2015 in review for this BLOG

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Volunteer To Help Feed The Homeless Right In The Heart Of Toronto

BLCF Café  needs volunteers, (individuals or groups), to help at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, a weekly dinner that feeds over 150 homeless and marginalized people, every Wednesday Evening. Relying on fundraisers and private donations, BLCF Cafe receives neither government grants nor corporate sponsorship. BLCF Cafe does rely on the dedication of volunteers to serve over 7,500 dinners, annually.

 

Volunteers serve each guest a wholesome dinner, with dignity and respect. If you are able, why not contribute a couple of hours of your time for a great cause? You will be glad you did, when you see the smiles on the faces of the people we serve.For more information: Contact Sophie Mickelson at blcfcafe@yahoo.ca 416-535-9578 see us on facebook under BLCF Cafe: BLCF Cafe Facebook Link or our BLOG: BLCF Cafe BLOG. BLCF Cafe Community Dinner was established in January 2008 by, and is operated under, the auspices of, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church: BLCF Church Web Page

We would be happy to have you or your group help as a volunteer at the BLCF Cafe. Our volunteers help at various times of the day between 12PM and 8:30PM and help in all aspects of running the dinner, from food preparation, serving, setting up tables and chairs, and clean up.

To find out how you or your group may help the cause of feeding the homeless and marginalized right in the heart of Toronto, please contact us at BLCF on any Wednesday anytime after 12:00PM and before 5:00PM. Or call and leave a message.

Please use the side door, as we do not open the front doors until after 6PM and we need our volunteers to arrive by 5:30PM to be briefed before we serve dinner.

Sophie Mickelson

Director/Coordinator BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

416-535-9578

 

BLCF:ExtremeColdWeatherWB
brutally_cold_Torontof
BLCF: coldest_february_on_record

Now that the weather’s turning cold, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is asking for donations of socks, gloves, scarves and toques for our homeless and marginalized guests in the heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner.

Donations may be brought to the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, (Wednesdays between 6 and 8 PM). To arrange delivery at a different time, contact Sophie by email: blcfcafe@yahoo.ca or call BLCF at 416-535-9578.

Not a bread line, food bank or soup kitchen, BLCF Café has been serving wholesome dinners to upwards of 150 of Toronto’s homeless every Wednesday evening since January 2008.

BLCF Cafe/BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, one block west of Lansdowne Avenue.

Help bring some warmth to those in need.

http://blcfcafe.blogspot.ca/

Image

Sharing the Glory of God’s Grace

BLCF: grace_and_glory

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Sharing the Glory of God’s Grace’ 

© February 15, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared with BLCF on January 16, 2011

BLCF Bulletin February 15, 2015

BLCF: grace-unmerited-favor-by-luis-rivera-free-photo

 

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

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

Scripture Verses: Exodus 34: 1-11 and Romans 10:1-13

 

BLCF: by-grace

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Our lesson for today explores; ‘Sharing the Glory of God’s Grace’. It would be presumptuous of me, or anyone else, to claim to fully understand God. But by His grace we are able to perceive His plan that He provides for our forgiveness, reconciliation, sanctification, and edification, from our sins to His grace.

In bulletin today, is a list of characteristics of God, as revealed through the Scriptures:

God-is-

 

God is self-existent Exodus. 3:13–14

God is self-sufficient Psalm 50:10–12

God is eternal Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2

God is Infinite 1 Kings 8:22–27; Jeremiah 23:24

God is omnipresent Psalm 139:7–12

God is omnipotent Genesis 18:14; Revelations 19:6

God is omniscient Psalm 139:2–6; Isaiah 40:13–14

God is wise Proverbs 3:19; 1 Timothy 1:17

God is immutable Hebrews 1:10–12; 13:8

God is sovereign Isaiah 46:9–11

God is incomprehensible Job 11:7–19; Roman 11:33

God is holy Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15

God is righteous and just Psalm 119:137

God is true John 17:3; Titus 1:1–2

God is faithful Deuteronomy 7:9; Psalm 89:1–2

God is light James 1:17; 1 John 1:5

God is good Psalm 107:8

God is merciful Psalm 103:8–17

God is gracious Psalm 111:4; 1 Peter 5:10

God is love John 3:16; Romans 5:8

God is spirit John 4:24

God is one Deuteronomy 6:4–5; Isaiah 44:6–8

God is a Trinity Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14                                            

(Chart by John Neely)

