The Good Friday Story

Message Shared with Toronto Vineyard and

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘The Good Friday Story’

© March 30, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin Good Friday March 30, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus                                                                           

Choruses: Toronto Vineyard                                                                                    

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

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Good Friday Story’

Let us pray…

Welcome to the annual Good Friday Worship Service, with the combined congregations of Toronto Vineyard and BLCF Church. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Good Friday Story’ we will examine the Crucifixion of Jesus on that Friday following Passover nearly 2,000 years ago from the perspective of several key people, who either witnessed or were involved in the events of the day.

We begin our story with Simon Peter, from Matthew 16:13-19 (ESV):

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades

While one disciple receives a blessing for correctly identifying Jesus as the Son of God, another is cursed for betraying the Lord, Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV):

Judas Hangs Himself

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Footnotes:a.Matthew 27:3 Greek he

While Jesus indicated that the perception and faith of the Peter had earned the disciple the promised appointment as the foundational rock of his church, with an entitlement to the keys to the kingdom of heaven, the Lord had also predicted that the Galilean would betray his master three times in the on the night of his betrayal, Mark 14:66-72 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway[a] and the rooster crowed.[b] 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.[c]

Footnotes: a. Mark 14:68 Or forecourt b. Mark 14:68 Some manuscripts omit and the rooster crowed c. Mark 14:72 Or And when he had thought about it, he wept

The feeling of guilt had driven one disciple to tears of remorse and another to suicide.

The Son of God would receive a crown of thorns in a sadistic coronation, crucified upon the cross bearing a sign written by Pilate signifying Jesus as King of the Jews,  John 19:16-30 (ESV):

16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.[a]But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

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

The Death of Jesus

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

Footnotes: a. John 19:23 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin

As Jesus had both his life and blood drained on that wooden tree of death and just before committing his spirit to the Father in heaven, he committed his mother and his disciple John to care for each other. Later, Mary and the other women would go to a tomb provided by a wealthy disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, for the lifeless body of Christ, and John cloistered himself with the other disciples fearful of the same fate as their Lord, Matthew 27:51-66 (ESV):    

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[a] of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[b] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:54 Or a son b. Matthew 27:65 Or Take a guard

As Jesus had surrendered his life and spirit on the lonely cross of death, the earth shuddered and trembled. Pilate fearing the removal of the body of Christ from the tomb had the entrance cover stone secured with a seal and placed guards at the entrance.

Jesus was perceived to pose such a great threat to the chief priests, elders, and other members of the mob, they conspired with the assistance of Pilate to accomplish what King Herod I of Judea’s soldiers could not do: put baby to death, when the king ordered his soldiers to kill all the male babies, in what was described as the Massacre of the Innocents. With the death of Jesus on the cross, they felt the Prince of Peace was now dead to the world and was no longer a threat to their hypocrisy and their business of running the temple. The self-righteous expected that they would no longer have to deal with his biting remarks, regardless of how accurate or truthful.

It seemed now to be the end of an era for this gifted teacher who preached a new faith in God and promised a New Covenant, where the sinner and righteous would be treated the same way if they demonstrated faith and trust in the Lord.

To those involved, it seemed all that remained after the death of Jesus would be the grieving. Passover or Pesach had come, and neither bitter herbs nor marked door posts or lintels could stop the cloud of death from taking the life of Mary’s first-born son.

On that day, it was as if all the disciples had forgotten the message of hope announced by the host of angels, when a heavenly star had pointed to the humble birthplace of the long-awaited Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords, the only Son of God, who also was God the Son.

The disciples were thrust into a world of lost hopes, of grief and fear, of unfulfilled promises that were devoid of joy. It seemed that all miracles and lessons from their Lord were forgotten and made hollow by the death of their teacher. I wonder if at this time the disciples remembered Jesus’ lesson of the Breaking of the Bread and the meaning Sharing of Chalice of the Wine taught at the Passover Meal before his death? Did the disciples share these elements of Communion in an act of faith, awaiting their Lord’s promise to return? Or were the disciples so fearful and introspective in absence of the Holy Spirit, that they remained barricaded in that Upper Chamber fearing the same fate of Jesus would befall them?

From the Scriptures, it appeared none of the disciples would go outside that Upper Chamber, save for the women who ventured to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Christ. Perhaps Mary still had in her possession some of the myrrh, an oil used to embalm the dead, brought by one of the Magi as a tribute to the baby Jesus?

We do not know what became of the Thomas in the days following the burial of Jesus, but the Scriptures indicate the disciple was absent from the Upper Room.

Luke 24:13-35 gives the account of two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed companion, who felt that the teachings of Jesus had ended with his death on the cross, as they were departing on the Road to Emmaus. It is likely the two were not the only followers of Christ who felt when Jesus announced, “It is finished” viewed the Lord’s pronouncement to be about his ministry, though he was actually talking about the completing the payment off the debt for the sins of humanity.

