Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones

BLCF: John7_38

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’

© July 27, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin July 27, 2014

BLCF: IamTheSourceOfLivingWater

   

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 664: About Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12); Prayer                                                                                                            

Opening Hymn #155: “Man of Sorrows,” What a Name; Choruses                                         

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

Scripture: John 4:1-45 (Jesus and the Woman of Samaria)

 

BLCF: Jesus&Samaritan_Woman_at_the_well

John 4:1-45 (ESV) Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

4 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.[a]

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

Footnotes: a. John 4:6 That is, about noon b.John 4:14 Greek forever

BLCF: Signs_Toronto

 

Let Us Pray…

You may recall a few years ago, a television commercial for a portable label printer, where a person received such a label maker for Christmas and proceeded to label everything in sight, including the family pet. While we may have a laugh and giggle at the idea of getting carried away with a label maker, it does reflect the human tendency to place a sign or label on things.

A sign can have on of several functions: it can denote a significant location by its distance from a specified starting point or to identify it as a destination point. Other signs are erected to convey to the reader specific information, to post a caution or warning, or to give the reader instructions or directions.

On your way to BLCF Church, this morning, you likely passed over a dozen such signs for every block off travel. If you walked here, you passed signs indicating: street names, which side of the street to cross; company names and a description of the product or service offered;  restaurant menus and pricing; and so on. Those who travelled by bus or the subway saw additional signs denoting bus or train direction or destination, caution signs and markings; potential fine or punishment for pushing the emergency stop; and so on. Drivers to BLCF, encountered signs indicating traffic directions, detours, corner stops, pedestrian crosswalks, and so on. And all travellers looked for the number, name of the church building.

Because Toronto is a multi-cultural city populated by a diverse multi-national population, a sign in the English or French Language is insufficient to convey a message for which it is purposed. That is why the colour, shape and orientation is important. Red or hexagon indicates stop; yellow or triangle tells us caution and green circles or arrows represent that it is safe. To control vehicle and pedestrian traffic, lights are used, using colour lights augmented by the characters of a walking person or hand, respectively for go or stop. Those who are colour blind know, that red, yellow, and green lights are located respectively at the top, middle, or bottom or left, middle and right, depending upon the light’s orientation. For the visually impaired, traffic lights may emit different pitched sounds to indicate their status, while signs may have Braille markings. For travellers, besides maps, we have GPS devices or GPS Aps for cell phones and other devices, to help us know our location and destination. But using signs to mark the way is not a new invention. Street numbers and milestones have been with us for some time, as we see in our Wikibits description:

BLCF: Roman_mile_marker 

 

Milestones were originally stone obelisks – made from granite, marble, or whatever local stone was available – and later concrete posts. They were widely used by Roman Empire road builders and were an important part of any Roman road network: the distance travelled per day was only a few miles in some cases. Many Roman milestones only record the name of the reigning emperor without giving any place names or distances.[1] The first Roman milestones appeared on the Appian Way. At the Centre of Rome, the “Golden Milestone” was erected to mark the presumed Centre of the empire: this milestone has since been lost. The Golden Milestone inspired the Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C., intended as the point from which all road distances in the United States should be reckoned. Odometers were used to measure the Roman milestone spacing, most likely based on Ancient Greek Technology.[citation needed

A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile. They are typically located at the side of the road or in a median. They are alternatively known as mile markers, mileposts or mile posts (sometimes abbreviated MPs). Mileage is the distance along the road from a fixed commencement point.

Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travelers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination. Today, such references are also used by maintenance engineers and emergency services to direct them to specific points where their presence is required. This term is sometimes used to denote a location on a road even if no physical sign is present. This is useful for accident reporting and other record keeping (e.g., “an accident occurred at the 13 mile mark” even if the road is only marked with a stone once every 10 miles).

 

BLCF Church

So much for the signs and milestones encountered in our commute to and from church. What about the church itself? BLCF Church can be identified by the street number, 1307; by the name placed on the signs on side and the marquee on the front; by person helping another LOGO on the signs; and finally by the cross placed on the front of the building. For our Wednesday community dinner, we place a sign with the name “BLCF Café Community Dinner, the hours 6-8PM, and All Are Welcome” with a picture of a steaming bowl of soup beside the front entrance.

In spite of the redundancy of function and smart technologies, we still can get lost or confused. In that regard the milestone becomes a millstone for our journey. And what do I mean by millstone? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us, the following definition:

 

BLCF: ancient_millstone

mill·stone noun \ˈmil-ˌstōn\

: either one of two large, round stones used for grinding grain in a mill

: a problem or responsibility that does not go away and that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something

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

 

BLCF: sign_tree

 

When misdirected or lost, if we are fortunate, we may find someone to give us directions. And if we are very fortunate, that person gives us the correct and accurate directions.

Recently, for my daughter’s birthday, we enjoyed a day in High Park. During the day, I noted how often signs were posted: park benches dedicated in honour of a deceased friend or family member and zoo signs identifying by illustration and description the various animals in their enclosures, including the species, place of origin and other pertinent facts. On a recent visit to the Royal Ontario Museum, I noted how all the displays contained signs identifying the artifact, such as place and date of origin, its use and significance to the society of the time, as well as location and date that it was made. If you venture to the Royal Botanical Gardens, you will see signs identifying the name, species and origin of a variety of flora throughout the gardens and greenhouses.

What about the various signs and symbols in the Scriptures? How do we navigate and understand their meanings. How can we best utilize God’s signs to guide us on our Christian walk? And how can we discern whether a sign is really from the Lord?

We have in today’s Scriptures, an account of Jesus encountering a Samarian woman at a well, asking for water, using the request to speak about the Water of Life. What does it signify? Let us check our Wikibits for a definition:

 

BLCF: John_7_38-39a-LivingWaterTheHolySpirit

Wikibits: Water of Life (Christianity) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Depiction of Fleuve de Vie, the “River of Life”, from the Book of Revelation, Urgell Beatus, (f°198v-199), c. 10th century

In Christianity the term “water of Life” (Greek: ὕδωρ ζωῆς hydōr zōēs) is used in the context of living water, specific references appearing in the Book of Revelation (21:6 and 22:1), as well as the Gospel of John.[1] In these references, the term Water of Life refers to the Holy Spirit.[1][2][3

Still, those without true faith in the Lord, still expect some supernatural sign from God to authenticate the testimony that they hear or the Scriptures read.

 

BLCF: Matthew_16_1-12

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

 

 

BLCF: baptism_of_Holy_Spirit

 

The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the teachings of Jesus, where he often used both the parable and metaphor. In John 4, we have an account where Jesus uses the literal request to the Samarian woman for a drink of water, to discuss baptism by the Holy Spirit as a metaphoric baptism in “living water,” John 4, starting at verse 7:

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[a] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

Footnotes: a. John 4:14 Greek forever

 

BLCF: stumbling-blocks

Some Christians may have difficulty discerning when Jesus uses a metaphorical example from the literal. In his discussion with the Samarian woman, he compares water drawn from a well with the living water, which is a metaphor for the God’s Holy Spirit. Christ is not telling the woman to jump in the well nor to go into the Jordan River. And sometimes even the Disciples, as well, have difficulty with Christ’s metaphors, as we read in the account of The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, from Matthew 16:5-12 (ESV):

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.

