Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© November 5, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 5, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn #288: Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me                                                   

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Denies Jesus

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

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

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

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

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

Jesus and Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Shepherd Struck

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus and Peter

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

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

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

The Lord  demonstrates his love for Peter, by asking the disciple three times whether he has love Jesus, one for each of the three times Peter had denied Christ. Peter responds three times to Jesus by confessing his love for the Lord. It is after hearing the third acknowledgement from Peter, that Jesus indicates all is forgiven, by telling Peter the nature of the disciple’s death, which would be to the glory of God. The Lord then instructs the disciple to follow him. Peter is now ready to resume the role of being the rock of Christ’s Church, which will come on the Day of Pentecost, along with the arrival of God’s Holy Spirit to the faithful assembled in the Upper Room.

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

Closing Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:23-24):

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

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The Twinkling of an Eye, Before the Trumpet’s Sound

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Twinkling of an Eye, Before the Trumpet’s Sound’

 © October 29, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                             

Opening Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound

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

Responsive Reading #644: Christ and Immortality (- from 1 Corinthians 15)

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                                                ‘The Twinkling of an Eye, Before the Trumpet’s Sound’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service. Our lesson today is entitled: The Twinkling of an Eye, Before the Trumpet’s Sound’, a study based upon a question sister Olivia asked last Sunday: “What happens to the Spirit of the saved, between the death of the body and the time of the resurrection?” a time frame described in the Scriptures as the “twinkling of an eye” that takes place just before the “trumpet’s sound.”

Depending upon the day our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus returns, this period of time could last a second or thousands of years, and it is during this time that our spirit will abandon its earthly body for a heavenly body. We will exchange our form, from one that resembles the man of dust, (Adam), to the man of the Spirit, (Jesus). When Jesus returns, our spirit leaves the mortal vessel that it occupied until the death of that vessel and move on to occupy a new immortal body.

The question is what happens to the human soul between the instant we draw our last breath, in our current body, and that instant when we occupy the new form that the Lord has prepared for us.

Before we examine this twilight period between the mortal and immortal, let us examine what the Bible calls the resurrection into a heavenly body as described in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 (ESV):

The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”;[a] the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall[b] also bear the image of the image of the man of heaven.

 Mystery and Victory

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.       

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

The new body that Jesus provides for us is not subject death or deterioration caused by sin, as the Lord’s sacrifice has allowed us to exchange the mortal body for a new one that is immortal.

Understanding this new immortal form that awaits the resurrected believer may be a challenge, when one attempts to define it or understand from the mortal perspective, as was the problem encountered by the Sadducees in  Matthew 22:23-33 (ESV):

Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

 23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and rise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

There is no need for marriage and procreation to perpetuate those who are immortal. Not only will believers be raised from death to an immortal form of existence, but the countenance that is bright as the sky above, and those responsible for the leading others to salvation will shine as brightly as the stars above, Daniel 12:1-3 (ESV):

The Time of the End

12 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above;[a] and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.                                                   

Footnotes: a. Daniel 12:3 Hebrew the expanse; compare Genesis 1:6–8

Dr. Ralph F. Wilson argues that we would be mistaken, if we think that this period that the souls of the departed exist only to slumber in the dust, while waiting the appointed time that the Lord returns to be awakened in his article which discusses the implications of a Soul Sleep Doctrine:

Implications for Soul Sleep – by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

(from This Day You Will Be with Me in Paradise – Luke 23:43)

A few Christian groups teach a doctrine known as “soul sleep.” Essentially, the doctrine holds that at death the soul “sleeps” and is not conscious until the resurrection. Indeed, there are a number of times when “sleep” is used as a euphemism for death.14 But three passages make it quite clear that the soul is not unconscious until the resurrection:

“Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Philippians 1:23)

http://www.jesuswalk.com/7-last-words/2_paradise.htm

As a reward for faith, our Lord promised us the same type of resurrection from death by way of the Holy Spirit as His experience after His crucifixion. While his body was dead in the flesh, Jesus’ was alive and active in the spirit, as we read in 1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV):

1 Peter 3:18-22 (ESV)

18 For Christ also suffered[a] once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which[b] he went and proclaimed[c]to the spirits in prison, 20 because[d] they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.                                           

Footnotes: a. 1 Peter 3:18 Some manuscripts died b. 1 Peter 3:19 Or the Spirit, in whom c. 1 Peter 3:19 Or preached d. 1 Peter 3:20 Or when

Professor Joe Rigney interprets this passage of Scripture from 1 Peter 3:18-22, as follows:

Where Did Jesus Go When He Died?

