Suffer the Children

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

Suffer the Children’

© June 10, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 10, 2018

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #325: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #621: ‘Christ and Children’ (Matthew 18, Mark 9 and 10)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Suffer the Children’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today is entitled, Suffer the Children. But what is meant by “Suffer the children come to me” or, as some Translations state, “Let the children come to me”? We are not talking about harming or hurting children, instead, we have an explanation of this passage from the commentary published in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges:

 14of such is the kingdom of heaven – Love, the simplicity of faith, innocence, and above all, humility, are the ideal characteristics of little children, and of the subjects of the kingdom.

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/19-14.htm

The first characteristic is love, not an ordinary love, but what Christians commonly describe as agape or the unconditional love associated with God and humanity:

Agape is commonly used by Christians to describe God’s love, defining it as unconditional love. Agape may also refer to Agape feast, certain meals celebrated by early Christians.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape_(disambiguation)

What happens when someone decides to take an action that is directly opposite to the agape or unconditional love that the Lord expects us to demonstrate towards God and towards others?

The opposite of actions that demonstrate an unconditional love, might be those which express an unbridled hatred towards others. Today, we see such examples of such hatred towards others commonly expressed by the use of weapons, such as guns, to harm others. In extreme cases, the gun is used as a “weapon of choice” to be used to harm as many victims of rage as possible.

On the 19th Anniversary of the Mass Shooting at Columbine High School, CNN recently originally published on November 17, 2017, (updated on April 20, 2018), a list of Mass Shootings posted as, Top Dozen Mass Shootings in the USA. Sadly, this list includes five schools. The names of these schools have become synonymous with the names of some of the worse mass shootings in US history. Here are the five:

  1. Virginia Tech: 32 killed – April 16, 2007 – Student Seung-Hui Cho, 23, goes on a shooting spree, killing 32 people in two locations and wounding an undetermined number of others on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. The shooter dies by suicide.                                                                                                     
  2. Sandy Hook: 27 killed – December 14, 2012 – Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, before turning the gun on himself. Investigators later find the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, dead from a gunshot wound.               
  3. University of Texas: 18 killed – August 1, 1966 – Charles Joseph Whitman, a former US Marine, kills 16 and wounds at least 30 while shooting from a tower at the University of Texas at Austin. Police officers Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy shoot and kill Whitman in the tower. Whitman had killed his mother and wife earlier in the day.                                                                                                                       
  4. Parkland, Florida: 17 killed – February 14, 2018 – A former student opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, killing a teacher, coach, athletics director, and 14 students. Nikolas Cruz, 19, confessed to being the gunman, according to a probable cause affidavit, and is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.                                                                                                                                        
  5. Columbine High School: 13 killed – April 20, 1999 – Eric Harris, 18, and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold kill 12 fellow students and one teacher at their high school in Littleton, Colorado. The pair then committed suicide in the school library.

https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/07/health/deadliest-mass-shootings-columbine-in-modern-us-history-trnd/index.html

The American flag flies at half-staff over the US Capitol                         (Photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

In addition to the five school shootings, there are seven additional mass shootings included in the CNN Dirty Dozen Shootings List. But these terrible shootings did not occur at schools and had victims who were adults. Our lesson will focus our attention upon incidents that involved the lives of the young students, mostly innocent children or young people, who were either murdered, injured, or threatened with death, at the beginning their lives.  We will also see what the Bible says about the killing of children.

Flags at half-staff at Peace Arch Canada-US Border

But before we, as Canadians, become too smug about student shootings being an act of violence being exclusive to our neighbors south of the border, let us examine another list, which is exclusive to our country. This second list was published on March 14, 2018, by Huffington Post Canada:

