Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress  

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’

© February 25, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 25, 2018

Based on a Message Shared with BLCF Church on October 30, 2011

BLCF Bulletin October_30,_2011

Announcements & Call to Worship;r of Prayer Prayer

Opening Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God, Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #612: (The Lamb of God from Isaiah 53)                

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

Let us pray…

‘Do not forsake me, o my darling’ is the opening lyrics for the Western Classic movie High Noon, starring Gary Cooper who portrayed lawman Will Kane. On the day he gets married and hangs up his badge, Will Kane is told that a man he sent to prison years before, Frank Miller, is returning on the noon train to exact his revenge. Having initially decided to leave with his new spouse, Will decides he must go back and face Miller. However, when he seeks the help of the townspeople he had protected for so long, they turn their backs on him. It seems Kane may have to face Miller alone, as well as the rest of Miller’s gang, who are waiting for him at the train station. This is the story of a good lawman unwilling to violate his oath to uphold the law, even though the chances of his surviving his ordeal seem slim.

The movie deals with the universal question as why a person who seems to live his life as an upright and law-abiding citizen, seems to be rewarded for his efforts by being abandoned by the people he took an oath to protect, a moral issue found frequently in the works of Shakespeare and reprised by Sean Connery in the futuristic Science Fiction movie Outland. As we often see, art and literature imitate real life, which brings us to the plight of Job and Jesus when they were tested by the devil.

The Book of Job is considered by most Biblical scholars to be the oldest of the Scriptures and Job, the wealthiest man in his time. It documents the story of this faithful servant of God, who was tested to the point of death by Satan, as we see in Job 1:1-12:

                                                                 Job 1:1-12 (ESV)

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 God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan 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? 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. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 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.

You may recall that Job lost wealth, family and suffered personal afflictions. His friends told Job that the Lord was punishing him for some sin or transgression committed either by Job or a member of Job’s family. Even Job’s wife told her husband to forsake his trust in God, as Job’s wife suffered almost as much as Job did. Except for her health, she too lost everything: home, family, and possessions. Her attitude and response exactly matched the one Satan had set out to evoke from Job: to curse God and to blame Him for their misery. How ironic that Satan achieved his goal in Job’s sole surviving companion but not in Job himself.

Did Job’s wife realize that she had surrendered to Satan’s manipulative scheme? Did she feel her loss so great that she didn’t care that she was wrong? Or did she respond to her calamity merely in a fit of emotion, which later passed, taking her bitterness with it? We don’t know the answers to any of those questions. All we know is that she responded just as most people would have under the circumstances: she got angry at God and insisted that Job do the same.

We know that Job’s story ended in his being restored to health, wealth and in the family. But these questions arise: “for what reason did God have to allow Satan to test his obedient and faithful servant? Were the Lord and Satan involved in some idle chess game with Job as a pawn?  I believe that the Lord had several reasons for allowing Job to be tested by Satan.

Satan challenged God, indicating that Job’s faith was merely the result of the hedge the Lord has built around Job. The Lord allowed Satan to take away Job’s wealth and family, in short, to remove the so-called hedge that Satan had claimed was the reason for Job’s faith. The toughest part for Job was the fact that he had sensed to some degree that the Lord had distanced himself from a person who had demonstrated steadfast trust and faith in his God, (Job 23:3):

Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! 

David, too, had undergone a period of similar testing, and asked God, (Psalm 22:1):

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

And even though Satan, may have his way at times, the key to making it through the snares and traps Satan sets is to maintain our trust in the Lord, that He will rescue us from our predicament, (1 John 5:19):

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

And in Psalm 31:14-15, David maintains rediscovers his faith:

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

Not only, did Job and David go through tests, where at some point they had experienced a separation from God, Jesus too was left alone in his suffering on the cross at Calvary, (Matthew 27:46):

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? 

In order to feel the full weight of the punishment for our sins, Jesus had to be abandoned by God. Was this really necessary? We find the answer in Isaiah 53:4-6:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes 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.

