The Awesome God, Who keeps His Covenant with a Steadfast Love 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Awesome God, Who keeps His Covenant with a Steadfast Love’

© June 16, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2019

Based upon messages shared at BLCF on June 16, 2013, and on June 15, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin June 15, 2014

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2013

BLCF: Happy Father's Day Tie

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #22: Stand Up and Bless the Lord; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #593: God and the Family (- Genesis 1, Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 5 & 6)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Awesome God, Who Keeps Covenant and Steadfast Love’

Let us pray…

For our lesson on this Father’s Day Sunday, I would like to share with you the story of Sam Rayburn Jr. High, a middle school located in a small subdivision located just west of San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas. As BLCF is a church that is located in the heart of Toronto, I found that the lesson found in today’s Scripture verses from Nehemiah, Chapter 9 have relevance on giving insight and understanding to the stories of the two buildings.

Some fifty years ago, in response to the needs of a growing, vibrant community, the local school district contracted to build a new middle school. The builders wanted to construct not just an ordinary run of the mill school building, but a structure that was ahead of its time, having a form that was practical in purpose, though innovative and appealing in its design.

Speaker of the House, Sam ayburn

Now the Wiki bits of this story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Rayburn). The community built Sam Rayburn, a middle school whose namesake Samuel Taliaferro “Sam” Rayburn (January 6, 1882 – November 16, 1961) was a Democratic lawmaker from Bonham, Texas, who served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years, the longest tenure in U.S. history. Rayburn was born in Roane County, Tennessee, on January 6, 1882, 24 days before Franklin D. Roosevelt, a fact noted by the news media while Roosevelt was President and Rayburn was Speaker.

Rayburn was baptized by Elder H.G. Ball in the Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Old Line Baptist or Hard Shell Baptist Church. Rayburn graduated from Mayo College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) in Commerce, which was located in northeast Texas. He attended the University Of Texas School Of Law while teaching school, and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1908.

Although many Texas legislators were on the payroll of public service corporations, Rayburn refused to do so. Later, while serving in Congress, a wealthy oilman had a very expensive horse delivered to Rayburn’s farm in Bonham. No one apparently knew the oilman delivered the horse except him, Rayburn, and a Rayburn staffer. Rayburn returned the horse. This practice of refusing to accept fees from clients who had interests before the Legislature was “virtually unheard-of” at the time, but sadly no so much today.

In shaping legislation, Rayburn preferred working quietly in the background to being in the public spotlight. As Speaker, he won a reputation for fairness and integrity. In his years in Congress, Rayburn always insisted on paying his own expenses, even going so far as to pay for his own travel expenses when inspecting the Panama Canal when his committee was considering legislation concerning it, rather than exercising his right to have the government pay for it. When he died, his personal savings totaled only $15,000, and most of his holdings were in his family ranch.

I guess you would classify Sam Rayburn as a person who put into practice his Christian values, rather than a Christian who practiced politics. He was an exemplary model for all those involved in politics today. Now class, let us get back to school!

Sam Rayburn Jr. High, like its namesake, was quite different from its predecessors. The school was clad by louvered panels, set some six feet from the windows and afforded shade from hot Texas sun from May to October while allowing cool breezes caught from the hillside location. The louvers were angled so that in the winter the sun helped warm the classrooms. Built on the top of the west side of a large valley that afforded a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. The two-story school was comprised of two wings. One wing consisted of a gymnasium and cafeteria, under them ran a lengthy hallway designed to shelter students and staff from the ravaging winds of a passing tornado.

Perhaps the most innovative design was the two air-conditioned multimedia lecture halls, which were located in the centre of the classroom wing. Sound-proofed and windowless, the lecture halls had staggered seating on a gradient like a slope found in the sanctuary of BLCF. The halls were equipped with a stage and a retractable projector screen for presentations, variable lighting control, and a built-in PA sound system. These halls provided a good environment for students to view films, slide or filmstrip presentations, music concerts, lectures, for tests and exams. They also provided an additional safe place to ride out a tornado if students or staff could not get to the safe hallway under the cafeteria wing of the school.

I attended grades 6 and 7 of my education at Sam Rayburn. In grade 7 English class, we observed the explosion of a Quonset hut at Medina Air Force Base on the opposite side of the valley, generating a mushroom cloud above the valley and rain of ash the next day. I was at my locker in the school a week or so later, a passing student told me that John Kennedy had been shot in the head. Less than an hour later, our Principal solemnly announced on the PA system that the president had passed.

Medical expenses for my sister Rhona, a victim of a traumatic spinal injury, had caused us to lose our home and furnishings and move into a rental property in the city, closer to my father’s workplace.