Paul Harvey and The Rest of the Story

In the latter half of his career, Paul Harvey was also known for the radio series The Rest of the Story, described as a blend of mystery and history, which premiered on May 10, 1976. The series quickly grew to six broadcasts a week, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009. The Rest of the Story series was written and produced by the broadcaster’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr., from its outset and for its thirty-three year duration. Harvey and his radio network stated that the stories in that series, although entertaining, were completely true.[14] 

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

Over the span of 30 years, a journalist named Paul Harvey had a radio broadcast, where he would deliver what at first blush, seemed to be innocuous news stories that my father, a career media journalist, would classify as “puffball news”. A puffball news story named for the puffball, a member of any of several groups of fungi in the division Basidiomycota. The distinguishing feature of all puffballs, which look like a very large mushroom, is the absence of an open cap with spore-bearing gills, as its spores are produced internally. Puffballs grow to a rather large size on the outside, however, when cut open are found to be hollow and empty on the inside, save for some spores which may puff upwards and out from the cap on a hot day.

Back to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story,” the first two minutes of his broadcast sounded like a light-news puffball story typically broadcast on a slow news cycle. A puffball is used as a filler on a slow news day.

The first two or three minutes of the broadcast began as a normal, ordinary news story with a seemingly predictable conclusion until Harvey would pause and announce, “And now for the rest of the story. The next segment of the story would then take an unexpected, often surprising turn in the direction towards its final conclusion. This unexpected turn of events in the story’s narrative was the hook that drew a large audience who followed the Harvey stories to hear this “truth is often stranger than fiction,” conclusions to the Harvey stories.

So it seems that life and promise brought by Jesus may appear initially to the disciples just a predictable account of events, following the Lord’s death on the cross.

At this point of our Good Friday lesson, we say would say: “And now for the rest of the story of Jesus,” which the disciples might have described an ending considered that considered as unexpected, earth-shattering, and life-changing. It seems as if they had forgotten or suppressed much of what Jesus had prophesized about his death and resurrection until they witnessed the events unfolded as Jesus had prophesized.

On this Good, Friday let us not make the same mistake as had  many, if not most, of the Lord’s disciples. Today we need not cover our heads with ashes or wear robes of mourning, instead, we should rejoice in the gift from God through His Son Jesus, who thought he died on the cross for our sins.

Our Lord and Savior overcame death, which is our judgment for sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was raised from dead. Jesus not only defeated death, but he also defeated the devil, who had deceived Adam and Eve so they had disobeyed God the Father, and brought this judgment of death for sin upon themselves and upon all their descendants.

When we eat the bread element and drink the juice element of Communion today, we should remember the Lord’s body was broken and of the blood Jesus shed in order to pay for the judgment for humanity’s sins Though neither gift, of salvation or life eternal, is deserved by any of us, we should celebrate and rejoice in the sacrifice and victory of Jesus, because we do know “the rest of the story,” which is the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as a sign of God’s love for each one of us! He died as the son of man, only to be resurrected as Son of God, or should I say God the Son.

I invite all of you to return here this Easter Sunday to celebrate the “rest of the story” of Christ, Jesus.

Let us pray…

Communion: Toronto Vineyard

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday, He Died for Me

Video: Yesterday He Died For Me                                          

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 15:56-57): The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Palm Sunday:

‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’

© March 25, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 25, 2018 Palm Sunday

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn:  Hosanna (See Front of Bulletin); Choruses:

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

Responsive Reading #631: The Incarnate Christ (-from John1)

 Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Palm Sunday Celebration Service. Our lesson today is about: ‘Hosanna and the Palm Sunday Story’.

Palm Sunday is the date that the Christian Church observes the fulfillment of the long-awaited prophecy that God would send His only Son, as a Savior to the people of the world suffering under the death for sins, which hovers over all like an ominous dark cloud of death. That prophecy is found in Zechariah 9:9-10 (ESV):

  The Coming King of Zion

 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
    righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River[a] to the ends of the earth.

Footnotes: a. Zechariah 9:10 That is, the Euphrates

Many of the faithful believed that the deliverer sent by God would be arrive at Jerusalem as a mighty king as described in Zechariah 9  and lead his people in a battle against Rome, not unlike the Battle of Jericho described in Joshua 6:2-20, a lesson topic that we studied in our March 6 Worship Service.

The events of Jesus’ arrival, described as The Triumphal Entry may be found in several of the disciples gospels. For our lesson, we will look at the account from Matthew 21:1-11 (ESV):

The Triumphal Entry

 21 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
   on a colt,[a] the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”               

Footnotes: a, Matthew 21:5 Or donkey, and on a colt

You will note that as Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, many of the people shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 

What do the crowds mean when the people shouted Hosanna?

