Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth – A 911 Message for 9-11-2021

Dear BLCF Friends,

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

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship: Lest We Forget 911Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship: Lest We Forget 911

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth

© September 12, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 11, 2016

BLCF: bulletin-september-11-2016

True Worship

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #613 (God’s Invitation – Isaiah 55); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit; Choruses

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

BLCF: Isaiah-55-6-seek-ye-the-lord-while-he-may-be-found-call-ye-upon-him-while-he-is-near

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church Praise and Worship Service on this Sunday, September 12, 2021. This happens to be one day after the twentieth anniversary of the 911 attack against our neighbors to the south. While it was not the first or last time the United States suffered the loss to innocent members of society, the events that happened on that fateful morning in September 2001 dramatically changed many aspects of life in the USA.

The country was drawn into two wars, leading to casualties of soldiers and civilians, became a more anxious nation, and still seems to have not completely healed from the losses on 911 and the subsequent wars and attacks. We pray that the country and its leaders can find enough closure to pursue a healing to the national psyche in order to focus on a future of peace, harmony, renewal, and hope.

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth’, we will examine several positive affects that occur while a Christian seeks God during trying times.

The lessons Christians learn while seeking the Lord when death, disaster, and destruction comes our way, apply not only apply to 911 and the aftermath of the events September 11, 2001, but are just as valid today, during a COVID-19 Pandemic, where 677,017 Americans  and 27,170 Canadians have died from COVID-19 (and counting), also apply to such current disasters such as massive floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and droughts.

Sadly, the first responders who were 911 heroes are no longer treated as heroes of the Pandemic, where vocal protestors in both  Canada and the US have engaged hospital staff and patients with loud protests. The protestors who seem oblivious of the fact that any masking or vaccine policies designed to protect the public are mandated from the seats of government legislature. I call any such aberrant behavior an expression of a “COVID Malaise“. Please treat our heroes, who have sacrificed more than we can imagine, in a manner befitting their dedication and sacrifice.

come from away musical

Friday, Sophie and I were able to see streamed the musical “Come From Away” which tells the story of 7,000 airplane passengers who were stranded in Gander, Newfoundland, and the 9,000 townsfolk of Gander and the surrounding villages, who shared their homes, meals, clothes, and friendship during the 911 crisis in 2001. The musical is an entertaining, poignant, funny, and endearing narrative that demonstrates how love and kindness can elevate both the giver and the recipient at a time of great crisis. Two thumbs up from Sophie and me. I would classify the events portrayed in “Come From Away” as a great example of the lessons found in Matthew 25:31-46 being put into practice:! 👍👍

Matthew 25:31-46: The Final Judgment (ESV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The unfortunate the emotional toll and damage, a type of PTSD, that collaterally is the result of great calamities like the events of 911, the Pandemic, or other catastrophes, can result in some blaming God, doctors, politicians, friends, family, and hospital workers for their circumstances, unaware that they are part of the problem not the solution. The majority of people currently hospitalized in ICU’s in Canada and the US, (90% in many areas, with 100% in British Columbia), are the unvaccinated.

Pandemic Not A Hoax Wear A Mask See You Soon

What is a Christian, as described in the verses from the Bible quoted in today’s lesson? We will have more of an in-depth examination of what it means to be a Christian during next Sunday’s lesson, which is entitled: Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?  But, to give a brief answer to the question, a Christian is someone who has either read or heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus. A Gospel which says that Jesus came to us, as both the Son of God and son of man, to die on the cross to remove the Father’s judgment for humanity’s sin.

Any person seeking Christ as  his or her Saviour must be willing to confess any sins and acknowledge a sinful nature. This decision of  faith also includes a belief that Christ died for our sins, was resurrected from death, ascended to heaven, and sent to the believer the  gift of God’s Holy Spirit.

We find a description of how the Lord encourages us to actively seek Him out in our next Scripture verse, which is Isaiah 55:6-13:

             Isaiah 55:6-13 (ESV)

Seek the Lord Isaiah 55 6-13

 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

It is interesting that in the above Scripture that a seeker of God may only find compassion and a pardon from Him, has a stumbling blocking in the path to successfully achieving the goal in finding the glory that comes from God. Though any may seek God’s favour and pardon, sins separates the seeker from finding them.