This second example of Jesus teaching by metaphor, we have Christ using bread as a metaphor for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He is not warning his Disciples about the dangers of baked goods!

In spite of the gift of Christ’s salvation and the help from the Spirit, some will ignore the promptings from the Spirit, allowing themselves to be misguided and separated from the Lord.

 

BLCF: my_way_Gods_way

Matthew 24:15-28 (ESV) The Abomination of Desolation

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

 

BLCF: Godsway

But do not lose hope. For while we sometimes stray or lose our way, we our blest not just by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. We share, in one body, other vessels of the Holy Spirit, who are able to help us get back on track, in direction that God intended us to follow. Let us rely upon the love and support of our fellow believers in our time of need, as integral parts of the body of believers comprising the church. For God intended that we not to be left alone, when we get lost on our Christian Walk or feel bereft in our hour of need. The Lord desires us to rely upon our fellow believers as we are united in the Spirit.

 

BLCF: 1cor12_27

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV) One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or servants; Greek bondservants

Let us pray…

BLCF: gifts-of-the-Holy-Spirit

 

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction (Romans 15:13):                                                                                      

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

 

BLCF: rivers-of-living-water

Staying on the Path to Salvation through Humility and Forgiveness

BLCF: Why do bad things happen to good people

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Staying on the Path to Salvation through Humility and Forgiveness’ 

© July 20, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Published February 28, 2010

BLCF: Bulletin July 20, 2014

BLCF: God is a NECESSITY

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:

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

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

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

Scriptures: 2 Chronicles 7:14, Philippians 2:1-11,Micah 6:8, Matthew 18:3-4, Matthew 6:14-15, Luke 23:34 

 

Let Us Pray…

 BLCF: Gandhi

I would like to begin my message with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice. 

BLCF_Newspaper

If you picked up a newspaper his morning you may read the following headline and news story:

Tanks and military units penetrated deeper into Gaza on Friday as the Israel Defence Forces’ ground offensive entered its second day.

At least 20 people died and many more were injured as intensive tank fire across eastern Gaza ravaged buildings and led to mass civilian casualties in the area.

The latest figures reported by health officials in Gaza, now estimate the total number of dead to be 316, a rise more than 60 since the offensive first began.

IDF reports say that “40 Hamas terrorists” have been killed during the operation so far, with many of the underground tunnels used by the group destroyed.

Three Israeli soldiers were injured, including one seriously, in a gun battle in northern Gaza; while one more was injured after being caught by sniper fire on Saturday morning.

With the number of people to die as a result of conflict in Gaza now topping 300, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon is set to travel to the region today in a bid to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

After 10 days of fighting, the Israeli military launched a ground operation in Gaza. As the violence escalates, here is what you need to know about the latest Gaza conflict:

What triggered this round of violence?

In June, the bodies of three Israeli teenagers — Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16 – were found in the West Bank. Israel blamed Hamas for the murders, although the militant group denied any involvement.

Read more: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/israel-gaza-conflict-what-you-need-to-know-1.1919373#ixzz37zaL8swn

Much of today’s news media contains a litany of stories describing the sadness of when innocent lives are lost or to quote a well-known book:

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

BLCF: Kushner

 

When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow. Since its original publication in 1981,When Bad Things Happen to Good People has brought solace and hope to millions of readers and its author has become a nationally known spiritual leader.

When my younger sister, Rhona, died from blood poisoning related to an abscess bedsore, it was very difficult for my dad. No one wants to outlive his or her child. Rhona’s last words to dad were: “I am not ready to die.” I believe that the whole family was surprised by her untimely death at age 42, as she successfully represented the disabled and elderly segments of Toronto through her Star Tracks Talent Agency (Star Tracks © 1998 Estate and Heirs of Rhona Winifred Mickelson – All Rights Reserved).

When a child dies, the surviving parents and family are not only struck by their own mortality, but are distinctly aware of the loss of someone who is close with whom there will be no more conversations, no more laughter or jokes. For a parent they sense a loss of someone who was to carry on with the family name. Lost are the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that the parent has for the child who is gone. Such a loss can be very difficult to accept, the causes hard to reconcile, and for those outside the family, such loss hard to understand.

Such was the case in Nickels Belt, Pennsylvania, when Charles Roberts, a 32-year-old milk truck driver, burst into an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania on Monday, October 2, 2006 and killed five schoolgirls execution-style and then shot and then killed himself. Initially, the public viewed the tragedy as another case of a disturbed individual acting out his psychosis by killing innocent victims. It was just another school shooting by a man who was described by neighbors as a soccer dad, a seemingly good husband, and hard worker who just snapped. A rambling letter written by Roberts prior to his death blamed his emotional state upon a personal loss, some years previous.

The scope and scale of the tragic loss of life at the Amish schoolhouse paled in comparison to the reaction given by the families of the five victims towards the killer Roberts and the Roberts family.  Even though the act of violence against an Amish schoolhouse by an outsider had shaken the community to its core and in spite of Amish community’s feelings of shock, disbelief and then grief; there were of Amish people coming down to support those who had suffered this tremendous loss, both Amish as well as Roberts’ family. Within a day of the shootings, members of the Amish community, friends and family of the slain girls called upon the parents, widow and children of Charles Roberts to embrace the shooters family, to show forgiveness towards the killer and to support the Roberts in their time of personal loss and grief.  This reaction of forgiveness stunned the public and the media.

BLCF: power-of-forgiveness

Dr. Donald Kraybill, co-authored: Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, and wrote the following:

One of the fathers who lost a daughter in the schoolhouse and had another one seriously injured said, “Our forgiveness was not in our words, it was in what we did.” What did they do? How did the Amish enact forgiveness?

Two days after the shooting the Amish formed the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee to disperse, with fiscal integrity, the financial gifts of goodwill that were suddenly coming from people around the world to help the suffering families. Composed of seven Amish leaders and two outside businessmen, the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee decided to give a proportion of the funds they received to the widow and children of Charles Roberts. In time, the committee received about $4.2 million from generous donors around the world.  

One of the most striking expressions of forgiveness occurred at Charles Roberts’s burial on the Saturday after the shooting. Roberts was buried in the Georgetown cemetery, about a mile from the school, beside his firstborn daughter whose premature death nine years earlier he blamed on God and gave as the reason for his murderous acts. Over half of the people in attendance were Amish. They spontaneously decided to attend. Some had just buried their own daughters the day before. After the burial they hugged the widow and the parents of Charles Roberts. It was a remarkable act of grace. The funeral director supervising the burial said, “I realized that I was witnessing a miracle!” The Amish families bestowed other gracious acts of kindness on the family of Charles Roberts. Some sent meals and flowers to his widow. At Christmastime children from a nearby Amish school went to the Roberts home to sing carols.  

