Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, 2019

© February 10, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 10, 2019     

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 26, 2015

BLCF Bulletin April 26, 2015 

BLCF: God_is_Love

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                    

Opening Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness; Choruses      

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

Responsive Reading #665 (Love, The Greatest Thing – 1 Corinthians 13)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                 ‘Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love’                                                                  

BLCF: Gods Everlasting Love

Let us pray…

The title of this morning’s lesson is Faith’s Reward: To Be Filled with God’s Steadfast Love, describing the Christian’s assurance that the reward for faith is to be filled with a steadfast love from God.

Before we being the lesson, let us first take a brief look at the terms used in the title.

Faith is our hope, trust, and obedience to God. And most of us have some idea of the meaning of love, either having given or received love. God’s love is described as agape, which is a love given unconditionally. Jesus personified that love when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross for the sins of the world.

But who is the giver of love? Here is what two children revealed about what God is like, while in prayer, (- from ‘Our Daily Bread’ November 15, 2012):

 “Dear God, what does it mean that You are a ‘jealous’ God? I thought You had everything.”

“I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset You made on Tuesday. That was cool.”

http://odb.org/2012/11/15/gods-description/

BLCF: 1_John_4_7-8

The Apostle John describes God as love, 1 John 4:16 (ESV):

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

John says that God is Love.  In this morning’s Responsive reading, which is taken from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, and the Apostle Paul gives us an idea of what our lives would be like both with and without love.

BLCF: faith-hope-love

Paul begins by describing what would God’s gifts be like without love. Since John told us that God is love, and if we accept the converse that love is an expression of God, and then the same passage gives us an understanding as we read ‘love’, we substitute ‘God’.  The result would be a description of life without God: We see that without God, the speaking in tongues would be just noise. And what good would be having the gift of prophecy without God? What good would it be to possess the faith to move mountains without God? If we gave all that we had to the poor, were martyred for preaching the Gospel and did not have God to others, it would be of no value whatsoever.

BLCF: Love never fails

While Paul gives a good description of how our existence would be like devoid of love, he continues in 1 Corinthians 13 by giving us some characteristics of love. Let us continue our exercise by again substituting God for love in this passage:

God is patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude.

God does not demand His own way. He is not irritable or touchy.

God does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do Him wrong.

God is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

If you are loyal to someone no matter what the cost is an expression of God. You will always expect the best of Him, and always stand your ground defending Him.

When all the special gifts and powers someday come to an end, God goes on forever.

There are three things that remain – faith, hope, and God – and the greatest of these is God.

The two Scripture verses that we featured in the bulletin today, Exodus 3:1-15 and Acts 9:1-19, describe two men who lived sinful lives but were transformed by God’s love.

BLCF: burningbush

Exodus 3:1-15 (ESV): The Burning Bush

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

Footnotes: a. Exodus 3:14 Or I am what I am, or I will be what I will be b. Exodus 3:15 The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14

The first Scripture describes the encounter between the Prophet Moses and God. Moses was born a Hebrew but raised as a prince of Egypt by his adopted mother. Moses discovered his true heritage was Hebrew. After Moses killed an Egyptian while defending a Hebrew slave, he was sent by Pharaoh into the desert to die for the crime. But God had a plan for Moses and  He called to Moses from a burning bush. God answered Moses’ questions and doubts about himself by assuring Moses that He will accompany Moses,  providing the words and the means to free the people of Israel from their bondage. God also indicated to Moses, that after he delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, Moses would return to Mt. Horeb to worship the Lord.

How do we know that God loved Moses and the people of Israel? We find the answer to this question in the following passage, where the Lord describes himself, Exodus 34:6-7(ESV):

The 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, keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] 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.”

BLCF: love_never_fails

 

We see that the Lord’s description of Himself is very similar to Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13.                                                                                                

The second of today’s Scriptures, Acts 9:1-19, talks about the conversion of another sinner, Saul of Tarsus, a notorious persecutor of followers of Christ, who like Moses receives a Devine calling to be an instrument of the Lord.

