Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Steadfast in Love and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

© June 3, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 3, 2018

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

BLCF Bulletin August 25, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Footnotes: a. Revelation 19:9 Greek he said                                        

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

The New Heaven and the New Earth

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

Let us pray…

Communion:

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

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

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

Closing Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

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

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God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP’

© February 4, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 4, 2018

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on January 8, 2012

BLCF_Bulletin_January_8_2012

Announcements & Call to Worship of Prayer, Opening Prayer

Opening Hymn #204: There`s a Quiet Understanding; Choruses                                      

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God 

Responsive Reading #655: The Final Word (Revelation 22) 

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Great Banquet: God`s Invitation’

Let us pray…

The focus of our lesson today will be what we may learn from the Lord’s parable which Jesus described as the “king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

Several years ago this spring, my nephew Steve married his fiancée, Elise. This was the fourth wedding held on Sophie`s side of the family. The wedding consisted of a memorable service, followed by a joyful banquet. The wedding was the culmination of many months of planning and preparation for the blessed event.

If we were to turn on the television, we may see any of number of reality shows about various aspects of the wedding, including such aspects as: choosing a wedding planner, selecting the right wedding dress, or four brides who attend each other’s wedding and then rate aspects of the weddings.

Millions of viewers anticipate another royal wedding in the UK, between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, to be broadcast this spring. Only those with invitations will be privy to the reception and the following banquet. It is appropriate that only those familiar with the hosts and who appreciate the significance of the celebration to the bride and groom, would be given a RSVP invitation to attend.

Most people enjoy attending and observing moments of nuptial bliss, where a bride and groom embark upon the journey of a new life together, not expecting to see reality show dramatics nor royal pomp and circumstance in the event. We all can imagine the various elements involved in a wedding ceremony and the celebration that followed the exchange of vows, where a couple embark upon a new life, united in both heart and spirit. The expectation of the invited is to witness a happy, joyful wedding and celebration afterward, which makes it is not surprising that Jesus used a wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, as a parable of to illustrate God`s covenant for dealing with our sinful nature through Jesus, and to illustrate the gospel of Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV):

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

  

 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’  And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” 

The parables of our Lord Jesus are earthly stories meant to explain heavenly truths. Each person or object is symbolic of someone or something else. Understanding the symbolism is crucial to discovering the lesson of the parable. This is entirely consistent with literal, historical, grammatical interpretation, since the passage is clearly described as a parable, and in fact gaining the theological impact of this parable requires such an understanding. In fact, Jesus best explains His purpose for using the parable in Matthew 13:10-17 (ESV):

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:                                                             

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Back to the lessons from The Parable of the Wedding Feast, the servants sent out to announce the wedding are ignored by some, as were the first disciples who share the good news about Jesus have been ignored. But the Lord is patient and does not want us to rashly reject the gift of salvation, so he sends out more servants, or more disciples, with His invitation. But we see that there are those who choose not only to reject the invitation, but choose to kill those bearing His message. This represents those who have imprisoned, or humiliated, or even killed God`s disciples. But, the King, will kill the murders and destroy their city.

In the Wedding Feast Parable, the King represents God the Father; His Son is our Lord Jesus.  The Invited guests represent Israel and the servants He sent symbolize the prophets and disciples. The city the king had his troops burn because the people invited not only refused to attend, but has killed the king’s servants, represents a defiant Jerusalem.

We find further clarification of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Mark`s gospel, in Chapter 2:18-20 (ESV):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

God has prepared a banquet with His son Jesus the bridegroom and His bride is the church, being the body of believers, not the mortar and brick. Some say those He then sent His servants out to invite represent the church, which can contain both good and bad believers. However, the symbolism and timing are wrong. The Church is the Bride of Christ, not a group of last minute substitute guests. Since Israel had already refused their invitation, and the Church (being the bride) would not need an invitation, so who are the guests in the parable and what else are we to take from the lesson?

The wedding garment, worn by the guests represents His righteousness. This is a concept explained on numerous occasions in both Old and New Testaments.