The attribute that I would like to focus upon is God’s  grace or graciousness, mentioned in Psalm 111:4 and 1 Peter 5:10, among other in the Bible. Psalm 111:4 (ESV) reads, as follows:

He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;    

 the Lord is gracious and merciful.

And the second Scripture, from 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV), is:

10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

While we may understand that when we talk about grace, we are not talking about a prayer, thanking the Lord for the bounty and asking for His blessing for a meal before we eat, (For the prayer before meals, see Grace (prayer)).

The grace we are talking about is that which God has gifted to those who have confessed their sins and have faith in Christ. Most Biblical scholars and theologians do agree on the definition of the nature of grace as:

Grace ɡrās/ noun (in Christian belief) – the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.                

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

BLCF: Gods-grace-is-sufficient

But there is much debate and controversy among various Christian churches as to manner by which Christian believers are able to obtain God’s grace manifest in their lives:

Grace (Christianity) – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

BLCF: grace-of-God

In Western Christian theology, grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as “the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it”,[1] “the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race”.[2] It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to mankind — “generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved”[3] — that take the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.

It is an attribute of God that is most manifest in the salvation of sinners.

Christian orthodoxy holds that the initiative in the relationship of grace between God and an individual is always on the side of God.

In Eastern Christianity too, grace is the working of God himself, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity.

The question of the means of grace has been called “the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, modern [theological] liberalism from [theological] conservatism.”[4]

The Catholic Church holds that it is because of the action of Christ and the Holy Spirit in transforming into the divine life what is subjected to his power that “the sacraments confer the grace they signify”: “the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through [each sacrament], independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”[5][6] the Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) are seen as a means of partaking of divine grace because God works through his Church.

Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants agree that faith is a gift from God.

Ephesians 2:8

BLCF: Grace_Eugene-O-Neill-God

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God”.

Protestants almost universally believe that grace is given by God based on the faith of the believer.

 Lutherans hold that the means of grace are “the gospel in Word and sacraments”.[7][8] That the sacraments are means of grace is also the teaching of John Wesley,[9] who described the Eucharist as “the grand channel whereby the grace of his Spirit was conveyed to the souls of all the children of God”.[10]

Calvinists emphasize “the utter helplessness of man apart from grace.” But God reaches out with “first grace” or “prevenient grace” that each person may accept or reject. The Calvinist doctrine known as irresistible grace states that, since all persons are by nature spiritually dead, no one desires to accept this grace until God spiritually enlivens them by means of regeneration. God regenerates only individuals whom he has predestined to salvation.

Armenians understand the grace of God as cooperating with one’s free will in order to bring an individual to salvation. According to Evangelical theologian Charles C. Ryrie, modern liberal theology “gives an exaggerated place to the abilities of man to decide his own fate and to initiate his own salvation entirely apart from God’s grace.” He writes that theological conservatives maintain God’s grace is necessary for salvation.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_(Christianity)

But in the two Scripture verses featured in today’s Bulletin, Exodus 34: 1-11 and Romans 10:1-13, we see that in the 1500 or so years between the time that the prophet Moses described in Exodus 34 and the Apostle Paul described in Romans 10, a significant change had taken place in the relationship between God and mankind.

