The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’

© January 14, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on October 26, 2014

BLCF Bulletin January 14, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                              

Opening Hymn # 248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Lover – from John 3 and 1 John 4);

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                              

‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’

Bloor Lansdowne - BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Praise and Worship service today at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where our lesson for today is entitled: ‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’. And before we delve into the lesson, I would like to share our own miracle of the cross here at BLCF.

It was at a BLCF picnic in the back of the church at St. Helens several years ago, that the congregation decided to invite the Bloor Lansdowne Community to a simple barbeque/picnic, featuring hot dogs and corn on the cob.

Since we had a small Hibachi grill, it was decided to cook the hot dogs outside and boil the corn inside the church kitchen. I was running the barbeque in the front driveway so as to catch the attention of passersby with a sign posted as an invitation to join the picnic posted above my station.

As I cooked the hot dogs, a group of four or five young people passed by, where one having read our sign commented: “What kind of place is this?” To which another replied: “I think it is a church.”

When I heard their comments, I realized that the church signage consisted of a front marquee sign and another on the east wall, outside of the prayer room, both mounted high above eye level, making the signs all but invisible to pedestrians walking on the sidewalk in front of the building. The church had a small cross, composed of white bricks embedded in the red brick wall located high above the front facade of the church. No wonder many people were unaware that we were a church. The lights inside the marquee sign had stopped working several years before.

Later, intrigued about the cross, I went to the roof and found an old five foot cross made of plywood with faded white paint sitting upon the roof. It looked as if the weather and wind had caused the cross to fall some years before, with the lag bolts pulling free from the peak of the front wall.

Here is where our little miracle occurred…

As I pondered whether the cross might be repaired, restored and mounted back on the roof, we received an interesting message from the daughter of one of the members of our congregation, who had passed away two years before. It seemed that a nearby church had closed and the property sold. The new owners intended to convert the building to lofts. Part of the conversion included the removal of the large twelve foot silver cross mounted on the front of the building.

It seems that the young lady noticed the cross was placed in a scrap bin. She convinced the contractor to give her the cross, indicating that she knew of a church that needed a cross. When she contacted me, she asked: “Could use a new cross?”

My reply was an emphatic ”Yes, though I was not sure how to arrange delivery of a twelve foot cross, let alone how we would mount it on the building. I did not tell her that the church at the time had funds for neither.

I was informed that in memory of her mother, she wanted to hire a contractor to deliver and mount the cross, all at her expense and that we not reveal her name.

When I received the dimensions, I measure the wall and from examining recent photos of the building, I had determined that it would fit perfectly above the front doors, between the double arches that framed the front doorway.

The contractors has asked whether we wanted the small white cross formed by white bricks embedded in the wall to be painted red so that the new cross would be the only cross above the front entrance. I told them to leave the cross as is, and asked that the small white window arch behind the new cross be painted red to match the rest of the brickwork of the front wall.

I marveled how the Lord had provided a solution to the need to replace the old cross, before I had even raised the need to him. And the solution that the Lord provided was far better than what I had imagined. The Lord was going to ensure that people in the community knew without a doubt that BLCF is a place of worship. The Lord recognized the need for a new cross. He provided both the cross, as well as the means to install it, before we had a chance to pray for it.

I wonder how many times God provides for His children, before the need is raised. And how many times does the Lord provide for a need before it is even recognized. This was not the first time God has provided in a miraculous way for need at BLCF.

By-the-way, I did manage to repair, stain, and mount the old BLCF cross and mount it on the wall behind the risers where Terry Sywanyk performs at our Community Dinner beside the “kNOw JESUS kNOw PEACE” sign.

It may surprise you to find out that the cross has not always been a symbol of the Christian Church. Let us check our Wikibits for the history of the cross:

The Christian Cross

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

A Latin cross

The Christian Cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus, is the best-known symbol of Christianity. It is related to the crucifix (a cross that includes a usually three-dimensional representation of Jesus’ body) and to the more general family of cross symbols.

In contemporary Christianity, the cross is a symbol of the atonement and reminds Christians of God’s love in sacrificing his own son for humanity. It represents Jesus’ victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through his death and resurrection he conquered death itself.

See Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.

The cross is often shown in different shapes and sizes, in many different styles. It may be used in personal jewelry, or used on top of church buildings. It is shown both empty and in crucifix form, that is, with a figure of Christ, often referred to as the corpus (Latin for “body”), affixed to it. Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran depictions of the cross are often crucifixes, in order to emphasize that it is Jesus that is important, rather than the cross in isolation. Large crucifixes are a prominent feature of some Lutheran churches, as illustrated in the article Rood. However, some other Protestant traditions depict the cross without the corpus, interpreting this form as an indication of belief in the resurrection rather than as representing the interval between the death and the resurrection of Jesus.

Crosses are a prominent feature of Christian cemeteries, either carved on gravestones or as sculpted stelas. Because of this, planting small crosses is sometimes used in countries of Christian culture to mark the site of fatal accidents, or to protest alleged deaths.

In Catholic countries, crosses are often erected on the peaks of prominent mountains, such as the Zugspitze or Mount Royal, so as to be visible over the entire surrounding area.

