The Lessons of the Good Samaritan

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Lessons of the Good Samaritan’

© May 2, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF by, August 19, 2018,June 8, 2014, and on May 2, 2010

BLCF Bulletin August 26, 2018

BLCF: Bulletin June 8, 2014

BLCF:Good_Samaritan

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee; Choruses 

Responsive Reading #653 (Love and Discipleship – John 13 and 1 John 1 and 3)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Lessons of the Good Samaritan

Let us pray…

Today’s message is entitled ‘The Lessons of Good Samaritan’, also know as The Good Samaritan, referring to one of the parables Jesus used to teach and give insight to God’s will in our lives. The word “parable” comes from the Greekπαραβολή” (parabolē), the name given by Greekrhetoricians to any fictive illustration in the form of a brief narrative. Later it came to mean a fictitiousnarrative, generally referring to something that might naturally occur, by which spiritual and moral matters might be conveyed. A parable is a short tale that illustrates universal truth, one of the simplest of narratives. It sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. It often involves a character facing a moraldilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences. The dilemmas presented in Jesus’ parables often mirrored the real-life situations faced by those whom the parable is presented. As God has provided us with the Bible as a lamp to guide us through life, the Parable of the Good Samaritan was written for all who read His word.

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Luke 10:25-37 (ESV) The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Therefore, we may consider the Good Samaritan Parable was written expressly for both you and me. Any lessons learned from the parable are lessons given by God to us, for our benefit, and are just as relevant today, as they were in the time of Christ.

1964 of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death in Queens, New York

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The story of Kitty Genovese In March, 1964, a New York City woman named Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was raped and stabbed to death as she returned home from work late at night. According to a newspaper report published shortly after her death, 38 people had witnessed some or all of the attack, which took place in two or three distinct episodes over a period of about a half hour—and yet no one did anything to stop it; no one even reported it to the police until the woman was already dead. Although the murder itself was tragic, the nation was even more outraged that so many people who could have helped seemingly displayed callous indifference. And so the failure of bystanders to intervene became known as “Kitty Genovese Syndrome”—or, sometimes, just “Genovese Syndrome” or “Genovese Effect.” Social psychologists sometimes call it the “bystander effect.”

So what is it we may learn from the Parable of the Good Samaritan? In Luke 10:25, Jesus was tested by a lawyer who wanted to know how he may inherit eternal life. In Luke 10:26 Jesus answered this question with a question of his own: “What is written in the Law?” and tested the lawyer’s understanding of the scriptures by pairing with his first question, with a second question: ”How do you read it?”

The lawyer’s reply was: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke 10:28, we have Jesus acknowledge the lawyer’s reply as having answered correctly, telling him that by doing what he said he will live.

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The Parable of the Good Samaritan starts with a lawyer, Greek nomikos, who is a “legal expert, or a jurist, or a lawyer, and a man who is skilled in interpreting the Jewish Torah testing Jesus on a point of law.” The Jews often called upon a lawyer or jurist of the scriptures to settle legal issues. The purpose of using this question to test Jesus was not intended to reaffirm the lawyer’s faith in Christ, but more likely an attempt to find a flaw in His understanding of the scriptures. Jesus was quite astute by turning the question back to the lawyer and giving him the test, instead. Another interesting aspect of Jesus response was to allow the lawyer to answer his own question and to follow it up by advising the lawyer to show love of God and love to others, indicating that the attempt to trap Jesus implied motives absent of love for either, but more of an earthly desire based on distrust or fear.

The priest and Levite in the parable represent the religious elite. These people were characteristically arrogant and hypocritical, treating others they considered to be of a lower class, such as Samaritans, with contempt. Samaritans, in particular, were looked down upon. For though holding claims on Judaism, they were not pure Jews. They were half-breeds both genetically and theologically, a mixture between the Jews of captivity and the Samaritan people of the land they were captive in. Jews typically held Samaritans in contempt. The Samaritans were not gentiles and were still bound to the same law as the Jews. The parable illustrates the Jesus’ characteristic trait to humiliate the proud and lift up the humble, and thus he used a Samaritan in his illustration.

Jerusalem and Jericho are connected by a 27 Kilometer road. This road is quite steep, dropping over 4800 KM in altitude. In the times of Jesus, this road was notorious for robbers and thieves. The prospect of traveling this route and encountering a victim as described in the parable is quite within reason.

While the reaction of the priest and Levite could be rationalized that both avoided the half-dead man on the road because they feared the man to be not a victim but bait for a trap set by thieves. The fact that neither returned with help really shows the how self-absorbed these two were. The other rationalization for their reaction might be the fear that the victim was already dead and touching a dead body, if not a Jew, would defile particularly the priest to the point that he would not be able to collect, distribute or consume sacrifices presented to priests as tithes. Levites were descendants of Levi, but not of Aaron. Levites assisted priests, who were descended of Aaron, in the temple. The same expectation of non-defilement would apply. Whatever the reason for the journey of the priest and the Levite, each felt their business more important than the life a wretched victim found half-dead on the road, without help left to die.

So if the priest and Levite had decided to not stop to help this man, we would not be surprised if Samaritan had decided to do the same. Instead, we see in Luke 10:33 that the Samaritan shows compassion and acts on his compassion by stopping and treating his wound, then taking the man to an inn on his own animal, and paid in advance for the man’s room and board; promising to return and pay for any more spent for the care of the man.

