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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Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and the Manifestation of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 ‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and

the Manifestation of Christ’

© January 7, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

Revised Sermon, Originally Shared at BLCF on December 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 7, 2018

Opening Hymn #118: Shepherds Came, Their Praises Bringing; Choruses                                                        

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

Responsive Reading #667 (Humility and Exaltation – Philippians 2; Matthew 23); Prayer                                                                               

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Epiphany: A True Manifestation of Jesus’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today will focus on Epiphany, not to be confused with the secular use of epiphany, such as the ‘Eureka!’ moment experienced by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose and he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged, known today as the Archimedes’ principle.

The Epiphany which is the object of  today’s lesson is spelt with a capitol “E”, a Christians use to describe when the supernatural powers of Jesus, the Son of God, became manifested or expressed to all. We have a little more background from the Web site sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances

Observed on January 6th, the Epiphany celebration remembers the three miracles that manifest the divinity of Christ. The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means “to show, make known, or reveal.” The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added – the visit of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.

For many Christians, the definition of Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of mankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.                                                              http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/definition-of-epiphany.html

Last week we watched the film, the nativity story, which included a depiction of the visit of the Three Magi or  the Three Wise Men.  Epiphany is associated in the Christian Church and includes one or all three of the accounts recorded in the Bible:

  1. The Magi’s visit to the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:1-12)
  2. The Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-12)
  3. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John. (Matthew 3:13-17)

The first of today’s Scripture verses gives the only account of the visit of the Magi or Wise Men who came from the east, beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, as unlike Joseph and Mary, they came to Bethlehem to worship and bear gifts to the newborn king as foretold by prophecy and guided by a star, and not in response the Census mandated by the Edict of Caesar.

The fact that the Magi were unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, indicates that the three were Gentiles, being ignorant of the prophecy known to the scribes and chief priests, only that a star will mark the location of the birth of Christ Child as we see in Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

2 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.                                       

 Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star. Our Scripture passage from Matthew 2:1-12 describes a prophecy that describes a visit by Wise Men or Kings, assumed to be three in number, based upon the three gifts of treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Their visit was based upon a prophecy they which the priests and scribes described to King Herod as follows:

“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.’”

This prophecy is found in Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The next manifestation of the Lord, takes place at a wedding at Cana in Galilee, considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers[b] and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b. John 2:12 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

The changing of water to wine by our Lord is considered by many Biblical scholars to be symbolic how faith in Jesus Christ transforms the believer into a new creature.

Our third Scripture passage describes how the Spirit of God came upon our Lord, after he was baptized in the River, Jordan, which is found in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 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 the) Beloved

From the three miracles of Epiphany, we see that God, as the Godhead/Holy Trinity, demonstrates His power and presence in many ways.

Our Epiphany study marks three events and aspects of the walk on earth by Jesus:

  1. His birth as prophesied by God and recorded in Scripture, which is supported by the visitation by the Magi.
  2. The power of the Lord was made manifest when Jesus transformed water to wine.
  3. The alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus after His baptism, supported by words spoken to John by God.

All three Epiphany Scripture verses demonstrate how our Lord manifests or expresses his Devine power and presence: by his birth, his miracles and by way of the Holy Spirit. All three accounts take place between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, while he walked on the earth as a man who the angels called the son of God, but who chose to refer to himself, more modestly, as the son of man.

The birth of Christ in such humble circumstances, as in a stable, with a manger as a crib, first announced by angels to shepherds, reveals that Jesus came as child to serve all men and women, not to rule from a palace, as he Magi had mistakenly expected. This child, Jesus, grew to become the Savior and Lord, not by power and conquest of battle and destruction, but by an act of love and surrender on the cross at Calvary.

Before he died, Jesus lived and experienced the world as a man, died a human death, but was resurrected from the tomb, and then ascended into heaven in order to bring Devine forgiveness and sanctification by taking upon himself our judgment for our sins. And Jesus continued to assure that we would have Emmanuel or the presence of God with us by way of the Holy Spirit.

I would like to point out that the Three Miracles of Epiphany focus on actions involving part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity:

  1. The Wise Men arrive in response to God, the Father’s prophecy fulfilled.
  2. The Wedding of Cana is an account where Jesus the Son, at the bequest of his mother, Mary, changes water into wine.
  3. The Baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit appears and alights upon Jesus.

