Seeing the Invisible Through the Lens of Faith

BLCF: faith_sees_header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Seeing the Invisible through the Lens of Faith’

© March 8, 2015, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin March 8, 2015

BLCF: See The Invisible – Believe The Incredible – Receive The Impossible - Corrie Ten Boom

 

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 601 (Faith and Confidence – from Psalm 27); Prayer

Opening Hymn #35: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise; Choruses

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

Scripture Verses: Exodus 1:8-22, Exodus 2:1-10, Numbers 20:6-13

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Seeing the Invisible through the Lens of Faith’

BLCF: Immortal

Let us pray…

I would like to commend those in the congregation who have faithfully come to our Praise and Worship Services here, in spite of the frigid month of Sunday’s that we experienced. And kudos to those who remembered to set their clocks ahead and arrived on time here at BLCF today.

It happens that faith is the subject of today’s lesson.

In Hebrews 11, the Apostle Paul gives us a great definition for faith, followed by a number of examples throughout the Scriptures of individuals who made bold decisions and action, based upon their faith.

Instead of discussing the entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews for this morning’s lesson, I would like to focus on events related to the life and actions of the Prophet Moses, who is the subject of today’s Scripture verses, taken from Exodus 1:8-22, Exodus 2:1-10, and Numbers 20:6-13.

Before we examine the life and times of Moses, let us look at Paul’s definition of faith found in Hebrews 11, which you will find on the back of today’s Bulletin:

Hebrews 11:1-3; 17-29; 39-40 (ESV): By Faith

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11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

 In Exodus 1:8-22, we see that Pharaoh of Egypt was described as not knowing Joseph, in that he forgotten how the prophet of God had saved the people of Egypt when he preserved the people from famine. Pharaoh chose to oppose God’s chosen people, and by doing so opposed God, by deciding to kill the firstborn Hebrew males.

Exodus 1:8-22(ESV): Pharaoh Oppresses Israel

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Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews[a] you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

Footnotes: a. Exodus 1:22 Samaritan, Septuagint, Targum; Hebrew lacks to the Hebrews

The Hebrew midwives, at great personal by opposing risk, chose to defy Pharaoh and preserve the newborn, indicating that the Hebrew women are stronger than Egyptian women and have no need for midwives.

Exodus 2:1-10 (ESV): The Birth of Moses

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2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes[a] and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Exodus 2:3 Hebrew papyrus reeds b. Exodus 2:10 Moses sounds like the Hebrew for draw out

This weekend happens to mark International Women’s Day, and it is should be noted that, Moses and the Hebrew People owe their own survival to a group of faithful women: the midwives who opposed Pharaoh’s edict, to Moses’ mother and sister who preserved  the child from drowning on the Nile, and to Pharaoh’s daughter who chose to adopt Moses as her own.

It is ironic that Egypt’s firstborn males were destroyed on the night of Passover and most of the remaining males drowned when the sea closed upon Pharaoh’s army, as they chased Moses and the Hebrews who had crossed the sea that God had parted. The judgment of Pharaoh was executed upon Egypt.

Numbers 20:6-13 (ESV): The Waters of Meribah

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Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

Moses Strikes the Rock

10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. 12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah,[a] where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.

Footnotes: a. Numbers 20:13 Meribah means quarreling

Because Moses allowed his own personal feelings towards the rebellious people of Israel to use the miracle of the Lord as an opportunity to vent his anger instead of glorifying God, he was not allowed to enter The Promised Land. Moses was unfaithful in following the directions  God gave him as to using words to bring forth water.

While Moses and Elijah were observed by the disciples with Jesus, at the time of the Lord’s transfiguration indicates the Moses was raised up to Heaven, even though he was not allowed to lead his people to the Promised Land. Moses was punished, but not forgotten by God and was granted His grace.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:2):

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

BLCF: Faith -Luke_1_37

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Alive in Christ – Faith’s Reward

BLCF: Jesus-walks-on-water

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Alive in Christ – Faith’s Reward’

© June 1, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin June 1, 2014

BLCF: prayer-walk

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #648

(A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer

Opening Hymn #237 What Can Wash Away My Sin?

Scripture Verses:Hebrews 11:1-3 and Matthew 17:14-20

BLCF: exercise_faith_walk_with_Jesus

Let us pray…

As you may have surmised from today’s Scripture verses and the Responsive Reading that we read as a Call to Worship for the Worship Service here at BLCF, today’s Message is on the topic of Faith. More specifically, we will look at God’s reward for faith: being “alive in Christ”.