Another example of a modern day Samaritan left to die by individuals with “more important” priorities is found among the elite mountain climbing community and their treatment of climber Lincoln Hall, who was rescued by Dan Mazur and Mazur’s team of fellow climbers, as described in summitclimb.com.

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Dan Mazur is most widely known for his discovery and assistance in the rescue of Lincoln Hall, an Australian climber on Mount Everest on 25 May 2006. Lincoln Hall had been ‘left for dead’ by another expedition team the previous day at around 8700m on Everest after collapsing and failing to respond to treatment on the descent from the summit. Mazur and his fellow climbers – Andrew Brash (Canada), Myles Osborne (UK) and Jangbu Sherpa (Nepal) – in abandoning their own attempt on the summit in order to save Hall’s life epitomised the noblest traditions of mountaineering. Their sacrifice was underscored by the death of a British climber; David Sharp, who died a few days before Hall, lower down on the same route. Approximately 40 people said they saw Mr. Sharp in distress, and walked past him, but no one rescued David Sharp, and he subsequently died. Sir Edmund Hillary, who made the first ascent of Everest in 1953 with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, spoke out against those 40 people, and said that nothing like that would have happened in his day.

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What was Mazur’s opinion of his team’s actions in contrast to the inactions of other climbing teams with respect to helping a climber left to die on the route to the peak of Mount Everest? The website uwpexponent.com provides us with Mazur’s view on the subject:

In May 2006, Mazur made headlines when, while leading a small group of climbers on Everest, he discovered an injured climber named Lincoln Hall.  Hall had been left for dead by his own climbing group a day prior. Mazur and his group risked their lives to save Hall’s.

“When the story became international news, I was really surprised,” Mazur said.  “I didn’t do anything different on that climb than I normally would have in that type of situation.”

During the rescue, Mazur attempted to flag down two passers-by for help.  The climbers claimed they did not speak English and continued on their journey to the top. Mazur later discovered that they did in fact speak English.  Mazur explained that the urge to reach the top often effects the decision making of mountain climbers.

“They said they didn’t stop because they were working on a research project and didn’t have the time to,” Mazur said.  “I then asked them in a non-confrontational way what they thought about people who climb to the top and can’t make it down on their own.”

Mazur further explained that the two hinted that if people are not strong enough to get back down on their own, they essentially deserve to die at the top.

“Every one of us has the ability to stop and help someone out, every last one of us,” said Mazur.  “However, every last one of us also has the ability not to stop.”

http://uwpexponent.com/features/2013/03/21/mazur-speaks-about-everest-climb-rescue/

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According to John Welch’s Commentary, this parable is an allegory of the Fall and the Redemption of Mankind:

“This parable’s content is clearly practical and dramatic in its obvious meaning, but a time-honored Christian tradition also saw the parable as an impressive allegory of the Fall and Redemption of mankind.

“This allegorical reading was taught not only by ancient followers of Jesus, but it was virtually universal throughout early Christianity.”

In this allegorical interpretation of the parable, perhaps Jesus was hinting in this parable of the fact that he was going to pay the price for our salvation.

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I would like to offer another interpretation of the parable; that this parable is an allegory, but with a different paradigm or point of view from the traditional. With all due respect to John Welch and others, I would like to offer a different allegory, wherein Christ is represented not by the Samaritan, but instead, Christ is the fallen victim, avoided by the quote “Corporate Religious Groups”,  or modern-day Pharisees whose focus is upon achieving their self-serving goals. They would find nothing worthwhile to the corporate group’s interests in helping a half-dead wretch on the road or any other poor individual unable to contribute financially to their organization’s bottom line or financial growth. Such groups would deem it not only advantageous to themselves to not stop and help; better to give misery a wide berth, as stopping would only impede its self-serving financial objectives.

It is surprising that I have been asked on occasion by people associated with Christian Groups: “Why do we at BLCF Church bother wasting resources and time hosting the BLCF Café Community Dinner in the heart of Toronto for the homeless and marginalized? After all, what could they contribute financially to our church in return?

My response is: “Really! I mean really!

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Members of such large misguided religious corporations are represented in the parable by the Priest and Levite. They find that the dying individual does not fit into their corporate schedule. Besides, they are already late for some important meeting, and anyway, it’s contrary to their business plan to assume the liability or risk of helping a relatively insignificant individual. After all, it’s all about numbers and corporate sponsorship.

In the parable, it appears for the Priest and the Levite and the Levite, their focus was more upon themselves, their position in the church, and the fact that there was nothing to be personally gained, by stopping to help this man; a viewpoint which flies in the face of the Lord’s expectation of the practice of believers, as we see in Proverbs 14:31.  Now, it is popular among some Christian circles to portray Jesus as a radical with a totally different view from the Scriptures, which we refer today as the Books of the  Old Testament. But what Jesus taught in Matthew 20 about helping the least of our brothers and sisters was totally in sync with the Old Testament. It was Pharisees, Scribes and other Jewish leaders who twisted the interpretation of the Scriptures to suit their own worldly priorities instead of the Lord’s, not unlike some so-called Christian churches today. Fortunately there those who hold close to the Lord’s intended purpose in the Scriptures. Just below the graphic illustration of the Lord’s Commandments in Luke 10, we find the verse from Proverbs 14.