  1. La Loche Community School, Sask.: Four people were killed and two were critically wounded in a shooting in a northern Saskatchewan Dene community Jan. 22, 2016. Shots were fired at the La Loche high school building around 1 p.m. 
  1. Les Racines de vie Montessori, Gatineau, Que.: On April 5, 2013, two men die during a shooting at the school’s daycare. The shooter is identified as Robert Charron. Thirty-eight-year-old Neil Galliou is killed before Charron takes his own life. Charron told staff to take the 53 children to safety before he opened fire. 
  1. C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate Institute, Toronto: On May 23, 2007, 15-year-old Jordan Manners is found in a hallway with a single gunshot wound to the chest. He later dies in hospital. Two teens were charged with first-degree murder and were later acquitted. 
  1. Dawson College, Westmount, Que: On Sept. 13, 2006, 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa was killed and 20 others were hurt when gunman Kimveer Gill, 25, opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon. Gill was killed in a police gunfight.​​​​​ 
  1. Dawson College in Montreal, Sept. 18, 2006, a gunman dressed in a black trench coat opened fire at the school killing one student and injuring 19 others. 
  1. W.R. Myers High: Taber, Alta.: On April 28, 1999, a 14-year-old Grade 9 student shoots three students, killing 17-year-old Jason Lang before he is arrested.
  1. Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal: On Dec. 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lepine shot more than two dozen people, killing 14 women before killing himself.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/03/14/school-shootings-in-canada_a_23385842/

Canadian Parliament Building with the Canadian at half-staff

Preventing the lives of children from being snuffed out by bullets seems to be the main takeaway from these lists. While it is an important concern for us that we find ways to mitigate the use of guns as weapons of mass destruction or debate whether rage or mental illness is the root cause of these mass shootings at schools, there is a more subtle and more dangerous threat to our society.  I feel it is our society’s tendency today to become inured to the idea that the mass killings of our children as a normal thing, part of the price we pay for our life and liberty. We should consider how each killing of a child robs us of part of our most precious commodity. And if we do not act to prevent the loss of life among our children, we become deprived of the most valuable assets for our future, which was best expressed by Mother Teresa:

Mother Teresa

“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” 
– Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic nun 

Before Columbine, Nelson Mandela, who suffered much personal pain and injustice in his lifetime, made the following observation in May 1995:

Nelson Mandela

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children. 
– Nelson Mandela (8 May 1995)

But, you might argue that Mandela was a politician and not a religious leader, though in this statement he expressed a moral and spiritual concern and outrage more openly than many faith leaders have about the mass shootings of children.

Mandela’s statement agrees with the view of our Lord, Christ Jesus, who is known to have admonished his disciples to suffer the children to come unto me

Mark 10:13-16 (ESV): Let the Children Come to Me

 13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The focus of this lesson is about protecting the children, Jesus was very clear about his love for his children and the sadness that our Lord feels, should any one of these little ones perish because of our lack of diligence. Jesus explained this in the following Parable of the Lost Sheep:

 Matthew 18:10-14 (ESV): The Parable of the Lost Sheep

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.[a] 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my[b] Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:10 Some manuscripts add verse 11For the Son of Man came to save the lost b. Matthew 18:14 Some manuscripts your

The loss of even a single child reflects the failure of guardianship of what our Lord holds dearest and values the most and has entrusted to us. As Christians, we should expect our society to uphold the same values towards its children as our Father in heaven. Otherwise, we fail the Lord just as much as society has failed us by not protecting the safety of our children.

A recent example of unconditional love that Jesus spoke about may be found in the actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill a man who admitted to have a mental disorder and to be off his medications.

It was faith that permitted Antoinette Tuff to set aside her own personal troubles in order to show a Christ-like compassion and love towards an angry troubled stranger, and as a result, saved that stranger and many innocent children from danger and destruction

In his depressed state, Hill had stolen an AK-47 rifle, 500 rounds of ammunition, and entered a school to fight with police and end his life, which he found no longer worth living. All that stood between Hill and his suicidal objective, was a woman of faith who had recently contemplated her own suicide having suffered through a recent divorce and being left alone to raise a child with multiple disabilities.

