we will examine what the Apostle Paul referred to as The Whole Armor of God in his letter addressed to the Church, composed of God’s holy people in Ephesus, found in Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV):

 The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

At first blush, we might mistake Paul’s Epistle as describing instructions, telling the members of the Church of Ephesus to don a soldier’s armor for battle. Such misinterpretation of the scriptures happens when the reader has difficulty differentiating between when a Scripture passage is read literally and when read as a metaphor.

Clearly, in Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul intends the Armor of God to be a metaphor for the aspects of what the church needs to prepare for the spiritual battle that occurs when the devil unleashes an onslaught of spiritual forces of evil against the Church of Christ, Jesus.

I recall as a youth in San Antonio, Texas, Hurricane Carla brought heavy rain and wind for hours and suddenly, as the eye or centre of the storm passed overhead, the rain abruptly stopped, the sun came out, and a quiet calm arrived. It was eerie, that while eye of the storm appeared as a pleasant reprieve from the violent storm front, there were still signs of impending danger. The birds reinforced this sense of dread by the conspicuous silence; no singing or calls. Dogs in the neighborhood were strangely silent as well. Looking west, in the distance, I could see the storm wall which is the boundary of the eye. It was at the boundary of the hurricane’s eye, I could make out two distinct funnel clouds indicating a pair of sister tornadoes showing why the eye wall is considered to be a hurricane’s most devastating region. But before I had a chance to fully appreciate the beauty and danger of Carla’s eye, the trail edge of the storm arrived in its fully fury!

Tornado generated at the eye wall of a Hurricane

The devil continuously attacks the Church in many ways, because through Christ Jesus, the members are saved and the devil wants to separate us from the grace of the Lord that we receive. Satan will try to lull Christ’s Church by drawing attention to the calm of the eye of the storm, while ignoring  the dangers.

But Christ does not bring us a temporary calm from life’s storms, but promises us  to save us from the fury of the storm waves, launched upon us by the devil, We are saved by His amazing grace, Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV):

And God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

We find a good description of meaning of the Armor of God protects us from a storm of evil in a commentary authored by Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia:

 Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20

Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

The active role of the church is not altogether surprising, given the writer’s previous indication that God has “raised us up with [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (2:6). This exaltation is a unique expression of the church’s identity among New Testament writings. However, it is interesting to note that, while Christians are already seated with Christ in the heavenly places, this position does not eliminate the need for struggle. The wrestling “against the spiritual forces of evil” also takes place “in the heavenly places” (6:12).

While modern Christians are likely to have a view of heaven as a paradise in which no evil dwells, the writer of Ephesians is drawing on a different set of cultural assumptions, one in which a struggle between cosmic forces occurs within the heavenly realm. Christians, who already reign with Christ in some sense, are obligated to participate in this struggle.

The armor of God that the church takes up relates to the message that the author has already laid out. The theological message of Ephesians 1-3 is now depicted metaphorically as preparation for a spiritual battle in which believers engage through their actions. By girding themselves with the “belt of truth” (6:14), readers metaphorically prepare themselves for the work to which they have already been called: they are to “speak the truth in love” to one another (cf. 4:15, 25). Similarly the “breastplate of righteousness” relates to the “new self” with which they are to clothe themselves, as beings “created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24).

The author has earlier explained the “gospel of peace” (6:15), for which readers should ready themselves by putting on shoes. In reconciling Jews and Gentiles into one body, Christ “is our peace” (2:14). The elimination of hostility through Jesus’ death on the cross is central to the letter’s understanding of the heart of the gospel message. It is this message of reconciliation that should lead the church to the behavior indicated here and in the rest of Ephesians 4-6.

In addition to these, the reader is exhorted to take up “the shield of faith” (6:16). According to Ephesians, faith activates the power of God (cf. 1:19; 2:8). Salvation is God’s gift, yet it also comes through the believer’s faith (3:12). It is “through faith” that Christ dwells in the believer’s heart (3:17). Metaphorically, taking up the shield of faith communicates the protection that faith activates. The salvation that comes as God’s gift through faith is depicted as the ability “to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (6:16).

Prayer (6:18) is an activity that is connected to the taking up of God’s armor. The author also prays on behalf of the church for their strength and understanding (cf. 3:13-19). The church is instructed to pray for all of the saints and for the author as well. The cosmic adversaries of 6:12 carry an eschatological tinge, because the imagery of God taking up God’s armor to seek justice was related in first century culture to the notion of the day of the Lord. Yet in Ephesians’ reworking of the imagery, the battle with cosmic forces is not simply a battle delayed for a future day of God’s judgment, but is a present battle believers must engage on a regular basis.

The church’s struggle is a heavenly one against spiritual powers, but it is acted out on a more mundane level in the types of behavior to which the reader is called. The “chains” of the writer’s imprisonment (6:20) are another reminder of the ways that the “cosmic powers of this present darkness” impinge on the lives that believers live in this world. The armor of God does not mean that the church will not encounter difficulties, then, but enables Christians to encounter such difficulties. Through perseverance and prayer, the church may boldly proclaim the gospel even in the midst of persecution and hardship.

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=379

The Armor of God described by Paul in Ephesians 6 is composed of elements, some of which are provided by the Lord, such as: truth, righteousness, salvation, and the Spirit.

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus – The way, the truth, and the life

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) – The righteousness of God

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) – Salvation through Christ

25 Consequently, he is able to save completely those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

 

 

  2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) – Spirit given by God

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

The remaining elements of the Armor of God, come from the church or body of believers, they are: peace, faith, prayer, and fasting.

Hebrews 12:14 (ESV) – Peace with Everyone

14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 1 John 5:5 (ESV) – Faith in Christ

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 1 Corinthians 7:5 (ESV) – Prayer and Fasting

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

In conclusion, when we don the Armor of God, we dwell with confidence in a place of refuge which is a fortress from all the spiritual forces of evil that come forth as schemes of the devil, an assurance described in Psalm 91:1-6 (ESV):

My Refuge and My Fortress

 

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

In times of distress and spiritual disaster, with the help of Satan, we find that our faith is tested, especially with the advent of such natural disasters, be it flood, wildfires, pandemics, or any other human made crisis such as: riots, shootings, or any of a number of conditions which may generate fear and doubt in ourselves, in each other and even in God. It in such times we must equip ourselves with the armor of God described by Paul in Ephesians 6 to meet and defeat these challenges, with the help of His Holy Spirit. A Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind. This the true power of faith.

Let us pray…

 Closing Hymn #544: When I Cn Read My Title Clear

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.  

On Your Way to Heaven, Leave the Baggage Behind!

BLCF: leaving_your_baggage_behind

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

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

BLCF: Led by the Spirit1

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is st-philip-and-the-ethiopian-eunich.jpg

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© June 13, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on May 1, 2016 and on June 9, 2019

BLCF Bulletin May 1, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June 9, 2019

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                           

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

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson:

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

           

Rembrandt: The Baptism of the Eunuch (1626)

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at BLCF Church for June 13, 2021. Today’s lesson is primarily focused on the account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, as described in Acts 8:26-40 (ESV):

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

Philip and the Baptism of the Eunuch

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: Meroe-Africa

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

BLCF: The_Journeys_Of_Philip

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

Isaiah 53:7-8 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: four_courts_of_the_temple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leviticus 19:13-14 (ESV)

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

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is loving-our-neighbor-leviticus-19-13-14.png

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

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

Matthew 19:8-12 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

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

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