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Proverbs 14:31 (ESV)

31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,     

but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.

By their motivations and actions in not showing compassion and help the least of these, they have brought upon themselves the same treatment for their souls, condemning death upon them, by putting their own interests first. The same could be said for individuals and organizations that focus on their own growth and make no provision for caring for those in need who cannot contribute to their bottom line. The Apostle Paul authored numerous letters to Christian churches whose membership had drifted away from the path given to them by the Lord’s gospel and word.

Now think back on the Good Samaritan Parable, where the traditional interpretation holds that the Samaritan in the parable represents Jesus. My belief that the penniless, naked, beaten, half-dead man on the road to Jericho is not the fallen Adam, but Jesus who was beaten, naked, abandoned, left to die. And how did I come to such a different conclusion? The answer is from Jesus own words, as we read in Matthew 25:31-40, where Christ tells us  exactly who the beaten (sick), the naked stranger on the road is:

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Matthew 25:31-40 The Final Judgment

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.’

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So if we walk by a beaten, naked, half-dead, penniless man left to die on the road, for whatever excuse we choose to rationalize our behavior, we have violated the rule stated in Luke 10:27b: “love… your neighbor as yourself.And since God states that how to treat or mistreat others, particularly the less-fortunate shows to God how we love him, Luke 10:27a.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”

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By violating these two rules, that is, by not demonstrating love to our neighbor who is in need, God says you are treating Him the same way and you condemn your soul to death.

But the keyword in Luke 10, is love, which the Apostle Paul describes for us as the “The Way of Love”, in 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) The Way of Love

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13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 13:3 Some manuscripts deliver up my body [to death] that I may boast b. 1 Corinthians 13:5 Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing

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In conclusion, the next time you see an opportunity to help others and choose to walk around or go the other way, from someone in need, you have brought upon yourselves a heavy judgment by Son of Man on the Day of Judgment. You have in all likelihood denied yourself a place in God’s Kingdom.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, we are considered to be “Born again” in God’s Holy Spirit, and if given an opportunity to be a “Good Samaritan” to demonstrate love and compassion to someone who is distress, we would do so without hesitation. Otherwise, as we read in Mathew 25:31-40, we can expect to be judged, accordingly.

Let us pray…

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Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:23-24):

Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Cristos Anesti! – Christ Has Risen!

Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary, Mother of Jesus

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary Mother of Jesus’

© April 25, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on May 11, 2014, May 8, 2016, May 12, 2019, December 27, 2020

BLCF Bulletin May 12, 2019

BLCF: Bulletin May 11, 2014

BLCF Bulletin May 8, 2016

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior; Choruses                                                                   

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

Responsive Reading #628: The Child Jesus (– Luke 2)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                    

‘Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary, Mother of Jesus’ 

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship on a Sunday. Intertwined within the story and gospel of Jesus is the impact of a woman, who carried, gave birth, raised, and followed as a disciple to the beloved Son of God, also a son of a Godly woman, Mary.

As the world continues to face the scourge of a COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic, people go on, keeping the hope and anticipation of all taking life-saving vaccinations. This anticipation, to a lesser degree, is similar to the anticipation of the birth of God’s Savior, Jesus whose advent brought the hope of life eternal, by the removal of humanity’s judgment for its sins.

Our lesson today will include an examination of Jesus’ arrival, its impact upon the life of one woman who pondered the birth of her son in her heart. It is Mary’s perspective recorded in the Scriptures, both as  a parent and disciple, to her son Jesus, as recorded in the Bible, gives us insight as to how she pondered Jesus, as her son and her Lord.

There are many special things a mother may ponder in her heart with regards to the actions of her children, so I would like to begin today’s lesson by sharing a personal mother’s story from the Mickelson family.

Although our other children have their respective graduations, I would like to share with you a memory from the graduation ceremonies of our oldest child, Athena which occurred several years ago a. Presiding over the Sashing Ceremonies for graduates at the University of Guelph, was the Chancellor, the late Lincoln Alexander, who you may know, had served as lawyer, parliamentarian, public servant, and as Lieutenant-Governor for the Province of Ontario.

Lincoln Alexander
                        Lincoln Alexander

The sashing ceremony itinerary listed Athena’s group of Honors Bachelor of Science Degree graduates near the end of proceedings on a warm afternoon. I was impressed that Mr. Alexander did not hurry the proceedings, taking a few moments to exchange remarks with each graduate before the sashing. His conversation with our daughter brought a broad grin to Athena, lasting throughout the ceremony and even afterward. I wondered what special words of advice or wisdom were spoken to Athena by the Chancellor. When Athena walked to over to us, I asked her what Lincoln Alexander had said to her and Athena replied that Mr. Alexander had asked her: “Is your momma here today?” To which Athena replied, “Yes she is.” Then the Chancellor said, “Well give her a big smile, this is an important day for your momma!” Athena wore that smile for the remainder of the day, as Mr. Alexander’s comments were right on point.

Now for today’s lesson, I would like to examine Mary, the mother of Jesus, a special mother recorded in the Scriptures, including today’s selected Scripture verses. These verses are listed in our lesson in their chronological order.

