Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018’

© November 11, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 11, 2018

Based On Messages Shared at BLCF on Nov. 11, 2012, and Nov. 8, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 8, 2015

Moment of Silence – Lest We Forget 11-11-2018; O Canada 

  

  Official lyrics of “O Canada” (English Version 2018)                   

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!     

From far and wide,      

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.    

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/anthems-canada.html#a1

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                           

Opening Hymn #99: Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners; Choruses                            

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

Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4)                                    

Message by Steve Mickelson:                   

 ‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018’

Let us pray…

The lesson for this Sunday is a study of two symbols of remembrance of sacrifice on our behalf: the poppy and the cross.

I stand before you with one of these symbols, the poppy, pinned above my heart, while illuminated behind me is the other, which is the cross.

Today we have the opportunity to observe, with the aid of the poppy, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, signifying the anniversary of  Armistice Day, which is the day that the Armistice was signed in 1918 to end World War I, ironically called “the war to end all wars”. Sadly, 100 years after the signing the 1918 Armistice wars still happen around the world.

Today, the date is called Remembrance Day in Canada and Britain and Veterans Day in the United States. For us, Remembrance Day is a day where we remember all who died not only in this war but in all other conflicts, to both preserve and protect our democratic freedom and way of life in Canada.

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship - BLCf Church Way of the Cross

We, in the Christian Church, also have a symbol no less important. It’s the Cross of Jesus. One of His great sayings is:

‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’            – John 15:13 (ESV).

And that is what Christ did for us.

Two great symbols of sacrifice are the Poppy and the Cross.

What is so special about a poppy on Remembrance Day? Why not use a pansy? Scarlet poppies grow naturally in conditions of the disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century, transformed the bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as the First World War raged through Europe’s heart.

The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realized by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in the First World War and later conflicts. Here are John McCrae’s words:

In Flanders Fields – John McCrae 

John McCrae in uniform circa 1914

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

When fighting ceased in 1918 the mud of the battlefields was allowed to rest. Nature began to restore the landscape. Before long, the wildflowers grew and bloomed, including the poppy. The colour of red reminds people of bloodshed and the sacrifice by millions of brave soldiers of their lives. And so the poppy became the symbol of sacrifice.

It is a known fact that people are creatures with the capacity to forget personal pain and suffering. Otherwise, women, for example, would be less likely to have more than one child, after having experienced the labour of the first and all of us would be unable to cope with the loss of loved ones. With the passage of time, the memory of the harsh reality of death diminishes and fades with each successive generation, becoming little more than the image of faded photographs or hollow words to a nearly forgotten poem.

That is why it is important to take a minute of silence to reflect and pray for those men and women who sacrificed their lives both in a distant place and time and in times current so that we may enjoy a relatively free and safe life today in Canada. We read the poem ’In Flanders Fields’, where see that even in the deadly field of battle, God transforms the trenches of death with a tapestry of red flowers and the song of meadowlarks, providing the promise of hope reminiscent of that given by His rainbow and dove with the olive branch after the great flood.

On this Remembrance Day, let us also remember the fallen innocents in past conflicts as well: the civilians who were killed in wars and conflicts, as well as the persecuted victims of purges and holocausts. And, we should remember the families of the fallen, for the pain of the loss of a loved one. Finally, we honour those who returned from battle and war, with the memory of death and destruction etched in their memories.

Some of you may still remember a member of our congregation, our friend Leo, a kindly brother in Christ, who sought to share the love of Christ with his brothers and sisters. I remember, when I had applied to work as an operator at the TTC, Leo commented to me, that after the World War II, he was hired by the TTC and trained to drive a street car. He remarked that as a result of the war, the stress of driving was too great for him, and he left the TTC to work as a carrier with Canada Post.

At Leo’s funeral, the chapel was almost evenly divided between sad, grieving uniformed postal carriers, members of the military and police officers on one side of the chapel; with happy Christian believers on the other. While the former mourned the death of a friend, the latter celebrated the fact that another Christian has gone home to be with Jesus at the Lord’s Resurrection.

While Leo did not give his life in war for his country, he did give his life as a living sacrifice unto his Lord. We see that the poppy represents the mourning for those who sacrificed themselves in battles, police actions and conflicts, which continue to this day. By contrast, Jesus gave his life as the final sacrifice for our judgment for sin, which we celebrate and observe continuously, by means prayer, song, Scripture and with the regular observance of Communion.

