The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity – 2022

Dear BLCF Friends,

Effective April 10, 2022, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church will reopen by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF. In order to protect those who are vulnerable at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship from COVID-19 Virus infection, the BLCF Board mandates that the church will be open by reservation, with the following rules:

  • attendees must wear a mask while on the premises
  • attendees give their contact information upon arrival
  • attendees observe two meters social distance while seated
  • attendees use hand sanitizer as needed
  • attendees follow any additional directions given by members of the board, while inside the church

Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to reopen safely more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.

– Pastor Steve

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity

© August 21, 2022, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on May 30, 2021, November 3, 2019, September 10, 2017,  and September 15, 2013

BLCF Bulletin November 3, 2019

BLCF Bulletin September 10, 2017

BLCF Bulletin September 15, 2013 

Music Special – Lauren Daigle – You Say (Lyrics) – https://youtu.be/HqpNGYbcy3U 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn #43: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty – (Nockels, Hymn with Lyrics, Contemporary) – http://www.celebratingholidays.comhttps://youtu.be/BNq0WtMSmIY

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

Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow) Instrumental – https://youtu.be/Mk4p3rihONU

Responsive Reading #641 “Christian Assurance” (-from Romans 8)

This I Believe (The Creed) Lyric Video – Hillsong Kiev – https://youtu.be/uuDI-sk2nJU

Sandra McCracken – Trinity Song (feat. All Sons & Daughters) (Lyrics) – https://youtu.be/oaginDUwFO8

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Holy Trinity and the Human Trinity’

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is holy-trinity-design.png

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service, here at BLCF. Several years ago some of you may recall seeing the 2017 Stuart Hazeldine movie, The Shack, a Christian film, based on William P. Young’s 2007 novel of the same title. The Shack dealt primarily with the topics of how the Godhead or Trinity of God deals with pain and suffering among Christians, and the nature of the love that God has for us in times of darkness and tribulation.

For the lesson today, I would like to talk about similarities and differences between the Trinity of God, sometimes referred to as the Godhead, and another trinity, namely the trinity of the human race. Yes, there is a trinity aspect of people, though not quite the same as the trinity of God. While one trinity, (of humanity) is not widely known, or at the least spoken about, particularly in the context of the other. And the other Trinity, (of God), though spoken about frequently, is often misunderstood.

Hopefully, by the end of this lesson, we will have better knowledge and understanding of both trinities, particularly how the two relate to each other.

Let us begin with the one that is more frequently spoken about by Christians and frequently misunderstood, which is the Trinity of God. This Trinity is used to describe three Divine aspects or expressions of God: the Father/Creator, the Son/Word-made-flesh, and the Holy Spirit.  It is here that we often encounter some controversy amongst various denominations of the Christian Church, as well as criticism from those who challenge the Christian faith as monotheistic.

When we read the King James Version of 1 John 5:7-8, we see a direct reference to the Trinity being three aspects of one God.

7For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.                    

Recently, some Biblical scholars have questioned whether the disciple John authored this version of the Scripture as found in the King Lames Version translation, since there may be some evidence to indicate verse from the original, which many authorities agree should be read as found in the English Standard Version of 1John 5:7-8 (ESV):

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

At first blush, it appears that the mention of the Trinity, which is clearly described in the King James translation, seems to be omitted by the English Standard translation. However, if we examine the English Standard translation more closely, we see that the ESV implies the same message as the KJV, though more by inference than by words in the ESV, which is a more subtle expression of the same thought.

Godhead Trinity

If this verse were the only passage of Scripture that supports the Trinity of God, then we could say that the existence of the Holy Trinity is open to debate and possibly doubt. Fortunately, we have other verses that support the singularity of the Godhead.

At the beginning of the Bible, we read that God refers to Himself in the plural, using the personal pronouns: “us” and “our” rather than “me” and “my” as we read in Genesis 1:26:

26Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. – Genesis 1:26 (ESV)

But who is it comprised the ”we” and ”us” mentioned in this passage, describing the beginning of the Bible:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   – John 1:1 (ESV)

So we know that with God was the Word, but who is the Word? Those of you familiar with the scripture likely already have an idea, as we read from John 1:14:

  

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.            –  John 1:14 (ESV)  

This passage refers to Jesus, also referred to in the Bible as the “Word made flesh”. But was Jesus there in the creation?  From John 1:1 and John 1:14, we may conclude that Jesus or the Word was with God and the Word was God. To help us understand this relationship better, Jesus put it simply in John 10:30:

  

30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 (ESV)     

What about the Holy Spirit? Was the Spirit there at the beginning? The answer to this question is found in Genesis 1:2:

 

2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.         – Genesis 1:2 (ESV)   

Let us recap. We have at the beginning God referring to himself as a plural Entity, using the personal pronouns we and ours. We are told that Jesus, the Word made flesh, was there at the beginning of creation, as was the Holy Spirit. Not three Gods, but three distinct aspects of the same God: a Trinity.

I wonder how many of you know the children’s story of Peter Pan, a free-spirited eternal youth who became separated from his shadow, which both confused and complicated his life until his friend Wendy took and thread in hand and sewed the shadow back to Peter, making him happy and whole again. This somewhat silly child’s tale makes for a good analogy to the human condition.

Adam and Eve, created in the image of God had a good relationship with the Creator. That was until Satan took the form of a serpent and beguiled Eve and Adam to partake of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden We read in Genesis 3, verses 1-6:

Temptation in the Garden

1Now 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’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but 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.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So 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.                                           –  Genesis 3:1-6 (ESV)  

 

We see the consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, in verses 22-23 of the same third chapter of Genesis:

22Then 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—” 23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.      – Genesis 3:22-23 (ESV)  

  

Adam and Eve were told that they would surely die if they ate from the tree, commonly called the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil or Tree of Life. Having done so, Adam and Eve were not only expelled from the Garden of Eden, they had brought the judgment of death upon themselves and their descendants. Once Adam and Eve broke God’s rule, all members of the human race became like the Peter Pan character. But not severed from their shadow, but severed from the Holy Spirit. While the Scriptures have no Wendy to sew things up, we do have a way to repair what has been broken. Jesus Christ came to the world to repair the tear in our spiritual fabric, to restore our souls, to bring that joy again to those who have inherited the judgment of sin.