Another remarkable facet of the Amish response was the absence of anger and rage. One Amish woman said, “When I saw the bodies of one of the little girls at the viewing it just made me mad, mad at the evil, not at the shooter.” In my interviews, I probed for anger toward Charles Roberts but I detected only deep sorrow, not anger. When I asked about Roberts’s eternal destiny, one Amish minister said, “I can only hope for him what I hope for myself, that God will be a merciful and loving judge.” Deep pain and sorrow seared the hearts of the Amish parents. Even months after the tragedy, the memory of the event brought tears to the eyes of many Amish people. “I couldn’t preach in church for several weeks because when I tried, I just cried and cried,” said one grandfather, a minister who lost a granddaughter in the schoolhouse. The Amish are not stoic people; they experience the emotions of pain and suffering like the rest of us.

But for all the Amish, as well as for fellow Christians at Bloor Lansdowne alike,  the strength to forgive is found is found through humility and the God’s grace.

BLCF: theologys-toughest-question

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, well known for his Christian walk, once said: “Forgiving is one of the most difficult things for a human being to do, but I think it means looking at some slight you feel, putting yourself in the position of the other person, and wiping away any sort of resentment and antagonism you feel toward them. Then let that other person know that everything is perfectly friendly and normal between you…One of the most basic principles for making and keeping peace within and between nations. . . is that in political, military, moral, and spiritual confrontations, there should be an honest attempt at the reconciliation of differences before resorting to combat”

BLCF: Diane-McKelva-Forgiveness

J. C. Ryle on the subject said:“Humility and love are precisely the graces which the men of the world can understand, if they do not comprehend doctrines. They are the graces about which there is no mystery, and they are within reach of all classes… [The poorest] Christian can every day find occasion for practicing love and humility. “

BLCF: amish_grace

To understand the reaction, we must understand the Amish. There are about 200,000 Amish who live in 27 states and 350 geographical settlements. They came from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries and have lived lives largely separate from mainstream American society ever since.  They have a Biblically based understanding of their way of life, and they seek to apply their unique ways in terms of their selective use of technology, the way in which they interact with the outside world. Because the Amish are pacifists, they see the school rampage as a test of faith. Part of their faith practices includes not only reciting daily The Lord’s Prayer, but actually incorporating the message of the prayer in their everyday life. As one member of the Amish community stated, “There’s strength and forgiveness and not having the kind of bitterness that we think possibly caused this terrible tragedy.”

BLCF: Amish

But in order to achieve forgiveness, the Amish live a life of humility. Their manner of dress is simple and unassuming. They shun modern technology, preferring to travel by horse drawn carriage than by automobile. They live off the power grid; don’t have gas lies, any phones, any radios or televisions, no computers. They have no commercial insurance policies; say for life or property insurance, no credit cards, no loans. If an Amish suffers a loss, his support network is the community of fellow believers, who draw close to the person to provide care and support. The Amish learn the Way of humility from the Scriptures:

BLCF: forgiveness

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

BLCF: Christ-our-healer-

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) Christ’s Example of Humility

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Footnotes: a. Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b. Philippians 2:7 Greek bondservant

BLCF: forgiveness_liberates

 

But you may ask. Does God really command or require us to be humble?

Micah 6:8 (ESV)

He has told you, O man, what is good;     

and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]     

and to walk humbly with your God?

Footnotes: a. Micah 6:8 Or steadfast love

Just as our weakness and imperfections are made strong and perfect through the power of the Holy Spirit; a humble believer will become the greatest…

Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV)

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

BLCF: why_do

Steve Marshall in an article on overcoming depression entitled: How forgiveness has healing power over depression states the following:

Healing through forgiveness and growing through humility. Accepting your depression and finding that it is no more than a curtain on the stage of life, your life. What is the real spiritual connection between depression and forgiveness? Is there a causal connection? Can depression be alleviated from a “heartfelt connectingly” deep forgiveness of myself and of others made by myself? Forgiveness always helps because to forgive is to embrace the loving option. Love heals depression by allowing it’s healing “of the opening up of yourself to yourself and of the opening up of yourself to others” to take place. For essentially depression is a sign of your closing down to yourself and to life. The way to allow growth through and past your depression is to start forgiving yourself for having allowed this degree of closing down of yourself to yourself and to life to have taken place. Depression is a really deep, painful and lonely place to be, but it’s very deepness is what allows you to grow. It is true in life that you grow most from the deepest pain and the deepest feelings and that your most penetratingly painful experiences will often teach you the most. And so depression as I have just said allows you to feel feelings more deeply and this then will open the other side of depression in you and which is forgiveness. When you are feeling any feeling other than happiness or experiencing any state other than love, it is time to think about forgiveness. Forgive yourself first by just accepting yourself, for acceptance is the always the first step of forgiveness. The second step is to acknowledge that depression is a part of life and of your life and to look for the hidden jewels hiding within the darkness of depression. Forgiveness is the candle or the light in this darkness that will allow you to see the jewel and which is your soul sparkling and shining with a glimmering hope. That hope is that real hope that you will at last contact your real self as soul and that this contact will now begin to turn you around, and then after that the next step is humility. It takes true humility to forgive, and true forgiveness makes you humble. It goes on from there, and you will find that when you can touch yourself as soul, and feel a little of your true value, and accept that you have indeed a unique purpose and unique gifts and that you are a part of God’s overall plan for all of life, you will maybe realize then that your part in it all is just simply to be you.

And you may ask what Christ said we may expect if we do not forgive those who have wronged us? Let us read from Matthew 25, verses 31-46 for the answer:

BLCF: sheep-goats

Matthew 25:31-45 (ESV) The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

BLCF: do_to_others

In other words, we will be judged according to how we have treated others. We cannot expect forgiveness and salvation if we do not forgive others. And we cannot forgive others if we have not humbled ourselves in the eyes of the Lord. Or to put it a little more clearly:

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

And if we must remember Christ words, while nailed to the cross, through His anguish and pain the words He spoke were of suffering but forgiveness:

BLCF: Father-forgive-them

Luke 23:34 (ESV)

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[a] And they cast lots to divide his garments.

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:34 Some manuscripts omit the sentence And Jesus… what they do

So we can see that one of the requisites for our Salvation is humility and in order to be forgiven, we must first forgive. These are not guidelines but a path which we may walk. Like the Amish, a way of life. The scriptures become alive for you and me only after we chose not just to speak the scripture, but to live the scripture. To demonstrate by our actions humility before the Lord and forgiveness to others who have wronged us.

Danish philosopher, theologian, and psychologist Soren Kierkegaard once said: Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity … is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men’s lives.

Humility and forgiveness are the sacrifices we must make to be worthy in God’s eyes of receiving Christ’s gift of salvation. His sacrifice for our forgiveness was great; by comparison what we must sacrifice is small. Be humble, be forgiven and receive the gift of salvation.

I conclude this morning’s message the same quote from Mahatma Gandhi that I used at the beginning:

Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice.

Let us pray…

BLCF:Forgiveness-

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus 

Benediction (Romans 15:5-6):                                                                                     

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: grace_empowers_med

                                

 

 

 

Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

BLCF: run_race

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?’