Patriarchal cross

Also called an archiepiscopal cross or a crux gemina. A double cross, with the two crossbars near the top. The upper one is shorter, representing the plaque nailed to Jesus’ cross. Similar to the Cross of Lorraine, though in the original version of the latter, the bottom arm is lower. The Eastern Orthodox cross adds a slanted bar near the foot.

Cross (disambiguation)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cross consists of two lines or bars, intersecting each other at a 90° angle and dividing one or both of the lines in half.

Cross or to cross may also refer to:

Religion

  • Cross necklace, a necklace worn by adherents of the Christian religion

Object

  • Cross (crown), the decoration located at the highest level of a crown
  • A cross with a human body affixed is referred to as a crucifix
  • High cross, early Medieval free-standing Christian cross made of stone and often richly decorated

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_(disambiguation)

The cross as a symbol in the Christian Church may refer to either an object or a motion with the hand or fingers did not come into practice in the Christian Church until the third or fourth century A.D.

Members of the early Christian church would often use a fish, represented by two intersecting arches as a symbol to represent Christian faith.

Some churches avoid having a cross in their place of worship, fearing that the cross may be treated not as an icon or symbol but worshiped as an idol. In the same manner, many evangelical churches avoid having statues for the same fear that they will be prayed to and worshiped as idols.

There are some denominations who feel the cross may offend church attendees as a symbol of torture and death. I think that if you sanitize what happened to Jesus on the cross you run the risk of diminishing the impact of the resurrection! The fact that our Lord, Christ Jesus instructed all disciples to remember his sacrifice by way of the Communion observance indicates that we should not hide what the cross represents, his death and sacrifice for our sins.

While the cross or crucifix does remind us that Christ suffered and died for the sins of humanity, without the resurrection Christ’s death would have only made him a martyr. It is only after Jesus was resurrected from the grave and following the Holy Spirit’s arrival on the Day of Pentecost, did the Christian Church come into being, as a proof of Christ’s Lordship with the fulfillment of the prophecy found in the Scriptures, as we read in Isaiah 53:5-6 (ESV):

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

 he was crushed for our iniquities;

 upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Is it wrong to have a symbol such as the cross as a reminder of the sacrifice of the cross? I believe that Jesus felt it was useful to have visual cues to help remind us of the price that he paid for our salvation. We find that the holes left by being nailed to the cross, and by the Centurion’s spear to his side, helped Jesus demonstrate his supernatural victory over death to the disciples, including Thomas who was absent at his first appearance but arrived eight days later, John 20:19-31 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book

Word made flesh

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

The signs of the wounds Jesus showed his disciples helped them to understand both the suffering he endured and the supernatural victory Christ achieved over death by his resurrection. Interestingly, though Jesus had the wounds from the cross, he now was able to pass through the locked door of the upper room. Having showed the disciples his wounds, Jesus breathed onto them the breath of the Holy Spirit, to help them go forth in his place, no longer disciples, but apostles of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus death on the cross had removed the debts from sin, Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV):

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

The cross is a symbol, not just of the suffering and death that Jesus experienced, but reminds us that while we are called to follow the Lord and may suffer for our faith, we have the assurance that the judgment for our sins has been born by the Lord, 1 Peter 2:20-24 (ESV):

20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Just as the cross acts as a reminder to Christians of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, our faith in the Lord is made perfect, not just because he endured the cross, but the holes in his hands and side act as a reminder to God the Father in heaven, as Jesus sits at the right hand side of the throne of God. Our faith is made perfect through Jesus, Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV):

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus revealed his hands and side to the disciples, it was not so that they would dwell upon his wounds upon the cross. The intent was to give encouragement and hope in the victory of his resurrection. And we read that is exactly what took place, John 20:19-20 (ESV):

 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  

The disciples were glad when they saw the marks of the crucifixion. Let us , therefore view the cross not as an instrument of torture and death of Christ, but as a symbol for our own hope in his resurrection and be encouraged in the truth of his promise to all believers of their own resurrection on the day Christ returns.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn Closing Hymn # 236: On a Hill far Away

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):   May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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Abounding in a Hope, Gifted from the Father, Delivered by the Son, and Renewed in the Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church               Message for Sunday:

Abounding in a Hope, Gifted from the Father, Delivered by the Son, and Renewed in the Spirit’

© December 3, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 3, 2017

 Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                Opening Hymn #313: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less; Choruses    Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings      Responsive Reading #610: (Christ in Prophecy – Isaiah 11 and 42, Jeremiah 23, Malachi)                                                               Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                              Abounding in a Hope, Gifted from the Father, Delivered by the Son, and Renewed in the Spirit’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service on this, the first Sunday of December, which is both a Communion Sunday and the first Sunday of Advent.

This Sunday, is the first Sunday, where we lit a candle for the beginning of Advent. Advent occurs during the period, beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. The candle lit today is designated as the Candle of Hope. But what do we mean by hope? Let us check with one online dictionary’s definition of ‘hope’:

Hope – noun (Online dictionary) 

  1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

“he looked through her belongings in the hope of coming across some information”

synonyms: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, design, plan
  1.  archaic a feeling of trust.

