Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch’

© June 9, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 9, 2019

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on May 1, 2016

BLCF Bulletin May 1, 2016

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                           

Opening Hymn #237: What Can Wash Away My Sin?; Choruses                                

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                  Led by the Spirit to a Victory of Faith: Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch            

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at BLCF Church for June 9, 2017. Today’s lesson is primarily focused on the account of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, as described in Acts 8:26-40 (ESV):

Acts 8:26-40 (ESV): Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[b] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Footnotes: a. Acts 8:26 Or go at about noon b. Acts 8:36 Some manuscripts add all or most of verse 37: And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”

The above account, of the encounter between Philip and a eunuch in the remote desert, describes how the Apostle is first directed by an angel of God, on a trek on the road running south Jerusalem towards Gaza.

It is on this road that the Spirit of God directs Philip to approach a chariot carrying an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet, Isaiah. Philip, directed by the Spirit, asks the eunuch whether he understands the Scripture which he is reading.

This affords the eunuch the opportunity to invite Philip to join him in order to understand the Scripture, particularly Isaiah 53:7-8:

 

Isaiah 53:7-8 (ESV)

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?

It is in regard to this passage of Scripture that the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Philip helps the eunuch is to understand that Isaiah 53:7-8 indicates that Christ’s sacrifice was made on behalf of all people, who are oppressed and judged for their transgressions or sins. No doubt, the eunuch was given limited access to the temple, as a eunuch would be considered “blemished’, under the criteria of holiness that the Lord gave Moses in Leviticus 21:16-24:

Leviticus 21:16-24 (ESV): Holiness and the Priests

16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. 18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, 19 or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, 20 or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. 21 No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. 22 He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, 23 but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” 24 So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the people of Israel.

The Temple was partitioned into four courts, beginning with the Court of the Priests; then the Court of Israel; followed by the Court of the Women, and finally by the Court of the Gentiles. But a eunuch was viewed to have a physical blemish that would prohibit him from entering the temple or Assembly of God:

Deuteronomy 23:1 (ESV): Those Excluded from the Assembly

23 “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

Because a eunuch was considered to bear a physical defect or blemish, he would be lucky if he were permitted to enter the Court of the Gentiles, a court most removed from the Holy altar containing the Ark of the Covenant, where the presence of God was considered to reside.

In addition to being a blemish, the eunuch was also considered a foreigner. But Isaiah indicates that the Lord offers a path to salvation to foreigners, as we see in Isaiah 56:1-5:

Isaiah 56:1-5 (ESV): Salvation for Foreigners

56 Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my righteousness be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

But the Lord did instruct his people to offer compassion to the afflicted, such as the deaf or blind:

Leviticus 19:13-14 (ESV)

13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

But there is a huge difference between have compassion and pity for the disabled, whose afflictions were regarded as a punishment for sin, and being totally forgiven of their transgressions.

By the grace offered by the New Covenant, through the sacrifice of Jesus, the judgment for any blemish or sin is removed. The believer is made both whole and holy in the eyes of God to become an Ark of the Holy Spirit, by way of God’s New Covenant.

The eunuch is sanctified by faith in Christ and asks Philip to be baptized in a stream nearby. At one time, only a eunuch, who is impotent, would be allowed to approach a married woman without being judged guilty of the sin of adultery:

Matthew 19:8-12 (ESV)

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”[a]

10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 19:9 Some manuscripts add and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery; other manuscripts except for sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery

As a final reflection, under the Old Law, a eunuch would be barred from entering the temple and drawing close to God because of the blemish of his physical condition. Any priest who suffered injury and thus became physically blemished could no longer perform the rites of a priest and was subject of charity in order to be fed. He could no longer approach the Ark of the Covenant and would be removed from the presence of God because of his affliction.

In the Acts 8 account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch is significant in so many ways. We see that Philip, an apostle/messenger of Christ’s Gospel, is sent out by an angel of God on a missionary journey and then directed by God’s Holy Spirit to minister to an Ethiopian eunuch, who is converted, Christian.

In contrast to other accounts of conversions of blind, paralytics and others who are considered by Jews as blemished, are first healed of their respective infirmity or blemish in order to enter the temple and worship as a member of the assembly. The eunuch is baptized and received as part of the body of Christ and his blemish is unchanged. Through Christ, he is unblemished in God’s eyes.

We see that being a eunuch with physical deficiencies is no more an impediment to being saved and joining the body of Christ, than are the scars or stripes Jesus bore for our sins an impediment for the Lord to be the head of his church. Through Christ, there is no physical impediment to salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Ethiopian eunuch is the first foreigner to become a convert of Christ and the first black person to convert to the Way of the Lord. In spite of being a student of the Scriptures, who had just returned from worshiping at the Temple, the eunuch’s physical blemish would likely have been allowed by the Temple Priests to worship in the Court of Gentiles, and this conversion is significant as it is the first recorded Christian conversion of a Gentile.

Christ suffered physical affliction on the cross to remove the restrictions and judgments under the Old Covenant and to permit access to God’s Presence, in the form of the Holy Spirit, under a New Covenant through Christ.

Come to think of it, under the Old Covenant rules, the Resurrected Christ would not be permitted access to the Temple because the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet and sides would be considered unacceptable defects or blemishes. Under the Old Covenant, the blemishes borne by the Son of God would create the paradox that Christ would neither be allowed to pass through the veil at the Priest’s Temple Court to access Holy of Holies nor allowed to ascend to sit at the side of the Father in Heaven.