To better understand God’s solution to the problem of sin, let us now talk about a human trinity. Let us recall from Genesis 1, that we were made in God’s image, verse 26:

26Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness” – Genesis 1:26 (ESV)

If we are made in God’s image, it is not hard to understand that God gave us three aspects of our character, a Human trinity as described in  1Thessalonians 5:23 (ESV):

 

 23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

We see that the Human trinity consists of the body, soul, and spirit. Spirit exists like Peter Pan’s shadow, severed from us by the sin of Eden once the human race having eaten of the tree of knowledge became aware of good and evil and the consequences of choice. God provided us with a way to reconnect with the Holy Spirit, by confessing our sins and receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus and eternal life through the Holy Spirit. The proof and the promise may be found in John 20:20-23 (ESV):

20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Trinity of God and Trinity of Man

Dr. Clarence Larkin in his book, Rightly Dividing the Word expands on the Human trinity mentioned in 1Thessalonians, by describing the three as follows:

The human body touches the material world through the five senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch.

And the gates to the soul are imagination, conscience, memory, reason and the affections.

The spirit receives impressions of outward and material things through the soul. The spiritual faculties of the spirit are faith, hope, reverence, prayer and worship.

To understand God, we must receive the Holy Spirit by faith and trust in God, as we see in 1Corinthians 2:9-11 (ESV):

9But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

 10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Let us, therefore, pray that we find the faith to trust God’s Plan for Salvation, Reconciliation, and Sanctification, through confession of sin, trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, and acceptance of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Music Special – Holy, Holy, Holy – Lyrics Mystery Island VBS – https://youtu.be/jYEiY9JfUR8

Benediction (2Corinthians 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.

Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony – 2022

Dear BLCF Friends,

Effective April 10, 2022, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church will reopen by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF. In order to protect those who are vulnerable at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship from COVID-19 Virus infection, the BLCF Board mandates that the church will be open by reservation, with the following rules:

  • attendees must wear a mask while on the premises
  • attendees give their contact information upon arrival
  • attendees observe two meters social distance while seated
  • attendees use hand sanitizer as needed
  • attendees follow any additional directions given by members of the board, while inside the church

Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to reopen safely more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Jonah_and_Whale

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON.

Message for Sunday:

‘Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony’ 

© July 17, 2022, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on August 29, 2021, and April 17, 2016

BLCF Bulletin April 17, 2016

BLCF: Jonah&Whale

Music Special: Cochren & Co. – Church (Take Me Back) [Official Lyric Video] – https://youtu.be/3eTOcrWu8mQ

Announcements and Call to Worship; 

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

Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow) Instrumental – https://youtu.be/Mk4p3rihONU

Mandy Harvey – It Is Well – (Lyrics) – Bethel Music Cover – https://youtu.be/BkTaVYhOFbw

Scriptures: Luke 11:29-36; Romans 6:1-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 

               

Jonah

Let us pray.

Welcome to our Sunday morning praise and worship service at BLCF Church. For our lesson today, we will examine the Scripture’s account of the Prophet Jonah and the Whale or more precisely, a large fish. While a large fish plays a part in the lesson narrative, Jonah’s account is, by no means, a fish story or fishy tale.

Rather than read through the three chapters of the Book of Jonah, let us check what I like to refer to as our Wikibits on the subject, which presents an interpretation that agrees with most Biblical scholars:

Book of Jonah (From Christianity.about.com):

BLCF: Jonah-and-the-Whale

The book of Jonah is different from the other prophetic books of the Bible. Typically, prophets issued warnings or gave instructions to the people of Israel. Instead, God told Jonah to evangelize in the city of Nineveh, home of Israel’s cruelest enemy. Jonah didn’t want those idolaters to be saved, so he ran away.

When Jonah ran from the call of God, one of the oddest events in the Bible occurred—the story of Jonah and the Whale.

The book of Jonah highlights God’s patience and lovingkindness, and his willingness to give those who disobey him a second chance.

Author of the Book of Jonah: The Prophet Jonah, son of Amittai. Date Written: 785-760 B.C.

Jonah and the Whale – Story Summary:

BLCF: jonah_1

The story of Jonah and the Whale, one of the oddest accounts in the Bible, opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

Jonah found this order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Jonah, a stubborn fellow, did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew cast lots, determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First they tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher.

Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. The crew made a sacrifice to God, swearing vows to him.

Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer. He praised God, ending with the eerily prophetic statement, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9, NIV)

Jonah was in the giant fish three days. God commanded the whale, and it vomited the reluctant prophet onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message and repented, wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.

Again Jonah questioned God, because Jonah was angry that Israel’s enemies had been spared. When Jonah stopped outside the city to rest, God provided a vine to shelter him from the hot sun. Jonah was happy with the vine, but the next day God provided a worm that ate the vine, making it wither. Growing faint in the sun, Jonah complained again.

God scolded Jonah for being concerned about a vine, but not about Nineveh, which had 120,000 lost people. The story ends with God expressing concern even about the wicked.