© July 13, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Published September 19, 2010

BLCF Bulletin 13, 2014

BLCF: Cross_Runners

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading # 648 ( A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer                                             Opening Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation; Choruses                                                                                                                                                           Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings                                                                                                                        Scriptures: Hebrews 12:1-3,  1 Corinthians 9:24, Acts 20:24, 2 Timothy 4:7 

BLCF: MARATHON-RUN

Let us pray…

In this age of instant fast foods, instant bank tellers (a.k.a. bank machines), movies on demand, and instant access to a wealth of information via the internet, it is refreshing to slow the tempo of our surroundings and do something that requires more than just a few minutes of our time to complete. For some, such low tempo activities includean extended period of unstructured time, untethered to clocks, schedules or timetables. For others, it is the challenge of completing a goal that involves continuous effort for a protracted period of time, dedication, commitment and provides a goal worthy of the effort.

One such event is the marathon, a cross-country run, not run as a competition between individual participants, but as a vehicle for a group of people to raise awareness and funds, by its participants in order to recognize or help others who suffer from, are afflicted by or have died from a disease or affliction. An example of one such marathon for a cause is the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research, which occurs annually every around September 14.

BLCF: TerryFoxRun-banner-2014-EN

 

The Terry Fox Run dates for the next three years:

2014

September 14 34th Anniversary
2015 September 20 35th Anniversary
2016 September 18

36th Anniversary

 

Some people run in marathons for personal satisfaction of completing the challenge of the race. For others it is all about the cause.

The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards), which is usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon (the namesake of the race) to Athens. Upon completion of the run where Pheidippides reported a victory, he collapsed and died. While he had died he completed his task and gave the message which gave hope and joy to the people of Athens.

BLCF: gal_grk_oly_running

 

Today, many marathon races are run to commemorate a person or just cause. Often the person and the cause are inseparable, such as the Terry Fox Run. Though he never finished his race, the effort and idea of running across Canada to raise awareness of, and funding for, Cancer was a victory for him.

We have with the Terry Fox Run, no individual winners; only a common desire amongst the runners to defeat Cancer. In our race as Christians, we run together to defeat Satan, to defeat death and win victories for God.

BLCF: running_the_race

 

While Paul and other authors of the Scriptures speak of running or winning a race, I think the God was not speaking of a short sprint or even a middle or long distance event. God was talking of a long endurance race, such as the marathon. A life-long marathon.

And how do we prepare ourselves for in the long run, (if you excuse the pun)? God does provide us with a “Runners Handbook” in His Word. Here are a few of the important verses to prepare us for the race of life, beginning where the Bible describes ways of preparing the believer for the challenges encountered along the way of a lifelong “Christian Walk:

BLCF: armour_of_God

 Ephesians 6:10-20, describes them as wearers of ‘The Whole Armour of God’.                  

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

And in 1 Chronicles 12:22, talks of the ‘The Army of God.’

22 For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.

We are part of the “army of God”, engaged in battle, wearing the armour of God. But armour is not the only analogy given to our Faith Walk.

 BLCF:armyofgod

The Bible in 1 Corinthians 12:27, also, describes Christian believers as part of the “body of Christ”.

 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

BLCF: Body of Christ

 

Looking at 2 Corinthians 5:20,we are “Christ’s ambassadors”; His envoys, representing him in this world.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

BLCF: bride&groomt

Ephesians 5:22-33 describes the church of believers as “bride of Jesus”, with Christ being the groom, described similar to the relationship between a wife and husband.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Footnotes: a. Or holy and blameless

BLCF: temple-body

 

The Bible likens us in 1 Corinthians 3:17, to a “temple of God”.

17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

BLCF: john 15 5

 We are “healthy branches” and Christ is the vine, as described in John15:5.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

BLCF: salt_of_the_earth

 

Matthew 5:13-16, characterizes Christian believers as “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

Each one of these is varied and each one is valid.  Each one could easily take a sermon to explain and understand.

However, let me simplify all of them by describing them an aspect of our personal relationship with God. As soldiers in God’s army, wearing God’s armor we battle both Satan and sin. God is our Commander-in-Chief; the Bible gives us both His strategy and the weapons to battle within the scriptures. However, the battle, that challenges both our determination and tests our endurance, is lifelong; but great are the victories won, if we stay faithful in serving the Lord. Victory is found in souls saved from the final judgment of death by receiving God’s love and avoiding the obstacles Satan places in our path. The gaol and reward is salvation and eternal life.

Once we have made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, having confessed our sins, and committing ourselves to God, we are immediately appointed His ambassadors. As ambassadors our passports are stamped by the precious blood of Christ who died for our sins. As so we carry the diplomatic immunity from judgment for our sins. But we are expected to represent the Kingdom of God in an appropriate and fitting manner. Our diplomatic mandate requires us to understand God’s purpose and policies, as outlined in the Bible. And as Holy diplomats, we must use the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit to walk, talk and act as messengers of truth. Otherwise, we lose credibility and do our appointed position a disservice and dishonor the One who sacrificed so much that we may be His representatives, unto the ends of the world.

BLCF: Jesus_meeting_bride

 

A bride and groom are joined together in marriage until death. That is until death bids them to part. But God expects married partners not to be unequally-yoked. Like a pair of oxen, of one we stronger than the other. Otherwise the cart or the plough, or whatever the team pull, would be drawn into circles. God wants us walking a straight path, with straight rows, not making crazy crop circles. A bride and groom are kept together because they share the same values, seek the same goals, and work together in harmony. Jesus, the groom, did His part to provide for his bride, which is the church, by fulfilling the scriptures and being the last and final sacrificial lamb for all of humanity. Every believer; man and woman, Jew and Gentile, adult and child, alike may be judged sinless forever in God’s eyes’ thanks to the sacrifice of Christ.

And the bride in this relationship, being the Church, has the responsibility to maintain and nourish the faith; to ensure all her children understand the message of the Gospel, as well as God’s unconditional gift of love. Not for only a day; not until the kids are grown; and not until retirement; but until death, which in God’s time frame, forever! Forever includes this lifetime, the next, as well as the hereafter.

BLCF: socil_media_scrapbook

 

A married couple may have a wedding album to mark that special day, with all the events of the day being recorded by the photos,  as well as by saved mementos which, when added to the photos, make the scrapbook a tapestry of a life event. This album is often followed by other albums to record other important events, such as: birthdays, vacations, anniversaries and other significant events of a whole lifetime bound within the albums’ collective pages. Today, tech savvy couples may post such images on social media pages, such as Facebook, Flickr, BLOGs and Instagram on the Internet for the whole world to see. To make a good impression, these social media albums are edited to show only the best images of what we do.

BLCF: BOOK-OF-LIFE

 

The Lord keeps an album too, sometimes referred to our “Book of Life”. Unlike our scrapbook albums, this one has a record of all that we do, say and think; the good as well as the bad. But like our album, all of the good and bad will be posted for all to see come Judgment Day. That is a daunting thought, for instead of warranting a title such as “The Highlights of My Life”, the title for such a Book might have one sounding like a spaghetti western title like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of My Life”! To the Lord the content of this Judgement Book that is important to Him includes: whether we have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; whether we have confessed our sins; and perhaps most importantly, have we embarked upon the race that the Lord has set for us as Christian believers: to spread the Gospel to others and whether we grew in faith and trust in His Way.