 

BOOK            DATE                         AUTHOR

Exodus          1445-1405 B.C.        Moses                 

Romans          56 A.D.                      Paul
http://www.bibletruths.net/Archives/BTAR125.htm

The first passage describes how God instructs Moses to construct a new set of God’s Commandments to replace the first set that Moses broke in anger upon seeing the behavior or should I say misbehaviour of the people of Israel in his absence on the top of Mount Sinai.

 Exodus 34:1-11 (ESV) Moses Makes New Tablets

BLCF: love-God-and-others

 1The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. 2Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. 3No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” 4So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. 5The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. 9And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

 The Covenant Renewed

BLCF: God-Speaks

10And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

Our second Scripture verse, Romans 10:1-13, describes a New Covenant and relationship with God. Not just forgiving sin without judgment, but providing both forgiveness and removing judgment from us, (as Jesus has taken our judgment upon himself), making salvation freely available to those who have faith:

Romans 10:1-13 (ESV)

BLCF: Christ-is-the-end-of-the-law-of-Moses

10 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.[a]

The Message of Salvation to All

BLCF: the-law-of-moses-was-abolished

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

Footnotes: a. Romans 10:4 Or end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified

BLCF: abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness

By God’s grace, we find a description  of some of the key characteristics of the Lord, (Exodus 34:6-7):

6The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.

In Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV), we see that Paul urges us, as a body of believers, who are united through Jesus, to follow the Lord’s example in our behavior:

Unity in the Body of Christ

CLCF: grace_verses

1I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

God provides, by way of Jesus, a path to grace before the Lord for all, Jew and Gentile alike, through faith. Under a New Covenant, we are promised a place in heaven, where Jesus is mediator of a purchased by his precious blood, Hebrews 12:18-24 (ESV):  

A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

BLCF: 3_aspects-of_salvation

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.                                                   

 Footnotes: a. Hebrews 12:23 Or church

BLCF: dont-go-to-church-be-the-church1

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #240: Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord

Benediction – Ephesians 6:2: Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

 

Grace_is_GODs_idea

Bluegrass Concert to Help the Homeless in the Heart of Toronto October 19

Bluegrass Concert
on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7PM, featuring the talents of
‘A Cup of
Cold Water’
in an encore performance.

Suggested Admission $15. All proceeds go to BLCF Cafe
Community Dinner
. BLCF Cafe operates every
Wednesday evening from 6-8 PM and feeds over 150 homeless and marginalized
guests weekly, without any government funding or corporate sponsorship.

 













Enjoy ‘A Cup of Cold Water’ perform
Traditional Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel in
the heart
of Toronto
at:


Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, 1307
Bloor Street West, Toronto, Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7PM BLCF is located
just 1 block west of the Lansdowne Station, on the south side of Bloor Street.

BLCF: 416-535-9578  blcfcafe.blogspot.com

Can you imagine catering a dinner for 200 every week for almost 6 years? That is what Sophie Mickelson has done since January 2008. And that includes shopping for food, plates, cups and utensils; food prep; setting up tables and chairs;setting up the sound system;setting up the tables for 200 guests;preparing beverages urns of juice,coffee and tea for 200; preparing deserts;training volunteers; welcoming guests; and when its over cleaning the eating area, kitchen and bathrooms;taking down tables, chairs and sound system, closing and locking up the church. Sometimes there are volunteers to help, but when there are none, Sophie sees that the job is done. And the next Wednesday at BLCF CAFE Community Dinnerr Sophie starts all over again. The 200 dinner guests are not the social elite and high rollers, but the homeless and marginalized men, women and children in the heart of Toronto. Sophie does not seek praise or glory, but needs help feeding the vulnerable. You can help the cause by attending the Bluegrass Concert Fundraiser Saturday October 19 at 7PM. You CAN make a difference!