The lesson taught by Job’s test by Satan was meant not only for our benefit, but a lesson to the other heavenly hosts (angels) present at the time Satan challenged the reason for God’s faith. It taught both the angels and us, that faith does not come from having worldly wealth, but a wealth of the Spirit. Remember, too, in John, that as soon as Jesus had received the Holy Spirit, he was tested by Satan in the desert. The reason why Jesus suffered, unlike Job, was to atone for our sins and to show us an example of obedience and faith to the Father in Heaven, ( 1 Peter 2:21-24):

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. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 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. 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.

While we demonstrate our faith and trust in the Lord, he offers in return, His Promise of Salvation and Sanctification by way of the suffering of Jesus on our behalf.

We see that Job was allowed to suffer, to teach us and the heavenly host where faith should be based, and how much faith is rewarded for our faith, by bringing us salvation and sanctification from the Lord. We are also given through Jesus, the promise of eternal life and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But what about suffering today, particularly amongst the innocent? Does God have a plan in that?

Paul Paraskevopoulos

Paul Paraskevopoulos

I have shared with some of you about my brother-in-law, Sophie’s brother, Paul, who passed away a few years ago after a short, unexpected illness. Paul was brain injured, having been run over by a truck in childhood. His injury left Paul with the intellectual capacity of an 8-year-old. Even though mentally and physically challenged and being confined to a wheelchair in the last decade of his life, Paul was generally a happy soul, enjoying many of the simpler things in life.

I recall a few years before Paul’s passing, both Sophie and I were called into the hospital in Oakville, as Paul had suffered from a combination of kidney and blood infection. The prognosis was poor, as Paul was not expected to survive the night. At this grim time, I had a concern about Paul’s faith walk: whether or not my brother-in-law had made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour? I knew Paul had attended church with his siblings and later some of the staff from West Park Hospital, as well as with staff from the group home in Oakville. My fears about Paul were dispelled when upon our arrival at Paul’s hospital room, as before either Sophie or I had a chance to say hello, Paul opened his eyes and spoke: “You know that Jesus is in my heart. I love Jesus.” I knew then that Paul was right with the Lord.

Paul Paraskevopoulos between Steve and Sophie Mickelson

Paul eventually recovered from that illness in 2008 but passed away in 2011 from a separate ailment a bacterial blood infection. Although he was not able to speak when we arrived in the hospital, we had assurance from Paul’s earlier testimony that he was still right with the Lord.

It was not until Paul’s funeral, that I had the opportunity to fully understand why Paul was allowed to suffer so much.  Our family was moved to see that some forty or so staff attended the attended the services. It was obvious that Paul had an impact upon this extended family, as staff members said Paul would love to sing, often reprising the hymn, ‘My God is able’ in acapella. Paul was loved and appreciated by his caregivers as much as by his family.

At Paul’s memorial, I shared some of the happier times we had with Paul, but also shared the story of Paul’s faith and testimony. At the cemetery, a staff member who had returned from her vacation to attend Paul’s funeral shared a story about how Paul was at get together which was recorded on video, where he had burst into a chorus of ’Onward Christian Soldiers’ for the camera. It was then I realized that members of the staff of the group home were aware of Paul’s faith, which he openly shared with them through song. Paul’s faith had also shone through his personality, and that many staff members had listened and learned from Paul’s testimony.  God had a plan and a purpose for Paul, as many members of the family and staff had learned through the simple childlike faith, of this child in a man’s body, how both the faith and the Holy Spirit enabled a believer to keep a happy, positive outlook in spite of a life of injury, suffering, and pain. The common lesson we may take from both Paul and from Job is: in spite of any sufferings endured in life, the Holy Spirit brings joy when faith in the Lord is maintained.  That faith provides the believer with an opportunity to give a testimony of his or her faith may explain why ‘bad things happen to good people’, (Isaiah 54:10):

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #224: How Firm a Foundation

Benediction (James 1:12):  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – Amen

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Thumbs Up and Thanks to Our TEAM of  Volunteers at the BLCF Café!

Thumbs Up and Thanks to Our TEAM of

 Volunteers

at the BLCF Café Community Dinner,

in the heart of Toronto! 

