Jesus Walks on Water: An Example of Religion or Faith?

BLCF: Jesus-walks-on-water

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jesus Walks on Water: An Example of Religion or Faith?’

© March 13, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 13, 2016

Based on Message Shared with BLCF April 18, 2010 (and Revised on 8/24/2014)

BLCF: exercise_faith

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading # 660 (The New Way of Life – Luke 6); Prayer

Opening Hymn #1: Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty; Choruses

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

Scripture Verses: Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:51-52 and John 6:20-21

  

BLCF: by-faith-we-grow-to-sonship

Let us pray…

This morning’s message is about the miracle of Jesus’ walking in the Sea of Galilee.

But first let us let us look what is the definition of a miracle, as described in the Bible? It’s very interesting that a common word used for miracle in the New Testament can also be translated “sign.” A miracle is a sign that God uses to point to Himself; the same way we follow signs to guide us along highways or city streets.

Most scholars agree that the Gospels record 37 supernatural miracles of Jesus or, 37 Devine interventions in nature.   There are 21 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Matthew, 3 of which are unique to Matthew. There are 19 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Mark, 2 of which are unique to Mark. There are 22 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in Luke, 7 of which are unique to Luke. And there are 8 of Jesus’ miracles recorded in John, 6 of which are unique to John.

We do not have time this morning to go through all 37 of these miracles, which are by definition supernatural events. And when we say supernatural, we are not talking about ghosts, zombies or things that go “bump in the night”, though the disciples did initially mistake the Lord treading across the sea for a ghost or apparition. A supernatural event can be described as something that is super or above and beyond nature or what is described as a natural event. Natural events follow the rules and laws of physics. The natural event can be predicted to follows these rules and laws. A supernatural event defies the rules because it was caused by the Lord, who is supernatural, as he is part of the Trinity of God. God created the universe and therefore is not bound by the rules of nature.

This morning we will focus on the miracle of Jesus walking on water, which occurred the day after Jesus had performed the miracle of the “Loaves and Fishes.”

Matthew 14:22-32 (ESV)

BLCF: Jesus walks on the sea

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

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

Mathew’s account of events records three miracles; Jesus walking on the water; Peter’s walk on the water; the calming of the wind and waves. John’s account records a fourth miracle; and that the boat was instantly transported to their destination of Bethesda, some 3½ miles away. Only Luke’s Gospel does not give us an account any of these miracles. Perhaps he was asleep in the cabin, having served an earlier watch? But, upon what body of water did these events take place.

Sometimes referred to as a lake, the Sea of Galilee, lake described in this passage, from Britannica Online:

BLCF: Jesus walks on the water

The Sea of Galilee is a freshwater lake in the north of Palestine. It is 13 miles (21 km) long and about 8 miles (14km) across at its widest point, with a maximum depth of 150 feet (46km). Lying 640 feet (195m) below sea level, it is surrounded by mountains 1,200-1,500 feet (365-460m) high, rising close to the shore except for short stretches on the south, southwest and northwest. The lake is fed from the north by the River Jordan and by numerous lesser streams, as well as by underwater springs, some of them hot, to which medicinal properties have been attributed. Emerging from the southern end of the lake, the Jordan carries the outflow to the Dead Sea.

The area was very prosperous in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. Early on, under the Ptolemies, the fort of Philoteria was built on the site of ancient Beth Yerah and served as the capital of a district, developing into a large Jewish city in the Roman period. The shores of the Sea of Galilee were the scene of the early ministry of Jesus. From Nazareth he went to preach in the synagogues, some of them in cities close to the sea, such as Capernaum and Chorazin. It was from these shores that he called the fishermen, Simon and Andrew, and James and John “to become fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-21), and at the water’s edge that he fed the multitude with two loaves and five fishes (Matthew 14:19-20). Tradition places the site of this miracle at Heptapegon, where the early Church of the Loaves and Fishes was built. Both Jewish and Christian communities flourished along the shores of the lake during the whole of the Roman and Byzantine periods. Excavations made on many sites round the lake, such as Beth Yarah, Tiberias, Hammath, Heptapegon and Capernaum, have revealed much evidence of the splendor and prosperity of the region in all periods.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/224050/Sea-of-Galilee

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.

