God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’

 © October 28, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared with BLCF Church, on June 12, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June 12, 2016

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                       

Opening Hymn #199: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #594: God’s Commandments (-from Exodus 20 and Matthew 22)                                                                                                                     

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                  ‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

Let us pray…

There is a challenge to the Christian Church today, especially as completing Christ’s Gospel, unto the ends of the earth. It can be a challenge to demonstrate to other people who dwell in a tangible world, the reality of a God who may seem to have an intangible existence.

But before we begin today’s lesson: ‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’, let us check a definition of terms used within today’s lesson. The first is from dictionary.com:

Tangible – 1580-90; < Late Latin tangibilis, equivalent to Latin tang (ere) to touch + -ibilis -ible

adjective

  1. capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.
  2. real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of sunshine.
  3. definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.
  4. (of an asset) having actual physical existence, as real estate or chattels, and therefore capable of being assigned a value in monetary terms.

noun

  1. something tangible, especially a tangible asset.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/tangible

intangible

adjective

  1. not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; impalpable.
  2. not definite or clear to the mind: intangible arguments.
  3. (of an asset) existing only in connection with something else, as the goodwill of a business.

noun

  1. something intangible, especially an intangible asset: Intangibles are hard to value.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intangible

For bookkeepers and accountants, who must balance ledgers and deal with assets that are either tangible or intangible. Sometimes the intangible assets are called goodwill assets. The interesting aspect of a tangible asset is that it depreciates each year so that after several years, the tangible asset no longer has any book value. By contrast, intangible assets hold their value and very often grow in value over time. Consider the trademark for McDonald’s Restaurants, the double arches. The value of this intangible asset is far more valuable today than when the trademark was first adopted:

Q: What is the difference between goodwill and tangible assets?

By Investopedia | January 8, 2015 — 2:11 AM EST

A: Companies can own two type of assets: tangible and intangible. Tangible assets are assets that take physical form. These are made up of fixed assets, such as buildings, vehicles and machinery. They are also composed of current assets, which include cash and inventory. Goodwill is a form of intangible asset, along with the likes of contracts and patents. Although an intangible asset does not have a physical form, it still provides value to the company. Tangible assets are far easier to liquidate than intangible assets; machinery and buildings have a secondary market.

Goodwill is created as the result of the purchase of one company by another at a premium. It represents the difference between the price paid by the purchaser and the target company’s book value. It reflects the premium paid for a company’s reputation, technology, brands and other less tangible attributes.

Given that goodwill arises as a residual portion of the purchase price, it cannot be measured directly. It can be independently appraised on assumptions based on the excess value of the business being purchased.

For tangible assets, if there is an anticipated useful life of more than one year, then there is a requirement for the assets’ worth to be depreciated over their useful lives. Prior to 2001, accounting rules required goodwill to be amortized over a period of up to 40 years. However, in 2001, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an accounting pronouncement that ended automatic amortization of goodwill. As a result, goodwill is now measured annually to determine whether there has been an impairment loss. If there is no impairment, goodwill can remain on a company’s balance sheet indefinitely.

http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/010815/what-difference-between-goodwill-and-tangible-assets.asp

Thinking of the phrase “Peace on Earth to men of goodwill” makes me consider how the growth of believers or the faith of Christians, that is the growth of this goodwill or intangible aspect of Christ’s Gospel message, adopted by members of Christ’s Church, which continues to accumulate and grow over time, unaffected by the rules of depreciation that occur if these assets were tangible in nature.

We know that there is the promise, that where two or more are gathered in the Lord’s name, then He is there in Spirit. I believe this call indicates that two or more people are gathered together in His name, then He will be there in the Spirit, indicates how the Spirit rewards those believers who gather and call on the Lord, as we find in BLCF at each Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service, as well at Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study, and at other functions of BLCF Church. By definition, the Church is comprised of the believers who assemble together in this space.

Often non-believers, and some believers – remember Thomas, the disciple, seek tangible proof of the Gospel of Jesus, including Christ’s resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

It could be argued that radio and television broadcasts, though enriching to the viewers, may find that the Spirit is not present to the viewers, as viewers are not gathered with each other physically in the virtual reality of a televised setting. What a televised or radio church service lacks is the interaction or dialog between the viewers and those gathered at the broadcast. The same issue occurs when one views a church service recorded on DVD, digital file, or streamed on the internet. While viewing a broadcast or recorded church gathering may be inspiring, the viewers are technically not assembled or gathered at the place where the broadcast originates.