(by Joe Rigney – Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary)

“Following his death for sin, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges.”

What, then, does this tell us about where Jesus was on Holy Saturday? Based on Jesus’s words to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43, some Christians believe, that after his death, Jesus’s soul went to heaven to be in the presence of the Father. But Luke 23:43 doesn’t say that Jesus would be in the presence of God; it says he would be in the presence of the thief (“Today you will be with me in paradise”), and based on the Old Testament and Luke 16, it seems likely that the now-repentant thief would be at Abraham’s side, a place of comfort and rest for the righteous dead, which Jesus here calls “paradise.”

Following his death for sin, then, Jesus journeys to Hades, to the City of Death, and rips its gates off the hinges. He liberates Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, John the Baptist, and the rest of the Old Testament faithful, ransoming them from the power of Sheol (Psalm 49:1586:1389:48). They had waited there for so long, not having received what was promised, so that their spirits would be made perfect along with the saints of the new covenant (Hebrews 11:39–4012:23).

After his resurrection, Jesus ascends to heaven and brings the ransomed dead with him, so that now paradise is no longer down near the place of torment, but is up in the third heaven, the highest heaven, where God dwells (2 Corinthians 12:2–4).

Now, in the church age, when the righteous die, they aren’t merely carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom; they depart to be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). The wicked, however, remain in Hades in torment, until the final judgment, when Hades gives up the dead who dwell there, and they are judged according to their deeds, and then Death and Hades are thrown into hell, into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13–15).                         

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/he-descended-into-hell

While believers in the Resurrected Christ are raised from the grave to be sanctified from the punishment for their sins, those who have turned away from God, including Satan, face the same, as described in Revelation 20 (ESV) :

The Thousand Years

 20 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit[a] and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

 The Defeat of Satan

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven[b] and consumed them,10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

 Judgment Before the Great White Throne

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.            

Footnotes: a. Revelation 20:1 Greek the abyss; also verse 3 b. Revelation 20:9 Some manuscripts from God, out of heaven, or out of heaven from God

We must take heart in the Lord’s promise that we will be accompanied forever: in this life, in the twinkling of an eye after death, and after our own resurrection. Jesus has assures us, that we will exist in the company of a Spirit who never slumbers or sleeps, John 14:15-17 (ESV):

 Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever,17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you.                

Footnotes: a. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:2615:2616:7 b. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

 What will our spirit do while waiting between death of our natural bodies and the resurrection of our new spiritual bodies? Pastor Peter Slofstra provides us with an explanation of God’s Amazing Grace, with a little help from C.S. Lewis:

God’s Amazing Grace

“Lent Sermon Series on the Words of the Cross.”  – Luke 23:43         

(from Sermon by Reverend Peter Slofstra Pastor of Hope Fellowship, Courtice)

The question is this: When a person dies, where does he go and when does he get there? Does he enter a state called “soul sleep” until Jesus returns? Does he go to a place called purgatory, an intermediate place until he is ready to move on? Does he go instantly to heaven? And how can that be since Jesus has not come back yet and the new earth and paradise has not yet been restored?

It helps to remember that Jesus’ concept of “today” is very different from ours. When Peter wrote about the Day of the Lord and tried to reassure Christians who were impatient to see Jesus come back, he said: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (II Peter 3:8) In other words, time is a human construct, a linear experience of seconds, minutes, hours, day, weeks, months and years. Eternity, on the other hand, is a divine experience, a constant living in the now that holds past, present and future in the same moment.

When a Christian dies, he enters eternity and immediately arrives at that moment where Jesus is coming and paradise is restored. Like pushing through the fur coats in the wardrobe and tumbling into Narnia, the believer who dies in the Lord instantly arrives there. In the meantime, those who are left behind continue to measure their experience with clocks and calendars, constrained by the schedules and routines that we are forced to keep.