For the Christian believer, our hope is synonymous with trust, as we see in our Wikibits:

 Christian Hope: An excerpt article: Hope (virtue)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hope is one of the three theological virtues of the Christian religion,[48] alongside faith and love.[49] “Hope” in the Holy Bible means “a strong and confident expectation” of future reward (see Titus 1:2). In modern terms, hope is akin to trust and a confident expectation”.[50] Paul the Apostle argued that hope was a source of salvation for Christians: “For in hope we have been saved…if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it”[50] (see Romans 8:25).

According to the Holman Bible Dictionary, hope is a “[t]rustful expectation…the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance.[51]In The Pilgrim’s Progress, it is Hopeful who comforts Christian in Doubting Castle; while conversely at the entrance to Dante’s Hell were the words, “Lay down all hope, you that go in by me”.[52]

This brings us to our Scripture Verses, which when examined closely, show that the trust we have changes, as God implements His plan for the salvation of humanity from its judgement for sin. For some eight hundred years, the Children of Israel waited patiently for the advent of the Christ or Messiah, promised by God, Who spoke through the prophets, as we read in Psalm 71:4-6 (ESV)

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
    my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
    you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.

To those who waited in anticipation of the arrival of the Messiah, they had maintained a trust and patience for nearly 800 years, from the time of the first prophecy, to the day that he was born. We should remember over that the Jewish People would often exhibit an impatience having to wait on the Lord. You may recall how they lost patience with their leader, Moses, with their expectation for the Lord to provide them with water. Instead of impatience, they should have demonstrated more hope, trusting that God would provide for their needs in His time.

The Psalmist, best described the nature of the trust expected by the Father, in verse 5 of Psalm 71:

For you, O Lord, are my hope,
   my trust, O Lord, from my youth.

God expects to continuously demonstrate our faith and trust in Him, not solely at the time we expect an answer from Him. He does not provide us with ‘miracles on demand’.

We do see that after Jesus brings us the gift of salvation, by way of his sacrifice on the cross, the hopes of believers change from a faith in the arrival of our Messiah to a trust in the Lord’s gifts of salvation and resurrection to an eternal life, as we read in 1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV):

Born Again to a Living Hope

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.

While the People of Israel placed their hope, their trust, in the advent of the birth of Christ, Christians we place our hope, our trust, the gifts Christ has provided, sanctification and the Holy Spirit, as well as what the Lord promised, our own resurrection on the Day Christ returns.

The Lord’s New Covenant will be completed on the Day of Judgement, when Jesus returns. Until that day, we are to place our hope, our trust, focusing on what is Holy, which what is promised us on the day our Lord returns, 1 Peter 1:13 (ESV):

Called to Be Holy

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[a] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.                

Footnotes: a. 1 Peter 1:13 Greek girding up the loins of your mind        

We are fortunate that while we are expected to keep our hope in the fact that our resurrection has been granted through Christ, and we are expected not only to observe the Lord’s sacrifice regularly by way of Holy Communion, in anticipation of His return, but to do honoring Him with a spirit of joy and peace. We are expected, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to trust the Lord, by following His example, as we see in Romans 15:1-13 (ESV):

The Example of Christ

15 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Christ the Hope of Jews and Gentiles

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
    and sing to your name.”

10 And again it is said,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and let all the peoples extol him.”

12 And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

The best way to share the Gospel of Jesus is to allow the light of the Lord shine through us, so that we may bring hope to those who live in darkness, absent of the Holy Spirit, missing that joy and peace which comes only by faith in Christ Jesus.

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (The Last Supper – Mark 14)

Closing Hymn #308: My Hope Is in the Lord

Benediction (Romans 15:13):

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  

Three Steps in the Christian’s Walk: Faith, Confidence and Assurance

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 Three Steps in the Christian’s Walk: Faith, Confidence and Assurance

© May 21, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 21, 2017

 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #193: Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #636: The Holy Spirit Promised (John 14 and John 16)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     

Three Steps in the Christian’s Walk: Faith, Confidence and Assurance’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service here in the heart of Toronto at BLCF.

Our lesson today is entitled: Three Steps in the Christian’s Walk: Faith, Confidence and Assurance’, where we will look at the three steps of Spiritual transformation Christians experience, as they undertake to walk with the Lord.

The first step is the decision to accept that Jesus died for the sake of humanity, in order to remove the judgment we all face for our sins.

Simply put: everybody has sinned and face the penalty of paying for those sins with their lives, as we read in today’s first Scripture passage, Galatians 3:22 (ESV):

22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Jesus allowed himself to be judged for our sins and to pay the penalty for them with his life. However, being the Son of God, Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, establishing a New Covenant with God. And as believers in Christ’s Resurrection, we are elevated to become Ministers of the New Covenant, as we see in our next Scripture, 2 Corinthians 3:1-4 (ESV):

Ministers of the New Covenant

 3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our[a] hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.[b]

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.

Footnotes: a. 2 Corinthians 3:2 Some manuscripts your b. 2 Corinthians 3:3 Greek fleshly hearts

Christ’s resurrection gives us the assurance that: not only are we are forgiven for our sins, we now, by our faith, become living testaments for the Lord. That same faith described in Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And this assurance or confidence by faith in the Resurrection of the Lord brings to us His blessing, John 20:29 (ESV):

29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Along with the Lord’s blessing for faith, we have the promise of our own resurrection and we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who was granted to all believers after Jesus ascended up to heaven.

