Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

© June 3, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 3, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF Church on August 25, 2013

BLCF Bulletin August 25, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #632: ‘God’s Redeeming Love’ (John 3 and 1 John 4)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                                  Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress’

Let us pray…

Today’s lesson we will Hosea’s expression of faith and love for God, while testing. Unlike Job, whom God allowed to suffer and to be tested by Satan, Hosea was instructed by God to knowingly to undertake actions that would likely bring a degree of suffering, pain, and testing to his faith.

Let us review the Synopsis of Hosea (Wiki bits, from biblia.com, wikipedia.org, bibref.hebtools.com ):

Brief Summary: The Book of Hosea can be divided into two parts: (1) Hosea 1:1-3:5 is a description of an adulterous wife and a faithful husband, symbolic of the unfaithfulness of Israel to God through idolatry, and (2) Hosea 4:1-14:9 contains the condemnation of Israel, especially Samaria, for the worship of idols and her eventual restoration.

The first section of the book contains three distinctive poems illustrating how God’s children returned time after time to idolatry. God commands Hosea to marry Gomer, but after bearing him three children, she walks away from Hosea to her lovers. The symbolic emphasis can be seen clearly in the first chapter as Hosea compares Israel’s actions to turning from a marriage to life as a prostitute. The second section contains Hosea’s denunciation of the Israelites but followed by the promises and the mercies of God.

Chapter two describes a divorce. This divorce seems to be the end of the covenant between God and the Northern Kingdom. However, it is probable that this was again a symbolic act, in which Hosea divorced Gomer for infidelity, and used the occasion to preach the message of God’s rejection of the Northern Kingdom. He ends this prophecy with the declaration that God will one day renew the covenant, and will take Israel back in love.

In Chapter three, at God’s command, Hosea seeks out Gomer once more. Either she has sold herself into slavery for debt, or she is with a lover who demands money in order to give her up because Hosea has to buy her back. He takes her home, but refrains from sexual intimacy with her for many days, to symbolize the fact that Israel will be without a king for many years, but that God will take Israel back, even at a cost to Himself.

Chapters 4-14 spell out the allegory at length. Chapters 1-3 speak of Hosea’s family and the issues with Gomer. Chapters 4-10 contain a series of oracles or prophetic sermons, showing exactly why God is rejecting the Northern Kingdom (what the grounds are for the divorce). Chapter 11 is God’s lament over the necessity of giving up the Northern Kingdom, which is a large part of the people of Israel, whom God loves. God promises not to give them up entirely. Then, in Chapter 12, the prophet pleads for Israel’s repentance. Chapter 13 foretells the destruction of the kingdom at the hands of Assyria because there has been no repentance. In Chapter 14, the prophet urges Israel to seek forgiveness and promises its restoration, while urging the utmost fidelity to God.

Matthew 2:13 cites Hosea’s prophecy in Hosea 11:1 that God would call His Son out of Egypt as foretelling the flight into Egypt and return to Israel of Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus Christ.

The capital of the Northern Kingdom fell in 722 BC. All the members of the upper classes and many of the ordinary people were taken captive and carried off to live as prisoners of war.

The Book of Hosea is a prophetic accounting of God’s relentless love for His children. Since the beginning of time, God’s ungrateful and undeserving creation has been accepting God’s love, grace, and mercy while still unable to refrain from its wickedness.

The last part of Hosea shows how God’s love once again restores His children as He forgets their misdeeds when they turn back to Him with a repentant heart. The prophetic message of Hosea foretells the coming of Israel’s Messiah 700 years in the future. Hosea is quoted often in the New Testament.

Hosea (הושֵעַ) prophesied during a dark and melancholic era of Israel‘s history, the period of the Northern Kingdom’s decline and fall in the 8th century BC. The apostasy of the people was rampant, having turned away from God in order to serve the calves of Jeroboam[1] and Baal, a Canaanite god.[2]

During Hosea’s lifetime, the kings of the Northern Kingdom, their aristocratic supporters, and the priests had led the people away from the Law of God, as given in the Pentateuch. Forsaking the worship of God, they worshiped other gods, especially Baal, the Canaanite fertility god. Other sins followed, including homicide, perjury, theft, and sexual sin.[3] Hosea declares that unless they repent of these sins, God will allow their nation to be destroyed, and the people will be taken into captivity by Assyria,[4] the greatest nation of the time.