Is this just a fantasy, a human attempt to express the inexpressible and understand a divine reality that we can never grasp? Perhaps. But there is also the Bible which says, “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.” (II Thessalonians 4:15) In other words, like people who sleep and are oblivious to the passing of time, waking up in what seems like a second later while others put in a full shift at work, those who die in the Lord wake up instantly at the moment of Christ’s second coming to join those who happen to be still alive when he returns. In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis captures this beautifully at the end of the story when the four children who grew into adults in Narnia tumble back out of the wardrobe only to find themselves back at the precise moment in time when their adventure first began!

It really is true that to God a thousand years is like a day. The comfort we have is that our loved ones are with the Lord today in eternity even though we are still waiting for that Day to arrive in human time. Isn’t it incredible that we may picture them in paradise right now!

https://www.crcna.org/resources/church-resources/reading-sermons/today-you-will-be-me-paradise-0

Let us pray…

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

 Benediction – 1 Corinthians 15:56-57:

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.

David: Humble Shepherd, Defender of the Faith, and God’s Fearless Champion

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

David: Humble Shepherd, Defender of the Faith, and God’s Fearless Champion’

© October 22, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                          

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

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

Responsive Reading #598(a): The Holy City (Psalm 23 – first half)                  

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                                          ‘David: Humble Shepherd, Defender of the Faith, and God’s Fearless Champion’

                                                                                     

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Worship and Prayer Service at BLCF. For today’s lesson, we will examine the actions and testimony of David in two passages of Scripture: 1 Samuel 17:1-51 and Psalm 23.

Before we examine these Bible passages, let us briefly take a brief overview of this King, who proved the power of his faith on the battlefield. The following biographical sketch comes from Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia:

King David

David[a] is described in the Hebrew Bible as the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.

In the biblical narrative, David is a young shepherd who first gains fame as a musician and later by killing Goliath. He becomes a favorite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. Worried that David is trying to take his throne, Saul turns on David. After Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle, David is anointed as King. David conquers Jerusalem, taking the Ark of the Covenant into the city, and establishing the kingdom founded by Saul. As king, David arranges the death of Uriah the Hittite to cover his adultery with Bathsheba. The text does not state whether she consented to sex. According to the same biblical text, God denies David the opportunity to build the temple and his son, Absalom, tries to overthrow him. David flees Jerusalem during Absalom’s rebellion, but after Absalom’s death he returns to the city to rule Israel. Before his peaceful death, he chooses his son Solomon as his successor. He is mentioned in the prophetic literature as an ideal king and an ancestor of a future Messiah, and many psalms are ascribed to him.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David

It is interesting that on more than one occasion, God chose to raise a humble shepherd to become a leader to His Chosen People. You may recall that the other herdsman chosen by the Lord was Moses, who was chosen to lead People of the House of Israel, from their bondage in Egypt.

Let us now look at the account of how young David convinced King Saul that the shepherd would be the best choice to be champion of God’s Chosen people against the giant Philistine warrior, named Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17:1-51 (ESV):

 David and Goliath

 17 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six[a] cubits[b] and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels[c] of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years.[d] 13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah[e] of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 

Footnotes: a. 1 Samuel 17:4 Hebrew; Septuagint, Dead Sea Scroll and Josephus four b. 1 Samuel 17:4 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters c. 1 Samuel 17:5 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams d. 1 Samuel 17:12 Septuagint, Syriac; Hebrew advanced among men e. 1 Samuel 17:17 An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters 

Looking at the footnotes on the height and size of Goliath, you may calculate, using the conversion of 1 cubit being equal to 18 inches or 45 centimeters, we have the warrior at 8 feet 8 inches plus a span or 270 cm, plus a span. And using the shekel of 1 unit being the equivalent of 2/5 ounces or 11 grams, the armor of mail, Goliath, at 5,000 shekels, would weigh about 2,000 ounces or 22 Kilograms.