Walking with the Resurrected Christ – Luke 24:13-49

BLCF: Emmaus Road

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

                        ‘Walking with the Resurrected Christ’ – Luke 24:13-49      

                         © September 1, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Church: Bulletin September 1, 2013 

Responsive Reading #624: ‘The Great Commission’               

 (from Matthew 28; Luke 24; Acts 1; Mark 16)

Let us pray…

Good morning. I wonder how many of you have heard of the reality TV program: “Undercover Boss”? For the uninitiated, “Undercover Boss” is a documentary style show where the head of a corporation, usually the owner or CEO, disguises him or herself and works alongside unknowing employees to understand any concerns with the boss, the organization and find out any needs of those under direction of the boss. Later, the boss removes the disguise and reveals the boss’ true identity.

In this morning’s scripture lesson, Christ takes on a similar tact to find out how two of his disciples, as he approaches Cleopas and a companion, to find out what they were discussing as they walked along. This encounter takes place on the third day after the crucifixion, now called Easter Day; two disciples were going from Jerusalem to a village named Emmaus. Today, the location of Emmaus is not precisely clear. The name Emmaus may be derived from the Hebrew word hammat, “hot spring.” Luke places it about 60 stadia from Jerusalem. At about 607 English feet or 192 meters per stadion, this makes the distance about seven miles or eleven and quarter kilometers.

Jesus hears an accounting of his crucifixion, the empty tomb and rumours that Christ is alive! The account describes the two as being sad as they had hoped that Jesus was going to be the one to redeem Israel.  This demonstrated  a lack of understanding on the part of the two with the true prophesy of the scriptures, as well as a lack of faith in understanding how the redemption of Israel was to be accomplished. That Christ had to suffer on the cross to fulfill the prophecy of the scriptures.

Christ appears to be continuing on, when the two invite him to stay with them, as darkness is approaching. To which Christ agrees. It is not until Christ blessed and broke the bread at their supper, were the two disciples able to recognize the identity of their house guest. It was only then that the two understood   what Jesus was talking about as they were travelling along the Emmaus Road.

BLCF Church: Emmaus Road Gospel

Shortly thereafter, Cleopas and his companion returned to Jerusalem, to share their experience with the 11 disciples. Their experience was validated by the fact that Simon Peter had also encountered the resurrected Christ. Their experience tells us about the importance of the Lord’s revelation to believers. I am not talking about the John’s prophetic epistle we call the Book of Revelation. For any book of the scripture is meaningless without the Holy Spirit presence to give understanding to any passage in the Bible.

The Greek word for Comforter is “parakletos”. The most familiar translation of this Greek word is “Comforter,” another translation would be “Counselor” or “Advocate”.

Faith in Christ is not simply about our free will decision: it requires a revelation from God to understand the truth.  Please note the timeline of this encounter on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus had been crucified a few days previous. The Lord revealed himself soon after his resurrection from the tomb and prior to his ascension to heaven.  The day of Pentecost was still some 40 days in the future, so the Holy Spirit, as a spiritual guide and comforter was not gifted to believers. Prior to Pentecost Jesus was the comforter.  The Greek word for Comforter is “parakletos”. The most familiar translation of this Greek word is “Comforter,” another translation would be Counselor or Advocate, John 14:15-26 (ESV):

                                 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship - BLCF Church - Holy Spirit

                                                                        Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

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

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, 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.

Footnotes: a. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7                                                b. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

Back to our Emmaus account, where we have two dejected, saddened disciples who are walking away from Jerusalem. After all, Christ who was expected to deliver the people of Israel from subjugation by Imperial Rome is now dead, as were their hopes of liberation. In that regard, the two had misunderstood Christ’s purpose and an inaccurate understanding of his teachings.  While Jesus corrects them by referring to the scriptures, it is only after he blesses and breaks the bread do they realize their companion’s true identity.

Is it interesting that when we take the bread element of communion, we do it to remember Christ, as we read in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24:

 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Holy Communion

In Remembrance of me

I believe that Christ having ascended to Heaven has sent us the Holy Spirit to accompany us on our Christian walk. And we need the Lord’s revelation, too. Whatever our human skills and talents, whatever decisions we are capable of making, the life of faith does not start with us. It begins with God revealing himself to us. For us, as Christ has ascended to the Father’s right hand, that conviction comes by way of God, the Holy Spirit.