The reason why Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit is explained in John 16:4-15 (ESV):

The Work of the Holy Spirit

 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

 “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

It is this assurance in the promise in Christ, which is God’s New Covenant that we are to share as our testament of the Good News or Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

To recapitulate the ‘three steps in the Christian’s walk’ are:

  1. Faith – that God loves you so much, that he sent Jesus, his only Son to die for your judgment and reconcile you to Him. A relationship that Adam and Eve had lost through sin has been restored once and for all through Jesus.
  2. Confidence – that  Jesus was raised by the Holy Spirit from the dead and walked for a time on the earth both as a proof of his identity as part of the Triune, God’s Holy Trinity, and show the promise of God’s New Covenant to those who have faith in Him.
  3. Assurance – in the promise from Jesus, that on that appointed day, our Lord will return to raise his flock of believers to his eternal kingdom and to judge those who have denied and rejected him, by word or deed.

In conclusion, your walk throughout eternity begins with the Lord three important steps; or to coin a phrase based on philosopher Lao Tzu’s well known proverb, ‘the journey of a thousand miles towards eternity begins with but three steps.’

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is mine

Benediction – (Romans 15:13): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor’

© March 26 17, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on Sunday January 27, 2010

BLCF Bulletin March 26, 2017

 Announcements and Call to Worship:

Opening Prayer: Matthew 6:9-14

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,                                                                   
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,                                                                                       12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,                                                                                       but deliver us from evil.

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

Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know; Choruses

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

Opening Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know

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

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome, again, to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Sunday Praise and Worship service, in the heart of Toronto. An important part of a believer’s praise and worship is setting aside part of your day for prayer. In order to sense God’s presence, it is helpful to make that prayer time in the quiet of the day. Often that time is either early in the morning or late at night, when it is quiet and free from distractions.  At times of particular need or concern, for oneself or for others, is another good time to converse with the Lord through prayer. And of course, don’t forget to praise Him at times of victory and to thank Him for answered prayer.

For the Mickelson family, prayer time came at the end of the day, at the very least. Sophie and I started this tradition after we were married, and carried it on with our children. With the kids, the prayer would be a time to remember everyone in the family, and to remember those in the extended family, as well as prayer concerns for our friends. Often, prayer time included reading from the bible. I am happy to see that my eldest child, Athena, now married with three children of her own carries on the tradition of prayer before bed.

The Scriptures indicate that for Jesus, the preferred time for prayer was the evening, in a quiet place, such as a mountain top or in a garden. In this morning’s scripture, in Luke 9, we see that Jesus went up on a mountain to pray.

On one occasion, the Scriptures record that Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, John and James, to pray on a mountain.  It was on this mountain, which many scholars believe to be Mount Tabor, an event described in Luke 9:27-36, that the three disciples bore witness to something more than just the Lord at prayer:

Luke 9:27-36 (ESV)

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,[a] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;[b] listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Footnotes: a. Luke 9:31 Greek exodus b. Luke 9:35 Some manuscripts my Beloved

Jesus brought along with him Peter, James and John, where it is described verse 32 that the three became “heavy with sleep”. The scriptures do not say why they started to become drowsy. You might speculate that it was from the exertion of climbing the mount. A similar thing happened to those who joined Jesus when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his crucifixion. I believe part of it may be the effect of being in God’s presence. Needless to say, the three awoke to see that Jesus’ appearance had changed: both his face and clothing were transfigured, and he seemed to be floating among the clouds. And Jesus was observed talking with Moses and Elijah.

Transfigured is an interesting word. It is the English translation from the Greek Scriptures of “metamorpho” meaning to transform, literally or figuratively, to metamorphose, or to change. It is a verb and therefore means to change into another form. Christ’s death and resurrection is often symbolized by the butterfly, which changes or metamorphosis’s in a chrysalis from a larva, then to a pupa, and then ending as a butterfly. These changes are similar to Christ began in human form before crucifixion, then as the Resurrected Christ and finally, as the Ascended Christ.

What a sight that must have been to behold! And then to actually hear the voice of God stating: “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”

It is interesting to note that God appears to make this statement as a response to Peter’s impulsive suggestion that the three disciples should build three tents in honour of Jesus, Moses and Elijah. If you go back to verse 27, you will see that perhaps God’s words were spoken, not as a reaction to the comment by the disciple about building temples. More likely, God spoke in agreement with the statement made by Jesus, as we see recorded in John 9:27“But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

This is not the first time that the disciples struggled to comprehend the meaning and significance of a miracle of Jesus that they had just witnessed. For what they had observed was a glimpse of the glory of Heaven that Jesus alluded to in Luke 9, verse 27.

This miracle, like that where Jesus walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee, was another of the rare miracles in the Gospels, where Jesus was the object of the miracle.

Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration to be “the greatest miracle” in that it complemented the baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.