When used in a liturgical context, Hosanna refers to a cry expressing an appeal for divine help.[5]

Judaism

In Jewish liturgy, the word is applied specifically to the Hoshana Service, a cycle of prayers from which a selection is sung each morning during Sukkot, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.[3] The complete cycle is sung on the seventh day of the festival, which is called Hoshana Rabbah (הושענא רבא, “Great Hosanna”).[6]

Christianity

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship - BLCF Church Palm Sunday 2011 Bulletin

“Hosanna” was the shout of praise or adoration made in recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem,[3] “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”[7] It is used in the same way in Christian praise.

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

And what about the terms Messiah or Christ, used to describe the Lord?

The Greek translation of Messiah is khristos (χριστός), anglicized as Christ, and Christians commonly refer to Jesus as either the “Christ” or the “Messiah”. Christians believe that Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus and that he will return to fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy.

The majority of historical and mainline Christian theologies consider Jesus to be the Son of God and God the Son, a concept of the Messiah fundamentally different from the Jewish and Islamic concepts.

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

Many Christians mistakenly use Christ and Jesus, as if both interchangeably describe the given name of the same man. As instructed by angels who visited both Mary and Joseph, Mary would give birth to her son, who was fathered by the Holy Spirit, and they were instructed to name him Jesus. In time Jesus would grow  to fulfill the prophecies to bring reconciliation and sanctification to all humanity by his death as the Son of God, and he demonstrate his identity of being God the Son by his resurrection. Jesus would later show his love for us, by sending us the Holy Spirit of God to be our companion now and forever.

It is interesting that though the people gathered at the entrance of Jerusalem, awaiting the arrival of Jesus, shouted out to him: “Hosanna,”  which was a plea for mercy that acknowledges the  power and authority of the Messiah or the Christ sent by God the Father. However, we see  in Matthew 21:10-11, some mistakenly identified Jesus as a prophet:

10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Perhaps it was the fact that Jesus arrived on a colt, the foal of a donkey, or  because the Lord did not arrive clothed in royal raiment, along with an entourage befitting a king, many in the crowd assumed Jesus to be just a humble prophet. Contrary to the expectations of some, Jesus did not arrive on a chariot or horse, dressed as a king, dressed in expensive robes worn by kings, and emperors of the day.  The Triumphal Entry did not include horns and a mighty army as Joshua had brought to battle Jericho. The Messiah’s mission was not to battle the army of the Empire and bring down the walls of the city of Rome. Our Christ was on a more important mission: to bring salvation to humanity and to demonstrate the love of God by allowing himself to be the final sacrifice for sin. The disobedience of Adam and Eve, with the help of the devil, would be forgiven through the obedience of the Son of God,  who defeated both sin and the devil on the Cross at Calvary. Christ did not come as a Messiah for the people of Israel, The Lord’s teachings and actions would enact God’s New Covenant of salvation, resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit to all of humanity, for all time, allowing all of us to join God’s Chosen.

That was the same misperception that the Woman of Samaria had in last Sunday’s lesson, John 4:19-26 (ESV), where the Samaritan said in John 4:19 (ESV), also misidentifies Jesus as a prophet:

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

 And later the Samaritan woman acknowledges in John 4:25 (ESV) that a Messiah is coming:

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.”

It is then, in John 4:26 (ESV), that Jesus corrects the Samaritan woman by identifying himself as the Messiah,

 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

The frequent misidentification of Jesus as a humble prophet instead of the Messiah sent by the Father was not just a case of erroneous identification, but an integral part of the Ministry of Jesus, as we see in Mark 10:42-45 (ESV):

                                                      

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a]44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 10:43 Greek diakonos b. Mark 10:44 Or bondservant, or servant (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos)

The importance of Ministering the Gospel of Jesus with humility is reinforced when Jesus teaches his way of ministry in the most humble way when he washes the feet of the disciples, described in John 13:1-17 (ESV):

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Footnotes: a. John 13:10 Some manuscripts omit except for his feet b. John 13:10 The Greek words for you in this verse are plural c. John 13:16 Or bondservant, or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

If Jesus were just playing the role of servant for the Passover Meal, he would have washed the disciples feet before the meal. But to avoid this perception, an assure that the twelve would understood that he was teaching an important lesson by example of humility. He would humble himself even more by allowing himself to be betrayed, denied, tried and convicted as a criminal, crucified for the judgement,  though he were innocent. Though the Lord was the Son of God, he allowed himself to die the death as the humble son of man.