Let us begin begin with reading Luke 1:26-35, where Mary received some special news from God, by way of the angel, Gabriel:

Luke 1:26-35 (ESV): Birth of Jesus Foretold

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

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

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

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

Not only does Mary, who is betrothed or engaged to marry Joseph, find out that she will become pregnant, but she has been chosen by God, to be the mother of a holy child, the Son of God, whom she is to name “Jesus”.

Luke 2:15-20 describes the visit to Bethlehem by shepherds of the field after they were informed by God’s angels of the birth of the Christ child.

Luke 2:15-20 (ESV)

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

After the shepherds departed, Luke indicates that Mary treasured up or pondered these things in her heart.

Our next Scripture passage gives us an idea of how Mary raised her son, Jesus, and the mother-son relationship Luke 2:41-51.

Luke 2:41-51(ESV): The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Young Jesus In The Temple Hofmann Painting by Frans Schwartz.jpg

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[a] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[b]50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:48 Greek they b. Luke 2:49 Or about my Father’s business

We have in this Scripture, an indication of the love and concern Mary had for her son. In an account that sounds a little like the film, Home Alone, Jesus is left behind in Jerusalem, or should I say elected to remain in Jerusalem, following a Passover Feast. The young twelve-year-old Jesus is assumed to be with others in a group from Nazareth. However, after a day’s journey, Mary and Joseph then realize that Jesus is missing from the group. Jesus’ parents return to Jerusalem to look for their son. Three days later, Jesus who was missing for five days, was found in the temple, talking to the elders. Those present were amazed at young Jesus’ understanding of the Scripters, and his parents were astonished. This did not deter Mary, who was worried for her son’s safety, from chastising the boy, verses 48 – 50, of Luke 2:

48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

We also see that though the Son of the Most High must be in his Father’s house, Jesus did not forget his place with respect to his parents, as we read in verse 51 that:

51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.

And we read, again that Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. And though Jesus was raised to honor his parents, he obviously was instructed well with regard to the Scriptures, as he had demonstrated in the temple in Jerusalem.

The relationship between Mary and Jesus is described further in what I would like to refer as a Wiki bits reference, though found at the Web site, biography.com:

According to the Gospel of John 2:1-11, as Jesus was beginning his ministry, he and his disciples traveled with his mother, Mary, to a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The wedding host had run out of wine and Jesus’s mother came to him for help. At first, Jesus refused to intervene, but then he relented and asked a servant to bring him large jars filled with water. He turned the water into a wine of higher quality than any served during the wedding. John’s gospel depicts the event as the first sign of Jesus’s glory and his disciples’ belief in him.

After the wedding, Jesus, his mother Mary and his disciples traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. At the temple, they saw moneychangers and merchants selling wares. In a rare display of anger, Jesus overturned the tables and, with a whip made of cords, drove them out, declaring that his Father’s house is not a house for merchants.                                                              

http://www.biography.com/people/jesus-christ-9354382#jesuss-ministry&awesm=~oDNPn11WRqG16j

We see that Mary was more than a mother traveling with her son; she was traveling with Jesus and his disciples. And isn’t it just like a mother to ask her son to help provide the host with wine? You will note that though Jesus had begun his ministry, that this time he and his disciples accompanied his mother to a wedding. This indicates the human side of Jesus, who on more than one occasion honored his mother, by referring to himself as the “son of man” rather than the “son of God”. And not to disparage his Father, Christ honored his Godly side by chasing the money changers from the temple.

But being both the son of Mary and the Son of God did not confuse Jesus with respect to the importance of his ministry, as we see in Luke 11:27-28. (ESV):

True Blessedness

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Jesus used the woman’s remark to emphasize that God’s blessings do not come by birthright, but by honoring and keeping the word of God. This statement is reinforced by Jesus’ remarks n Matthew 12:46-50.

 Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.[a]48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 12:46 Some manuscripts insert verse 47: Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you”

At first glance, it seems that Jesus disavowed his mother and siblings, indicating that the designation of a mother, brother or sister, in his view, should apply only to those who do the will of the Father in heaven.

But you may ask, “Did Mary not demonstrate obedience to God’s will by bearing and raising His Son?” For the answer to this question, let us look at John 19:5-30:

John 19:25-30 (ESV)

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Just before giving up his spirit on the cross, Jesus saw his mother and John, who is referred to as the disciple who he loved. He then told Mary to behold her son, the disciple John. And to the disciple John, he said to behold your mother, Mary. Jesus was not talking about Mary as his birth mother. In accordance with what he had spoken to the people in Matthew 12:46-50, he was acknowledging the faith and discipleship of Mary.  In this regard, Mary was his mother by birth and by Spirit.

We have confirmation of this observation, when we read in the next Scripture verse, that Mary was again with the disciples in the Upper Room, after Jesus Ascended to heaven, obediently praying and awaiting the arrival of the promised Comforter, God’s Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:6-14 (ESV): The Ascension

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

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

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

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

Mary was special, not only because God had chosen her to give birth, and to raise His only Son; unlike most woman of the day, Mary choose not to stay at home and maintain a household. We see Mary as a loving, caring parent and as a disciple of faith and obedience, to the Father in heaven.