Fast forward some 3 years to 1967, and my family had immigrated to my mother’s birthplace of Toronto. Canada had offered better medical care for Rhona, and gave the family refuge from the riots and social unrest; America’s version of Arab spring. In the next 13 years, I graduated from Secondary School, attended University, returning home after my mother suffered a massive heart attack. I entered the workforce and stayed home until Mom passed away some fourteen months later. A couple of years later, I met Sophie, the love of my life who first led me to the Lord and then later to the altar. Then in 1980, after having resigned after seven years at Pitney Bowes, I had a month’s hiatus before starting my new job at Kodak Canada. Thanks to Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor’s providing a safe haven for the Americans in Iran, our family was able to take a vacation to Texas, courtesy of Greyhound Coach Lines’ “Thank you Canada” discount rates. After seeing the sites, we traveled to the old neighborhood. The house showed changes from time. Trees were bigger and Sam Rayburn Jr. High looked older and in need of a coat of paint. I did not return to Texas again for some 17 years when our family drove to San Marcos to visit my brother-in-law at a rehab facility for people with severe head injuries. I wanted to show my kids my old neighborhood. Time and tide had not been kind to our old house, which looked quite run down, sporting iron bars on the exterior windows and doors. No longer manicured, the back yard now featured an old rusty pickup truck sitting on blocks.

Sadly, Sam Rayburn School was more shocking to see, being the victim of more neglect than the old homestead. The shutters were dilapidated, some cracked and broken; others dangling awkwardly from their supports. The name of the school, once boldly displayed in steel letters mounted on the brick facade of the school had eroded to the wind, rain, and possible vandalism so that letters were missing or illegible. It seemed that the hope and vision that gave birth to a unique place of learning and a beacon of education had met its demise.

Just an update, I recently looked at the Google photos of my old Valley Hi neighborhood and was pleased to see that Sam Rayburn Jr. High, now called Sam Rayburn Middle School, has undergone a Nehemiah-like change, having been totally rebuilt. Kudos to those who restored the vision of their ancestors, giving this lesson a Scriptural-like positive ending, or should I say beginning.

BLCF: rebuilt_Sam_Rayburn_School

The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible, which we Christians refer to today as the Old Testament. When we read the story in the 9th Chapter of Nehemiah, we can easily see how neglect and loss of a community’s faith and vision can lead to the path of destruction as had happened to my old school.

Nehemiah Rebuilding the Walls

Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, Nehemiah concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who was a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God’s laws (Torah). The events take place in the second half of the 5th century BC, and together with the Book of Ezra, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible.

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, (445/444 BC), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. Learning that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild them, and Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild the walls. Once there he defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days, from the Sheep Gate in the North, the Hananel Tower at the northwest corner, the Fish Gate in the West, the Furnaces Tower at the Temple Mount’s South West corner, the Dung Gate in the South, the East Gate and the gate beneath the Golden Gate in the East.

Jerusalem rebult by Nehemiah

He then took measures to repopulate the city and purify the Jewish community, enforcing the cancellation of debt, assisting Ezra to promulgate the Law of Moses, and enforcing the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.

After 12 years as governor, during which he ruled with justice and righteousness, he returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa, he returned to Jerusalem, only to find that the people had fallen back into their evil ways. Non-Jews were permitted to conduct business inside Jerusalem on the Sabbath and to keep rooms in the Temple. Greatly angered, he purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the Law of Moses.

nehemiah map susa - jerusalem_map

While Nehemiah did seek to rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem and restore the Temple as a holy place of worship, his narrative accurately points to his real concern about the faith or should I say lack of faith of and ingratitude to God as was demonstrated by the people of Jerusalem, as we read in Nehemiah 9:6-21 (ESV):

6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.

Nehemiah 9 verse 6

9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. 11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. 12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

Nehemiah-9-Verse-21

16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

The story of how the walls of Jerusalem had deteriorated can be viewed as a metaphor for the church, which we know is not brick and mortar, but a body of believers. Many of God’s Chosen have repeatedly drifted away from their true God and had chosen other gods. In this case, the faith of the body of believers had decayed almost to ruin and needed to be rebuilt in order that the members of the body could revive their faith and trust in the Lord. It is not surprising that many businesses and groups currently use the name Nehemiah or a derivative of the name as their corporate badge. The Nehemiah narrative indicates that the people have lapses of faith more than on one occasion. Still, God is an awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love for His people, Nehemiah 9:32-36 (ESV):

32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.

As Christians reading the Nehemiah account, we should not only concern ourselves with the rebuilding the fallen body of the church, we need to understand and avoid the circumstances that caused the church to fall in the first place. We do know that since the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity carries the stolen gift of knowledge of good and evil, as well as the burden of sin. People are given the choice between following God in faith and listening to Satan at our peril.

When we walk in faith in the Lord, we contribute to a strong church body that can resist the attacks of an opponent whose sole desire is to tear down and destroy God’s Eternal Kingdom and replace it with his own worldly domain. A domain like the walls of the city of Jerusalem that were not maintained, can crumble and deteriorate over time, falling into dust and debris.

But do not despair. All is not lost. While Scriptures do record the accounts of many fathers, many of whom are exemplary models for the Christian fathers of today. If you turn to the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see several fathers who were keepers of the faith. This summary comes by way of About.com:

Famous Fathers in the Bible Who Set Worthy Examples – About.com

God the Father God the Father, the first Person of the Trinity, is the father and creator of all. Jesus, his only Son, showed us a new, intimate way of relating to him. When we see God as our heavenly Father, provider and protector, it puts our life in a whole new perspective. Every human father is also a son of this Most High God, the constant source of strength, wisdom, and hope.