As disciples of the Resurrected Christ,  we are expected to carry out the Great Commission in the same humble manner of Jesus. Instead of teaching the Gospel of Jesus,  we must follow the humble example of  the Lord, by way of truth of in our words and love in our actions, as explained in Philippians 2:3-11 (ESV):

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,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c]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 2:6 Or a thing to be held on to for advantage c. Philippians 2:7 Or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

Jesus came in the form a humble servant, preferring to identify himself as the son of man: born in a humble stable, arriving to Jerusalem riding on the foal of a donkey, though innocent, he died the death of a criminal to pay our debt for our sins by surrendering his blood, his body, his life as the perfect love offering. Jesus died a man’s death as the son of man, only to return three days later, as the resurrected Son of God, a Messiah for all of humanity, for all generations, our Lord of lords and King of kings, forever, until the end of time.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

Benediction – 2 Corinthians 13:14: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Abiding in the Way of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

©March 18, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 18, 2018

Based on a Messages Shared at BLCF on April 3, 2011 and January 25, 2015

BLCF Bulletin April_3_2011

BLCF Bulletin April 26 2015

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

Opening Hymn #204: There’s A Quiet Understanding

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

Handiwork I SeeResponsive Reading #597 (Gr of PrayerOD’s Attributes- Psalm 19)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Abiding in the Way of the Lord’

Let us pray…

For our lesson today, Abiding in the Way of the Lord, we have three Scripture Passages, two from Mark’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-8) and (Mark 12:18-33) and the third Scripture Passage comes from the 12 Chapter of John’s Gospel (John 12:19-26).

The Scriptures from Mark give us a glimpse of what it like in Heaven, by giving an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus, as well what we may expect after our resurrection, as well as the most important of GOD’s Commandments, also known as HIS Great Commandment.

In today’s third Scripture passage, from John, the Lord instructs the Woman of Samaria on where and how to worship God.

The three Scriptures illustrate how easy it is to be misguided and confused when we attempt to seek GOD’s grace and presence, which is HIS spirit and truth, on an earthly plane, at some special sacred place, such as upon a Holy Mountain.

Such was the case where Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, where the Lord’s appearance became transfigured into a radiant, intensely white figure as he spoke with the prophets, Elijah and Moses, as we read in Mark 9:2-8 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi,[b] it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son;[c] listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

Footnotes: a. Mark 9:3 Greek launderer (gnapheus) b. Mark 9:5 Rabbi means my teacher, or my master c. Mark 9:7 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

The disciples were initially terrified by what they had witnessed. Then Peter suggested building, as temples; one each for Church of the Transfiguration. I do not think that is what the Lord had in mind when he brought his disciples up on the mountain. We read next that a cloud comes above them, and the disciples hear GOD’s voice speak: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him,” after which Moses and Elijah, who scholars view represent the Law and the Prophets, are no longer visible.

On Mount Tabor, today, we see that the Church of the Transfiguration has been erected to signify the place of the miracle, just as Peter had suggested to the Jesus. Peter, as well as those on who built the church, chose to venerate the sight of the transfiguration, rather than just focusing solely on the event. The Lord did not intend reveal the miracle of his transfiguration in order for people to plant a church on the mountain. Instead, Jesus’ miracle demonstrated the Divine nature of the Lord, giving us a glimpse of what heaven must be like. This interpretation of the vision is confirmed when the Heavenly Father identifies HIS son to the disciples and instructs them listen to him. .

Our second verse, offers another glimpse of life after our resurrection when a group of Sadducees ask the Lord about a hypothetical situation and the resurrection.In short, the Sadducees focused on the letter of the law, in contrast to the Pharisees, who seemed to construct the law on the fly. Both groups sought to serve themselves and their own authority over the authority of GOD.  Let us now look at, Mark 12:18-33 (ESV):

The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection

18And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19“Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man[a] must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

24Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

In this glimpse of life after the Resurrection, we see that we are no longer in human form, but appear as the angel in heaven. No longer are we under the laws of this world. Like Jesus, Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor, we will be transfigured, being radiant and glowing bright as the sun.

Having answered the Sadducees’ challenge to the resurrection, by reminding them that God revealed himself to Moses from a burning bush, when he spoke in Mark 12:26-27, saying:

26And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Having heard the Lord answer the question of the resurrection in a satisfactory manner, one of the scribes or experts of the law asked the Lord a question with respect to the law, or the Law of Moses which consisted of some 613 Commandments, as well as additional instructions and interpretations derived from the original Ten Commandments. All of these Laws and Commandments could be distilled down to two, which Jesus gave in response to the question of which was the Greatest Commandment,  is found in Mark 12:28-33:

The Great Commandment

The Royal Commandment

 28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 12:19 Greek his brother

We see that the both loving God and loving our neighbor are keys following and worshipping GOD.