Points of Interest from Jonah and the Whale:

  • God commands everything in his Creation, from the weather to a whale, to carry out his plan. God is in control.
  • Jonah spent the same amount of time—three days—inside the whale as Jesus Christ did in the tomb. Christ also preached salvation to the lost.
  • It’s not important whether it was a great fish or a whale that swallowed Jonah. The point of the story is that God can provide a supernatural means of rescue when his people are in trouble.
  • Some scholars believe the Ninevites paid attention to Jonah because of his bizarre appearance. They speculate that the whale’s stomach acid bleached Jonah’s hair, skin, and clothing a ghostly white.
  • Jesus did not consider the book of Jonah to be a fable or myth. While modern skeptics may find it impossible that a man could survive inside a great fish for three days, Jesus compared himself to Jonah, showing that this prophet existed and that the story was historically accurate.

http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/a/Jonah-And-The-Whale.htm

BLCF: jonah7

I would like to suggest to those who have studied animal classification, who might have objections to referring to a whale, a mammal, as being a fish, we should not allow the author some slack, as the inventor of modern scientific classification, Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), had not been born.

While the interchangeable use of whale and fish can be overlooked, the conclusion that the Jonah account parallels the story of Jesus is not completely accurate.

Both Jonah and Jesus came to evangelize the message of God’s plan of forgiveness and salvation, Jonah was God’s Prophet, with Jesus being the Word made flesh. In other words, while Jonah preached God’s plan for saving humanity from the judgment of sin, Jesus’ sacrifice provided humanity with the means to become saved and forgiven, by faith.

The parallel between Jonah and Jesus ends, when we see that Jonah rebelled against God and ran away in the opposite direction.

Jonah’s willingness to sacrifice his own life to appease God’s anger, in order to save the crew of the boat, has drawn comparisons with the Lord’s self-sacrifice for humanity. The comparison fails when we consider that Jonah had committed the sin of offending God and Jesus was innocent of any sin.

Then, we have the comparison between Jonah and Jesus with regards to the three days that Jesus’ body was kept in the tomb until his resurrection, being akin to the same number of days Jonah stayed inside the fish. It must be noted that Jonah’s being kept alive by God inside the fish for three days is not the same as Jesus being dead in the tomb for three days, before being resurrected.

This raises the question as to what did the Lord mean when he described his own resurrection in Luke 11:29-36 (ESV), as being compared to The Sign of Jonah:

The Sign of Jonah

BLCF: sign_of_Jonah2

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

While both Jonah and Jesus ministered to a sinful world, offering God’s forgiveness, we see the Lord pointed out in verse 32 that his sign or miracle would be not only greater than Jonah’s given to the people of Nineveh, and the Lord’s wisdom is greater than that of King Solomon. For after the Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension, comes the light of God’s Holy Spirit to all who are forgiven by faith, Christ warns us not to hide or extinguish the light of the Spirit and fall back into the darkness of sin, as we continue to read from Luke 11:

The Light in You

BLCF: Jonah4

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

Like Jonah, believers in the resurrected Christ are commissioned to evangelize the Gospel of Christ unto the ends of the world.

I feel that the lesson to be learned from Jonah’s account does present an example to us of God’s forgiveness and preserving a life for His plan to evangelize to the sinners of the world. However, instead of comparing Jonah’s salvation to Christ’s, we need to view it in the context of the rebirth of Christian believers, who must evangelize, as apostles or messengers to the world of the salvation message contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we see in Romans 6:1-14 (ESV);

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

BLCF: dead2sin

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

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

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

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

While we are instructed by the Lord to evangelize the Gospel message, not as Jonah had to a single people, but the Good News of Jesus unto the ends of the world. We should never lose our hope and faith in Christ’s resurrection and encourage one another in this hope, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV):

The Coming of the Lord

BLCF: 2nd-coming-dramatic

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Footnotes: a. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Or by the word of the Lord

Finally, as believers in the Resurrected Lord, we should take comfort that Jonah, in spite of being confined in the belly of a giant fish, facing his own uncertain fate, did not allow the surrounding darkness to extinguish the light of his own faith in God, as we see in Jonah’s testimony that is also his prayer, Jonah 2 (ESV), which I would like to read as a closing prayer for today’s lesson.

Let us pray:

Jonah’s Prayer

BLCF: Jonah3

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
    at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (AMEN)

10 And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

blcf: Christian fish symbol

Music Special: Jonah’s Prayer (Lyric Video) – Emu Youth – https://youtu.be/bLuY-XSEfrc

Music Special: Ship Ahoy (Old Ship of Zion) – Open Door Bible Baptist Church – Sagay – Lyricshttps://youtu.be/9McwLkMjqbw

Benediction – (2Corinthians 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: Jonah-Woodcut

God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit – 2022

Dear BLCF Friends,

Effective April 10, 2022, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church will reopen by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF. In order to protect those who are vulnerable at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship from COVID-19 Virus infection, the BLCF Board mandates that the church will be open by reservation, with the following rules:

  • attendees must wear a mask while on the premises
  • attendees give their contact information upon arrival
  • attendees observe two meters social distance while seated
  • attendees use hand sanitizer as needed
  • attendees follow any additional directions given by members of the board, while inside the church

Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to reopen safely more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit

June 26, 2022, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared with BLCF on February 18, 2018, and April 14, 2013

BLCF Bulletin February 18, 2018 

BLCF Bulletin April 14, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                             

Music Special: There’s a Quiet Understanding – Christian Music Artists – (Lyrics) – https://youtu.be/BJTj8CGjJbg

Spirit of the Living God (Silo Sessions) // Sounds Like Reign – https://youtu.be/En44FTqOifs?t=20

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

Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow) Instrumental – https://youtu.be/Mk4p3rihONU

Responsive Reading #624 of Prayer: (The Great Commission – from Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, and Mark 16)                                                                                                        

Message by Steve Mickelson: God’s Power and Comfort through the Holy Spirit

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, where we observe our first Sunday  Praise and Worship Service for the Summer of 2022.

Much of today’s lesson is taken from the Book of Acts of the Apostles. We embark on a new chapter of the God’s Plan, where our Lord makes available a part of God or the Holy Trinity, which is the Holy Spirit, to all of humanity who call upon the name of the Lord; confess their sins; and decide to follow the Way of the Lord, being baptized in Holy Spirit.