The poppy reminds us of the sacrificed lives in battles over the years past, present, and future. By contrast, the cross reminds us of the Lord’s single act of sacrifice and love for all generations, past, present, and future, John 15:10-13 (ESV):

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

The cross symbolizes not only how Jesus sanctifies us from sin, but it is also a symbol of God’s New Covenant of eternal life and is an emblem of His love for us. We are implored to take heart and find joy in the Lord’s gift to us, which are the rewards for our faith, John 16:23-33 (ESV):

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

I Have Overcome the World

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.[a] 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Footnotes: a. John 16:27 Some manuscripts from the Father

In addition to the cross, we are instructed by the scriptures to remember the sacrifice of Jesus through the act of communion, until Jesus returns. This points to the main difference between the soldier’s sacrifice to give us freedom as Canadians and Jesus’ sacrifice to give us freedom from sin, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the resurrection. It is our responsibility as members of Canadian society to honour the soldier’s sacrifice for a peace from a war that is temporary, as long sin exists, we will continue to have war. As believers in the resurrected Christ, our trust and faith in our Savior’s sacrifice which does not end sin, but the consequences of sin: judgment and death, Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV):

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #81: All Praise to Him Who Reigns Above

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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The Blessing, the Pledge, and the Promise – of the Staff of Life

 BLCF: Bread-of-Life-Communion

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Blessing, the Pledge, and the Promise – of the Staff of Life’  

© November 6, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin-November-6-2016

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #626 (The Last Supper – Mark 14); Prayer                             

Opening Hymn #220: Break Thou the Bread of Life; Choruses                                 

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

Scripture Verses: Hebrews 10:11-14, John 6:35, John 6:51-58, John 6:63  

BLCF: Presence-of-the-lord   

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service for Sunday, November 6, 2016. As this is the first Sunday of the month, we will remember the sacrifice of our Lord and His New Covenant by way of Communion.

This Friday is November 11, Remembrance Day, a day where we wear a symbolic poppies and observe, on the eleventh minute, of the eleventh hour, a moment of silence and reflection of the sacrifice given by soldiers, including those who surrendered their lives in order to protect Canadian lives and freedoms, in the First World War and the many subsequent wars and conflicts.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we remember a greater salvation that Jesus gave by paying for the penalty for our sins, through the observance of Holy Communion. The elements of Communion are juice and bread.

It is easier to understand what the Communion wine or juice represents than the meaning of the bread element. Wine represents the blood of Christ, but what about the bread?

Let us, first look at a special bread, known as Showbread, described in the Old Testament, and what this blessed bread represented in Smith’s Bible dictionary:                                                                                               

Shewbread or Showbread –  from Smith’s Bible Dictionary

BLCF: table-of-the-shewbread

(Exodus 25:3035:1339:36) etc. literally “bread of the face” or “faces.” Shew-bread was unleavened bread placed upon a table which stood in the sanctuary together with the seven-branched candlestick and the altar of incense. See (Exodus 25:23-30) for description of this table. Every Sabbath twelve newly baked loaves, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, were put on it in two rows, six in each, and sprinkled with incense, where they remained till the following Sabbath. Then they were replaced by twelve new ones, the incense was burned, and they were eaten by the priests in the holy place, out of which they might not be removed, The title “bread of the face” seems to indicate that bread through which God is seen, that is, with the participation of which the seeing of God is bound up, or through the participation of which man attains the sight of God whence it follows that we have not to think of bread merely as such as the means of nourishing the bodily life, but as spiritual food as a means of appropriating and retaining that life which consists In seeing the face of God.

Showbread

One of the central Temple vessels is the golden Table for the Showbread, which stands within the Sanctuary itself, on the north side. This table is constructed of wood overlain with gold, and the specific instructions for its design are described in Exodus Chapter 25.

The priests are commanded to see to it that 12 loaves of bread are constantly displayed on this table before the presence of G-d, hence the name showbread: “And you shall place showbread on the table before Me at all times” (Exodus 25:30).

“These 12 loaves were baked in pans which gave them a specific form, and when done they rested on golden shelves upon this table. The loaves were replaced every Sabbath with new ones.

It is said that bread is the staff of life, and represents man’s physical sustenance. This is certainly so, and it is important that G-d’s blessing for goodness and bounty be found in the bread which we partake of… for without His munificent blessing, all of man’s efforts would neither satisfy nor satiate. Thus we endeavor to fulfill His will throughout every aspect of our endeavors, and in so doing, we earn His favor and blessing… for each area wherein man fulfills the Holy One’s will becomes a channel receiving Heavenly blessing.

This was especially so in the case of the Showbread, and one aspect of its function was indeed to elicit Divine guidance and providence. The sages teach that since these loaves were in essence the vehicle for fulfilling G-d’s commandment, and they were used to accomplish His will, special blessing could be found in it, and indeed, the Divine blessing was seen and felt particularly in the context of the Showbread. The Talmud describes that a miracle took place every week: When the priests came to replace the breads with new loaves every Sabbath, they found that those of the previous week remained fresh and hot upon the table, like the moment they were baked. This miracle was seen as a clear confirmation that the Divine Presence indeed rested in this holy place.

https://www.templeinstitute.org/table_showbread.htm

We may take that the Showbread represented the Divine Presence of God, as the bread remained fresh and hot for a week, at which time the temple Priests would replace the Showbread. The old Showbread was not to be discarded; instead it was to be consumed by the Priests in a holy location in the Temple.