Does GOD expect us to undertake a pilgrimage to Holy places such as Mt. Tabor, in order to meet HIS expectation of our expression of faith? Let us look at three places considered to be important to the descendants of Abraham, The Wailing Wall, Mecca and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre:

Wailing Wall

The Western Wall, Wailing Wall or Kotel is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small western segment of the walls surrounding the area called the Temple Mount (or Har Habayit) by Jews, Christians and most Western sources, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary (Al-Haram ash-Sharīf).

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place to which Jews turn during prayer. The original, natural and irregular-shaped Temple Mount was gradually extended to allow for an ever larger Temple compound to be built at its top.

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

The Hajj

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their family during their absence. The Hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Abraham

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

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, or the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the Christian Quarter of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed walled Old City of Jerusalem. The site is venerated as Calvary (Golgotha),[1] where Jesus was crucified,[2] and also contains the place where Jesus is said to have been buried. The church has been an important Christian pilgrimage destination since at least the 4th century as the purported site of the resurrection of Jesus.

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

As Christians who see a relationship with God the Father, by trusting in the Gospel of Jesus, we at some time or other face the question: “Is undertaking a pilgrimage to any or all of these sites an important expression of our faith in GOD?”  We find the answer in today’s third Scripture verse, John 4:19-26 (ESV):

The Woman of Samaria

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.”

Jesus responded to the woman of Samarian’s comment that her fathers worshipped GOD on a mountain top, in Jerusalem, or any other place is not as important as how we worship HIM, in spirit and truth, that matters. It because the Christian’s identity is to not dependent upon any physical or geographic location, but upon a faith in God’s love, the sacrifice of His only Son Christ Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, our beliefs are not constrained to physical constraints or controls. This is why Napoleon concluded:

 “I marvel that whereas the ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant – Jesus should be able to stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of men and nations.”                                                                                                                                                 Napoleon I Bonaparte (1809)   

I have listed a series of verses on the back of today’s bulletin, where the Lord spoke GOD’s Great Commandment over and over again:

Hol;y Bible

Holy Bible

John 3:16 (ESV)

 16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 13:34-35 (ESV)

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 John 15:12-14 (ESV)

 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 

John 15:17 (ESV)    

17These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

John 15:4-5 (ESV)

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I 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.

 John 14:21 (ESV)

21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

 John 15:10 (ESV)

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.

Rather than embarking upon pilgrimages and building glorious cathedrals, our best and purist expression of Christian worship is truth and love, as defined by the Lord. In this manner, we have an opportunity to share with others a true glimpse of heaven.

Let us pray…

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

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.

 

Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone’

© March 11, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 11, 2018

Based on Messages Originally Shared with BLCF Church on February 27, 2011

BLCF_Bulletin_February_27_2011

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus; Choruses                    

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

Responsive Reading #668: The New Life (from Colossians 3)                           

Message by Stephen Mickelson:                                                                                                      ‘Trusting the Lord, While Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, for the Sunday, March 11, 2018. To those of you who are here right now, congratulations to you for setting your clocks and alarms ahead one hour. Please be kind to those who may walk in to the service an hour late.

Our lesson today will include three Scripture verses that describe three different accounts of people in need of healing, cleansing and restoration from the Lord. The first two describe men afflicted with Leprosy. To better understand this disease, let us briefly review Hansen’s disease, commonly called Leprosy:

Leprosy – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leprosy /ˈlɛprəsi/,[1] also known as Hansen’s disease (HD) is a chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae[2] and Mycobacterium lepromatosis.[3] Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to as long as 20 years.[2] Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes.[2] This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain and thus loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries.[4] Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.[ Leprosy is curable with treatment. Globally in 2012, the number of chronic cases of leprosy was 189,000 and the number of new cases was 230,000.[2] The number of chronic cases has decreased from some 5.2 million in the 1980s. In the past 20 years, 16 million people worldwide have been cured of leprosy.[2] About 200 cases are reported per year in the United States.[8]

Leprosy has affected humanity for thousands of years.[4] The disease takes its name from the Latin word lepra, which means “scaly”, while the term “Hansen’s disease” is named after the physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen.[4] Separating people by placing them in leper colonies still occurs in places such as India,[9] China,[10] and Africa.[11] However, most colonies have closed since leprosy is not very contagious.[11] Leprosy has been associated with social stigma for much of history, which is a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment.[2] Some consider the word leper offensive, preferring the phrase “persons affected with leprosy”.[12]

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

The first of today’s Scriptures, from 2 Kings 5:1-27, is the account of Naaman who was a brave commander in the army of king of Syria. Naaman was an effective commander, even being described as being given victory in battle by the Lord. However the soldier was afflicted with Leprosy:

2 Kings 5:1-27 (ESV) Naaman Healed of Leprosy

5 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.[a] Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels[b] of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana[c] and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Gehazi’s Greed and Punishment

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mule loads of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” 21 So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” 22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi. 24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed. 25 He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” 26 But he said to him, “Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

Footnotes: a. 2 Kings 5:1 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 b. 2 Kings 5:5 A talent was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms; a shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams c. 2 Kings 5:12 Or Amana

Elisha, a prophet of Israel, refused to touch, anoint, touch or even speak to Naaman, instead sending a servant to deliver a letter, instructing the Syrian Commander to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times.