Instead of being a religion, Christianity is described as a faith practice. To get a better understanding of what we mean by faith, let us cite the following Wiki bits:

From online dictionaries, (by way of Google search), we have faith described as follows:

BLCF: Faith

Faith fāTH/ noun

noun: faith

  • 1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

 

 

“this restores one’s faith in politicians”

synonyms:

trust, belief, confidence, conviction; More

 

optimism, hopefulness, hope

 

“he justified his boss’s faith in him”

antonyms:

mistrust

  • 2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

 

 

synonyms:

religion, church, sect, denomination, (religious) persuasion, (religious) belief, ideology, creed, teaching, doctrine More

 

“she gave her life for her faith”

  • a system of religious belief. plural noun: faiths

 

 

“the Christian faith”

  • a strongly held belief or theory.

 

 

“the faith that life will expand until it fills the universe”

Origin

 

Middle English: from Old French feid, from Latin fides

https://www.google.ca/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4MSIM_enCA539CA540&q=faith

BLCF: faith-strong-belief-in-the-doctrines-of-a-religion-based-on-spiritual-conviction-rather-than-proof

Faith is confidence or trust in a person, thing, deity, view, or in the doctrines or teachings of a religion. It can also be defined as belief that is not based on proof,[1] as well as confidence based on some degree of warrant.[2][3] The word faith is often used as a synonym for hope, trust, or belief.

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

From the Christian believer’s standpoint, we can get a more specific definition, as follows:

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Christianity

Triumph of Faith over Idolatry by Jean-Baptiste Théodon (1646–1713)

 

Main article: Faith in Christianity

 

Faith in Christianity is based on the work and teachings of Jesus Christ. Christianity declares not to be distinguished by faith, but by the object of its faith. Rather than being passive, faith leads to an active life aligned with the ideals and the example of the life of Jesus. It sees the mystery of God and his grace and seeks to know and become obedient to God. To a Christian, faith is not static but causes one to learn more of God and grow, and has its origin in God.

 

In Christianity, faith causes change as it seeks a greater understanding of God. Faith is not fideism or simple obedience to a set of rules or statements. Before Christians have faith, they must understand in whom and in what they have faith. Without understanding, there cannot be true faith, and that understanding is built on the foundation of the community of believers, the scriptures and traditions and on the personal experiences of the believer. In English translations of the New Testament, the word faith generally corresponds to the Greek noun πίστις (pistis) or the Greek verb πιστεύω (pisteuo), meaning “to trust, to have confidence, faithfulness, to be reliable, to assure”.

 

And the Christian definition of faith, can be narrowed further to the Evangelical Christian view or perspective:

Evangelical views

BLCF: what-we-believe-copy

In contrast to faith meaning blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence, Alister McGrath quotes Oxford Anglican theologian W. H. Griffith-Thomas, (1861-1924), who states faith is “not blind, but intelligent” and “commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence…”, which McGrath sees as “a good and reliable definition, synthesizing the core elements of the characteristic Christian understanding of faith.”

 

American biblical scholar Archibald Thomas Robertson stated that the Greek word pistis used for faith in the New Testament (over two hundred forty times), and rendered “assurance” in Acts 17:31 (KJV), is “an old verb to furnish, used regularly by Demosthenes for bringing forward evidence.” Likewise Tom Price (Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics) affirms that when the New Testament talks about faith positively it only uses words derived from the Greek root [pistis] which means “to be persuaded.”

 

British Christian apologist John Lennox argues that “faith conceived as belief that lacks warrant is very different from faith conceived as belief that has warrant.” And that, “the use of the adjective ‘blind’ to describe ‘faith’ indicates that faith is not necessarily, or always, or indeed normally, blind.” “The validity, or warrant, of faith or belief depends on the strength of the evidence on which the belief is based.” “We all know how to distinguish between blind faith and evidence-based faith. We are well aware that faith is only justified if there is evidence to back it up.” “Evidence-based faith is the normal concept on which we base our everyday lives”.

BLCF:“Faith-is-not-belief_-Belief-is-passive_-Faith-is-active_”-–-Edith-Hamilton

Peter S Williams holds that “the classic Christian tradition has always valued rationality, and does not hold that faith involves the complete abandonment of reason will believing in the teeth of evidence.” Quoting Moreland, faith is defined as “a trust in and commitment to what we have reason to believe is true.”