Each of these miracles, the people witness an aspect of God’s will and power, be it the fulfilment of a prophecy of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus; Jesus changing water into the best wine for a wedding celebration; and the appearance of the Holy Spirit descending to Jesus, whose identity is confirmed by the words of the Father, Speaking from heaven.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: #663 (1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

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

 

Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’

© December 24, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 24, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #108: The First Noel, the Angel Did Say;                                     

Christmas Hymns (from the Hymnal)

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

Prayer Requests

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

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’;           

Lighting of the 4th Advent Candle and the Christ Candle

Let us pray …

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for December 24, 2017.

Today we will light the fourth Advent Candle, lit on the fourth and final Sunday before Christmas. This candle is commonly called the Candle of Peace.

Advent Season is where we observe on each of the successive Sunday before Christmas, the events foretold in Scripture, including the birth of the Christ child, Jesus. Jesus came to be the world’s Messiah or Christ, who was anticipated by humanity and promised by God. Over the last three Sundays, we studied in Scripture how God revealed to the prophets, the Magi, as well as to Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds the birth of Jesus. God revealed the event by way of Devine Prophecy, dreams, visitations of angelic messengers, and a star in the heavens. Each Advent Sunday, we lit a candle and read appropriate verses.

Though worshipers may vary the order of the designation or name of the four Advent Candles, which is really not as important as acknowledging that, after the four Sundays of Advent, that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem to complete God’s covenant. The Advent and Christ Candles, all remind us that Christ came to bring light into a dark world, filled with sin. Let us review the order of Advent candles lit here at BLCF over the last month, what they represent and one of the verses that we read for each respective Sunday:

1st Sunday of Advent which represents our Hope in Christ – we lit the Prophets’ Candle and read Romans 15:12-13 (ESV):

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.

 2nd Sunday of Advent which represents our Faith in Christ – we lit the Bethlehem Candle and read Luke 3:4-6 (ESV):

 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,[
a]
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Footnotes: a. Luke 3:4 Or crying, Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord

 3rd Sunday of Advent which represents our Joy in Christ – we lit the Shepherds’ Candle and read Luke 2:7-15 (ESV):

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.[a]

The Shepherds and the Angels

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!”[b]

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.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:7 Or guest room b. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

Lighting of the 4th Candle of Advent

Today we light the 4th Candle of Advent, representing the Candle of Peace or God’s Love. Let us reflect upon the verse John 3:16-17 (ESV):

For God So Loved the World

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

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

Since today is not only the 4th Sunday of Advent, it happens to also be Christmas Eve, when a 5th candle, called the Christ Candle is traditionally lit.

The 5th Candle: Christ Candle (John 8:12)

On Christmas Eve, we will light the Fifth Candle or Christ Candle and reflect upon the following significant aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Jesus is our light, Son of God and son of man; the King of kings.

Jesus is our hope; he died a man and rose from the grave; the highest Priest of priests.

Jesus is our peace; he brought us our salvation from the judgment of sin; no more worry, pain or fear.

Jesus is our joy; promising us eternal life. He demonstrates God’s love– pure, holy, undying love.

Whoever believes in Him will never perish but have eternal life! (John 3:16).

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD! (Psalm 4:6b)

Christ Candle

Celebrating the birth of Jesus and rejoice in His coming to us, we light the Christ candle. Let us read the verse: John 1:5 (ESV):

Walking in the Light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Light represents an important symbol in the Scriptures, often represented by flame or a candle, as we light the Christ Candle, let us read John 8:12 (ESV):

   I Am the Light of the World

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Mary Fairchild in Christianity.about.dot com gives a further explanation of what the light, represented today by a lit candle, signifies:

Christianity Symbols Illustrated Glossary: Light in the Bible

Light represents the presence of God. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and to the Israelites in the pillar of flame.

The eternal flame of God’s presence was to be lit in the Temple in Jerusalem at all times. In fact, in the Jewish Feast of Dedication or “Festival of Lights” we remember the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple after being desecrated under Greco-Syrian captivity. Even though they only had enough sacred oil for one day, God miraculously causes the eternal flame of his presence to burn for eight days, until more purified oil could be processed.