Initially, Naaman was infuriated that Elisha had refused an audience with him and that he was told to bathe in the Jordan River instead of a river in Syria, so he stormed away. But Naaman was convinced by his servants that Elisha was a mighty prophet of God, reminding their master that he was promised to be healed, if he followed Elisha’s directions. Eventually, Naaman did follow the instructions and was completely healed of his affliction.

Naaman is convinced by his wife’s servant of how a prophet in home Israel, could heal her master of his affliction. Naaman tells his lord, the King of Syria of the servant girl’s belief and asks for leave to go to Israel. The king sends Naaman, along with a letter, to the king of Israel. The King of Israel, upon reading the letter, tears his clothing as only God can heal a man of Leprosy and suspects that the request is a ruse by the King of Syria to start a war against Israel. In 2 Kings 5:8   we see how the Lord responds to the faith of the servant from Israel, the Syrian Commander and His prophet Elisha:

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.

It is interesting that Elisha takes Naaman out of his comfort zone, by not greeting the commander’s entourage, accepting the monetary gifts, and by specifying that Naaman immerse himself in the River Jordan seven times. Elisha’s response to Naaman asks the commander for humility and trust from Naaman, while clearly disassociating the healing from any worldly influence, so that credit would go solely to the Lord.

Naaman initially hesitates to obey Elisha’s instructions, angered by both the reception from Elisha and the unexpected method of the healing, is convinced to follow the directions from the prophet. Naaman is healed and acknowledges God, but tries to reward Elisha who reuses a wealth of gifts. Elisha tells Naaman that the healing is a gift from God, not the prophet.

Later, we see that Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, is tempted and accepts the gifts offered by Naaman by telling Naaman that Elisha had a change in heart. Gehazi hides the offering in his house and denies to Elisha that he went out. We see that Elisha is aware and disappointed in Gehazi’s actions as we see in 2 Kings 5:26-27:

“Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants?  Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.

We could almost call this passage “A Tale of Two Servants,” where the faith of one servant brings faith and healing to a Gentile, while another servant brings upon himself a harsh judgment for his greed and lack of faith.

We see that by repeating the action of immersing himself in living water action,  Naaman demonstrated his faith and was rewarded with the Lord healing  him of his affliction.  The Scripture shows how God rewards obedience and faith. It is interesting to note that Naaman, like Joshua in last week’s lesson was instructed to repeat an action seven times.  Fortunately, both Joshua and Naaman did not quit after completing only six repetitions, electing instead to faithfully follow their instructions to the end. In both accounts, we see how the repetition of seemingly insignificant actions such as marching in circles or bathing in a river, can have miraculous consequences when God is involved. And also interesting is how God’s Glory is revealed through the faith demonstrated by a servant girl and a prostitute. How marvelous that a leper, who does not have the birthright of the people of Israel, may receive God’s blessing for actions that demonstrate a faith and trust in the Lord!

Our second Scripture Luke 17:11-19 tells of how Ten Lepers are healed by Jesus, but only one of the ten, also a Gentile, returns to acknowledge the Lord:

Luke 17:11-19 (ESV) Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,[a] who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Luke 17:12 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 b. Luke 17:19 Or has saved you

In Luke 17:19, we see that the Lord acknowledges the healed man’s praise:

 “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.

Based upon our first two Scriptures, one might conclude that Jesus first came to heal the world of their physical afflictions. Though the Lord did demonstrate compassion for the afflicted and healed them, this was not the reason why Jesus came to the world, as we see in Mark 2:13-17:

Mark 2:13-17 (ESV) Jesus Calls Levi

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of[a] the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat[b] with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 2:16 Some manuscripts and b. Mark 2:16 Some manuscripts add and drink

Jesus came not heal us of physical ailments; instead the Lord came to cleanse us of our Spiritual afflictions, which is sin. This is why the Lord sought to associate with tax collectors and sinners, described in Mark 2:17:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came to minister and heal sinners, it is important to focus not on the fact that two Lepers were healed, but the faith of those messengers who brought healing. It is interesting that while Naaman came out of his comfort zone by trusting and obeying the instructions of God’s prophet, Elisha, the Syrian commander came to faith based upon the testimony of a nameless servant girl. A servant who took compassion upon a commander of a foreign nation that had taken her into a life of servitude. She left her comfort zone by sharing her faith with a leader in the country which she was held captive.