You may recall from recent lessons here, that the church is the body of believers. The body is unified where each member is a living vessel of God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit first came upon the believers, sequestered in the Upper Room awaiting the arrival of the Holy Spirit, Who arrived on the Day of Pentecost. And the Day of Pentecost was the culmination of a series of events that began with the Resurrection of Jesus at Easter Sunday, an event which Christians consider to be the basis of our faith and a proof of the Power of God, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:13-19 (ESV):

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[a] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.                                                                                     

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:19 Or we have hoped

This passage points out that not only is the Resurrection of the Lord important critical proof that Jesus is Lord and the truth of the Gospel and allows us to be confident in God’s promises to forgive our sins, trust in the promise of our own resurrection from death as well judgment and validates the truth of our sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as a foundation of our faith and trust in the Lord.

God’s Plan for our Salvation is through Jesus Christ. Those elements are how Jesus rode a young donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; Jesus’ washing of the feet of the 12 Disciples; the Last Supper of the Lord on the Passover; the Lord’s Crucifixion on Good Friday; the Resurrection on Easter Sunday; The Lord’s Ascension into Heaven and the Gift of the Spirit at Pentecost. Each element of Holy Week was foretold by God to the prophets and recorded in Scripture and is a necessary step in a ladder of events to fulfill God’s Salvation Plan.  We even talked about the two prophets on the Emmaus Road, who encountered the resurrected Christ and brought the good news back to the remaining 11 disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. What was this Upper Room referred to in the Scriptures?

The Last Room

It is funny how we will often refer to the name of a place, not knowing where it is located or what its purpose was. I recall when I first dated Sophie and visited her house, which was often filled with the extended family: brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and of course the notorious “last room.” If a visitor came and was offered a ginger ale or coke, the duty of retrieving the pop usually fell upon a young niece or nephew. Pop was usually kept in a place referred to as “The Last Room.” If something was needed or missing, such as an umbrella, a slipper, a shoe, a hat, a coat, or a broom, the searcher would usually be directed to look in “The Last Room.” It was only after a month or so that I figured out that this “Last Room” was an enclosed porch at the back, north side of the house. The Last Room served as a combination cold room, cloakroom, and broom closet. This porch was not insulated and had windows that opened to allow access to a clothesline that ran from the back wall of the house to an ancient large pear tree in the backyard. If someone in the household was looking for a lost or missing item, the first and last place to look for it was usually the “Last Room”. Sadly, an addition to the house of a family room and washroom eliminated the notorious “last room” from the floor plan of the house, relegating the location to just a fond memory of the past. The photo, (below), is a stock photo intended to represent the enclosed back porch at my mother-in-law’s house, which the family would refer to as “The Last Room.

The Last Room

This brings today’s lesson to a place of similar notoriety in the Scriptures, which is called the “Upper Room.”

Most Bible scholars seem to agree that this Upper Room was the place where Jesus washed the feet of the 12 Disciples; where the Last Supper of Passover served by Jesus took place; where, later, the remaining 11 Disciples received the good news that the Lord had arose from the grave; where Thomas examined Jesus’ wounds from the crucifixion; where the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 believers after Jesus ascended; and where Christ’s Church began..

But where and what was this place called the Upper Room or sometimes called the Upper Chamber? The Cenacle (from Latin cenaculum), also known as the Upper Room, is the site of The Last Supper. The word is a derivative of the Latin word cena, which means dinner. In Christian tradition, based on Acts 1:13, the “Upper Room” was not only the site of the Last Supper (i.e. the Cenacle), but the usual place where the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem, and following the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and the arrival of”the first Christian Church”.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Jerusalem (A.D. 71–1099): “During the first Christian centuries the church at this place was the centre of Christianity in Jerusalem, “Holy and glorious Sion, mother of all churches” (Intercession in “St. James’ Liturgy”, ed. Brightman, p. 54). Certainly, no spot in Christendom can be more venerable than the place of the Last Supper, which became the first Christian church.”

The early history of the Cenacle site is uncertain; scholars have made attempts at establishing a chronology based on archaeological evidence and historical sources.

Biblical archaeologist Bargil Pixner offers these significant dates and events in the building’s history:

The original building was a synagogue later probably used by Jewish Christians. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the building was spared during the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus (AD 70), though Pixner thinks it was likely rebuilt right after the war, and claims three walls of that structure are still extant: the North, East, and South walls of the present King David’s Tomb. Roman emperor Theodosius I built an octagonal church (the “Theodosian Church” or “Holy Zion Church”) aside the synagogue (that was named “Church of the Apostles”). The Theodosian Church, probably started on 382 AD, was consecrated by John II, Bishop of Jerusalem on 394 AD. Some years later, c. 415 AD, Bishop John II enlarged the Holy Zion Church transforming it in a large rectangular basilica with five naves, always aside the Church of the Apostles. This building was later destroyed by Persian invaders in 614 AD and shortly after partially rebuilt by patriarch Modestus. In 1009 AD the church was razed to the ground by the Muslim caliph Al-Hakim and shortly after replaced by the Crusaders with a five aisled basilica named for “Saint Mary”, today the site of Dormition Abbey. It is thought that the Cenacle occupied a portion of two aisles on the right side of the altar.

While the church was destroyed sometime after 1219, the Cenacle was spared. In the 1340s, it passed into the custody of the Franciscan Order of Friars, who maintained the structure until 1552, when the Ottoman Empire took possession of it. After the Franciscan friars’ eviction, this room was transformed into a mosque, as evidenced by the mihrab in the direction of Mecca and an Arabic inscription prohibiting public prayer at the site. Christians were not officially allowed to return until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.