The prophecy of Hosea centers on God’s unending love towards a sinful Israel. In this text, God’s agony is expressed over the betrayal of Israel.[5][6][7] Stephen Cook asserts that the prophetic efforts of this book can be summed up in this passage “I have been the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and beside me there is no savior” (Hosea 13:4) Hosea’s job was to speak these words during a time when that had been essentially forgotten.[2]

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

It is interesting, that an account of a nation’s decline and its falling from God’s grace some 700 before the birth of Jesus years could easily describe the world in Noah’s time prior to the flood, or Sodom and Gomorrah prior to their destruction; the Roman Empire prior to its decline and fall; and even to the moral decline of nations around the world, today.

We should not dwell on the negative aspects of Hosea’s testimony, instead, we must keep our focus on the positive portions of his testimony of his response to God’s directions. Hosea was not instructed to just minister to the Gomer, a harlot, but to marry the prostitute. And through the covenant of marriage, Hosea would give her his good name as his wife and remove the stigma associated with being a harlot. Sound familiar?  You may recall  in admonition found in Ephesians 5:25-27 (ESV):

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 5:27 Or holy and blameless

We see the story of Hosea teaches, by analogy, God’s covenant of love for not just the people of Israel, but for all people humanity, despite humanity’s sinful nature. Jesus brings the covenant of Salvation not only to the people of Israel but to all people. His gift of salvation is offered to all, as we read in Romans 1:16-17 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,[a] as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Romans 1:17 Or beginning and ending in faith b. Romans 1:17 Or The one who by faith is righteous shall live

Is the lesson from Hosea just a lesson of God’s love for his chosen people? I believe that God expects all of us to demonstrate to others, including those whom we would normally despise, the same unconditional love that Hosea showed towards Gomer.

Hosea was instructed by God to give unconditional love to Gomer, a sinner, just as God gave us the same agape or unconditional love to His people, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. And even though we strayed from God, becoming like the unfaithful wife, Gomer, God did not sever His Covenant, 2 Corinthians 11:2 (ESV):    

2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.                                              

God’s instructions to Hosea to take back his wife, is a living Parable to the manner to the way of He has provided us with the means to return to His good grace, through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Redeemer. In the Parable, Jesus is represented by the groom and the church of believers represents the bride, as indicated in Ephesians 5:24-27 (ESV):

24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]                                                                                                                                                                                  

 Footnotes: a. Ephesians 5:27 Or holy and blameless              

We, who are the church, or the body of believers, must turn to Christ and keep our vow of faith and trust, until the day that Jesus returns, Revelation 19:7-9 (ESV):

7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

9 for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. 

And the angel said[a] to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”                                                                                                          

 Footnotes: a. Revelation 19:9 Greek he said                                        

It is a strong faith that Job kept throughout his testing and adversity. It was faith that allowed Hosea to love and forgive his wife, Gomer, and to trust God’s plan, Revelation 21:1-2 (ESV):

The New Heaven and the New Earth

21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Let us pray…

Communion:

Luke 22:14-20 (ESV): Institution of the Lord’s Supper

 14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b]

Footnotes: a. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again b.Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood)

Closing Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Benediction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4): Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

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The Three Rewards of Faith: Grace, Love, and Fellowship

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church

Message for Sunday:

‘The Three Rewards of Faith: Grace, Love and Fellowship’

© August 6, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 6, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                          

Opening Hymn #67: Fairest Lord Jesus; Choruses                                                

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

Responsive Reading #640 (Redemption in Christ – Romans 5)                 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                               ‘The Three Rewards of Faith: Grace, Love,, and Fellowship’

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Praise and Worship Service, on this the first Sunday of  August, a communion Sunday. For our lesson today, we will examine: The Three Rewards of Faith: Grace, Love, and Fellowship’ .

But what is faith and how could we explain its presence? I found an interesting posting on the topic on the Web site, bibleinoneyear.org:

On Faith

John Paton (1824–1907), a Scot, had travelled to the New Hebrides (a group of islands in the south-west Pacific) determined to tell the tribal people about Jesus, but he struggled to find the right word for ‘faith’. One day, when his indigenous servant came in, Paton raised both feet off the floor, sat back in his chair and asked, ‘What am I doing now?’ In reply, the servant used a word that means, ‘to lean your whole weight upon’. This became the expression that Paton used. Faith is leaning our whole weight upon Jesus

https://www.bibleinoneyear.org/bioy/commentary/2354

So we have a good working definition of faith, but what about the three rewards of faith that are the focus of today’s lesson: grace, love, and fellowship?