But God had a plan to use Antoinette’s faith and suffering as testimony to His compassion and love at a time of great testing. Here is an excerpt of an article authored by Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlewaite’s on this potential deadly encounter defused by a woman of faith’s, who took a bold step of intervention trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit. This article comes from the August 20, 2013 edition of the Washington Post:

Antoinette Tuff and Michael Brandon Hill

Antoinette Tuff’s Weapon of the Spirit: How Compassion Stopped a Gunman

By Reverend Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Ph.D. Theology

‘Our weapons are not carnal, they are spiritual.’ This biblical lesson is found in 2 Corinthians. This week, it can also be learned at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, an elementary school outside of Atlanta.

Antoinette Tuff, the school clerk at McNair, is being credited with averting another horrific school shooting. Tuff met the gunman as he entered the school building, and listened to him say “he didn’t have any reason to live, and he knew he was going to die today.” She chose not to meet violence with violence, but spoke compassionately to the gunman, identifying with his pain and loneliness, a feeling she shared that she had as well after she separated from her husband of 33 years. She encouraged the gunman not to give in to despair.

Tuff used the “weapons of the spirit,” not a gun to stop the gunman. “I give it all to God. I’m not the hero. I was terrified,” she said.

Spiritual strength and compassion were the weapons used here, not a physical gun.

Weapons of the Spirit, not “carnal,” that is, physical weapons are what we need in life, according to the Bible.

Weapons of the Spirit can transform hate into compassion, and violence into peace.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/08/22/antoinette-tuffs-weapon-of-the-spirit-how-compassion-stopped-a-gunman/

There seems to be a common theme that is apparent in most of the US and Canadian school shootings. The shooters suffered from one or a combination of the emotions of anger, fear, pain, loneliness, despair, or hopelessness, and suicide was the final solution. And before the final solution, shooting students and staff was the line they crossed in order write their message first by the blood of their victims and finally themselves. The shooter would use their weapons on themselves or shoot at police in order to commit “suicide by cop”.

Kate Spade

Like the recent rash of celebrity suicides, including  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, if they had encountered a sensitive and compassionate person such as Antoinette Tuff, they might have been able to a frank conversation about their feelings, especially the feelings of suicide and found that there are better solutions to their emotional state than murder, followed by suicide. Faith brought Antoinette Tuff through her despair and gave her the strength to encourage Michael Brandon Hill not to give in to his despair. When a person suddenly loses interest in activities and friends that were a big part of their lives, a sensitive friend might help them avoid committing a great tragedy by asking them whether they are considering doing harm to themselves or others.

Anthony Bourdain

You may respond to this epidemic of suicides by saying: “leave the problem to the professionals”. But the professionals, such as law enforcement are usually called upon when it is too late, they assist the disturbed individual with the suicide. Most of the politicians seem reluctant to offer any more than hopes, prayers, and moments of silence. They behave as if only God can stop the pandemic of mass murders sweeping across the continent. God may not stop the pandemic, but he will certainly judge those who have been elected to legislate laws to protect the values of life and liberty of innocent children and deliberately do nothing but offer thoughts and prayers. If a child is drowning in a pool and the person hired to guard those in the pool does nothing, isn’t the guard’s inactivity an example of negligent homicide?

Is there anything we as Christians should do? First, we should recognize the symptoms of a person contemplating suicide and then act:

Know Someone Thinking About Suicide?

What are the signs:

High-risk signs for suicide can include talk or threats to harm oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online for materials or means, talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.

If you know someone that is at immediate risk of suicide in Canadacall 911 or toll-free at 1-833-456-4566 .

In the USA, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.

The actions of Antoinette Tuff towards Michael Brandon Hill best exemplify the importance and value of faith in God and sensitivity to others helped her to protect a portion of society that is part of the legacy from God from harm. Tuff’s actions exemplified the legacy of sound character expressed by  her faith as described in this quote, from the late Billy Graham:

Billy Graham

“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” 
  — Billy Graham, evangelist 

When it comes to children, we must remember the words of the Psalmist:

Psalm 127:3 (ESV)

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.

In closing, as faithful Christians, we are expected to express the teachings of  Christ Jesus in word, deed, and by obeying the Lord’s Commandments:

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

If we ignore the danger facing our children posed by shooters, many seeking suicide for themselves, are we not disobeying our Lord’s Commandment to us?