 

    

Thanks to all our dedicated volunteers who helped serve meals at the BLCF Café  throughout 2016 and into 2017 which is the 9th year that the BLCf Cafe has served Wednesday evening dinner to  100 or more homeless and marginalized guests in the heart of Toronto. 

 

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 BLCF Cafe #43

 

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BLCF Café needs volunteers to help feed the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto. If you or your group is interested in helping at the BLCF Café Community Dinner, contact Sophie at blcfcafe@yahoo.ca or 416-535-9578. Here is a link to our info brochure: BLCF Cafe Info Brochure

 

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Sophie and Steve Mickelson at Cup of Cold Water’s November 1, 2014 Fundraiser for BLCF Cafe

BLCF: Sophie & Steve Mickelson at COCW Fundraiser for BLCF Cafe

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Thank you to the amazing Steve Tsai for capturing these gems during our CD Release bash this past Saturday! What a great turn out and support you all gave for BLCF CAFE Community Dinner. SWEET!!! Thank you to all who support us near or far away. – Terry

Bluegrass Concert right in the Heart of Toronto at BLCF Saturday October 19, 2013

Bluegrass Concert  on Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7PM, featuring the talents of ‘A Cup of  Cold Water’ in an encore performance.

Suggested Admission $15. All proceeds go to BLCF Cafe  Community Dinner. BLCF Cafe operates every Wednesday evening between 6-8 PM and feeds over 150 homeless and marginalized  guests weekly, without any government funding or corporate sponsorship.


Enjoy ‘A Cup of Cold Water’ perform  Traditional Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel in the heart  of Toronto at:

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, 1307  Bloor Street West, Toronto, Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 7PM BLCF is located  just 1 block west of the Lansdowne Station, on the south side of Bloor Street.

BLCF: 416-535-9578  blcfcafe.blogspot.com

BLCF Church: volunteers the heart of the community

Can you imagine catering a dinner for 200 every week for almost 6 years? That is what Sophie Mickelson has done since January 2008. And that includes shopping for food, plates, cups and utensils; food prep; setting up tables and chairs;setting up the sound system;setting up the tables for 200 guests;preparing beverages urns of juice,coffee and tea for 200; preparing deserts;training volunteers; welcoming guests; and when its over cleaning the eating area, kitchen and bathrooms;taking down tables, chairs and sound system, closing and locking up the church. Sometimes there are volunteers to help, but when there are none, Sophie sees that the job is done. And the next Wednesday at BLCF CAFE Community Dinnerr Sophie starts all over again. The 200 dinner guests are not the social elite and high rollers, but the homeless and marginalized men, women and children in the heart of Toronto. Sophie does not seek praise or glory, but needs help feeding the vulnerable. You can help the cause by attending the Bluegrass Concert Fundraiser Saturday October 19 at  7PM. You CAN make a difference!

 

The Parables and the Miracles of the Ministry of Jesus Christ

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

Jesus performs the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

                                                                         

         The Parables and the Miracles of the Ministry of Jesus Christ’   

    ©September 22, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 22, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship:

 Responsive Reading 664: About Spiritual Gifts (1Corinthians 12); Prayer        Today’s Opening Hymn is #200: The Church’s One Foundation inspired from 1Corinthians 3:11(ESV): 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Let us pray…

IN THE HEART OF TORONTO

IN THE HEART OF TORONTO

Every Wednesday since January 2008, at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, we have been challenged to prepare for, serve to, minister upon, and clean-up after a gathering of to as many as 150 to 200 guests. Many of our volunteers, though attending post secondary schools are ESL students. That is to say that they grew up speaking another language and have volunteered at the cafe to hone their English skills as well as to serve a compassionate cause. I have observed some of the tricks used by Sophie to communicate how to run the dinner a complex set of activities in a short period of time.