But what about the bread consumed by Christians during Communion? Let us examine today’s Scriptures, beginning with Hebrews 10:11-14 (ESV):

 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

BLCF: Jesus-Picture-On-The-Cross-It-Is-Finished-Crucifixion

Jesus’ death on the cross was made as a sacrifice to redeem the whole world, for all time for the condemnation and judgment of sins.

The Lord paid the price for our sins, forever, as long as we keep faith. We see the benefit of the Lord’s sacrifice in our next Scripture passage, John 6:35 (ESV):

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

But how does Jesus act as bread? Let us look at the next Scripture passage, John 6:51-58 (ESV):

BLCF: Bread-from-Heaven

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[a] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Footnotes: a. John 6:58 Greek lacks the bread

We receive Spiritual sustenance from Jesus, which is symbolically represented by the bread. Just as bread provides sustenance to the body, Christ gives sustenance to the spirit, as we see in John 6:63 (ESV):

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

BLCF: Gods_presence

The Showbread which represents the supernatural presence of God, as well as His sustenance ended when the Temple was destroyed.

With the advent of Jesus and his crucifixion on the cross, God gave us the gift of His New Covenant through Christ. All who accept Christ’s gift are saved and sanctified as apostles of the Gospel of Christ. We receive God’s Holy Spirit, and vessels of the Holy Spirit, or Arks of the New Covenant.

Being sanctified through Christ, believers are expected to become his apostles or messengers of the good news which is the Gospel of the Lord.  Believers in Christ are expected to participate in the observance of Holy Communion until the day that the Lord returns.

This brings us to the Communion portion of the service:

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

BLCF: communion-when-your-children-ask-you-

 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[a]you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[b] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Some manuscripts broken for  b. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Or as my memorial; also verse 25

http://www.bible-history.com/tabernacle/TAB4The_Table_of_Shewbread.htm

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #212: According to Thy Gracious Word

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):

 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?

BLCF: Jesus-died-for-our-sins

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?’

© October 16, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF-bulletin-october-16-2016

Based on a Message Shared With BLCF on September 14, 2014

BLCF: cant-to-can

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                   Responsive Reading #633 (The Good Shepherd – John 10); Prayer                                                              

Opening Hymn #237: What Can Wash Away My Sin? ; Choruses                                             

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

Scripture Verses: Romans 3:23, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 John 1:7-9, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58                     

BLCF: miughty-to-sin.jpg

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 John 1:7-9 (ESV)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV) Mystery and Victory

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

BLCF: Who_do_you_say_I_Am

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. For the lesson today, I would like to pose a few questions: Who is Jesus? What is sin? What do they mean to me?

To answer these questions, we must first understand their relevance to each other and their mutual context, as found in the Scriptures. Jesus came to propitiate God for sin by his crucifixion on the cross. And what is meant by sin? Romans 3:23 indicates all humanity have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Is sin the act By Adam and eve of disobedience to God’s ordinance, which was the command not to eat fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge”, as described in Genesis 3?

The Apostle Paul describes manifestations of sin as “works of flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV):

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Our hope comes from the blood that Christ shed on our behalf to cleanse us from the unrighteousness of sins which we confess or admit, as describe in 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And with salvation, by faith in Jesus, comes the promise of the resurrection from death and a life immortal, as described in our next Scripture passage, from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV), entitled the Mystery and Victory:

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

But some might ask: “Who is Jesus, that he might be capable of removing sin’s stain from each and every believer’s life?”

BLCF: I-Am-Jesus

 

For Jesus is more than a Saviour, as even Christ describes himself using more than a dozen distinct terms, which you will find on the back of today’s bulletin. In the passages, taken from various passages in John’s Gospel, are a set of descriptors, theologians refer today as the “I Am’s of Jesus”:

John 6:51 (ESV) 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 8:23 (ESV) 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:12 (ESV) 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:58 (ESV) 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 10:9 (ESV) I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

John 10:11 (ESV) 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:36 (ESV) 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

John 11:25 (ESV) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 15:1 (ESV) 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

And what does Christ mean when repeatedly exclaims that “I am”’? let us check an online dictionary:

Am – verb – 1st person singular present indicative of be.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/am?s=t

In other words, Jesus states that he describes himself as: living bread; not of this world; the light of the world; before Abraham (he existed before Abraham); the door; the good shepherd; one with the Father (God); Son of God; the resurrection; the life; the way; the truth; the true vine.