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #41: Children of the Heavenly Father

Benediction: (Numbers 6:24-26):

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

And know they love you! (click here)

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Abiding in the Way of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

©March 18, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 18, 2018

Based on a Messages Shared at BLCF on April 3, 2011 and January 25, 2015

BLCF Bulletin April_3_2011

BLCF Bulletin April 26 2015

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

Opening Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding

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

Handiwork I SeeResponsive Reading #597 (Gr of PrayerOD’s Attributes- Psalm 19)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

Let us pray…

For our lesson today, Abiding in the Way of the Lord, we have three Scripture Passages, two from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-8) and (Mark 12:18-33) and the third Scripture Passage comes from the 12 Chapter of John’s Gospel (John 12:19-26).

The Scriptures from Mark give us a glimpse of what it like in Heaven, by giving an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, as well what we may expect after our resurrection, as well as the most important of GOD’s Commandments, also known as HIS Great Commandment.

In today’s third Scripture passage, from John, the Lord instructs the Woman of Samaria on where and how to worship God.

The three Scriptures illustrate how easy it is to be misguided and confused when we attempt to seek GOD’s grace and presence, which is HIS spirit and truth, on an earthly plane, at some special sacred place, such as upon a Holy Mountain.

Such was the case where Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, where the Lord’s appearance became transfigured into a radiant, intensely white figure as he spoke with the prophets, Elijah and Moses, as we read in Mark 9:2-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,[b] it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;[c] listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Footnotes: a. Mark 9:3 Greek launderer (gnapheus) b. Mark 9:5 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master c. Mark 9:7 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

The disciples were initially terrified by what they had witnessed. Then Peter suggested building, as temples; one each for Church of the Transfiguration. I do not think that is what the Lord had in mind when he brought his disciples up on the mountain. We read next that a cloud comes above them, and the disciples hear GOD’s voice speak: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him,” after which Moses and Elijah, who scholars view represent the Law and the Prophets, are no longer visible.

On Mount Tabor, today, we see that the Church of the Transfiguration has been erected to signify the place of the miracle, just as Peter had suggested to the Jesus. Peter, as well as those on who built the church, chose to venerate the sight of the transfiguration, rather than just focusing solely on the event. The Lord did not intend reveal the miracle of his transfiguration in order for people to plant a church on the mountain. Instead, Jesus’ miracle demonstrated the Divine nature of the Lord, giving us a glimpse of what heaven must be like. This interpretation of the vision is confirmed when the Heavenly Father identifies HIS son to the disciples and instructs them listen to him. .

Our second verse, offers another glimpse of life after our resurrection when a group of Sadducees ask the Lord about a hypothetical situation and the resurrection.In short, the Sadducees focused on the letter of the law, in contrast to the Pharisees, who seemed to construct the law on the fly. Both groups sought to serve themselves and their own authority over the authority of GOD.  Let us now look at, Mark 12:18-33 (ESV):

The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

18And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man[a] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

24Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

In this glimpse of life after the Resurrection, we see that we are no longer in human form, but appear as the angel in heaven. No longer are we under the laws of this world. Like Jesus, Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor, we will be transfigured, being radiant and glowing bright as the sun.

Having answered the Sadducees’ challenge to the resurrection, by reminding them that God revealed himself to Moses from a burning bush, when he spoke in Mark 12:26-27, saying:

26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Having heard the Lord answer the question of the resurrection in a satisfactory manner, one of the scribes or experts of the law asked the Lord a question with respect to the law, or the Law of Moses which consisted of some 613 Commandments, as well as additional instructions and interpretations derived from the original Ten Commandments. All of these Laws and Commandments could be distilled down to two, which Jesus gave in response to the question of which was the Greatest Commandment,  is found in Mark 12:28-33:

The Great Commandment

The Royal Commandment

 28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 12:19 Greek his brother

We see that the both loving God and loving our neighbor are keys following and worshipping GOD.

