Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’

© September 1, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 1, 2019

Based on Messages Shared with BLCF on October 4, 2015, and on July 23, 2017

BLCF Bulletin July 23, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                 

Opening Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!; Choruses                                                  

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

Responsive Reading #638 (The Holy Spirit Promised – John 14 and 16   

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service, on the first Sunday of September, which makes today a Communion Sunday. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Help from the Lord is Just a Prayer Away’.

Through a series of verses, we will find how the Lord answers humanity’s collective cry for help: for companionship, guidance, understanding, peace, mercy, grace, the Holy Spirit, love, the Lord’s testimony, baptism, and unity of faith, to enable us to implement the “Great Commission’ of Sharing the Gospel of Christ. The Scripture verses which we may use as a roadmap to guide us on the path as apostles or messengers of the Gospel are found in your bulletin.

We need faith in the Lord, and acknowledge Whom will guide us on our journey, as we see in Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV):

My Help Comes from the Lord 

 A Song of Ascents.

121 I lift up my eyes to the hills.     

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,     

who made heaven and earth.

Our help comes from our creator, our Lord who made heaven and earth. The Lord knows where help is needed among His creation. The first need was Adam’s need for a companion or helper. And so, God created Eve, Genesis 2:18-24 (ESV):

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for[a] him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed[b] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam[c] there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made[d] into a woman and brought her to the man.

23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”[e]

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:18 Or corresponding to; also verse 20 b. Genesis 2:19 Or And out of the ground the Lord God formed c.Genesis 2:20 Or the man d. Genesis 2:22 Hebrew built e. Genesis 2:23 The Hebrew words for woman (ishshah) and man (ish) sound

God created woman not just as a helper, but a wife to man, so that the husband and wife may physically be one in the eyes of the Lord.

We know the story of how the first man and woman fell from God’s grace by the sin of disobedience. This disappointed Him and brought separation of the man and woman from His grace, as well as the judgment of death.

God continued to have love and compassion for His creation, and so He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, as a final sacrifice to bring forgiveness, grace and a New Covenant to humanity. We acknowledge this sacrificial gift and Covenant, as a united body of believers, every time we partake in Communion.

This New Covenant from the Lord includes not only the promise of our resurrection from death but also the gift of the continuous presence of God’s Holy Spirit, John 14:25-27 (ESV):

 Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper[a], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Footnotes: a. John 14:26 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also John 14:16; 15:2616:7

Just as the Lord provided for man’s need for companionship, by creating woman as a physical helper; He sends men and women, grace through Jesus, and Spiritual companionship by way of a Spiritual helper, the Holy Spirit.

Christ’s answer’s humanity’s need for grace and mercy from the Lord. Jesus sends his helper, the Holy Spirit, to provide the faithful with companionship, guidance, understanding, and peace.

Having been forgiven by faith in Jesus as our Lord and savior, and gifted as vessels of the Holy Spirit, we may draw closer to God’s throne of grace in the time of need, with Jesus being our intercessor, the Great High Priest, Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV):

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Having received mercy, grace, and the gift of the Spirit, we may gather together, as a Body of Believers or Christ’s Church, where we may ask and receive from God anything according to His will, Matthew 18:19-20 (ESV);

19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Salvation is a gift of God, given to us as an expression of His love, 1 John 4:10 (ESV):

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Having accepted the gifts of salvation and grace from the Lord, we are equipped to share the Gospel of Christ, which is his testimony of love, and our testimony of faith, 1John 5:6-10 (ESV):

Testimony Concerning the Son of God

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

Part of our testimony of faith is expressed through the observance of Communion as a single body of believers, where on the first Sunday of each month, we eat and drink the elements of Communion to acknowledge the Lord’s sacrifice on our behalf, 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.

When we partake in eating and drinking the tangible elements of Communion, we acknowledge our faith in the intangible gifts of mercy, grace and the Holy Spirit. These gifts allow us to embark on the Great Commission of being sent out to share the gospel unto the ends of the earth, John 20:21 (ESV):

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (Mark 14)

Closing Hymn #434: Sweet Hour of Prayer

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.

 

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

BLCF: Forgiveness

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© July 7, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 7, 2019

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

BLCF Bulletin January 4, 2015

BLCF: Ephesians 4_32

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                               

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

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

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

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

 

 

BLCF: to_be_a_Christian                                                                     

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

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

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

 Let us pray…

BLCF: forgive in prayer

Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)

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

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

Give us each day our daily bread,[a]

and forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation.”

