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

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© March 4, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 4, 2018

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

BLCF Bulletin March 9, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

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

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

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

Joshua 6:2-20 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  God gave a seven-fold blessing to Abraham:          

                    Seven-fold blessing Abraham received from God

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

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

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

Psalm 12:6 (ESV)

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

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

Psalm 12:6 (CEV)

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

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

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

What was God’s 7 part Covenant with Israel?

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

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

Then follows the seven-fold blessing: –

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

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

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

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

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

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

What were the 7 Miracles Jesus performed on the Sabbath?

Seven miracles wrought by Christ on the Sabbath day: –

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

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes: a. James 2:16 Or benefit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us pray…

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

Closing Hymn #225: Standing on the Promises

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

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Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’      

© October 8, 2017, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 8, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                    Opening Hymn #448: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah; Choruses                           Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings              Responsive Reading #619: The Waiting Harvest                                                           (- from Matthew 9, Romans 10, John 4, Psalm 126)                                                  Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                  ‘Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’   

   

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s  Sunday Praise and Worship Service, on this Thanksgiving Sunday. I would like to ask the congregation what is the definition of “thanksgiving”?

For those who have not already read the definition posted in this morning’s bulletin, you may be surprised to find to that dictionary.com, (as well as other dictionaries), define it as follows:

thanksgiving – noun (dictionary.com)

  1. the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.
  2. an expression of thanks, especially to God.
  3. a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness.
  4. a day set apart for giving thanks to God.
  5. (initial capital letterThanksgiving Day.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/thanksgiving

 We find a historical account of the origin of Thanksgiving in Canada on the site, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca:

Origins and History of Thanksgiving in Canada

Indigenous peoples in North America have a history of holding communal feasts in celebration of the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers. The Smithsonian Institute has noted that some First Nations “sought to ensure a good harvest with dances and rituals.” The European settlers brought with them a similar tradition of harvest celebrations (for which the symbol was the cornucopia or horn of plenty), which dates back to European peasant societies.

The first Thanksgiving by Europeans in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in the Eastern Arctic in 1578. They ate a meal of salt beef, biscuits and mushy peas to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in Newfoundland. They celebrated Communion and formally expressed their thanks through the ship’s Chaplain, Robert Wolfall, who, according to explorer Richard Collinson, “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places [sic].”

 In 1606, in an attempt to prevent the kind of scurvy epidemic that had decimated the settlement at Île Ste. Croix in the winter of 1604–05, Samuel de Champlain founded a series of rotating feasts at Port Royal called the Ordre de Bon Temps (“Order of Good Cheer”). Local Mi’kmaq families were also invited. The first feast was held on 14 November 1606 to celebrate the return of Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt from an expedition. Having attended the festivities, Marc Lescarbot remarked that they consisted of “a feast, a discharge of musketry, and as much noise as could be made by some fifty men, joined by a few Indians, whose families served as spectators.”           

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day/

It should be pointed out that in Canada, Thanksgiving was legislated not just a holiday day, as we see in this description of Thanksgiving, from kidsworld.com, that Parliament correctly applied the designation of Thanksgiving as a day when Canadians are encouraged to give thanks to God:

Official Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday

For a few hundred years, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November, before it was declared a national holiday in 1879. It was then, that November 6th was set aside as the official Thanksgiving holiday. But then on January 31st, 1957, Canadian Parliament announced that on the second Monday in October, Thanksgiving would be “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” Thanksgiving was moved to the second Monday in October because, after the World Wars, Remembrance Day (November 11th) and Thanksgiving kept falling in the same week. This year Canadian Thanksgiving is October 9th!

http://www.kidzworld.com/article/2614-canadian-thanksgiving#ixzz2hXOhQaCi

Shopeasefoods.com  helps answer the question, “Did Canada invent Thanksgiving?” with the following:

Thanksgiving in Canada originated purely as a harvest festival. On Jan 31, 1957 Canadian parliament proclaimed a day of general thanksgiving to the almighty God for the bountiful harvest Canada has been blessed with and was to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October. English Explorer Martin Frobisher hosted the first Thanksgiving held in what is now Newfoundland in 1578 to mark their safe arrival to the new world.

The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated 43 years later in 1621 at the site of Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. They thanked God and the Wampano for teaching them how to grow crops that enabled them to have a plentiful harvest in time for winter.

http://www.shopeasefoods.com/blog//did-canada-invent-thanksgiving

This brings us to our lesson today, entitled: ‘Thanksgiving: Watchword of Christian Faith, Salvation, and Worship’, where the definition of watchword is a guiding principle, a word, or phrase expressing a person’s or group’s core aim or belief.

It is interesting to see that Thanksgiving, (or giving thanks to God), is a key component of our faith, salvation, and our worship of the Lord. Let us look at our first Scripture verse, which also just happens to be today’s Benediction – Colossians 3:15-17 (ESV):

 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. 16And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In addition to having each verse begin with the conjunction “And”, we are encouraged to be thankful that we have been “called” to Christ, having been gifted with the Holy Spirit, who has been sent to dwell within us to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and to encourage us to worship God, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs –how: with thankfulness in our hearts.

We see that we are exhorted to be thankful for our faith or belief that Jesus died for our sins and promises us life eternal, but we are urged to not just worship God with songs of  thanks and gratitude, we are called on  to do everything in word or deed in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Christ.

There are two important reasons why we are encouraged to continuously offer our thanks to God.

The first is gratitude for our faith’s reward from God, which are His grace and blessings, as we read in our next Scripture passage, Psalm 67 (ESV):

 Make Your Face Shine Upon Us

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm. A Song.

67 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, 
Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. 
Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!

The second reason for us to continue to express thanksgiving is giving thanks to God affirms the sincerity of our faith and our gratitude all God’s creation which is sanctified by His word and by prayer. Come judgement day, the Lord will separated true believers from the non-believers, by how we conduct ourselves in our faith practices and our testimony, both must demonstrate a sincere gratitude to God for all that He gives us in reward for our faith, as we read in the Scripture passage from 1 Timothy 4:1-10 (ESV):

  Some Will Depart from the Faith

 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

A Good Servant of Christ Jesus

If you put these things before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10 For to this end we toil and strive,[a] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.                                                                                                   

Footnotes: a. Some manuscripts and suffer reproach

This passage comes with the warning that the only way to truly honour the gifts given us from God, including salvation through His Son, Jesus, is to thank Him for that He gives. What God offers us is made holy by His word. (made flesh in Christ Jesus), and can only be received when we acknowledge it by our expression of thanksgiving in our actions and inwardly in our prayers.

 Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #526: God of Our Fathers

Benediction – Colossians 3:15-17:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.