Regarding “doubting Thomas” in John 20:24-31, Williams points out that “Thomas wasn’t asked to believe without evidence.” He was asked to believe on the basis of the other disciples’ testimony. Thomas initially lacked the first-hand experience of the evidence that had convinced them… Moreover, the reason John gives for recounting these events is that what she saw is evidence… Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples…But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that believing ye might have life in his name. John 20:3031.

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

There are many Scripture passages that contain reference to faith. Perhaps the Apostle Paul gives the best definition in Hebrews, Chapters 11 and 12, which we read paraphrased and condensed in this morning’s Responsive Reading. But Paul presents a good summary in Hebrews 11:1-3.

BLCF: Hebrew_11_1

Hebrews 11:1-3 (ESV) By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

This morning’s bulletin has a good graphic illustration describing faith, from a worldly perspective.

BLCF: to-have-faith-is-to-trust-yourself-to-the-alan-watts

Evangelist Billy Graham used to describe faith based on how we trust a chair: which we use, based on trust. When you arrived in church today, you sat on, without first examining the pew to verify that the chair would support you without collapsing.

But there are several examples in the Bible where Jesus helps us understand faith by comparing the importance of having faith over the desire or need for material goods. The lack of, or absence of faith makes us anxious. The first example, comes from Matthew 6:30-34.

BLCF: what-we-value

Matthew 6:30-34 (ESV)

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 ”Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6 contains the first of many verses about the problems when we have little or no faith. The next example of little faith, occurs when the Lord calms a stormy sea in Matthew 8:23-27.

BLCF: CalmingOfTheStorm-by-Sparling

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?”

The next “little faith” account takes place as Christ walk on the water in Matthew 14:28-33.

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Matthew 14:28-33 (ESV) Jesus Walks on the Water

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,[c] 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 14:30 Some manuscripts strong wind

 

And where faith engenders confidence, then little faith creates doubt, as we see when the disciples unsuccessfully attempt to heal a boy possessed by a demon in Matthew 17:14-20.

BLCF: Matthew-17_14-20

Matthew 17:14-20 (ESV) Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon,[a] and it[b] came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.[c] 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”[d] Footnotes: a. Matthew 17:18 Greek it b. Matthew 17:18 Greek the demon c. Matthew 17:18 Greek from that hour d. Matthew 17:20 Some manuscripts insert verse 21: But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting

 

One thing that the disciples lacked was the infusion of God’s Holy Spirit, which takes place in the Upper Room on the evening of the day of Christ’s resurrection. Faith is the key to our effectiveness in doing the work of the Lord in the world. And if faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain, just imagine what else can be achieved through faith.

In Hebrews 11, Paul details the work of faith amongst believers, or should we say God’s faithful.

BLCF: faith_hall_of_fame

Hebrews 11 (ESV) By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

The miracles or signs the recorded in the New Testament are given as evidence so that we may believe that Jesus is the Son of God. That belief that Paul speaks of, produces faith, which grows by the Grace of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle John indicates that faith is the purpose of his Epistle, John 20:30-31.

BLCF: that-you-may-believe-John

John 20:30-31 (ESV) The Purpose of This Book

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #8: Glory Be to God the Father

BLCF: Communion_Remember_Me

Communion – (1 Corinthians 11:23-26):For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

BLCF: Colossians_2_6-7

Benediction – (Colossians 2:6-7 – Alive in Christ): Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

 

BLCF: YourWords

BLCF: faithworks

 

Signs, Faith, and the Bread of Life

BLCF: cross vs doubt sign

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Signs, Faith, and the Bread of Life‘

©January 12, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 12, 2014

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:  Responsive Reading #648 (A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer

Prayer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I should Gain                                                                                              

Choruses                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Scriptures: Matthew 16:1-12; John 6:35-40; Matthew 27:50-54   

                                                                                  

 BLCF: Polar Vortex

Let us pray…

Just after 12:00 noon, yesterday, my son Jeff had a dental appointment in Maple. After more than a week of snow, ice and Polar Vortex frigid weather, I thought it would be nice that Sophie and I go for a drive, without concern of ice covered roads or heavy snowfall. I did not anticipate that the relatively warm +5⁰ Celsius temperature would allow the formation of thick fog which became progressively thicker as we left Toronto.  Between the veil of low level clouds obscuring exit signs and the yahoos on the highway who insisted upon driving over the posted speed limit  with a lemming-like desire to bring themselves and all those around them into a catastrophic pile up on the highway, the drive was more of a tedious white knuckle trip than expected. A couple of times, we either missed either a road sign or a turn, and ended up taking longer than we expected to reach our destination.