Another instance in the Scriptures of God speaking occurred just after Jesus was baptized, where the Father spoke from Heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased.” For Jesus, this was his own personal Pentecost, where the power of the Holy Spirit came upon him.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is significant in that we have an account of the promise of Heaven and the Resurrected life. By contrast Christ’s baptism, the Holy Spirit is observed afterwards descending, “like a dove”, upon him. This passage of Scripture recorded in Matthew 3:16-17, we have a presentation of the trinity of God, God’s voice in Heaven, Jesus the son’s baptism, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. All three are distinct, and each being the presence of God.

There is a third account in the New Testament, where a voice speaks from Heaven, which occurs during the conversion of Paul, known formerly as Saul of Tarsus. That account is given in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9, verses 1-7, when Saul of Tarsus hears the Son of God ask “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Saul, whose job was to arrest the followers of Christ, asks who is speaking? To which Jesus replies “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” indicating that an offence against a believer of Christ is considered to be an offence against Christ. Jesus then instructs him to “rise and enter the city” and that he would be told what to do.

The significance of this passage is how God convicts non-believers of faith, and how even the most stubborn of non-believers can be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Paul, sometimes referred to as the thirteenth Apostle, had his conversion after Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is interesting that before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was a member of the religious order which had Jesus put to death, and stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the followers of Christ.

Going back to Luke 9 and the Transfiguration, one may question why John, James and Peter, were privy to this Heavenly vision of seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus regarding his impending departure in Jerusalem. By departure, we are talking about the crucifixion as the Chosen One.

Though Jesus died for our sins, to redeem believers, so that they may become righteous and be acceptable unto God. All of the disciples, save John, died violent deaths because of their beliefs and their sharing of the miracles that Jesus performed, the most important being his resurrection, his ascension and his gifting of the Holy Spirit. James was put to death by a sword, by order of King Herod. Peter, being a Roman citizen was not crucified; instead he was beheaded in Rome, at the order of Nero. John, the first of the twelve disciples to follow Jesus, and the last to die, did not die a violent death. The Apostle John did live long enough to see Jesus, as well as the eleven disciples, including his brother, James, die violently because of their beliefs.

The disciple’s individual faith may have wavered at one time or another,  each disciple, save for Judas Iscariot, was put to death in a violent manner, because of the conviction of the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is Christ’s Gospel.

Further support to the notion is found in Luke 9 verse 27, “some standing here will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God” referring to Peter, James and John, the three who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who later acknowledged having seen the Kingdom of Heaven.

For Peter, we read in 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV):

 16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

It seems quite clear that Peter refers to the Transfiguration on the mount as a view of the majesty of the arisen Christ and the voice of God in Heaven.

With John, we read another acknowledgement of glory in the Transfiguration:

John 1:14 (ESV)

14And 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.

Most scholars of the Bible agree that in the vision of the Transfiguration of Jesus, that Moses represents the Laws or the Sacred Scriptures of God, as Moses had authored five of the book of the Old Testament, and he delivered God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people. Elijah represents the Prophets of God. Jesus represents both the authority of God, and fulfillment of both the Word and the Prophets.

The account of Jesus’ baptism records the presence of the Trinity of God. The Trinity is observed again in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus, the son, was observed with Moses and Elijah. God’s presence is found when His words were heard. And the cloud that appears represents the presence of the Holy Spirit.

You may ask: Why were Peter, James and John were selected to witness Jesus’ Transfiguration?  Many scholars view that while Moses and Elijah represent God’s Faith in the Prophets and the Laws that preceded Jesus. The three disciples represent aspects of God’s Faith after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension: Peter represents the Faith of the Church, James represents Hope of love (i.e. loving one’s neighbor as oneself), and John represents the application of Charity in the good works of man. Together, we have a symbolic representation of the Trinity the faith in the Holy Spirit, the Hope through the Salvation of Christ, and the Charity of God our Father in heaven who provided a means that we might be sanctified in spite of our sinful nature.

As often occurs in the Gospel accounts, the apostles while witnessing a miracle of Jesus, lose track of its significance. You may recall in a previous message about the miracle where Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, following the feeding of the multitude, also known as the “Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes”. The disciples had yet to conclude that this supernatural miracle not only proved that Jesus had the power of God, but that Christ was God.

Only after Jesus easily walked across a stormy sea, against which the disciples had struggled for hours, did he perform the miracle whereby Peter with Jesus treaded water, so long as he had his eyes fixed on Jesus. When Peter does take his gaze from Jesus, and looks upon the sea, he sinks. Jesus performs yet another miracle by raising Peter out of the water: “Oh ye of little faith!”

Eventually, Jesus boards the boat containing the disciples and calms the stormy weather, and transports the boat, according to John’s Gospel, instantaneously across the water. It takes a series of supernatural miracles before the twelve finally acknowledge that Jesus is truly the son of God.

Like the people of Israel who kept losing the faith, while being led from Pharaoh’s Egypt, through the desert, to the Promised Land, the disciples kept forgetting who they were following. Perhaps this was the real purpose of the excursion that Jesus made with Peter, John and James on Mount Tabor:  to remind the disciples that they were following the Son of God. In one account of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the three disciples not to tell anyone what they have seen until three days after His crucifixion.

As believers in the Gospel, what can you and I take home from the message of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor? There are four key points to today’s lesson:

First, we have hope, through our faith, just as Jesus was transfigured into another form in Heaven,  we, too, will be resurrected to heave, by faith in the resurrected Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Second, just like the disciples, in spite of lapses in judgment and though we may continue to sin, if we continue to confess our sins, God will forgive our sins and by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, God has a place for us in Heave. “Though we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sin.”