George Brown volunteers with Sophie at the BLCF Cafe

George Brown volunteers with Sophie at the BLCF Cafe Community Diner in the heart of Toronto

 

Sophie will demonstrate of how we prepare to serve our guests, in what order, how to demonstrate friendship and respect, how to deal with unacceptable behaviour from guests, when to take breaks, what to do during the message portion of the dinner, when we serve dessert, how to avoid serving a guest twice before all guests have been served, and even how to serve the dinner. To avoid misunderstanding Sophie will demonstrate the process by example and often will pair experienced volunteers with new ones so that the new volunteers may observed and learn by following the example of their respective assigned partner. A simple, but effective approach to both acquainting new volunteers with the processes involved with the running the dinner, while forging a team bond among the dinner’s volunteers.

Prior to his crucifixion on the cross for our sins, Jesus ministered for some three and a half years.  Jesus was challenged with teaching matters of a spiritual nature to people who have yet to experience Pentecost and before they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit to understand God’s expectations and plans for His people.

To meet this challenge, Christ’s used a number of miracles and parables performed to reveal power of faith in the Holy Spirit and to help teach God’s expectations, promises and plans for His children. To emphasize God’s compassion for our needs and teach how He can overcome the seemingly impossible, He would perform a miracle. The miracles of Jesus are the supernatural deeds of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels.  A miracle, being supernatural by definition, is action which defies the laws and rules of nature and is beyond the abilities of the common person. The miracle demonstrates the fact that the power of the Lord exceeds the laws and rules of science and of the world. However, in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Jesus refuses to give a miraculous sign to prove his authority. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is said to have performed seven miraculous signs that characterize his ministry, from changing water into wine at the start of his ministry to raising Lazarus from the dead at the end. We find a good example in the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude in the gospel of Mark 6:30-44 (ESV) Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand:

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii[a] worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Footnote: a. Mark 6:37 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer

Miracle of Feeding the Multitude

Miracle of Feeding the Multitude

The miracle of the feeding of the multitude happened because Jesus felt compassion for the multitude who seemed like sheep without a shepherd and having taught the multitude with his sermon, Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes so that those who heard the word knew that it had come from the Father Who is both in heaven and in Christ.

Over the centuries Christian authors have reviewed, discussed and analyzed the miracles attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. In most cases, authors associate each miracle with specific teachings that reflect the message of Jesus. Miracles performed by Jesus are mentioned in two sections of the Quran (suras 3:49 and 5:110) in broad strokes with little detail or comment.

Christian authors also view the miracles of Jesus not merely as acts of power and omnipotence, but as works of love and mercy: they were performed not with a view to awe men by the feeling of omnipotence, but to show compassion for sinful and suffering humanity. And each miracle involves specific teachings.

Since according to the Gospel of Johnit was impossible to narrate all of the miracles performed by Jesus, the miracles presented in the Gospels were selected for a twofold reason: first as a manifestation of God’s glory, and then for their evidential value. Jesus referred to his “works” as evidences of his mission and his divinity, and in John 5:36 he declared that his miracles have greater evidential value than the testimony of John the Baptist. John 10:37-38 (ESV) quotes Jesus as follows:

37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

We see the miracles of helped teach us Jesus plan and the manner by which it would be achieved. While the miracles were self evident, the Lord, also made use of the Parable as a teaching aid to teach his purpose and plan. The parables of Jesus can be found in all the Canonical gospels as well as in some of the non-canonical gospels but are located mainly within the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke). They represent a key part of the teachings of Jesus, forming approximately one third of his recorded teachings. Jesus’ parables are seemingly simple and memorable stories, often with imagery, and each conveys a message. Scholars have commented that although these parables seem simple, the messages they convey are deep, and central to the teachings of Jesus. Christian authors view them not as mere similitude’s which serve the purpose of illustration, but as internal analogies where nature becomes a witness for the spiritual world.

Many of Jesus’ parables refer to simple everyday things, such as a woman baking bread (parable of the Leaven), a man knocking on his neighbor’s door at night (parable of the Friend at Night), or the aftermath of a roadside mugging (parable of the Good Samaritan); yet they deal with major religious themes, such as the growth of the Kingdom of God, the importance of prayer, and the meaning of love.