But it is because Christ took upon himself to bear the marks or stripes of our sins under the New Covenant, any blemish or defect can no longer be a barrier to the sanctification of the believer. Faith in Christ’s sacrifice guarantees our access to the presence of God, which is the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction – (Philippians 4:23): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. – Amen

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Sanctified by His Word and Prayer, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Sanctified by His Word and Prayer, 2019’

© June 2, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 2, 2019

Based on Messages Shared with BLCF on Sunday, January 2, 2011, and on March 12, 2017

BLCF_Bullrtin_Jan_2_2011

BLCF Bulletin March 12, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship: Prayer                                                                             

Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses                                

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

Responsive Reading: #634 (Prayer of Christian Unity – John 10, John 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Sanctified by His Word and Prayer’

Let us pray…

    Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,[b]     

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

12 and forgive us our debts,    

 as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,     

but deliver us from evil.[d

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

The Scriptures in today’s BLCF Bulletin begin with Matthew 6:9–13, (described also in Luke 11:2–4), gives Christ gives his answer to the Disciples’ request as to how they should pray. The next Scripture passage, the subject of today’s message is taken from John 17, contains the prayer Jesus gave to God at the conclusion of his earthly ministry, just before his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven.

To understand the significance of the Prayer to the Gospel of Jesus, we must briefly look at how John’s Gospel differs from the writings of the other disciples. John’s writings happen to be a subject of study for several months at Wednesday’s Morning Bible Study at BLCF. John’s Gospel is particularly interesting, as it differs from what is commonly referred to as the Synoptic Gospels in several distinct ways.

First, we must note that John’s Scriptures were authored some 30 years after the Day of Pentecost, where the Synoptic Gospels, (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), were authored primarily before the Holy Spirit was given to the Disciples in the Upper Room on the evening of Christ’s Resurrection. To better understand the differences, let us look at the following from biblia.com:

Each Gospel account has its own theme, and each account was written to a specific group as noted below:  

  • Matthew was written to the Jews, and it shows Jesus’ Messianic work as a king over His everlasting spiritual kingdom, which is His church.
  • Mark was written to the Romans, and it shows that Jesus is the one with power and strength through His miraculous works.
  • Luke was written mainly to the Greeks, and it shows the human side of Jesus and portrays Him as being a perfect man.
  • John was written to all Christians, and its primary focus is Jesus being Deity, and that He is the Son of God. (John 20:30-31) Consider the following chart: 

 

The Gospels Matthew Mark Luke John
Unique 42% 7% 59% 92%
In common 58% 93% 41% 8%

 http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Jn20.30-31

We see a contrast between the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6 and the personal prayer Jesus gave at the conclusion of his earthly ministry.

Though it is true that other passages of scripture record how Jesus taught believers how to pray, it is interesting that John 17 is that is the only passage in the gospels where we are privy to Jesus’ feelings with respect to His glorification by His sacrifice; the fate of His disciples after His ascension and for the unity of all believers.

The Prayer in John 17 can be broken into three distinct concerns voiced by our Lord:

The first concern is found in verses 1-6 of John 17 Jesus acknowledges his relationship with God, the Father, as well as the unity that we know as the Holy Trinity, which includes God – the Father, Jesus – the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each is part of the Trinity, being distinct from the other, though each is an expression of the same God, a subject that we studied in another sermon at BLCF.

John 17:1-6 (ESV): The High Priestly Prayer: Jesus Prays for Himself

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The second concern is found in verses 6-19, where Jesus prays to God for his Disciples, whom he acknowledges will no longer have his earthly guardianship; also asking for His sanctification, His joy, His protection from Satan, (except Judas Iscariot, described as the son of destruction), and praying for unity among the Disciples not unlike the found between Jesus and God, while Christ was in the world.

John 17:6-19 (ESV): The High Priestly Prayer: Jesus Prays for His Disciples

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth.

Footnotes:  a, John 17:15 Or from evil b. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God) c. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God) e.John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)

And the third concern in his prayer, Jesus prays for all other believers, asking for the same unity with God and the Son, as the Lord asked for his disciples and for His Love, as well.

John 17:1-6 (ESV): The High Priestly Prayer: Jesus Prays For All Believers

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

And how wonderful must the love and unity with God be, that on the eve of his death, that he gives a prayer for his disciples and the other believers, which includes you and me!

In this prayer, Jesus asks the Father for sanctification, which comes from the Word of God, which is the truth from God, John 17:17.

Sanctified by the Word of God

17 Sanctify them[a] in the truth; your word is truth.

Footnotes:a. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God

And what precisely is the definition of sanctification?

Merriam-Webster further defines this process of sanctification as:

sanc·ti·fi·ca·tion  noun \ˌsaŋ(k)-tə-fə-ˈkā-shən\

1 :  an act of sanctifying

a :  the state of being sanctified                                                                                                     

b :  the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sanctification

Sanctification is growing in grace after being baptized by the Spirit, following a Christian’s conversion. It is important to note that this sanctification or growth in grace, requires a commitment on the part of the believer.

Kate Plourde, writing in the BLOG: “Maranatha! The Lord is Coming!” has the following take on sanctification:

I am totally convinced that the born again Christian who keeps claiming “grace” for his continued sin struggles with this verse. How can one who continues to act like the world say he is sanctified?  Is that Christian cleansed from corruption?  Is he purified from his sins?  Is he making himself holy by detaching himself from?  I’m not talking about Christ’s blood covering our sins and salvation.  I am talking about the on-going process of our spiritual walk after salvation.  God is the Potter, we are the clay.  He molds us into Christ’s image through sanctification – through our continued growing process as we read His Word.

Sanctification is a process. When we read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit wants to prick our hearts with conviction. When we respond to that conviction, we begin the process of sanctification.

It is no wonder that today’s “church” is struggling! They are no longer in the act of making their lives holy.  Instead, they are busy with distractions and not digging into God’s Word.  This produces a church that does not separate themselves from the world – they act like the world – they talk like the world – they dress like the world!  All because they look at God’s grace as though He looks the other way when they act like the unsaved!  Christ took His salvation to the people, yes.  He ate with them, He told them truth and He led them to truth.  He always had a purpose and that was to lead them to truth.  He didn’t compromise that truth by “acting” like them.  The world sees Christians like this and they do not desire what they have for there is no difference between the two in their eyes. The Christian’s salt has lost its flavor!