Jesus exists is multifaceted and multidimensional in relation to our needs.

If the verses above, containing a descriptor that is preceded by “I am” sounds familiar, you may recall Moses’ encounter with God, the latter appearing as a “burning bush” in Exodus 3:13-15 (ESV):

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

It is totally fitting that Jesus describe himself in the same manner in John’s Gospel as God described Himself in Exodus 3. After all, Jesus tells us in John 10:30 (ESV), that:

I and the Father are one                              

Both Christ and the Father are part of the Godhead, commonly called the Holy Trinity, with the third part being the Holy Spirit.

So far we have answered the first two questions I raised at the beginning of today’s lesson: “Who is Jesus?” and “What is sin?” But what about the third question, referring to the previous two: “What do the mean to me?”

This question was answered within some the verses that we studied today. Each of us is guilty of sin, as indicated in Romans 3:23 (ESV):

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We only need to believe that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as we see in John 11:25 (ESV):

 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

As followers of the Resurrected Christ, we walk in the light, cleansed from all of sins unrighteousness, remember the Scripture passage from, 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

BLCF: walking_in_light_vs_darkness

 

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn # 158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21): 

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

A Sanctuary to Preserve the Good and the Holy: Designed by God; Built by Man; on Christ’s Foundation

BLCF: Covenant-of-God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘A Sanctuary to Preserve the Good and the Holy: Designed by God; Built by Man; on Christ’s Foundation’        

 © May 22, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 22, 2016

Based  on a Message shared at BLCF on March 23 2014

BLCF: God's_Promise_to_Noah_in_the_Rainbow

 Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #592 (God, The Creator – Genesis 1 and 2, Psalm 33); Prayer

Opening Hymn #313: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less; Choruses

Scripture Verses: Genesis 6:1-3, 2 Peter 2:4-10, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Genesis 6:1-3 (ESV) Increasing Corruption on Earth

BLCF: Genesis_6_5

6 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in[a] man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 6:3 Or My Spirit shall not contend with

2 Peter 2:4-10 (ESV)

BLCF: fallen-angels

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell[a] and committed them to chains[b] of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;[c] and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials,[d] and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge[e] in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

BLCF: body is a temple for the Spirit

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.                                                                                

Footnotes: a. 2 Peter 2:4 Greek Tartarus b. 2 Peter 2:4 Some manuscripts pits c. 2 Peter 2:6 Some manuscripts an example to those who were to be ungodly d. 2 Peter 2:9 Or temptations e. 2 Peter 2:10 Greek who go after the flesh

BLCF: Sign_of_Noah

Let us pray…

For the Call to Worship this morning, we read a Responsive Reading, which is an abstract of Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2, as well as Psalm 33. This reading gives us an account of God’s creation, where we read that God saw His creation as being “good”.

We fast forward to the Scripture verses, which describe a world where God’s creation becomes progressively corrupt. As the timeline is after Adam and Eve’s fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden, we may conclude that the root of the corruption of the human race is sin.

Because of the corruption and sin, God comments that His Spirit will not abide or contend with man forever and limits the span of human life to 120 years. In fact, God is grieved so much by the sin that He contemplates the destruction of all life, (of all flesh), upon the face of the earth. However, there remained one good man named Noah, who God judged walked a righteous path. Therefore, Noah was blameless of sin and did not deserve the judgement of death that was due to rest of sinful humanity.

Our first Scripture verse comes from Genesis, Chapter 6, where the Lord instructed Noah to build an ark to preserve the remnants of good from what He had created. That good remnant consisted of Noah, Noah’s family, and the animals that God had created.

We all know the story of the Great Flood, where God rendered His judgment upon the world by a massive flood, as we see that He instructed Noah to construct an ark in Genesis 6, verses 9-22:

Genesis 6:9-22 (ESV) Noah and the Flood

BLCF: ark_dimension

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh,[a] for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.[b] Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits,[c] its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof[d] for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.                                                          

Footnotes: a. Genesis 6:13 Hebrew The end of all flesh has come before me b. Genesis 6:14 An unknown kind of tree; transliterated from Hebrew c. Genesis 6:15 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters d. Genesis 6:16 Or skylight

BLCF: Noah_the_truth

A flood can be an extremely frightening and deadly experience. Now I am not talking about the Hollywood portrayal with Russell Crowe as Noah,  the Master and Commander of the ark. If you have witnessed a flash flood, as periodically occurs in the southwestern United States, you have some idea of the deadly ferocity unleashed by a sudden deluge.

BLCF: Gonzales-Warm-Springs-Texas

                         Gonzales Warm Springs Texas

I recall when I was a young boy in Texas, my younger sister, Rhona, had at the age of 3 years, had suffered a traumatic spinal injury leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. At the time, San Antonio had no rehabilitation center for young children and so Rhona was sent to Gonzales Warm Springs, a rehabilitation center was built for polio victims, who were taught ways to cope with their disabilities that included: how to use  a wheelchair, how to walk with crutches and physical recovery by way of physiotherapy.

