Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’

© May 14, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 14, 2017

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

Opening Hymn #411: Happiness Is to Know the Savior; Choruses

 Responsive Reading #629: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10)                      

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’  

                       

Let us pray…

 Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service. We would ask the Lord’s Blessings for all the mothers in the congregation today.

This Wednesday, the Bluegrass / Gospel group Cold Water Roots will perform a musical Benefit Concert on behalf of the BLCF Café Community Dinner, which will take place during the dinner.

On May 28, two Sunday’s from now, BLCF will have a hat trick of activities within the Praise and Worship Service: Presentation of BLCF’’s Annual Report; the serving a Pot Luck Luncheon and the Inductance of New Members.

Today’s lesson is entitles ‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’, and involves the lone disciple of the Lord who was called upon by Jesus to heal and baptize Saul of Tarsus to become an instrument of Christ.

While the Scriptures contain accounts of three individuals bearing the name Ananias:

Three different people in the New Testament are named Ananias          

 (from enterthebible.org):

  • One Ananias was a member of the church in Jerusalem in the days when the believers had all things in common. Along with his wife, Sapphira, he sold a piece of property, secretly kept some of the money, and misreported the sale price when he gave the rest of the money to the church. When Peter confronted him, Ananias fell down and died (Acts 4:32-5:11).
  • Another Ananias was a follower of Jesus in Damascus. Instructed by a vision, he sought out Paul (then still known as Saul) and helped to restore his sight (Acts 9:10-19).
  • A third Ananias was the high priest in Jerusalem who convened a meeting of the Jewish ruling council to examine Paul after his arrest in the temple (Acts 23:1-5).

https://www.enterthebible.org/resourcelink.aspx?rid=1177

Our lesson will focus upon the second of the three accounts of individuals named Ananias, the disciple of Jesus who lived in Damascus and was involved in the restoration of the vision to Saul of Tarsus.

We do know a little more about Ananias involved in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus:

Ananias – (bible study tools.com)

In late tradition, he is placed in the list of the seventy disciples of Jesus, and represented as Bishop of Damascus, and as having died a martyr’s death.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/ananias/

The first account that involved the Bishop of Damascus is found in Acts 9:1-22 (ESV) is told in the third person:

The Conversion of Saul

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

The passage from Acts 9:1-22 contains two narratives of two protagonists, Saul of Tarsus and Ananias of Damascus, both of whom receive visions from Jesus. Our Lord has ascended to be with the Father in heaven, sending God’s Holy Spirit to all believers in the Resurrected Christ.

This conversion, healing and baptism of Saul resulted in a zealous persecutor of Christians becoming one of the greatest evangelists of the Gospel of Christ.

We see as a result of the two visions from the Lord, a sinner is struck blind, left helpless, weak from three days of hunger and thirst, in need a being healed and nourished by a believer who must overcome a reluctance to deal with a notoriously evil persecutor of those who were believers in the Way of Christ.

The second account that included the disciple Ananias is found in Acts 22:1-16 (ESV):

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) b. Acts 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

From the two accounts of Ananias healing and baptism of Saul of Tarsus, we see that the Lord sent his good and faithful disciple to minister to Saul by restoring his sight and baptize him in Spirit, by calling on the name of the Lord.

In ministering to Saul of Tarsus, Ananias was instructed to visit, heal and baptize a stranger who was imprisoned by his blindness; weak, hungry, and thirsty from fasting for three days. The sins of Saul would be washed away, after he followed Ananias’ instructions to call on the name of Jesus. By his conversion to the Way of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus would later be known as the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest proponents of the Christian faith to both Jews and Gentiles, alike.

The ministering of Ananias of Damascus to Saul of Tarsus sounds very familiar, as it is described in the Scripture passage which we have adopted as a Mission statement for our BLCF Café Community Dinner, Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV):

The Final Judgment

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

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.”

While the world may view ministering to the least of our brothers and sisters as strictly taking care of their physical needs, if we were to substitute the name of “Saul of Tarsus” in place of “least of my brother and sisters” or replacing “the least of these”, in the above Matthew 25 passage, we have a description of how Ananias ministered to the spiritual needs of a brother in need, who was blinded, starving, and condemned to the death sentence of his sins. The first example would read:

 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to Saul of Tarsus, you did it to me.’

And the second example would read:                                                                                       ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to Saul of Tarsus, you did not do it to me.’ 

In other words, on that Final Judgement Day, our salvation and eternal life depends upon how well we “ministered” to sinners the gospel of Christ, feeding them with the Good News of the Lord and sharing as living witnesses our testimony of faith.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #501:  Reach Out to Your Neighbor

 Benediction – (John 13:35):  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 

May all mothers enjoy blessings on this Mother’s Day Sunday!

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‘Works of Faith’ and the ‘Royal Law’ as Elements of ‘The Great Commission’

BLCF: living_the_Great_Commission

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Works of Faith’ & the ‘Royal Law’ as Elements of ‘The Great Commission’

© September 18, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 28, 2013 

BLCF: September-18-2016

BLCF: this-sunday-after-service-church-picnic

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 622; Prayer                  

Opening Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark, Choruses                                         

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

Today’s Scriptures: Matthew 25:31-46; 5:43-48; 16:27; 1 John 4:11-12

BLCF: pass-it-on

                                  

Let us pray…

Good morning and what a glorious demonstration of the awareness God’s love and His presence is expressed in our opening hymn, ‘It Only Takes a Spark’. The author was inspired by verse from 1 John 4:11-12 (ESV):