Sanctifying ourselves means that we must daily strive towards being more Christ like. Would Christ use the Lord’s name in vain? Would Christ have a cursing mouth? Would Christ gossip? Would Christ get drunk? Would Christ have a temper tantrum?  Would Christ steal?  Our lives as Christians should be an on-going process of spiritual growth.  Granted, we’re not going to be sinless – but we should sin less!!  The more we hang out with the world and act like them, our standards will lower.  How can one grow unless one sets himself apart from sin? How can one grow if one doesn’t make himself holy?  Just because we are saved does not grant us the privilege of sinning!  If this is what you are thinking, then something is not right with your spiritual walk.

Some Churches today are big on God’s “grace” but they miss out on the other half of it. These Christians want His understanding and forgiveness but they do not want to purify themselves and alienate themselves from sin and the world. Sin brings pleasure and they are not so willing to part with it.  This is the basis of our struggling church today. Man’s heart is desperately wicked and deceitful as we see in Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV):

The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately sick;

who can understand it?

Why would we trust our own heart to make decisions when we are not sanctifying ourselves?

Wil Pounds, writing in Message Page makes the following comments on the importance of sanctification to Christians, as vessels of God’s Holy Spirit: 

How do you possess your vessel? Do you protect yourself from the temptations of this world? What are your weak areas? Do you have a pet weakness? Honor God with your actions. Honor God with your mouth. Honor God by sanctifying your life – set it apart from what the world does. Grace has nothing to do with us continuing to sin and act like the world. Grace has everything to do with salvation! Once we have received salvation, we must train ourselves to turn to God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to convict us and sanctify us! Wake up Church!

True daily sanctification in this life comes through the ministry of the Word of God. Jesus told His disciples, “Now are you clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). God set us apart to Himself when He saved us. As we grow in Christ we experience more and more sanctification. We are progressively set apart to God as we grow in our faith, and love for God more than the desire of the world. This being set apart daily comes as the Holy Spirit applies God’s word to our everyday experiences. The Holy Spirit enables us to obey God’s Word. He is the author of the Word and He uses it to enlighten our minds, enable our will and encourage our hearts.

We were made clean through the Word at the new birth. As we obey the Word of God daily the defilement is washed out of our lives. When we sin we do not need to be saved all over again. We will never be regenerated a second or third time. After you bathe, you do not need to bathe again when you get your hands dirty. You wash them off and you are clean once more. God has given us a bar of soap. It is found in 1 John 1:9. Use it daily. Read 1 John 1:9 (ESV):

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It is our responsibility to apply the word of God daily in the power of the Holy Spirit. It does not come automatically.  

http://www.abideinchrist.com/selah/feb3.html

Jesus’ Prayer in John 17 follows the example that Christ gave to his disciples. The prayer begins by Jesus acknowledging the sanctity and authority of the Heavenly Father on earth and heaven. Jesus prays that both his disciples and all believers continually (daily) receive Divine truth or bread and for the Father’s deliverance and guidance from evil and temptation.

It is interesting to note, that though Jesus was facing his own crucifixion and death on the cross for our sins, his prayer focuses upon the spiritual welfare of both his disciple and all believers, which is you and me. Jesus prayed for us. We should remember that all of the disciples, except John, would suffer horrific deaths for their faith. John was exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he authored his Scriptures.

In conclusion, as believers at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, we are sanctified by our faith in the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on our behalf. And as we have read in His prayer in John 17, that it is the desire of our Savior that we continue to maintain our walk as believers, Sanctified by God word and through the Holy Spirit which convicts us of the truth found in that word. We are expected to grow in the truth or understanding of the Word and be sanctified.  This is how we may best glorify our Lord for His gift by demonstrating a unity of purpose, a unity of faith, sanctified as a single body of believers in the precepts taught us by Jesus in His prayer in John 17.

Let us pray…

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

Closing Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit  

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.

The Miracles and Parables of Jesus, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus 2019’      

© May 19, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 19, 2019

Based on a Message Shared with BLCF on October 15, 2017

BLCF Bulletin October 15, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                   

Opening Hymn #182: Marvelous Message We Bring; Choruses

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF and our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service, and our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Miracles and Parables of Jesus’.

 The disciples recorded that throughout his ministry the Lord frequently performed miracles and made use of the parable. In our lesson today we will examine why Jesus used the miracle and the parable. While a miracle is doing something that is beyond the laws of nature, a parable is a metaphor used to teach a spiritual lesson.

An example of a metaphor would be: suppose I ask sisters Jillian and Olivia to come forward and stand by the pillar to my right. If I refer to my two sisters in Christ as being “pillars of the Church” – we know that I do not mean that they are the same as the alabaster pillar beside them which is holding up the roof, which the literal meaning of the description. The expression is a metaphorical statement that these ladies are key members of our congregation, which is part of the greater bodies of believers who are Christ’s Church.