And third, in spite of our inequities, Christ does not give up on us. As many times as it takes, he will patiently take us to the holy places, to remind us that “He will never leave or forsake us!”

Finally, as was observed earlier in today’s message, as Christ was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, and then be reborn, in spirit and transfigured into a new, that on this earth, as believers we may be transfigured through faith in the Word and the promise of the salvation of the lamb, Jesus. We, too, may have the same vision that what we do on this world in the name of Jesus has the promise and power to transfigure us into a creature that is Holy and Sanctified. However, since Jesus has already died and arisen on the third day, there is no expectation of death’s darkness and silence, but an expectation that we may share the promise of having a new body, transfigured by faith in the fulfillment of Word, now made flesh in Jesus our Savior.

The Scriptures, through the disciples’ accounts of their observation of the   Transfiguration of Jesus, give believers a glimpse of the glorious afterlife we may expect to see when we are resurrected on the day Christ returns in his glory. This will be a day when we will sing, along with the angels of Heaven praises of hallelujah to the glory of the Lord.

The Day that Jesus returns in all of his glory will be a day of judgment; a day of deliverance; a day of our transfiguration.

Until that glorious day that we, as resurrected, transfigured believers are united with the Lord, we ae commissioned by our faith to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus that he died to make us holy and believing the truth of his message will set others free.

Let me finish today’s message by reading from Transfigured by Jay C. Treat, as a prayer (found on the back of today’s Bulletin):

(Dear God in Heaven)

We went up the mountain with Jesus,    

but quite unprepared for surprise.

We never expected to see him    

transform right in front of our eyes!

His face was as bright as the sunlight;    

his clothes were as bright as the skies.

He talked with Elijah and Moses,    

who stood right in front of our eyes.

We thought we could build them three temples:    

one shrine for the giver of laws,

and one for Elijah the prophet,    

and one for this master of ours.

A bright cloud then covered the mountain.    

A Voice echoed deep from within,

Said, “This is my son, my beloved one!    

He pleases me! Listen to him!”

We came down the mountain with Jesus,    

now ready for any surprise.

We’re ready to listen and follow    

and change right in front of his eyes                                                                        

(In name of Jesus we pray – AMEN)

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #522: Battle Hymn of The Republic

Benediction – (Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Anticipating the Return of Christ

BLCF: animated_magi-starstargraphic

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Return of Christ

© January 1, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin-January-1-2017

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #645: Christian Conduct (Galatians 5 and 6); Prayer      

Opening Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!   

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

Scripture Verses: Matthew 2:1-15, Jeremiah 23:16, 1 Peter 2:1-11

BLCF: events-surrounding-Jesus-birth

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s first Sunday Praise and Worship Service for 2017, which happens to be Communion Sunday.

BLCF: happy-new-year-2015

That said, I would like to wish everyone in the congregation, a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2017, blessed by our loving Lord.

BLCF: Noah-Movie

Over the holidays, I watched a documentary on Noah’s Ark which began by stating that since the people of Israel did not have a written language, they adopted a Cuneiform language adapted from that used by the Babylonians. While Daniel and others were captives of Babylon, they were taught Babylonian. The show takes a leap to an ancient scroll written in that same language, apparently by a student regarding a Great Flood, where a Babylonian was inspired to build a great ark which contained two of every available animal. In other words, Daniel or some other scribe apparently took the Great Flood story from his Babylonian teachers so that it ended in the Book of Genesis.

The documentary jumped to India, where another individual had a team both engineering and building an enlarged Babylonian vessel, but according to the build of materials described by Noah used in Genesis.

It seems strange that credit for the ark described in the Scriptures was taken away from Noah and given to an unknown Babylonian, and yet the linguist does not deny whether or not there was a flood. It seems that he is more determined to show an inclination to believe that a Great Flood did occur and ark was built by a Babylonian implying that Noah was a fictional character created in a Jewish retelling of a Babylonian historical event. Even Hollywood attempts to change the Bible’s account of Noah and the ark.

Regardless of whether the ark was built by Noah or some Babylonian, the “giant elephant in the room” is an acknowledgement that an ark was built, populated by the last of humanity and large assortment of animals.

We may conclude from either the Genesis account or the Babylonian scroll, that a Great Flood took place destroying all life and humanity, save for those who survived the deluge inside a giant Ark built especially for that purpose.

Considering the fact that the people of Babylon attempted to elevate themselves to God and heaven, by building a tower, (sounds like when Adam and Eve were temped by the devil to acquire the knowledge and understanding of God by eating forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge), I would be more inclined to accept  Holy Scripture over a Babylonian student’s notes inscribed on a scroll.

Both the Babylonians and the People of Israel, (as the rest of humanity), can trace their lineage to Noah’s sons, who survived the Great Flood aboard the ark, as described in Genesis 9:18-19 (ESV):

Noah’s Descendants

BLCF: the-bible-genesis-9_18-19

 18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.[a]

Footnotes: a. Genesis 9:19 Or from these the whole earth was populated

BLCF: Noah

What impressed me with this documentary was the author by giving credit to a Babylonian over Noah based on an ancient scroll he ignores an array of alternate explanations.