Adam – The First Man As the first man and first human father, Adam had no example to follow except God. He faltered on that, plunging the world into sin. He also had to deal with the tragedy of his son Cain murdering his other son, Abel. Adam has much to teach today’s fathers about the consequences of our actions and the absolute necessity of obeying God.

Noah – A Righteous Man Noah stands out among fathers in the Bible as a man who clung to God in spite of the wickedness all around him. What could be more relevant to today? Noah was far from perfect, but he was humble and protective of his family. He bravely carried out the task God assigned to him. Modern fathers may often feel they are in a thankless role, but God is always pleased by their devotion.

Abraham – Father of the Jewish Nation What could be more frightening than being the father of an entire nation? That was the mission God gave Abraham. He was a leader with tremendous faith, passing one of the most difficult tests God ever gave a man. Abraham made mistakes when he relied on himself instead of God. Still, he embodied qualities that any father would be wise to develop.

Jacob – Father of the 12 Tribes of Israel Jacob was a schemer who tried to work his own way instead of trusting God. With the help of his mother Rebekah, he stole his twin brother Esau’s birthright. Jacob fathered 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. As a father, however, he favored his son Joseph, causing jealousy among the other brothers. The lesson from Jacob’s life is that God works with our obedience and in spite of our disobedience to make his plan come to pass.

Moses – Giver of the Law Moses was the father of two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, yet he also served as a father figure to the entire Hebrew people as they escaped from slavery in Egypt. He loved them and helped discipline and provide for them on their 40-year journey to the Promised Land. At times Moses seemed to be a larger-than-life character, but he was only a man. He shows today’s fathers that overwhelming tasks can be achieved when we stay close to God.

King David – A Man After God’s Own Heart One of the great strugglers in the Bible, David was also a special favorite of God. He trusted God to help him defeat the giant Goliath and put his faith in God as he was on the run from King Saul. David sinned greatly, but he repented and found forgiveness. His son Solomon went on to become one of Israel’s greatest kings.

Joseph – Earthly Father of Jesus Surely one of the most underrated fathers in the Bible was Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. He went to great pains to protect his wife Mary and their baby, and then saw to Jesus’ education and needs as he was growing up. Joseph taught Jesus the carpentry trade. The Bible calls Joseph a righteous man, and Jesus must have loved his guardian for his quiet strength, honesty, and kindness.

jesus-can-restore

As believers in the Resurrected Christ and as vessels of the Spirit of the Living God, it is our responsibility to edify or build the body of believers in our church, not in numbers, but in faith. Each member of Christ’s Church must help build the church, by edifying and restoring the faith of its fellow members to counter the tendency towards decay and destruction over time.

Throughout the ages, the key to building and maintaining a strong church body, that is able to resist the onslaught brought by Satan, having strength in faith and not through numbers. In other words, the quality of the faith of a church body is more important than the quantity or number of members within the church.

And our hope and promise come from Jesus Christ, who by having been crucified for our sins, has removed God’s judgment and restored us to God’s favour. Through Jesus, we are forgiven, sanctified, and given the promise of a comforter in the Holy Spirit. Additionally, we are given the covenant of our own resurrection upon Christ’s return.

In a similar manner, a church with limited resources, yet strong in faith, is buoyed by the Spirit so that may achieve much more than a larger corporate body of members with tepid faith. Even though the latter may have vast financial resources, the Spirit is absent.

The Spirit greatly rewards a church’s faith by multiplying modest means to achieve the Lord’s objectives. Just come to BLCF on a Wednesday evening to see not only the proof of how the Holy Spirit multiplies and rewards steadfast faith; you will see but how the Spirit restores the faith of those who keep or renew their trust for a loving caring God.

So when life brings forth challenges, fraught with pain and sorrow, do not despair, but trust in Him and endure, as we read in Hebrews 12:7 (ESV):

Hebrews12:7

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

And on this Father’s Day Sunday, let us not only honour our earthly fathers but also glorify our Father in heaven and remember that He is an awesome God who keeps His covenant and shows a steadfast love for all his children.

Proverbs 23:24 (ESV)

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;

he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.

Happy Fathers Day

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King (to the tune of ‘Michael Row the Boat’)

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):

And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen

Creation-hands-L

 

The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for

Good Friday:

‘The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross’

© April 14, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 14, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                               Opening Hymn #252: O Soul, Are You Weary and Troubled?; Choruses

Communion: Toronto Vineyard                                                                                       Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #612: The Lamb of God (Isaiah 55)                                          Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross’

Let us pray…

This morning, we welcome you to the Good Friday Service hosted by both the Toronto Vineyard and Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Today we remember Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, an act of propitiation to Father in Heaven, bringing to those who believe reconciliation and sanctification under a new Covenant with God.

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, we learned that though Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on the back of a colt, a young donkey, just before their meal our Lord humbled himself to wash the disciples’ in order to teach them how they must approach ministering his Gospel. We see that the actions of the Lord were not only important at that moment in time, as they were intended to prepare them for the future.