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 

Both the verse and hymn reveal important aspects of the believer’s faith walk. Verse 11 of 1 John 4 implores Christians to love one another in the same manner as God loves us. Remember for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for our salvation, even though we are unworthy of such an expression of love. Verse 12 reminds us that though God remains unseen, by loving one another, we receive God’s presence by way of the Holy Spirit. And the love of God is perfectly expressed in us when we share that love with others and God. Remember that Jesus taught us that the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses for the people of Israel, our Lord indicated may be expressed as two simple commandments: one is love to God, the second being love to one another. Together, these two commandments often referred to as the Royal Law as we read in Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV):

 

The Royal Commandment

                                                 The Royal Law

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Note that we are not instructed to just love our family, to love only friends or to express our love solely to other believers. There is a common expression of someone who is ‘preaching to the choir’, in other words restricting the expression of our love and ministry solely to other believers. That is not what Jesus had in mind when he issued the Great Commission, just before ascending to Heaven, Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV):

 

BLCF: acts-great-commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

You may recall that Jesus taught his disciples not only by his Holy Words but by his example. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to teach the disciples humility and awareness that we are messengers of God, and we must teach others as servants of God. This falls in line with how our Lord ministered to those who were considered outcasts not even permitted to worship in the temple: a prostitute, a blind man, a cripple and even the criminal crucified beside Jesus. Associating with any of these outcasts was not permitted by Jewish laws. Note that neither the Ten Commandments nor the Royal Law  from Jesus, instruct believers to shun or to avoid associating with non-believers or those judged to be sinful because of an affliction or criminal past. In fact, by avoiding non-believers, how can one make disciples of all nations, not just the nation of Israel and not just to make disciples other believers in Christ? The Christian Way was not intended to be an exclusive club or organization, The Way describes an inclusive faith that is to be made available to everyone throughout our world. We are to preach and teach the Way of Jesus both by action and in word to all whom we encounter.

The Lord’s Commission issued before his Ascension will be subject to a Final Judgement by Jesus on His return, as we read in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV) entitled: The Final Judgment:

Sheep anf Goats

The Final Judgment

 

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

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.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

This judgment, also known as the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, expresses the Lord’s warning that it is not enough just to confess sins and say that Jesus is your savior, to be judged righteous by Him. It is our attitude towards those whom we may tend to avoid: the homeless, the sick, the destitute, criminals, and strangers than counts. We are instructed not only to associate with them but to care for them. For by caring for the least of these, we demonstrate our love of God, by following Jesus’ example. If we shun them, even though we may claim our behavior righteous, we will suffer the same judgment as will the devil and the fallen angels: eternal fire as a punishment. This verse indicates that faith is more than solely performing acts of charity. Faith is how we express our love to our Lord, by loving those whom many of society may despise.

This attitude expression of Christian faith is reinforced in James 2, where the Lord views holding a negative bias towards others as a sin as we see in James 2:1-13 (ESV) The Sin of Partiality:

BLCF: looking-up-to-Jesus

 

1My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

By judging others to be not worthy of our attention or love, we bring the same judgment down upon ourselves.

So, if I volunteer to help out at BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, so that I may brag about it others or because I believe that I am better than some or all of the guests or other volunteers, I am committing the sin of partiality over others and defying God’s will and purpose for His followers.

It may surprise some that by expressing just a biased or partial attitude against another; we have broken God’s law and are subject suffer the same judgment given if we had murdered another person. We cannot twist God’s rules to suit our desires, Adam and Eve already made that mistake.

But one may argue, isn’t faith just a belief and as such expressed in prayers, blessings, and good words to others?  That is all we need to do to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, right? We find the answer in the rest of James 2:14-26 (ESV) entitled Faith Without Works Is Dead:

BLCF: faith-without-works

 

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

While salvation is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. This does not mean that a believer’s faith cannot be without an expression of works. The so-called believers who gave God’s blessing, only, to those in need when they can give more, will be judged the same as if they have rejected God, just as Satan had rebelled against His authority.

The third verse  teaches that that Christians should embrace others outside the faith, that is to show the love of Christ to those who are not brothers and sisters in Christ is found in Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) entitled Love Your Enemies:

BLCF: love-your-enemies

 

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.                                                

What these verses allude to, is the danger of performing actions of faith with a design to promote ourselves or from a motivation of fear of punishment, rather than out of love and respect for God and others. After all, this was the mistake of Adam and Eve, who sinned seeking to elevate themselves to the same level as God, by eating the forbidden fruit. A prideful disregard of God’s instructions had very bad consequences for them. Acts of selfless love to strangers, our enemies and the undeserving, as Christ did for each of us on Cross at Calvary, is the only way to assure our own forgiveness and salvation. This is as much a change in attitude, as it is behavior that is needed in order for us to become righteous in the Lord’s eyes. And we know that judgment will come. Matthew 16:27 (ESV):

BLCF: the_great_commission

 

27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Therefore as followers and believers in the Resurrected Christ, it is good to reflect upon what we do and say, and why?  Are our words and deeds done out of a desire to demonstrate the love of Christ to all we meet? Or are we motivated by a need to promote ourselves above others, perhaps to the same level of God, as did Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Our answer to each of these questions will indicate what judgment we may expect from the Lord on that final day and demonstrate how much we have allowed the Holy Spirit to transform ourselves in our faith walk.