But for today’s lesson, let us begin by looking first at the miracles that Jesus performed. The Bible records over forty miracles attributed to Jesus, during his ministry:

The Miracles of Jesus

  1. Miracles of Jesus: Born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-38)
  2. Miracles of Jesus: Changing water into wine (John 2:1-11)
  3. Healing of the royal official’s son (John 4:46-54)
  4. Healing of a man possessed by a demon in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-28, Luke 4:33-37)
  5. Healing of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-39)
  6. Healing the sick during the evening (Matt 8:16, Mark 1:32, Luke 4:40)
  7. Catching a large number of fish (Luke 5:3-10)
  8. Healing a leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15)
  9. Healing a centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10)
  10. Healing a paralyzed man (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:18-26)
  11. Healing a withered hand (Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-10)
  12. Raising a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17)
  13. Calming the stormy sea (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25)
  14. Healing the Gerasene demon-possessed man (Matthew 8:28-32, Mark 5:1-13, Luke 8:26-33)
  15. Healing a woman with internal bleeding (Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:43-48)
  16. Raising Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:18-19, 23-25; Mark 5:22-24, 35-43; Luke 8:41-42, 49-56)
  17. Healing two blind men (Matthew 9:27-31)
  18. Healing a mute man possessed by a demon (Matthew 9:32-33)
  19. Healing a man who was crippled for 38 years (John 5:1-17)
  20. Feeding 5000 men and their families (Matthew 14:16-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-14)
  21. Jesus walks on water (Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21)
  22. Healing of many in Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56)
  23. Healing a demon-possessed girl (Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30)
  24. Healing a deaf man with a speech impediment (Mark 7:31-37)
  25. Feeding the 4000 men and their families (Matthew 15:29-39, Mark 8:1-10)
  26. Healing a blind man in Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26)
  27. Healing a man born blind (John 9:1-41)
  28. Healing a boy possessed by a demon (Matthew 17:14-20, Mark 9:17-29, Luke 9:37-43)
  29. Catching a fish with a coin in its mouth (Matthew 17:24-27)
  30. Healing a blind and mute man who was possessed by a demon (Matthew 12:22-23, Luke 11:14)
  31. Healing a woman with an 18 year infirmity (Luke 13:10-13)
  32. Healing a man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-6)
  33. Healing 10 men suffering from leprosy (Luke 17:11-19)
  34. Bringing Lazarus back to life (John 11:1-44)
  35. Healing Bartimaeus of blindness (Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43)
  36. The withering fig tree that produced no fruit (Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:12-14, 20-25)
  37. Restoring a severed ear (Luke 22:45-54)
  38. The resurrection of Jesus Christ ( 1 Corinthians 15, Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20 )
  39. Catching of the 153 fish (John 21:4-11)
  40. The ascension of Jesus Christ ( Acts 1:1-11 )

https://www.quora.com/How-many-miracles-did-Jesus-perform-in-his-lifetime-What-are-the-Bible-verses-in-the-Gospel-of-John

Scholars have attributed a wide assortment of often conflicting reasons for these miracles. These reasons range from the miracle being just an illustrative talking point in the teachings of Jesus to the miracle itself being dismissed as a parable of something more mundane.

It seems that many of these authors seem to have neglected one of the most compelling and authoritative sources in researching their writings on the miracles of Christ, the Bible.

Let us see what the Scriptures say about the subject. I would like to direct you to the account of the disciple Thomas, who was absent from the Upper Room when, Jesus first appeared to the other disciples as the Resurrected Christ, John 20:24-31 (ESV):

Jesus and Thomas

 

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[a] 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

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 20:24 Greek Didymus

We see that when the Lord returns to the Upper Room, eight days after his first appearance so that Thomas would believe in the miracle of the resurrection.

However, it is the next two verses of John’s Gospel that signify the intent of purpose to the inclusion of the signs of miracles of Jesus in his gospel, as well as the other inspired Scriptures of the New Testament:

The Purpose of This Book

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.

John acknowledges that there were many other signs or miracles not included in his gospel, but those that he did include, we do so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing this, we too may have life in his name.

In the times of Jesus and the disciples, the Scriptures give us many accounts of false prophets of God, who used so-called magic sleight of hand to either challenge His authority or as a demonstration that they have been called as a disciple of God. Both are false.

God performed miracles to change the heart of Pharaoh so that the ruler would release His people from their captivity, as we read in Exodus 7:8-12 (ESV):

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

We also have in Acts 8:9-24, the account of Simon the Magician, who failed when he sought to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit from the disciples as we read specifically in verses 18-22:

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 

Simon the Magician did not have an understanding receiving the power of God’s Holy Spirit is the reward to faith in Him, that the God’s Holy Spirit cannot be purchased nor subject commands of any person, and most importantly the Spirit is intended to facilitate God’s plan for humanity, not vice-versa.

Today, we see many false prophets who desire to elevate themselves not to praise God. Like Simon the Magician, they may have been baptized, they know all the right phrases used by believers, they seek only to elevate themselves above God and above others. It is the sin of the Garden of Eden all over again.

God used miracles to change the heart of Pharaoh and Simon the Magician could not receive the power of the Holy Spirit because his heart was not right with the Lord when he sought to buy the Spirit from the disciples.

But like Pharaoh and Simon the Magician, people whose hearts are not right with God still seek a miracle, not out of their own faith, but from twisted desire to prove their own authority over the one true God, as we see in Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV):

The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”So he left them and departed.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Footnotes: a, Matthew 16:2 Some manuscripts omit the following words to the end of verse 3

The other key part of the ministry of Jesus was the use of the parable, to help bring an understanding of God’s purpose to both his disciples and others]

An explanation of this method of teaching is found in Matthew 13:10-16 (ESV):

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.

Sadly, there are those who will never believe the truth found in the miracles and parables of the Lord, as their lack of faith is a stumbling block to understanding the wisdom and power of God in Christ Jesus, 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) :

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Many Christians struggle with the symbolism Jesus used in his teachings, and we find on the back of today’s bulletin a good method of how to differentiate passages of Scriptures intended to be taken literally from those intended to teach us symbolically, as we see in this answer from the Web Page, gotquestions.com:                                                                                                       

Question: “How can I recognize and understand biblical symbolism?”

Answer: The language of the Bible is rich with metaphor. The biblical writers used familiar, everyday objects to symbolize spiritual truth. Symbols are quite common in the poetic and prophetic portions of the Bible. By its very nature, poetry relies heavily on figurative language; when Solomon calls his bride “a lily among thorns” (Song of Solomon 2:2), he is using symbols to declare the desirability and uniqueness of the Shulamite. Prophecy, too, contains much figurative imagery. Isaiah often used trees and forests as symbols of strength (e.g., Isaiah 10:18-1932:19). Daniel saw “a goat with a prominent horn between his eyes” who “came from the west . . . without touching the ground” (Daniel 8:5), and we interpret this as a kingdom (Greece) and its king (Alexander the Great) who speedily conquered the world.