Light also represents the direction and guidance of God. Psalm 119:105 says God’s Word is a lamp to the feet and a light to our path. 2 Samuel 22 says the Lord is a lamp, turning darkness into light.

http://christianity.about.com/od/symbolspictures/ig/Christian-Symbols-Glossary/Light-of-the-World.htm

Closing Hymn: #117: Silent Night! Holy Night!

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 4:6):

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

“May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ Child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever.” 

 – John Armstrong

 

Advent: Angels Announcing the Good News of Peace, Salvation and Glory of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Angels Announcing the Good News of Peace, Salvation and Glory of Christ’

© December 17, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 17, 2017

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on December 15, 2013

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Lighting the Third Advent Candle: The Shepherds’ Candle, also called: The Candle of Joy (Luke 2:8-20):

    

Today we celebrate the Third Advent Sunday prior to Christmas Day, where we will light the Third Advent Candle, which is referred to as The Shepherd’s Candle, or the Candle of Joy.

Two weeks ago, we lit the First Advent Candle, commonly called The Candle of Hope or The Prophecy Candle. Last Sunday, the Second Advent Candle know as The Candle of Faith or Bethlehem Candle was lit.

As we Light the Third Advent Candle ‘, let us read from Isaiah 52:7 (ESV), as found on the inside of today’s bulletin:

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Though the birth of Christ child is prophesized in numerous verses of the Old Testament, God would sent one of His angels to ensure that the individual or individuals understood the purpose of an event, typically a Supernatural miracle, as part of His Devine plan for the persons visited as well as the rest of humanity. Which brings us to today’s second Scripture, also found inside today’s bulletin, Luke 2:8-20 (ESV), entitled:

    The Shepherds and the Angels

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

Opening Hymn #104: It Came upon the Midnight Clear; Christmas Hymns

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

Responsive Reading #602 (God’s Divine Deliverance – Psalm 33)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Advent: Angels Announcing the Good News of Peace, Salvation and the Glory of Christ’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service. Before we begin today’s lesson, I would like to invite all of you to join us for an Advent Potluck Lunch here at BLCF, following the Service. It will be an opportunity for all to enjoy a good meal and fellowship.

To begin this morning’s lesson, I would like to reflect upon two verses from today’s fourth Scripture passage, which describes the angels, who were known to express themselves in song, singing praises to God, celebrating the Savior’s birth as described  Luke 2: 13-14:

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]

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

This passage made me recall an incident that occurred several years ago, at the annual Christmas Cantata presented at the last church Sophie and I had attended.  The choir, of which Sophie was a member, gave a professional performance that attracted many visitors from the community, and it grew the congregation to more than double the average number.

This particular performance was of the oratorio, Handle’s Messiah. I sat in my usual pew located in the church’s right alcove, which provided a view of Sophie in the choir. In the pew in front of me sat another member of the congregation, a young lady with her month old son, whose husband sang in the choir. A well-dressed man, whom I had never seen at the church before, sat in the pew located in front of the mother and child.

It was during the first movement of the Messiah, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, the young baby in the pew in front of me began to cry. Being a father of four, a crying baby did not phase my enjoyment of the performance, as I had experienced a similar situation on more than one occasion when our children were babies. I thought it interesting that Handle was describing in song Luke 2, the birth of the baby Jesus, and the crying child added a sense of realism to the musical narrative.

I was shocked and dismayed, when I observed the well-dressed man two pews ahead turned around in a loud, angry voice told the mother, “Can’t you shut that baby up! It is spoiling the mood for me.”

This points out how many view Christmas, selfishly, as a time of personal self-gratification, not as a celebration of God’s love and compassion towards all of humanity, including little children. Imagine the shepherds or Magi, walking away from the stable, if the baby Jesus had been a little fussy.

(see link below – a composite of the visits by the shepherds and Wise Men)

http://youtu.be/SWHeWUzXkeY

To her credit, the young mother did not leave her pew, and gently rocked her child back to sleep for the remainder of the concert.  Meanwhile, our well -dressed moody critic, left at the conclusion of the concert, not bothering to stay for any of the refreshments served after the performance.