Does GOD expect us to undertake a pilgrimage to Holy places such as Mt. Tabor, in order to meet HIS expectation of our expression of faith? Let us look at three places considered to be important to the descendants of Abraham, The Wailing Wall, Mecca and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

Wailing Wall

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small western segment of the walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount (or Har Habayit) by Jews, Christians and most Western sources, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram ash-Sharīf).

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. The original, natural and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever larger Temple compound to be built at its top.

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

The Hajj

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham

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

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha),[1] where Jesus was crucified,[2] and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus.

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

As Christians who see a relationship with God the Father, by trusting in the Gospel of Jesus, we at some time or other face the question: “Is undertaking a pilgrimage to any or all of these sites an important expression of our faith in GOD?”  We find the answer in today’s third Scripture verse, John 4:19-26 (ESV):

The Woman of Samaria

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Jesus responded to the woman of Samarian’s comment that her fathers worshipped GOD on a mountain top, in Jerusalem, or any other place is not as important as how we worship HIM, in spirit and truth, that matters. It because the Christian’s identity is to not dependent upon any physical or geographic location, but upon a faith in God’s love, the sacrifice of His only Son Christ Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, our beliefs are not constrained to physical constraints or controls. This is why Napoleon concluded:

 “I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant – Jesus should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.”                                                                                                                                                 Napoleon I Bonaparte (1809)   

I have listed a series of verses on the back of today’s bulletin, where the Lord spoke GOD’s Great Commandment over and over again:

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

John 3:16 (ESV)

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 John 15:12-14 (ESV)

 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. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

John 15:17 (ESV)    

17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

John 15:4-5 (ESV)

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 John 14:21 (ESV)

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

 John 15:10 (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.

Rather than embarking upon pilgrimages and building glorious cathedrals, our best and purist expression of Christian worship is truth and love, as defined by the Lord. In this manner, we have an opportunity to share with others a true glimpse of heaven.

Let us pray…

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

Benediction: (2 Corinthians 13:14):  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Abiding in the Way of the Lord

“I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant – Jesus should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.”                                                                                                                                                Napoleon I Bonaparte (1809)     

BLCF: abiding in Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

© January 25, 2015, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on April 3, 2011 

BLCF Bulletin January 25, 2015

 BLCF: faith hope and love

Responsive Reading #597 (Gr of Prayerod’s Attributes- Psalm 19); Prayer

Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet

Understanding; Choruses

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

Scripture Verses:  Mark 9:2-8, Mark 12:18-33 and John 4:19-26

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Let us pray…

For our lesson today, Abiding in the Way of the Lord, we have three Scripture Passages, two from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-8) and (Mark 12:18-33) and the third Scripture Passage comes from the 12 Chapter of John’s Gospel (John 12:19-26).

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The Scriptures from Mark give us a glimpse of what it like in Heaven, by giving an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, as well what I may expect after our resurrection, as well as the most important of GOD’s Commandments, also known as HIS Great Commandment.

In today’s third Scripture passage, from John, the Lord instructs the Woman of Samaria on where and how to worship God.

The three Scriptures illustrate how easy it is to be misguided and confused when we attempt to seek GOD’s grace and presence, which is HIS spirit and truth, on an earthly plane, at some special sacred place, such as a Holy Mountain.

Such was the case where Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, where the Lord’s appearance became transfigured into a radiant, intensely white figure as he spoke with the prophets, Elijah and Moses, as we read in Mark 9:2-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

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And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,[b] it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;[c] listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Footnotes: a. Mark 9:3 Greek launderer (gnapheus) b. Mark 9:5 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master c. Mark 9:7 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

The disciples were initially terrified by what they had witnessed. Then Peter suggested that they erect some tents to be used as temples marking the place of this miracle; one each, for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. I do not think that is what the Lord had in mind when he brought his disciples up on the mountain. We read next that a cloud comes above them, and the disciples hear GOD’s voice speak: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him,” after which Moses and Elijah, who scholars view represent the Law and the Prophets, are no longer visible.