Remember that the only one of ten Lepers’, who were healed by the compassion of Jesus to acknowledge the Lord, was also a foreigner, a Samaritan. We are reminded that we are commissioned as apostles or messengers of the Lord to share the Gospel of Christ Jesus not just with whom whose company we feel comfortable, but with those whom we may tend to avoid or whose company we do not like. We see this in the Scripture passage that we have adopted as our Mission statement for our BLCF Café Community Dinner, see Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-46 (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,[a] 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.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Footnotes: a Matthew 25:40 Or brothers and sisters

Finally, may we accept that while the Lord, and later the Apostles, did perform many miracles of physical healing, Jesus came solely heal the world of sin. The Apostles’ were given the Great Commission by Christ: to spread the good news, the Gospel, that Christ died for our salvation from the spiritual affliction of sin. We are challenged to step out our comfort zone and associate with those who are untouchable and disenfranchised, considered unrighteous by others.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #318: When We Walk with the Lord                                           

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14): May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Finding the Perfection of God’s Purpose by Way of Faith and Action

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Finding the Perfection of God’s Purpose by Way of Faith and Action’

© March 4, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 4, 2018

Based on a Message originally shared with BLCF on March 9, 2014

BLCF Bulletin March 9, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King (Tune of Michael Row the Boat Ashore); Choruses                                                                                                                                                                           

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

Responsive Reading #642 (Call to Consecration – Romans 12)                                                                    

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Finding the Perfection of God’s Purpose by Way of Faith and Action’

Let us pray…

For today’s lesson, we will look at: Finding the Perfection of God’s Purpose by Way of Faith and Action.  A few years ago, Sophie and I watched a television broadcast the 2010 release of The Karate Kid movie.  This remake had some script changes from the earlier version of the movie starring Jadan Smith, as the student, and Jackie Chan playing the teacher.

Instead of the teacher waxing a car, remember the “Wax on, wax off” routine of the original film, the Jack Chan character, as the teacher, has his student Jaden Smith, repeatedly, doing a routine of:   “throwing the jacket to the ground, then picking the jacket up, next hanging the jacket up on a peg mounted on a pole, and ending with taking the jacket off the peg to put on the jacket”.

Both routines, though different, show how repeating seemingly mundane routine actions, gave each respective student a muscle memory routine, that taught attention to detail, obedience to the teacher, self-discipline, focus and trust, while he learned a skill- set beyond the actions themselves, as we will see in today’s Scriptures.

The first of today’s two Scripture verses for our lesson comes from Joshua 6:2-20:

Joshua 6:2-20 (ESV)

And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat,[a] and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.” And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.”

And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.

12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.

15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. 17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction.[b] Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.

Footnotes: a. Joshua 6:5 Hebrew under itself; also verse 20 b. Joshua 6:17 That is, set apart (devoted) as an offering to the Lord (for destruction); also verses 18, 21

This Scripture could have us, initially, questioning: why did the Lord have Joshua, along with seven priests and all of his men, repeat the routine of marching around the city of Jericho seven times, on seven days. On each of the first six days, all were silent, save for the blowing of their horn trumpets as they marched. And on the seventh and final day, the routine was repeated again, not once but seven times and on the completion of the seventh and final circuit, those assembled would “shout for the Lord.” And after they shouted, the city walls of Jericho were destroyed.

The only people of Jericho to survive were those in the household of Rahab, a prostitute who gave shelter and safety to messengers that were sent by the Lord. But there is more to story, as this same Rahab was accounted as part of the lineage of our Lord, Jesus, Matthew 1:5-6  (ESV):

 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,

Why was Joshua, along with seven priests and all of the men of Israel instructed to repeat an action seven times? After all, would doing such action one time be sufficient to satisfy God? Is there any significance to seven repetitions asked of  Joshua and the others? To understand the significance of the number 7 in the Holy Scriptures, let us look to an excerpt from biblestudy.org:

What does the word for 7 mean in Hebrew? (From: biblestudy.org)

But now turning to the number 7, we must first consider the meaning of the word.

In the Hebrew, 7 is shevah. It is from the root savah, to be full or satisfied, have enough of. Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root, for on the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation. It was full and complete, and good and perfect. Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it. Hence the word Shavath, to cease, desist, rest, and Shabbath, Sabbath, or day of rest.

It is 7, therefore, that stamp with perfection and completeness that in connection with which it is used. Of time, it tells of the Sabbath, and marks off the week of seven days, which, artificial as it may seem to be, is universal and immemorial in its observance amongst all nations and in all times. It tells of that eternal Sabbath-keeping which remains for the people of God in all its everlasting perfection.