What implications are there here for us? It reminds us that for anyone to find faith in Christ there must be a revelation from God. Christian witness cannot be reduced just to us saying the right words or doing the right things so that people will come to faith.  So in our witness we rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s presence and love to people.

This does not only apply to the call to conversion. It involves all aspects of the Christian life. We always need the revelation of God. However much we study a Bible passage, we need the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the truth of the scripture.

Just as Cleopas and his companion discovered the importance of a Christ-centred interpretation of Scripture, we too need to seek an understanding through the Spirit, to avoid misunderstanding what is read.

This brings us to the second part of this morning’s lesson, where Cleopas and a companion return to Jerusalem. Then, having heard of Simon’s encounter with the Risen Christ, the pair shares with the eleven disciples their Emmaus experience with Jesus.  Jesus, again, appears, this time to those gathered saying “Peace to you!”  And just like the two on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is aware that not only do the disciples have doubt in their hearts, they have fear thinking the Lord is a ghost or apparition.

You may recall that the disciples experienced a similar reaction as described by John’s account of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. And those in the boat who first saw Jesus thought the Lord to be a ghost or apparition.

And as in the Emmaus encounter, Jesus continued on his way past the group, until the disciples call out to Him. And like the Emmaus encounter, he chastises the disciples for their little faith. So Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Having offered to show his wounds as proof of identity, and just to reinforce the fact that he is not a ghost, he asks for food.  And as he had done to Cleopas and the companion, Jesus reminded the eleven of his teachings prior to his crucifixion:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  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.”

These two accounts of the Resurrected Christ, teach us a number of lessons. That it is possible for the disciples to forget what they have witnessed heard and read. That all of understanding of God’s purpose depends upon how willing we are to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. It is encouraging, to see that when we do go down the wrong path in our understanding, that through the Spirit, the Lord will guides back on the righteous way, as through the Spirit, we “are clothed with power from on high.”

And whether we receive the power of the Spirit depends not only upon a declaration of faith, but the manner by which we seek guidance from the Spirit:

Deuteronomy 4:29 (ESV) But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Let us pray…Cross references:

Hymn #252:  Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus

Communion:  Responsive Reading #626: The Last Supper ( taken from: Mark 14)

Benediction (Acts 22:14): “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth”   

Word made flesh?

Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

© August 25, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 25, 2013

Faith in the Lord Wordle

                                                                                      

Let us pray…

Last Sunday, we examined how Job and other believers trusted God and kept their faith even when tested by Satan. As a result of trust, faith acted as a living testimony to God, more than just words alone could convey.

Today’s lesson we will Hosea’s expression of faith and love for God, while tested. Unlike Job, whom God allowed to suffer and to be tested by Satan, Hosea was instructed by God to knowing undertake actions that would likely bring a degree of suffering, pain and test his faith.

Let us review the Wiki bits synopsis of Hosea:

Brief Summary: The Book of Hosea can be divided into two parts: (1) Hosea 1:1-3:5 is a description of an adulterous wife and a faithful husband, symbolic of the unfaithfulness of Israel to God through idolatry, and (2) Hosea 4:1-14:9 contains the condemnation of Israel, especially Samaria, for the worship of idols and her eventual restoration.

The first section of the book contains three distinctive poems illustrating how God’s children returned time after time to idolatry. God commands Hosea to marry Gomer, but after bearing him three children, she walks away from Hosea to her lovers. The symbolic emphasis can be seen clearly in the first chapter as Hosea compares Israel’s actions to turning from a marriage to life as a prostitute. The second section contains Hosea’s denunciation of the Israelites but followed by the promises and the mercies of God.