Still the disciples had a problem understanding the purpose of the Lord’s use of the parable. So Jesus explains why in the gospel of Matthew 13:10-16 The Purpose of the Parables:

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Now we return to our outreach ministry at Wednesday’s BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. To non-believing guests and volunteers, our actions of serving and fellowship are a living parable of the love and sacrifice of Christ. And by the miracle of the power of the Holy Spirit, those who accept our unconditional gift can relate to God’s unconditional love for His children. And this understanding through the power of the Holy Spirit helps non-believers understand and by Grace of the Spirit, accept by faith, God’s unconditional gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. And by conviction of the Holy Spirit, believers may preach and teach others the love of God by similar acts that are a living parable and testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit.

In that regard, Wednesday’s Community Dinner is regarded by many of our guests and volunteers as their church. For the church, God’s holy temple, is not the mortar, wood and bricks of this building at 1307 Bloor Street West, but rather the people who gather here to study His word, who sing and praise His name, to glorify God as a body of believers who are God’s holy temple: Ephesians 2:19-22:

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The church or temple of God is not a building that contains a body of worshipers, but rather it is the body of believers that contain the Holy Spirit. By sharing the gospel of Jesus in word, thought and deeds to others, we invite them to join His church and share grace of his gifts of salvation and the Holy Spirit through faith, and thus becoming a part of His Church. And the miracles of the Spirit are described in 1 Corinthians 12:1-12 (ESV) Spiritual Gifts:

12 Now concerning[a] spiritual gifts,[b] brothers,[c] I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Footnotes: a.1 Corinthians 12:1 The expression Now concerning introduces a reply to a question in the Corinthians’ letter; see 7:1  b. 1 Corinthians 12:1 Or spiritual persons c. 1 Corinthians 12:1 Or brothers and sisters

While on earth Jesus performed his many miracles to demonstrate that God the Father is within him and that he is in the Father as John 10:38:

38 “but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

There are four additional miracles that Jesus performed which form the foundation of Christ’s church:

The first is the miracle by Jesus was assuming the judgment of sin on behalf of all humanity and freely giving his life on the cross. The second miracle by Jesus was the resurrection from the grave. The third miracle of Jesus was his ascension to heaven to assume the role of our advocate beside God the Father. And the fourth miracle of Jesus is to send the Holy Spirit to reside in the heart of all believers, so that like Jesus God may be in the body of believers as the believers are in God thus forming the church of Jesus our redeemer and shepherd.

I would like to conclude today’s message with prayer for the new year by reciting the following poem by Bobbie J. Davis:

Jesus is a Miracle Worker

He healed the blind, He raised the dead.   

5000 hungry souls He fed.  

He only had 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread.  

He stilled the storm on the raging sea.   

He gave His life for you and me.     

He walked on water and even turned water into wine. 

He did all of this in His short life time.  

He healed the sick and even raised the dead.   

He did everything that he said. 

He cast demons out of possessed souls.  

Can I tell you our Lord Jesus was bold.     

He performed these many miracles for you and I.      

Now we need to do our part before we meet Him in the sky.       

We need to lead others to this miracle man.       

We need to all just take a stand,                     

And let others know they can have eternal life too.  

For this is what He wants all of us to do.               

Yes, Jesus is still a miracle worker for you see,    

 He worked a mighty miracle in you and me.

-authored by Bobbie J Davis
Bobbie J Davis’ Main Page

Let us pray…

Today’s Closing Hymn is #12: Praise the Lord, His Glories Show

Benediction: Romans 15:5-7 (ESV):

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.

– Go in  Peace of the Lord!

BLCF: BLCF Cafe

Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

              ‘Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

 © August 18, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

                             BLCF Bulletin August 18, 2013     

Call to Worship Responsive Reading #650:

‘Trials and Temptations’  (James 1 and 1Peter 1)

   BLCF Church: Trust God                                                        

Let us pray…

For his birthday a week or so ago, our younger son, Jeffrey was asked where would he like to dine out. Jeffrey chose to go for a Chinese Buffet for the family celebration. Along with the bill, we were given the traditional fortune cookies. Now I don’t take much stock in fortunes or horoscopes, but my cookie opened to reveal a message that was more profound than just a fortune, as it read: “In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends.”  Such was the story of Job, where Satan challenged God that the faith of Job was a result of his prosperity and it would soon evaporate once Job faced adversity.