– Amen

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

BLCF: forgive_us_our_sins

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

Unbroken

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

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

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

 “Unbroken” the Biography of Louis Zamperini by Laura Hillenbrand

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

BLCF: Louis_Zamperini_at_announcement_of_2015_Tournament_of_Roses_Grand_Marshal

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: forgive-those

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

BLCF: forgiveness

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

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

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

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

OCTOBER 24, 2014  |  Ivan Mesa  ARTS & CULTURE

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

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

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

Conversion Under Billy Graham

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

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

His new life had begun

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

The portrayal of Conversion in Zamperini’s Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sinful Woman Forgiven (Parable of the Two Debtors)

BLCF: forgiveness2

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

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

Footnotes: a. Luke 7:49 Or to

BKCF: Parable_of_Two_Debtors

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

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

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

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

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus_and_Jesus

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

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

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

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

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

BLCF: Peter-Preaching-Solomons-Portico

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

BLCF: Communion

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

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

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

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

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

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

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

BLCF: Forgiveness - Ephesians_4-32

Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ, 2019

BLCF: conversion_of_paul

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ’ 

© February 17, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 17, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 18, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 18, 2014

BLCF: 51_Psalm

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #553: Morning Has Broken; Choruses                               

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                            ‘Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ’                                            

CreatInMe                                                                   

Let us pray…

In a Pentecost Sunday Lesson, last year, you may recall that we examined how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was chosen because she had found favor with God and lived an exemplary life, not just as the mother of Jesus, but as a faithful disciple to the Lord as well. We also saw how the disciples hid in the Upper Room, until Jesus, on the evening of the day that he resurrected from the grave, came to give them his Commission and then breathed upon them God’s Holy Spirit to enable them to achieve the goal. Still, one may question, whether Mary and the Apostles could be anything other than the best choice to trust and serve the Lord, as well as to share the gospel of Christ. And by asking this question, we, as every-day sinners, may seek to be excused from serving as the Lord’s apostles or messengers.

Our lesson this Sunday, we revisit for closer examination, a topic touched upon in recent message: how God chose, as His instrument, the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, an individual, who with the exception of Emperor Nero, was considered the least likely candidate to become a preacher of the Way of Jesus, more commonly known today as the gospel of Christ.

Let us briefly look at our Wiki bits for the background of Saul of Tarsus, who became the Christian Apostle, Paul:

BLCF" Acts_Map_Paul_to_Damascus

The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, was, according to the New Testament, an event that took place in the life of Paul the Apostle which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus. It is normally dated by researchers to AD 33–36.[1][2][3] The phrases Pauline conversion, Damascene conversion and Damascus Christophany, and road to Damascus allude to this event. Within the New Testament, Paul’s conversion experience is discussed in both Paul’s own letters and in the book known by the title Acts of the Apostles. According to both sources, Paul was never a follower of Jesus and did not know Jesus before his crucifixion. Instead, he severely persecuted the early Christians. Although Paul refers to himself as an “Apostle” of Jesus, it is clear that Paul was not one of “The Twelve” apostles.[1 Cor. 9:1-2] Paul’s conversion occurred after Jesus’ crucifixion. The accounts of Paul’s conversion experience describe it as miraculous, supernatural, or otherwise revelatory in nature. Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a “zealous” Pharisee who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus. Some scholars argue that Paul was a member of the “Zealot” party.

We find a summary of Paul testimony in his Epistle to the Galatians 1:13-14, 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. Paul also discusses his pre-conversion life in his Epistle to the Philippians,[3:4-6] and his participation in the stoning of Stephen is described in Acts 7:57-8:3. Acts of the Apostles discusses Paul’s conversion experience at three different points in the text, in far more detail than in the accounts in Paul’s letters. The book of Acts records that Paul was on his way from Jerusalem for Syrian Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, with the intention of returning them to Jerusalem as prisoners for questioning and possible execution. The journey is interrupted when Paul sees a blinding light, and communicates directly with a divine voice.