But even seekers of the presence of the Lord fail when they attempt to rely on a worldly, physical approach to finding Him. As a result, many seekers believe that they may find God by obeying His Commandments and by overt actions in their worship. You may recall the lesson from the account of The Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-22, where a wealthy young man who had observed all of God’s Commandments and still question Jesus as to what else did he have to do to get into heaven?

Because the Lord detected that the rich young man valued his wealth more than his God and really was not inclined to get rid of his riches and give to the poor in order to be “perfect” enough to follow Jesus. In this regards, the young man had fully loved neither God nor others more than his wealth, which means that wealth was his idol, his false god.

But the rich man was not the only person who worshipped, as we see in our second Scripture verse, Acts 17:22-34, where Paul Addresses the Areopagus. Before we discuss Paul’s address, let us check our Wikibits for a definition of the meaning of Areopagus:

Areopagus – from Wikipedia.com

Areopagus_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)

The term “Areopagus” also refers to the judicial body of aristocratic origin that subsequently formed the higher court of modern Greece.

The Areopagus, like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times, and it was from this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God, that the Apostle Paul is said to have delivered the famous speech, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Acts 17:24)

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

The Areopagus literally meant the rock of Ares in the city and was a center of temples, cultural facilities, and a high court.

Let us continue with Paul’s address to a people who were very religious in their behavior, but not finding the true Spirit of God:

Acts 17:22-34 (ESV): Paul Addresses the Areopagus

Acts 17 22-34

 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[c]

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Footnotes: a. Acts 17:24 Greek made by hands b. Acts 17:28 Probably from Epimenides of Crete c. Acts 17:28 From Aratus’s poem “Phainomena”

In his message to the Areopagus, Paul drew a comparison of the true God to the “unknown” god, one of many gods that they worshipped.

The true God could not be adequately be described or represented by a sculpture, a painting, or even by words. How can we properly describe a Creator, Whom no one has ever seen? So how can we relate or understand our God, beyond our faith?

God sent us His, son Jesus so that we could better understand Him and his love for us. Jesus taught us the importance of understanding that God reveals Himself by His Spirit and truth, and to make the sacrifice providing a way to salvation, as was promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (ESV): 

2 Chronicles 7 14-15 Lord Heal Our Land

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

Christians accept that Jesus died for our sins, was resurrected from death, and ascended to heaven, both as our advocate to the Father in heaven and in order to gift believers with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit not only convicts us of God’s truth, but it also admonishes us to continue to follow in the path of Christ and to share the Gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the earth.

This Great Commission is not something that Christians can postpone or put off to a later time. We must continue to minister the Gospel, until the day that Christ returns to judge all. This day, known as The Day of the Lord is described in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (ESV): The Day of the Lord

Standing Firm The Day of the Lord 1 Thessalonians 5 1-11

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

God is Spirit

We must keep sharing the Gospel today, helping the less fortunate brothers and sisters, for not only do we seek Him, but God seeks us to worship Him in spirit and truth:

John 4:23-24 (ESV)

 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Remember, when you trust in the Lord as you encounter trials of various kinds, that test your faith, you will learn steadfastness, which in-turn will become perfect, complete and lacking in nothing, James 1:1-4 (ESV): 

1 James, a servant[a] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1 1-4 Joy

Let us pray…                                                                                                                                          

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

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15-13

 

The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for

Good Friday:

‘The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross’

© April 14, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 14, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                               Opening Hymn #252: O Soul, Are You Weary and Troubled?; Choruses

Communion: Toronto Vineyard                                                                                       Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #612: The Lamb of God (Isaiah 55)                                          Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross’

Let us pray…

This morning, we welcome you to the Good Friday Service hosted by both the Toronto Vineyard and Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Today we remember Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, an act of propitiation to Father in Heaven, bringing to those who believe reconciliation and sanctification under a new Covenant with God.

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, we learned that though Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on the back of a colt, a young donkey, just before their meal our Lord humbled himself to wash the disciples’ in order to teach them how they must approach ministering his Gospel. We see that the actions of the Lord were not only important at that moment in time, as they were intended to prepare them for the future.

The actions of Christ were often intended to teach at more than one level, so it is with the death of the cross, which we will look at in today’s lesson, entitled: The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross.’

Most Christian Churches observe Good Friday with a Service which focuses upon the pain and suffering our Lord experienced as he was betrayed, flogged and crucified, with communion tacked on to the end of the service, almost like an afterthought.

We see an outline of the traditional Good Friday Service displayed within the graphic entitled: ‘This is what Christ Jesus said when he was crucified,’ which gives a chronology of what the Lord spoke after being nailed upon the cross up to the point of his death.