The book of Job is considered by most Biblical scholars to be the oldest of the scriptures and Job was believed to be the wealthiest man of his time. It documents the story of this faithful servant of God, who was tested to the point of death by Satan, Job 1:1-12 (ESV):

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 God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

  Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan 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? 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. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 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.

You may recall that Job lost wealth, family and suffered personal afflictions. His friends told Job that the Lord was punishing him for some sin or transgression committed either by Job or a member of his family. Even Job’s wife told her husband that she suffered almost as much as Job. Except for her health, she too lost everything: home, family, and possessions. Her attitude and response exactly matched the one Satan had set out to evoke from Job – that of cursing God. How ironic that Satan seemed to have achieved his goal with Job’s companion, though not with Job.

Did Job’s wife realize that she had surrendered to Satan’s manipulative scheme? Did she feel her loss so great that she didn’t care that she was wrong? Or did she respond to her calamity merely in a fit of emotion, which later passed, taking her bitterness with it? We don’t know the answer to any of those questions. All we know is that she responded just as most people would likely have under similar circumstances: she got angry at God and insisted that Job do the same.

We know that Job’s story ended in Job being restored to health, wealth, and family. But the question arises: “for what reason did God have to allow Satan to test his obedient and faithful servant?” Were the Lord and Satan involved in some idle chess game, with Job as a pawn?  I believe that the Lord had several reasons for allowing Job to be tested by Satan.

Satan challenged God, indicating that Job’s faith was the result of the hedge the lord has built around Job. The Lord allowed Satan to take away Job’s wealth and family, in short, to remove the so-called hedge that Satan had claimed were the reason for Job’s faith. The toughest part for Job was the fact that Job had sensed to some degree that the Lord had distanced himself from a person who had demonstrated steadfast trust and faith in God, (Job 23:3):

Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! 

David, too, had undergone a period of similar testing, (Psalm 22:1):

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?                                                           

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

And even though Satan, may have his way at times, the key to making it through the snares and traps that the devil sets is to maintain our trust in the Lord, having the faith that He will rescue us from our predicament, (1 John 5:19):

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

And in Psalm 31:14-15, David maintains his faith:

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies 
and from my persecutors!

 

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Not only, did Job and David go through similar tests, at some point, each had experienced a separation from God, but Jesus too was left alone in his suffering on the cross at Calvary, Matthew 27:46:

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? 

In order to suffer the full weight of the judgment and punishment for our sins, Jesus had to be abandoned by God. Was this really necessary? We see in Isaiah 53:4-6:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes 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.

The lesson taught by Job’s test by Satan was meant not only for our benefit but also as a lesson to the heavenly hosts (angels).  It taught both the angels and us, that faith does not come from having worldly wealth, but the wealth of the Spirit. Remember Satan was once an Angel, who had fallen from grace by rebelling against God’s authority.

You may recall in John’s gospel, that as soon as Jesus had received the Holy Spirit, he was tested by Satan in the desert. The reason why Jesus suffered, unlike Job, was to atone for our sins and to show us an example of obedience and faith to the Father in Heaven, 1Peter 2:21-24:

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. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 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. 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.

While we demonstrate our faith and trust in the Lord, he offers in return, his promise of salvation and sanctification by way of the suffering of Jesus on our behalf.

We see that Job was allowed to suffer, to teach us and the heavenly host where faith should be based, and how much faith we might need, by bringing us salvation and sanctification from the Lord. We are also given through Jesus, the promise of eternal life and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But what about suffering today, particularly amongst the innocent? Does God have a plan in that suffering?

Paul Paraskevopoulos

Paul Paraskevopoulos

I have shared with some of you about my brother-in-law, Sophie’s brother, Paul Paraskevopoulos, who passed away almost two years ago after a short, unexpected illness. Paul was brain injured in childhood, having been run over by a truck. His injuries left Paul with the intellectual capacity of an 8-year-old. Even though mentally and physically challenged and being confined to a wheelchair in the last decade of his life, Paul was generally a happy soul, enjoying many of the simpler things in life.