Chapter two describes a divorce. This divorce seems to be the end of the covenant between God and the Northern Kingdom. However, it is probable that this was again a symbolic act, in which Hosea divorced Gomer for infidelity, and used the occasion to preach the message of God’s rejection of the Northern Kingdom. He ends this prophecy with the declaration that God will one day renew the covenant, and will take Israel back in love.

In Chapter three, at God’s command, Hosea seeks out Gomer once more. Either she has sold herself into slavery for debt, or she is with a lover who demands money in order to give her up, because Hosea has to buy her back. He takes her home, but refrains from sexual intimacy with her for many days, to symbolize the fact that Israel will be without a king for many years, but that God will take Israel back, even at a cost to Himself.

Chapters 4-14 spell out the allegory at length. Chapters 1-3 speak of Hosea’s family, and the issues with Gomer. Chapters 4-10 contain a series of oracles, or prophetic sermons, showing exactly why God is rejecting the Northern Kingdom (what the grounds are for the divorce). Chapter 11 is God’s lament over the necessity of giving up the Northern Kingdom, which is a large part of the people of Israel, whom God loves. God promises not to give them up entirely. Then, in Chapter 12, the prophet pleads for Israel’s repentance. Chapter 13 foretells the destruction of the kingdom at the hands of Assyria, because there has been no repentance. In Chapter 14, the prophet urges Israel to seek forgiveness, and promises its restoration, while urging the utmost fidelity to God.

Matthew 2:13 cites Hosea’s prophecy in Hosea 11:1 that God would call His Son out of Egypt as foretelling the flight into Egypt and return to Israel of Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus Christ.

The capital of the Northern Kingdom fell in 722 BC. All the members of the upper classes and many of the ordinary people were taken captive and carried off to live as prisoners of war.

The Book of Hosea is a prophetic accounting of God’s relentless love for His children. Since the beginning of time God’s ungrateful and undeserving creation has been accepting God’s love, grace, and mercy while still unable to refrain from its wickedness.

The last part of Hosea shows how God’s love once again restores His children as He forgets their misdeeds when they turn back to Him with a repentant heart. The prophetic message of Hosea foretells the coming of Israel’s Messiah 700 years in the future. Hosea is quoted often in the New Testament.

Hosea (הושֵעַ) prophesied during a dark and melancholic era of Israel‘s history, the period of the Northern Kingdom’s decline and fall in the 8th century BC. The apostasy of the people was rampant, having turned away from God in order to serve the calves of Jeroboam[1] and Baal, a Canaanite god.[2]

During Hosea’s lifetime, the kings of the Northern Kingdom, their aristocratic supporters, and the priests had led the people away from the Law of God, as given in the Pentateuch. Forsaking the worship of God, they worshiped other gods, especially Baal, the Canaanite fertility god. Other sins followed, including homicide, perjury, theft, and sexual sin.[3] Hosea declares that unless they repent of these sins, God will allow their nation to be destroyed, and the people will be taken into captivity by Assyria,[4] the greatest nation of the time.

The prophecy of Hosea centers on God’s unending love towards a sinful Israel. In this text, God’s agony is expressed over the betrayal of Israel.[5][6][7] Stephen Cook asserts that the prophetic efforts of this book can be summed up in this passage “I have been the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior” (Hosea 13:4) Hosea’s job was to speak these words during a time when that had been essentially forgotten.[2]

Interesting, that an account of a nation’s decline and its falling from God’s grace some 700 years could easily describe the world in Noah’s time prior to the flood,  or Sodom and Gomorrah prior to their destruction, the Roman Empire prior to its decline and fall, and even to the moral decline of nations today.