Then there is the problem of the time delay of the broadcast. Even a so-called “live” telecast may be delayed some seconds or minutes to the viewers. Some broadcasts are recorded and broadcasted some hours, days, months or years later. It is possible that the minister and parts of the congregation may have passed away and have been called home to the Lord, which means that while the viewer may think that he or she is participating in a “live’ service with other living participants; the others only exist in image format.

Let us not get off on a tangent, which an expression that had its roots in mathematics, to describe a situation where we lose touch with the substance of our discussion. Let us look at our first Scripture passage, from  Jeremiah 2:1-22,  where the people of Israel forsake God, to worship tangible idols and non-existent gods such as Baal:

  Jeremiah 2:1-22 (ESV): Israel Forsakes the Lord

2 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 

 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord.”

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.                                                                                                                   

The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’  Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds[a] transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.

“Therefore I still contend with you, declares the Lord, and with your children’s children I will contend.10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing. 11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,13 for my people have committed two evils:                                                                                                                 

they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant? Why then has he become a prey? 15 The lions have roared against him; they have roared loudly. They have made his land a waste; his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved[b] the crown of your head. 17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way?

18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?[c] 19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts.

20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.

21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? 22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.

Footnotes: a. Jeremiah 2:8 Or rulers b. Jeremiah 2:16 Hebrew grazed c. Jeremiah 2:18 Hebrew the River

The Gospel of Christ is filled with intangibles such as love, faith, hope, sin, guilt, worship, prayer, forgiveness, sanctification and God’s Covenants. Then there are some of the tangible aspects of Jesus which include: the crucifixion, the Scriptures, providing for the needs of the poor, the partaking of the elements of communion.

Now there is a third category, which I would like to  describe as physical or tangible expressions of our intangible God: the miracles, including the Word, Made Flesh, the Resurrection of Christ, the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit to every believer, as well our promised resurrection and eternal life with the Lord.

Hebrews 12:18-29 (ESV): A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 12:23 Or church

The Kingdom of God is not of this world and therefore not subject to the destruction that occurs to structures and other tangibles, today.

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV): The Great Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the 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. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Of all the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses for the People of Israel, the two that Jesus spoke about describe an intangible aspect of our relationship with God and our neighbor, which is love. Love is not subject to worldly influences. The other Eight Commandments deal with property, and physical tangible aspects of our relationships, which makes them of lesser importance than how we deal with our God and neighbor. If we apply love to any or all of the Ten Commandments, we would expect a positive outcome in our relationship with God, except for the issue of sin.

Sin inhibits our ability to successfully adhere to or follow the Ten Commandments. In this regard, all of us fail and fall short of God’s glory. However, God loved us so much, that He gave us His only Son, Jesus as a propitiation for sin. While Jesus’ sacrifice does not eliminate sin, it takes away the judgment of death for sin. In place of death of the death penalty, God makes provision for the final sacrifice by way of Jesus’ death on the cross. And the resurrected Christ, who ascended to heaven leads to the gifting of the companion of the Holy Spirit. We see that each stage of salvation and reconciliation has a tangible and intangible aspect. Christ was born,  he ministers, then died, was resurrected from death and ascended to heaven, all are tangibles. And all of these aspects of Christ’s Gospel are impossible without the intangible Godly attributes of love, compassion, faith, hope, and the Spirit’s influence.

John 1:14 (ESV): Word Made Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #374: Take Thou Our Minds, Dear Lord

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.

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The Awakening of the Prodigal

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

© June 17, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 17, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #49:  A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #659: ‘First Things First’ (Matthew 6 and 16)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

Let us pray…

Good morning and a happy Father’s Day to the dads who are in the BLCF Church congregation today, as we also celebrate the Day of our Father in heaven.

BLCF Church Sunday June 19,2011

For the lesson this morning, we will examine The Parable of the Prodigal Son, as recorded in Luke 15:11-22. But before we look at Luke’s Gospel, let us read a warning written to the Church in Sardis, to give us an insight to the story of the Prodigal Son, from Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV):

To the Church in Sardis

 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Biblegateway.com gives the following Commentary on the Message to Sardis, which helps us with what is perhaps the most damaging and urgent warning that was issued to a church in the Book of Revelations.

The Message to Sardis (Biblegateway.com Commentary)

The message to Sardis lists no specific enemies, internal or external. There is no name calling–no liars, no Balaam or Jezebel, no deep secrets of Satan, no synagogue of Satan, no throne of Satan. Consequently, of all the congregations in Asia, we know least about Sardis and its problems. Yet no other message is more damaging or more urgent than this one.

Too often, when we encounter no spiritual adversaries, it is because we are the enemy. The only enemy named at Sardis is the angel to whom the message is addressed.