While the Cuneiform language used by the Babylonians may predate the Hebrew language used to write Genesis, the Babylonian account could have been dictated by a Jew to a Babylonian scribe, where the latter changed the name of the main character from Noah to some Babylonian, rather than the other way around. If the Jew who dictated the Noah account could not read Babylonian, he would have no way of knowing that his account had been altered.

BLCF: Know-Christ-Know-Christmas

Unfortunately, this Noah documentary seems to be one of the numerous documentaries that crop up every Christmas and Easter, filmed with the sole intention to debunk the existence of God, his son Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, and therefore negate that the Bible is the inspired Word.

Today’s Bible lesson, Anticipating the Return of Christ , and today’s Communion observance, will give the opportunity to celebrate the promise of the birth of Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy,  the Nativity of Jesus, completing one Advent and our Lord’s return, the Advent that Christians observe.

The tough part of challenging the birth of Jesus  associated with the Magi, is  the fact that in this account Jesus’ birth is expected by Magi who come from other nations and are not of the People of Israel. Such is the case in the account described in Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV), entitled:

 The Visit of the Wise Men

BLCF: wisemen_and_star

 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

BLCF: 3-wise-men-visit-jesus-and-flight-to-egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 716 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

BLCF: King-Herod-and-Magi

King Herod, like some rulers today are so insecure of their own authority that they resort to extreme measures such as genocide to removed perceived threats. Herod’s mistake was a lack of faith in manifestation of prophecies from the mouth of only true God.

Whether listening to false prophets or defying the Word of God, there is a great danger the body and soul of those who seek in vain to change the visions that come from God, a warning expressed in Jeremiah 23:16 (ESV);

BLCF: danger-false-prophets

16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.

But what motivates King Herod, as well as all the false prophets today, who seek to displace God’s visions with their own self-serving theologies? We get some idea of the answer to this question and how to keep God at the centre of our faith in 1 Peter 2:1-11 (ESV):

 A Living Stone and a Holy People

BLCF: beware-false-teachers-1-peter-2_1-11

 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”[a]

and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.                                                          

Footnotes: a. 1 Peter 2:7 Greek the head of the corner

BLCF: Martin-luther

The Holy Spirit helps us to recognize and to understand God’s word which is testimony of His only Son, Jesus, John 3:31-36 (ESV):

BLCF: from-above

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Let us pray…

BLCF: communion-sermons

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

 Closing Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding

 Benediction – (Romans 15:13): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF:faith-trust-hope

Anticipating the Company of Christ

BLCF: Jesus_and_Mary_manger_by_bnw-cross

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Company of Christ 

© December 25, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin-December-25-2016

BLCF: Wishing-You-A-Blessed-Peaceful-Christmas-animated

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Lighting the Christ Candle – (Galatians 4:1-6): 

                                      BLCF: animation_candle_flame-free                                                                  

4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

BLCF; Nativity

Responsive Reading #627: The Savior’s Advent (Luke 2); Prayer                                                             

Opening Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Carols (Hymnal)                                              

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

Scripture Verses: Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 1:18-25  

                                                                            

       Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

BLCF: Mary-Nativity

 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

 

 Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) The Birth of Jesus Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Christmas 2011

 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.                                  

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

BLCF: Christ-candle

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church on this Christmas Sunday, where we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Messiah to become the final sacrifice for the sins of humanity and to bring the Divine light to world as  is symbolized by lighting the Christ Candle today.

While the main focus of Christmas seems to be the birth of our Lord and Savior, there is much more to consider about Jesus’ arrival.

God’s plan was to send His Son, Jesus, to be born of a woman, Mary. So Jesus had a lineage traced back to Jesse, the father of King David and to God, our King in heaven.

Though Jesus was the ‘Son of God’, he would often refer to himself, humbly as the ‘son of man’. And as the son of man, he sought to be baptized before receiving the Holy Spirit and beginning his ministry, which we read in Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV):

Jesus is Baptized

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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.”    

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

A few days ago, Sophie and I received word that a good friend of ours, who happens to be a brother in Christ, was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis does not look very promising. Which brings us to the conundrum we face as Christians: ‘Why’?

Sure, we know that our bodies have an expiration date and one day we will be called home by our Maker, but skeptics and those with little faith may ask: ‘Why not ask God to bring a healing and restoration of full health to our friend’?

While we have anointed friends who suffer from afflictions at BLCF Church and even had our faithful petitions answered by God, there are times when healing is not part of God’s plan. We must also be cautious that our requests are not putting God to the test, as was the perception of when the devil tested Jesus after the Lord was baptized in the Spirit, as described in Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV):

 Jesus is Tested

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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.’”

While you may recall that the shepherds and angels joyfully celebrated the birth of Jesus, our Lord faced a grim prognosis for himself, as we see in Matthew 27:45-50 (ESV):

The Death of Jesus

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 45 Now from the sixth hour[a] there was darkness over all the land[b] until the ninth hour.[c] 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.                                        

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:45 That is, noon b. Matthew 27:45 Or earth c. Matthew 27:45 That is, 3 p.m.