BLCF: Sul'sconversion

 

Acts 9:1-19 (ESV): The Conversion of Saul

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

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Like Moses, Saul heeds the calling, and as an Apostle of the Lord describes how the love of Christ transformed him, Galatians 2:20 (ESV):

BLCF: Agape

 

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

If God is Love, how is it that we, as believers in the Resurrected Christ, are transformed? It is by the power of the Holy Spirit which is given to us as a reward for our faith, Romans 5:2-5 (ESV):

Through him we have also obtained access by faith[a] into this grace in which we stand, and we[b] rejoice[c] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.                                                                                              

Footnotes: a. Romans 5:2 Some manuscripts omit by faith b. Romans 5:2 Or let us; also verse 3 c. Romans 5:2 Or boast; also verses 3, 11

Just as Moses and Paul were transformed into instruments of the Lord, we are gifted by God in reward for our faith, 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV):

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 By receiving God’s gifts of power, love, and self-control, we are transformed, through faith and by the power of HIS Holy Spirit into HIS instruments; expressions of God by the love we share with others. It is God’s desire that we shine as instruments of His love and His wisdom.    

 Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #39: God Is Love; His Mercy Brightens

Benediction – (Ephesians 5:2):  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

BLCF: Gods-love

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The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’                  

© February 11, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 11, 2018

Based on a Message shared by Steve Mickelson at BLCF on November 28, 2010

BLCF Nov_28_2010 Bulletin

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                                           

Opening  Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone; Choruses                                                                         

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

Responsive Reading #648 ( A Challenge to Faith – from Hebrews 11 and 12) 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                           

‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service, in the heart of Toronto.

Our lesson today is a study of the ‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’, taken from Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV):

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a]and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Footnotes: a. Matthew 25:14 Or bondservants; also verse 19 b. Matthew 25:15 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer c. Matthew 25:21 Or bondservant; also verses 232630

The ‘Ten Talents’ was number 21 of some 40 Parables that Jesus used during his earthly ministry. Jesus often used parables to help us understand the teachings of His ministry. By definition, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. These parables of Jesus, found in the three synoptic gospels, or the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are a key part of the teachings of Jesus, forming approximately one third of his recorded teachings.

What did Jesus talent as mentioned in title of this passage of scripture? A talent was the largest measurement of money in those days. Since a talent was actually a measurement of weight, it did not have a constant value. A talent of gold, for example, would be worth a whole lot more than a talent of bronze. While commentators differ somewhat over the approximate value of a talent in today’s economy, all would agree that it was a large amount of money. Talents were used as a unit of currency, worth about 6,000 denari. Since a denarius was the usual payment for a day’s labor, a talent would translate roughly the value of twenty years of work by an ordinary person.

Why did Jesus give us a parable about treasure and money? In Matthew 10:17-25 (ESV), the Bible says this about Christ’s encounter with a rich young man:

The Rich Young Man

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,[b] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Footnotes:a. Mark 10:24 Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches b. Mark 10:26 Some manuscripts to one another

In Mark 6:7-9 (ESV) Jesus told his disciples: “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.”

Keep in mind that in the ‘10 Talents’, Jesus presents us with a story that that is a parable. And that by definition, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. Therefore we should not take the events the in the story literally, but as an allegorical lesson to give us insight and understanding to our Lord’s expectations of us. This will allow us to develop a better, richer relationship with our Lord.

Traditionally, the parable of the talents has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the God’s Kingdom. These gifts have been seen to include personal abilities (“talents” in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth. Failure to use one’s gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgment.

The poet John Milton was fascinated by the parable (interpreted in this traditional sense), referring to it repeatedly, notably in the sonnet “On His Blindness“:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent, which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He, returning, chide

This interpretation seems to be the origin of the word “talent” used for an aptitude or skill.

There are a number of hymns that mention the parable, notably  John Wesley‘s “Servant of God, Well Done!” which refers to Matthew 25:23 (ESV):

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Wesley authored the hymn after the death of Anglican Minister George Whitfield,  who helped spread the Great Awakening throughout Britain and the colonies in British North America, being one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally. Whitefield became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America in the 18th century, and because Wesley traveled through all of the American colonies, he drew great crowds and media coverage, being one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America.

Wesley’s hymn begins:

Servant of God, well done!
Thy glorious warfare’s past;
The battles fought, the race is won,
And thou art crowned at last.

This passage is offered as a comparison allegory to the coming of Christ. Christ came and gave us a great gift, through Grace, and then “went away on a long journey.” Christ will come back. How have we responded to the freedom and power given to us through Jesus Christ? Have we cowered in fear or are actively living out God’s will?