The actions of Christ were often intended to teach at more than one level, so it is with the death of the cross, which we will look at in today’s lesson, entitled: The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross.’

Most Christian Churches observe Good Friday with a Service which focuses upon the pain and suffering our Lord experienced as he was betrayed, flogged and crucified, with communion tacked on to the end of the service, almost like an afterthought.

We see an outline of the traditional Good Friday Service displayed within the graphic entitled: ‘This is what Christ Jesus said when he was crucified,’ which gives a chronology of what the Lord spoke after being nailed upon the cross up to the point of his death.

The seven phrases Jesus spoke begin with three that show the Lord asking forgiveness for the wrong doing of others, promising resurrection to a condemned criminal crucified beside him who confessed both his sin and faith  in the Lord, and seeking the care of Mary by entrusting her to the disciple John. The next three phrases indicate the personal suffering Christ experienced as he suffered for our sins, expressing his feeling of solitude, his thirst and his impending death. The final phrase is the faith and trust Jesus maintained until the moment of his passing.

I would like to break with the tradition of focusing on the minute historic details of horrific elements suffered by Jesus. You may find shown to extreme in viewing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Cross. This movie focuses more on the history rather than the victory of the cross.

I believe that by taking the elements of Communion, as we had at the beginning of today’s service, we have followed Jesus’ instructions to remember his broken body, shed blood, and death, which serves as a final sacrifice for the sins of humanity.

But there is more in communion and life than what we see on the surface.

Many of us will go out to eat a meal in a restaurant sometime this weekend. It is funny how we will be seated, order from a menu, have a meal, with little or no thought to the service involved in preparing, serving, and after meal clean up, until we go to leave a tip after we have paid for a meal. If any aspect of the meal service is poor, some people choose to reduce or not pay any tip. This is too bad, for all the staff is being punished for the failings of one person at perhaps one stage of the dinner service, where the rest of the people had successfully completed their responsibilities towards the dinner service.

The fact that the tip I usually left at the end of the service should not minimize its importance to the success of the meal. The guests, having finished a satisfying meal, hurry to put on their coats to be off to their next destination they pay the bill and leave a token tip, frequently consisting of the loose change in their pockets. In their rush to leave it is easy to overlook that any tip may be not proportional to the service provided. A minimum tip may have to be split by a host or hostess and the server. Others involved in the meal such as the chief, busboy or girl, and bartender may get no tip for services rendered. We often forget or worse, never appreciate, the steps involved by others taken in order to serve us a meal.

Human nature being the way it is, we Christians can easily forget all the sacrifice and the steps involved and the repercussions of the actions of our Lord in order to bring us salvation for our sins.

Good Friday is the one day on the Church Calendar where Christians focus on the Lord’s sacrifice, but may rush past the reasons why Jesus died on that cross.

Part of the blame could fall on us pastors, who practice the institution of tacking communion at the end of the Order of Service. Like the tip at the end of the meal, communion may consist of a brief prayer, serving the elements, and after a short benediction, we are dismissed and on our way.

The death of Jesus on the cross, in addition to being a propitiation to God for the judgment of the sins for everyone for all time, the Gospel or Good News included many other elements that we can easily overlook or take for granted when we take communion.

By the power of the Spirit Jesus rose from the grave. We should also remember Jesus ascended to heaven in order to be our advocate to the Father in heaven. And last but not least, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to believers, first recorded on the Day of Pentecost. These often forgotten aspects of Christ’s sacrifice should be acknowledged as important elements the Gospel Story when we partake in Communion.

It is the unseen works of the Spirit that are true expressions of the sacrifice our Lord made when he willing surrendered to the judgment of the cross. This brings us to the first of today’s Scripture passages, from Acts 3:1-26 (ESV):

The Lame Beggar Healed

 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God,10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Footnotes: a. Acts 3:1 That is, 3 p.m. b. Acts 3:13 Or child; also verse 26 c.Acts 3:16 Greek him

We should not be like the crowd who marveled with wonder at the mystery of the miracles of the Lord. We do not receive the benefit of salvation through Christ, if we do not decide to turn from a life of wickedness.

The other important lesson we should take from communion is that Good Friday Communion is no more important than the other times throughout the year we receive communion. Salvation comes from a single sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and it continues for all time for all generations of believer. For that reason our remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice must be continuous. This requires faith on our part. Along with salvation, comes the promise of the resurrection, which is part of God’s new covenant. The first example of the promise of this promise is recorded in Luke 23: 32-33, 39-43 (ESV):

 32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:39 Or blasphemed him

No matter where we are in our walk in life, it is faith in Christ that leads us to the undeserved gift of salvation with the promise of eternal life, and it is the Holy Spirit, given as a reward to faith, helps us understand mystery of why he died for you and me.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died For Me

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):                                                                                 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.    

Remember: Know Jesus, Know Peace – No Jesus, No Peace!