The fact that a guest is thrown out into the darkness for not wearing  proper wedding attire indicates these last minute guests have to be clothed in “garments of salvation” to publicly identify themselves as believers.

The parable makes it clear that there is no reason, none at all, for people to reject a gracious invitation from the King to come to the wedding feast and enjoy all good things. The only reason they reject the invitation is that they do not believe the King, or they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Since this is a call from the King or from God, the people are not free to take it or leave it, even if they think they can be non-committal. To reject the invitation from God to share in His Kingdom is folly, it is choosing death, as it not only constitutes a rejection of God’s offer of grace, and it is a rejection of His only provision for eternal life.

The poorly dressed guest might also be considered one of those who profess to be followers of Christ when in the company of other believers, but who hide their light under a bushel when in the presence of non-believers. This brings us to the next Scripture verse for this morning`s message, Romans 1:16 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The wedding garment not worn by the guest who is removed from the banquet in Our Wedding Banquet Parable has another interesting aspect, which is represented by what the guest chose to wear to the banquet.

First century Jewish wedding customs held that the father of the groom was in charge of the event and bore all the expense associated with the wedding and reception. In case of royalty or the very wealthy this often included providing a specially made garment to be worn over a guest’s regular clothing. This wedding garment was presented to the guest upon arrival and donned immediately. Wearing it wasn’t mandatory, but was considered a great insult to the Father of the groom if refused and could get a guest ejected from the festivities. In case of large gatherings it also served as identification to discourage uninvited guests from crashing the party.

The guests gathered by the servants for the wedding represent both the good and the bad. That is they represent either those who repent their sins, or those who have not. The guest who accepted the invitation, calling themselves righteous, while claiming to be entitled to His mercy. However, it takes more than just words to claim redemption.

The wedding guest not properly dressed for the banquet is like the person who claims to be a child of God, but his thoughts and actions reveal whether or not his actions matched the words. This is like the expression: you may talk the talk, but did you walk the walk.  There are many so called Christians whose focus and service is performed in the name of the Lord, but their true focus is self-promotion. While they may fool some into believing that they are serving the Lord, God knows that they are only seeking to benefit themselves. Unfortunately, for them, at the Lord`s Banquet, their actions and our motives become visible, like their outer garments. Those who are not servants of the Lord will be judged. Those who were not sincere in their faith practices will be bound and ejected from Heaven. Not all who have been invited will be allowed to stay.

From the beginning of time, God has given humanity a choice. The rags worn by the guest are not unlike that worn by all humanity because of sin. Adam and Eve in an attempt to conceal their sin of disobeying God in the garden felt ashamed and chose to wear fig leaves and loin cloths in an attempt to conceal their guilt from Him. Let us read about this in Genesis 3:7-10 (ESV):

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[a] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[b] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:8 Hebrew wind b. Genesis 3:9 In Hebrew you is singular in verses 9 and 11

God saw Adam and Eve had known sin because they had eaten the forbidden fruit, which caused them to want to hide their nakedness, so God made them garments to wear, not to conceal their sin, but as a reminder of their sin, as described in Genesis 3:21 (ESV):

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

When the Day of Judgement comes, and no one knows the day, only those clothed in righteous will not have their sins exposed, Revelation 16:15 (ESV):

 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

What do we mean when we talk keeping the garments of righteous? Where do these garments come from? We may find our answer in Galatians 3:27 (ESV):

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Like the Wedding Banquet Parable, those who accept God’s gift of salvation, by believing His Son, Jesus died for our sins, so that we may accept the Holy Spirit, and wear new garments of righteous, discarding filthy garments of sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve, and exchange them for pure vestments, free of iniquity, Zechariah 3:3-4 (ESV):

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

Let us discard our rags of sin and accept the gift of the new wedding garment and wear it to celebrate the fact that we were not only we called by Him, but celebrate that He chose us as guests to His banquet. We only need to RSVP his invitation.

Let us pray…

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

Closing Hymn #210: Here, O My Lord, I See Thee

Benediction – (1 John 1:6-7): If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  – Amen