A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

© November 25, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin November 25, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door; Choruses                           

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

Responsive Reading #610: Christ in Prophecy (- from Isaiah 11 and 42, Jeremiah 23, and Malachi 4)                                                                                                  

Message by Steve Mickelson: A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service for the last Sunday in November, also the last Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent. So, it would not surprise you that today’s lesson is entitled: A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas.For the record, here is the definition of a preamble:

Preamble – pre·am·ble /ˈprēˌambəl/ noun

Definition: preliminary or preparatory statement; an introduction.

 E.g. “what she said was by way of a preamble”

Then you may ask about the Cicada. This is the little insect which lays dormant in the pupa stage for a period of thirteen or seventeen years, (depending on the variety), only to emerge as an adult which generates a loud buzzing noise (up to 106 dB)  as a mating call.

Amazing Cicada Life Cycle | Sir David Attenborough | BBC – Youtube

Both Christmas and Easter are holy days to Christians, preceded by Advent and Lent, respectively. And it seems during both Advent and lent, we see the emergence of bashers of the faith and of Christ Jesus, emerging out of dormancy like noisy Cicadas. Like the Cicada, the Christian bashers make a lot of noise, expending much effort, challenging our faith, often using arguments which make sense only to themselves and fellow Christian bashers. When Christmas and Easter have passed, the cacophony ends, as these bashers seem, like the Cicadas, go dormant. Sadly, unlike the Cicada, Christian bashers do not go dormant for 13-17 years, but only as long as the advent next Christian holy day. My apologies to the Cicadas as at least their irritating noise serves a purpose, as a mating call to other Cicadas.

So let us endeavor to ignore the Christian bashers and focus on dispelling some of the myths perpetuated by those who do not have faith in believing the Gospel of Christ, Jesus. Both the devil and these opponents to the Christian faith, work hard at trying to create doubt in both seekers and believers in Jesus.

This is not surprising, as you may recall from last week’s lesson, that Jesus’ disciples had doubts about the identity of who is their Lord. You may recall that after Jesus calmed the storm on the sea, the disciples had questioned who was this man who could command the stormy sea and winds to stop. It was only after witnessing Jesus walking on the water, leading Peter to do the same, and again commanding a second storm to calm, that the disciples recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Considering the initial doubts of his disciples regarding his identity, it is not surprising that the neighbours and relatives who had not witnessed the Lord’s miracles had expressed the same doubts with respect to the identity of Jesus, as we read in the gospel of Mark 6:1-6 (ESV):

 Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

 6 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

Modern day Christian bashers try to cast doubt on the identity of Jesus, by claiming that the Genealogy of Jesus recorded in the gospel of Matthew 1:1-17 seem that recorded in the gospel of Luke 3:23-38. Rather than post the two genealogies of Jesus in today’s BLCF Bulletin, I have included a chart showing the same information (below):

Two Genealogies of Jesus: 

Matthew 1:1-17 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Joseph)                             Luke 3:23-38 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Mary)

 Luke 3:23-38 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,[a]the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 3:27 Greek Salathiel

Matthew 1:1-17 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,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, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah,11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:3 Greek Aram; also verse 4 b. Matthew 1:7 Asaph is probably an alternate spelling of Asa; some manuscripts Asa; also verse 8 c. Matthew 1:10 Amos is probably an alternate spelling of Amon; some manuscripts Amon; twice in this verse d. Matthew 1:12 Greek Salathiel; twice in this verse

In one of the genealogy trees, from Matthew’s gospel, indicates that Joseph as a descendant of David. The other genealogy, from Luke’s gospel, has been attributed by many scholars as showing the lineage of Mary, as being trace from David.

It should be noted that through her marriage to Joseph, Mary enters her husband’s family and therefore both she and her son Jesus legally become members of the House of David. You may recall that the skeptics of the identity of Jesus in Mark 6:1-6 were apparently unaware that while Jesus and his siblings shared Mary as their mother, the siblings father was Joseph, while Jesus’ was the Son of God, as we see in the gospel of Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV):

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

Our faith in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and the Lord’s Gospel account of why he died, on the cross, his resurrection from the grave, his ascension to heaven, and his gifting of the Holy Spirit to those who believe appear as foolishness to those who are without the Spirit. Who knows why they seem so motivated to challenge the Christian faith by selectively choosing Scriptures used out of context, twisting the Bible to make an argument, not unlike the scribes and Pharisees in the time Jesus walked on the earth. These skeptics demonstrate their ignorance, by demanding that Christians put the Lord to the test. The birth of the Christ or Messiah has already been ordained by God’s miracle or sign described in Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV):

 The Sign of Immanuel

The prophecy was written: Between 701-681 BC
The prophecy was fulfilled: About 5 BC – Jesus is born

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your[a] God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he[b] said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.[c] 

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 7:11 The Hebrew for you and your is singular in verses 11 b. Isaiah 7:13 That is, Isaiah c. Isaiah 7:14 Immanuel means God is with us

To close our lesson today, I would like to remind you that just as Mary and her son, Jesus became members of the House of David, through her marriage to Joseph, all who are baptized into Christ by faith become part of His Church by faith and are considered offspring of Abraham, entitled as God’s beloved children, as indicated in Galatians 3:27-29 (ESV), which happens to be our Benediction today:

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #208: There’s a Church within Us, O Lord                                                                                                              

Benediction – (Galatians 3:27-29 ): For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

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Sleeping through the Storm, Safely with the Peace of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Sleeping through the Storm, Safely with the Peace of the Lord’

© November 18, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 18, 2018

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

Responsive Reading #603: Divine Providence (- from Psalm 34)                         

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Sleeping Safely through the Storm, Calmed by the Peace of the Lord’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service at BLCF Church, where our lesson will examine two of the Jesus miracles performed in order to prove to his disciples his identity as the Son of God. Both miracles occurred as the disciples struggled to overcome wind-generated storms on the Sea of Galilee in order to reach their appointed destination. However, as we shall see, as often happens in the Scriptures, the lessons taught from journey are more important than the destination. One example would be Saul’s conversion experience while he journeyed on the Road to Damascus.