At the refreshment table, everyone had an opportunity to fuss over the baby and really, and demonstrate the true mood of Christmas and the love of Christ.

Now back to today’s lesson.

According to Scripture, the year of the birth of Jesus, the Christ child, was a busy tine for Angels, God’s Heavenly Hosts, particularly the angel known as Gabriel. The angel, Gabriel’s name appears numerous times in the Bible, as we find in our Wiki bits:

In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel (Hebrew: גַּבְרִיאֵל, Modern Gavri’el Tiberian Gaḇrîʼēl, God is my strength; Arabic: جبريل, Jibrīl or جبرائيل Jibrāʾīl) is an angel who typically serves as a messenger sent from God to certain people.

In the Bible, Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, he appeared to the prophet Daniel, delivering explanations of Daniel’s visions (Daniel 8:15–26, 9:21–27). In the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel appeared to Zecharias, and to the virgin Mary foretelling the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively (Luke 1:11–38). In the Book of Daniel, he is referred to as “the man Gabriel”, while in the Book of Luke, Gabriel is referred to as “an angel of the Lord” (Luke 1:11). Gabriel is not called an archangel in the Bible, but is so called in Intertestamental period sources like the Book of Enoch. In the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, the archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel are also referred to as saints.

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

If you look at the back of today’s bulletin, you will see one of several accounts recorded in the Bible, of angels bringing word of the birth of Jesus. One of these Scripture passages tells of how the angel Gabriel visits Mary, to deliver an important message from God, Luke 1:26-35 (ESV),  with the sub-heading:

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b. Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! C. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man e. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

Our next Scripture gives an account of an angel bringing word from God, this time to Joseph, is also listed in  of today’s bulletin, comes from, Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) with the title:

   The Birth of Jesus Christ

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

The birth of Jesus was foretold in several verses of the Old Testament, including the first of today’s Scripture verses found on the inside of our bulletin, Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ESV):

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

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’, as we read in 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 believe it is fair to conclude that the heavenly expressed joy at the birth of the Christ child, because the angels understood that Jesus came to sacrifice himself as an expression of his love for us and provide for the reconciliation between God and all people. He would assume humanity judgment for all our sins, and give us the promise of a New Covenant for all who have faith and trust in His Devine plan. Thus, sinners who repent receive His forgiveness, because He loves us, John 3:16 (ESV), entitled:

For God So Loved the World

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

Finally, with the birth of Jesus, let us reflect upon the message and joy of the angels witnessed by the shepherds, as well as the love of God, who gave us through His only son Jesus, a path to reconciliation and salvation as demonstrated by the third Advent Candle.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #106: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Join us after the service, for a time of fellowship and joy, as we enjoy a special Advent Potluck Meal provided by fellow members of our congregation.

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 4:6):

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

“May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ Child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever.” 

 – John Armstrong

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.  

Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord’

© November 19, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 19, 2017

Based on a Message Originally Shared at BLCF on June 26, 2011

BLCF Church Bulletin June 26, 2011

 

Announcements & 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 #602 (Divine Deliverance – Psalm 33), Prayer

Message by Steve Mickelson: Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service.

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Faith, Freedom and Folly before the Lord’, taken from Chapter 12 of the New Testament’s Book of Acts of the Apostles. You may recall that after the Day of Pentecost, where God’s Holy Spirit came upon all the believers, and with the resurrection and ascension of the Lord, Jesus, the disciples or students of their teacher, Jesus, became apostles, or messengers, of the Gospel or story of Jesus. As believers in the resurrected Christ, we too are messengers or apostles of the Lord.

There is a possibility for readers of this account to confuse the identity of those named in Acts, Chapter 12. Let us briefly review who were, as there may be some confusion among some here today, not necessarily with respect to what happened, but with whom and to whom, the narrative in the Scriptures describe:

Acts 12:1-11 (ESV) James Killed and Peter Imprisoned

12 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

We have the Apostle James, one of the Lord’s original disciples, executed by sword at the order of King Herod. When Herod saw that it pleased the Jews, he had another Apostle, Peter, arrested with the intent to also be executed, following Passover or the days of Unleavened Bread.

But the church of the Way of the Lord, by church we mean the people, prayed to God. And how did the people pray? They prayed earnestly!