Fortunately, if our actions are selfish rather than selfless, it is not too late to change our ways and seek to demonstrate His love to others, especially to those whom we dislike or despise. For if God loved us to sacrifice His son for us. who have offended Him through sin,  surely we can demonstrate Christ-like love and forgiveness to those who offend us. Let us seek a revival in our own personal faith walk, by walking in the footsteps of Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God

Benediction (Romans 15:5-7): May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

BLCF: Rmans15-5-7

 

You’re Invited: BLCF Church Potluck Picnic, following this Service at St. Helen’s

 

BLCF Church Potluck Picnic Sunday September 18, 2016

BLCF Church Potluck Picnic Sunday – September 18, 2016

img_1242 img_1244

BLCF: picnic-potluck-version

God’s Ministry and Discipleship at the BLCF Café

least_of_my_brothers_and_sisters

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

God’s Ministry and Discipleship at the BLCF Café’

© May 29, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 29, 2016

BLCF: The Least of These

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding                                                              

Opening Hymn #302: I Love to Tell the Story                                                                                                                                       

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

Scriptures: Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew 19:16-22, Ecclesiastes 5:10-17

BLCF: sheep-goats

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, where we will incorporate into this morning’s Praise and Worship Service with our annual meeting to members and adherents, followed by a Pot Luck luncheon.

Considering the fact that BLCF’s primary Gospel outreach is the church’s hosting some 150 homeless and marginalized guests every Wednesday evening at the BLCF Café Community Dinner, it is not surprising that the lesson today is entitled: ‘God’s Ministry and Discipleship at the BLCF Café.’

Considering the subject of today’s lesson, it is fitting that we have  Matthew 25:31-46 as our first Scripture verse, which happens to be the same Scripture used as the Mission Statement of the BLCF Café and is posted behind the main serving table at the community dinner.

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

BLCF: Goats and Sheep

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 Matthew 25 passage, entitled  The Final Judgment, Jesus reveals how the Final Judgement will have our righteousness will determine whether we suffer eternal punishment or be rewarded with eternal life, based upon our attitude and service that we give the least of our brothers and sisters. The only way we honor Jesus as Lord, is when we give the poor our unconditional love and compassion.

When we feed, clothe, and help those in need, through humble service, we demonstrate our membership to the flock of Christ, following the Lord’s teaching and example, when he humbly served his disciples by washing their feet.

The focus on feeding the poor and less fortunate is again demonstrated in the second of today’s Scripture verses in Matthew 19:16-22, when the Lord explains to a wealthy young man what the difference exists between a “good deed”  or a perfect or righteous act is expected to receive eternal life as a heavenly reward. Jesus explains that there is more expected that just being obedient to the Law, the young man must surrender his earthly wealth and riches to the poor and less fortunate. This saddened the young man, as he was not willing to give away what he valued on earth and place his faith in the hope of a heavenly reward, a treasure from God.

 

Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV) The Rich Young Man

BLCF: Christ-rich-young-ruler-hoffmanl

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The Parable of the Goats and Sheep,  contrasts believers’ true righteous faith by the flock of sheep’s obedient  following the Lord’s example of humble servitude to others, as compared to the herd of goats who are typically stubborn and frequently need to be driven and directed.

The difference between those who desire to accumulate earthy treasures and those who choose to desire to bank on a heavenly treasure come in our third Scripture verse,  Ecclesiastes 5:10-17, which describes accumulating worldly treasures as a grievous evil, a vanity, as it indicates actions that are self-centered that can only lead to vexation, sickness and anger.

 

Ecclesiastes 5:10-17 (ESV)

BLCF: Ecclesiastes__5_10-17

10 He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? 12 Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

13 There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, 14 and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. 15 As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. 16 This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? 17 Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger.

We see that our choice between worldly wealth or treasures I heaven, reveals the nature of our hearts desire, and how we will be judged on the day the Lord returns, in Matthew 6:19-21.

 

 Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV) Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

BLCF: materialism_vs_treasuresinheaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[a] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.                                                                        

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:19 Or worm; also verse 20

Our righteousness and faith in following the Lord’s example, allows us to be reborn into a new life, with the promise of a reward more precious that gold, which is the salvation of our souls and the eternal life that was sought by the rich young man, 1 Peter 1:3-9.

 

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) Born Again to a Living Hope

BLCF: 1Peter3_9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Let us pray…

BLCF: annual_report

BLCF Annual Reports for 2014 and 2015

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus  

Benediction – (Romans 12:2):

 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

BLCF: Romans-12-2

Pot Luck Luncheon

BLCF: potluck_lucheon

 

The Prodigal and the Final Judgment

BLCF: Gods_love_for_the_Lost

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Prodigal and the Final Judgment’ 

© February 7, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin Febuary 7, 2016

God is enough

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #602 (Divine Deliverance – from Psalm 33); Prayer                                                                                                                      

Opening Hymn 320: Simply Trusting Every Day; Choruses                                                      

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

 Today’s Scriptures: Psalm 33:18-22, Luke 15:11-32, Matthew 19:16-22,  Matthew 25:31-46

BLCF: 1Peter5_10

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service for this, the last Sunday of January. Our lesson today, entitled: The Prodigal and the Final Judgment’, examines what will happen to prodigals at God’s Final Judgment.

You may ask, “What is a prodigal?”

According to our Wikibits in the Wikipedia, prodigal” means “wastefully extravagant”.

BLCF: prodigal_definition

With that definition in mind, we may rephrase our question, as what will happen to wastefully extravagant people at the time of God’s Final Judgement.

We begin the lesson with our first Scripture passage, taken from Psalm 33:18-22 (ESV):

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

BLCF: Praise-and-Prayer_Psalm_33

 

We see in verses 18 and 19 of Psalm 33 that the Lord has His eyes set upon the faithful who trust in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.

This leads us to the next Scripture, where we see what happens to someone who could be viewed as trusting in wealth and his own devices, when he suffers through a famine, and separated from his Father, Luke 15:11-32 (ESV):

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

BLCF: thr-prodigal-son

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

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

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

Let us look at some of the Wikibits commentary about the above Scripture passage:

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

BLCF: Prodigal-Son-Pompeo_Batoni

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (also known as the Lost Son, Running Father, Loving Father, or Lovesick Father) is one of the parables of Jesus. It appears in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus shares it with his disciples, the Pharisees and others.