Continuing with Mathew 14, verse 25:

BLCF: Jesus walking on water

25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Again there is the human tendency forget their faith, as initially, none recognized Christ on the water, thinking instead they saw a spirit or ghost on the water. If Christ had told them he would join them, they had forgotten. If they expected Christ, they seemed not to understand that Jesus had the power to effortlessly cross a stormy sea which held the disciples’ vessel stationary.

Now Peter, not sure if it was Jesus said, reading Mathew 14, verse 28:  

BLCF: Jesus-walking-on-water

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

The disciples, who have already seen the power of Jesus, having witnessed several miracles, had not connected the dots to conclude that it was their master who approached their vessel.  As Christian believers, we too can suffer from an absence of faith in the face of adversity. If for a second we take our eyes away from the Saviour, just like Peter we can be distracted from faith, by dwelling on our circumstances, as Peter did, and in our fear and doubt, sink in the sea of our adversities.  In spite of the fleetingness of faith, Jesus still is there just waiting for us to call to Him to extend His hand and lift us from a sea of sadness and despair. He joins us and He calms the sea and accompanies us to our destination. Up to this point, the disciples had shown a lot of religion and only a little faith. Their hearts had been hardened to the source of the miracles which they had witnessed up to this point, as was indicated in Mark 6:51-52:

BLCF: Lord-Jesus-animated

1And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Jesus had allowed the twelve disciples to suffer life-threatening peril of the storm at sea and they had not recognized the supernatural Christ, who had dominion over all of nature, walking towards them on a violent sea. Instead, they saw a ghost. Peter allowed his vision to distract himself momentarily forgetting Jesus, whereupon the disciple promptly sank into the sea. It was not until Jesus had boarded the vessel, that the disciples finally understood just who had performed the miracle of the loaves; feeding the multitude; who had walked across and calmed the stormy sea; who had empowered Peter to walk the sea; and who Jesus really was Matthew 14:33:

BLCF: Jesus_is_Lord_animated

33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

I believe that this was the purpose of the exercise of the voyage to Bethany, the storm on the sea, and the subsequent miracles. The miracle was a sign to the disciples who their teacher was: the Son of God! For this miracle established in the disciples a belief without question that Jesus was the Son of God, and from this belief comes faith that as Son of God, Jesus performed miracles to fulfill the scriptures.  As we read in Hebrews 11:1 (ESV):

1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Now Christ did one more miracle that was not only for the benefit of the 12 disciples, but it was also for everyone, man, woman, child, all generations for 20 centuries, up to and including today. He died on the cross for our sins, to remove the tempest of God’s judgment. Jesus did the ultimate miracle by rising from the dead. Not finished with His miracle, he ascended to heaven to be our advocate. Finally, he rewarded our faith by sending us a comforter in the Holy Spirit, to join us on our travels through life; to assure us through the storms we may encounter; to calm the fears; to accompany us to our destinations and assist us in sharing the Gospel.

Our bodies are like clay jars, fragile easily, shattered, but thanks to His miraculous power capable of being vessels of a treasure, the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 4:7:

BLCF: earthen_vessels_with_heavenly_treasure

7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Just as the disciples set out in a vessel that can be destroyed by the raging sea, our bodies are subject to destruction by the natural forces of misadventure, disease, and age. But by faith in Jesus, we can remove the threat of natural death and supernaturally share the miracle of eternal life. But to make our bodies a proper vessel for the Holy Spirit, we must cleanse ourselves of unrighteousness, by confessing our sins and accepting the miraculous gifts of sacrifice on our behalf, receiving justification in God’s eyes. Only then are our bodies sanctified to receive the Holy Spirit, as we read in 2 Timothy 2:20-21:

BLCF: Holy Work Earthen-Vessels

20Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honourable use, some for dishonourable. 21Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonourable, he will be a vessel for honourable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house ready for every good work.