The Scripture’s account of Mary’s journeys with Jesus and the disciples indicate how she was involved with the first miracle where Jesus turned water to wine and her presence at Jesus’ cleansing of the temple of the merchants and money changers. Mary continued to follow Jesus and demonstrated both her love for her son and obedience to her God. Mary understood that she had been favored by God to be a mother to God’s Son, Jesus, and was present at many of the important events in the life and ministry of her son.

Mary was present at his birth, his death; witness to his resurrection; and present in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost when God’s Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and believers that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the true Son of God. To Jesus, Mary was his mother, not just because she gave birth to him, but as an obedient woman of faith who heard God’s word and kept it. Mary is an example to Christians, both as a loving parent and follower of God’s word, by taking care of Jesus, the son of man, who was also the Son of God.

As we continue through the test and trials of COVID-19 and other challenges of, 2021, let us reflect upon the challenges of the past year, 2020, with hope in the anticipation of getting our vaccination for COVID-19, while embracing  the gift of spiritual salvation currently available by the sacrifice of Jesus, Who was both the Son God and son a woman, Mary. God’s blessings for a safe and happy year in 2021 and beyond.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark (Pass It On)                                                     

Benediction – (Galatians 1:3-5):

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Important Announcement to the BLCF Community

Sadly, for the first time since we first opened January 2008, the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner will suspend operations due to the threat of the COVID-19 Virus, in order to protect the vulnerable.

BLCF Cafe has suspended operations as we are not equipped for take-out service and are unable to safely serve a eat-in dinner involving a group of some 100-150 guests and volunteers during the pandemic.

Please follow our social media channels for postings of when BLCF would be able to safely reopen in accordance to the guidelines set forth by Public Health Agency of Canada and local health officials allowing for operations within current social-distancing guidelines. Our goal is providing a safe environment for all.

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COVID-19: Letter to faith community leaders from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer

April 3, 2020

Dear Faith Community Leaders

I am reaching out to you today to thank you for your efforts to date in helping Canada delay the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. Over the past few weeks, we have seen the number of COVID-19 cases increase in Canada. To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the country, governments and health officials have asked the public to practice social distancing. This means staying home, avoiding crowds and refraining from common social greetings like handshakes. This is one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak.

I am asking you to follow the advice of your local, provincial, and territorial public health authorities with regards to social distancing and restrictions on mass gatherings, which likely includes suspending all regular services for the time being.

Social distancing involves creating a two-metre zone of protection around ourselves—the distance that infected droplets can spread from a cough or sneeze. It is only through social distancing that we can protect our communities, including older adults and medically vulnerable Canadians, who are most at risk of severe illness.

Many community members may want to use this opportunity to host small gatherings in their homes, apartments, and multipurpose rooms. I urge you to use your leadership role to discourage these gatherings, in order to protect the safety and health of your congregants and community.

I know this is not easy. It is an uncertain and difficult time for many and people in your communities are likely turning to their faith for support. I ask that you continue to provide leadership and encourage all of your community members to stay home. I have been encouraged seeing many stories of faith leaders across Canada who have adopted innovative alternative options to reach their communities, from offering services online to using social media. I hope to see more of this as we stay the course in our collective efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at the community level.

We can only respond to the challenge COVID-19 places on our country with your support and leadership.

For more information on Canada’s response to COVID-19, including awareness resources and guidance documents, visit Canada.ca/coronavirus.

Thank you,

Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/covid-19-letter-faith-community-leaders-from-canada-chief-public-health-officer.html

 

Luke 4:12 (ESV)

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ 

 

Be Safe!

 

To our Guests, Volunteers, and Friends of BLCF Cafe,


Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, located in the heart of Toronto, has suspended operations on March 16, 2020. As we are not equipped for take-out service and are unable to provide Personal Protection Equipment to our vulnerable volunteers and guests as a sit-down dinner. Please follow our social media channels for postings of when BLCF would open after health officials post the all clear for reduced social-distancing guidelines which are currently in place. 

Be safe.

Sophie Mickelson

Director-Coordinator BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

 

My Refuge and My Fortress during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Psalm 91:1-10 (ESV): My Refuge and My Fortress

 91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge —
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.

BLCF Church invites you to a Prayer Walk in the Heart of Toronto.

BLCF Church invites you to a Prayer Walk in the Heart of Toronto.

JOIN US

ON A WALK TO PRAY FOR OUR

COMMUNITY!

On the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m.,

join with those from other local churches to worship,

and to pray for one another

and for the surrounding neighbourhood.

*******************************************

On TUESDAY, MARCH 3rd.

we will be gathering at

KEELE STREET CHRISTIAN CHURCH

97 ANNETTE ST.

(AT THE CORNER OF ANNETTE AND KEELE STS.)

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Come out to bless and be blessed as we hear about what God has been doing at Keele Church Christian Church!

Let’s join together in faith

looking to God for His blessing

for our community!

 

Hunger Does Not Take A Holiday In The Heart Of Toronto!

Attention guests and volunteers of the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. Since January 2008, the BLCF Cafe has not missed serving Wednesday’s dinner to the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto. And as both Christmas Day 2019 and New Years Day 2020 fall on a Wednesday, the BLCF Cafe will serve a holiday lunch from 12 Noon to 2 PM on these days.