Fortunately, we left early enough so  that we arrived at our destination only  a couple of minutes late, rather than the expected 10-15 minutes early for Jeff’s appointment. It seems that even the Orthodontist had made a wrong turn or two on his way to the clinic, because of the fog obscuring road signs and the landscape.

Ice Fog (680news.com)

Ice Fog (680news.com)

Our message today is a different type of signs. These were signs that God provided to a lost and wayward people, whose faith had become lost or obscured. God provided these signs in order to provide proof of HIS presence, power and authority as the only true God.

BLCF: Salvation_Road

Our first example of a sign from God comes from Exodus 16:4-8 (ESV), where the people of Israel had complained to Moses about their hunger and how God provided manna or bread from Heaven to sustain them:

BLCF: manna_from_God

                                               Bread from Heaven

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”

In spite of the fact that the people of Israel had been delivered from bondage in Egypt, they complained. And by complaining to Moses instead of praying to God for a solution, they did not acknowledge HIS presence or authority. And Moses bluntly told them that their grumbling given towards their deliverer was the same as grumbling at God. In spite of this, God provided manna to feed His people.

BLCF: manna

Our second sign from God was the thunder and rain He sent to rebuke the people for not worshiping Him as their king, 1 Samuel 12:16-18 (ESV):

16 Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” 18 So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

BLCF: AltarLitByGod

Our third example of God’s sign was discussed in a sermon that I shared a few months ago, where Elijah asked God to light an altar so that they would turn away from the false god Baal and restore their faith in the one true God, 1 Kings 18:36-39 (ESV):

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

BLCF: Isaiah38

And again in the Book of Isaiah, we see the love and compassion of God, where He extends the life of Hezekiah by fifteen years and even causes the sun to go backwards in the heaven in response to Hezekiah’s prayer,  Isaiah 38:4-8 (ESV):                                                                  

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.[a] I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city. “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.[b]                                                                                                                                                                                          

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 38:5 Hebrew to your days  b. Isaiah 38:8 The meaning of the Hebrew verse is uncertain

I think that we a beginning to see a pattern here: that of God’s people drifting away from Him and repeatedly having to be reminded of His presence by way of supernatural signs through succeeding generations, often more than once to a particular generation.

BLCF: SignsOfHIS_Presence

It is not surprising that Jesus finds the Pharisees and Sadducees demanding a sign as proof that Jesus came from Heaven. This request shows how they have a problem of recognizing any authority other than their own, along with an arrogance to assume that they could command God in a manner reminiscent of the priests of Baal in the days of Elijah, Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV):

                           The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs 

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

Demanding signs from Jesus indicates not only a lack of faith and respect on the part of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but a defiance to God’s authority, which brings them the following rebuke, continuing  in Matthew 15, verse 5:

                           The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees                                                        

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

The best part of this passage is we learn an understanding that bread is used to describe the teaching of faith. And though the Pharisees and Sadducees had a large following of believers in the time that Jesus walked on earth, their religious teachings were not God’s teachings and therefore constituted false and without faith.

The only important teachings or “bread of life” are those lessons from Jesus, whose word became flesh and whose word is life, John 6:35-40 (ESV):

                                 I Am the Bread of Life

                              BLCF: Manna-bread-of-life

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

And the promise and prophecy of Jesus was observed upon his death on the cross and resurrection resulted in several supernatural signs as proof of the Lord’s power and authority, Matthew 27:50-54 (ESV):

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.   

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!”                                                                                                                   

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:54 Or a son

By faith in the sanctification of the cross, the promise of the resurrection, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may have a continuous revival of faith and belief that Jesus died for our sins, to pave the way toward a new eternal covenant with our Father in heaven. Let us allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts to continuously renew a revival of a faith that abounds in belief in the restorative power of cross and hope for the promise of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: Manna Living Bread

And with a better understanding of the meaning of the ‘Bread of Life’, let us pray together the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV), as he instructed his disciples to:

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.[d]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
                      – Amen

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

Closing Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):

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

BLCF: I_BELIEVE

BLCF; JesusSign

Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

              ‘Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

 © August 18, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

                             BLCF Bulletin August 18, 2013     

Call to Worship Responsive Reading #650:

‘Trials and Temptations’  (James 1 and 1Peter 1)

   BLCF Church: Trust God                                                        

Let us pray…

For his birthday a week or so ago, our younger son, Jeffrey was asked where would he like to dine out. Jeffrey chose to go for a Chinese Buffet for the family celebration. Along with the bill, we were given the traditional fortune cookies. Now I don’t take much stock in fortunes or horoscopes, but my cookie opened to reveal a message that was more profound than just a fortune, as it read: “In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends.”  Such was the story of Job, where Satan challenged God that the faith of Job was a result of his prosperity and it would soon evaporate once Job faced adversity.