Sardis was situated almost directly south of Thyatira, in the direction of Smyrna and the sea. Its greatest days were behind it, but this once proud capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia (later the western capital of the Persian Empire) was still, under Roman rule, an important center of the woolen industry. Abundant archaeological remains include a temple to Artemis, a huge gymnasium and the largest synagogue yet found in the ancient world, suggesting a Jewish community numbering in the thousands (Finegan 1981:177-78). A sermon of Melito, a Christian bishop at Sardis, entitled On the Passover (see Hawthorne 1975:147-75), testifies to a spirited, sometimes bitter, debate with this Jewish community in the second century. Yet as far as we are told, the problem of the congregation in John’s time was not with the Jews, nor with the Roman Empire, nor with false prophecy, but solely with itself.

Clean, white clothing in the book of Revelation is consistently a symbol of religious and moral purity, especially in the face of persecution (see 3:18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13), while soiled or disheveled clothing, or no clothing at all, is a symbol of religious and moral impurity and shame (see 3:17-18; 16:15). It is likely that the problem at Sardis was a strong tendency to compromise Christian faith for the sake of conformity to social and cultural standards set by Asian society and the Roman Empire. This spirit of compromise was linked not to one particular faction in the Christian community (as at Pergamum and Thyatira) but to the majority. The ones who had not soiled their clothes had become marginalized. They were the small faction. This explains the severe tone of the message, but it is impossible to be more specific as to the exact nature of the compromises made at Sardis.

 https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Rev/Message-Sardis

While we contemplate the warning to Sardis, I would like to point out a key part of the Revelation 3 warning, found in Verses 2 to 4, where the members of the church are accused of sleeping or have “closed eyes” towards being faithful in completing their assigned task of living witness and sharing, in word and deed, the Message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus:

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

Sardis is admonished to wake up, complete their tasks, and to not only remember the Message of the Gospel but adhere to their part of the New Covenant and to repent. If the people in the church of Sardis do wake up, they will face severe consequences.

With the Message to Sardis fresh in our minds, let us now read from Luke 15:11-22 (ESV), where a son who is blinded to the love and provisions from his father, and in the process becomes a prodigal, by squandering his inheritance:

The Parable of the 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.

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

Definition of prodigal (adjective)

1characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure lavish 

  • prodigalfeast 
  • prodigaloutlays for her clothes

2recklessly spendthrift 

  • the prodigalprince

3yielding abundantly luxuriant often used with of

  • nature has been so prodigalof her bounty
  • —H. T. Buckle

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prodigal

In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells the story of an impatient, ungrateful son who demands to receive from his father his share of an inheritance before the death of his father. The father agrees to give the young son the share of the property to be given to the son and the son’s older brother, in advance of the Father’s death. Usually, a son has to earn an inheritance

Rather than acknowledging the gift, the son journeys from his father to a far-off country and squanders away all of the inheritance. A famine falls upon the land leaving the son destitute and desperate for food and the necessities of life, that he hires himself to feed pigs. Not only were pigs considered to be an unclean food, but feeding pigs would be considered the most undesirable of occupations.

It is while the son, who is starving, contemplates eating the pods that he is feeding to the pigs, wakens to the fact that his father feeds his servants better than what he is providing for himself.

The son then returns to his father to confess his sins against God and his father, asking for forgiveness and offering to work as a servant to his father.

The father feels compassion to his son and demonstrates the joy of his return by having a celebration feast and restoring the son by having him clothed in the best robe, giving him a ring and shoes.

The obvious lesson learned from Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son is that believers who have chosen to leave their Lord and faith practices, not unlike the members of the church in Sardis, are not forgotten or without hope. We see in the Parable which is the third in series that addresses the subject of “finding what has been lost”. The other two Parables deal with a lost sheep and a lost coin, respectively.

Another interpretation of The Prodigal Son is, as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven, sin has forced us away from Him, leaving us dying and destitute spiritually. However, we are offered the gift of full forgiveness and restitution of the inheritance lost by Adam and Eve when they abandoned their Father by eating the forbidden fruit in Garden of Eden.

By humbly confessing our sins, we are promised to be reunited with our Father in heaven forever, restored by the sacrifice made by His Son, Jesus for our behalf.

Like The Prodigal Son, we deserve His disdain, but God loves us. His greatest desire is for sinners to awaken to our Lord’s soft and tender calling to return home and to be reunited with our Father in heaven. On that day, there will be a great celebration of unbounded joy, Luke 15:7 (ESV):

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.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #266: Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling

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 the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Does God Allow Suffering In The World and Why God Allowed Good Things Happen To Bad People?