With the help of the Spirit, the Bible is its own interpreter.  We may understand the meaning of this passage from the Scriptures by reading it in context of other scripture on the same or related topics. The key to the passage may be found in Matthew 25:29 (ESV):

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Jesus used these very same words in the “Parable of the Sower”, found in Matthew 13. We know from that parable that the seed sown is the Bible and the message about ‘The Kingdom’ found in verses 18-23. In the two parables are the ‘Seed Sown’ and the ‘Talent Entrusted‘ appear to be one in the same. In both parables, Jesus speaks taking action to bring an increase in your understanding and knowledge of God in your life by acting on it and putting it to work. This is the great commission. We find more scriptures that refer to knowledge being like money or something of value having been given to us?
In 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (ESV) we read:

13 Follow the pattern of the sound[a] words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

Footnotes: a. 2 Timothy 1:13 Or healthy

In Colossians 2:1-3 (ESV), we read:

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In the ‘10 Talents’, the first two servants undertook to grow what was entrusted to them. They acted with confidence and faith that their endeavors to increase that which was entrusted to them. They had a confidence and assurance of faith that they would be successful in caring for that of value which was entrusted to them.

God expect us to minister to others with the His Spirit providing us with not only confidence and assurance of faith, but also with endurance, as we see in Hebrews 10:35-36 (ESV):

 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

The third servant acted out of fear and misunderstanding of his master and did nothing. His actions were more rooted in fear of the wrath of his master, and lacked a true understanding as to what his Master’s expectations were. Our take away from this is we are to walk with confidence in the Lord, see Ephesians 5:8 (ESV):

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Our Christian walk should be characterized by: faith, wisdom, and awareness of His and the time we have, Ephesians 5:15-17(ESV):

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

And contrary to the notion once saved, always saved, we may lose the promise of salvation if our actions are not in line with what the Lord expects of us. We see this in Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV):

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Consider the usage of the word “Earth” elsewhere in Jesus’ parables. The word earth is always used in reference to a man’s heart. We sow seeds (the Word) in the earth (men’s hearts). Likewise, earth is used in this parable. He who was only given one talent (given one gift) hid it in his heart, afraid to use it for God’s gain, and he lost it.

Sometimes we who claim Jesus Christ as Saviour can behave like the slothful servant in that we may become too comfortable just sitting in the pews only keeping company with other Christians, just praying for each other, talking only to those we know about the goodness of God. While this may be a good start, as we need to fellowship as a body of believers. However, God wants us to get outside of that cozy comfort zone. Like Peter take a step of faith outside the boat, as it were. He has given us each a measure of faith, His Word, the sacrifice of His only begotten Son and presence of the Holy Spirit to empower us, so that we spread the ‘Good News’ about our faith to those whom we do not know. Many who claim to believe, lack the faith in their own God given talents to make a difference in somebody’s life. They say that they just are not gifted to share the gospel in a significant way. This brings to mind The Starfish Story, an abbreviated version of this story may be found on the front page of today’s bulletin. Here is a longer version of the same story:

The Starfish Story, adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

There once was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are entrusted and expected now, and until the day He returns, to reach out to share our faith in Him, to boldly take risks of faith. Our talent of responsibility is to make an investment in someone, other than those we know or with whom we are comfortable, and share our testimony in word and deed. For this our Lord will hold each of us accountable. It is on the basis of this we will be judged.

In this regard, Jesus’ ‘The Parable of the 10 Talents’ is offered as a comparison allegory to the coming of Christ. Christ came and gave us a great gift, through Grace, and then “went away on a long journey.” Christ will come back. How have we responded to the freedom and power given to us through Jesus Christ? Have we cowered in fear or are we actively living out God’s will? For the Great Commission entrusted to us, as good and faithful servants described in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV):

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Footnotes:a. Matthew 28:19 Or into

The choice is ours, as to whether we faithfully trust our Lord and invest what gifts the Master has entrusted to our care. You can make a difference, even if it be to a single starfish or an unsaved soul.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness    

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13): Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.  – Amen

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 testing. Unlike Job, whom God allowed to suffer and to be tested by Satan, Hosea was instructed by God to knowing to 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 beside 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]

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

It is 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

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

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, 2013 edition of the Washington Post:

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

By Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Ph.D. 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.