 – Thanks and blessings from BLCF Cafe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, established in January 2008 and operated under the auspices of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, is located at 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, just west of Lansdowne Station (on the Bloor West TTC Subway Line). 416-535-9578.

Benefit Performance to feed the Homeless in the Heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe

 

Well, it is that time of year. BLCF Cafe announces that the date for our Fall FUNdraiser is set to October 23, 2019, at 6:30 PM. Support the BLCF Cafe’s cause of serving dinner to Toronto’s homeless and marginalized, right in the heart of the city.

Why not come and invite a friend for an evening of great Bluegrass music performed by Coldwater Roots, who are able to put the FUN into FUNdraising? BLCF Cafe receives no Corporate Sponsorship and receives no Government funding, we depend solely on the generosity of private donors. So, help support a worthwhile cause of feeding the homeless in Toronto by volunteering some of your time or donating to the BLCF Cafe, or better yet do both! BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, 1307 Bloor Street West at Lansdowne Avenue, just west of Lansdowne Station on the Bloor West Subway Line. 416-535-9578 blcfchurch.ca

Feed the Homeless at BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

Feed the Homeless at BLCf Cafe

The Awesome God, Who keeps His Covenant with a Steadfast Love 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Awesome God, Who keeps His Covenant with a Steadfast Love’

© June 16, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2019

Based upon messages shared at BLCF on June 16, 2013, and on June 15, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin June 15, 2014

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2013

BLCF: Happy Father's Day Tie

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #22: Stand Up and Bless the Lord; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #593: God and the Family (- Genesis 1, Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 5 & 6)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Awesome God, Who Keeps Covenant and Steadfast Love’

Let us pray…

For our lesson on this Father’s Day Sunday, I would like to share with you the story of Sam Rayburn Jr. High, a middle school located in a small subdivision located just west of San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas. As BLCF is a church that is located in the heart of Toronto, I found that the lesson found in today’s Scripture verses from Nehemiah, Chapter 9 have relevance on giving insight and understanding to the stories of the two buildings.

Some fifty years ago, in response to the needs of a growing, vibrant community, the local school district contracted to build a new middle school. The builders wanted to construct not just an ordinary run of the mill school building, but a structure that was ahead of its time, having a form that was practical in purpose, though innovative and appealing in its design.

Speaker of the House, Sam ayburn

Now the Wiki bits of this story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Rayburn). The community built Sam Rayburn, a middle school whose namesake Samuel Taliaferro “Sam” Rayburn (January 6, 1882 – November 16, 1961) was a Democratic lawmaker from Bonham, Texas, who served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years, the longest tenure in U.S. history. Rayburn was born in Roane County, Tennessee, on January 6, 1882, 24 days before Franklin D. Roosevelt, a fact noted by the news media while Roosevelt was President and Rayburn was Speaker.

Rayburn was baptized by Elder H.G. Ball in the Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Old Line Baptist or Hard Shell Baptist Church. Rayburn graduated from Mayo College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) in Commerce, which was located in northeast Texas. He attended the University Of Texas School Of Law while teaching school, and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1908.

Although many Texas legislators were on the payroll of public service corporations, Rayburn refused to do so. Later, while serving in Congress, a wealthy oilman had a very expensive horse delivered to Rayburn’s farm in Bonham. No one apparently knew the oilman delivered the horse except him, Rayburn, and a Rayburn staffer. Rayburn returned the horse. This practice of refusing to accept fees from clients who had interests before the Legislature was “virtually unheard-of” at the time, but sadly no so much today.

In shaping legislation, Rayburn preferred working quietly in the background to being in the public spotlight. As Speaker, he won a reputation for fairness and integrity. In his years in Congress, Rayburn always insisted on paying his own expenses, even going so far as to pay for his own travel expenses when inspecting the Panama Canal when his committee was considering legislation concerning it, rather than exercising his right to have the government pay for it. When he died, his personal savings totaled only $15,000, and most of his holdings were in his family ranch.

I guess you would classify Sam Rayburn as a person who put into practice his Christian values, rather than a Christian who practiced politics. He was an exemplary model for all those involved in politics today. Now class, let us get back to school!

Sam Rayburn Jr. High, like its namesake, was quite different from its predecessors. The school was clad by louvered panels, set some six feet from the windows and afforded shade from hot Texas sun from May to October while allowing cool breezes caught from the hillside location. The louvers were angled so that in the winter the sun helped warm the classrooms. Built on the top of the west side of a large valley that afforded a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. The two-story school was comprised of two wings. One wing consisted of a gymnasium and cafeteria, under them ran a lengthy hallway designed to shelter students and staff from the ravaging winds of a passing tornado.

Perhaps the most innovative design was the two air-conditioned multimedia lecture halls, which were located in the centre of the classroom wing. Sound-proofed and windowless, the lecture halls had staggered seating on a gradient like a slope found in the sanctuary of BLCF. The halls were equipped with a stage and a retractable projector screen for presentations, variable lighting control, and a built-in PA sound system. These halls provided a good environment for students to view films, slide or filmstrip presentations, music concerts, lectures, for tests and exams. They also provided an additional safe place to ride out a tornado if students or staff could not get to the safe hallway under the cafeteria wing of the school.