According to the story, a father has two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance before the father dies, and the father agrees. The younger son, after wasting his fortune (the word “prodigal” means “wastefully extravagant”), goes hungry during a famine, and becomes so destitute he longs to eat the same food given to hogs, unclean animals in Jewish culture.

He then returns home with the intention of repenting and begging his father to be made one of his hired servants, expecting his relationship with his father is likely severed. Regardless, the father finds him on the road and immediately welcomes him back as his son and holds a feast to celebrate his return, which includes killing a fattened calf usually reserved for special occasions.

 The older son refuses to participate, stating that in all the time he has worked for the father, he never disobeyed him; yet, he did not even receive a goat to celebrate with his friends. The father reminds the older son that the son has always been with him and everything the father has belongs to the older son (his inheritance). But, they should still celebrate the return of the younger son because he was lost and is now found.

 

Context and Interpretation

BLCF: Parables_of_the-Lost-and-Found

 

This is the last of three parables about loss and redemption, following the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the Lost Coin, that Jesus tells after the Pharisees and religious leaders accuse him of welcoming and eating with “sinners.”[2] The father’s joy described in the parable reflects divine love,[2] the “boundless mercy of God,”[3] and “God’s refusal to limit the measure of his grace.”[2]

 

The request of the younger son for his share of the inheritance is “brash, even insolent”[4] and “tantamount to wishing that the father was dead.”[4] His actions do not lead to success, and he eventually becomes an indentured servant, with the degrading job of looking after pigs, and even envying them for the carob pods they eat.[4]

 

The mention of the son’s longing to eat with the swine in Luke 15:16 could refer to how the Pharisees viewed the sinners (and Christ, for eating with them) in Luke 15:2. The Pharisees, caught up in their ideas of ritual cleanliness, might have thought of these people as filthy pigs.[5]

 

On the son’s return, the father treats him with a generosity far more than he has a right to expect.[4] Some have suggested that this mirrors what Christians should do after sinning: feel contrition and return to the heavenly Father, Who will graciously welcome them back.[5]

The older son, in contrast, seems to think in terms of “law, merit, and reward,”[4] rather than “love and graciousness.”[4] He may represent the Pharisees who were criticizing Jesus.[4]

The father, who represents God, implies to the older son that his love for both sons is not dependent upon their performance, but their proximity, or closeness, with the father.

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

In the above parable, the younger of a man’s two sons asks his father, contrary to tradition, to be given his inheritance before his father dies.

We see that the younger son leaves his father after receiving hid requested inheritance, and proceeds to squander it all away.

The son decides go to back to his father, to confess his sins against heaven and his father, saying in Verse 19:

19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’

The father demonstrates his joy for having his son back, by having a celebration in honor of the repenting son’s return. This parable is related to the two previous parables in Luke 15, which deal with something that is lost and later found. All three parables echo the grace God provides to those sinners who repent to their Father and the joy that their repentance engenders, as Jesus said after sharing The Parable of the Lost Sheep:

Luke 15:7 (ESV)

BLCF: joy_in_heaven

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The statement of heavenly joy over a sinner’s repentance is reiterated by Jesus, after he tells The Parable of the Lost Coin:

Luke 15:10 (ESV)

BLCF:luke15-7

10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

The prodigal son, having squandered his inheritance, is relegated to feeding pigs and faces starvation, a situation of his own making. His decision to ask for his inheritances from his father before his father’s death dishonors his father and breaks the commandment to honor his father. By leaving his father after he received the inheritance, the son indicates that he values the material wealth more than the company of his father.

If the son had not frittered away all his fortune, he would likely have the means to avoid death by starvation. The son’s coming to terms with this, and his subsequent decision to return to his father and surrender to his father’s mercy by confessing his sins, brings an unexpected reaction of joy and compassion. The son is considered by his father to have been “reborn” and is warmly received.

Ironically, the older son cannot understand why his prodigal brother is the focus of their father’s joy and celebration, while he had never rebelled against his father. This sibling jealousy reminds us of a similar reaction of Cain to Able. The grace is granted to all by way of Jesus’ sacrifice. We, who are doomed to die in sin, are reborn and resurrected from a death in sin, renewed in forgiveness, and blessed in the Spirit.

Like the prodigal, who wasted an inheritance from his father, there are those who squander God’s gift, who will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment, if they refuse to understand that value of Spiritual riches over worldly wealth, as we see in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV):

The Final Judgment

BLCF: 1John3_17-18

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 eternal life offered by God, through Christ Jesus still eludes even those who somehow manage to obey all of God’s Ten Commandments, but to their own personal glory instead of giving the glory to God, as we see in today’s final Scripture passage, from Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV):

The Rich Young Man

BLCF: follow_me

 

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Just as the young prodigal, and to some degree his older brother, had wrongly placed an importance upon worldly treasures, the young man in Mathew 19 refused to exchange his great worldly wealth to help the poor and marginalized in order to receive a greater treasures in heaven. This self-centered attitude is the same exhibited by goats as described in The Final Judgment, where their final judgment will be to “go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #663 (from 1 Corinthians 11)

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

Closing Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See

Benediction – (Romans 12:2)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

BLCF: heavens declare the Glory of GOD

Honoring HIM Most, by Serving the Least

least_of_my_brothers_and_sisters

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Honoring HIM Most, by Serving the Least’

© September 27, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin September 27, 2015

BLCF: called by example

 

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

Opening Hymn #182: Marvelous Message We Bring; Choruses                       

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

Today’s Scriptures: Mark 10:35-45, John 13:1-20, Matthew 25:31-46

 

BLCF: God qualifies the called              

Let us pray,

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this the first Sunday of fall, 2015.  For those of us who live in Toronto, Canada, fall officially arrived last Wednesday, September 23, at 4:21 A.M. EDT. If you did not hear it through the media or from your calendar, you may have not been aware of fall’s arrival.