Because Warm Springs was over two hour round trip drive from San Antonio and my dad was working two jobs, six days a week, to help pay the medical bills, our family were only able to visit with Rhona one day a week, Sunday.

Mom and Dad tried to make our Sunday visits an enjoyable a reunion for Rhona, my other sister Penny and me possible, by planning family picnic outings to the nearby local Pimento State Park. Pimento Park, adjacent to the Warm Springs Rehabilitation Centre, had flora and fauna that was unique to the Texas region. The volcanic hot springs and sulphur pools raised the ambient temperatures from a semi-tropical to a tropical range, allowing the park to host a variety tropical plant and animal species typically found in Central America.

Much of the park was located  well below grade, along the banks of the San Marcos River, a tributary of the Guadalupe River. Both waters merged some two miles south of the park. According to plaques and signs, most of the park’s buildings, outdoor bar-b-queue fireplaces and even park benches, which blended well with the natural park setting, were constructed from local fieldstone, by crews of the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC in the 1930’s. The CCC was a federal work project started by President Franklin Roosevelt to generate much needed jobs during the Great Depression. The work of the CCC included creating buildings, bridges, dams, roads, and other structures to improve the infrastructure across the United States.

BLCF: flash-flood-watch

However, Palmetto Park’s rustic charm and natural beauty gave way to a scene of life-threatening danger, when one Sunday, following heavy thunderstorms further north in the Texas Hill Country had generated massive flash floods on the San Marcos River. That Sunday, as our car came over a rise or hill just before the entrance to the park, instead of driving down a steep incline of some thirty feet or ten meters, dad suddenly stopped the car, with the front bumper of the vehicle located just a meter or a few feet from a raging torrent of water.

The San Marcos, normally a gentle stream in the park had swollen to become a fast-flowing, massive rushing river that carried large picnic tables, tree trunks and other debris across our field of view and quickly downstream.

BLCF: flash-flood

                                          San Marcos River

Dad’s car was a Blue 1955 Chevy Nomad Station Wagon, equipped with a column mounted standard transmission. Even though I was six, I was well aware, from watching dad drive the Chevy, that in a matter of seconds, he needed to take his right foot off the brake pedal and move it to the gas pedal. Then with his left foot on the clutch, dad needed to shift the car into reverse gear, all simultaneously, in order to keep us from heading into the raging river, now over 60 feet deep, in front of us. A slow shift or possible engine stall would likely mean certain death. Fortunately, dad did reverse the Nomad. Otherwise, I would not be sharing this story with you.

The quickly rising flood waters of the San Marcos River does give us some idea of the horror of the flood in Noah’s times. However, in Noah’s time, it was not just a flash flood and there was no higher ground where one could escape a watery demise. The only sanctuary or place of safety for Noah and his family was that afforded by the ark. Without the ark, all life would have been lost. As I mentioned in a previous Sunday message, the flood that God had leashed upon the earth, had reset God’s creation back to day number three, where the land was eventually parted from the waters, and the animals were created.

After the floods had receded, God promised Noah and humanity to never bring such a massive flood on a global scale, making the rainbow as a sign of His covenant or promise.

 The next Scripture I would like to share is 2 Pete 2, verses 4-10, which speaks of God’s casting those who have sinned against Him, including Satan and his followers, who will be cast into hell, enchained in the darkness until the time of their judgment. The passage tells of those who sinned in Noah’s time and suffered death from the flood, as well as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But we must take hope in those who did not follow an ungodly path and were saved from destruction, including Noah and Lot, as well as the majority of the heavenly hosts or angels who did not rebel against God.

If you look on the back of today’s bulletin, let us now read the account where God instructed Moses to build another kind of an ark, The Ark of the Covenant:

Exodus 25:1-16 (ESV) Contributions for the Sanctuary

BLCF: ark-of-the-coenant

25 The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins,[a] acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it.

The Ark of the Covenant

BLCF: Ark_of_the_Covenant

10 “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits[b] and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.

Footnotes: a. Exodus 25:5 Uncertain; possibly dolphin skins, or dugong skins; compare 26:14 b. Exodus 25:10 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

While Noah’s Ark provided for Noah, Noah’s family and the animals a sanctuary from a deadly worldwide flood, the Ark built by Moses served a different purpose. God had desired to have Moses construct a suitable sanctuary so that He might dwell in the midst of the people of Israel. And God instructed to place within the ark, the tablets upon which God wrote His Ten Laws or Commandments. The Ark of the Covenant would be a sanctuary for both God’s Laws and His Holy Spirit.