The book of Job is considered by most Biblical scholars to be the oldest of the scriptures and Job was believed to be the wealthiest man of his time. It documents the story of this faithful servant of God, who was tested to the point of death by Satan, 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 his family. Even Job’s wife told her husband that she suffered almost as much as Job. 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 – that of cursing God. How ironic that Satan seemed to have achieved his goal with Job’s companion, though not with Job.

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 answer to any of those questions. All we know is that she responded just as most people would likely have under similar circumstances: she got angry at God and insisted that Job do the same.

We know that Job’s story ended in Job being restored to health, wealth, and family. But the question arises: “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 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 were the reason for Job’s faith. The toughest part for Job was the fact that Job had sensed to some degree that the Lord had distanced himself from a person who had demonstrated steadfast trust and faith in 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, (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 that the devil sets is to maintain our trust in the Lord, having the faith 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 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!

 

trust-in-the-lord

 

Not only, did Job and David go through similar tests, at some point, each had experienced a separation from God, but 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 suffer the full weight of the judgment and punishment for our sins, Jesus had to be abandoned by God. Was this really necessary? We see 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 also as a lesson to the heavenly hosts (angels).  It taught both the angels and us, that faith does not come from having worldly wealth, but the wealth of the Spirit. Remember Satan was once an Angel, who had fallen from grace by rebelling against God’s authority.

You may recall in John’s gospel, 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, 1Peter 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 we might need, 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 suffering?

Paul Paraskevopoulos

Paul Paraskevopoulos

I have shared with some of you about my brother-in-law, Sophie’s brother, Paul Paraskevopoulos, who passed away almost two years ago after a short, unexpected illness. Paul was brain injured in childhood, having been run over by a truck. His injuries 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 his passing, a time when Sophie and I were called into the hospital, as Paul had suffered from a kidney and blood infection which had a very poor prognosis. Paul was not expected to survive the night. I recall having a concern about Paul’s faith walk, whether he had made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as personal Saviour? I knew, as a youth, Paul had attended church with his siblings and later with some of the staff from West Park Hospital. My fears about Paul were dispelled when upon our arrival at Paul’s hospital room, before either Sophie or I had said hello, Paul opened his eyes and spoke: “You know that Jesus is in my heart. I love Jesus.” I knew that Paul was right with the Lord.

Paul eventually recovered from that illness in 2008 but passed away a few years later. Although he was not able to speak the last time I had arrived to see Paul in the hospital, I had the assurance 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 support staff, as well as doctors and nurses,  attended Paul’s funeral. The impact Paul had upon this extended family was quite apparent. Paul was loved and appreciated by his caregivers as much as by his family.

At the memorial, I shared some of the happier times with Paul, as well as 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 approached the family and shared a story about how Paul was at a get together that was recorded on video. And in the middle of the video, Paul broke into a chorus of “He Is Able” for the camera. It was then I realized that the staff was aware of Paul’s faith. That is faith had shown through his personality, and that many staff members had listened and learned from Paul’s testimony, where they may not have otherwise listened.

God had a plan and a purpose with Paul, as we see that both family and staff had learned through the simple childlike faith of a child in a man’s body can, the Holy Spirit had enabled Paul, as a believer in the Resurrected Christ, to maintain a happy, positive outlook in spite of a life of injury, suffering and pain. Though God did not cause of Paul’s predicament, still the Holy Spirit was able to teach others that through faith the believer is able to rise above his or her circumstances, and thus provide living testimony to others.

Paul Paraskevopoulos between Steve and Sophie Mickelson

It is interesting that Satan plans to destroy the believer’s faith when ‘bad things happen to good people’ fails, when the Holy Spirit allows the faithful to endure   adversity and distress, and empower them to become a living testimony which if far more powerful than words alone as we read in 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.

Though a man of strong faith and love for his God, Job was subjected to pain and suffering. Still, Job’s faith was steadfast and unwavering. Job demonstrated that faith will bring us through adversity. And if we keep our faith and trust in God, we may rest assured that we will be restored, sanctified and blessed. Let our faith rest in Jesus, who was tested and suffered greatly, yet maintained faith, trust, and love for his Father in heaven. As our Saviour, the Lord is our example that we may overcome suffering, pain, death and the testing of Satan.  For Jesus demonstrates the rewards of faith are the gift of sanctification, the promise of resurrection from death, and the comfort by way of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine

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

Trusting God