The Triumph of a Humble King: To Wash Away the Remnants of the World

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Triumph of a Humble King: To Wash Away the Remnants of the World

© April 9, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 9, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn #134: Hosanna, Loud Hosanna; Choruses                                   Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #625: The Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21 and Mark 11)   

           

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service. Today, being Palm Sunday, where Christians observe the launch of Holy Week, leading to Good Friday, and culminating at Easter Sunday.

Speaking of Good Friday, as we have for the past several years, the BLCF Church congregation will join with members of the Toronto Vineyard in conducting a Communion Service to remember the great sacrifice and final given by our Lord to pay the debt owed for the sins of humanity.

For our lesson today, which bears the somewhat long, but self-explanatory title of ‘The Triumph of a Humble King: To Wash Away the Remnants of the World’, we will examine some of the significance and symbolism of the actions of Jesus, the disciples, and those gather at two of the significant events recorded in the days of Easter Week, just prior to the arrest and crucifixion of our Lord.

Those two events are: the account of Jesus riding to Jerusalem, on a colt or donkey, and later the account of Lord electing to wash the feet of his disciples just prior to the Passover meal.

In the Christian church, the Holy Week of Easter begins on Palm Sunday, a day where we observe the triumphal arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem just prior to his crucifixion, which we find in John 12:12-19 (ESV):

 The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Many of the actions of the Lord, including riding a donkey into Jerusalem, are fulfillment of prophecies found in the Old Testament, including 2 Kings 9:13 (ESV):

13 Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare[a] steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”

Footnotes: a. 2 Kings 9:13 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain

 Another example is found in Zechariah 9:9 (ESV):

 The Coming King of Zion

 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 We see in Matthew’s account of Jesus arrival, that people in the crowd placed cloaks and tree branches upon the road in path of Jesus, as he rode upon the donkey.

Let us look at the significance of elements of this account, beginning with the use of the palm branch, which we find described at the site, jewishencyclopedia.com:

 

The Palm Branch

At BLCF Church This Palm Sunday 2012

HOSANNA – …The cry which the people of Jerusalem were accustomed to raise while marching in procession and waving branches of palm, myrtle, and willow in the joyous Sukkot festival, especially on the seventh day, when …the willow-branches of the “lulab” procession were piled up and beaten against the altar (Suk. iii. 9, iv. 5). The willow-branch thus received the name “hosha’na” (Suk. 30b, 31a, 34a, 37a, b, 46b); and the …carrying of the palm branches as described in I Macc. xiii. 51 and II Macc. x. 7.According to John xii. 13 (in the Sinaitic codex), which has the story preserved in its original form, the same cry was raised by…
ATTAH HORE’TA – …Tabernacles; and it appears also in the melody sung by the cantor while waving the palm-branch (Lulab) during the Ḥallel on the first days (LULAB – …Name given to the festive palm-branch which with the Etrog is carried and waved on the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). The three constituents of the lulab are: (1) a shoot …twigs and willow-branches are tied to the lower end of the palm-branch—the former on the right, and the latter on the left—by means of three rings of palm-strips. These branches constitute with the etrog the “four …the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook: and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” Aside from the palm-branch and the willows the passage does not specify what shall be used; and the…
HALLEL – …is given out separately.On Sukkot the palm-branch is shaken in all directions while the first hemistich is chanted (“Hoshiahna”).Hallel is closed with this benediction: “O Lord, our God, may all …In the case of the Feast of Tabernacles the wavingof the palm-branch (see Lulab) is the most characteristic feature of the celebration of the festival; and consequently the…

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&keywords=Palm+Branch&commit=search

Some secular sources reference that, in the time of Christ, the Greeks awarded a palm branch to victorious athlete, while the Romans used either a palm frond or the palm tree to signify a military victory.

Since the arrival of Jesus was not associated with an athletic or military achievement, I think that it is safe to discard associating his arrival with either of the two. This conclusion is supported by the fact that in addition to the laying of  palm branches, the crowed also cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 

But what is meat when they say ‘Hosanna’? Let us again look at our online  reference source, jewishencyclopedia.com:

 Hosanna

Palm Sunday 2011 At Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Church

HOSANNA – …the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem. They “took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is, the …verse following “Anna Adonai hoshi’ah-nna” in the Hallel psalm— and then called him “the King of Israel.” Luke (xix. 38), writing for the Gentiles, omits the palm-branches and the Hosanna cry, and changes the …combines the two versions, and changes the words of Luke into “Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh. . . . Hosanna in the highest,” the closing words of which no longer give any sense The same is…
SALVATION – …to release.”Hosanna. The underlying idea of all these words, save the last two, is help extended and made effective in …passionate appeal “Hoshi’ah-nna” (ib. verse 25; = “Hosanna”) ought to be rendered “Give victory,” a translation all the more assured by the certainty that the psalm is Maccabean. He who leads to victory in battle …the head of the army was greeted with the salutation “Hoshi’ah” = “Hosanna,” corresponding to (II Kings x. 19; Neh. ii. 3). This would appear from II Kings vi. 26, the…
HOSHA’NA RABBAH – …recited once in each Hosha’na service (the Hebrew for “save now” is here “Hoshi’ah-na,” which has come into English through Christian sources as “hosanna”>Hosanna”).