It may appear, to some from outside this church, that Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is like a vessel set upon by a great destructive storm. We are a relatively small congregation with a large mission of sharing the Gospel of Christ. Still, God has rewarded our faith with what is necessary to achieve His purpose in our community: to feed and minister to a multitude of nearly 150 each and every Wednesday evening. God continues to provide the means, including the funds, volunteers, even the fridges and stoves, for workers in His house to do this good work.

Do we need a ghostly apparition in our midst to convince us from whom these miracles come from? Dare we take our eyes away from him to look at the storm around us, and in doing so, risk losing our precious faith to end up sinking into a sea of despair? Are we here to perform hollow religious worship or are we here to demonstrate our faith in our Savior, faith in the gift of Salvation, cleansing our bodies in faith, so that our vessels so that they may hold the Holy Spirit, in order to do the Lord’s work?

Let us conclude today’s message with the following characteristics of religion and faith:

Religion exists to control faith;                                                                                      

 faith exists to keep religion in check.                                   

Religion is man’s interpretation of God’s will,                                                                            

faith is its acceptance.

May our actions demonstrate our faith and trust in God, not a practice of religious ritual. Let us not question God’s will, but with the help of the Spirit, accept and implement it to His glory.

Let us pray…

BLCF: faith_in_God

Closing Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!

Benediction (Romans 15:5-6):

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

BLCF: Faith - Hebrews 11_1

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Trust and Faith in the Lord: Our Keys to Hope, Joy and Peace

BLCF: faith_in_God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Trust and Faith in the Lord: Our Keys to Hope, Joy and Peace’

© May 17, 2015 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 17, 2015

BLCF: hope_joy_peace 

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

Opening Hymn #235:  “What Must I Do?” Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: Psalm 91:1-6, Matthew 13:53-58, John 20:19-29

BLCF: i_believe

 

Let us pray…

For our lesson today May 17, 2015, with Pentecost Sunday just one week away, I would like to discuss the disciple of Jesus who, thanks to a short passage of the Scriptures, been tagged with the unfortunate moniker of a doubter or skeptic. As you have likely guessed, I am talking about Thomas or Didymus, which means “the twin”, who we more commonly refer to as: “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas comes from the Hebrew or Aramaic root which means “the twin.” Didymus is from the Greek and also means “the twin.” It is likely that Thomas was born as a twin hence the unusual nickname.

But the skeptical response by Thomas to the his fellow disciples, as described in the following Scripture in John 20, verses 19-29, helped to earn him the unfortunate title as doubter:

John 20:19-29 (ESV) Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 BLCF: resurrected

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

Jesus and Thomas

BLCF: Incredulity of St Thomas

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

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

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

To be clear our terminology, I will refer to what I commonly “Wikibits.” So what is meant by the term “skeptic,” often applied to Thomas?

Dictionary.com: skeptic – noun

  1. A person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
  2. A person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
  3. A person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.

 

Both the secular and Christian community, make frequent use of the term “Doubting Thomas,” in reference to Jesus’ disciple. Another idiom associated with Thomas, is “Seeing is believing.”

 

Wikibits: Seeing is Believing

BLCF: Augustine-Of-Hippo-faith-reward

Seeing is believing is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639 that means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing”. It is the essence of St. Thomas‘s claim to Jesus Christ, to which the latter responded that there were those who had not seen but believed. It leads to a sophistry that “seen evidence” can be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation may be difficult.

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

The Scripture Verses, featured in today’s lesson and printed in this morning’s bulletin, talk about how important belief, trust and faith are, in our faith walk, as believers in the Resurrected Christ.