Before I get carried away, and attempt to comment on all of these examples of our Christian walk, let me address the topic of this Sunday’s message: ‘Are you running from God’s judgment or towards His grace’?  There is another analogy of the Christian walk, but the Apostle Paul describes it as a race, like a marathon. With a few exceptions, the runners of these races are not necessarily running the race as competitors against each other, but like the marathons for a just cause, as a group running with the common goal of just making it to the finish line by overcoming the challenges of obstacles, such as the wall of pain and exhaustion. They must find inner strength from within and demonstrate to the world that they can continue the race into to the end.

BLCF: Woman Running

 

I have a sister-in-law, Suuzie who is a triathlete. She does triathlons, which include three endurance races combined in a single marathon race. Part of the race is in the water; part is like the original marathon is on foot; and part is on bicycle. One of Suuzie’s first races took place in Hamilton, early in the month May, with the first leg to be swum in Hamilton Harbor. My brother-in -law recorded that race with over three hundred participants at the starting line.  At the start of the race,  we  see that the starting gun goes off and the triathletes run into water. In the next scene of the video, about half of the participants doing a 180 – turnaround and run right back out of the water.

BLCF: cold water swim

 

If you are curious as to how cold the water of Lake Ontario can be in early May, ask Sophie as she was baptized in Lake Ontario at Sunnyside Park in the month of May.

I believe Suuzie was one of those who ran in, then out of the lake. She and the other runners were not prepared for the conditions of the lake. Eventually Suuzie re-entered the lake and eventually finished her race.

BLCF: kangaroos

 

Recently, Suuzie lived in Australia for a couple of years, and while on the road had her training run interrupted by a gang of kangaroos, which surrounded Suuzie on the roadside. This kangaroo encounter, while somewhat bizarre and sounding humorous could have had a very serious outcome, as the hopping marsupials are well known for their aggressive and combative behavior. Fortunately, Suuzie escaped from the encounter, unharmed. After she escaped the kangaroo threat, Suuzi actually returned to the same location with her husband, camera in hand, hoping to take a photograph the ‘roos. Come to think of it, it is likely that Suzie’s photo albums, at least those documenting her runs, are likely to be quite different from the norm.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, those running the ‘Race of Christian Faith’, we must be prepared for the unexpected, which is Satan’s way of distracting us from our goal of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 BLCF: 15km_kangaroo_sign

 

 

In school I used to like running to middle distance races. A middle distance was 880 yards before metrification or 800 meters today. I recall during one practice run, where I knew none of my opponents. I had taken, and was maintaining, a lead over the rest of the pack for most of the race, with one pesky runner, whose name was Alan, maintained a pace beside and behind me for most of the race.

At one point of the race, near the last thirty yards of the finish line, Alan looked at me with a show of apparent concern saying, “You look tired! Are you OK? Maybe you should take it easy, as it is only a practice.”

For me that was I all I needed to hear. My legs and arms were burning, my lungs bursting at my efforts and Alan’s words spoke to me of everything that my body felt. I was done, as Alan had effectively broken my focus enough to pass me and win the race.

BLCF: hebrews-12-what-makes-the-course-worth-running

 

In our race on the Glory Road, we too have someone like Satan whispering in our ears that the water is too cold to swim or that we have reached an insurmountable wall. Even something as innocuous as “Oh look a bunch of kangaroos”. Whatever it is, we must resist the temptation to stop or quit the race. For in quitting, we hand the garland of victory to Satan!

We must not be diverted from our route or distracted from the goal in our race. Satan loves to chill the water in which we swim or throw a kangaroo or two in our path. He will do anything to make us lose our focus and ultimately to stop us from running God’s race. Remember, that Jesus, immediately following his baptism and having received the Holy Spirit, was taken into the desert, where he fasted and was repeatedly tested by Satan. But Jesus, through faith in His Father, and by his knowledge of the scriptures, stayed on track and defeated Satan. Jesus’ victory was our victory. Jesus did not allow himself to be detoured from his appointed path to defeat sin on our behalf.

BLCF: rooted_in_faith

 

Having prepared ourselves for the race, let us review the race set before us:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV)

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

BLCF: 1Corinthins_9_24-27

 

         1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) 

4Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  

BLCF: the-race-of-faith-Hebrews_12_1-2

 

The goal of our race is testify to the Gospel of Christ and to keep the faith:                                                  

  Acts 20:24 (ESV)  

24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

BLCF: FinishTheRace

           

  2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

 

And if we set upon the marathon of our life, intent to share, without distraction, the Gospel of Christ and keep our faith in the Lord, then when our race is run. We may claim for ourselves the rewards of our efforts to draw closer to the Lord’s “Throne of Grace”, so that we may receive His mercy and, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, find the grace to help those who have not yet found it.

BLCF: runner

BLCF: Phillipians_313

 

Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.                                                                                          

Let Us Pray…

BLCF: Christian_Faith 

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

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.

 BLCF: hebrews12_1_new

 

 

 

 

 

Light In The Darkness: The 34th Crew Member of Copiapo

BLCF" God'shelping_hand

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Light In The Darkness: The 34th Crew Member of Copiapo‘ 

© July 6, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin July 6, 2014

Originally Published October 31, 2010

BLCF_Christ_with_miners

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading # 608 (God’s Omniscience – Psalm 139); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #444: Take Thou My Hand, O Father                                                                                                                                                                

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

Today’s Scriptures: Isaiah 7:11, Colossians 1:13, Psalm 139:1-12 

 

Isaiah 7:11 (NIV)

11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”                                                                                  

Colossians 1:13 (ESV)

 13He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son

Psalm 139:1-12 (ESV) Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

139 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up;     

you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down     

and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue,    

 behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before,     

and lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;     

it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?     

Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there!    

 If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!   If I take the wings of the morning     

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,   even there your hand shall lead me,     

and your right hand shall hold me.    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,    

 and the light about me be night,”    

even the darkness is not dark to you;     

the night is bright as the day,    

 for darkness is as light with you

BLCF: Joe Castillo - Face of Christ 

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Praise and Worship Service at, for the first Sunday of July, Communion Sunday at BLCF. This summer, you may want to mark your calendars for a few noteworthy anniversaries. This fall Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, originally founded as The Crusaders Church of Toronto, will mark our 76th Anniversary. But that is not the subject of today’s lesson.

I would like to talk about the anniversary of an event that was observed by hundreds of millions of people around the world. Some of you may speculate that the event being the anniversary of the moon landing.  After all, it was it some 45 years ago this month, on July 20, 1969, that American Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first to land on the moon. This event was widely watched. According to foxnews.com:

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, 1969, viewed by an estimated half a billion television viewers–at that time, the largest audience ever-watched. 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/07/19/16-fast-facts-apollo-11-historic-moon-landing/

The event which is the topic of today’s message, had a larger audience and is some regards had a more profound impact to viewers around the world. It was just four years ago this coming October 13, 2010, that 33 Chilean Miners were rescued from their underground mine, where they were trapped on August 7, 2010, some 69 days previous. Wikepedia.org indicates that twice as many people observed the rescue operation than the moon landing:

After winching the last trapped miner to the surface, the mine rescue paramedics, the best available drawn from multiple national agencies and military services, all still underground, held up a sign for the TV cameras reading “Misión cumplida Chile” (English: ““Mission accomplished Chile”), which was seen by a TV/Web audience estimated at more than 1 billion viewers around the world watching the rescue live.                                                                                               

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_accident

 

BLCF: Miner_Miracle

 

The lesson I would like to share with you this morning has several elements that are important to the Christian walk: trusting God in times of danger and adversity; faith in the Scriptures when tempted by Satan; and why God allows believers to be placed in harm’s way in order to convict others in faith.