When they returned to the Upper Room after Christ’s Ascension, the disciples numbered some 120, did not sit idly by, but began selecting a replacement for Judas and continued in fervent prayer to prepare for the arrival of God’s gift, Acts 1:1-11 (ESV):

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4 And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension

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

Jesus instructed the disciples to wait upon the Lord, as we read in Acts 1:4 (ESV):

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; Footnotes: a. Acts 1:4 Or eating

Note in verse 11 that Jesus was described as being taken up to heaven. Five times New Testament writers employ the Greek term analambano (to take up) of the Lord’s ascension (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:2,11,22; 1 Timothy 3:16). Each time the verb is in the passive voice, he “was taken up.” The passive voice represents the subject of the verb as being acted upon, thus, in this instance, indicating that the “taking up” was empowered from above, namely by God.

This is almost comical as the disciples were asked, “Hey why are you looking up to heaven? Did Jesus not just tell you he would return in the same manner that he just left? Perhaps, it was the vision of our Lord’s ascension that had them transfixed. But remember that two had witnessed Jesus ascend on the day of the transfiguration. But that is another topic for another message.

But it is important to note in verse 8, that teacher now passes upon the student, the disciples, the torch of teaching God’s Grace, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit.

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus gave his blessing, Luke 24:51 (ESV):

51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

The blessing that Jesus gave, Luke 24:51, is often interpreted as a priestly act where Jesus leaves his disciples in the care of God the Father. The return to Jerusalem after the Ascension ends the Gospel of Luke where it began, in Jerusalem. And where in Jerusalem did the disciples go? The Upper Room! The meeting is described in Acts 1:12-26 (ESV):

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

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

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it; and “‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.                                                                                                                          

Footnotes: 1. Acts 1:4 Or eating 2. Acts 1:5 Or in 3. Acts 1:14 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 15 4. Acts 1:18 Or swelling up

And in this Upper Room, the promised gift from God, the Holy Spirit was given to those who had gathered and prayed, Acts 2:1-4 (ESV):

1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

We have a good idea of what the Upper Room was and the significance of events that occurred there. But what about the Pentecost event that took place in the Upper Room?

Pentecost means Fifty. The Fiftieth is a prominent feast in the calendar of Ancient Israel celebrating the giving of the Law on Sinai, which coincides with the Christian liturgical year as the date commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the remaining eleven Apostles of Christ (Judas had hung himself), and over 100 others, a total of 120 Disciples in the Upper Room, after the Resurrection of Jesus. Thus, the day of Pentecost occurred some 50 days after Jesus was crucified and 10 days after our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven.

So let us back up a bit to Christ’s Ascension, an event most scholars believe took place above the Mount of Olives, near Bethany. Beth Anya, which translates as “house of misery/Poor house?” Bethany is recorded in the New Testament as the home of the siblings’ Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, as well as that of Simon the Leper. Jesus is reported to have lodged there after his entry into Jerusalem, and it could be from Bethany that he parted from his disciples at the Ascension.

In Luke, Jesus leads the eleven disciples to Bethany, not far from Jerusalem and Luke describes the Ascension in Luke 24:50-53 (ESV):

The Ascension

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

We know that the Holy Spirit had been at work previously. We see him working through different people throughout the Old Testament. We see Jesus’ close connection with the Spirit in the Gospels. Now, though, something different was happening.

According to what Jesus had told his disciples in Luke 24:49 (ESV), And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” and what Peter said later in Acts 2:38 (ESV), “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit was working in a new manner, that is, in a way that he had not worked previously but in a way that had been promised or prophesied.

A thousand years before the Savior’s birth, David prophesied the ascension of Jesus when he announced the Lord’s enthronement at the Father’s right hand in Psalm 110:1 (ESV):

Sit at My Right Hand A Psalm of David:

110 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

No other psalm is so frequently quoted in the New Testament, which acts as a good indicator of the importance of the event. And because the disciples had struggled with the concept of Jesus’ death, he told them plainly that he was going back to the Father, John 14:12 (ESV):  

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

And, while on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Jesus told the high priest that soon he would be “seated at the right hand of Power”, see Matthew 26:64 (ESV):

64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

So we conclude today’s lesson with a better understanding of the significance of the upper room as the location for the events of the teaching by our Lord by washing of the disciple’s feet, Jesus’ instruction to the disciples with regard to the elements of the Last Supper, the appearance of the Lord after the resurrection, the disciples’ selection of Matthias to replace the deceased Judas, the place where God’s gift of the Holy Spirit comes upon the men and women believers who prayed and waited there, and the location where Peter, having received the Spirit delivers the first sermon, and the place where 3,000 hear the Spirit-filled receive Christ as Lord and Saviour and are baptized in the Spirit. And with the Ascension of Jesus, we see the passing of the ministry of the Gospel of Christ to the body of believers, baptized with God’s power and comfort through the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

 

Closing Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding

Music Special: He Lives – I Serve a Risen Savior – Piano – Lyrics – Accompaniment – Hymnal – https://youtu.be/lmT8JLRUuJ8

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.

The Best Christmas Gift Ever! 2021

Closed December 26
 
Dear BLCF Friends,
 
Important Notice: Due to the current explosion of infections of the Omicron Variant of the COVID-19 Virus and in order to minimize exposure to vulnerable members who depend on public transit to get to and from church on Boxing Day, December 26, 2021, we regretfully announce that BLCF Church Sunday Worship Service is cancelled. Please monitor our social media for the date that BLCF will resume our Sunday Worship Services.
 
Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to safely reopen more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.
 
God’s Blessings for this Christmas and for the 2022 New Year. May you, your family, and your friends have a safe and blessed Holiday Season and throughout the New Year! Though we will be closed on December 26, I believe you would enjoy the lesson that I have prepared for that Sunday.
 
– Pastor Steve

Opening Music Special: Cochren and Co. Church (Take me Back) https://youtu.be/3eTOcrWu8mQ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON.

Message for Sunday:

‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!’