The first Scripture, taken from Psalm 91, verses 1-6, we see that trust and faithfulness used interchangeably, describing a mutual regard between a believer and God. Just as we are faithful to God, He is faithful to us:

Psalm 91:1-6 (ESV) My Refuge and My Fortress

BLCF: Psalm_91_1-6

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High     

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,     

my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler     

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his pinions,     

and under his wings you will find refuge;     

his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,     

nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,     

nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

The next Scripture passage in the bulletin is Matthew 13, verses 53-58, describes how our Lord was rejected, in spite of his wisdom and miracles, because of the “unbelief” among many of the people in his hometown of Nazareth:

Matthew 13:53-58 (ESV) Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

BLCF: Jesus-preaching-at-synagogue-at-nazareth

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

While John 20:19-29 does describe the doubts of Thomas, who was absent when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples in the Upper room on the day of his resurrection, the Lord did show the disciples the very same wounds that Thomas asked to see, as well as breathing the Spirit into the disciples, to help them understand the significance of what they were witnessing.

While Thomas was skeptical of the Lord, when he first encountered Jesus, he was by no means the only disciple to have doubts on that day. Let us look at a passage of Scripture, not found in some of the earlier manuscript’s:

Mark 16:9-20 (ESV) Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.][a]

BLCF: Jesus_appears_to_Mary_Magdalene

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples

BLCF: road_to_Emmaus

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

The Great Commission

The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]

Footnotes: a. Mark 16:9 Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8. At least one manuscript inserts additional material after verse 14; some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. These manuscripts then continue with verses 9–20

In Mark 16, verses 9-20, the remaining eleven disciples demonstrated the same level of doubt and skepticism towards Mary and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, when they had reported seeing Jesus on the day of his resurrection. And like, Thomas, the eleven were rebuked for their unbelief.

Our previous Upper Room account of the Resurrected Jesus appearing before the Eleven Disciples in John 20:19-29 does not give a reason why Thomas was absent. The diciples had cloistered themselves in the Upper Room because they feared that the angry mob would crucify them as they had the Lord. Whatever the reason for Thomas’ absence, whether it was to get food for the disciples or to attend to the needs of others, it was important enough for him to risk his own personal safety while the other disciples chose to stay behind a bolted door. We do know that the reason Thomas left the the safety of the Upper Room, it was not for doing something nefarious, as was the case of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The Mark 16 account has the Lord returning specifically for the assurance of Thomas, so that the disciple would believe. In the John 20 account Jesus gave a mini-Pentecost, breathing upon the eleven the Holy Spirit which gave them the power of the Spirit and to understand the Lord’s purpose.Thomas being absent did not receive the Spirit at that time. The Lord’s prerequisite to receive the Holy Spirit is that a convert demonstrates faith in the Jesus, which Christ ensured by his returning to the Upper room to reveal himself to Thomas. This was an act of both compassion and faith by the Lord, and shows us that he would not leave any of his sheep behind.

Unfortunately, Thomas bears the brunt of the blame for his skepticism towards the others’ news of the Lord’s resurrection, which overshadows the ministry that Thomas performed in spreading the Gospel of Christ, which is the “The Great Commission” given by Jesus to all the disciples. In the sharing of the Gospel, the disciples became apostles or messengers of Christ. Here is a brief summary of work of the Apostle Thomas, which is really germane to his work:

BLCF: St_Thomas_Apostle

Thomas the Apostle (called Didymus which means “the twin”) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament. He is informally called doubting Thomas because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told, (in the Gospel of John), followed later by his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”, on seeing Jesus’ wounded body.

Traditionally, he is said to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as India.[2][5][6][7] According to tradition, the Apostle reached Muziris, India in AD 52 and baptized several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis. After his death, the reputed relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far as Mesopotamia in the 3rd century, and later moved to various places.[citation needed] In 1258, some of the relics were brought to Abruzzo in Ortona, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle.[8] He is often regarded as the Patron Saint of India,[9][10] and the name Thoma remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.

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

I feel that by focusing on an account which describes Thomas as having some doubts, which were no more severe than that exhibited by the other disciples, instead of his service in spreading the Gospel as far east as India, we do the apostle a disservice.