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

 

BLCF:apostle-paul

Looking at Saul’s background, we see that he was a citizen of Rome and Jewish, a Pharisee who was generally opposed to the teachings of the Way of Christ or Jesus’ gospel. In fact, Saul of Tarsus was a zealous persecutor of Christian believers, who was present at the killing of the Apostle Stephen, described in Acts 7:58-60:

BLCF:ThestoningofStStephenwithSaulofTars

Acts 7:58-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

BLCF:stephen_dead

Saul not only was present at the stoning of Stephen, as one who watched the garments of those who gathered to observe the execution. His role in the persecution of Christian believers and the ravaging the Christian Church was far darker than described in Acts 7, as we read in Acts 8:1-8.

Acts 8:1-8 (ESV): Saul Ravages the Church

8 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city[a] of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

Footnotes: a. Acts 8:5 Some manuscripts a city

In spite of their continued persecution, we see that the apostles, including Philip, continued to proclaim the gospel of Christ and to heal the afflicted in the name of the Lord, by the power of the Spirit. But on a journey on the Road to Damascus, Saul experienced a life-changing event: an encounter with the Lord, which is described in Acts 9:1-31.

BLCF: WINDOW DEPICTS CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL

Acts 9:1-31 (ESV): The Conversion of Saul

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

BLCF: animated-passion

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

BLCF: Paul_lowered_in_a_basket

 

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews[a] plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket.

BCF: Jerusalem

 

Saul in Jerusalem

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Footnotes: a. Acts 9:23 The Greek word Ioudaioi refers specifically here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, who opposed the Christian faith in that time b. Acts 9:25 Greek through the wall c. Acts 9:29 That is, Greek-speaking Jews

BLCF: the_Apostle_Paul

This passage describes a vision within a vision: the Lord appears to the apostle Ananias to inform him about Saul, who in turn has been a vision that he, Ananias, would heal the blinded Saul by the laying of hands. Ananias’ reservations of having to deal with a man whose reputation was to bind all who profess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour is reduced when the Lord tells him that he has plans to use Saul as his instrument, Acts 9:11-19:

“Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house.

Ananias complies with Lord’s request by laying his hands upon Saul and saying:

“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

You may recall from our lesson last week, that the Lord called those who were obedient to God, brothers, and sisters. Reading further, we see that not only is Saul healed, but is baptized, not in water, but by the Holy Spirit:

18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

We see that salvation by the Lord is not reserved solely to the good, the pious, or those who are favored by God. We see that He has a purpose for those who oppose and persecute believers, as was the case of the persecutor Saul of Tarsus, who became transformed by God’s Holy Spirit, to the Apostle Paul. And Paul’s past actions as Saul became part of his confession and testimony as an apostle in Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

BLCF: 1Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (ESV): The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6, 31, 50, 58

BLCF: confessing_sin

Saul of Tarsus, as a Roman Citizen, who ran a tent manufacturing business, a merchant, and a Pharisee was eminently qualified to travel throughout the Empire of Rome to interact freely with Jew and Gentile, Greek and Roman, Citizen and King, to attack the Way of Christ movement, which was perceived as a threat to undermine the authority of Rome and the Jewish Faith. These same qualifications enabled the same man, now an Apostle of Christ, called Paul of Tarsus, to preach and minister, provide hope and healing, to spark faith and belief in the gospel of Jesus, as God’s instrument.

BLCF: Psalm51

I would like to read: Psalm 51:1-17, as our closing prayer.

Let us pray…

Psalm 51:1-17 (ESV): Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster.

                       A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him,                                      after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.                          

Footnotes: a. Psalm 51:1 Or Be gracious to me b.Psalm 51:10 Or steadfast

 – Amen

BLCF: Oh_My_God_Jesus

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: justification

 

 

Jesus – The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jesus: The Anticipated and Unexpected Gift from God’

© December 30, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

blcf bulletin december 30, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn # 115: Go Tell It on the Mountain

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

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

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

 Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birth of Jesus Foretold

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Birth of Jesus Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Visit of the Wise Men

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

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

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

The Flight to Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For God So Loved the World

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                        

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

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Third Advent Sunday 2018: Joy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ

– Third Advent Sunday 2018: Joy’

© December 16, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 16, 2018

Based on Message Shared at BLCF on December 13, 2015

BLCF Bulletin December 13, 2015

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                                  

Lighting Third Advent Candle (Joy) – Hebrews 12:1-2 (below):  

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee                                                                    

Hymn #106: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing                                                                  

Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Hymn #103: O Come, All Ye Faithful                                                                   

