Dear BLCF Friends,
Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.
– Pastor Steve
Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship: Lest We Forget 911
Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON.
Message for Sunday:
‘Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth’
© September 12, 2021, by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 11, 2016
Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #613 (God’s Invitation – Isaiah 55); Prayer
Opening Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit; Choruses
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Let us pray…
Welcome to BLCF Church Praise and Worship Service on this Sunday, September 12, 2021. This happens to be one day after the twentieth anniversary of the 911 attack against our neighbors to the south. While it was not the first or last time the United States suffered the loss to innocent members of society, the events that happened on that fateful morning in September 2001 dramatically changed many aspects of life in the USA.
The country was drawn into two wars, leading to casualties of soldiers and civilians, became a more anxious nation, and still seems to have not completely healed from the losses on 911 and the subsequent wars and attacks. We pray that the country and its leaders can find enough closure to pursue a healing to the national psyche in order to focus on a future of peace, harmony, renewal, and hope.
Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth’, we will examine several positive affects that occur while a Christian seeks God during trying times.
The lessons Christians learn while seeking the Lord when death, disaster, and destruction comes our way, apply not only apply to 911 and the aftermath of the events September 11, 2001, but are just as valid today, during a COVID-19 Pandemic, where 677,017 Americans and 27,170 Canadians have died from COVID-19 (and counting), also apply to such current disasters such as massive floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and droughts.
Sadly, the first responders who were 911 heroes are no longer treated as heroes of the Pandemic, where vocal protestors in both Canada and the US have engaged hospital staff and patients with loud protests. The protestors who seem oblivious of the fact that any masking or vaccine policies designed to protect the public are mandated from the seats of government legislature. I call any such aberrant behavior an expression of a “COVID Malaise“. Please treat our heroes, who have sacrificed more than we can imagine, in a manner befitting their dedication and sacrifice.
Friday, Sophie and I were able to see streamed the musical “Come From Away” which tells the story of 7,000 airplane passengers who were stranded in Gander, Newfoundland, and the 9,000 townsfolk of Gander and the surrounding villages, who shared their homes, meals, clothes, and friendship during the 911 crisis in 2001. The musical is an entertaining, poignant, funny, and endearing narrative that demonstrates how love and kindness can elevate both the giver and the recipient at a time of great crisis. Two thumbs up from Sophie and me. I would classify the events portrayed in “Come From Away” as a great example of the lessons found in Matthew 25:31-46 being put into practice:! 👍👍
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The unfortunate the emotional toll and damage, a type of PTSD, that collaterally is the result of great calamities like the events of 911, the Pandemic, or other catastrophes, can result in some blaming God, doctors, politicians, friends, family, and hospital workers for their circumstances, unaware that they are part of the problem not the solution. The majority of people currently hospitalized in ICU’s in Canada and the US, (90% in many areas, with 100% in British Columbia), are the unvaccinated.
What is a Christian, as described in the verses from the Bible quoted in today’s lesson? We will have more of an in-depth examination of what it means to be a Christian during next Sunday’s lesson, which is entitled: Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me? But, to give a brief answer to the question, a Christian is someone who has either read or heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus. A Gospel which says that Jesus came to us, as both the Son of God and son of man, to die on the cross to remove the Father’s judgment for humanity’s sin.
Any person seeking Christ as his or her Saviour must be willing to confess any sins and acknowledge a sinful nature. This decision of faith also includes a belief that Christ died for our sins, was resurrected from death, ascended to heaven, and sent to the believer the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.
We find a description of how the Lord encourages us to actively seek Him out in our next Scripture verse, which is Isaiah 55:6-13:
Isaiah 55:6-13 (ESV)
6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
It is interesting that in the above Scripture that a seeker of God may only find compassion and a pardon from Him, has a stumbling blocking in the path to successfully achieving the goal in finding the glory that comes from God. Though any may seek God’s favour and pardon, sins separates the seeker from finding them.
But even seekers of the presence of the Lord fail when they attempt to rely on a worldly, physical approach to finding Him. As a result, many seekers believe that they may find God by obeying His Commandments and by overt actions in their worship. You may recall the lesson from the account of The Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-22, where a wealthy young man who had observed all of God’s Commandments and still question Jesus as to what else did he have to do to get into heaven?
Because the Lord detected that the rich young man valued his wealth more than his God and really was not inclined to get rid of his riches and give to the poor in order to be “perfect” enough to follow Jesus. In this regards, the young man had fully loved neither God nor others more than his wealth, which means that wealth was his idol, his false god.
But the rich man was not the only person who worshipped, as we see in our second Scripture verse, Acts 17:22-34, where Paul Addresses the Areopagus. Before we discuss Paul’s address, let us check our Wikibits for a definition of the meaning of Areopagus:
Areopagus – from Wikipedia.com
The term “Areopagus” also refers to the judicial body of aristocratic origin that subsequently formed the higher court of modern Greece.
The Areopagus, like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times, and it was from this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God, that the Apostle Paul is said to have delivered the famous speech, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Acts 17:24)
The Areopagus literally meant the rock of Ares in the city and was a center of temples, cultural facilities, and a high court.
Let us continue with Paul’s address to a people who were very religious in their behavior, but not finding the true Spirit of God:
Acts 17:22-34 (ESV): Paul Addresses the Areopagus
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[c]
29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
Footnotes: a. Acts 17:24 Greek made by hands b. Acts 17:28 Probably from Epimenides of Crete c. Acts 17:28 From Aratus’s poem “Phainomena”
In his message to the Areopagus, Paul drew a comparison of the true God to the “unknown” god, one of many gods that they worshipped.
The true God could not be adequately be described or represented by a sculpture, a painting, or even by words. How can we properly describe a Creator, Whom no one has ever seen? So how can we relate or understand our God, beyond our faith?
God sent us His, son Jesus so that we could better understand Him and his love for us. Jesus taught us the importance of understanding that God reveals Himself by His Spirit and truth, and to make the sacrifice providing a way to salvation, as was promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (ESV):
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
Christians accept that Jesus died for our sins, was resurrected from death, and ascended to heaven, both as our advocate to the Father in heaven and in order to gift believers with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit not only convicts us of God’s truth, but it also admonishes us to continue to follow in the path of Christ and to share the Gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the earth.
This Great Commission is not something that Christians can postpone or put off to a later time. We must continue to minister the Gospel, until the day that Christ returns to judge all. This day, known as The Day of the Lord is described in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (ESV): The Day of the Lord
5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
We must keep sharing the Gospel today, helping the less fortunate brothers and sisters, for not only do we seek Him, but God seeks us to worship Him in spirit and truth:
John 4:23-24 (ESV)
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Remember, when you trust in the Lord as you encounter trials of various kinds, that test your faith, you will learn steadfastness, which in-turn will become perfect, complete and lacking in nothing, James 1:1-4 (ESV):
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering
Benediction – (Romans 15:13):
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.