In 2 Timothy 2:1-7, e have a good description of grace, which is the first reward of our faith:

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (ESV) A Good Soldier of Christ Jesus

2 You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men and women, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

While there are three examples of the rewards of faith in everyday life, valid both today as well as in the time of Christ: a dedicated soldier, a winning athlete’s crown, and a productive farmer’s first share of the harvest.

In the same regard, as apostles or messengers of the Gospel of Christ, we are expected to bear witness of Jesus, so that others may become messengers and teachers of the Way of the Lord.

But how does one best share the Gospel of Christ? Just as God gave us His only Son, Jesus, who demonstrated his love for humanity by surrendering his own life as the final sacrifice for the sins of the world, the best way to share the message of the Gospel is to share the love that God and His Son Jesus, demonstrated to us:

John 13:35 (ESV)

35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

While we may take comfort in the unconditional love of our Father and His Son that we receive as our reward to faith, as a body of believers in the message of the Gospel of Christ we enjoy a fellowship with the Lord and each other, by way of the Holy Spirit, another gift which Jesus gives us as a reward to our faith and trust.

1 John 1:3 (ESV)

 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

The gift of the Holy Spirit, an expression of God’s love is not only a reward for our faith, His love is intertwined in the message of the Gospel of Christ, Jesus:

John 3:16-21 (ESV) For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world

We may conclude that grace, love, and fellowship are the three rewards of faith in the message of the Gospel of Christ, there  is another reward to our receiving and sharing God’s New Covenant made manefest by His Son Christ, Jesus is the complete joy found in the fellowship we enjoy with our Father, His son and each other:

1 John 1:1-4 (ESV) The Word of Life

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our[a] joy may be complete.

Footnotes: a. 1 John 1:4 Some manuscripts your

Let us pray…

Communion – An Act of Fellowship and Demonstration of Our Faith:

Holy Communion

Communion began on the annual celebration of Passover Supper, when Jesus told his disciples to remember his sacrifice as they ate the bread and drank the wine.

Just as Israel celebrates the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, when the angel of death passed over their homes, so believers in Jesus celebrate and remember his sacrifice for the judgment of all of our sins, when he died on the cross.

Holy Communion uses bread as a symbol of his body and juice as a symbol of his blood. The act of taking communion does not save us, it is an act of worship and remembrance our Lord, who instructed his followers to continue, until the day he returns.

Luke 22:14-20 (ESV) Institution of the Lord’s Supper

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b]

Footnotes: a. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again b. Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood)

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

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.

Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed by Salvation and Forgiveness

BLCF: Forgiveness 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed by Salvation and Forgiveness’

© January 4, 2015, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 4, 2015

 BLCF: Ephesians 4_32

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #605 (Prayer of Penitence – Psalm 51); Prayer               

Opening Hymn #63: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name; Choruses   

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

Scripture Verses: Luke 7:36-50, Luke 19:1-10, Acts 3:11-21

 

BLCF: to_be_a_Christian

 

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, as we observe the first Sunday Praise and Worship Service for the year, 2015, which happens to mark our first Communion Service as it is the first Sunday of January.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed with Salvation and Forgiveness’  And in line with the topic of Salvation and forgiveness, I would like to open with an appropriate prayer on the subject from the Scriptures, found in the eleventh chapter of Luke’s Gospel, which is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer”:

 Let us pray…

                            Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)

BLCF: forgive in prayer

2  And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.

Give us each day our daily bread,[a]

and forgive us our sins,     

for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation.”

                                                                                – Amen

Footnotes: a. Luke 11:3 Or our bread for tomorrow

BLCF: forgive_us_our_sins

 

From the Lord’s prayer, it is important to note that Jesus indicated that the degree of our forgiveness from God, the Father, is predicated upon our complete and total forgiveness of others. This is a common sentiment spoken when we consider making any New Year’s resolutions.