Goliath was faced on the battlefield by David, the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. It was while he was bringing food to his brothers on the battle lines, that David heard the taunts of the Philistine champion against the armies of God’s Chosen and volunteered to face Goliath not only as a champion of the army of Israel, but more importantly, he came in the name of Lord of hosts who is the God of the armies of Israel.

Who else was more qualified to be champion of God, King Saul, and the People of Israel than this young shepherd who bravely slew both bear and lion to protect his flock, giving praise to God for his victories saying, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  – 1 Samuel 17:37

This brings us to our second Scripture passage, Psalm 23, where David acknowledges this King of God’s Chosen testimony is that he is but a member of a flock, who is guided, protected, comforted, and anointed by His Father in heaven.

We read this Psalm which praises and honors the Lord, in today’s Responsive Reading, entitled: The Holy City, and echoed in our Opening Hymn: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering, which we sang earlier in the service. For a better understanding of King David’s Psalm 23, here is the Good News Bible translation:

The LORD our Shepherd

1The LORD is my shepherd;

I have everything I need.

2He lets me rest in fields of green grass

and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.

3He gives me new strength.

He guides me in the right paths,

as he has promised.

4Even if I go through the deepest darkness,

I will not be afraid, LORD,

for you are with me.

Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.

5You prepare a banquet for me,

where all my enemies can see me;

you welcome me as an honoured guest

and fill my cup to the brim.

6I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;

and your house will be my home as long as I live.

https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/explore-the-bible/read/eng/GNB/Ps/23/

I wonder how many of the BLCF Congregation have the 1 Samuel 17 account of David and Goliath as come to mind as they read The Lord is My Shepherd in  Psalm 23 and vice versa?

While the words and actions of David against the champion of the army of the Philistines described in 1 Samuel 17:1-51 speak for themselves, the metaphors used in Psalm 23 certainly bear witness to David’s battle against Goliath, and how he trusted God, and continues to praise Him.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died for Me

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.

Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’      

© October 8, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 8, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                    Opening Hymn #448: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah; Choruses              Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings              Responsive Reading #619: The Waiting Harvest                                                         (- from Matthew 9, Romans 10, John 4, Psalm 126)                                                  Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                  ‘Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’   

   

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s  Sunday Praise and Worship Service, on this Thanksgiving Sunday. I would like to ask the congregation what is the definition of “thanksgiving”?

For those who have not already read the definition posted in this morning’s bulletin, you may be surprised to find to that dictionary.com, (as well as other dictionaries), define it as follows:

thanksgiving – noun (dictionary.com)

  1. the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.
  2. an expression of thanks, especially to God.
  3. a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness.
  4. a day set apart for giving thanks to God.
  5. (initial capital letterThanksgiving Day.

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

 We find a historical account of the origin of Thanksgiving in Canada on the site, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca:

Origins and History of Thanksgiving in Canada

Indigenous peoples in North America have a history of holding communal feasts in celebration of the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers. The Smithsonian Institute has noted that some First Nations “sought to insure a good harvest with dances and rituals.” The European settlers brought with them a similar tradition of harvest celebrations (for which the symbol was the cornucopia, or horn of plenty), which dates back to European peasant societies.

The first Thanksgiving by Europeans in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in the Eastern Arctic in 1578. They ate a meal of salt beef, biscuits and mushy peas to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in Newfoundland. They celebrated Communion and formally expressed their thanks through the ship’s Chaplain, Robert Wolfall, who, according to explorer Richard Collinson, “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places [sic].”

 In 1606, in an attempt to prevent the kind of scurvy epidemic that had decimated the settlement at Île Ste. Croix in the winter of 1604–05, Samuel de Champlain founded a series of rotating feasts at Port Royal called the Ordre de Bon Temps (“Order of Good Cheer”). Local Mi’kmaq families were also invited. The first feast was held on 14 November 1606 to celebrate the return of Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt from an expedition. Having attended the festivities, Marc Lescarbot remarked that they consisted of “a feast, a discharge of musketry, and as much noise as could be made by some fifty men, joined by a few Indians, whose families served as spectators.”           