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

Responsive Reading #631: The Incarnate Christ (John 1)                                             

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the Third Sunday celebrating the advent of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We celebrate today the Joy of the Savior’s birth having lit the third Advent Candle, the ‘Joy Candle’, known also as the ‘Shepherd’s Candle’. The joy and the shepherds are both found in the first of today’s Scripture verses, Luke 2:7-20 (ESV):

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Christmas 2011

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[
a]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

In this Scripture passage, we have an angel suddenly coming upon and startling the shepherds, who are watching their flock on that special night. The angel instructs the shepherds not to be afraid, and to replace their fear and trepidation with joy and praise, (Luke 7:9-10): And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

What is not told directly in this narrative is that Mary treasured up all of the evening’s events, while pondering them in her heart.

Remember Mary has just gone through childbirth in a stable, probably not the place where she had expected to give birth to the Son of God. Since Jesus was born as a son of man, it is likely that the Christ Child, though conceived supernaturally, was delivered in the same manner as all children. Mary likely suffered the pain of the contractions of childbirth which God promised to Eve and her descendants, following the sin in the garden, Genesis 3:16a (ESV):

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.

 

I was fortunate to be present with Sophie at the birth of all of our four children. I remember the pain of the contractions she suffered, with each birth.

However, once the baby was delivered, her pain was forgotten and replaced with the happiness and joy that our child gave her. After the first birth, the joy continued so a few years later, Sophie and I considered having another child. The joy that each child gave Sophie exceeded the extreme pain.

Jesus is the alpha and omega, that is being at the beginning of creation, and the end of time was aware of what was expected of him, in order to bring forgiveness and sanctification to all sinners, for all generations.

However, Jesus did not dwell on the pain and suffering he would endure on the day he would be crucified. Instead, the Lord rejoiced in the Holy Spirit, celebrating that his crucifixion would bring a conviction and understanding to those who believe. Such is the will of his Father in heaven, Luke 10:21-24 (ESV):

Jesus Rejoices in the Father’s Will

21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 10:21 Or for so it pleased you well

Any sorrow Mary experienced in childbirth was displaced with the joy, once her baby was born.

We see in our third Scripture, that Jesus references the transformative results that take place among his disciples, after his impending death on the cross. He tells them that they will experience sorrow and anguish not unlike what a woman would experience in childbirth. But once the process is complete, their sorrow will turn to a joy that cannot be taken from them, John 16:16-24 (ESV):

Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

We see that Jesus describes his own death on the cross will be a paradox: while his disciples are experiencing sorrow and lament at the death; at the same time, the world will rejoice. But like the woman the disciples’ sorrow will turn to joy after the child is born.

This passage, Jesus talks about his death, which will bring the joy of salvation to the world. While his death will cause the disciples to lament, their sorrow will change to joy, after his resurrection. And after the Day of Pentecost, the Lord will send believers a companion in the Holy Spirit, so that they, too, may experience the same joy in the Spirit that Jesus described previously, in Luke 10.

In conclusion, the passage in John 16, talks of the pain of childbirth that will result in the salvation of sinners everywhere. Those who believe and confess their sins will experience the fullness of joy from being born again in the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #120: Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

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.

 

To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday

‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within’

© September 30, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn # 410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day; Choruses                Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                            Responsive Reading #667: Humility and Exaltation (-from Philippians 2 and Matthew 23)                                                                                                                      Message by Steve Mickelson:‘To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Morning Prayer and Worship Service for the last Sunday of September 2018.

Today’s lesson is entitled: To Glimpse Heaven: From Above and From Within was partly inspired from an online article by Jon Lockett, about a mysterious 1,000-year-old map, published by the UK Sun, online on September 10, 2018, entitled:

CRACKING THE CODE: 1,000-year-old Medieval map ‘reveals the location of          Noah’s Ark and other biblical mysteries’

Mappa Mundi

By Jon Lockett

10th September 2018, 3:12 pm

Updated: 10th September 2018, 6:43 pm

 Hereford’s Mappa Mundi contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical events.

 A HISTORIC map which marks the supposed sites of religious events is still being decoded – nearly 1,000 years after it was made.

The Mappa Mundi, in Hereford Cathedral, contains more than 500 ink drawings including amazing ‘evidence’ for apparent locations of key biblical happenings.