Peter Is Rescued

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

On the night that Peter was to be executed, the apostle was enchained, sleeping between two guards, when an angel of the Lord arrived in an illuminated cell, woke Peter, causing the two chains to fall off. The angel ordered Peter to get dressed and put on his sandals, wrap himself in his cloak and to follow the angel.

Uncertain that what was happening was a dream or vision, Peter obeyed the angel.

Peter followed the angel, as they passed the guards and went outside the Iron Gate leading to the city, which was opened.

Eventually Peter realized that what was happening was not a vision, remarking that: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” (Acts 12:11).

Acts 12:20-25 (ESV) The Death of Herod

20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain,[a] they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22 And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” 23 Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

24 But the word of God increased and multiplied.

25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Footnotes: a. Acts 12:20 That is, trusted personal attendant b. Acts 12:25 Some manuscripts to

Though Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, who he assumed were responsible for freeing Peter. Being dependent on Herod for their food, the people asked the King for forgiveness, an on an appointed day, following a speech from the King, proclaimed Herod as a god.

Though Herod observed the Passover tradition of not executing Peter, the king did not acknowledge God, but accepted the people’s proclamation. This offence sealed the king’s fate, as an angel of God struck Herod down.

The word of God increased and multiplied, with Barnabas and Saul returning from Jerusalem, bringing with them John, who was also called by the name Mark.

For those who followed these Scriptures may ask: “Who is John Mark described in Acts 12:25?”

And recalling the description of The Visit of the Wise Men, from the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-15, didn’t Joseph, Mary and Jesus flee to Egypt, only to return at the death of Herod?

It is time for a little research or as I like to call them: use Wikibits, to understand the answer to these questions. First, let us look at the identity of John Mark:

Identifying John, Mark and John Mark (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

John Mark is named in Acts as an assistant accompanying Paul and Barnabas on one of their missionary journeys. By some he is regarded as identical with Mark the Evangelist.

From these it may be gathered that John’s mother Mary had a large house in Jerusalem to which Peter fled after escaping prison; that John assisted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey in Cyprus but then returned to Jerusalem; and that later controversy over receiving John Mark back led to Paul and Barnabas parting ways, with Barnabas taking Mark back to Cyprus and both thereafter disappearing from the narrative of Acts. The reasons for John Mark’s departure to Jerusalem and the subsequent disagreement between Paul and Barnabas have been subject to much speculation, but there is simply too little data to regard any explanation with confidence.

It was common for Jews of the period to bear both a Semitic name such as John and a Greco-Roman name such as Mark. But since John was one of the most common names among Palestinian Jews, and Mark was the most common in the Roman world, caution is warranted in identifying John Mark with any other John or Mark.

Ancient sources in fact consistently distinguish John Mark from the other Marks of the New Testament and style him Bishop of Byblos. Nor was John Mark identified in antiquity with any other John, apart from rare and explicit speculation.

Medieval sources, on the other hand, increasingly regarded all New Testament references to Mark as Mark the Evangelist, and many modern scholars have agreed in seeing a single Mark. The very fact that various writings could refer simply to Mark without further qualification has been seen as pointing to a single Mark.

First, there is Mark the cousin of Barnabas, mentioned by Paul as a “fellow worker” in the closings of three Pauline epistles. In antiquity he was regarded as a distinct Mark, Bishop of Apollonia. If, on the other hand, these two Marks are to be identified, the fact that these epistles (if authentic) were written after the departure of John Mark with Barnabas in Acts must suppose some later reconciliation. But a majority of scholars, noting the close association of both Marks with Paul and Barnabas, indeed regard them as likely the same person.

Mark the Evangelist, however, is known only from the patristic tradition, which associates him only with Peter and makes no mention of Paul. Jerome alone suggests that the Mark of whom Paul speaks may be the Evangelist. But modern scholars have noted that as Peter fled to the house of John Mark’s mother, the two men may have had a longstanding association.

Several scholars have argued, on the other hand, for identifying John the Evangelist and/or John the Elder with John Mark;] there is, in fact, a great deal of controversy surrounding the various New Testament people named John.