In the creative works of God, seven completes the colors of the spectrum and rainbow, and satisfies in music the notes of the scale. In each of these the eighth is only a repetition of the first.

Another meaning of the root Shavagh is to swear, or make an oath.

  God gave a seven-fold blessing to Abraham:          

                    Seven-fold blessing Abraham received from God

Abraham’s seven-fold blessing in Genesis 12:2, 3: –

“I will make of thee a great nation,
And I will bless thee,
And make thy name great;
And thou shalt be a blessing;
And I will bless them that bless thee,
And curse him that curseth thee:
And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

Aside from those accounts, courtesy of boblestudy.com, we also  see the Psalmist describing the Lord’s words being pure as silver that has been refined in a furnace seven times. When God speaks, it is often not just words, but by His promises:

Psalm 12:6 (ESV)

The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

While the ESV translation talks of the “words” of God, the CEV translates Psalm 12:6 it more powerfully as “promises” of God:

Psalm 12:6 (CEV)

Our Lord, you are true to your promises, and your word is like silver
heated seven times in a fiery furnace.[a]

Footnotes: a. 12.6 in a fiery furnace: The Hebrew text has “in a furnace to the ground,” which may describe part of a process for refining silver in Old Testament times

God’s promises include His Covenant, which He made with Israel:

What was God’s 7 part Covenant with Israel?

God’s seven-fold covenant with Israel in Exodus 6:6-8. 7 times does the expression, “I will” occur in these few verses, stamping the whole with spiritual perfection. These are preceded by “I have” three times repeated (verses 4,5), giving the Divine basis on which the blessing was based.

I have established My covenant with them, etc.
I have also heard their groaning, etc.
I have remembered My covenant.

Then follows the seven-fold blessing: –

I will bring you out from Egypt.
I will rid you of their bondage.
I will redeem you.
I will take you to Me for a people.
I will be to you a God.
I will bring you in unto the land.
I will give it you.

The number seven has relevance as it is found in the seven miracles described in John’s gospel of the New Testament:

What are the 7 Miracles written about in the Gospel of John?

  • The water turned into wine. (John 2:9)
  • Healing of the nobleman’s son. (John 4:47)
  • Healing of crippled man at the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:4-9)
  • The feeding of 5,000 people from only five loaves of bread and two fishes. (John 6:10)
  • Healing of the man born blind. (John 9:1)
  • The raising of Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:43)
  • The catching of 153 fishes by some of the disciples. (John 21:6)

These formed the spiritual perfection of the “signs” that Jesus was the Christ.

We also have the seven as the number miracles performed by Jesus on the Sabbath:

What were the 7 Miracles Jesus performed on the Sabbath?

Seven miracles wrought by Christ on the Sabbath day: –

  1. The withered hand, Matthew 12:9.
  2. The unclean spirit, Mark 1:21.
  3. Peter’s wife’s mother, Mark 1:29.
  4. The woman, Luke 13:11.
  5. The man with dropsy, Luke 14:2.
  6. The impotent man, John 5:8,9.
  7. The man born blind, John 9:14.

http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/7.html

The Scriptures indicate that an action being faithfully repeated times is significant. But we may ask which was more important to Joshua, his action or his faith?  We see in James 2:14-26 that both are equally important to the Lord:

James 2:14-26 (ESV) Faith Without Works Is Dead

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Footnotes: a. James 2:16 Or benefit

We see that James not only acknowledges the faith of the prostitute Rahab in James 2:25-26, but her actions to protect the messengers, as well. We are told that neither faith nor works may exist alone. Together, we have the two working in harmony as a complete expression of our belief and trust in God, and to fulfill Scripture. That faith without action is dead and action without faith is dead. Both are important to God, and either alone is meaningless to Him.

It is through actions performed by faith in God that we receive steadfastness by way of the Holy Spirit, which like God’s number seven, is perfect and complete, lacking nothing:

James 1:2-4 (ESV) Testing of Your Faith

Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Footnotes: a. James 1:2 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 16, 19

While on our faith walk in life, may we look to Christ, as a perfect example for us to follow in order to receive hope, endurance, and encouragement, to preach the Gospel of Christ, which allows us to glorify all that God provides:

Romans 15:1-7 (ESV) The Example of Christ

15 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Let us pray…

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

Closing Hymn #225: Standing on the Promises

Benediction – (Romans 15:4): For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress  

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’

© February 25, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 25, 2018

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

BLCF Bulletin October_30,_2011

Announcements & Call to Worship;r of Prayer Prayer

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

                                                                 Job 1:1-12 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

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

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

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

 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

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

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

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

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

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

Paul Paraskevopoulos

Paul Paraskevopoulos

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

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

Paul Paraskevopoulos between Steve and Sophie Mickelson

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #224: How Firm a Foundation

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