Measuring 1.59 x 1.34 metres (5ft 2ins by 4ft 4ins), the map is constructed on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin).

The huge masterpiece is seen by many history scholars as one of the greatest surviving artworks of the Middle Ages.

On the map the world is depicted as a circle with East at the top of the map – to mark the rising of the sun and the second coming of Christ.

Jerusalem sits at its centre as was common at the time.

Noah’s Ark is clearly pictured on the bottom-left of the map on the modern-day Iran-Armenia border.

And that ties in with the theory that the ruptured remains of the legendary vessel can now be found on Mount Ararat, in eastern Turkey.

Close to the very centre of the Mappa Mundi can be found the Tower of Babel – said to have been built after the great flood.

According to the Bible, the tower was so tall it was seen as a challenge to God, who caused humanity to speak in different languages as a punishment.

It has been long claimed that Shinar, where the Bible says the tower stood, was in south Mesopotamia and that Babel was located at Babylon.

However those that have studied the incredible and beautiful map put it in what is now Syria.

Eden is represented by a circular island at the very top of the map surrounded by a ring of fire and separated from the land masses by water.

Eve is seen taking fruit from the tree of knowledge from a terrifying serpent perched in the tree.

Hereford Cathedral’s commercial director Dominic Harbour said: “The map disarms anybody who stands in front of it.

“It’s really a cacophony of too much going on at the same time. The map’s unfathomable, really.

“You have to immerse yourself into it.”

Scholars believe it could be 1,000 years old and shows the history, geography and destiny of humanity as it was understood in Christian Europe in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.

The inhabited part of the world as it was known then, roughly equivalent to Europe, Asia and North Africa, is mapped within a Christian framework.

Jerusalem is in the centre, and east is at the top. East, where the sun rises, was where medieval Christians looked for the second coming of Christ.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7219987/ancient-map-reveals-location-noahs-ark/

Since the above article describes the biblical accounts of the Tower of Babel and the Garden of Eden, I thought that it worthwhile to review these two accounts, as they appeared in the Bible:

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV): The Tower of Babel

Confusion Of Tongues

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for con\used

I would like to point out that in Genesis 11:7, the Lord refers to Himself in the plural, which is appropriate for the Godhead or Holy Trinity.

The Lord takes great exception to the people who migrated from the east, settling in the land of Shinar, and together decided to build there a tower with its top in the heavens.

At that time, people spoke the same language, and the Lord decided the easiest way to foil their plan to build this tower, which He found to be an abomination, was to confuse the people by causing to speak in different languages. This was to ensure that the people could not understand each other so as to prevent them from understanding one another, which in-turn would foil the people’s plans to collectively build a tower to heaven.

While it may not be the actual construction of the tower which concerned the Lord, but the reasons why the people sought to use the building as to reach the heavens for their own glorification. In other words, to elevate their perception by others to be elevated to a level equal to God, a motivation not unlike that which the serpent used to entice Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit described in Genesis 3:1-13 (ESV):

The Fall

Temptation in the Garden

Adam, Eve and the Serpent

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[d] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Not only were Adam and Eve’s eyes opened to an awareness of good and evil, which brought them an awareness of their sin and being naked, which prompted them to hide because of their nakedness because of their fear.

And their fear and guilt of their transgression to God, caused Adam to blame Eve, and Eve to blame the serpent for their sins. Not only had they disobeyed God, but they also lied to Him when they refused to take responsibility for their own actions.

We see in the account of the Tower of Babel, there were consequences from the Lord for Adam and Eve, ejection from the garden of Eden, which they had walked together with God. This separation from the Lord, where they walked together with Him to enjoy conversation in the cool of the day, was perhaps the greatest punishment because it also brought them a judgment of death:

Genesis 3:20-24 (ESV)

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.[a] 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Footnotes: a Genesis 3:20 Eve sounds like the Hebrew for life-giver and resembles the word for living

The Tower of Babel was constructed after Adam and Eve were punished for their sin, bringing the punishment of the loss of fellowship with God and the punishment of death. There was no manner of works, including building a tower to heaven, which would allow people to restore what the Lord had decided to remove as a punishment for their sins.