But what is the definition of a sanctuary? Do we not call this very place of worship at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, a sanctuary, as well? Let us see what we mean by this term from an online dictionary:

BLCF: sanctuary

Sanctuary sanc·tu·ar·y /ˈsæŋktʃuˌɛri/ Show Spelled [sangk-choo-er-ee] Show IPA noun, plural sanc·tu·ar·ies.

  1. a sacred or holy place.
  2. Judaism.
  3. the Biblical tabernacleor the Temple in Jerusalem.
  4. the holy of holies of these places of worship.
  5. an especially holy place in a temple or church.
  6. the part of a church around the altar; the chancel.
  7. a church or other sacred place where fugitives were formerly entitled to immunity from arrest.

Remember, just before the flood in Noah’s time, God had distanced Himself from humanity, as we read in Genesis 6, verse 3, which is printed on the bottom inside left page of your bulletin:

Genesis 6:1-3 (ESV)

BLCF: Life Restored Through Jesus

Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in[a] man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 6:3 Or My Spirit shall not contend with

After the flood, we read that God sought to draw closer to His creation see in Exodus 25, verse 8:

And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

Eventually, after the Great Flood, sin returned, driving humanity from their Creator. And even God’s presence in the Ark of the Covenant could not assure a sinless humanity. So God revealed His plan for reconciliation from sin, by dwelling in the hearts of the faithful, as we see in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6, verses 19-20:

 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

BLCF: 2-corinthians-4_7

 Jars of Clay – Arks of the New Covenant

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.                                                                                

Footnotes: a. 2 Peter 2:4 Greek Tartarus b. 2 Peter 2:4 Some manuscripts pits c. 2 Peter 2:6 Some manuscripts an example to those who were to be ungodly d. 2 Peter 2:9 Or temptations e. 2 Peter 2:10 Greek who go after the flesh

To conclude this morning’s message, I would like to read again from 1 Corinthians, but this time from Chapter 3, verses 10-17, which the Apostle Paul describes a new blueprint for a new temple, a new sanctuary, demonstrates God’s New Covenant through Jesus Christ. This new sanctuary, like Noah’s ark, provides life and freedom from God’s judgment of death. And like Moses’ Ark of the Covenant, all believers may keep both God’s Laws and the presence of His Holy Spirit:

1 Corinthians 3:10-17 (ESV)

Unhindered in Christ

      Leave the baggage behind!

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you[a] are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 3:16 The Greek for you is plural in verses 16 and 17

We read in this passage of Scripture, that the Apostle Paul explains that God has planned a way to reconcile humanity in spite of our sins. That through Christ, by our faith in his sacrifice, we may construct a Holy Temple within ourselves, suitable as a sanctuary for God’s Holy Spirit and His Law. And by way of our trust and obedience, through Jesus, we have become sanctified, living sanctuaries, within which the Holy Spirit may reside, with God’s Covenant of eternal life. Through Christ, God may no longer be absent from us as described in Genesis 6. We see now that God has returned to us, by way of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21): Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: Hebrews-8-7-Old-and-New-Covenants

Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross

BLCF: Always & Forever - Lest We Forget

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross’

© November 8, 2015, by Steve Mickelson

Based On a Message Shared at BLCF on November 11, 2012

BLCF Bulletin November 8, 2015

BLCF: In_Remembrance

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4); Prayer

Opening Hymn #99: Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners; Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: John 15:10-13, John 16:23-33, Ephesians 2:13-18

BLCF: In Flander's Fields

Let us pray…

The lesson for this Sunday is a study of two symbols of remembrance of sacrifice on our behalf: the poppy and the cross.

I stand before you with one of these symbols, the poppy, pinned above my heart, while illuminated behind me is the other, which is the cross.

This Wednesday, we will have an opportunity to observe, with the aid of the poppy, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, signifying the anniversary of the Armistice that was signed in 1918 to end World War I, ironically called “the war to end all wars”.

Today, the date is called Remembrance Day in Canada and Britain and Veterans Day in the United States. For us, Remembrance Day is a day where we remember all who died not only in this war but in all other conflicts, to both preserve and protect our democratic freedom and way of life in Canada.

We, in the Christian Church, also have a symbol no less important. It’s the Cross of Jesus. One of His great sayings is:

‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’- John 15:13  (ESV).

And that is what Christ did for us.

BLCF: No Jesus No Peace

Two great symbols of sacrifice are the Poppy and the Cross.

What is so special about a poppy on Remembrance Day? Why not use a pansy? Scarlet poppies grow naturally in conditions of the disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century, transformed the bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as the First World War raged through Europe’s heart.