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

© September 24, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 24, 2017

Based Upon a Message Originally Shared with BLCF on August 31, 2008

BLCF Bulletin August 31_08

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                     Opening Hymn #182: Marvelous Message We Bring; Choruses                      Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Responsive Reading #670: The Day of the Lord (from 2 Peter 3)                    Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

Let us pray…

I would like to begin today’s lesson by reading the headlines of a few recently posted news articles:

Harvey, Irma, Jose, And Now, Maria — Is The 2017 Hurricane Season The Worst One Yet?                                                                           https://www.dogonews.com/2017/9/23/harvey-irma-jose-and-now-maria-is-the-2017-hurricane-season-the-worst-one-yet

Floods kill over 1,200 in India, Nepal and Bangladesh                              http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/floods-kill-1200-india-nepal-bangladesh-170826230610924.html

Third earthquake hits Mexico in September, this time of magnitude 6.8 https://globalnews.ca/news/3764935/earthquake-mexico-magnitude-6-8/

Everybody knows of someone has personally suffered a personal tragedy that has caused us to question our faith. Perhaps they have suffered such tragedy in their own lives.

In fact our Lord personally suffered to the point of death on the cross and just before his death, Jesus asked a question often spoken by others in the wake of tragic circumstances, Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

So through his son, God has experienced some an example of the human suffering that happens in the world to innocent people. Jesus was innocent of any sin, yet he died a horrific death.

Suffering and pain was not brought to this world by God, but as a result of disobedience to God. In Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV), we read:

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

We know the consequences of the temptation by the serpent and the consequences of disobedience to God is the judgment of death. And that Jesus took upon himself the punishment of death so that we may be good or sanctified unto God, if by faith we accept the  gift of salvation.

This verse from Genesis 2:17, helps us understand the consequences of disobedience to God. But how do we reconcile tragedies which occur to an innocent person or someone who has strong faith in God?

You may remember the story of Joseph, a son favored by his father, but seemingly forsaken by his God. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph rose to a position where he could have measured revenge upon his family.

Instead, Joseph showed them compassion and was instrumental in saving the Jewish people at a time of famine. God had a plan for the Jewish nation and it was implemented after Joseph endured much suffering.

In 1997, I experienced job loss twice within a year: once when corporate downsizing by my employer ended a 17-year term of and again when a four-month contract ended .

In our society we often tend to mistakenly identify who we are with what we do. And if our job is lost due a corporate take-over, we may feel that we have no value if our job falls-victim to a corporations restructuring.

That year of my life, I found to be a time of personal challenge to both my confidence and my faith. At that time of challenge, I found myself revisiting the Book of Job, which gives the account of a man of faith who was tempted and challenged, though he never allowed his circumstances to diminish his faith in God, as we read in Job 1:1-12 (ESV):

Job’s Character and Wealth

1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed[a] God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Satan Allowed to Test Job

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Footnotes: a. Job 1:5 The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 b. Job 1:6 Hebrew the Accuser or the Adversary; so throughout chapters 1–2

Job was tempted over and over, by Satan. But Job never renounced his faith in God. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan and the Lord met the challenges with Scripture and the comfort of the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 3:16-4:17 (ESV)

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,     lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,     the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness     have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,     on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16  Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17  Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

After a year of searching for employment, a head-hunter found my resume, which led me to being hired at a job, perhaps one of the best I ever had. At the time I recall my father remarking: ‘Sometimes good things happen to good people.’ This comment spoke volumes to me, as dad had seen that through my suffering I was faithful to my God and, as had happened gto Job, He did not allow me to endure more than I could bear.

In the years to follow, I would again be personally challenged three more times again by corporate restructuring and down-sizing. However, each time I kept my faith and the Lord provided for my needs.

Harold Kushner authored a book which made popular the phrase my father quoted to me, as Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner observes in aish.com:

Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi, followed precisely such an approach in his best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Few “Jewish” books in recent decades have had a greater impact upon those dealing with life’s personal tragedies. Kushner is regularly cited, in both the Jewish and non-Jewish media, as an expert on suffering and a variety of other ethical issues.

 Kushner came to the topic of suffering through a terrible tragedy in his family: He and his wife lost a young son to a particularly perverse degenerative disease – premature aging syndrome. He has thus paid a heavy price for the right to talk about suffering. Though we shall be very critical of Kushner’s conclusions, nothing we say should be seen as a personal criticism of him, or an attempt to in any way diminish the awful suffering he had to bear. It would be contemptible to pass judgment on another’s experience of a tragedy of such magnitude.