Jesus’ teaching was full of symbolism. He presented Himself as a Shepherd, a Sower, a Bridegroom, a Door, a Cornerstone, a Vine, Light, Bread, and Water. He likened the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast, a seed, a tree, a field, a net, a pearl, and yeast. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of other symbols in the Bible.

Note that a literal interpretation of the Bible allows for figurative language. Here’s a simple rule: if the literal meaning of a passage of Scripture leads to obvious absurdity, but a figurative meaning yields clarity, then the passage is probably using symbols. For example, in Exodus 19:4, God tells Israel, “I carried you on eagles’ wings.” A literal reading of this statement would lead to absurdity—God did not use real eagles to airlift His people out of Egypt. The statement is obviously symbolic; God is emphasizing the speed and strength with which He delivered Israel. This leads to another rule of biblical interpretation: a symbol will have a non-symbolic meaning. In other words, there is something real (a real person, a real historical event, a real trait) behind every figure of speech.

https://www.gotquestions.org/biblical-symbolism.html

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7):

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary Mother of Jesus May 12, 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary Mother of Jesus 2019’ 

© May 12, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 12, 2019

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on May 11, 2014, and May 8, 2016

BLCF: Bulletin May 11, 2014

BLCF Bulletin May 8, 2016

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior; Choruses                                                                   

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

Responsive Reading #628: The Child Jesus (– Luke 2)   

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                     ‘Treasures of a Godly Woman: Mary Mother of Jesus’ 

                                                                                                                                                                     

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Since today is Mother’s Day, I would like to share best wishes to all the mothers in the congregation this morning. I think of the many special things a mother may ponder in her heart with regards to the actions of their children.

For our lesson today, I would like to examine Mary, the mother of Jesus, a special mother recorded in the Scriptures, including today’s scripture verses. These verses are listed in your bulletin, in their chronological order.

I would like to begin with reading Luke 1:26-35, where Mary receives some special news from God, by way of the angel, Gabriel:

Luke 1:26-35 (ESV): 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 d. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

Not only does Mary, who is betrothed or engaged to marry Joseph, find out that she will become pregnant, but she has been chosen by God, to be the mother of a holy child, the Son of God, whom she is to name “Jesus”.

Luke 2:15-20 describes the visit to Bethlehem by shepherds of the field after they were informed by God’s angels of the birth of the Christ child.

Luke 2:15-20 (ESV)

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.

After the shepherds departed, Luke indicates that Mary treasured up or pondered these things in her heart.

Our next Scripture passage gives us an idea of how Mary raised her son, Jesus, and the mother-son relationship Luke 2:41-51.

Luke 2:41-51(ESV): The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Young Jesus In The Temple Hofmann Painting by Frans Schwartz.jpg

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[a] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[b] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:48 Greek they b. Luke 2:49 Or about my Father’s business

We have in this Scripture, an indication of the love and concern Mary had for her son. In an account that sounds a little like the film, Home Alone, Jesus is left behind in Jerusalem, or should I say elected to remain in Jerusalem, following a Passover Feast. The young twelve-year-old Jesus is assumed to be with others in a group from Nazareth. However, after a day’s journey, Mary and Joseph then realize that Jesus is missing from the group. Jesus’ parents return to Jerusalem to look for their son. Three days later, Jesus who was missing for five days, was found in the temple, talking to the elders. Those present were amazed at young Jesus’ understanding of the Scripters, and his parents were astonished. This did not deter Mary, who was worried for her son’s safety, from chastising the boy, verses 48 – 50, of Luke 2:

48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

We also see that though the Son of the Most High must be in his Father’s house, Jesus did not forget his place with respect to his parents, as we read in verse 51 that:

51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.

And we read, again that Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. And though Jesus was raised to honor his parents, he obviously was instructed well with regard to the Scriptures, as he had demonstrated in the temple in Jerusalem.

The relationship between Mary and Jesus is described further in what I would like to refer as a Wiki bits reference, though found at the Web site, biography.com:

According to the Gospel of John 2:1-11, as Jesus was beginning his ministry, he and his disciples traveled with his mother, Mary, to a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The wedding host had run out of wine and Jesus’s mother came to him for help. At first, Jesus refused to intervene, but then he relented and asked a servant to bring him large jars filled with water. He turned the water into a wine of higher quality than any served during the wedding. John’s gospel depicts the event as the first sign of Jesus’s glory and his disciples’ belief in him.

After the wedding, Jesus, his mother Mary and his disciples traveled to Jerusalem for Passover. At the temple, they saw moneychangers and merchants selling wares. In a rare display of anger, Jesus overturned the tables and, with a whip made of cords, drove them out, declaring that his Father’s house is not a house for merchants.                                                              

http://www.biography.com/people/jesus-christ-9354382#jesuss-ministry&awesm=~oDNPn11WRqG16j

We see that Mary was more than a mother traveling with her son; she was traveling with Jesus and his disciples. And isn’t it just like a mother to ask her son to help provide the host with wine? You will note that though Jesus had begun his ministry, that this time he and his disciples accompanied his mother to a wedding. This indicates the human side of Jesus, who on more than one occasion honored his mother, by referring to himself as the “son of man” rather than the “son of God”. And not to disparage his Father, Christ honored his Godly side by chasing the money changers from the temple.

But being both the son of Mary and the Son of God did not confuse Jesus with respect to the importance of his ministry, as we see in Luke 11:27-28. (ESV):

True Blessedness

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Jesus used the woman’s remark to emphasize that God’s blessings do not come by birthright, but by honoring and keeping the word of God. This statement is reinforced by Jesus’ remarks n Matthew 12:46-50.

 Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.[a] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 12:46 Some manuscripts insert verse 47: Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you”

At first glance, it seems that Jesus disavowed his mother and siblings, indicating that the designation of a mother, brother or sister, in his view, should apply only to those who do the will of the Father in heaven.

But you may ask, “Did Mary not demonstrate obedience to God’s will by bearing and raising His Son?” For the answer to this question, let us look at John 19:5-30:

John 19:25-30 (ESV)

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Just before giving up his spirit on the cross, Jesus saw his mother and John, who is referred to as the disciple who he loved. He then told Mary to behold her son, the disciple John. And to the disciple John, he said to behold your mother, Mary. Jesus was not talking about Mary as his birth mother. In accordance with what he had spoken to the people in Matthew 12:46-50, he was acknowledging the faith and discipleship of Mary.  In this regard, Mary was his mother by birth and by Spirit.

We have confirmation of this observation, when we read in the next Scripture verse, that Mary was again with the disciples in the Upper Room, after Jesus Ascended to heaven, obediently praying and awaiting the arrival of the promised Comforter, God’s Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:6-14 (ESV): The Ascension

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.[c]

Footnotes: a. Acts 1:4 Or eating b. Acts 1:5 Or in c. Acts 1:14 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 men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church

Mary was special, not only because God had chosen her to give birth, and to raise His only Son; unlike most woman of the day, Mary choose not to stay at home and maintain a household. We see Mary as a loving, caring parent and as a disciple of faith and obedience, to the Father in heaven.

The Scripture’s account of Mary’s journeys with Jesus and the disciples indicate how she was involved with the first miracle where Jesus turned water to wine and her presence at Jesus’ cleansing of the temple of the merchants and money changers. Mary continued to follow Jesus and demonstrated both her love for her son and obedience to her God. Mary understood that she had been favored by God to be a mother to God’s Son, Jesus, and was present at many of the important events in the life and ministry of her son.

Mary was present at his birth, his death; witness to his resurrection; and present in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost when God’s Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and believers that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the true Son of God. To Jesus, Mary was his mother, not just because she gave birth to him, but as an obedient woman of faith who heard God’s word and kept it. Mary is an example to Christians, both as a loving parent and follower of God’s word, by taking care of Jesus, the son of man, who was also the Son of God.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark (Pass It On)                                                     

Benediction – (Galatians 1:3-5):                                                                                                                   

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives’

© May 5, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 5, 2019

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on September 28, 2014, and February 5, 2017

BLCF: bulletin-february-5-2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                        

Opening Hymn #55: For the Beauty of the Earth; Chorus

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

Responsive Reading #607 (Creator and Sustainer – Psalm 104); Prayer                                               

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                         ‘Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives’

Let us pray…

Today’s lesson at BLCF, we will have a look at surviving in the wilderness of life’s trials and tests with comfort and mercy from the Lord.

Recently, there has been on television, a number of popular “Reality Series” which document peoples’ ability to overcome the challenges of surviving in a hostile environment. While a working knowledge of survival skills is useful, the key to successfully meeting the challenges and tests in the wilderness rests in one’s attitude or their frame of mind.

But this morning, I would like to discuss what is meant by the “wilderness,” that is described in the Scriptures?

We find one definition of the wilderness, specifically in the region of Judaea, from the web site bibleplaces.com:

Judean Wilderness

Also known as Desert of Judah, Jeshimon, Midbar Yehuda, Wilderness of Judaea, Wilderness of Judah Place of Refuge.

Because of its lack of water and good routes, the Judean wilderness has been (mostly) uninhabited throughout history. Consequently it was an ideal place for those seeking refuge from enemies or retreat from the world. When on the run from King Saul, David hid in various places in the Judean wilderness (the Wilderness(es) of Ziph, Maon, and En Gedi are part of the Judean Wilderness).

John the Baptist preached here, and it seems likely that this was the wilderness where Jesus was tempted. Herod the Great built two fortresses (Herodium and Masada) in this area for protection should his people ever revolt against him.

http://www.bibleplaces.com/judeanwilderness.htm

So when Moses sojourned in the wilderness, he found more than a refuge from Pharaoh, as we find in Exodus 3:1 (ESV):

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

In Exodus 3, we have the account of God revealing Himself to Moses by way of a burning bush upon a mountain. God revealed to Moses His intention to free the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt. Moses was the key to the Lord’s plan, which included leading them through the same wilderness.

But why would God want His people, who suffered greatly at the hands of their Egyptian taskmasters, venture through the wilderness before reaching their “Promised Land”? To help us understand why let us look at another take on the usage of the term “wilderness” in the Scriptures, is that posted by Jeff A. Benner at ancient-hebrew.org:

Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings:
Wilderness ~ midvar
By Jeff A. Benner

For forty years God had Israel wander in the ‘wilderness’. Insights into why God had chosen the wilderness for their wanderings can be found in the roots of this word. The root word is ‘davar’ and is most frequently translated as a thing or a word. The original picture painted by this word to the Hebrews is the arrangement of things to create order. Speech is an ordered arrangement of words. In the ancient Hebrew mind words are ‘things’ and are just as ‘real’ as food or other ‘thing’. When a word is spoken to another it is ‘placed in the ears’ no different than when food is given to another it is ‘placed in the mouth’.