The seven phrases Jesus spoke begin with three that show the Lord asking forgiveness for the wrong doing of others, promising resurrection to a condemned criminal crucified beside him who confessed both his sin and faith  in the Lord, and seeking the care of Mary by entrusting her to the disciple John. The next three phrases indicate the personal suffering Christ experienced as he suffered for our sins, expressing his feeling of solitude, his thirst and his impending death. The final phrase is the faith and trust Jesus maintained until the moment of his passing.

I would like to break with the tradition of focusing on the minute historic details of horrific elements suffered by Jesus. You may find shown to extreme in viewing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Cross. This movie focuses more on the history rather than the victory of the cross.

I believe that by taking the elements of Communion, as we had at the beginning of today’s service, we have followed Jesus’ instructions to remember his broken body, shed blood, and death, which serves as a final sacrifice for the sins of humanity.

But there is more in communion and life than what we see on the surface.

Many of us will go out to eat a meal in a restaurant sometime this weekend. It is funny how we will be seated, order from a menu, have a meal, with little or no thought to the service involved in preparing, serving, and after meal clean up, until we go to leave a tip after we have paid for a meal. If any aspect of the meal service is poor, some people choose to reduce or not pay any tip. This is too bad, for all the staff is being punished for the failings of one person at perhaps one stage of the dinner service, where the rest of the people had successfully completed their responsibilities towards the dinner service.

The fact that the tip I usually left at the end of the service should not minimize its importance to the success of the meal. The guests, having finished a satisfying meal, hurry to put on their coats to be off to their next destination they pay the bill and leave a token tip, frequently consisting of the loose change in their pockets. In their rush to leave it is easy to overlook that any tip may be not proportional to the service provided. A minimum tip may have to be split by a host or hostess and the server. Others involved in the meal such as the chief, busboy or girl, and bartender may get no tip for services rendered. We often forget or worse, never appreciate, the steps involved by others taken in order to serve us a meal.

Human nature being the way it is, we Christians can easily forget all the sacrifice and the steps involved and the repercussions of the actions of our Lord in order to bring us salvation for our sins.

Good Friday is the one day on the Church Calendar where Christians focus on the Lord’s sacrifice, but may rush past the reasons why Jesus died on that cross.

Part of the blame could fall on us pastors, who practice the institution of tacking communion at the end of the Order of Service. Like the tip at the end of the meal, communion may consist of a brief prayer, serving the elements, and after a short benediction, we are dismissed and on our way.

The death of Jesus on the cross, in addition to being a propitiation to God for the judgment of the sins for everyone for all time, the Gospel or Good News included many other elements that we can easily overlook or take for granted when we take communion.

By the power of the Spirit Jesus rose from the grave. We should also remember Jesus ascended to heaven in order to be our advocate to the Father in heaven. And last but not least, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to believers, first recorded on the Day of Pentecost. These often forgotten aspects of Christ’s sacrifice should be acknowledged as important elements the Gospel Story when we partake in Communion.

It is the unseen works of the Spirit that are true expressions of the sacrifice our Lord made when he willing surrendered to the judgment of the cross. This brings us to the first of today’s Scripture passages, from Acts 3:1-26 (ESV):

The Lame Beggar Healed

 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God,10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Footnotes: a. Acts 3:1 That is, 3 p.m. b. Acts 3:13 Or child; also verse 26 c.Acts 3:16 Greek him

We should not be like the crowd who marveled with wonder at the mystery of the miracles of the Lord. We do not receive the benefit of salvation through Christ, if we do not decide to turn from a life of wickedness.

The other important lesson we should take from communion is that Good Friday Communion is no more important than the other times throughout the year we receive communion. Salvation comes from a single sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and it continues for all time for all generations of believer. For that reason our remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice must be continuous. This requires faith on our part. Along with salvation, comes the promise of the resurrection, which is part of God’s new covenant. The first example of the promise of this promise is recorded in Luke 23: 32-33, 39-43 (ESV):

 32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:39 Or blasphemed him

No matter where we are in our walk in life, it is faith in Christ that leads us to the undeserved gift of salvation with the promise of eternal life, and it is the Holy Spirit, given as a reward to faith, helps us understand mystery of why he died for you and me.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died For Me

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):                                                                                 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.    

Remember: Know Jesus, Know Peace – No Jesus, No Peace!