I recall a few years before his passing, a time when Sophie and I were called into the hospital, as Paul had suffered from a kidney and blood infection which had a very poor prognosis. Paul was not expected to survive the night. I recall having a concern about Paul’s faith walk, whether he had made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as personal Saviour? I knew, as a youth, Paul had attended church with his siblings and later with some of the staff from West Park Hospital. My fears about Paul were dispelled when upon our arrival at Paul’s hospital room, before either Sophie or I had said hello, Paul opened his eyes and spoke: “You know that Jesus is in my heart. I love Jesus.” I knew that Paul was right with the Lord.

Paul eventually recovered from that illness in 2008 but passed away a few years later. Although he was not able to speak the last time I had arrived to see Paul in the hospital, I had the assurance that he was still right with the Lord.

It was not until Paul’s funeral, that I had the opportunity to fully understand why Paul was allowed to suffer so much.  Our family was moved to see that some forty or so support staff, as well as doctors and nurses,  attended Paul’s funeral. The impact Paul had upon this extended family was quite apparent. Paul was loved and appreciated by his caregivers as much as by his family.

At the memorial, I shared some of the happier times with Paul, as well as the story of Paul’s faith and testimony. At the cemetery, a staff member who had returned from her vacation to attend Paul’s funeral approached the family and shared a story about how Paul was at a get together that was recorded on video. And in the middle of the video, Paul broke into a chorus of “He Is Able” for the camera. It was then I realized that the staff was aware of Paul’s faith. That is faith had shown through his personality, and that many staff members had listened and learned from Paul’s testimony, where they may not have otherwise listened.

God had a plan and a purpose with Paul, as we see that both family and staff had learned through the simple childlike faith of a child in a man’s body can, the Holy Spirit had enabled Paul, as a believer in the Resurrected Christ, to maintain a happy, positive outlook in spite of a life of injury, suffering and pain. Though God did not cause of Paul’s predicament, still the Holy Spirit was able to teach others that through faith the believer is able to rise above his or her circumstances, and thus provide living testimony to others.

Paul Paraskevopoulos between Steve and Sophie Mickelson

It is interesting that Satan plans to destroy the believer’s faith when ‘bad things happen to good people’ fails, when the Holy Spirit allows the faithful to endure   adversity and distress, and empower them to become a living testimony which if far more powerful than words alone as we read in Isaiah 54:10:

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Though a man of strong faith and love for his God, Job was subjected to pain and suffering. Still, Job’s faith was steadfast and unwavering. Job demonstrated that faith will bring us through adversity. And if we keep our faith and trust in God, we may rest assured that we will be restored, sanctified and blessed. Let our faith rest in Jesus, who was tested and suffered greatly, yet maintained faith, trust, and love for his Father in heaven. As our Saviour, the Lord is our example that we may overcome suffering, pain, death and the testing of Satan.  For Jesus demonstrates the rewards of faith are the gift of sanctification, the promise of resurrection from death, and the comfort by way of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine

Benediction (James 1:12):  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – Amen

Trusting God

 

 

BLCF Cafe Feeds Over 200 Homeless People Christmas Dinner 2012

BLCF Cafe Feeds Over 200 Homeless People Christmas Dinner 2012

Sophie Mickelson supervises the BLCF Café Community Dinner serving the homeless in the heat of Toronto

 

Last Wednesday at BLCF Cafe Community Dinner’s Annual Christmas Dinner, with the help of Johnathan, Daniella, and Jeffrey Mickelson as well as 15 or so other volunteers we served complete turkey dinners, grab bags and fellowship to 200 homeless and marginalized guests. Not much was left of the 8 Extra Large turkeys prepared for the dinner. Special thanks to Timothy and the rest of the George Brown crew who promised to return for next Wednesday’s Dinner on Boxing Day ;>

 

season_of_advent

 

BLCF Cafe Info Brochure

 

BLCF: feed-the-homeless