It is interesting that that as with Job in the Old Testament, God allowed Jesus to be tempted by Satan, an account recorded in Luke 4:1-13.

 

BLCF: the_temptation_of_Jesus

Luke 4:1-13(ESV) The Temptation of Jesus

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”

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

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

We studied this verse last Sunday, when we spoke of temptation, where I highlighted several aspects of the story of Jesus temptation and comparing it to what we may face today. You may recall that Jesus, having been baptized by John, known as John the Baptist, received the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit to a place in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When you think about it, this is not quite the path or journey you would expect one who has just received the Holy Spirit.

When Satan tempted Jesus, he appealed to three things: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.

First he challenged Jesus, after a 40-day fast, to use his powers to make food and satisfy His needs of the flesh. Then he challenged Jesus to look at the world from a high place and offered Him dominion over all He saw. Finally, he tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from a tower, saying that surely, as God’s son, He would be saved – an appeal to pride. We find to each challenge, not only did Jesus resist Satan, that in fact Jesus rebuked the devil with the Holy Scripture.

Interesting enough, we read in Luke 4:13 that the devil departed from tempting Jesus until an opportune time, indicating that Satan would return again when he had the opportunity. We see that even the Son of God may be subject to temptation and testing by Satan. Just like Jesus, we may defeat the devil by way of a determined faith and the appropriate use of Scripture. We must trust that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

 

BLCF: creation-of-33

Romans 8:38-39 

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.    

The 33 miners were rescued in the middle of the month of October, just a couple of weeks before the eve of Dia de los Muertos or des los Difuntos in Hispanic countries, known as Dia de Finados in those that speak Portuguese. In English we translate both as Day of the Dead. Because this day happens to occur on the calendar shortly after Halloween or All Hallows Eve, many mistakenly believe the two are similar or related, while the two have little in common. The Day of the Dead is a time of celebration, where partying and eating are common. In Spain, there are festivals and parades and, at the end of the day, people gather in cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Christian churches observe the day as All Souls’ Day, though the Eastern Orthodox celebrate it on a Saturday because of Jesus’ resting in the tomb on the Saturday. In Lebanon, Israel and Syria, the observance is called Yom el Maouta. Unlike its Hollywood portrayal, Day of the Dead is a day to commemorate departed loved ones, and pray for the day of the Rapture when all believers will be reunited.

By all expert calculations, in Chile’s northern Atacama desert, near the town Copiapo, the Day of the Dead should have been a day of mourning for 33 miners trapped 700 meters, 2300 feet below the surface, about 5 kilometers or 3 miles from the entrance of the San Jose, an old gold and copper mine. For two massive cave-in’s had seemed to seal the fate of any survivor. All that could be done was to pray for the 33 lost souls. Chile is a mineral-rich country, approximately the size of  the U.S. state if California in North America, Chile stretches along the western portion of the South American continent, bordered by mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. And like California, Chile is located on an active earthquake belt.

Unlike Chile’s larger, newer mines, the San Jose Mine where the miners were trapped was very old having been opened in 1889 and lacked many of the safety features of more modern mines, such as an alternate entrance which could allow a means of escape for those surviving a cave-in. Since the year 2,000, about 34 miners die each year in Chilean mines. In the past 12 years, 8 miners had lost their lives at the San Jose mine. Chile is the world’s leading copper suppliers. Because of the demands for copper by emerging industrialized nations such as China, such mines as the San Jose were kept open and offered an appealing livelihood in an otherwise sluggish world economy. Several of the miners trapped in the San Jose had migrated from other regions after losing jobs in a worldwide recession. In spite of the risks, the San Jose offered the miners the means to put food on the table and a better life. That is until that fateful day in August when the miner’s world literally collapsed.

On the surface, news of the disaster and the fact that the miners were 700 meters below the surface seem to indicate that the fate of any survivors was sealed, as a ventilation shaft viewed as the only means of rescue had collapsed in a second cave-in. No rescue from such a depth had ever been contemplated, let alone attempted. It seemed that the 2010 Day of the Dead observances would include a visit to the San Jose tomb of the lost 33 miners.

This is where the tale took a turn. In their moment of profound loss and in spite of any real hope of rescue, the families of the 33 miners, showed uncommon strength of purpose; demanded that the Chilean government recover the bodies of their lost loved ones. This is where next surprise occurred, as the government bowed to the families’ demands and began drilling pilot holes to locate the miners’ bodies. Over the next 17 days, seven 700 meter-deep holes were drilled without any success. On the eighth attempt, according to one report, the drill bit was deflected by some hard rock strata and then penetrated into a cavity deep beneath the earth.

“It was 75% engineering and 25% a miracle,” said topographer Macarena Valdes.

Ms. Valdes was speaking of her own role in the rescue, as she augmented science with a touch of gut instinct to help guide rescuers’ probe drills into the rock, in hopes of finding survivors, in the days after the miners’ disappearance.

Her method paid off after more than two weeks, when searchers sent one of their narrow probe drills down through the rock, punched it into the chamber where the men had taken refuge and, from more than 2,000 feet above, and felt someone tap back. Even more astonishing was the note attached to the retracted drill bit to which a piece of paper was attached with the message:

“Estamos bien en el refugio los 33” (English: “We are well in the shelter, the 33 [of us]”).

BLCF: message los 33

 

It was a miracle beyond belief that all of the 33 missing miners were alive, but would anyone dare to hope for a rescue? No miners were ever rescued from 700 meters. Trapped miners had been rescued from a cave in Pennsylvania, but they were only one tenth the depths of the 33 in the San Jose. For 17 days the miners has survived on meager rations of two spoonfuls of tuna and half a glass of milk every 48 hours.

While still trapped in the mine, there emerged several stories of faith in God and how He sustained the entombed 33. In a letter to his brother, miner Jorge Galeguillos says he believes a white butterfly saved his life the day the mine caved. Mining consultant Miguel Fortt is not given to flights of fancy. He says white butterflies flutter around purple flowers that blossom in the desert early in the morning, but they rarely fly deep into a mineshaft. He says the two miners slowed down to observe the butterfly and that saved them from driving into rock falls triggered by the first cave-in. Fortt says:

“People who are religious would call this a miracle. From a scientific perspective the butterfly may have flown into the mine on air currents. You can draw your own conclusions but that butterfly saved lives,”

Galeguillos’ brother, who is also a miner, can’t explain how a butterfly flew more than 500 meters deep into the mine. But like most of the miners there, he believes the butterfly was protecting his older brother’s life. The butterfly was a sign from God.

BLCF: aop3111.pmd

Isaiah 7:11

“Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

It is interesting that the butterfly is often used to represent the resurrected Christ freed from the chrysalis tomb.

 

BLCF: hebrews13_7

2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

 Above the miners, a rescue planned was formed, though chances of a successful rescue of the miners alive were calculated at a meager 2%. I would speculate that no politician in North America would even consider embarking upon planning any action that had a 98% chance of failure. I give kudos to president of Chile for bold and compassionate action of initiating a rescue plan. Three separate rescue holes were drilled, using technologies from Germany and the U.S.A.  NASA scientists were consulted and a rescue capsule designed by engineers of the Chilean Navy.