If we are critical of Kushner’s ideas, ¡t is only because he has offered his views to the public as a consolation to those suffering emotional distress or pain and as an authentic Jewish response to the problem of suffering. As we shall see, they are neither.

While Kushner is in some sense a believer in God, his own faith was severely tested by the prolonged agony that he and his wife endured. He felt the need to construct a theory that would reconcile his tragedy with Judaism’s belief in God’s benevolence.

 He concluded that to maintain his belief in God he must reject either God’s benevolence or His omnipotence. He chose the latter course. God, in Kushner’s view, created the world and provides the foundation of moral principle. But He cannot quite control the world He created. He hopes for our good and He sympathizes, as it were, with us in our pain, but He is powerless to do anything about it.

 As to why a God Who had the power to create the entire universe in the first place would create one that He is powerless to control, Kushner basically shrugs his shoulders and contents himself with noting that the world is relatively good for most people most of the time. We might designate this theory as “randomness plus God.”

Unable to understand why a good God would allow individuals to suffer, Kushner ends by neatly defining the question away. He cannot even conceive of the possibility of any understanding, and so concludes that we have no answers because there are no answers. Much of what happens ¡s nothing more than random chance. Pain and tragedy are a necessary consequence of a world over which God does not exercise complete control.

http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/why_harold_kushner_is_wrong.html

This illustrates the great danger to Christians who are challenged by personal tragedy and give in to the temptation to feel that they are victims of overwhelming circumstances beyond their control and that God has no power or interest in intervening, as God is aware in tragic circumstances, but content in strictly observing them.

If this were true, God would have not likely created Adam and Eve and would have never intervened through the messages of the prophets and God would have never have chosen to give us Jesus, to die for our circumstances. And further, God would not have allowed Jesus to perform his miracles, the most noteworthy being his resurrection from the grave or the gift of the Holy Spirit. As far as bad things happening to good people, this only happened once and He volunteered! And the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for our salvation indicates that God, through His Son, Jesus, provides the means for good things (our salvation) to happen to bad people (sinners – all have sinned).

In his publication, I Wonder Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, posted on the site day1.org, the Reverend Charles D. Reeb comments on the experience of H.G. Spafford:

H.G. Spafford had the following experience. In 1873, his wife and four children sailed from New York to France on an ocean liner. Mr. Spafford was unable to make the voyage with his family because of business commitments in Chicago. He told them goodbye, promising to meet them in France in a few weeks.

At two o’clock on the morning of November 22, 1873, when the luxury liner was several days out, ¡t was hit by another liner. Within two hours, the ship sank. Nine days later when the survivors landed at Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband these two words, “Saved alone.” When he received her message, he quickly booked passage on a ship to Europe to join his wife. On the way over, the captain called him into his cabin and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where your family’s liner went down.”

Well, that night in the mid-Atlantic, filled with much pain and sorrow, Mr. Spafford wrote five stanzas, the first of which contained these lines:

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,                                                         

When sorrows like sea-billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul!”

And these words have been a part of one of the most popular hymns in the church today. Little did Spafford know that his words would give comfort to so many people.  God turned his scar into a star.

We can’t control the fact that bad things will happen to us. They just do, and one day we will find out why. But the one thing we can control is how we respond to the bad things that happen to us. We can get bitter or better! We can stay angry at life and at God and never move on, or we can give our pain to God and allow him to do something beautiful with it. Then we’ll be able to say with confidence:

 I will be untouched in the midst of fire

I will stand firm in the midst of a storm

I will not crack in the midst of chaos

I will not lose heart when the world is torn

I will not fear when the heat blazes

I will not fret when drought comes

I will bear fruit in the midst of all of it

I will march to a different drum

I will discover victory in tragedy

I will trust in El Shaddai

I will laugh in the face of death

I will wave evil and pain goodbye

http://day1.org/955-i_wonder_why_bad_things_happen_to_good_people

Going back to Jesus’ words, we the Lord cried in pain and anguish atop of the cross in Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This leads us to explore why does God allow bad things to happen to good people, or perhaps we should ponder why, through the salvation of Jesus, we should ask ourselves: Why God Allowed Good Things Happen To Bad People? Quite an interesting thought!

In conclusion, I suggest we consider when happens, when force is applied to an egg: if the egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. But if an egg is broken from the inside, life begins. And by faith in the sanctification and the gift of the Holy Spirit inside of us, our new life begins.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #328: Anywhere with Jesus I Can Safely Go

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.