There is only one Way by which the separation between God and humanity could be removed, allowing a restoration for the lost fellowship with God, through Christ Jesus. He is the only way that we may restore both the relationship with the Father in heaven that was taken after the fall, but it will restore a unity taken when the tower was constructed at Babel:

Ephesians 2:11-22 (ESV): One in Christ

 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[a] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[b] the Spirit.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:19 Or sojourners b. Ephesians 2:22 Or in

Through blood and flesh sacrificed by our Lord, Christ Jesus, we have reunited again in one single body. And by way of the Holy Spirit sent to us from the Father in heaven, in the name of his son, Jesus, we are able to understand each other since that Great day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:1-12 (ESV): The Coming of the Holy Spirit

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

God has provided a plan to sanctify us through his son and reconcile us as a body of believers to our Father, so that we may look forward to that day when Christ returns to walk, talk, and fellowship with Him in that garden, at the cool of the day.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

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.

 

Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Keeping Jesus as Lord in Our Words and Heart’

© September 16, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 16 2018

Based on a Message Shared with BLCF on Sunday, May 26, 2013

BLCF Bulletin May 26, 2013

Let us pray…

In past lessons shared at BLCF on previous Sundays, we have examined how those who view religion with a purely legalistic outlook without faith carry an attitude which can act like excess baggage and impede their faith walk. A specific example would be the Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had difficulty with Jesus’ teachings about being born again in the Spirit. Though Nicodemus had what can be described as having head knowledge of God’s laws and the Scriptures, he had little or no faith understanding of God’s spiritual intent behind those commandments. Without faith or belief that Jesus came to end our judgment under the law, we face the impossible task of being perfect within the law to prevent our own condemnation.  We should conclude that all the other things of this world are of little importance to God, except our faith in Him, which God desires most from us. To grow our faith, we need to discard the excess baggage of the world, focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus.

So you may ask yourself: “What are the risks of taking a purely legalistic approach to our faith?” Before we discuss the penalty or remedy, let us first look at the laws which govern us in our faith walk.

We have two sets of laws that were given to the people of Israel. First, we have God’s 10 Commandments, written on stone tablets by God, and were carried beside the Ark of the Covenant. Next, we have the Ceremonial Law or Mosaic Law, written by Moses, which was carried as a book on the side of the Arc of the Covenant. There is a chart inside today’s bulletin which helps us to distinguish one from another.

God expects us to abide by His 10 Commandments.  Now the legalist might question the name of these God-given laws.

According to Wikipedia, the Ten Commandments are called, in biblical Hebrew, עשרת הדברים (transliterated Asereth ha-D’bharîm) and in Rabbinical Hebrew עשרת הדברות (transliterated Asereth ha-Dibroth), both translatable as “the ten words”, “the ten sayings” or “the ten matters”. The Tyndale and Coverdale English translations used “ten verses”. The Geneva Bible appears to be the first to use “tenne commandements”, which was followed by the Bishops’ Bible and the Authorized Version (the “King James” version) as “ten commandments”. Most major English versions follow the Authorized Version.

The English name “Decalogue” is derived from Greek δεκάλογος, dekalogos, the latter meaning and referring to the Greek translation (in accusative) δέκα λόγους, deka logous, “ten words”, found in the Septuagint (or LXX) at Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4.

The stone tablets, as opposed to the commandments inscribed on them, are called לוחות הברית: Luchot HaBrit, meaning “the tablets of the covenant”.

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

It is not surprising that some scholars will even confuse Ceremonial Laws of Moses with God’s Commandments. It is only the Ordinances and Decrees that Jesus removed by His crucifixion, not God’s 10 Commandments.

Just as important as keeping God’s Laws, both to God and ourselves, is the need to keeping faith with the Lord. While a legalist may say that they abide by both the law and the spirit of the law. But that is not the same as abiding by the law of the spirit, which is, in essence, keeping the faith with the Lord.

In today’s first Scripture verse, Luke 11:37-52, we have Jesus invited by a Pharisee to dine with him. Remember from our earlier lesson of Nicodemus that the definition of a Pharisee is as follows:

(noun):

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

The Pharisee was astonished that Jesus did not wash before dinner, which was a Jewish Ceremonial observance, not for reasons of hygiene. The washing supposedly made one clean before God, something mandated by man, not by God. The reaction of the Pharisee gave Jesus an opportunity to criticize the Pharisee for being focused on the relative superficiality of being focused on outward appearances and what is on the inside, where greed and wickedness contradict an outward demeanor of righteous. Jesus gave the desire to have the best seats in the synagogues and the desire to be acknowledged in the public marketplaces as examples of the Pharisee’s greed. As for wickedness, Jesus pointed to Pharisee injustice to others and avoidance of love to God.