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&keywords=hosanna&commit=search

It seems that the crowd recognized that Jesus had arrived to bring victory and salvation to the Jews. But why did Jesus choose to arrive on a donkey? We get part of the answer from the following excerpts, taken from an article authored by Rebekah L. Holt:

Donkeys in the Bible

Rebekah L. Holt

 Christ as the King of Kings to enter in Jerusalem on a donkey was a lowly action.  In today’s terms, to select a donkey instead of a horse could be compared to a prince selecting a furniture delivery truck over a rare luxury sports car!   Historically, horses are the equine thrones of victorious Kings and Princes.  Haman in the book of Esther considered riding the king’s horse in fine clothes, to be attended by noblemen and to have personal praise heralded to a crowd to be a great honor.   Even today, we would expect such a procession of royalty.  Yet, in Jerusalem, to be astride a donkey was commonplace.  Donkeys typically served as everyday transportation, a long-eared daily sight to be seen in the streets.

 In following Christ’s example, when serving the Lord, our focus should be on obeying Him with lowliness and humility.

http://www.equest4truth.com/equus-in-the-bible/123-donkeys-in-the-bible

In addition to a degree of humility, the arrival of a king riding a donkey, rather than a horse or in a chariot signifies peaceful intentions of our Lord, an idea contrary to some who expected Jesus to lead an army against those who oppressed and persecuted the faithful.

One advantage to reading the historical account of the Lord’s arrival on that Psalm Sunday, is the fact we may fast forward a few days in that Passion or Easter week and read an account that describes where Jesus taught his disciples an important lesson about the way they should minister his Gospel to others, This account is found in John 13:1-20 (ESV):

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

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

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,[d] ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”                                                                         

Footnotes: a. John 13:10 Some manuscripts omit except for his feet b. John 13:10 The Greek words for you in this verse are plural c. John 13:16 Or bondservant, or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface) d. John 13:18 Greek But in order that the Scripture may be fulfilled 

We may find an understanding of why Jesus sought to humble himself as a servant to wash the feet of his disciples in the following article found at   jewishencyclopedia.com:

Washing Of Feet

By: Emil G. HirschWilhelm NowackSolomon Schechter

Since the Israelites, like all other Oriental peoples, wore sandals instead of shoes, and as they usually went barefoot in the house, frequent washing of the feet was a necessity. Hence among the Israelites it was the first duty of the host to give his guest water for the washing of his feet (Gen. xviii. 4, xix. 2, xxiv. 32, xliii. 24; Judges xix. 21); to omit this was a sign of marked unfriendliness. It was also customary to wash the feet before meals and before going to bed (comp. Cant. V. 3); to abstain for a long time from washing them was a sign of deep mourning (II Sam. Xix. 24). Though there are no extant laws for laymen in regard to washing the feet, such laws for priests are given in Ex. Xxx. 19-21. There mention is made of brazen vessels, placed between the Tabernacle and the altar of burnt offering, in which the priests had to wash their hands and feet on entering the Tabernacle or before approaching the altar of burnt offerings: hence at all their priestly functions. Just as no one is allowed to approach a king or prince without due preparation, which includes the washing of the hands and feet, so the Israelite, and especially the priest, is forbidden in his unclean condition to approach Yhwh, for he who comes defiled will surely die.

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6051-feet-washing-of

Jesus while literally washes the dust, remnants of the world, from the feet of the disciples, will soon go the cross to wash away all remnants of sin from humanity.

Let us talk about the “elephant in the room” which is sin, if you excuse the pun as a segue.

Christ sought to teach his disciples a ministry of humility by riding to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and by washing the feet of the disciples. But these lessons also foreshadow our Lords impending death, where Jesus would pay the price for our sins by forfeiting his life to a brutal death on the cross, as the Apostle Paul described in Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV):

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a]6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Footnotes: a. Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b. Philippians 2:6 Or a thing to be held on to for advantage c. Philippians 2:7 Or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

Another translation of Philippians 2:5-8 goes as follows:

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #349: May the Mind of Christ, My Savior

Benediction (Revelation 1:5b-6):                                                                            To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The Awesome God, Who keeps His Covenant with a Steadfast Love

Nehemiah

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Awesome God, Who Keeps Covenant and Steadfast Love’

© June 15, 2014, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin June 15, 2014

Originally Published June 16, 2013

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2013

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #593 (God and the Family – Genesis 1, Deuteronomy6, Ephesians 5 and 6); Prayer

Hymn #22: Stand Up and Bless the Lord; Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: Nehemiah 9:6-21; 32-36 and Hebrews 12:7

BLCF: Happy Father's Day Tie

Let us pray…

For our lesson on this Father’s Day Sunday, I would like to share with you the story of Sam Rayburn Jr. High, a middle school located in a small subdivision located just west of San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas. As BLCF is a church that is located in the heart of Toronto, I found that the lesson found in today’s Scripture verses from Nehemiah, Chapter 9 have relevance on giving insight and understanding to the stories of the two buildings.

Some fifty years ago, in response to the needs of a growing, vibrant community, the local school district contracted to build a new middle school. The builders wanted to construct not just an ordinary run of the mill school building, but a structure that was ahead of its time, having a form that was practical in purpose, through innovative and appealing in its design.