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Church of the Transfiguration

On Mount Tabor, we see that the Church of the Transfiguration has been erected to signify the place of the miracle, just as Peter had suggested to the Jesus. Peter, as well as those on who built the church, chose to venerate the sight of the Transfiguration, rather than just focusing solely on the event. The Lord did not intend to reveal the miracle of his transfiguration in order for people to plant a monument or a church on the mountain. Instead, Jesus’ miracle demonstrated the Devine nature of the Lord, giving us a glimpse of what heaven must be like. This interpretation of the vision is confirmed when the Heavenly Father identifies HIS son to the disciples and instructs them to listen to Him.

BLCF: God-Speaks

Our second verse offers another glimpse of life after our resurrection when a group of Sadducees asks the Lord about a hypothetical situation and the resurrection.

Wikibits on the Sadducees

Sadducees_Pharisees

The Sadducees (/ˈsæəˌsz, ˈsædjə/; Hebrew: צְדוּקִים Ṣĕdûqîm) were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BCE through the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees are historically seen as antitheses of one another. Josephus, the author of the most extensive historical account of the Second Temple Period, gives an extensive account of Jewish sectarianism in both Jewish War and Antiquities. In Antiquities, he describes “the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their father, which are not written in the law of Moses, and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them and say that we are to esteem those observance to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers.”  The Sadducees rejected the Pharisaic use of the Oral Law to enforce their claims to power, citing the Written Torah as the sole manifestation of divinity.

The New Testament, specifically the books of Mark and Matthew, describe anecdotes that hint at hostility between the Jesus movement and the Sadduceean establishment. These disputes manifest themselves on both theological and social levels. Mark describes how the Sadducees challenged Jesus’ belief in the Resurrection of the Dead.

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

In short, the Sadducees focused on the letter of the law; in contrast to the Pharisees, who seemed to construct the law on the fly, with the temple being key to their worship. Both groups, while opposite in their respective focus of the Scriptures and the Temple, to the point that their worship seemed to exclude GOD. The Law and Temple became treated like idols. This faith practice not only to be self-serving but tended to focus more upon their own authority over the authority of GOD.  Let us now look at, Mark 12:18-33 (ESV):

The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

18And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man[a] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

  24Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”      

In this glimpse of life after the Resurrection, we see that we are no longer in human form but appear as the angels in heaven. No longer are we under the laws of this world. Like Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on Mt. Tabor, we will be transfigured, being radiant and glowing bright as the sun.

Having answered the Sadducees’ challenge to the resurrection, by reminding them that God revealed himself to Moses from a burning bush, when he spoke in Mark 12:26-27, saying:

26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Upon hearing the Lord answer the question of the resurrection in a satisfactory manner, one of the scribes or experts of the law asked the Lord a question with respect to the law, or the Law of Moses, part of some 613 Commandments, as our Wiki bits describe:

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The content of the instructions and its interpretations, the Oral Torah, was passed down orally, excerpted and codified in Rabbinical Judaism, and in the Talmud were numbered as the 613 commandments. The ‘Jewish Law given to Moses at Sinai‘ (Hebrew Halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai הלכה למשה מסיני) is a halakhic distinction.

The Law of Moses or Torah of Moses (Hebrew Torat Moshe תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה, Septuagint Greek nomos Moyse νόμος Μωυσῆ) is a biblical term first found in the Book of Joshua 8:31-32 where Joshua writes the Hebrew words of “Torat Moshe תֹּורַת מֹשֶׁה” (translated as “Law of Moses”, meaning “instructions of Moses”) on the altar at Mount Ebal. The text continues “And afterward he read all the words of the teachings, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the Torah.” (Joshua 8:34)

  • Moral laws – on murder, theft, honesty, adultery, etc.
  • Social laws – on property, inheritance, marriage and divorce,
  • Forward looking instructions for time when Israel would demand a king.

 The Lord’s answer as to which was the Greatest Commandment is found  in Mark 12:28-33:                                    

The Great Commandment

BLCF: Love-God-others

  28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”      

 Footnotes: a. Mark 12:19 Greek his brother  

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We see that the both loving God and loving our neighbor are keys following and worshipping GOD.