© December 26, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared  at BLCF Church on December 25, 2020, and on December 30, 2018

blcf bulletin december 30, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayers                                                            

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

Music Special; Lauren Daigle – Light Of The World (with lyrics) https://youtu.be/olw5uH_fvuw

Lighting of the Christ Candle: Matthew 5:14-16 ESV 

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Classic Christmas Caroling Songbook - Hendrickson Publishers

To add to today’s celebration, BLCF Church would like to give each member of the congregation a personal copy of A Classic Christmas Caroling Songbook (Hendrickson Publishers). We will be using  this songbook for today’s Service. So please remember to bring your Songbook back for the remainder of the year.

Let us give the songbook a trial. At this time the Congregation is invited to make selections from their personal copy of A Classic Christmas Caroling Songbook (Hendrickson Publishers), selections will be accompanied with the corresponding music track from the companion CD: Classic Christmas Carols – 30 Sing Along Favorites.

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for the day after Christmas Day 2021,  which we call Boxing Day in Camada.

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 earlier Christmases. The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic has brought upon the whole world challenges of anxiety, fear, and despair on a global scale beyond any experienced within living memory.

Christmas Day marks the day that believers in the Resurrected Christ, celebrate the birth of our Lord on what we might consider that first Christmas Day, a little over 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, sharing gifts, and fellowship with others. Before COVID-19, from January 2008 until mid-March 2020, we at BLCF celebrated Christmas on Wednesday at the BLCF Cafe and on Sunday as far back as 1938 at BLCF Church.

Looking back on past Christmases, I recalled one particular Christmas that resonates with our lesson today, ‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!.’

It was Christmas 1959. I was just eight years old. I remember 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 later as a journalist by night. Somehow, dad managed to get by with little sleep or no sleep for six days of the week.

 

San Antonio Farmers Market

When Christmas Eve came around, our mom and dad would go to the local San Antonio Farmer’s Market late in the evening, just as the stalls selling Christmas trees were closing. 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.

1950s Christmas Tree 3

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, walnuts, 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 names 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.

In 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 Shopping 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 a holster. The set may be considered by many today as politically incorrect was the rage among young boys in Texas at the time, due to the popular TV show.

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 was I was receiving as my Secret Santa gift. 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 the 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 the Messiah sent by God, no one knew the 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 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 until the angels visited them, 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 told Herod that the 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 in 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, which was the 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: to be blessed with His most precious gift to all who have faith. May you all have a blessed Christmas and a safe and happy 2021.

Let us pray…

Greatest Christmas Gift

Closing Music Special: Lauren Daigle – Thank God I Do (Live) (Lyrics) – https://youtu.be/G0djs41QwlA

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                        

 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. – Have a Happy New Year, 2022 and be the Light of the World!

Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: run_race

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

© April 11, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based On Messages Originally Published September 19, 2010 and on July 13, 2014

BLCF Bulletin 13, 2014

BLCF: Cross_Runners

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading # 648 ( A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer                                             

Opening Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation; Choruses

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

Scriptures: Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Acts 20:24, and 2 Timothy 4:7 

BLCF: MARATHON-RUN

Let us pray…

In this age of instant fast foods, instant bank tellers (a.k.a. bank machines), movies on demand, and instant access to a wealth of information via the internet, it is refreshing to slow the tempo of our surroundings and do something that requires more than just a few minutes of our time to complete. For some, such low tempo activities includean extended period of unstructured time, untethered to clocks, schedules or timetables. For others, it is the challenge of completing a goal that involves continuous effort for a protracted period of time, dedication, commitment and provides a goal worthy of the effort.

One such event is the marathon, a cross-country run, not run as a competition between individual participants, but as a vehicle for a group of people to raise awareness and funds, by its participants in order to recognize or help others who suffer from, are afflicted by or have died from a disease or affliction. An example of one such marathon for a cause is the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research, which occurs annually every around September 14, on the second Sunday after Labour Day.

BLCF: TerryFoxRun-banner-2014-EN

The Terry Fox Run takes place annually on the second Sunday after Labour Day. The Terry Fox Run dates over the years:

2014September 1434th Anniversary
2015September 2035th Anniversary
2021September 1941st Anniversary

Some people run in marathons for personal satisfaction of completing the challenge of the race. For others it is all about the cause.

The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards), which is usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon (the namesake of the race) to Athens. Upon completion of the run where Pheidippides reported a victory, he collapsed and died. While he had died he completed his task and gave the message which gave hope and joy to the people of Athens.

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Today, many marathon races are run to commemorate a person or just cause. Often the person and the cause are inseparable, such as the Terry Fox Run. Though he never finished his race, the effort and idea of running across Canada to raise awareness of, and funding for, Cancer was a victory for him.

We have with the Terry Fox Run, no individual winners; only a common desire amongst the runners to defeat Cancer. In our race as Christians, we run together to defeat Satan, to defeat death and win victories for God.

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While Paul and other authors of the Scriptures speak of running or winning a race, I think the God was not speaking of a short sprint or even a middle or long distance event. God was talking of a long endurance race, such as the marathon. A life-long marathon.

And how do we prepare ourselves for in the long run, (if you excuse the pun)? God does provide us with a “Runners Handbook” in His Word. Here are a few of the important verses to prepare us for the race of life, beginning where the Bible describes ways of preparing the believer for the challenges encountered along the way of a lifelong “Christian Walk:

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Ephesians 6:10-20, describes them as wearers of ‘The Whole Armour of God’.

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

And in 1 Chronicles 12:22, talks of the ‘The Army of God.’

22 For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.

We are part of the “army of God”, engaged in battle, wearing the armour of God. But armour is not the only analogy given to our Faith Walk.

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The Bible in 1 Corinthians 12:27, also, describes Christian believers as part of the “body of Christ”.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

BLCF: Body of Christ

Looking at 2 Corinthians 5:20,we are “Christ’s ambassadors”; His envoys, representing him in this world.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Ephesians 5:22-33 describes the church of believers as “bride of Jesus”, with Christ being the groom, described similar to the relationship between a wife and husband.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Footnotes: a. Or holy and blameless

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The Bible likens us in 1 Corinthians 3:17, to a “temple of God”.