We should not dwell on the negative aspects of Hosea’s testimony, instead we must keep our focus on the positive testimony of his response to God’s directions. Hosea was not instructed to just minister to the Gomer, a harlot, but to marry the prostitute. And through the covenant of marriage, Hosea would give her his good name as his wife and remove the stigma associated with being a harlot. Sound familiar?  You may recall  in admonition found in Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV):

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]

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 5:27 Or holy and blameless

So we see the story of Hosea teaches, by analogy, God’s covenant of love for not only the people of Israel, but for all people humanity, in spite of a sinful nature. For Jesus brings the covenant of Salvation not only to the people of Israel, but to all people. His gift of salvation is offered to all, Romans 1:16-17 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[a] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Romans 1:17 Or beginning and ending in faith b. Romans 1:17 Or The one who by faith is righteous shall live

BLCF Accept Jesus

So is the lesson from Hosea, just a lesson of God’s love for his chosen people? I believe that God expects us to demonstrate to others, to those whom we would normally despise, the same unconditional love that Hosea showed to his wife. A recent example of such unconditional love may be found in the recent actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill, who admitted to have a mental disorder and to be off his medications.

In his depressed state, Hill had stolen an AK-47 rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, and entered a school to fight with police and end his life which he found no longer worth living. All that stood between Hill and his suicidal objective, was a woman of faith who had recently contemplated her own suicide having suffered through a recent divorce and being left alone to raise a child with multiple disabilities.

But God had a plan to use Antoinette’s faith and suffering as testimony to His compassion and love at a time of great testing. Here is an excerpt by Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s observations of the power of the Holy Spirit, from the August 20 edition of the Washington Post:

Antoinette Tuff’s weapon of the spirit: How compassion stopped a gunman

By Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, PHD Theology

‘Our weapons are not carnal, they are spiritual.’ This biblical lesson is found in 2 Corinthians. This week, it can also be learned at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, an elementary school outside of Atlanta.

Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk at McNair, is being credited with averting another horrific school shooting. Tuff met the gunman as he entered the school building, and listened to him say “he didn’t have any reason to live, and he knew he was going to die today.” She chose not to meet violence with violence, but spoke compassionately to the gunman, identifying with his pain and loneliness, a feeling she shared that she had as well after she separated from her husband of 33 years. She encouraged the gunman not to give in to despair.

Tuff used the “weapons of the spirit,” not a gun to stop the gunman. “I give it all to God. I’m not the hero. I was terrified,” she said.

Spiritual strength and compassion were the weapons used here, not a physical gun.

Weapons of the Spirit, not “carnal,” that is, physical weapons are what we need in life, according to the Bible.

Weapons of the Spirit can transform hate into compassion, and violence into peace.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/08/22/antoinette-tuffs-weapon-of-the-spirit-how-compassion-stopped-a-gunman/

Hosea was instructed by God to give unconditional love to Gomer a sinner, just as God gave us the same agape, or unconditional love to His people. And even though we strayed from God, becoming like an unfaithful wife, like Gomer, God did not sever his covenant, 2 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV):    

2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.                                              

And in a similar manner to His instructions to Hosea to take back his wife, God has provided us with the means to return to His good grace through Jesus Christ, our Lord and redeemer, the groom to his bride, the church of believers, Ephesians 5:24-27(ESV):

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]                                                                                                                                                                                  

    Footnotes: a. Ephesians 5:27 Or holy and blameless              

Holy Wedding

We, the church, the body of believers must turn to Christ and keep our vow of faith and trust, until the day that Jesus returns, Revelation 19:7-9 (ESV):

7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
                                                                                                                                                          9 for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.                                               

And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”                                                                                                          

        Footnotes: a. Revelation 19:9 Greek he said                                        

For it is faith that Job kept throughout his testing and adversity. And it was faith that allowed Hosea to love and forgive his wife, Gomer and trust God’s plan. And faith that permitted Antoinette Tuff to set aside her own personal troubles in order to show Christ-like compassion and love to an angry troubled stranger, and save that stranger and many innocents from danger and destruction, Revelation 21:1-2 (ESV):

The New Heaven and the New Earth

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

BLCF Lesson: hosea

Let us pray…

Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Benediction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4):  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.