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day/

It should be pointed out that in Canada, Thanksgiving was legislated not just a holiday day, as we see in this description of Thanksgiving, from kidsworld.com, that Parliament correctly applied the designation of Thanksgiving as a day when Canadians are encouraged to give thanks to God:

Official Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday

For a few hundred years, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November, before it was declared a national holiday in 1879. It was then, that November 6th was set aside as the official Thanksgiving holiday. But then on January 31st, 1957, Canadian Parliament announced that on the second Monday in October, Thanksgiving would be “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” Thanksgiving was moved to the second Monday in October because after the World Wars, Remembrance Day (November 11th) and Thanksgiving kept falling in the same week. This year Canadian Thanksgiving is October 9th!

http://www.kidzworld.com/article/2614-canadian-thanksgiving#ixzz2hXOhQaCi

Shopeasefoods.com  helps answer the question, “Did Canada invent Thanksgiving?” with the following:

Thanksgiving in Canada originated purely as a harvest festival. On Jan 31, 1957 Canadian parliament proclaimed a day of general thanksgiving to the almighty God for the bountiful harvest Canada has been blessed with and was to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October. English Explorer Martin Frobisher hosted the first thanksgiving held in what is now Newfoundland in 1578 to mark their safe arrival to the new world.

The first American thanksgiving was celebrated 43 years later in 1621 at the site of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. They thanked God and the Wampano for teaching them how to grow crops that enabled them to have a plentiful harvest in time for winter.

http://www.shopeasefoods.com/blog//did-canada-invent-thanksgiving

This brings us to our lesson today, entitled: ‘Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’, where the definition of watchword is a guiding principle, a word, or phrase expressing a person’s or group’s core aim or belief.

It is interesting to see that thanksgiving, (or giving thanks to God), is a key component of our faith, salvation, and our worship of the Lord. Let us look at our first Scripture verse, which also just happens to be today’s Benediction – Colossians 3:15-17 (ESV):

 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. 16And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In addition to having each verse begin with the conjunction “And”, we are encouraged to be thankful that we have been “called” to Christ, having been gifted with the Holy Spirit, who has been sent to dwell within us to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and to encourage us to worship God, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs –how: with thankfulness in our hearts.

We see that we are exhorted to be thankful for our faith or belief that Jesus died for our sins and promises us life eternal, but we are urged to not just worship God with songs of  thanks and gratitude, we are called on  to do everything in word or deed in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Christ.

There are two important reasons why we are encouraged to continuously offer our thanks to God.

The first is gratitude for our faith’s reward from God, which are His grace and blessings, as we read in our next Scripture passage, Psalm 67 (ESV):

 Make Your Face Shine upon Us

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

67 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, 
Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. 
Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!

The second reason for us to continue to express thanksgiving, is giving thanks to God affirms the sincerity of our faith and our gratitude all God’s creation which is sanctified by His word and by prayer. Come judgement day, the Lord will separated true believers from the non-believers, by how we conduct ourselves in our faith practices and our testimony, both must demonstrate a sincere gratitude to God for all that He gives us in reward for our faith, as we read in the Scripture passage from 1 Timothy 4:1-10 (ESV):

  Some Will Depart from the Faith

 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

A Good Servant of Christ Jesus

If you put these things before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive,[a] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.                                                                                                   

Footnotes: a. Some manuscripts and suffer reproach

This passage comes with the warning that the only way to truly honour the gifts given us from God, including salvation through His Son, Jesus, is to thank Him for that He gives. What God offers us is made holy by His word. (made flesh in Christ Jesus), and can only be received when we acknowledge it by our expression of thanksgiving in our actions and inwardly in our prayers.

 Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #526: God of Our Fathers

Benediction – Colossians 3:15-17:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Preparing for the Day When We exchange Our Tent for a Building

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Preparing for the Day When We exchange Our Tent for a Building’ 

© October 1, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 1, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                Opening Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation; Choruses                          Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Responsive Reading #654: The Holy City (-from Revelation 21)                       Message shared by Steve Mickelson:                                                                        ‘Preparing for the Day When We exchange Our Tent for a Building’

Let us pray…

The Lesson I would like to share with you today at BLCF is entitled: ‘Preparing for the Day When We exchange Our Tent for a Building’

It is interesting observation that most people endeavor to find permanence to the relationships in their lives. So it is young people may date, but ultimately hope to find their one true “soul mate” for the rest of their days.