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Does GOD expect us to undertake a pilgrimage to Holy places such as Mt. Tabor, in order to meet HIS expectation of our expression of faith? Let us look at three places considered to be sacred to many of Abraham, The Wailing Wall, The Hajj in Mecca and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel (Hebrew:  הַכֹּתֶל הַמַּעֲרָבִי (help·info), translit.: HaKotel HaMa’aravi; Ashkenazic pronunciation: Kosel; Arabic: حائط البراق‎, translit.: Ḥā’iṭ Al-Burāq, translat.: The Buraq Wall) is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small western segment of the walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount (or Har Habayit) by Jews, Christians and most Western sources, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram ash-Sharīf).

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. The original, natural and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever larger Temple compound to be built at its top.

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

The Hajj in Mecca

The Hajj (/hæ/; Arabic: حجḤaǧǧpilgrimage“) is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence.[2][3][4] It is one of the five pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat, and Sawm. The gathering during Hajj is considered the largest annual gathering of people in the world. The state of being physically and financially capable of performing the Hajj is called istita’ah, and a Muslim who fulfills this condition is called a mustati. The Hajj is a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God (Allah). The word Hajj means “to intend a journey”, which connotes both the outward act of a journey and the inward act of intentions.

The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham. During Hajj, pilgrims join processions of hundreds of thousands of people, who simultaneously converge on Mecca for the week of the Hajj, and perform a series of rituals: each person walks counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka’aba, the cube-shaped building and the direction of prayer for the Muslims, runs back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drinks from the Zamzam Well, goes to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, spends a night in the plain of Muzdalifa, and performs symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing stones at three pillars. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the three day global festival of Eid al-Adha.

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

The Church Of The Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (sometimes spelled sepulcher; Arabic: كنيسة القيامة kanīssat al Qi’yāma; Hebrew: כנסיית הקבר הקדוש Knesiyat HaKever HaKadosh) also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled Old City of Jerusalem. It is a few steps away from the Muristan.

The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha),[1] where Jesus was crucified,[2] and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. Within the church are the last four (or, by some definitions, five) Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa, representing the final episodes of Jesus’s Passion. The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus.

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

But does the Gospel of Jesus agree with the idea that a pilgrimage to any or all of these sites is an important expression of our faith in GOD? When we worship GOD, is all that matters is: location, location, location? We find the answer in today’s third Scripture verse, John 4:19-26 (ESV):

The Woman of Samaria

Samaritan_Woman

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

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Jesus responded to the woman of Samarian’s question where was more important: to worship GOD on the mountain or in Jerusalem? Jesus answers that it does not matter, whether you worship GOD upon a mountain top, in Jerusalem, or any other place.

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What is important is how we worship HIM, in spirit and truth. The best expression of this worship is love.  I have listed a series of verses on the back of today’s bulletin, where the Lord spoke GOD’s Great Commandment over and over again:

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John 3:16 (ESV)

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 John 13:34-35 (ESV)

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

  John 15:12-14 (ESV)

 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. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you.

  John 15:17 (ESV)  

17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

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 John 15:4-5 (ESV)

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 3:16 (ESV)

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 John 13:34-35 (ESV)

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

  John 14:21 (ESV)

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”          

  John 15:10 (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.

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Let us review the key points of today’s lesson: Our GOD is a loving GOD  who exits in spirit and truth. We are to worship God in spirit and truth, through expressions of love to both God and to our neighbours. Through GOD’s son Jesus, we a provided a path to our own salvation and resurrection, by the power of the Holy Spirit. As believers in the resurrected Christ, we are comforted and guided by the Spirit, until the day of Resurrection, where we will be transformed into a glorious, luminous form.

Until that day, God expects us to love HIM and others, in spirit and truth, sharing the Gospel of Christ, until the day the Lord returns.

Let us pray…

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

Benediction: (2 Corinthians 13:14) 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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