The world watched, prayed and waited as the drama of the trapped 33 unfolded. And more stories of God’s presence. Miners acknowledge that they survived thanks to a 34th member of the crew.

jesus-christ-arm-wrestling-satan-devil-lucifer-animated.gif

 Mario Sepulveda, the second miner rescued said: “I was with God, and I was with the devil,” he said through a translator. “But God won, I held onto God’s hand, the best hand, and at no point in time … did I doubt that God wouldn’t get me out of there.”

It was Sepulveda’s faith in God that assured him of his rescue. Satan used temptation and  was defeated. And who other than the Son of God could understand and support those who are tested by temptation by Satan.

 

BLCF" Hebrews2_18

Hebrews 2:18

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 Miner Ricardo Villaroel describes the incident as a moment of faith renewal:

 “I never use to pray. Here I learned to pray. I got closer to God.”

 

BLCF: Romans_8_38

Romans 8:38-39

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.                            

Nineteen-year-old miner Jimmy Sanchez wrote in a letter sent up prior to his rescue:

 “There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down there.”

 

isaiah_41_v_10j

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

It was reported that while trapped underground, three of the miners and one of the miner’s wives accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

 

BLCF: Isaiah_41_13

Isaiah 41:13

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

Finally, the main drill punched through and one by one the 33 were brought out to safety. Faith is also a major theme of the national rhetoric. At the beginning of the rescue Chilean President Sebastian Pinera stated, “When the first miner emerges safe and sound, I hope all the bells of all the churches of Chile ring out forcefully, with joy and hope. Faith has moved mountains.”The first action of several, as they emerged, immediately gave thanks to God for being delivered from the shadow of death.

 

BLCF: Col1_13-14

Colossians 1:13

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

There are a number of similarities between the plight of the 33 Chilean miners and Jesus’ temptation described in Luke 4. Both involved a confrontation between God and the devil, while taking place in an isolated desert place. Both are examples of courage and faith in the face of adversity, where the devil tempted and was defeated. Finally, both teach Christian believers valuable lessons in the power of faith and trust in God and His Holy Word.

The Chilean story shows how God may allow the devil to tempt believers and how faith can defeat temptation. Without trust and faith all of the miners would have perished. One can only ponder many aspects of this story which indicate God was the 34th Crew Member in the mine.

What if those drilling who sought the miners had given up after only seven attempts? What if on the eighth try, the bit wasn’t deflected by a stone, which how it reached the miners? What if President Pinera had decided not to attempt a rescue with 2% odds? What if the miners had given up after the cave in and not rationed food in the darkness and allowed death and Satin to have their way?

We know from Christ’s example, that as Christian believers, we will be tempted by Satan and that God will battle the devil on our behalf. I believe that the story of the faith and courage of the trapped miners is meant to show us all that the devil will tempt us and faith and trust in God will deliver us.

BLCF:Jesus-is-Light-Pic

BLCF: Chilean 33

 

Miner Mario Gomez’s wife, Lilianett Gomez, said her emotions had changed dramatically. She said, though, that people here had shown that they have the strength to weather the crisis, and now the whole world knows it:

“God put these 33 miners together,” she said. “It must have been for something, perhaps to send a message to the world.”

Perhaps God’s message that Lilianett Gomez alluded to can be found in the Scriptures, particularly in Hebrews 13:5 (NIV):

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,”Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

Let Us Pray…

 

BLCF: Chilean_mine_disaster

 

Closing Hymn #322: The Lord’s Our Rock, in Him We Hide

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

Benediction (Psalm 51:11-12): Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.   

 

BLCF: i-will-hold-your-right-hand-and-i-will-help-you-isaiah-41_13   

BLCF: jesus_escobedo

Overcoming Temptation

 BLCF: James_4-7

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Overcoming Temptation’ 

© June 29, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin June 29, 2014 

Originally Published Sunday August 15, 2010

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #650 (Trials and Temptations – James 1 and 1 Peter 1); Prayer

Opening Hymn #63: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name; Choruses  

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

Today’s Scriptures: Genesis 3:12-13 and Matthew 4:1-11

BLCF: temptation 

 

 

Let us pray…

The Scriptures indicate that as believers in the resurrected Christ, we may anticipate three kinds of trouble or challenges in our walk as Christians.

The first type of challenges to Christians includes: discipline, judgment or rebuke from the Lord. Though it is true that having confessed our sins, accepted salvation through Jesus Christ we are exempt from the judgment of death for our sins that does not mean that we are exempt from conviction by the Holy Spirit for unGodly thoughts, words or deeds we do as believers, however we must confess our sins.

In 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV), we read:

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The second type of challenges to Christians includes: tests, trials, persecutions and sufferings. These challenges may cause the believers to experience anything from minor teasing for our faith to extreme suffering, sometimes death, typically at the hands of non-believers, who feel they must attack believers to justify their lack of faith.

It is interesting in researching this message how many web pages and sites were dedicated to attack or persecute the Christian believer, saying: “if you claim to be a follower of Christ, then prove it by demonstrating the power of your God-given gifts by performing a miracle!” This is a very dangerous proposition, for it implies that the gifts of the Spirit may be used like a circus side-show or magician’s trick for the amusement and entertainment of others. A perfect example of this second challenge was the temptation Satan threw at Jesus which is found in today’s bulletin. Here we read Jesus’ reply in Matthew 4:7 (ESV):

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

While such tests do not come from God, they may be used by the Holy Spirit to grow our faith or the faith of others. The testimony of how we should react to these tests and suffering is illustrated in 1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV):

12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

In today’s lesson, I will be speaking on the third type of challenge or trouble that Christians face: that of temptations or attacks from the enemy, Satan. Such temptations from Satan are real and are evident next door, at the Paradise Strip Club. It is perfect example of what Martin Luther meant when he said:

 “For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.

luther

Martin Luther

Club Paradise exists to promote lust of the flesh and the exploitation of women and the Devil conducts services there every single day of the week.

First let me point out that, as believers in Christ, there is no sin if you experience temptation from Satan. Satan is the enemy, and knows our weaknesses. He knows which of our buttons to push, where we are vulnerable, and edeaveavours to tempt us away from God’s authority in our lives. The potential of sin from a temptation occurs in our response to the temptation: Do we give in to the temptation, and sin?

BLCF: avoid_temptation

 

Christian Author Oswald Chambers describes temptation in this way:

“A man’s disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possesses in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of that nature. Every man has the setting of this own temptation, and the temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition.”

BLCF: garden-of-eden-first-sin 

 

Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan with the promise of possessing the knowledge of God, in discerning good from evil, demonstration a lust or desire to become like God, an account is given in Genesis 3, starting with verse 1 (ESV):

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

BLCF: Genesis 3

 

 8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

That was the beginning of the Fall of Mankind from God’s Grace. Like children sometimes do when they have done something wrong, Adam and Eve felt guilty and hid themselves. But they could not hide from God. Seeing themselves naked, Adam and Eve became ashamed and covered themselves which we see starting in Genesis 3:12.