There is nothing better than a lasting friendship with someone with someone you can always trust and rely upon.

The same is true for anyone who has lived the lifestyle described as:  itinerant, wandering, roving, roaming, touring, saddlebag, nomadic, gypsy, migrant, vagrant or vagabond.

While such lifestyle may initially seem exciting or romantic, after a while most of us get tired of living on the road, being quite content to have a place of permanence to call home.

Who among us can say that they have embarked upon an extended trip or journey, which initially seemed to promise excitement and adventure, and find ourselves both relieved and grateful to finally arrive back home?

So it was with the People of Israel, who were led by Moses, who in-turn was led by God, to wander the desert for generations to a permanent home in the Promised Land. While they  journeyed, they lived in tents which could be easily struck for the next leg of their journey. Even the Temple where they worshipped was housed in a tent.

Over time the People of Israel, who had longed to be delivered from their bondage in Egypt, sought to find a place which they could permanently call home. They wanted to exchange their tents for a permanent residence made of a more enduring material, such as brick and stone.

We have a few Scripture Verses today, some which reference having a tent for a home. However the tent is not intended to describe a place where one lives, but is used as a metaphor for the body in which we live.

Evangelist Billy Graham is quoted as saying: To the Christian death is the exchanging of a tent for a building. The building exists in heaven, as John records the Lord’s description in John 14:1-7 (ESV):

 I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

 14 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[d]From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Footnotes: a. John 14:1 Or You believe in God b. John 14:2 Or In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you c. John 14:4 Some manuscripts Where I am going you know, and the way you know d. John 14:7 Or If you know me, you will know my Father also, or If you have known me, you will know my Father also

 As Christians, who believe that Jesus died for our salvation and who have decided to follow and accept the  ‘Way, Truth and Light’ of the Lord, our choice also brings us the gift of the Holy Spirit of God, Who comes to help transform our bodies from ordinary ‘tents’ to ‘Tabernacles of God’s New Covenant of Salvation’, to live a new life, transformed in the likeness of the Lord, Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESV): 

The New Life

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[a] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 4:22 Greek man; also verse 24

Those who believe in the Gospel of the Resurrected Christ, Jesus are promised us a heavenly dwelling which is eternal in exchange for our current mortal tent-like bodies,  2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (ESV):

 Our Heavenly Dwelling

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on[a] we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Footnotes: a. 2 Corinthians 5:3 Some manuscripts putting it off

Our current body is described as being like dwelling in a tent which is separate and away from the Lord. But we have the hope and faith that we  will go to live forever in a new home which is a permanent that Lord has prepared  for us,  Revelation 21:1-11 (ESV):

The New Heaven and the New Earth

 21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

The New Jerusalem

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Footnotes: a. Revelation 21:3 Or tabernacle b. Revelation 21:3 Some manuscripts peoples c. Revelation 21:3 Some manuscripts omit as their God

Let us pray…

Communion: Matthew 26:26-28 ( -see below)

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

 Benediction – 2 Corinthians 5:1 (ESV) – Our Heavenly Dwelling:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

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

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

© September 24, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 24, 2017

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

BLCF Bulletin August 31_08

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Job’s Character and Wealth

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

Satan Allowed to Test Job

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

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

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

Matthew 3:16-4:17 (ESV)

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

The Temptation of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,                                                         

When sorrows like sea-billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul!”

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

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

 I will be untouched in the midst of fire

I will stand firm in the midst of a storm

I will not crack in the midst of chaos

I will not lose heart when the world is torn

I will not fear when the heat blazes

I will not fret when drought comes

I will bear fruit in the midst of all of it

I will march to a different drum

I will discover victory in tragedy

I will trust in El Shaddai

I will laugh in the face of death

I will wave evil and pain goodbye

http://day1.org/955-i_wonder_why_bad_things_happen_to_good_people

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

Benediction – (Romans 12:2):

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.