For our lesson today, ‘Honoring Him Most, by serving the Least’, we will examine what initially seems to be a contradiction in terms, where the disciples of Christ had to be taught on more than one occasion, in more than one way, to empty themselves of their personal selfish ambitions and tendencies towards conceit, seeking to live a life of humility and compassion to others.

The disciples knew that the Lord was the Son of God, anointed with the Spirit, and able to demonstrate the supernatural ability to perform miracles. However, they did not grasp the fact that Jesus came in the likeness of humanity having emptied himself of his godliness to serve as the vessel of humanity’s judgement for sin, and thereby raising us above death and sending us with the Holy Spirit of God. We receive these gifts of God’s love, by our faith, to be reconciled as new creatures reborn in the Spirit.

While the disciples did not benefit from understanding that comes by way of the Spirit, as the day of Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit, had yet to arrive. Perhaps this is why the Lord had to demonstrate to the disciples the need to be humble not just before God, but before others. We see examples of the challenges the Lord encountered in today’s Scripture verses:

Mark 10:35-45 (ESV) The Request of James and John

BLCF: Jesus_James_and_John

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 10:43 Greek diakonos b. Mark 10:44 Greek bondservant (doulos)

BLCF: Jesus_Glorified

I believe the answer to the question in the preceding graphic is: “None of the above”.  The two disciples, James and John, assumed that Jesus would be glorified in heaven. We see that the Lord was truly glorified by surrendering himself as a humble sacrifice for the sins of all of humanity. By seeking to share with the same glory of Jesus, they would have to endure the same death as Christ.

Before surrendering himself to judgment on the cross, the Lord took time to again teach his disciples a lesson in humility by washing their feet, assuming the humble station of a house servant.

John 13:1-20 (ESV) Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

BLCF: Jesus-washing-the-disciples-feet

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,[d] ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

Footnotes: a. John 13:10 Some manuscripts omit except for his feet b. John 13:10 The Greek words for you in this verse are plural c. John 13:16 Greek bondservant d.John 13:18 Greek But in order that the Scripture may be fulfilled

Our third Scripture passage, is where the Lord describes The Final Judgment by the example of separating the sheep from the goats.

 

Sheep anf Goats

                                      

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 description of goats and sheep attributed to those being judged, where goats are stubborn, defiant and often tend to wonder away from the flock. By contrast, sheep stay in the herd, obediently following their master, listening to his call.

Obedience is illustrated in today’s verses can be described by servant humbly washing the feet of others; by sheep obediently heeding the voice of their master and helping others of the flock; and by the sacrifice of the Son of God by surrendering his life as a testament to his love for us.

 

BLCF: Mark_10_45

We know that God created men and women in His image, but He sent His Son, Jesus, to serve humanity, not as a king or emperor, but to surrender his life to pay the price for the judgement for the sins of humanity. Like the rest of humanity, Christ suffered death. However Christ died to pay the debt for all the sins of humanity.

We see that Jesus was raised from death, being resurrected from the grave. In death, Jesus gave us redemption. With Christ’s resurrection, we are given the promise of our own resurrection. And with his ascension to heaven, the Lord sent us the Holy Spirit to be our companion and comfort, until the day that the Lord returns.

Philippians 2:1-7 (ESV) Christ’s Example of Humility

BLCF: obedience-humility

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men.

 Footnotes: a. Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b.Philippians 2:7 Greek bondservant

 

BLCF: Matthew_25_40

We find that in our own humility, we may receive gifts of the Spirit to enable us to demonstrate Christ’s love and compassion to others, particularly serving the Lord by serving the least of our brothers and sisters.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Love-all-serve-all-Mark

Closing Hymn #508: I Gave My Life for Thee                                             

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 5:23): Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

BLCF: Who_do_you_serve

 

 

Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

BLCF: Matthew 25_31-46 Paraphrased
Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:
Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone’
© May 31, 2015 2015 by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Messaged Shared with BLCF Church on February 27, 2011
BLCF: Christianity_101

Announcements & Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #668: The New Life (from Colossians 3); Prayer

Opening Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; Choruses

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

Scripture Verses: 

2 Kings 5:1-27, Luke 17:11-19, Mark 2:13-17, Matthew 25:31-46

                    

BLCF: get-out_of_the_boat

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship for the last Sunday of May, 2015.

BLCF: praywalk

A reminder for those who missed the announcements, that this Tuesday evening, June 2, at 7:30 PM, will mark BLCF Church’s turn to host the monthly Prayer Walk in The City. For over a decade, a group of over half a dozen churches participates in a Prayer Walk, where the participants, usually in pairs, walk and pray in the local neighborhood community. We pray for the health and healing through the Holy Spirit’s presence among each and every person. We pray for the Spirit’s guidance and protection, and where needed, a faith revival in the community.

If you would like to participate in this Tuesday’s Prayer Walk right here in the heart of Toronto, please arrive at BLCF at 7:30PM, where we gather for music and prayer before commencing on our Prayer Walk and join other prayer warriors from local churches.

For our lesson today, we have three Scripture verses that describe three different accounts of people in need of healing or cleansing and restoration. The first two describe men afflicted with Leprosy. To better understand this disease, let us review a Wikibits description:

Leprosy – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
BLCF: Leprosy Rates 2002 - WHO

Leprosy /ˈlɛprəsi/,[1] also known as Hansen’s disease (HD) is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae[2] and Mycobacterium lepromatosis.[3] Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to as long as 20 years.[2] Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes.[2] This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain and thus loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries.[4] Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.