God could have intervened and prevented the death of His only Son. But this was not part of our Father’s Divine Plan, as Jesus was totally abandoned by his Father, and our Lord met his gruesome, painful death without comfort from his loving Father, which is the only way Christ could assume humanity’s judgment for their sins.

But now we get to the part of Christ’s Gospel which had caused the angels to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Not only did Jesus remove the scourge of sin and the judgement of death, which he took upon himself to die as the son of man, Christ proved that he was the Son of God, by his resurrection from death. Jesus returned not as a proof of his own Divinity, but with an assignment and a promise to his disciples, described in Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV):

 The Great Commission

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

Footnotes: a. Matthew 28:19 Or into

The proof of the love and commitment of Jesus was first confirmed on the Day of Pentecost, which we find on the Scripture Passage found in Acts 2:1-4  (ESV):

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

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When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.                                                                                                                      

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

So I would like to conclude our Christmas Lesson today, to remind you that Jesus could not have fulfilled God’s Plan for salvation without being born as the son of a woman and by being the Son of God. Christ defeated the devil, restored humanity’s place as Children of God, which we see in the same passage that I read as we lit the Christ Candle at the beginning of today’s service, Galatians 4:1-6 (ESV):

Sons and Heirs

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I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles[b] of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”                        

Footnotes: a. Galatians 4:1 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface; also verse 7 b. Galatians 4:3 Or elemental spirits; also verse 9

Though Jesus came as an infant, the son of a woman, he raised by a women, he took our place to be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a judgment of death for sins of which he was innocent.

Though he was convicted, jesus died on the cross, and was buried, the Son of God, he arose from the grave, which demonstrated his Divinity.

In spite of his treatment and sacrifice, Jesus proved his love and Lordship by ascending to sit beside the Father, to be our advocate in heaven and gift us with the Holy Spirit of God. Thus our Lord is granting us the company of His Spirit forever. What a blessing!

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Benediction – (Romans 15:13): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

holy-spirit-teaches

Anticipating the Joy of Christ

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Joy of Christ

© December 11, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

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joy-banner

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #631:                        Incarnate Christ (John 1); Prayer                                                              

Lighting Third Advent Candle (Joy) – Hebrews 12:1-2

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

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12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee                                                                    

Hymn #106: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing   

Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel                                                                     

Hymn #103: O Come, All Ye Faithful                                                                  

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

Today’s Scriptures: Luke 2:7-20, Luke 15:7, Luke 10:21-24, John 16:16-24     

BLCF: Good News of Great Joy

Let us pray…

Before I begin our lesson today, by acknowledging some thirty or so volunteers from Wednesday’s BLCF Café Community Dinner who attended last Friday’s Volunteer Appreciation Potluck Dinner. It is great to have an opportunity to recognize the hours of dedicated service spent serving the least of our brothers and sisters.

I would to remind the BLCF Congregation of our own Church Potluck Luncheon, next Sunday afternoon following the Worship Service. We hope that you are able to attend.

Our lesson for this the third Sunday of Advent is entitled: ‘Anticipating the Joy of Christ’, where the world anticipated the joy that arrived with the birth of the Christ Child, Jesus, as we read in the first of today’s Scripture passages, Luke 2:7-20 (ESV), where one of a host of angels of the Lord shares the news with the shepherds:

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

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And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[
a]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

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The shepherds and the angels account found in Luke 2 does remind me of another passage about joy among those in heaven, 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.

I find it interesting that all of heaven, including God’s angels celebrate, when a sinner accepts the gift of Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lord the Lord explained at the conclusion of his ‘Parable of the Lost Sheep’.

I think it is fair to conclude that the Heavenly Host broke into song at the birth of the Christ child, because they knew that Jesus came to fulfill Gods’ desire to demonstrate His love and desire for reconciliation Himself and all people, of their sins and the promise of a New Covenant for all who have faith and trust in His Divine plan. Thus sinners who repent receive His forgiveness, because He loves us, John 3:16 (ESV), because:

For God So Loved the World

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16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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

And with the birth of Jesus, let us reflect upon the message of joy from the angels witnessed by the shepherds. God gave us, through His only son Jesus, a path to reconciliation and salvation leading to humanity’s joy as represented the third Advent Candle lit at the beginning of our service today.

Jesus finds joy with those who find knowledge and understanding of God’s will and purpose, as we read in our next Scripture passage, Luke 10:21-24 (ESV):

Jesus Rejoices in the Father’s Will

'The Joy found in Christ's Friendship' (John 15:11)

‘The Joy found in Christ’s Friendship’ (John 15:11)

21 In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 22 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 10:21 Or for so it pleased you well

Through Jesus, the sorrows suffered by humanity will turn into joy, which is told in today’s third Scripture passage, John 16:16-24 (ESV):

 Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

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16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

God’s joy and humanity’s joy are both made complete when we accept and believe in His message of salvation through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son, our Lord, Jesus. We find this Word of Life on the front of today’s BLCF Bulletin, found in 1 John 1:1-4 (ESV);

The Word of Life

BLCF: Word became flesh

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

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

This Christmas, let us not only remember the joy associated with the birth of the Christ Child, but honor the Lord’s gifts of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life, through Jesus which truly completes our joy.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #120: Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

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