The New Testament is full of accounts describing the disciples as having doubts or lapses of faith, particularly before receiving the Holy Spirit. But the work that the disciples, now as apostles or messengers of the Gospel, was accomplished by them, even to the point of their own deaths, is far more significant to the Christian Church of believers, The Apostle Thomas is included as an important contributor to the Great Commission  given to all believers in Jesus, as Lord and Savior.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

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: believe-without-seeing

 

Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit

BLCF: saved_animated

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

Walking Boldly in Faith with Courage of the Spirit’                      

 © May 6, 2014, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin May 4, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #601

(Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior; Choruses                                                                 

 Scripture Verses: Psalm 27:1 and Acts 4:1-22

 

BLCF: Psalm_27

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, on this Communion Sunday.

Last Sunday we looked at how sin can cause fear, guilt, and shame, which in turn result in a separation from God. Our examples included: how both Adam and Eve being aware of their nakedness, felt shame; Cain experienced the guilt of killing his brother, Abel; and Jesus’ disciples had hidden in fear in the Upper Room, after Christ’s crucifixion.

 

BLCF: Adam_Eve_Hiding

 

Adam and Eve, having eaten the forbidden fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge” became aware of their nakedness and hid their bodies in guilt. Their sin was disobeying God.

 

BLCF:cain_and_abel

 

Cain, in a fit of jealousy, killed his brother and denied knowing Abel’s whereabouts. His sin was murdering another.

BLCF: upper-room-mykul-anjelo

 

Having seen their Lord die on the cross, the disciples hid in the Upper Room, fearful of their own safety. And by denying that they knew Jesus and allowing him to go to die the cross for sin’s he did not commit produced in them, a guilt so great, that they locked themselves in a room.

We see three accounts of how sin pushes people from God, as each felt that the sin could not be undone. And all three reactions to sin could be viewed not only as introspective and self-serving but even selfish in nature.

Which brings us to David who authored today’s first Scripture verse, which is taken from Psalm 27, verse 1.

 

BLCF:animatedjesuslight

 

Psalm 27:1 (ESV) The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation

Of David.

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;    

 whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;     

of whom shall I be afraid?

Footnotes: a. Psalm 27:1 Or refuge

The Psalmist expresses no guilt, shame or fear, even though he had committed the sin of adultery. The difference was that he had been forgiven by the Lord for his transgression. This brings us to today’s second Scripture passage, Acts 4:1-22:

 

BLCF: Jerusalem_in_the_time_of_Christ

Acts 4:1-22 (ESV) Peter and John Before the Council

4 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus[a] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[b] 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[c] by which we must be saved.”

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.

Footnotes: a. Acts 4:11 Greek This one b. Acts 4:11 Greek the head of the corner c. Acts 4:12 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women

 

BLCF: Ephesians-5-14

 

The boldness of Peter and John, who were filled by the Holy Spirit by their resurrected Lord after he had given them his Commission, (John 20:21), was so powerful that the temple priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducee released the apostles from their custody. Besides, it is rather difficult to deny the man who was healed from a lifelong affliction, standing before them.

 

John 20:19-23 (ESV): Jesus Appears to the Disciples

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

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

Though Peter and John were released with the warning not to continue to preach in the name of Jesus. This did not happen, as the two apostles prayed to God for strength from the Spirit, to continue to be bold in their ministry.

These were the same men who had hid in fear for their own safety, now boldly ministering to those who they feared. Remember, Christ had breathed into them the Holy Spirit to become messengers of his Gospel. The Spirit gave the apostles courage to boldly go forth on Christ’s Commission. For Christ had died on the cross for their sins, and our sins. Jesus had paid the penalty for all sin, so it was no longer necessary to carry sin’s burdens of guilt, shame, and fear. The apostles had both faith and the gift of the Spirit which gave them confidence not only to spread the Gospel message but to heal a crippled man, through the grace and power of the Spirit. They had now changed their focus from worrying only about themselves to caring about the salvation of others, including the very same group responsible for the death of Jesus and sought to persecute them: the temple priest, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees.

So who were these Sadducees who sought to suppress the apostles?