I would like to present the first miracle for today’s lesson, from three points of view found in the Synoptic Gospels, each bearing the common title of Jesus Calms a Storm, while mostly contain the same elements, do have some slight variances. This is what one might expect from three different points of view telling what they observed of a common event. The first example comes from the gospel of Matthew 8:23-27 (ESV):

Jesus Calms a Storm

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Matthew gives an account where Jesus goes aboard a boat, followed by the disciples. While Jesus is sleeping, a great storm comes upon the vessel. Fearing for their lives, the disciples wake the Lord, asking him to save them from harm. Jesus asks them why do they fear and then rebukes them for their lack of faith. Having rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith, Jesus then rebukes the wins and the sea. The resulting change from a great storm to a great calm prompts the disciples to ask what sort of man is their Lord, who is able to change the wind and the sea by the mere words of his commands?

Our second account of this miracle of the Lord comes from the gospel of Mark 4:35-41 (ESV):

 Jesus Calms a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Mark’s account gives us additional information from Matthew’s gospel. We learn that it is evening when the disciples join Jesus aboard a boat to cross Sea of Galilee. Though we also learn the group sails in the boat, leaving behind a crowd. It seems that some of the crowd decided to follow the boat containing Jesus and the disciples, as we learn that other boats were with him. Mark gives additional details, indicating Jesus was at the stern of the boat, where had fallen asleep on a cushion. Mark indicates that Jesus rebukes the storm and then his disciples, where Matthew has the order reversed. It could be because Mark felt the Lord rebuking the sea was more significant than his personal rebuke of the disciples. We also learn that this miracle which prompted the disciples to question the identity of their Lord came out of fear, at least from Mark’s point of view.

Now let us look at Luke’s take on these events, taken from the gospel of Luke 8:22-25 (ESV):

Jesus Calms a Storm

22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Luke’s account of events is more succinct, but we learn that the storm came as they fell asleep. It seems that Jesus was not the only disciple who had fallen asleep, which might explain the brevity of Luke’s account. As Jesus and Luke slumbered, perhaps Matthew and Mark kept watch, giving a possible explanation for the latter two’s more lengthy and detailed description of events. While Luke agrees with Mark that the disciples experienced fear at witnessing this miracle over nature, the former indicates that he marveled at the events.

All three Synoptic accounts end with the disciples questioning the identity of the man whom they follow and call their Lord.

This leads us to the second miracle involving the disciples aboard a boat in a stormy sea. Only this time Jesus has sent his disciples ahead of him, while he dismissed the crowd, and later went up a mountain to pray alone. Let us look at the account of events found in the gospel of Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV):

 Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way[a] from the land,[b] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night[c] he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind,[d]he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 14:24 Greek many stadia, a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters b. Matthew 14:24 Some manuscripts was out on the sea c. Matthew 14:25 That is, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. d. Matthew 14:30 Some manuscripts strong wind

Similar to Ontario’s Lake Nippising, near North Bay, the Sea of Galilee’s dimensions and orientation makes it a prime candidate to sudden unpredictable storms caused by the prevailing winds. Needless to say, I am sure that Jesus, having been blest with the Holy Spirit, and by virtue of being the Divine Alpha and Omega, (beginning and end), knew that the disciples would encounter a storm on their journey.

So why did He allow them to go in the boat without Him? And why did He wait so long before joining them?

Do not forget that Jesus wanted to go up the mountain to pray. As Christians, we need to take time to pray, to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, in order to clear our slate of thoughts, actions, and feelings which distance us from God.

Jesus was a good teacher not only to the multitudes but to the twelve who followed him. The journey from Heptapegon, also known as Tabgha, el-Oreme or ‘En Sheva to Bethesda was about seven miles distance and would have taken the disciples maximum of 3-4 hours under normal conditions. Because of extreme headwinds and waves, the disciples’ boat had covered only half the distance in about 12 hours’ time or about 1/6 of the normal rate of travel.

There is no doubt that Jesus knew about the challenges his disciples were encountering, but he allowed them to go for some time before he set out to tread across the sea. Until Jesus arrived, the disciples had to work persistently and together to keep their boat on course, against the storm. The disciples would need the same persistence and cooperation, in the not too distant future, to share the Gospel to people who knew nothing of God, or worse, had drifted away from God in the pursuit of a religion devoid of the Holy Spirit.

This account gives us a combination of three miracles, Jesus walking upon a stormy sea, Paul joining the Lord by walking on the troubled water, and then again commanding the storm to cease. Jesus again rebukes the disciples for their doubt and lack of faith.

This miracle differs from the previous miracle as the disciples no longer doubt the identity of Jesus, as all on the boat by worshipping him as the Son of God.

The lesson from Matthew’s account is that we should seek the light of Jesus, as only the Lord can provide us with the safety that allows us to lie down and sleep in peace, as is indicated in Psalm 4:6-8 (ESV):

Answer Me When I Call

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we are justified by our faith and reconciled so that we have peace with God, through His Son, Christ Jesus, as we read in  Paul’s gospel, Romans 5:1 (ESV):

 Peace with God Through Faith

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #401: When Peace Like a River Attendeth                                                                                                                                                                                Benediction – (Colossians 3:15):

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Know Jesus, Know Peace!