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

While it is not clear whether John Mark in Acts 12, describes the Apostle Mark or a different Apostle, named John Mark, we do know that the arrest of Peter in this passage refers to the Apostle Peter. The Devil loves theologians to debate the identity of John Mark, which missing God’s response the peoples’ fervent prayer where He sent His sending his angel to free Peter in quite a dramatic way. And then God sent His angel to strike Herod dead, for refusing the people’s declaration that the king was a god.

Which brings us to the question of the identity: who is the King Herod in Acts 12? Again let us look at Wikibits:

Herod the Great (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Herod (/ˈhɛrəd/; Hebrew: הוֹרְדוֹס‎, Hordus, Greek: Ἡρῴδης, Hērōdēs; 74/73 BCE – 4 BCE), also known as Herod the Great and Herod I, was a Roman client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian kingdom. He has been described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis“, “the evil genius of the Judean nation”,”prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition” and “the greatest builder in Jewish history”. He is known for his colossal building projects throughout Judea, including his expansion of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (Herod’s Temple), the construction of the port at Caesarea Maritima, the fortress at Masada and Herodium. Vital details of his life are recorded in the works of the 1st century CE Roman–Jewish historian Josephus.

Upon Herod’s death, the Romans divided his kingdom among three of his sons—Archelaus became ethnarch of the tetrarchy of Judea, Herod Antipas became tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, and Philip became tetrarch of territories east of the Jordan.   

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

King Herod Agrippa (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Herod Agrippa, also known as Herod or Agrippa I (11 BC – 44 AD), was a Judean monarch during the 1st century AD. The grandson of Herod the Great and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice,  he was born Marcus Julius Agrippa, so named in honour of Roman statesman Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. He is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Bible, “Herod (Agrippa)” (Ἡρώδης Ἀγρίππας). He was, according to Josephus, known in his time as “Agrippa the Great”.  Christian and Jewish historiography take different views of this king, with the Christians largely opposing Agrippa and the Jews largely favoring Agrippa.

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

The Herod referred to in Acts 12, was King Herod Agrippa, grandson to the deceased King Herod the Great, or Herod I, who met with the Magi, or Wise Men, as described in Matthew 2. We see in the case of King Herod of Agrippa, the grandson to Herod the Great that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Both kings sought to kill anyone who posed a perceived threat of to keeping the people from worshiping the king as a god, by proclaiming the deity of Jesus, the son of God.

God sends His angels for important tasks, which in today’s lesson include freeing of Peter and the death of Herod.

In conclusion, the faithful prayers of the people of God’s church were answered by the release of the Apostle, Peter from bondage, and the death judgment of King Herod.

Let us pray…

Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound

Benediction – (1 Peter 5:10-11):

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever.  – Amen.

Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’

© November 5, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 5, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn #288: Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me                                                   

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

Responsive Reading #624: The Great Commission                                                                                                   (-from Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, and Mark 16)                 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                               ‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service in the heart of Toronto, at BLCF. This Saturday is Remembrance Day, where at the 11th hour of the 11th day of 11th month we will take a moment of silence and reflection to honor the sacrifice of those men and women who fought to give us the gifts of democracy and freedom in Canada.

While the sacrifice of brave soldiers gave us a period of peace and freedom, the ‘war to end all wars’ has been followed by other wars and conflicts, demonstrating that the rewards of these battles are fleeting at best. While a war may end a conflict, the sinful nature of humanity is such we have but a brief reprieve from the next conflict we find ourselves involved in. Unfortunately, it seems that eventually in time another conflict comes along, and we are called again to defend the freedom and principles that we hold so dearly.

Our lesson today, entitled ‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’,  we will look at a different type of sacrifice made on our behalf, by Christ Jesus, to rid ourselves permanently of the death penalty, which is humanity’s judgment for sin. We will examine an example how the account of Peter’s denial of the Lord demonstrates the Lord’s promise that he will never leave or forsake us, sometimes in spite of ourselves.