Let us check our Wiki Bits reference:

BLCF: Sadducees_and_Pharisees

 

The Sadducees (Hebrew: צְדוּקִיםṢĕdûqîm) were a sect or group of Jews that were active in Judea during the Second Temple period, starting from the second century BCE through the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The sect was identified by Josephus with the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole, the sect fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including maintaining the Temple. The Sadducees are often compared to other contemporaneous sects, including the Pharisees and the Essenes. Their sect is believed to have become extinct sometime after the destruction of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, but it has been speculated that the later Karaites may have had some roots or connections with old Sadducee views.

The religious responsibilities of the Sadducees included the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. Their high social status was reinforced by their priestly responsibilities, as mandated in the Torah. The Priests were responsible for performing sacrifices at the Temple, the primary method of worship in Ancient Israel. This also included presiding over sacrifices on the three festivals of pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Their religious beliefs and social status were mutually reinforcing, as the Priesthood often represented the highest class in Judean society. Sadducees and the priests were not completely synonymous. Cohen points out that “not all priests, high priests, and aristocrats were Sadducees; many were Pharisees, and many were not members of any group at all.”

The New Testament, specifically the books of Mark and Matthew, describe anecdotes that hint at hostility between the Jesus movement and the Sadduceean establishment. These disputes manifest themselves on both theological and social levels. Mark describes how the Sadducees challenged Jesus’ belief in the Resurrection of the Dead. Jesus subsequently defends his belief in resurrection against Sadduceean resistance, stating, “and as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.” Jesus challenges the reliability of the Sadducees’ interpretation of Biblical doctrine, the authority of which enforces the power of the Sadduceean priesthood. The Sadducees address the issue of resurrection through the lens of marriage, which “hinted at their real agenda: the protection of property rights through patriarchal marriage that perpetuated the male lineage.” Furthermore, Matthew depicts the Sadducees as a “brood of Vipers,” and a perversion of the true Israel. The New Testament thus constructs the identity of Christianity in opposition to the Sadducees.

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

The Holy Spirit that Jesus “breathed upon the disciples” transformed them from disciples or students of the Lord, who locked themselves out of fear in the Upper Room, to apostles or messengers of the Gospel, boldly witnessing in faith to the very same people who had Christ crucified! The power of the Spirit had transformed the apostles into bold witnesses of Christ’s Gospel.

 

BLCF: Jesus-Came-To-Save-Sinners

 

But what do we mean by faith? The Apostle Paul gave us a good understanding of faith, by explaining what believers may accomplish by faith, in Hebrews 11:1-16.

 

BLCF: Hebrews11-1

Hebrews 11:1-16 (ESV): By Faith

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.

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. 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. 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. 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.

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. 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.

The first paragraph acts both as an overview and summary of the power of actions performed by walking boldly faith, with courage from the Holy Spirit:

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.

 

BLCF: Hebrews11v1

 

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering                                                

One act of Faith that our Lord instructed us to do on a regular basis is to partake in Communion, until the day of his return. Paul gives us a good summary of the observance of Communion in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

 

The_Last_Supper

 

(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.

 

do it

Benediction (Ephesians 3:20-21):  

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen

 

 

BLCF: God-loves-you-animated

 BLCF: Jesus_animated

BLCF: HOLY_SPIRIT_DOVE_ANIMATED_GIF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perseverance through Troubled Times

BLCF: Seeking Healing through Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Perseverance through Troubled Times’

©October 6, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 6, 2013

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #648 (A Challenge to Faith from Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer                                              

Opening Hymn: #43: Praise to the Lord, Almighty

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Prayer and Worship Service here at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship.

Today’s lesson is entitled Perseverance through Troubled Times. I would like to share my experience of a time of trouble and personal challenge.

Four years ago, this month, indeed from this Sunday, I faced one of my most difficult challenges to my personal health, as well as a test of faith. For it was in the middle of October right here in this church sanctuary, following the Sunday morning service that I started to see what appeared to be flashes of light in the corner of my eye. It looked as if I perceived, in my peripheral vision, flares of light as if someone were taking flash photos nearby. Then, just as suddenly as the flashes had begun, they stopped, not to return until the next Sunday, accompanied by dark spots of jet black floating in my field of vision. By alternately closing each of my eyes, I determined that the flashes and spots were only viewed by my right eye. My brain had somehow merged the images so I thought I was seeing them by both eyes.