[ Leprosy is curable with treatment. Globally in 2012, the number of chronic cases of leprosy was 189,000 and the number of new cases was 230,000.[2] The number of chronic cases has decreased from some 5.2 million in the 1980s. In the past 20 years, 16 million people worldwide have been cured of leprosy.[2] About 200 cases are reported per year in the United States.[8]

Leprosy has affected humanity for thousands of years.[4] The disease takes its name from the Latin word lepra, which means “scaly”, while the term “Hansen’s disease” is named after the physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen.[4] Separating people by placing them in leper colonies still occurs in places such as India,[9] China,[10] and Africa.[11] However, most colonies have closed since leprosy is not very contagious.[11] Leprosy has been associated with social stigma for much of history, which is a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment.[2] Some consider the word leper offensive, preferring the phrase “persons affected with leprosy”.[12]

While Wikipedia indicates that Leprosy can be cured, I believe it more accurate to say that the disease’s progression can be stopped, but nerve damage and disfigurement remains. The healing in the Scriptures indicate a full restoration of the individual’s body. Because it typically takes between 5 to 20 years for the infected person to show symptoms, damage to the skin, nerves, lungs, limbs and eyes can only be arrested by treatment, not reversed.

The first of today’s Scriptures, from 2 Kings 5:1-27, is the account of Naaman who was a brave commander in the army of king of Syria. Naaman was an effective commander, even being described as being given victory in battle by the Lord. However the soldier was afflicted with Leprosy:

Naaman Healed of Leprosy
BLCF: Leprosy

5 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.[a] 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels[b] of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7

And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.”

11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana[c] and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

BLCF: naaman-healed
Gehazi’s Greed and Punishment

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused.

17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” 21

So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” 22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. 24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed.

25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

Footnotes: a. 2 Kings 5:1 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 b. 2 Kings 5:5 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms; a shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams c. 2 Kings 5:12 Or Amana

Naaman is convinced by his wife’s servant of how a prophet in home Israel, could heal her master of his affliction. Naaman tells his lord, the King of Syria of the servant girl’s belief and asks for leave to go to Israel. The king sends Naaman, along with a letter, to the king of Israel. The King of Israel, upon reading the letter, tears his clothing as only God can heal a man of Leprosy and suspects that the request is a ruse by the King of Syria to start a war against Israel.

In 2 Kings 5:8 we see how the Lord responds to the faith of the servant from Israel, the Syrian Commander and His prophet Elisha:

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.

It is interesting that Elisha takes Naaman out of his comfort zone, by not greeting the commander’s entourage, accepting the monetary gifts, and by specifying that Naaman immerse himself in the River Jordan seven times. Elisha’s response to Naaman asks the commander for humility and trust from Naaman, while clearly disassociating the healing from any worldly influence, so that credit would go solely to the Lord. Elisha, unlike some of today’s “fake faith healers” did not want, as Naaman had expected, make an overt show of the healing. The prophet refused a treasure of gifts in exchange for the miracle. Elisha wanted Naaman to be aware that it was the Lord and Nauuman’s trust in the Lord that brought the healing. Trust leads to belief, and belief leads to faith in God.

Naaman initially hesitates to obey Elisha’s instructions, angered by both the reception from Elisha and the unexpected method of the healing, is convinced to follow the directions from the prophet. Naaman is healed and acknowledges God, but tries to reward Elisha who reuses a wealth of gifts. Elisha tells Naaman that the healing is a gift from God, not the prophet.

We should not forget that Naaman’s faith and healing from God was initiated by a nameless servant girl’s faith and testimony. This servant girl was abducted from her home in a raid by Syrian soldiers, loses all of her petitions and retains only her faith in God. She seems to have every right to allow her master suffer from his affliction of Leprosy, after all he is a commander of her captors responsible for her servitude. The servant could have offered to tell her master of healing from God in exchange for her freedom, but the account gives no indication that she was released after Naaman was healed. The servant’s sharing her belief with her master was based on her compassion for an oppressor and her faith in God.

Later, we see that Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, is tempted and accepts the gifts offered by Naaman by telling Naaman that Elisha had a change in heart. Gehazi hides the offering in his house and denies to Elisha that he went out. We see that Elisha is aware and disappointed in Gehazi’s actions as we see in 2 Kings 5:26-27:

“Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

We could almost call this passage “A Tale of Two Servants,” where the faith of one servant brings faith and healing to a Gentile, while another servant brings upon himself a harsh judgment for his greed and lack of faith.

Our second Scripture Luke 17:11-19 tells of how ten Lepers are healed by Jesus, but only one of the ten, also a Gentile, returns to acknowledge the Lord:

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers
BLCF: Jesus_Heals_Ten_Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,[a] who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Luke 17:12 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 b. Luke 17:19 Or has saved you

In Luke 17:19, we see that the Lord acknowledges the healed man’s praise:

“Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Based upon our first two Scriptures, one might conclude that Jesus first came to heal the world of their physical afflictions. Though the Lord did demonstrate compassion for the afflicted and healed them, this was not the reason why Jesus came to the world, as we see in Mark 2:13-17:

Jesus Calls Levi
BLCF: Mark 2_13-17

 

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of[a] the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat[b] with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 2:16 Some manuscripts and b. Mark 2:16 Some manuscripts add and drink

Jesus came not heal us of physical ailments; instead the Lord came to cleanse us of our Spiritual afflictions, which is sin. This is why the Lord sought to associate with tax collectors and sinners, described in Mark 2:17:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came to minister and heal sinners, it is important to focus not on the fact that two Lepers were healed, but the faith of those messengers who brought healing.