12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Not only did Adam and Eve feel shame and guilt, they attempted to behave crafty like Satan and place the blame on someone else for their own actions. Adam blamed Eve and even God by saying (in Genesis 3:12):

The woman whom you gave to be with m, she gave me the fruit and I ate”.

Eve behaving no better, put the blame on Satan (verse 13):

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

This is why, in order to receiver God’s Blessing of Salvation, we must confess our sins, and don’t blame our spouse and don’t blame the Devil. For the sin is not the temptation, it is how we react to it. Do we resist the temptation? And if we give in to the temptation, do we accept responsibility for doing so? It is not uncommon to be tempted, as we read in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):

13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

BLCF: Joseph_resists_temptation 

We see this in the story of lust of the flesh. Joseph, who was tempted by the wife of Potiphar’s wife we find in the Bible, Genesis 39, staring with verse 1:

 1Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

 7And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

11But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.  

Joseph’s resisted his master’s wife by physically removing himself from temptation. Sometimes the best way to handle problems is to walk away from them. Walk away from lust, from a conflict, from a situation that creates strong emotion which may cause us to act on impulse and break God’s commandments.

My son, Johnathan, played hockey for a number of years, as a defenseman. Many times in the game, he would be challenged by a player on the opposing team to respond to an illegal check or hit, where the intention was to get him to retaliate and get a penalty. Johnathan’s response was to skate away from a situation which would hurt him and his team. It gets tougher for some players, when both friends and family encourage a player to take the low road the penalties for a lack of control, when tested.

Which brings us to Job, who was tested and tormented by Satan, where Job’s friends and his wife, both tried to get him to deny God, or at least to blame God, for the circumstances of the death of his children; the loss of his wealth and livestock; and the boils on his body. But Job remained steadfast in his faith, as we see in Job 1:22 (ESV): 

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Unlike some “fair-weather Christians”, Job not only resisted temptation to sin against God, he acknowledged God in bad circumstances as well as  the good, Job 2:10 (ESV): 

10 Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”

BLCF:Job1-21

 

In all  of his trials and tests Job did not sin with his lips. Job refused to renounce God and he refused to blame God for what has happened to him. He kept his faith in the Lord. This should be the path we take when we experience trying times. We are reminded to keep the faith, for God does not tempt us, as we read, again, in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):

3No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

But some non-believers argue: what kind of God allows the faithful to suffer as Job had? The Bible has an answer to this challenger inHebrews 2:18 (ESV):

18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Often, our suffering tempers us for future challenges and enables us to help others to cope with similar circumstances.

BLCF: ilya-repin-get-behind-me-satan-1895

 

The proof that temptation is common not only to men and women, you may recall that immediately after Jesus, who was sinless, had been baptized by John and had the Holy Spirit come upon him, that Christ was immediately tempted by Satan in the wilderness, as was described in Matthew 4:1-11 (ESV):

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, “’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and 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.'” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,”‘You shall worship the Lord your God   and him only shall you serve.'” 11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

When Satan tempted Jesus, he appealed to three things: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. First he challenged Jesus, after a 40-day fast, to use his powers to make food and satisfy his fleshly needs. Next, he challenged Jesus to look at the world from a high place and offered him dominion over all he saw. Finally, he tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from a tower, saying that surely, as God’s son, he would be saved – which was an appeal to pride.

Three aspects of the temptation are worth noting. First, that Satan had attempted to beguile or fool Jesus through the use of scripture, which Jesus not only discerned as a trick by putting God to the test. Second, that Jesus responded to Satan’s twisting of the scripture with the correct use of the Word of God. And third, Jesus acknowledged God’s authority over all, including Satan and rebuked the Devil by telling him to leave. Satan did leave, which tells us who really the master of both Heaven and earth is: our Lord Jesus!

BLCF: God's_Word_like_a_Lion

 

Just as Jesus responded, when tempted in the wilderness, we must be prepared to resist temptation by being prepared by studying and knowing the Bible, so as to discern when Satan is attempting to fool us. On the topic of Biblical Discernment, in his book, “The Best of the Christian Research Journal, Whose Ethics? Whose Morals?,author Hank Hanegraaff writes(Page90):

“Often it is difficult to determine what is true and what is false in a world that offers a puzzling array of solutions across abroad spectrum of belief systems, most of which contradict each other and, as such, underscore the critical need for Christians to develop godly discernment. Discernment is a word that appears fairly often in the Bible (1Sam:32-33, 1Kings 3:10-11 and 4:29; Psalm 119:66; Proverbs 2:3; Daniel 2:14; Philippians 1:9).

Colossians 2:8, similarly, reads:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principals of the world, rather than according to Christ”

Because so many facts, claims and opinions are being tossed about, Christians need to develop discernment to avoid being taken captive by false ideas. These distortions of the truth, often appear in the form of fallacies. A fallacy, by definition, is a mistaken idea, an error, or a flaw in reasoning. Examples are:

  • The fallacy of “Equivocation”: the use of vague terms, as used by cults. Cults will twist a truth to make it suit their purposes.
  • The fallacy of “Card Stacking”, that is the selective use of evidence. There may be more facts to an argument than are stated.
  • The fallacy of the “Red Herring”, use of a tangent to distract an opponent from the issue in question.

 

Satan is well-versed in the use of faulty reasoning to attempt to trick us into rationalizing actions which are contrary to God’s laws. And rationalizing such behavior gives Satan control of our lives.

BLCF: cs-lewis-quote

 

Christian Author C.S. Lewis once said:“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.”

 

As you can see C.S. Lewis draws an interesting conclusion, that only believers are tempted, as non-believers readily surrender readily to temptation. In a sense, temptation is not being dealt with by non-believers. It just does not exist in their reality. Non-believers do not have a faith in God, from which they may be tempted.

 

BLCF: Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)

 

So no test, trial or temptation comes from God which we read in James 1:13-15 (ESV):

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Again, we are reminded that God does help us through difficult times in our lives, as we are again reminded by 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):

 3No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

 BLCF: be_careful_sin

 

In conclusion, how we overcome temptation from Satan goes hand-in-hand with the strength of our faith and trust in the Lord. It is our trust in the Lord or our belief that he will eventually deliver us from the challenges or stumbling blocks that Satan places in our path. The graphic on the back out today’s bulletin reminds us that:

Satan knows your name, but calls you by your sin; while God knows your sin, but calls you by your name.

 

BLCF: Satan_knows_But_God_knows

 

The fact that we, as believers, will suffer temptations is a given. If we prepare ourselves by reading on scripture, avoiding conflicts and snares that Satan uses to draw us away from God’s path, we may resist the Devil. Our faith and trust in God allows us to have confidence that we will not suffer more than we can endure. Our reliance on the power of both prayer and the Holy Spirit, carries us through life’s challenges. This helps us to grow our confidence and faith in God. As the Apostle Paul put in Romans 8:36-39 (ESV):

36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

BLCF: dead2sin

 

 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

BLCF: praying_hands_albrecht_durer

 

Benediction (Luke 11:2-4):

2Our Father which art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

3Give us day by day our daily bread.

 4And forgive us our sins;

For we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation;  

 But deliver us from evil .                                                                                                        

– Amen  

 BLCF: enforce-victory