God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

BLCF: God's Universe

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’

 © June 12, 2016, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 12, 2016

BLCF: in-tangible

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #594: God’s Commandments (-from Exodus 20 and Matthew 22); Prayer

Opening Hymn #199: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship; Choruses                                                                                                                                    

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

Scriptures: Jeremiah 2:1-22, Hebrews 12:18-29, Matthew 22:34-40

Let us pray…

There is a challenge to the Christian church today, especially as completing the Lord’s Great Commission of sharing Christ’s Gospel, unto the ends of the earth. Demonstrating to people who dwell in a tangible world, the reality of a God who may seem to have an intangible existence.

But before we begin today’s lesson, ‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’, let us check our Wiki bit sources for a definition of terms used within today’s lesson:

Tangible – 1580-90; < Late Latin tangibilis, equivalent to Latin tang (ere) to touch + -ibilis -ible

adjective

  1. capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.
  2. real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of sunshine.
  3. definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.
  4. (of an asset) having actual physical existence, as real estate or chattels, and therefore capable of being assigned a value in monetary terms.

noun

  1. something tangible, especially a tangible asset.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/tangible

intangible

adjective

1. not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; impalpable.

2. not definite or clear to the mind: intangible arguments.

3. (of an asset) existing only in connection with something else, as the goodwill of a business.

noun
  1. something intangible, especially an intangible asset: Intangibles are hard to value.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intangible

For bookkeepers and accountants, who must balance ledgers and deal with assets that are either tangible or intangible. Sometimes the intangible assets are called goodwill assets. The interesting aspect of a tangible asset is that it depreciates each year so that after several years, the tangible asset no longer has any book value. By contrast, intangible assets hold their value and very often grow in value over time. Consider the trademark for McDonald’s  Restaurants, the double arches. The value of this intangible asset is far more valuable today than when the trademark was first adopted:

Q: What is the difference between goodwill and tangible assets?

By Investopedia | January 8, 2015 — 2:11 AM EST

A: Companies can own two type of assets: tangible and intangible. Tangible assets are assets that take physical form. These are made up of fixed assets, such as buildings, vehicles and machinery. They are also composed of current assets, which include cash and inventory. Goodwill is a form of intangible asset, along with the likes of contracts and patents. Although an intangible asset does not have a physical form, it still provides value to the company. Tangible assets are far easier to liquidate than intangible assets; machinery and buildings have a secondary market.

Goodwill is created as the result of the purchase of one company by another at a premium. It represents the difference between the price paid by the purchaser and the target company’s book value. It reflects the premium paid for a company’s reputation, technology, brands and other less tangible attributes.

Given that goodwill arises as a residual portion of the purchase price, it cannot be measured directly. It can be independently appraised on assumptions based on the excess value of the business being purchased.

For tangible assets, if there is an anticipated useful life of more than one year, then there is a requirement for the assets’ worth to be depreciated over their useful lives. Prior to 2001, accounting rules required goodwill to be amortized over a period of up to 40 years. However, in 2001, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an accounting pronouncement that ended automatic amortization of goodwill. As a result, goodwill is now measured annually to determine whether there has been an impairment loss. If there is no impairment, goodwill can remain on a company’s balance sheet indefinitely.

http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/010815/what-difference-between-goodwill-and-tangible-assets.asp

Thinking of the phrase “Peace on Earth to men of goodwill” makes me consider how the growth of believers or the faith of Christians, that is the growth of this  goodwill or intangible aspect of Christ’s Gospel message adopted by members of Christ’s Church continues to accumulate and grow over time, unaffected by the rules of depreciation that occur if these assets were tangible in nature.

 

BLCF: make-the-intangible-tangible

We know that there is the promise, that where two or more are gathered in the Lord’s name, then He is there in Spirit. I believe this call indicates that two or more people are gathered together in His name, then He will be there in the Spirit, indicates how the Spirit rewards those believers who gather and call on the Lord, as we find in BLCF at each Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service, as well at Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study, as well as other functions of BLCF Church. By definition, the Church is comprised of the believers who assemble together in this space.

Often non-believers, and some believers – remember Thomas, the disciple, seek tangible proof of the Gospel of Jesus, including Christ’s resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

It could be argued that radio and television broadcasts, though enriching to the viewers, may find that the Spirit is not present to the viewers, as viewers are not gathered with each other physically in the virtual reality of a televised setting. What a televised or radio church service lacks is the interaction or dialog between the viewers and those gathered at the broadcast. The same issue occurs when one views a church service recorded on DVD, digital file, or streamed on the internet. While viewing a broadcast or recorded church gathering may be inspiring, the viewers are technically not assembled or gathered at the place where the broadcast originates.