The Hebrew name Devorah (Deborah) means ‘bee’ and is the feminine form of the word davar. Bees are a community of insects which live in a perfectly ordered arrangement. The word ‘midvar’ meaning wilderness is actually a place that exists as a perfectly arranged order as its ecosystem is in harmony and balance. By placing Israel in this environment he is teaching them balance, order and harmony.

http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_wilderness.html

To recap, the trek of the Hebrew people was intended to help them become reacquainted with their God, with the wilderness as their school. But the balance, order, and harmony to be restored in the Lord’s people come with His promise of a pardon for all sins. As we see in Isaiah 40:1-5 (ESV), entitled:

                Comfort for God’s People

40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[
a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 40:2 Or hardship b. Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one crying

The Scriptures description of a voice crying out in the wilderness is echoed again by John the Baptist’s testimony in John 1:19-23 (ESV):

The Testimony of John the Baptist

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight[a] the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Footnotes: a. John 1:23 Or crying out, ‘In the wilderness make straight

The wilderness, where John the Baptist refers to himself as “voice in the wilderness” was prophesized by the prophet Isaiah, describing the restoration of balance, order, and harmony, as well as the promise of a pardon from sins, through Christ, Jesus. Jesus also had a wilderness experience immediately after he was baptized by the Holy Spirit, where the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-11(ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

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

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

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

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

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

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

We see that the devil tested Jesus by tempting him to satisfy his hunger; having God rescue him as he leaped from a high precipice; and then offering Christ all the kingdoms of the world if he would worship Satan instead of the Father in Heaven! It is interesting that all the temptations Satan offered Christ were refuted and refused with Jesus responding with Scripture that spoke of actions of obedience and faith.

All of us encounter at some time in our lives, the challenges of a “wilderness trek”, where Satan challenges our faith by tempting us in a time of adversity. And just as Moses and the Hebrew people, as well as Jesus, we can allow the experience to draw comfort, through God’s Holy Spirit, knowing that as believers in the Resurrected Christ, God has blessed us with His goodness and mercy, by our faith in the Lord.

Let us pray…

Communion (Institution of the Lord’s Supper) – Matthew 26:26-29:

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 new 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 # 440: All the Way My Savior Leads Me

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room

Believe!

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:          

‘God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room’

© April 21, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 21, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 20, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin April 20, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn: #163: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

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

Responsive Reading #623: The Risen Lord (– Matthew 28 and John 20)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                            ‘God’s Easter Miracles: In a Tomb; On a Road; and In a Room’  

  

 Let us pray…

‘He is risen!’ 

Congregation’s reply: ‘He is risen, indeed!’

Today is the day we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection from his death upon the cross at Golgotha. The world is full of many religions, many false gods, and worship a variety of idols. But only Christ, the Son of the one true God, performed the miraculous and supernatural act of returning from the dead.

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared neither on just a single occasion nor only to the eleven apostles.

For today’s lesson, we will study four events, where the Resurrected Christ came to those who loved and believed their Saviour, which occurred in three places: in a tomb; on a road; and in a room.

Let us look at these meetings with the Lord in their proper chronology and begin with the account in John’s gospel, Chapter 20, verses 1-18, which give the account of Mary Magdalene, who arrived at the tomb of Jesus on the first day of the week, only to find the gravestone rolled away and the tomb empty.

John 20:1-18 (ESV): The Resurrection

20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a] head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his b.John 20:16 Or Hebrew

The Scriptures indicate that Mary ran to report her discovery to Peter and to another, referred in this passage as the ‘other disciple.’

You may ask what is the identity of the ‘other disciple’ mentioned in this account?

Most scholars agree that the ‘other disciple’ is John. This also makes sense, in that referring to himself as the ‘other disciple’, in the third person, John not only demonstrate humility, but avoids a narrative that uses the personal pronouns I and me, which could cause the reader to stray from the focus of the passage, the Lord’s victory over death.

And Mary Magdalene, the first to find the tomb empty, became the first to meet Jesus after his resurrection. We see that Mary, while weeping at the tomb, first encounters two angels inside the tomb, where the head and feet of Christ’s body had lain.

You may recall in Exodus 3:2, when Moses first approached God’s Presence within the Burning Bush on Mount Horeb, he encountered an angel of God.

 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.

We read in Exodus 25:18-21, that two angels adorned the Ark of the Covenant, positioned in much the same manner as the two Mary Magdalene encountered in the tomb of Christ:

18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. 20 The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. 21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you.

In contrast to the angels on the Ark of the Covenant, the angels encountered by Mary Magdalene in Christ’s tomb do not face inwards, but outwards. By Christ’s sacrifice, the judgment seat of God has been removed and God’s presence is no longer contained in the Ark of the Covenant, as all believers now contain God’s presence, as we become Arks of God’s New Covenant. And so the angels look outward.

As believers in Christ, who took our judgment upon himself, we are saved from the eternal death judgment for sin, and like the Lord, we will be resurrected from the grave, when Christ returns. This is God’s covenant.

The next encounter with the Resurrected Christ occurs with two Disciples of Christ on the Road to Emmaus, described in Luke 24:13-35.

Luke 24:13-35 (ESV): On the Road to Emmaus

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Footnotes: a. Luke 24:13 Greek sixty stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters

In the Emmaus account, which gives the name of one of the two disciples as Cleopas, we have the pair telling the Lord how they had hoped before his crucifixion; they had hoped that Israel had been delivered. To which the Lord chides them, saying (in verses 25-25):

“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

It is only after breaking of the bread, does Christ reveal himself.

It is important to note that these two disciples did not initially recognize this stranger as Christ, which is similar to Mary Magdalene’s mistaking the Lord as a gardener or groundkeeper at the cemetery.

Our next encounter with the Resurrected Christ comes from John 20:19-29, where our Lord appears before the disciples. This occurs on the evening of the same day after he had met Mary Magdalene in the morning and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. This time Jesus meets the disciples in the same Upper Room where he shared the Passover Supper before his crucifixion, as described in John 20:19-23 (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.”

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

In this encounter, Jesus announces his presence by saying:

“Peace be with you.” And after showing them his hands and side, the Lord gives the eleven the assignment or commission to share his Gospel, “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.”