It is ironic that many people observed Christmas Day, by taking in a newly released movie, as several were released on that day. One of the new movies released was Unbroken, based on the autobiography of Olympian Louis Zamperini. Here is a short synopsis of this film, as released from the studio:

Unbroken

After a near-fatal plane crash in WWII, Olympian Louis Zamperini spends a harrowing 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen before he’s caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Although I have yet to see the film, I am familiar with Louis Zamperini’s story, particularly how his suffering and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), led Zamperini to make a decision to accept Jesus, as his Lord and Saviour, and in turn, by God’s grace, Zamperini was healed from PTSD and able to forgive the guards who brought him so much pain and suffering as Prisoner of War, as his nightmares nearly led the loss of his sanity. Unfortunately, according to reviewers of Unbroken, it seems that the producers of the movie did not think it worthwhile to include the faith experience of Zamperini, where he was transformed by the Holy Spirit. The producers chose to omit from the film, telling the true triumph by Zamperini, which is the story of the power of faith and the ability of the Spirit to heal deep emotional wounds.

As broadcast journalist, the late Paul Harvey used to say, “Here is the rest of the story”:

From the Wall Street Journal (Online) by Steve Oney:

 “Unbroken” the Biography of Louis Zamperini

BLCF: Louis_Zamperini_at_announcement_of_2015_Tournament_of_Roses_Grand_Marshal

“Unbroken” details a life that was tumultuous from the beginning. As a blue-collar kid in Southern California, Mr. Zamperini fell in and out of scrapes with the law. By age 19, he’d redirected his energies into sports, becoming a record-breaking distance runner. He competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where he made headlines, not just on the track (Hitler sought him out for a congratulatory handshake), but by stealing a Nazi flag from the well-guarded Reich Chancellery. The heart of the story, however, is about Mr. Zamperini’s experiences while serving in the Pacific during World War II.

A bombardier on a B-24 flying out of Hawaii in May 1943, the Army Air Corps lieutenant was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive a crash into a trackless expanse of ocean. For 47 days, Mr. Zamperini and pilot Russell Allen Phillips (tail gunner Francis McNamara died on day 33) huddled aboard a tiny, poorly provisioned raft, subsisting on little more than rainwater and the blood of hapless birds they caught and killed bare-handed. All the while sharks circled, often rubbing their backs against the bottom of the raft. The sole aircraft that sighted them was Japanese. It made two strafing runs, missing its human targets both times. After drifting some 2,000 miles west, the bullet-riddled, badly patched raft washed ashore in the Marshall Islands, where Messrs. Zamperini and Phillips were taken prisoner by the Japanese. The war still had more than two years to go.

For 25 months in such infamous Japanese POW camps as Ofuna, Omori, and Naoetsu, Mr. Zamperini was physically tortured and subjected to constant psychological abuse. He was beaten. He was starved. He was denied medical care for maladies that included beriberi and chronic bloody diarrhea. His fellow prisoners—among them Mr. Phillips—were treated almost as badly. But Mr. Zamperini was singled out by a sadistic guard named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known to prisoners as “the Bird,” a handle picked because it had no negative connotations that might bring down his irrational wrath. The Bird intended to make an example of the famous Olympian. He regularly whipped him across the face with a belt buckle and forced him to perform demeaning acts, among them push-ups atop pits of human excrement. The Bird’s goal was to force Mr. Zamperini to broadcast anti-American propaganda over the radio. Mr. Zamperini refused. Following Japan’s surrender, Mr. Watanabe was ranked seventh among its most wanted war criminals (Tojo was first). Because war-crime prosecutions were suspended in the 1950s, he was never brought to justice.

Ms. Hillenbrand’s research was complicated by her disease. But as she likes to remind people, she came down with chronic fatigue syndrome before starting her writing career, and she has learned to work around it. “For ‘Seabiscuit,’ ” she says, “I interviewed 100 people I never met.” For “Unbroken,” Ms. Hillenbrand located not only many of Mr. Zamperini’s fellow POWs and the in-laws of Mr. Phillips, but the most friendly of his Japanese captors. She also interviewed scores of experts on the War in the Pacific (the book is extensively end-noted) and benefited from her subject’s personal files, which he shipped to Washington for her use. “A superlative pack rat,” she writes, “Louie has saved virtually every artifact of his life.”

During her exploration of Mr. Zamperini’s war years, Ms. Hillenbrand was most intrigued by his capacity to endure hardship. “One of the fascinating things about Louie,” she says, “is that he never allowed himself to be a passive participant in his ordeal. It’s why he survived. When he was being tortured, he wasn’t just lying there and getting hit. He was always figuring out ways to escape emotionally or physically.”

Mr. Zamperini owes this resiliency, Ms. Hillenbrand concluded, to his rebellious nature. “Defiance defines Louie,” she says. “As a boy, he was a hell-raiser. He refused to be corralled. When someone pushed him he pushed back. That made him an impossible kid but an unbreakable man.”