17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

 We are “healthy branches” and Christ is the vine, as described in John15:5.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

BLCF: salt_of_the_earth

Matthew 5:13-16, characterizes Christian believers as “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

Each one of these is varied and each one is valid.  Each one could easily take a sermon to explain and understand.

However, let me simplify all of them by describing them an aspect of our personal relationship with God. As soldiers in God’s army, wearing God’s armor we battle both Satan and sin. God is our Commander-in-Chief; the Bible gives us both His strategy and the weapons to battle within the scriptures. However, the battle, that challenges both our determination and tests our endurance, is lifelong; but great are the victories won, if we stay faithful in serving the Lord. Victory is found in souls saved from the final judgment of death by receiving God’s love and avoiding the obstacles Satan places in our path. The gaol and reward is salvation and eternal life.

Once we have made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, having confessed our sins, and committing ourselves to God, we are immediately appointed His ambassadors. As ambassadors our passports are stamped by the precious blood of Christ who died for our sins. As so we carry the diplomatic immunity from judgment for our sins. But we are expected to represent the Kingdom of God in an appropriate and fitting manner. Our diplomatic mandate requires us to understand God’s purpose and policies, as outlined in the Bible. And as Holy diplomats, we must use the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit to walk, talk and act as messengers of truth. Otherwise, we lose credibility and do our appointed position a disservice and dishonor the One who sacrificed so much that we may be His representatives, unto the ends of the world.

BLCF: Jesus_meeting_bride

A bride and groom are joined together in marriage until death. That is until death bids them to part. But God expects married partners not to be unequally-yoked. Like a pair of oxen, of one we stronger than the other. Otherwise the cart or the plough, or whatever the team pull, would be drawn into circles. God wants us walking a straight path, with straight rows, not making crazy crop circles. A bride and groom are kept together because they share the same values, seek the same goals, and work together in harmony. Jesus, the groom, did His part to provide for his bride, which is the church, by fulfilling the scriptures and being the last and final sacrificial lamb for all of humanity. Every believer; man and woman, Jew and Gentile, adult and child, alike may be judged sinless forever in God’s eyes’ thanks to the sacrifice of Christ.

And the bride in this relationship, being the Church, has the responsibility to maintain and nourish the faith; to ensure all her children understand the message of the Gospel, as well as God’s unconditional gift of love. Not for only a day; not until the kids are grown; and not until retirement; but until death, which in God’s time frame, forever! Forever includes this lifetime, the next, as well as the hereafter.

BLCF: socil_media_scrapbook

A married couple may have a wedding album to mark that special day, with all the events of the day being recorded by the photos,  as well as by saved mementos which, when added to the photos, make the scrapbook a tapestry of a life event. This album is often followed by other albums to record other important events, such as: birthdays, vacations, anniversaries and other significant events of a whole lifetime bound within the albums’ collective pages. Today, tech savvy couples may post such images on social media pages, such as Facebook, Flickr, BLOGs and Instagram on the Internet for the whole world to see. To make a good impression, these social media albums are edited to show only the best images of what we do.

BLCF: BOOK-OF-LIFE

The Lord keeps an album too, sometimes referred to our “Book of Life”. Unlike our scrapbook albums, this one has a record of all that we do, say and think; the good as well as the bad. But like our album, all of the good and bad will be posted for all to see come Judgment Day. That is a daunting thought, for instead of warranting a title such as “The Highlights of My Life”, the title for such a Book might have one sounding like a spaghetti western title like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of My Life”! To the Lord the content of this Judgement Book that is important to Him includes: whether we have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; whether we have confessed our sins; and perhaps most importantly, have we embarked upon the race that the Lord has set for us as Christian believers: to spread the Gospel to others and whether we grew in faith and trust in His Way.

Before I get carried away, and attempt to comment on all of these examples of our Christian walk, let me address the topic of this Sunday’s message: ‘Are you running from God’s judgment or towards His grace’?  There is another analogy of the Christian walk, but the Apostle Paul describes it as a race, like a marathon. With a few exceptions, the runners of these races are not necessarily running the race as competitors against each other, but like the marathons for a just cause, as a group running with the common goal of just making it to the finish line by overcoming the challenges of obstacles, such as the wall of pain and exhaustion. They must find inner strength from within and demonstrate to the world that they can continue the race into to the end.

BLCF: Woman Running

I have a sister-in-law, Suuzi who is a triathlete. She does triathlons, which include three endurance races combined in a single marathon race. Part of the race is in the water; part is like the original marathon is on foot; and part is on bicycle. One of Suuzi’s first races took place in Hamilton, early in the month May, with the first leg to be swum in Hamilton Harbor. My brother-in -law recorded that race with over three hundred participants at the starting line.  At the start of the race,  we  see that the starting gun goes off and the triathletes run into water. In the next scene of the video, about half of the participants doing a 180 – turnaround and run right back out of the water.

BLCF: cold water swim

If you are curious as to how cold the water of Lake Ontario can be in early May, ask Sophie as she was baptized in Lake Ontario at Sunnyside Park in the month of May.

I believe Suuzi was one of those who ran in, then out of the lake. She and the other runners were not prepared for the conditions of the lake. Eventually Suuzi re-entered the lake and eventually finished her race.

BLCF: kangaroos

Recently, Suuzi lived in Australia for a couple of years, and while on the road had her training run interrupted by a gang of kangaroos, which surrounded Suuzi on the roadside. This kangaroo encounter, while somewhat bizarre and sounding humorous could have had a very serious outcome, as the hopping marsupials are well known for their aggressive and combative behavior. Fortunately, Suuzi escaped from the encounter, unharmed. After she escaped the kangaroo threat, Suuzi actually returned to the same location with her husband, camera in hand, hoping to take a photograph the ‘roos. Come to think of it, it is likely that Suzie’s photo albums, at least those documenting her runs, are likely to be quite different from the norm.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, those running the ‘Race of Christian Faith’, we must be prepared for the unexpected, which is Satan’s way of distracting us from our goal of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

BLCF: 15km_kangaroo_sign

In school I used to like running to middle distance races. A middle distance was 880 yards before metrification or 800 meters today. I recall during one practice run, where I knew none of my opponents. I had taken, and was maintaining, a lead over the rest of the pack for most of the race, with one pesky runner, whose name was Alan, maintained a pace beside and behind me for most of the race.