Then there is the problem of the time delay of the broadcast. Even a so-called “live” telecast may be delayed some seconds or minutes to the viewers. Some broadcasts are recorded and broadcast some hours, days, months or years later. It is possible that the minister and parts of the congregation may have passed away and have been called home to the Lord, which means that while the viewer may think that he or she is participating in a “live’ service with other living participants; the others only exist in the image.

Let is not get off on a tangent, which an expression that had its roots in mathematics, to describe a situation where we lose touch with the substance of our discussion. Let us look at our first Scripture passage, from  Jeremiah 2:1-22,  where the people of Israel forsake God, to worship tangible idols and non-existent gods such as Baal:

 

  Jeremiah 2:1-22 (ESV) Israel Forsakes the Lord

BLCF: Jeremiah2_13

 

2 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 

 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord.”

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.                                                                                                                   

The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’  Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds[a] transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.

“Therefore I still contend with you, declares the Lord, and with your children’s children I will contend.10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing. 11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,13 for my people have committed two evils:                                                                                                                 

they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant? Why then has he become a prey? 15 The lions have roared against him; they have roared loudly. They have made his land a waste; his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved[b] the crown of your head. 17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God,  when he led you in the way?

18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?[c] 19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts.

20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.

21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? 22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.

Footnotes: a. Jeremiah 2:8 Or rulers b. Jeremiah 2:16 Hebrew grazed c. Jeremiah 2:18 Hebrew the River

 

BLCF: BelievingTheGospel_ChiselBlog

 

The Gospel of Christ is filled with intangibles such as love, faith, hope, sin, guilt, worship, prayer, forgiveness, sanctification and God’s Covenants. Then there are some of the tangible aspects of Jesus. which include: the crucifixion, the Scriptures, providing for the needs of the poor, partaking the elements of communion.

Now there is a third category, which I would like to  describe as physical or tangible expressions of our intangible God: the miracles, including the Word, made flesh, the resurrection of Christ, the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit to every believer, as well our promised resurrection and eternal life with the Lord.

Hebrews 12:18-29 (ESV) A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

BLCF: Hebrews 12_29

 

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 12:23 Or church

 

The Kingdom of God is not of this world and therefore not subject to destruction that occurs to structures and other tangibles, today.

 

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) The Great Commandment

BLCF: 2_Commandments

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the 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. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Of all the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses for the People of Israel, the two that Jesus spoke describe intangible aspects of our relationship with God and our neighbor, which is love. Love is not subject to worldly influences. The other Eight Commandments deal with property, and physical tangible aspects of our relationships, which makes them of lesser importance than how we deal with our God and neighbor. If we apply love to any or all of the Ten Commandments, we would expect a positive outcome in our relationship with God, except for the issue of sin.

Sin inhibits our ability to successfully adhere to or follow the Ten Commandments. In this regard, all of us fail and fall short of God’s glory. However, God loved us so much, that He gave us His only Son, Jesus as a propitiation for sin. While Jesus’ sacrifice does not eliminate sin, it takes away the judgment of death for sin. In place of death of the death penalty, God makes provision for the final sacrifice by way of Jesus’ death on the cross. And the resurrected Christ, who ascended to heaven leads to the gifting of the companion of the Holy Spirit. We see that each stage of salvation and reconciliation has a tangible and intangible aspect. Christ was born, ministers died, was resurrected from death and ascended to heaven, which is all tangibles. And all of these aspects of Christ’s Gospel are impossible without the intangible Godly attributes of love, compassion, faith, hope, and the Spirit’s influence.

 

John 1:14 (ESV) Word Made Flesh

BLCF: Word_made_flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #374: Take Thou Our Minds, Dear Lord

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.

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

 

Vessels of the Holy Spirit

BLCF: 2-corinthians-4_7

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’

© February 21, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF Church on May 12, 2013

BLCF Bulletin February 21, 2016

BLCF: Holy Work Earthen-Vessels

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 642 (Call to Consecration – from Romans 12); Prayer                

Hymn #513: In Christ There Is No East or West; Choruses                                  

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

Scriptures: John 9:1-7, Jeremiah 18:2-6, John 4:4-15, Proverbs 3:6                                                      

Opening Hymn #403: Walking in Sunlight All of My Journey

 

BLCF: earthen_vessels_with_heavenly_treasure

Let us pray…

As you may have surmised from today’s Scripture verses, our lesson today is on the common theme: of how God shapes, forms and molds the Christian believer, in much the same manner that a potter molds clay pottery. The transformation of a lump of earth or clay into something that has a useful purpose, which is symbolic as to how God transforms the believer from something that is of this world to a vessel that carries the Holy Spirit. That is why today’s message is entitled: ‘Vessels of the Holy Spirit’. In our first Scripture passage, we read how the apostle Paul utilizes this representation in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (ESV):

Treasure in Jars of Clay

BLCF: TREASURES IN JARS OF CLAY

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

In the Old Testament we see the same analogy in the Book of Isaiah 64:8 (ESV):                                                                                                           

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter;   we are all the work of your hand.