It is interesting that while Naaman came out of his comfort zone by trusting and obeying the instructions of God’s prophet, Elisha, the Syrian commander came to faith based upon the testimony of a nameless servant girl. A servant who took compassion upon a commander of a foreign nation that had taken her into a life of servitude. She left her comfort zone by sharing her faith with a leader in the country which she was held captive.

Remember that the only one of ten Lepers’, who were healed by the compassion of Jesus to acknowledge the Lord, was a foreigner, a Samaritan.

We are reminded that we are commissioned as apostles or messengers of the Lord to share the Gospel of Christ not with whom whose company we feel comfortable, but with those whom we may avoid or whose company we like. We see this in the Scripture passage that we have adopted as our Mission statement for our BLCF Café Community Dinner, see Matthew 25:31-46:

The Final Judgment
BLCF: Matthew 25_31-46

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,[a] 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.”

Footnotes: a Matthew 25:40 Or brothers and sisters

Finally, may we accept that while the Lord, and later the Apostles, did perform many miracles of physical healing, Jesus came solely heal the world of sin. The Apostles’ were given the Great Commission by Christ: to spread the good news, the Gospel, that Christ died for our salvation from the spiritual affliction of sin. We are challenged to step out our comfort zone and associate with those who are untouchable and disenfranchised, considered unrighteous by others.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #318: When We Walk with the Lord 

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

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

BLCF: are-you-committed-or-merely-involved

Claiming a Blessed Inheritance, by Loving Our God and Our Neighbour

BLCF: Doing what Jesus would do at BLCF Cafe

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:          

‘Claiming a Blessed Inheritance, by Loving Our God and Our Neighbour’                   

 © May 25, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin May 25, 2014

BLCF: L_O_V_E

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #660

(The New Way of Life – Luke 6); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #450 Jesus, Still Lead On ; Choruses

Scripture Verses: Matthew 25:31-46 and John 12:1-8  

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

BLCF: HeavenHelSign

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.”

 

John 12:1-8 (ESV) Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

BLCF: Mary_Washing_Jesus_Feet

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound[a] of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it[c] for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Footnotes: a. John 12:3 Greek litra; a litra (or Roman pound) was equal to about 11 1/2 ounces or 327 grams b. John 12:5 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer c. John 12:7 Or Leave her alone; she intended to keep it

 

BLCF: Cross_-_Your_Prayer_14195433

 

Let us pray…

The last few Sunday’s, we discussed the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The transformation being the change that the Spirit effects.

The first example of the Spirit’s transformation was that which occurred to the disciples, who were locked in an Upper Room fearing for their safety, and then changed into apostles or messengers of the gospel or the message of Jesus. As apostles, they had the courage, direction and words needed to both confidently and courageously share their testimony among the very people who had crucified their Lord; people whom they had previously hid from with fear in that Upper Room, until the resurrected Jesus arrived to give them both his commission to spread his gospel and God’s Holy Spirit to achieve the task.

Another example of the Spirits power to transform or change lives, happened to the Pharisee known as Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Jew and citizen of Rome, whose sole preoccupation was the eradication of believers of a new faith-based religion known as the Way of Christ, known today as Christianity. Saul’s method of eradication involved: the arrest, imprisonment, and usually ending with the violent death to these Christian men and women.

The Lord revealed himself to Saul, who was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus, with the intention of persecuting Christians in Damascus. Blinded by the encounter, Saul was healed and baptised by the Holy Spirit at the hands of the Apostle Ananias, at the Lord’s bequest. The Holy Spirit transformed a powerful Pharisee into one of the most outspoken proponents of the message of Christ. As was often the practice of new believers at that time, Saul decided take along with his new faith, a new name which we know today as Paul, an Apostle of the Way of Jesus and Christ’s gospel.

The third example of the influence of the Holy Spirit was with Mary as the mother of Christ. Mary was chosen by God to be mother to the Christ, because of her faith and capacity to nurture and love a child, who was both Son of God and son of man. Mary’s faith and trust was so strong that she neither hid herself with the disciples in Upper Room, nor did she renounce her faith when her son, Jesus, was crucified. It is likely that upon seeing her son’s resurrected by the power of the Spirit, she pondered the miracle in her heart, just as she had done at the time of his birth and when she found her son amongst the elders of the temple, being about his “Father’s business”. Her son demonstrated the same great capacity of love for both his God and his fellow brothers and sisters, by undertaking humanity’s judgement on the cross.

 

BLCF: Spirit-of-power

 

Which brings us two us to today’s Scripture verses: the Lord’s Final Judgment described in Matthew 25 and the account of Mary of Bethany’s anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive oils, from John 12.

At first blush, you might view these two Scriptures as either unrelated or even contradictory. We read that Christ indicates that there will a come a Day of Judgment, where our salvation depends upon each person’s righteousness. That righteousness based upon each person’s capacity to love others, specifically strangers, who are less fortunate, not just by words, but by deeds, as we see in Matthew 25:35-36.  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.’

This expression of love to strangers is such a strange and foreign concept to the self-proclaimed righteous, that they question: when did they ever encounter Christ in such a manner, asking:

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 

The Lord’s response to the self-proclaimed righteous is:

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.’

And to make it clear why the self-proclaimed righteous, or should we say self-righteous, will be condemned more because of their inactions than their actions, the Lord rephrases his previous statement:

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.”

 

BLCF: Love_Jesus

Phil Collins – Another Day In Paradise Lyrics

Songwriters: COLLINS, PHIL
Another Day In Paradise lyrics © EMI Music Publishing
She calls out to the man on the street
‘Sir, can you help me?
It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?’