Having received the Holy Spirit and been instructed that the Lord is sending them, as he was sent by the Father, the disciples no longer are disciples or students of the Lord but become his Apostles. Wikipedia defines an apostle as:

The word “apostle” derives from the Ancient Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstólos), meaning “messenger” or “envoy” that was formed from the prefix ἀπό- (apó-, “from”) and root στέλλω (stéllō, “I send”, “I depart”).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle_(Christian)

However, in spite of the testimonies of Mary Magdalene, the two disciples on Emmaus Road, and to his fellow disciples, now apostles, the disciple Thomas refuses to believe in the resurrection of Jesus without visible proof, as we read in John 20:24-29 (ESV):

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[a] 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

The fourth and final encounter with the Resurrected Lord takes place in the same Upper Room that he appeared before other disciples, some eight days later. This time Thomas is present and the Lord instructs him to touch the wounds on his hands and side, and telling the disciple, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Though Jesus did not initially reveal himself to the two disciples encountered on the Emmaus Road, he was not recognized by Mary Magdalene at the tomb where he was buried. Mary mistook our Lord at first as a gardener or groundskeeper, until he spoke her name.

After being informed by Mary Magdalene of the empty tomb, the disciples Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. While John 20 indicates that the disciples believed, it also indicates that they did not understand the Scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.

When Christ first appeared to the eleven disciples, in the Upper Room, he showed them his hands and side, revealing the wounds from the crucifixion. Jesus returned again to the twelve disciples in the Upper Room, this time to show Thomas the same wounds he had shown to the other disciples some eight days previous.

The question arises: Why did the disciples not believe the reports that Christ was alive and risen from the dead? And why was it necessary for Jesus to show them tangible evidence, such as the wounds from the cross, to convince the disciples? After all, the disciples were part of Jesus’ inner circle for over three years. They had seen Christ’s miracles and had heard his gospel, and still, they had to see tangible evidence of the miracle of the Lord’s resurrection! That is why the Lord breathed God’s Holy Spirit into the disciples in order to equip them for their new Commission as Apostles of Christ’s Gospel.

Before Jesus died, because of sin, people practiced a religion filled with good works in order to worship God. They had to make sacrifices to God for their transgressions and communicated with God through such intermediaries as holy prophets or high priests. Worship involved performing visible, tangible actions to honor God.

Through Jesus, God reveals His new Paradigm for His relationship with His people. The term “paradigm” was a popular buzzword that was perhaps overused throughout the 1990s. For those unfamiliar with it, let us consult dictionary.com:

par·a·digm /ˈpærəˌdaɪm, -dɪm/ Show Spelled [par-uh-dahym, -dim] Show IPA noun  

an example serving as a model; pattern. Synonyms: mold, standard; ideal, paragon, touchstone.

 such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group: the company’s business paradigm.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paradigm

Jesus implemented the new paradigm for humanity’s relationship with God, by removing the stigma for the sin of humanity by taking upon himself both the judgment and punishment for sin. At his first appearance in the Upper Room, we see in John 20, that he commissioned the disciples, sending them to go forth, as the Father in heaven had sent him. And knowing that he was soon to ascend to heaven, Jesus breathed upon them the Holy Spirit of God, which was the first Pentecost. Some forty days after his ascension to heaven, Christ sent God’s Holy Spirit to the rest of the believers gathered in the same Upper Room. After that, the Spirit, which is God’s presence, came upon those believers, who accepted Christ as savior; confessed their sins; and have chosen to follow the Way of the Lord.

At this point, the disciples were no longer students of the Lord, but having received the Spirit, become Apostles or messengers of his gospel of forgiveness, sanctification, and following the Day of Pentecost. As Apostles, believers are vessels of God’s Holy Spirit or Arks of God’s New Covenant. God’s new Paradigm is His New Covenant, which not only includes salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit but the promise of our own resurrection. And like the twelve Apostles, we are commissioned as messengers of Christ’s gospel.

The most important part of this passage, which all Christians who did not live in the time when Christ walked before his crucifixion should note, are the words that were spoken by Jesus to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Though after his ascension, Jesus did appear to Stephen, Saul or Paul and John, most Christians have made a faith conversion base upon what they believe, not what they have seen.  This is God’s new Paradigm for humanity. Since the Day of Pentecost, all believers in the unseen receive by faith, the Holy Spirit of God to become Apostles of Christ. As Apostles, we are charged to share his gospel of salvation and God’s New Covenant, which is eternal life.

So let us close today’s message with the same exclamation that awaits the believers reply, “He is risen!”

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain                                                      

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24):                                                                                 

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Join Us Good Friday 11 AM: BLCF and Toronto Vineyard Combined Service

Good Friday 11 AM: BLCF and Toronto Vineyard Combined Service

Order of Service

BLCF Bulletin April 19, 2019

Announcements and Call to Worship; Opening Prayer                                                            

Choruses: Led by Terry Sywanyk, Toronto Vineyard                                     

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

Pastor Bob Buckley, Toronto Vineyard Message: Good Friday Darkness

Mark 15:22-39 (ESV):

22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour[a] when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left.[b] 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

The Death of Jesus

33 And when the sixth hour[c] had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.[d] 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he[e] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son[f] of God!”                                  

Footnotes: a. Mark 15:25 That is, 9 a.m.  b.  Mark 15:27 Some manuscripts insert verse 28And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “He was numbered with the transgressors” c. Mark 15:33 That is, noon d. Mark 15:33 That is, 3 p.m.   e.Mark 15:39 Some manuscripts insert cried out and f. Mark 15:39 Or a son

Communion, Steve Mickelson, BLCF Church: Mark 14:12-25

Mark 14:12-25 (ESV): The Passover with the Disciples

 12 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” 20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Institution of the Lord’s Supper

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”                                           

Footnotes: a. Mark 14:24 Some manuscripts insert new

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday, He Died for Me

Yesterday He Died For Me (on Youtube)

Benediction – (John 6:35-40) – The Bread of Life:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship

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That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.            – Galatians 3:14