Now the Wiki bits of this story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Rayburn). The community built Sam Rayburn, a middle school whose namesake Samuel Taliaferro “Sam” Rayburn (January 6, 1882 – November 16, 1961) was a Democratic lawmaker from Bonham, Texas, who served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years, the longest tenure in U.S. history. Rayburn was born in Roane County, Tennessee, on January 6, 1882, 24 days before Franklin D. Roosevelt, a fact noted by the news media while Roosevelt was President and Rayburn was Speaker.

Rayburn was baptized by Elder H.G. Ball in the Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Old Line Baptist or Hard Shell Baptist Church. Rayburn graduated from Mayo College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) in Commerce, which was located in northeast Texas. He attended the University Of Texas School Of Law while teaching school, and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1908.

Although many Texas legislators were on the payroll of public service corporations, Rayburn refused to do so. Later, while serving in Congress, a wealthy oilman had a very expensive horse delivered to Rayburn’s farm in Bonham. No one apparently knew the oil man delivered the horse except him, Rayburn, and a Rayburn staffer. Rayburn returned the horse. This practice of refusing to accept fees from clients who had interests before the Legislature was “virtually unheard-of” at the time, but sadly no so much today.

Speaker of the House, Sam ayburn

Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn

In shaping legislation, Rayburn preferred working quietly in the background to being in the public spotlight. As Speaker, he won a reputation for fairness and integrity. In his years in Congress, Rayburn always insisted on paying his own expenses, even going so far as to pay for his own travel expenses when inspecting the Panama Canal when his committee was considering legislation concerning it, rather than exercising his right to have the government pay for it. When he died, his personal savings totaled only $15,000, and most of his holdings were in his family ranch.

I guess you would classify Sam Rayburn as a person who put into practice his Christian values, rather than a Christian who practiced politics. He was an exemplary model for all those involved in politics today. Now class, let us get back to school!

Sam Rayburn Jr. High, like its namesake, was quite different from its predecessors. The school was clad by louvered panels, set some six feet from the windows and afforded shade from hot Texas sun from May to October while allowing cool breezes caught from the hillside location. The louvers were angled so that in the winter the sun helped warm the classrooms. Built on the top of the west side of a large valley that afforded a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. The two-story school was comprised of two wings. One wing consisted of a gymnasium and cafeteria, under them ran a lengthy hallway designed to shelter students and staff from the ravaging winds of a passing tornado.

Perhaps the most innovative design was the two air-conditioned multimedia lecture halls, located in the centre of the classroom wing. Sound-proofed and windowless, the lecture halls had staggered seating on a gradient like a slope found in the sanctuary of BLCF. The halls were equipped with a stage and a retractable projector screen for presentations, variable lighting control, and built-in PA sound system. These halls provided a good environment for students to view films, slide or filmstrip presentations, music concerts, lectures, for tests and exams. They also provided an additional safe place to ride out a tornado if students or staff could not get to the safe hallway under the cafeteria wing of the school.

I attended grades 6 and 7 of my education at Sam Rayburn. In grade 7 English class, we observed the explosion of a Quonset hut at Medina Air Force Base on the opposite side of the valley, generating a mushroom cloud above the valley and rain of ash the next day. I was at my locker in the school a week or so later, a passing student told me that John Kennedy had been shot in the head. Less than an hour later, our Principal solemnly announced on the PA system that the president had passed.

Medical expenses for my sister Rhona, a victim of a traumatic spinal injury, had caused us to lose our home and furnishings and move into a rental property in the city, closer to my father’s workplace.

Fast forward some 3 years to 1967, and my family had immigrated to my mother’s birthplace of Toronto. Canada had offered better medical care for Rhona, and gave the family refuge from the riots and social unrest; America’s version of Arab spring. In the next 13 years, I graduated from Secondary School, attended University, returning home after my mother suffered a massive heart attack. I entered the workforce and stayed home until Mom passed away some fourteen months later. A couple of years later, I met Sophie, the love of my life who first led me to the Lord and then later to the altar. Then in 1980, after having resigned after seven years at Pitney Bowes, I had a month’s hiatus before starting my new job at Kodak Canada. Thanks to Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor’s providing a safe haven for the Americans in Iran, our family was able to take a vacation to Texas, courtesy of Greyhound Coach Lines’ “Thank you Canada” discount rates. After seeing the sites, we traveled to the old neighborhood. The house showed changes from time. Trees were bigger and Sam Rayburn Jr. High looked older and in need of a coat of paint. I did not return to Texas again for some 17 years when our family drove to San Marcos to visit my brother-in-law at a rehab facility for people with severe head injuries. I wanted to show my kids my old neighborhood. Time and tide had not been kind to our old house, which looked quite run down, sporting iron bars on the exterior windows and doors. No longer manicured, the back yard now featured an old rusty pickup truck sitting on blocks.