I recalled reading an article some years ago that described visions similar to what I was experiencing as symptoms of when the retina of the eye had become detached. The next day, I arranged to get an emergency appointment to see (no pun intended) my Ophthalmologist. After a careful examination and some tests, the doctor told me that he could see no evidence of a detachment or in his words a hole or tear of the retina and that my symptoms are likely caused when the fluid in the eye thickens with age and slides down in front of the retina. I was sent home. However, over the next few days, my symptoms progressed and worsened. Now I could see the shadow in my field of vision that bothered me so much that I resorted to covering my right eye with a tissue. The next morning, I returned to the Eye Doctor and was informed that not only did I have a retinal tear, but one so severe that I needed emergency surgery as soon as possible in order to save the vision in my eye! The Doctor apologized that he did not see the tear at my previous visit.

Of the two hospitals in Toronto that could perform the procedure, only St. Michaels Health Care could take me in on such short notice and an appointment was made for the next day. That night, with all the lights out and even my eyes closed, the hole made it appear as if I were viewing some strange green moonscape, its illumination indirect, much like a full moon. My worry and concern about losing vision to the eye were high. I had done all the right things: recognizing the significance of my symptoms and by promptly seeking out a specialist. Still, I faced the prospect of losing the vision in the eye, unless I underwent surgery in the same hospital that both my sister and father had died. I was stressed and overwhelmed beyond belief until my phone rang.

On the phone was Diane, a sister in Christ who attended Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, who had called to find out how my visit with the doctor went. It was interesting as Diane was blind from untreated Diabetes in her youth. When I told her that I was to undergo surgery the next day on my eye, Diane offered to say a prayer with me. As we prayed, I felt the peace and presence of God’s Holy Spirit fall upon me. The peace continued at the Hospital and throughout the three and half hour emergency eye surgery,  during which I was not totally under the anesthetic, so I was able to hear, throughout the procedure, the dialog between Dr. Louis Giavedoni, one of Canada’s top ophthalmologists and his student Dr. Casey (not Ben).

Later, after the procedure, a couple from our church dropped by the hospital to visit,  to whom remarked that for the week before the operation, I felt like a person without a vision, (pun intended). But a year later and two more procedures, one for a new lens and another to clear the sheath by laser, the eye is like it was before the tear. Actually, my visual acuity improved by the new lens.

 

From this experience, the Spirit had taught me patience, trust, and the importance of prayer when facing adversity. I find that the Lord has made me more empathetic than before. I recall tears welling up in my eyes as those Chilean miners who were trapped for month’s deep underground were rescued. With restored vision, the Spirit gave me an extra dose of compassion to others who suffer.

The Bible has a wealth of verses that tell believes how to persevere in times of trouble. The following verses found on the inside of today’s bulletin cover many aspects of how we may cope with adversity and by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, in the process becoming  both stronger and more confident in our faith in God:

  1. Perseverance: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  –  James 1:12 (ESV)                                                     
  2. Have Fun: A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.   – Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)                                                                                            
  3. Preparation: Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” –  1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV)                                                                                              
  4. Forget Yesterday: Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)                                                                                                               
  5. Confidence: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  – Joshua 1:9 (ESV)                                                                     
  6. Be Humble: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  – 1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)                             
  7.  Don’t Forget: But the  Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. – John 14:26 (ESV)                                                                      
  8.  Finally, Follow Jesus’ Example:

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

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

Do Not Grow Weary        

 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.                                                                      – Hebrews 12:1-3

Let us pray…

Our Closing Hymn is #126: Amen! Amen!

Communion: Luke 22:7-20 (See back page of the bulletin)

The Passover with the Disciples

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus[a] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

BLCF Communion

The institution of the Lord’s Supper

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[b] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[c]

Footnotes: 1. Luke 22:8 Greek he 2. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again 3. Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood)

Benediction (1 Peter 5:10): And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. -Amen

Remember don’t go to church. Be the church!

BLCF: Be the church

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