The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for

Good Friday:

‘The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross’

© April 14, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 14, 2017

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lame Beggar Healed

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

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:39 Or blasphemed him

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

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died For Me

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):                                                                                 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.    

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

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Christ’s Church: It Speaks Boldly and Believes with Unity of Heart and Soul

blcf: BeTheChurch

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Christ’s Church: It Speaks Boldly and Believes with Unity of Heart and Soul’

© February 14, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Messaged Shared at BLCF on March 2 2014

BLCF Bulletin February 14, 2016

Worship: Responsive Reading #634 Christian Unity – from John 10 and 27, 1Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4); Prayer                                                                                                                        

Opening Hymn #171: Thine is the Glory, Risen, Conquering; Choruses                                                      

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

Today’s Scriptures: Exodus 32:21-24 and Acts 4:23-33

 

BLCF: church-spiritual-contributors-not-cosumers

Let us pray…

“The devil made me do it.” Any of us who lived through the 1970’s may recall the comedian Flip Wilson, who coined this popular catch phrase used whereby any mistake would be blamed upon the devil.

Psychologist use the term “projection” for a form of denial of the truth, by placing the blame or responsibility for an unacceptable attribute(s) upon others.

Here is our Wikibits explanation of the term:

Psychological projection was conceptualized by Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) in the 1900s as a defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects his or her own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world.[1] For example, a person who is rude may accuse other people of being rude.

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

BLCF: Flip-Wilson-Superstar

While we can only guess as to what may have inspired Flip Wilson in blaming the devil for actions or words which might offend others, we see this phrase strikes a harmonic chord among those familiar with the Scriptures. There are numerous examples in the Bible, which describe an individual attributing sinful or evil behavior as being the fault of others. I have listed a few of the more familiar one in today’s bulletin.

The first example comes from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, verses 11-13:

Genesis 3:11-13 (ESV)

BLCF: Adam_Eve

11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

God finds Adam and Eve have covered their nakedness, and asks: “Who told you that you were naked?” Such awareness could only come from eating from the forbidden fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

Adam blames Eve, and even God for giving him Eve to be with him, by replying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate”, also implying innocence on his part. If you read Genesis, Chapter 3, you will see that Adam was present when the devil, disguised as a serpent, and tempted Eve with eating the forbidden fruit by saying in doing so she would become wise as God. Adam heard the whole conversation between Eve and the devil, and knew that the fruit that Eve had given was from the tree that God said was forbidden to eat.

And when God asks Eve, “What have you done?” we see that Eve responds, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” In other words, “The devil made me do it.” Both Adam and Eve gave responses which betrayed their sin, since they had acquired an awareness of right and wrong, by the clothes they now felt compelled to wear, and by the blaming others for their transgression.

Our second example comes from Genesis, Chapter 4, where Cain, jealous over his brother, Abel’s offerings to God, slays him:

Genesis 4:9-11 (ESV)

BLCF:cain_and_abel

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

Again, we see this sinful tendency in humanity demonstrated by the actions of Cain, who after killing his brother, hid from God and then falsely told God that he does not know where Abel is. He even makes the sarcastic rhetorical response to the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Our third example comes from Exodus, Chapter 32, verses 21-24, when Aaron tries to blame his actions of first blaming “the people”, indicating that “they are set on evil.”

Exodus 32:21-24 (ESV)

BLCF: chagall golden calf

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

Aaron does not acknowledge the sin or his involvement, indicating that “evil people made me do it.” Sounds a little like: “The devil made me do it.”

What make matters worse, after committing a sin, is to blame sinful behavior upon someone else. Now we have two sins to confess: the initial sin and then the bearing false witness by blaming the sin someone else, even as in the case of Adam and Eve, the devil did his best to induce them into sin.

God not only wants us to avoid sin, but when sin happens to confess and acknowledge our sins. Remember, God has already projected the guilt of our sins upon His Son, Jesus, who paid the penalty for those sins, with his life. In effect, we have no excuse to not confess our sins.

And as in the account of the golden calf, God wants us to acknowledge Him for what he provides, whether it is freedom from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt or the gifts of the Spirit. By acknowledging the powers and gifts we receive from God, particularly through Jesus Christ: salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternal life, we are drawn closer to Him.

By accepting Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit, believers become united, through the Spirit, into a “body of believers.”