At one point of the race, near the last thirty yards of the finish line, Alan looked at me with a show of apparent concern saying, “You look tired! Are you OK? Maybe you should take it easy, as it is only a practice.”

For me that was I all I needed to hear. My legs and arms were burning, my lungs bursting at my efforts and Alan’s words spoke to me of everything that my body felt. I was done, as Alan had effectively broken my focus enough to pass me and win the race.

BLCF: hebrews-12-what-makes-the-course-worth-running

In our race on the Glory Road, we too have someone like Satan whispering in our ears that the water is too cold to swim or that we have reached an insurmountable wall. Even something as innocuous as “Oh look a bunch of kangaroos”. Whatever it is, we must resist the temptation to stop or quit the race. For in quitting, we hand the garland of victory to Satan!

We must not be diverted from our route or distracted from the goal in our race. Satan loves to chill the water in which we swim or throw a kangaroo or two in our path. He will do anything to make us lose our focus and ultimately to stop us from running God’s race. Remember, that Jesus, immediately following his baptism and having received the Holy Spirit, was taken into the desert, where he fasted and was repeatedly tested by Satan. But Jesus, through faith in His Father, and by his knowledge of the scriptures, stayed on track and defeated Satan. Jesus’ victory was our victory. Jesus did not allow himself to be detoured from his appointed path to defeat sin on our behalf.

BLCF: rooted_in_faith

Having prepared ourselves for the race, let us review the race set before us:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV)

1Therefore, 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, 2looking 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.

 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

BLCF: 1Corinthins_9_24-27

         1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) 

4Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  

BLCF: the-race-of-faith-Hebrews_12_1-2

The goal of our race is testify to the Gospel of Christ and to keep the faith:

  Acts 20:24 (ESV)  

24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

  2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

And if we set upon the marathon of our life, intent to share, without distraction, the Gospel of Christ and keep our faith in the Lord, then when our race is run. We may claim for ourselves the rewards of our efforts to draw closer to the Lord’s “Throne of Grace”, so that we may receive His mercy and, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, find the grace to help those who have not yet found it.

BLCF: runner
BLCF: Phillipians_313

Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For 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.                                                                                          

Let Us Pray…

BLCF: Christian_Faith

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: hebrews12_1_new

The Best Christmas Gift Ever!

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!’

© December 25, 2020, by Steve Mickelson

Based on the Message Shared by Steve Mickelson at BLCF Church on December 30, 2018

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: ‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!’

 Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for Christmas Day 2020.

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 earlier Christmases. The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic has brought upon the whole world challenges of anxiety, fear, and despair on a global scale beyond any experienced within living memory.

Christmas Day marks the day that believers in the Resurrected Christ, celebrate the birth of our Lord on what we might consider that first Christmas Day, a little over 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, sharing gifts, and fellowship with others. Before COVID-19, from January 2008 until mid-March 2020, we at BLCF celebrated Christmas on Wednesday at the BLCF Cafe and on Sunday as far back as 1938 at BLCF Church.

Looking back on past Christmases, I recalled one particular Christmas that resonates with our lesson today, ‘The Best Christmas Gift Ever!.’

It was Christmas 1959. I was just eight years old. I remember 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 later 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, walnuts, 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.

In 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 Shopping 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 a holster. The set considered by many today as politically incorrect was 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 was I was receiving as my Secret Santa gift. 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 the 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 the 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 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 until the angels visited them, 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 told Herod that the 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 in 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, which was the 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: to be blessed with His most precious gift to all who have faith. May you all have a blessed Christmas and a safe and happy 2021.

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 2020: Joy

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© December 13, 2020, by Steve Mickelson

Based Messages Shared at BLCF on December 13, 2015 and December 15, 2019

BLCF Bulletin December 13, 2015

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                               

Opening Hymn: Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel                                                                     

Lighting Third Advent Candle (Joy) – Hebrews 12:1-2 (Bottom of page)                                               

After Lighting the Advent Candle #3 – Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee                               

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

Responsive Reading #631: Incarnate Christ (John 1)                                                                                 

Message by Steve Mickelson:  ‘Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Third Advent Sunday: Joy

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the Third Sunday celebrating the advent of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is the third of the four Advent Sundays, where we light a candle on each of the four Sundays, with each candle representing: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ, respectively.

Today’s candle is lit to celebrate the joy of the Savior’s birth. The candle is therefore referred to as the ‘Joy Candle’, known also as the ‘Shepherd’s Candle.’

Lighting The 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.

After Lighting the Advent Candle #3 – Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore

The joy and the shepherds are both found in the first of today’s Scripture verses, Luke 2:7-20 (ESV):

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 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. 

 

  

Epiphany: Celebrating the Manifestation of Christ

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Manifestation of Christ’

© January 1, 2020, by Steve Mickelson

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

BLCF Bulletin December 28, 2014

BLCF Bulletin December 29, 2013 

Welcome and blessings of the New Year to all on this, the first Sunday of 2020, the Sunday closest to January 6, which is the day that many churches observe the Epiphany, marking the manifestation of the Christ or Messiah, who is our Lord Jesus.

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

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

Epiphany Observances

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

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

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

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

Epiphany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Johann Roten    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Visit of the Wise Men

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

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

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

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

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

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,

and thick darkness the peoples;

but the Lord will arise upon you,

and his glory will be seen upon you.

And nations shall come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your rising.

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

The Wedding at Cana

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Baptism of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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