I attended grades 6 and 7 of my education at Sam Rayburn. In grade 7 English class, we observed the explosion of a Quonset hut at Medina Air Force Base on the opposite side of the valley, generating a mushroom cloud above the valley and rain of ash the next day. I was at my locker in the school a week or so later, a passing student told me that John Kennedy had been shot in the head. Less than an hour later, our Principal solemnly announced on the PA system that the president had passed.

Medical expenses for my sister Rhona, a victim of a traumatic spinal injury, had caused us to lose our home and furnishings and move into a rental property in the city, closer to my father’s workplace.

Fast forward some 3 years to 1967, and my family had immigrated to my mother’s birthplace of Toronto. Canada had offered better medical care for Rhona, and gave the family refuge from the riots and social unrest; America’s version of Arab spring. In the next 13 years, I graduated from Secondary School, attended University, returning home after my mother suffered a massive heart attack. I entered the workforce and stayed home until Mom passed away some fourteen months later. A couple of years later, I met Sophie, the love of my life who first led me to the Lord and then later to the altar. Then in 1980, after having resigned after seven years at Pitney Bowes, I had a month’s hiatus before starting my new job at Kodak Canada. Thanks to Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor’s providing a safe haven for the Americans in Iran, our family was able to take a vacation to Texas, courtesy of Greyhound Coach Lines’ “Thank you Canada” discount rates. After seeing the sites, we traveled to the old neighborhood. The house showed changes from time. Trees were bigger and Sam Rayburn Jr. High looked older and in need of a coat of paint. I did not return to Texas again for some 17 years when our family drove to San Marcos to visit my brother-in-law at a rehab facility for people with severe head injuries. I wanted to show my kids my old neighborhood. Time and tide had not been kind to our old house, which looked quite run down, sporting iron bars on the exterior windows and doors. No longer manicured, the back yard now featured an old rusty pickup truck sitting on blocks.

Sadly, Sam Rayburn School was more shocking to see, being the victim of more neglect than the old homestead. The shutters were dilapidated, some cracked and broken; others dangling awkwardly from their supports. The name of the school, once boldly displayed in steel letters mounted on the brick facade of the school had eroded to the wind, rain, and possible vandalism so that letters were missing or illegible. It seemed that the hope and vision that gave birth to a unique place of learning and a beacon of education had met its demise.

Just an update, I recently looked at the Google photos of my old Valley Hi neighborhood and was pleased to see that Sam Rayburn Jr. High, now called Sam Rayburn Middle School, has undergone a Nehemiah-like change, having been totally rebuilt. Kudos to those who restored the vision of their ancestors, giving this lesson a Scriptural-like positive ending, or should I say beginning.

BLCF: rebuilt_Sam_Rayburn_School

The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible, which we Christians refer to today as the Old Testament. When we read the story in the 9th Chapter of Nehemiah, we can easily see how neglect and loss of a community’s faith and vision can lead to the path of destruction as had happened to my old school.

Nehemiah Rebuilding the Walls

Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, Nehemiah concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who was a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God’s laws (Torah). The events take place in the second half of the 5th century BC, and together with the Book of Ezra, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible.

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, (445/444 BC), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. Learning that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild them, and Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild the walls. Once there he defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days, from the Sheep Gate in the North, the Hananel Tower at the northwest corner, the Fish Gate in the West, the Furnaces Tower at the Temple Mount’s South West corner, the Dung Gate in the South, the East Gate and the gate beneath the Golden Gate in the East.

Jerusalem rebult by Nehemiah

He then took measures to repopulate the city and purify the Jewish community, enforcing the cancellation of debt, assisting Ezra to promulgate the Law of Moses, and enforcing the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.

After 12 years as governor, during which he ruled with justice and righteousness, he returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa, he returned to Jerusalem, only to find that the people had fallen back into their evil ways. Non-Jews were permitted to conduct business inside Jerusalem on the Sabbath and to keep rooms in the Temple. Greatly angered, he purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the Law of Moses.

nehemiah map susa - jerusalem_map

While Nehemiah did seek to rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem and restore the Temple as a holy place of worship, his narrative accurately points to his real concern about the faith or should I say lack of faith of and ingratitude to God as was demonstrated by the people of Jerusalem, as we read in Nehemiah 9:6-21 (ESV):

6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.

Nehemiah 9 verse 6

9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. 11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. 12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

Nehemiah-9-Verse-21

16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

The story of how the walls of Jerusalem had deteriorated can be viewed as a metaphor for the church, which we know is not brick and mortar, but a body of believers. Many of God’s Chosen have repeatedly drifted away from their true God and had chosen other gods. In this case, the faith of the body of believers had decayed almost to ruin and needed to be rebuilt in order that the members of the body could revive their faith and trust in the Lord. It is not surprising that many businesses and groups currently use the name Nehemiah or a derivative of the name as their corporate badge. The Nehemiah narrative indicates that the people have lapses of faith more than on one occasion. Still, God is an awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love for His people, Nehemiah 9:32-36 (ESV):

32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.