He walks on, doesn’t look back
He pretends he can’t hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Oh think twice, it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, ’cause it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

She calls out to the man on the street
He can see she’s been crying
She’s got blisters on the soles of her feet
She can’t walk but she’s trying

Oh think twice, ’cause it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

Oh Lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh Lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she’s been there
Probably been moved on from every place
‘Cause she didn’t fit in there

Oh think twice, ’cause another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, just think about it, think about it

It’s just another day for you and me in paradise
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise, paradise
Just think about it, paradise, just think about it
Paradise, paradise, paradise

[embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiUQE5bJKFU&feature=player_embedded[/embed]

There are two interesting illustrations in this passage. We will be judged  and sorted by the Lord, with sinners to the left and saints to the right.

In ancient Rome, a person’s sword hand, referred to as the dexter or the right hand. The left hand was called the sinister. Two people greeted each other by shaking the sword hand, as a gesture of peace and good faith. Normally you could not draw your sword if you are grasping the other’s sword hand.  According to some accounts Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in 44BC,  was stabbed while shaking right hand with his assassin, who stabbed Caesar with a sword held in the sinister or left hand. This is where the old expression “right hand man” being a trustworthy individual, came from. After the Son of God ascended to heaven, he sits at the right hand of God, the father.

The second illustrations, has sinners described as goats and saints as sheep. In the illustration, we have goats with the reputation as stubborn, stiff-necked creatures, often straying from the herd or flock, with a tendency butt-heads or fight to keep their own territory. By contrast, sheep are more obedient to their shepherd, preferring to stay in the herd, and generally are more peaceful in nature.

This passage speaks to the difference in attitude towards faith and God as much as describes judgment and righteousness, with respect to others, particularly strangers and the poor. It is interesting to observe that we are judged as much by our inactions as our actions. By ignoring the less fortunate, we dishonour the Lord and invite his judgment, accordingly. Not doing what is right s just as much a sin as breaking God’s Laws. We should ask ourselves,whatever we do and avoid doing: does it show love to God and does it demonstrate love to others, particularly strangers? If the answer is no, then what we have done or have not done has offended the Lord, and we will be judged by it. The Lord describes those judged as being either goats that are sorted to his left or those sorted to his right, which is the place of the truly righteous.

True righteousness to others is half of the Lord’s expectation of us. The other half being the righteous expression of humility and obedience, when we worship God in prayer. Jesus gave a clear explanation of this expectation in Matthew 6:5-15.

 

Matthew 6:5-15 (ESV) The Lord’s Prayer

BLCF: praying_like_Jesus

 

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,[b]    

 on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

12 and forgive us our debts,     

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,     

but deliver us from evil.[d]

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,

15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

 

BLCF: Pray to God

 

In this passage, Jesus is asked how to pray to God? Jesus answer begins with the importance of praying as a form of worship and fellowship with God, not used as an opportunity for self-promotion of one’s faith or to be used as a speech of empty phrases that may be heard by others. Jesus points out that God knows our needs before we even open our mouths. And, like the judgment of the goats and sheep, what we do not do is important to the Lord. If you do not forgive others, the Lord cannot forgive you!

Jesus indicates that the prayer should acknowledge the power, holiness and authority of God, the Father, both on earth and in heaven. The Lord continues to  indicate a prayer should ask the father for His Spiritual sustenance, or “daily bread”, along with a plea for forgiveness, in proportion to that which we  have given to others. Christ continues by saying prayer should ask for guidance, particularly away from Satan’s temptation. Jesus indicates that a prayer should conclude the same way it was opened, by acknowledging God’s power, holiness and authority.

This helps us to understand today’s second Scripture passage in John 12, where Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, a man resurrected from the grave by Jesus, demonstrates her respect for the Lord by anointing his feet with an expensive oil and drying them with her hair. Judas Iscariot, who was the money keeper of the disciples, (both figuratively and literally), objects to the use of an expensive oil to anoint Jesus’ feet, saying that its value would be better spent given to the poor. Knowing that Judas was skimming money, and where his heart was towards the Lord, (eventually the disciple would betray him for thirty pieces of silver), Jesus discounted the complaint, saying:

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.

What the Lord was saying, though it is important to take care of the poor, you should not neglect honoring the Lord, who was to take upon himself the judgment and punishment for the sins of all of humanity.  By this account, it seems that Judas did not catch Christ’s mention of his impending death. The expectation of honouring the Lord is best expressed in Mark 12:28-34, where Jesus gives us his two Commandments, which should also serve as a guide for our faith walk, as believers in the Way of the resurrected Christ.

Mark 12:28-34; 41-44 (ESV) The Great Commandment

BLCF: Love-God_Love-People

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?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And 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.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And 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.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

We must love God with all of our heart, soul and mind; and love our neighbours, as we love ourselves.

What about those who live in poverty? We find an interesting illustration, again from Mark 12, where the Lord honours the sacrifice and offering of a poor widow over the greater contributions given by the wealthy.

 

The Widow’s Offering

BLCF: widowsoffering

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.[a] 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 12:42 Greek two lepta, which make a kodrantes; a kodrantes (Latin quadrans) was a Roman copper coin worth about 1/64 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer)

We see that the Lord values the poor widows gift, a true reflection of her trust and faith, than greater sums given by the wealthy.

I would like to conclude today’s message by saying, based on the Scriptures we have just read,  that  it is not how great an offering you give;  or how loudly you pray; or  your concern over what others do to honour God that is important to the Lord. What matters to the Lord is whether our motives to praise him comes as a sincere expression of faith from or a heartfelt expression of love for both him, as well as for others. That is how we become righteous in the eyes of the Lord.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #483: We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations

For our benediction, let us,  I will read 2 Corinthians 13:14, followed by  the printed benediction.

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: benediction

BLCF: blessings

BLCF: Faith_Hope_Love

BLCF: patience