To make a vase or jar, a potter needs the following materials: clay, a potter’s wheel and a plan or purpose for the creation. But the clay must be of the right consistency and moisture content. Too dry, the clay won’t hold its form and will tend to crumble. The moisture provided for the clay in the scripture analogy represents the Holy Spirit, which allows the potter to work and shape the clay.

BLCF: jars of clay with precious content

Earthen clay is appropriate choice of illustration for the apostles and prophets, since we see that a similar material used by God to create Adam in Genesis 2:7 (ESV):

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

By itself, clay, earth or dust is inert, similar to the world when it was first created, without life and without form. Like a potter with clay, God formed the dust from the ground and breathed life into man’s nostrils, which transformed something dead and inert material into a living creature, a man.

But man and woman, both living creations of God are not just given life. They are also given a spirit, as we read in Job 10:8-12 (ESV):

Your hands fashioned and made me, and now you have destroyed me altogether. Remember that you have made me like clay; and will you return me to the dust? Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese? You clothed me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.

If you recall, it was the spirit of Job that allowed him to endure testing, hardship and pain in his life. And Job was given that spirit through his faith, trust and love for God.

Even the Psalmist acknowledges the soul’s sense of God’s plan and purpose for each person before their birth in Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV): 

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

The Scriptures give another, somewhat different, application of the earth being used to transform or change, in John 9:1-7 (ESV):

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

BLCF: John_9

 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

In the verses from John 9, the Lord spits on the ground to make clay, transforming it into mud, which is used to anoint a blind man’s eyes. But the mud has no immediate effect upon the blind man’s vision, until the man follows the directions of Jesus to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. By going and washing his eyes, the blind man demonstrates faith and obedience by following the Lord’s instructions and is rewarded with his sight. Many Jews believed that a person born blind is so afflicted because of a sin or transgression caused by that person or the person’s ancestors. In this case, it is difficult to imagine a newborn baby able to commit a sin at birth. By healing this blind man, Jesus shows us that those who are afflicted are entitled to the same grace and love as anyone else. It shows us that we must not blame or judge the afflicted or disabled as being so afflicted because of sin.

But for those who are guilty of sin, God, the potter, has the ability to repair or transform a broken or defective body into a new one, see Jeremiah 18:2-6 (ESV):  

“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

In other words, God has the desire and ability to restore a people, who are broken and ‘spoiled’ because of sin, into something better and new.

But how does God change someone spoiled by sin into someone new and sinless? We may find our answer in John’s account found in John 4:4-15 (ESV):

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

BLCF: Jesus&Samaritan_Woman_at_the_well

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.  And he had to pass through Samaria.  So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

In this passage, the living water John described is the Holy Spirit. But being creatures of free will and choice, we are given the choice between: to allowing our vessel, our souls, hearts and minds to be vessels filled with the living water of the Holy Spirit, by faith, or to staying vessels of the unholy world, destined to return to dust. Like in the account of the blind man, the Holy Spirit can only work its healing upon those who believe and are obedient to the Lord.

By contrast, those who challenge God’s power and authority, as did Adam, Eve, and Satan (in the guise of a serpent), in the Garden of Eden, failed to demonstrate either an understanding or acceptance of God’s will in their lives, which is the point of the clay analogy found in Isaiah 29:16 (ESV):

You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

Those who defy the Lord are denied the gift of the Spirit, Romans 12:2 (ESV):

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.

So it is not enough just to worship God, we must demonstrate a faith and trust in God that is both honest and true, John 4:24 (ESV): 

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

To further demonstrate that though we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam and Eve, like the blind man, we will be given the opportunity to choose the Way of Jesus, to accept God’s will in our lives and receive God’s Grace through the Holy Spirit, by faith and obedience to Christ, or to continue living a life unchanged and untouched by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we will not be judged based on the sins of our parents, but by our own choice between the way of sin and the Way of forgiveness through Christ Jesus, Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV):

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

By accepting the gift of salvation and grace, through our Lord Jesus, by confessing our sins, and following the Lord, we are forgiven our sins and receive the Holy Spirit, which will reshape us and guide us on the righteous path, Proverbs 3:6 (ESV): 

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Let us pray…

Hymn #403: Walking in Sunlight All of My Journey

Benediction: (Romans 12:1-2):

A Living Sacrifice

BLCF Living our values

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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: God transforms us

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