An account, that is in contrast the above accounts of sinners compounding their sinful behavior by denying God’s authority and not confessing their sins, is that involving the apostles, Peter and John,   who used faith and the Spirit’s power to  heal a lame beggar, as described in Acts Chapter 3, verses 1-16 (ESV):

The Lame Beggar Healed

BLCF: Acts-3-Peter-and-John-Cure-a-Lame-Man

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

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

BLCF: Peter-Preaching-Solomons-Portico

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

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

Not only is the healing by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit, but it allows the lame man to join with the body of worshipers inside the temple. You see, in those times anyone with a physical impairment was not permitted to enter the temple, as their impairment was considered God’s punishment for a sin by the individual or by his or her ancestors. The beggar, having been healed of his affliction, is for the first time in his life, permitted to enter the temple and join the body of the church, or body of believers, as they worship inside the temple. Christ intended for all people to worship together in a unified Spirit, regardless of their physical condition. Through Christ, all who believe and confess become acceptable unto God and become a part of His church.

This healing, as well as others, where the disciples acknowledged  the resurrected Christ as Lord, from whom they had been given the power of the Holy Spirit, had angered the leaders of the temple, resulting in the arrests of Peter and John not just once, but twice!  On one occasion, the two are freed by the words of Peter as he is guided by the Spirit. And on the second occasion, John and Peter are freed from prison by an angel of God, who instructs them to continue sharing the Lord’s Gospel.

After the two arrests, we see that the disciples pray not for their own personal safety, but for the Spirit’s guidance and influence, for courage to continue to praise and glorify God, and to acknowledge the gifts through His Son, Jesus. Acts, Chapter 4, verses 23-33 (ESV):

The Believers Pray for Boldness

BLCF: Psalm-27-14

23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[a] said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’[
b]

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants[c] to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

They Had Everything in Common

BLCF: being-the-church

32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Footnotes: a. Acts 4:25 Or child; also verses 27, 30 b. Acts 4:26 Or Christ c. Acts 4:29 Greek bondservants

We see that a choice is offered us, between two contrasting paths that we may take:

One choice is to be like Adam, Eve, Cain and Aaron, is to drift away from God towards sin and to make matters worse by not confessing those sins, instead placing blame on others.

The other choice is to draw closer to God, by confessing the sins and accepting God’s path to forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Then, we may pray that the Spirit will give us the courage to boldly witness the Gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the world, which is our Commission as believers in the Resurrected Christ. Just as in the days of Adam and Eve, Cain and Aron, and the disciples of Christ, we see that those without faith exhibit Godlessness, which is an absence of God, in their behavior, 2 Timothy, Chapter 3, verses 1-5 (ESV):

Godlessness in the Last Days

BLCF: dont_just_go_to_church_be_the_church

3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

We should avoid the influence of people who are Godless, but instead being bold in our courage to witness the Gospel of Jesus, for the salvation’s sake! Let us pray to God, as a body of the church of believers, united in God’s Spirit, for a unity of purpose, and a boldness of Spirit, in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

Let us pray…

BLCF:courage-from-God

Closing Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding

Benediction – (Romans 15:5-6):

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.

BLCF: changetheworld

Repent of Your Sins and Be Refreshed by Salvation and Forgiveness

BLCF: Forgiveness 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© January 4, 2015, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 4, 2015

 BLCF: Ephesians 4_32

 

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

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

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

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

 

BLCF: to_be_a_Christian

 

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

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

 Let us pray…

                            Luke 11:2-4 (ESV)

BLCF: forgive in prayer

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

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

Give us each day our daily bread,[a]

and forgive us our sins,     

for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation.”

                                                                                – Amen

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

BLCF: forgive_us_our_sins

 

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

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

Unbroken

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

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

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

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

 “Unbroken” the Biography of Louis Zamperini

BLCF: Louis_Zamperini_at_announcement_of_2015_Tournament_of_Roses_Grand_Marshal

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: forgive-those

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

 

BLCF: forgiveness

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

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

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

A Sinful Woman Forgiven

BLCF: forgiveness2

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

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

Footnotes: a. Luke 7:49 Or to

BKCF: Parable_of_Two_Debtors

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

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

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

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

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus_and_Jesus

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

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

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

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

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

BLCF: Peter-Preaching-Solomons-Portico

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

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.

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

 

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

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

Let us pray…

 

BLCF: Communion

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

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

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

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

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

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

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

 

BLCF: Forgiveness - Ephesians_4-32