The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realized by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in the First World War and later conflicts. Here are McCrae’s words:

In Flanders Fields – John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

When fighting ceased in 1918 the mud of the battlefields was allowed to rest. Nature began to restore the landscape. Before long, the wildflowers grew and bloomed, including the poppy. The colour of red reminds people of bloodshed and the sacrifice by millions of brave soldiers of their lives. And so the poppy became the symbol of sacrifice.

It is a known fact that people are creatures with the capacity to forget personal pain and suffering. Otherwise, women, for example, would be less likely to have more than one child, after having experienced the labour of the first and all of us would be unable to cope with the loss of loved ones. With the passage of time, the memory of the harsh reality of death diminishes and fades with each successive generation, becoming little more than the image of faded photographs or hollow words to a nearly forgotten poem.

That is why it is important to take a minute of silence to reflect and pray for those men and women who sacrificed their lives both in a distant place and time and in times current so that we may enjoy a relatively free and safe life today in Canada. We read the poem ’In Flanders Fields’, where see that even in the deadly field of battle, God transforms the trenches of death with a tapestry of red flowers and the song of meadowlarks, providing the promise of hope reminiscent of that given by His rainbow and dove with the olive branch after the great flood.

On this Remembrance Day, let us also remember the fallen innocents in past conflicts as well: the civilians who were killed in wars and conflicts, as well as the persecuted victims of purges and holocausts. And, we should remember the families of the fallen, for the pain of the loss of a loved one. Finally, we honour those who returned from battle and war, with the memory of death and destruction etched in their memories.

Some of you may still remember a member of our congregation, our friend Leo, a kindly brother in Christ, who sought to share the love of Christ with his brothers and sisters. I remember, when I had applied to work as an operator at the TTC, Leo commented to me, that after the World War II, he was hired by the TTC and trained to drive a street car. He remarked that as a result of the war, the stress of driving was too great for him, and he left the TTC to work as a carrier with Canada Post.

At Leo’s funeral, the chapel was almost evenly divided between sad, grieving uniformed postal carriers, members of the military and police officers on one side of the chapel; with happy Christian believers on the other. While the former mourned the death of a friend, the latter celebrated the fact that another Christian has gone home to be with Jesus at the Lord’s Resurrection.

While Leo did not give his life in war for his country, he did give his life as a living sacrifice unto his Lord. We see that the poppy represents the mourning for those who sacrificed themselves in battles, police actions and conflicts, which continue to this day. By contrast, Jesus gave his life as the final sacrifice for our judgment for sin, which we celebrate and observe continuously, by means prayer, song, Scripture and with the regular observance of Communion.

The poppy reminds us of the sacrificed lives in battles over the years past, present, and future. By contrast, the cross reminds us of the Lord’s single act of sacrifice and love for all generations, past, present, and future, John 15:10-13 (ESV):

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

BLCF: Love-God_Love-People

The cross symbolizes not only how Jesus sanctifies us from sin, but it is also a symbol of God’s New Covenant of eternal life and is an emblem of His love for us. We are implored to take heart and find joy in the Lord’s gift to us, which are the rewards for our faith, John 16:23-33 (ESV):

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

I Have Overcome the World

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.[a] 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Footnotes: a. John 16:27 Some manuscripts from the Father

In addition to the cross, we are instructed by the scriptures to remember the sacrifice of Jesus through the act of communion, until Jesus returns. This points to the main difference between the soldier’s sacrifice to give us freedom as Canadians and Jesus’ sacrifice to give us freedom from sin, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the resurrection. It is our responsibility as members of Canadian society to honour the soldier’s sacrifice for a peace from a war that is temporary, as long sin exists, we will continue to have war. As believers in the resurrected Christ, our trust and faith in our Savior’s sacrifice which does not end sin, but the consequences of sin: judgment and death, Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV):

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Let us pray…

BLCF: may-the-God-of-hope-fill-you-withl-joy-peace

Closing Hymn #81: All Praise to Him Who Reigns Above

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

Finding What Is Lost: A Sheep (Luke 15:1-7); A Coin (Luke 15:8-10); A Son (Luke 15:11-22)

BLCF:P The_Hour_I_First_Believed

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘‘Finding What Is Lost: 

A Sheep (Luke 15:1-7); A Coin (Luke 15:8-10); A Son (Luke 15:11-22)”

© March 22, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

 Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on October 20, 2013

BLCF Bulletin March 22, 2015

BLCF: lost_sheep 

BLCF Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #598 (The Shepherd Psalm – Psalm 23); Prayer                       

Opening Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound

Scripture Verses: Ezekiel 34:11-16, Luke 15:1-22, Jeremiah 23:1-8 

BLCF: lost

Let us pray…

Amazing Grace was our opening hymn this morning is a testimony in song authored by John Newton whose faith conversion was as dramatic a change as the apostle Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Here are the Wiki bits of John Newton:

“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn with words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton (1725–1807), published in 1779. With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world.

Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed (forced into service involuntarily) into the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. However, he continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.

Ordained in the Church of England in 1764, Newton became curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he began to write hymns with poet William Cowper. “Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is unknown if there was any music accompanying the verses; it may have simply been chanted by the congregation. It debuted in print in 1779 in Newton and Cowper’s Olney Hymns, but settled into relative obscurity in England. In the United States however, “Amazing Grace” was used extensively during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century. It has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named “New Britain” to which it is most frequently sung today.

Author Gilbert Chase writes that “Amazing Grace” is “without a doubt the most famous of all the folk hymns,” and Jonathan Aitken, a Newton biographer, estimates that it is performed about 10 million times annually.  It has had particular influence in folk music, and has become an emblematic African American spiritual. Its universal message has been a significant factor in its crossover into secular music. “Amazing Grace” saw a resurgence in popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and has been recorded thousands of times during and since the 20th century, occasionally appearing on popular music charts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace

For the Trekkers out there, Amazing Grace was piped by Commander Scott at the funeral of First Officer Spock in the movie The Wrath of Kahn.  If you are not a follower of Star Trek, the point is that Amazing Grace has become synonymous with the life testimony of Christians, often sung at a believer’s funeral to praise and express gratitude in the promise of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But John Newton, not to be confused with contemporary singer Olivia Newton John, before his conversion, lived the life of a lost sheep described in Ezekiel 34, without love for God or fellow man. He became wealthy at the expense of the lives and freedom of others. But like Saul of Tarsus, the Lord had a plan for Newton: a plan of conviction and conversion of faith that led John Newton to become a minister of God, spreading the gospel of Jesus.

But more than gathering together His lost sheep, the Lord will send the lost sinners a new shepherd and reclaim from a life of sin and destruction His beloved human sheep. Ezekiel 34:11-16 (ESV):

 The Lord God Will Seek Them Out

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11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy.[a] I will feed them in justice.

Footnotes: a. Ezekiel 34:16 Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate I will watch over

To reaffirm how Jesus fits in the picture, let us look at the prophecy, where the Lord is described as the “Righteous Branch” in Jeremiah 23:1-8 (ESV):

 The Righteous Branch

23 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord.

5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 8 but ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”   

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The love that the Lord has for us is so great that he rejoices every time a lost human sheep returns to his flock, as is expressed in the three parables we have printed in today’s bulletin. The first is found in Luke 15:1-7 (ESV):

The Parable of the Lost Sheep   

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.    

We all have experienced the loss of something valuable. We worry and fret over what is lost. But like the lesson from Ezekiel, the Lord will go out and seek the lost sheep, bring it back to the fold and celebrate its return. For every lost soul or sinner that is saved, there is a celebration in heaven.

For those who may not identify with the sheep in the first parable, we have the parable of the Lost Coin, Luke 15:8-10 (ESV):

The Parable of the Lost Coin

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 15:8 Greek ten drachmas; a drachma was a Greek coin approximately equal in value to a Roman denarius, worth about a day’s wage for a laborer

And just in case we still do not understand what the Lord has told us, he teaches us the lesson again, in the parable of a son that is lost in Luke 15:11-22 (ESV):

The Parable of the Prodigal Son     

 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

Footnotes: a. Luke 15:15 Greek joined himself to b. Luke 15:21 Some manuscripts add treat me as one of your hired servants c. Luke 15:22 Greek bondservants

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The Parable of the Prodigal Son not only teaches how the Lord desires us to return to Him, but how He has compassion for us and is willing to forgive us all of our transgressions.

By teaching the same lesson three times in three different parables, the Lord indicates how much He cares for His lost sheep and the priority He places returning sinners back to a righteous place.

I remember some years ago, how Sophie had lost her engagement ring at a church function. Sophie looked everywhere in her pockets for the ring. She had retraced her steps through the evening. Eventually, Sophie received a call from a friend that the young daughter of one of the ladies had found her ring. How relieved and happy she was when it was returned.

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And when a sinner returns to the flock, he has the confidence and peace of mind as well, that he is safe at home with the shepherd, as we see in Psalm 23, which I would like to read for our closing prayer:

Let us pray…

Psalm 23 (ESV): The Lord Is My Shepherd  – A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.[a]

3 He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e]

shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell[f]

in the house of the Lord forever.[g]    

Footnotes: a. Psalm 23:2 Hebrew beside waters of rest b.Psalm 23:3 Or in right paths c. Psalm 23:4 Or the valley of deep darkness d. Psalm 23:6 Or Only e. Psalm 23:6 Or steadfast love f. Psalm 23:6 Or shall return to dwell g. Psalm 23:6 Hebrew for length of days

Closing Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering

Benediction Hebrews 13:20-21(ESV):

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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