When a lawyer objected to what Jesus said, by characterizing these truthful observations as an insult not just to the Pharisees, but as an insult to lawyers as well. By defending the criticisms that Jesus made of the Pharisees and siding with them, the lawyer attempted to try to make such behaviour as righteous and justified. This opened the door for Jesus to observe how lawyers do behave fit the definition of a Pharisee, being self-righteous hypocrites. Jesus commented on how the lawyers saw fit to burden people, rather than to help them. Jesus spoke of the hypocrisy shown by building tombs and monuments to the prophets who were killed by the fathers of the lawyers. And being educated and learned, the lawyers have had an opportunity to a  faith practice, which they not only avoided but acted as a stumbling block to others finding faith. This is a perfect example of one reading the scriptures with the mind, but not the heart. By obsessing on the words and not the intent of God’s word, they miss the true meaning of the scriptures for both themselves as well as for those to whom they read the verses.

But is missing the mark of comprehending and sharing the scriptures limited to just Pharisees and Lawyers? Do some Christians recite verses from the Holy Word by rote, as if the words alone have some magical power? Let’s have look at how Jesus taught us to pray.

If you look on the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see two examples of what we commonly refer to as the Lord’s Prayer. The first recorded in the gospel of Luke, Chapter 11, verses 1-4, was a response to one of the disciples request to be taught how to pray, as John the Baptist had taught to his disciples. Thus we have:

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

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

The other version of the Lord’s Prayer comes from Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 5 to 14, which is also found on the back of the bulletin, which Jesus spoke as part of His Sermon on the Mount. Before he began to pray, Jesus admonished those present not to behave like the hypocrites, who we now know to be the Pharisees:

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:                                                             

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

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

But we see a variance between the two versions of the prayer, not only between those recorded in Luke and Matthew. We find differences in the same verse, from one Bible translation to another! How can this be? The best explanation may be found in the history of these translations:

The Lord’s Prayer is a central prayer in Christianity also commonly known as Our Father and in the Latin tongue as the Pater Noster. In the New Testament of the Christian Bible, it appears in two forms: in the Gospel of Matthew  as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and in the Gospel of Luke,which records Jesus being approached by “one of his disciples” with a request to teach them “to pray as John taught his disciples.” The prayer concludes with “deliver us from evil” in Matthew, and with “lead us not into temptation” in Luke. The first three of the seven petitions address God; the second four are prayers related to our needs and concerns. The liturgical form is Matthean. Some Christians, particularly Protestants, conclude the prayer with a doxology, an addendum appearing in some manuscripts of Matthew, but originating in an ancient Christian writing known as the Didache.

Though Matthew 6:12 uses the term debts, the older English versions of the Lord’s Prayer uses the term trespasses, while ecumenical versions often use the term sins. The latter choice may be due to Luke 11:4, which uses the word sins, while the former may be due to Matthew 6:14 (immediately after the text of the prayer), where Jesus speaks of trespasses. As early as the third century, Origen of Alexandria used the word trespasses (παραπτώματα) in the prayer. Though the Latin form that was traditionally used in Western Europe has debita (debts), most English-speaking Christians (except Scottish Presbyterians and some others of the Reformed tradition), use trespasses. The Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Church of Christ, Scientist, as well as the Congregational denomination follow the version found in Matthew 6 in the Authorized Version (known also as the King James Version), which in the prayer uses the words “debts” and “debtors”.

The Latin version of this prayer has had cultural and historical importance for most regions where English is spoken. The text used in the liturgy (Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, etc.) differs slightly from that found in the Vulgate Jerome is considered to be responsible for changes such as the use of “supersubstantialem” instead of “cotidianum” as a translation of “ἐπιούσιον” (epiousios) in the Gospel of Matthew, though not in the Gospel of Luke.

The doxology associated with the Lord’s Prayer is found in four Vetus Latina manuscripts, only two of which give it in its entirety. The other surviving manuscripts of the Vetus Latina Gospels do not have the doxology. The Vulgate translation also does not include it, thus agreeing with critical editions of the Greek text.