As Christians reading the Nehemiah account, we should not only concern ourselves with the rebuilding the fallen body of the church, we need to understand and avoid the circumstances that caused the church to fall in the first place. We do know that since the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity carries the stolen gift of knowledge of good and evil, as well as the burden of sin. People are given the choice between following God in faith and listening to Satan at our peril.

When we walk in faith in the Lord, we contribute to a strong church body that can resist the attacks of an opponent whose sole desire is to tear down and destroy God’s Eternal Kingdom and replace it with his own worldly domain. A domain like the walls of the city of Jerusalem that were not maintained, can crumble and deteriorate over time, falling into dust and debris.

But do not despair. All is not lost. While Scriptures do record the accounts of many fathers, many of whom are exemplary models for the Christian fathers of today. If you turn to the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see several fathers who were keepers of the faith. This summary comes by way of About.com:

Famous Fathers in the Bible Who Set Worthy Examples – About.com

God the Father God the Father, the first Person of the Trinity, is the father and creator of all. Jesus, his only Son, showed us a new, intimate way of relating to him. When we see God as our heavenly Father, provider and protector, it puts our life in a whole new perspective. Every human father is also a son of this Most High God, the constant source of strength, wisdom, and hope.

Adam – The First Man As the first man and first human father, Adam had no example to follow except God. He faltered on that, plunging the world into sin. He also had to deal with the tragedy of his son Cain murdering his other son, Abel. Adam has much to teach today’s fathers about the consequences of our actions and the absolute necessity of obeying God.

Noah – A Righteous Man Noah stands out among fathers in the Bible as a man who clung to God in spite of the wickedness all around him. What could be more relevant to today? Noah was far from perfect, but he was humble and protective of his family. He bravely carried out the task God assigned to him. Modern fathers may often feel they are in a thankless role, but God is always pleased by their devotion.

Abraham – Father of the Jewish Nation What could be more frightening than being the father of an entire nation? That was the mission God gave Abraham. He was a leader with tremendous faith, passing one of the most difficult tests God ever gave a man. Abraham made mistakes when he relied on himself instead of God. Still, he embodied qualities that any father would be wise to develop.

Jacob – Father of the 12 Tribes of Israel Jacob was a schemer who tried to work his own way instead of trusting God. With the help of his mother Rebekah, he stole his twin brother Esau’s birthright. Jacob fathered 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. As a father, however, he favored his son Joseph, causing jealousy among the other brothers. The lesson from Jacob’s life is that God works with our obedience and in spite of our disobedience to make his plan come to pass.

Moses – Giver of the Law Moses was the father of two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, yet he also served as a father figure to the entire Hebrew people as they escaped from slavery in Egypt. He loved them and helped discipline and provide for them on their 40-year journey to the Promised Land. At times Moses seemed to be a larger-than-life character, but he was only a man. He shows today’s fathers that overwhelming tasks can be achieved when we stay close to God.

King David – A Man After God’s Own Heart One of the great strugglers in the Bible, David was also a special favorite of God. He trusted God to help him defeat the giant Goliath and put his faith in God as he was on the run from King Saul. David sinned greatly, but he repented and found forgiveness. His son Solomon went on to become one of Israel’s greatest kings.

Joseph – Earthly Father of Jesus Surely one of the most underrated fathers in the Bible was Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. He went to great pains to protect his wife Mary and their baby, and then saw to Jesus’ education and needs as he was growing up. Joseph taught Jesus the carpentry trade. The Bible calls Joseph a righteous man, and Jesus must have loved his guardian for his quiet strength, honesty, and kindness.

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As believers in the Resurrected Christ and as vessels of the Spirit of the Living God, it is our responsibility to edify or build the body of believers in our church, not in numbers, but in faith. Each member of Christ’s Church must help build the church, by edifying and restoring the faith of its fellow members to counter the tendency towards decay and destruction over time.

Throughout the ages, the key to building and maintaining a strong church body, that is able to resist the onslaught brought by Satan, having strength in faith and not through numbers. In other words, the quality of the faith of a church body is more important than the quantity or number of members within the church.

And our hope and promise come from Jesus Christ, who by having been crucified for our sins, has removed God’s judgment and restored us to God’s favour. Through Jesus, we are forgiven, sanctified, and given the promise of a comforter in the Holy Spirit. Additionally, we are given the covenant of our own resurrection upon Christ’s return.

In a similar manner, a church with limited resources, yet strong in faith, is buoyed by the Spirit so that may achieve much more than a larger corporate body of members with tepid faith. Even though the latter may have vast financial resources, the Spirit is absent.

The Spirit greatly rewards a church’s faith by multiplying modest means to achieve the Lord’s objectives. Just come to BLCF on a Wednesday evening to see not only the proof of how the Holy Spirit multiplies and rewards steadfast faith; you will see but how the Spirit restores the faith of those who keep or renew their trust for a loving caring God.

So when life brings forth challenges, fraught with pain and sorrow, do not despair, but trust in Him and endure, as we read in Hebrews 12:7 (ESV):

Hebrews12:7

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

And on this Father’s Day Sunday, let us not only honour our earthly fathers but also glorify our Father in heaven and remember that He is an awesome God who keeps His covenant and shows a steadfast love for all his children.

Proverbs 23:24 (ESV)

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;

he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.

Happy Fathers Day

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King (to the tune of ‘Michael Row the Boat’)

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):

And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen

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