Let us look at how fear and the instinct for self-preservation can cause us to act quite contrary to the way we think we would, under certain circumstances where our own health and safety are threatened, as was the case with the disciple, Peter, in Matthew 26:31-35 (ESV):

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Though Peter is quite adamant about his loyalty to the Lord, fear can displace the courage of his convictions, Matthew 26:69-75 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.”71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

It is interesting that Jesus knew that Peter, the disciple who Jesus had described as the rock upon which he would build his church, would deny Christ three times. The denials would occur immediately after Jesus had instructed the disciples in the practice of communion, an observance that was to be maintained after his crucifixion, until the day he returned from heaven. Though Peter’s denials threatened the establishment of the church with the cloud of sin, it appeared that Jesus would give the disciple an opportunity to atone and reconcile with the Lord,  at a future time.

Fortunately, the Lord knows the true nature of our hearts, and Jesus’ capacity to grant us unconditional love and forgiveness, when he died for our sins on the cross. God has a plan for us, and He will not allow our fears and doubts to dissuade us from achieving His intended goal. Though the disciples’ fear had caused them to lock themselves in the Upper Room, Jesus returned to bring them the Peace of the Spirit and hope, so that they may have the courage to undertake the Great Commission of bringing the truth of the Gospel of Christ to the world, as we see in John 20:19-29 (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,[a] 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,[b] 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.”

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

It should be noted that while Peter displays fear by his denial of any knowledge of Christ, all of the disciples show a similar fear by locking themselves in the Upper Room.

While the disciples are visited by their Lord, now resurrected, and have received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, Thomas, who was absent from the Upper Room when Jesus first visited, refuses to believe the testimony of his fellow disciples. Eight days later, the Lord returns to restore Thomas with the same peace and belief in seeing his Jesus resurrected, bearing the marks of his crucifixion.

Jesus revealed that he knew of his impending death and predicted that Peter would three times deny knowing the Lord would fulfill the prophecy found in Zechariah 13:7 (ESV):

The Shepherd Struck

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
    against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the Lord of hosts.

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
    I will turn my hand against the little ones.

Jesus spoke to Peter, (in Matthew 26:31-35), of his pending betrayal, death, and resurrection, Peter wept bitterly, no doubt guilty and ashamed at his inability to stand at the side of his Lord on the evening of his arrest. By using  some table fellowship, Jesus wanted to give Peter the opportunity to confess and be forgiven of his denial of  having known Jesus, as described in John 21:4-19 (ESV):

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards[a] off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Footnotes: a. John 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

When Peter heard that Jesus had arrived to visit the disciples for a third time since his resurrection, the disciple threw himself into the sea, an indication of the disciple’s guilt and shame.

The Lord  demonstrates his love for Peter, by asking the disciple three times whether or not he has love for Jesus, one for each of the three times Peter had denied Christ. Peter responds three times to Jesus by confessing his love for the Lord. It is after hearing the third acknowledgement from Peter, that Jesus indicates all is forgiven, by telling Peter the nature of the disciple’s death, which would be to the glory of God. The Lord then instructs the disciple to follow him. Peter is now ready to resume the role of being the rock of Christ’s Church, which will come on the Day of Pentecost, along with the arrival of God’s Holy Spirit to the faithful assembled in the Upper Room.

Jesus who is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, knew Peter would deny him, but the Lord gave the disciple the prediction immediately after instructing the disciples on the significance of the observance of Communion. Not only did the Lord know Peter, who was to be the foundation rock of the Church, Jesus knew the disciple would show contrition by acknowledging his love for Jesus three times.

We see that at Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples, Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me”, once for each time Peter had denied the Lord, to which the disciple replied, “Yes”. And after the affirmations Jesus spoke, “Feed my lambs” after the first; “tend my sheep” after the second; and “feed my sheep” after my sheep” after the third, indicating that Peter was forgiven and reinstated to assume the responsibilities of rock of Christ’s church, who Jesus describes as lambs or sheep. Peter is to tend or take care of and feed with The Word, the body of believers, whereby the Lord concludes by instructing the disciple to “follow me’”

After his Resurrection, Jesus appeared three times to the disciples, each for a specific reason. The first was a proof of his resurrection and to restore peace to the ten disciples locked in the Upper Room. The second was to revisit the locked Upper Room in order to restore faith of Thomas. And the third visit was to bring forgiveness and reconciliation to Peter. Truly, Jesus will never leave of forsake us!

Let us pray…

Communion – Matthew 26:30-35 (-see Lord’s Supper, below)

Matthew 26:26-35 (ESV) Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:23-24):

Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.