In the Latin Rite liturgies, this doxology is never attached to the Lord’s Prayer. Its only use in the Roman Rite liturgy today is in the Mass as revised after the Second Vatican Council. It is there placed not immediately after the Lord’s Prayer, but instead after the priest’s prayer, Libera nos, quaesumus…, elaborating on the final petition, Libera nos a malo (Deliver us from evil).

There are several different English translations of the Lord’s Prayer from Greek or Latin, beginning around AD 650 with the Northumbrian translation. Of those in current liturgical use, the three best-known are:

Other English translations are also used.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_prayer

It is a common fallacy among some Christians and even certain Biblical scholars, that the Bible is based on one single set of manuscripts housed in some library, monastery or museum. All they have to do is go to this place and reference these ancient scrolls to obtain a definitive translation of the scriptures. This misconception likely comes from present law-givers being able to see and reference the original historical documents such as the Canadian Charter of Rights, the US Constitution or the British Magna Charta.

Well, it is not quite that simple. Let us briefly look at where scholars obtained the source for the modern Bibles we use today:

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

 The Hebrew Bible or The Tanakh was mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Biblical Aramaic. From the 9th century to the 15th century, Jewish scholars, today known as Masoretes, compared the text of all known biblical manuscripts in an effort to create a unified, standardized text.

A series of highly similar texts eventually emerged, and any of these texts are known as Masoretic Texts (MT). The Masoretes also added vowel points (called niqqud) to the text, since the original text only contained consonant letters. This sometimes required the selection of an interpretation, since some words differ only in their vowels—their meaning can vary in accordance with the vowels chosen. In antiquity, variant Hebrew readings existed, some of which have survived in the Samaritan Pentateuch and other ancient fragments, as well as being attested in ancient versions in other languages.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek.

The discovery of older manuscripts, which belong to the Alexandrian text-type, including the 4th century Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, led scholars to revise their view about the original Greek text. Attempts to reconstruct the original text are called critical editions. Karl Lachmann based his critical edition of 1831 on manuscripts dating from the 4th century and earlier, to demonstrate that the Textus Receptus must be corrected according to these earlier texts.

The autographs, the Greek manuscripts written by the original authors, have not survived. Scholars surmise the original Greek text from the versions that do survive. The three main textual traditions of the Greek New Testament are sometimes called the Alexandrian text-type (generally minimalist), the Byzantine text-type (generally maximalist), and the Western text-type (occasionally wild). Together they comprise most of the ancient manuscripts.

Alternative word order, the presence or absence of an optional definite article (“the”), and so on. Occasionally, a major variant happens when a portion of a text was accidentally omitted (or perhaps even censored), or was added from a marginal gloss. Fortunately, major variants tend to be easier to correct. Examples of major variants are the endings of Mark, the Pericope Adulteræ, the Comma Johanneum, and the Western version of Acts.

Early manuscripts of the letters of Paul and other New Testament writings show no punctuation whatsoever. The punctuation was added later by other editors, according to their own understanding of the text.

We see that our current Bible comes from a variety of sources. Translators were supposed to use as many as 600 Greek manuscripts in order to avoid a skewed or misleading translation. Unfortunately, some of the early translators relied on as few as 40 Greek manuscripts in their translations, because geography and politics made universal access impractical. Over time the availability to more sources enabled corrections to the translations. A couple of years ago, while researching a message on the Holy Trinity, I came upon a good example of such a change. On the bottom of the second page of your bulletin, you will see two translations of 1 John 5:7-8:

The King James states:

7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

And the English Standard states:

7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

Changes to a verse’s translation by the removal, addition or change of the wording has led to some Christians claiming a demonic conspiracy in effect to alter the Word of God, particularly the King James Version when compared to the newer translations. This would be the kind of reaction one would expect from the Pharisees and scribes. Such disagreements are not the work of the Holy Spirit amongst the Christian body of believers and acts to hinder others from hearing the Gospel. Our commission is not to spend our time on petty arguments amongst ourselves over the merits of one translation over another, for the Spirit is absent from such debates. We are commissioned to share God’s Word and promote an appreciation and love for God, in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul said   in his epistle, Romans 10:5-13 (ESV), entitled:

The Message of Salvation to All’

   

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);    9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.     11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Again, we see that the key to salvation and forgiveness from God lies in our heart, as an expression of our faith in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus, and our testimony to the truth of God’s love.

Let us pray…

Hymn #3: God, Our Father, We Adore Thee

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.