BLCF: forgive-those

Although Mr. Zamperini came back to California in one piece, he was emotionally ruined. At night, his demons descended in the form of vengeful dreams about Mr. Watanabe. He drank heavily. He nearly destroyed his marriage. In 1949, at the urging of his wife, Cynthia, Mr. Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where he became a Christian. (The conversion of the war hero helped put the young evangelist on the map.) Ultimately Mr. Zamperini forgave his tormentors and enjoyed a successful career running a center for troubled youth. He even reached out to Mr. Watanabe. “As a result of my prisoner of war experience under your unwarranted and unreasonable punishment,” Mr. Zamperini wrote his former guard in the 1990s, “my post-war life became a nightmare … but thanks to a confrontation with God … I committed my life to Christ. Love replaced the hate I had for you.” A third party promised to deliver the letter to Mr. Watanabe. He did not reply, and it is not known whether he received it. He died in 2003.

 

BLCF: forgiveness

Mr. Zamperini’s internal battles and ultimate redemption point to a key difference between “Unbroken” and Ms. Hillenbrand’s previous book. “Seabiscuit’s story is one of accomplishment,” she says. “Louie’s is one of survival.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703514904575602540345409292 

Our first Scripture passage speaks of how the Lord brought a restoration, by forgiving their sins, as we read in Luke 7:36-50 (ESV): 

A Sinful Woman Forgiven

BLCF: forgiveness2

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 7:49 Or to

BKCF: Parable_of_Two_Debtors

It is interesting to observe that the Parable of the Two Debtors describes two debtors, which in reality alludes to the sins of the Pharisee, named Simon, and the sinful woman. Jesus compares how his host offered Jesus, no water to wash his feet, which was the Jewish custom, not embrace or kiss, and no anointing of his head with oil, and yet the sinful woman lovingly gave the Lord all of those.

Not only did the Lord forgive the woman of her sins, Jesus indicated that his Pharisee host eluded his own forgiveness by not forgiving the trespasses of the woman. The other mistake of the Pharisee, as well as others,  gathered at the table, was in not acknowledging Jesus’ true identity, as Christ, the Anointed One, an observation that was only made by the woman who carried and was forgiven of the burden of her many sins.

Finally, the Pharisee made the mistake of harshly judging both the woman, as well as the Lord, while failing to acknowledge his own transgressions, though not as great as the woman.

The next Scripture passage in today’s lesson comes from Luke 19:1-10 (ESV):

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus_and_Jesus

19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Christ acknowledged the tax collector Zacchaeus, though not Pharisee or leader of faith, had practiced great faith in his own life, by giving half of his goods to the poor, and seeking restitution to those that he had defrauded fourfold.

Just as had happened at the house of Simon, the Pharisee, those around Jesus and Zacchaeus had wrongly judged both the Lord and Zacchaeus, again, unaware that the Lord already knew Zacchaeus’ name, but likely the heart of this man, whom others had wrongly judged as a sinner. This is a reminder that we are wrong to judge others when we do not know what is truly in their heart. It is not for us the judge others, as we would be placing ourselves in the dangerous position of usurping our Lord. Both Adam and Eve had already made that mistake when they ate the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge.”

For us, Jesus came on earth on earth as the Anointed One, the Christ, bringing salvation and forgiveness to all who chose to confess their sins and to turn away from a life of sin. This was the message that Peter shared, shortly after healing a lame beggar in the name of the Lord, on the steps to the temple, as we read in Acts 3:11-21(ESV):

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

BLCF: Peter-Preaching-Solomons-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[a] 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[b] 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.

Footnotes: a. Acts 3:13 Or child; also verse 26 b. Acts 3:16 Greek him

 

BLCF: If-God-forgives-us-we-must-forgive-ourselves_CS_Lewis

As Christians, we receive God’s grace not only by confessing sin and by turning away from sin; the Lord expects us to not judge others or to hold others in contempt. And by judging others, we bring the same judgment from the Lord upon ourselves, eluding our own salvation in the process.

Let us pray…

 

BLCF: Communion

Communion (Luke 22:14-20) – Institution of the Lord’s Supper:

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b]

Footnotes: a. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again b. Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood

Closing Hymn #410: O What a Wonderful, Wonderful Day

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

 

BLCF: Forgiveness - Ephesians_4-32