Sadly, Sam Rayburn School was more shocking to see, being the victim of more neglect than the old homestead. The shutters were dilapidated, some cracked and broken; others dangling awkwardly from their supports. The name of the school, once boldly displayed in steel letters mounted on the brick facade of the school had eroded to the wind, rain, and possible vandalism so that letters were missing or illegible. It seemed that the hope and vision that gave birth to a unique place of learning and a beacon of education had met its demise.

The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible, which we Christians refer to today as the Old Testament. When we read the story in the 9th Chapter of Nehemiah, we can easily see how neglect and loss of a community’s faith and vision can lead to the path of destruction as had happened to my old school.

Nehemiah Rebuilding the Walls

Nehemiah Rebuilding the Walls

Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, Nehemiah concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who was a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God’s laws (Torah). The events take place in the second half of the 5th century BC, and together with the Book of Ezra, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible.

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, (445/444 BC), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. Learning that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild them, and Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild the walls. Once there he defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days, from the Sheep Gate in the North, the Hananel Tower at the North West corner, the Fish Gate in the West, the Furnaces Tower at the Temple Mount’s South West corner, the Dung Gate in the South, the East Gate and the gate beneath the Golden Gate in the East.

Jerusalem rebult by Nehemiah

Jerusalem rebuilt by Nehemiah

He then took measures to repopulate the city and purify the Jewish community, enforcing the cancellation of debt, assisting Ezra to promulgate the Law of Moses, and enforcing the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.

After 12 years as governor, during which he ruled with justice and righteousness, he returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa, he returned to Jerusalem, only to find that the people had fallen back into their evil ways. Non-Jews were permitted to conduct business inside Jerusalem on the Sabbath and to keep rooms in the Temple. Greatly angered, he purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the Law of Moses.

nehemiah map susa - jerusalem_map

While Nehemiah did seek to rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem and restore the Temple as a holy place of worship, his narrative accurately points to his real concern about the faith or should I say lack of faith of and ingratitude to God as was demonstrated by the people of Jerusalem, as we read in Nehemiah 9:6-21 (ESV):

6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.

Nehemiah 9 verse 6

9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. 11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. 12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

Nehemiah-9-Verse-21

16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

The story of how the walls of Jerusalem had deteriorated can be viewed as a metaphor for the church, which we know is not brick and mortar, but a body of believers. Many of God’s Chosen have repeatedly drifted away from their true God and had chosen other gods. In this case, the faith of the body of believers had decayed almost to ruin and needed to be rebuilt in order that the members of the body could revive their faith and trust in the Lord. It is not surprising that many businesses and groups currently use the name Nehemiah or a derivative of the name as their corporate badge. The Nehemiah narrative indicates that the people have lapses of faith more than on one occasion. Still, God is an awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love for His people, Nehemiah 9:32-36 (ESV):

32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.

As Christians reading the Nehemiah account, we should not only concern ourselves with the rebuilding the fallen body of the church, we need to understand and avoid the circumstances that caused the church to fall in the first place. We do know that since the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity carries the stolen gift of knowledge of good and evil, as well as the burden of sin. People are given the choice between following God in faith and listening to Satan at our peril.

When we walk in faith in the Lord, we contribute to a strong church body that can resist the attacks of an opponent whose sole desire is to tear down and destroy God’s Eternal Kingdom and replace it with his own worldly domain. A domain like the walls of the city of Jerusalem that were not maintained, can crumble and deteriorate over time, falling into dust and debris.

But do not despair. All is not lost. While Scriptures do record the accounts of many fathers, many of whom are exemplary models for the Christian fathers of today. If you turn to the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see several fathers who were keepers of the faith. This summary comes by way of About.com:

Famous Fathers in the Bible Who Set Worthy Examples – About.com

God the Father God the Father, the first Person of the Trinity, is the father and creator of all. Jesus, his only Son, showed us a new, intimate way of relating to him. When we see God as our heavenly Father, provider and protector, it puts our life in a whole new perspective. Every human father is also a son of this Most High God, the constant source of strength, wisdom, and hope.

Adam – The First Man As the first man and first human father, Adam had no example to follow except God. He faltered on that, plunging the world into sin. He also had to deal with the tragedy of his son Cain murdering his other son, Abel. Adam has much to teach today’s fathers about the consequences of our actions and the absolute necessity of obeying God.

Noah – A Righteous Man Noah stands out among fathers in the Bible as a man who clung to God in spite of the wickedness all around him. What could be more relevant to today? Noah was far from perfect, but he was humble and protective of his family. He bravely carried out the task God assigned to him. Modern fathers may often feel they are in a thankless role, but God is always pleased by their devotion.

Abraham – Father of the Jewish Nation What could be more frightening than being the father of an entire nation? That was the mission God gave Abraham. He was a leader with tremendous faith, passing one of the most difficult tests God ever gave a man. Abraham made mistakes when he relied on himself instead of God. Still, he embodied qualities that any father would be wise to develop.

Jacob – Father of the 12 Tribes of Israel Jacob was a schemer who tried to work his own way instead of trusting God. With the help of his mother Rebekah, he stole his twin brother Esau’s birthright. Jacob fathered 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. As a father, however, he favored his son Joseph, causing jealousy among the other brothers. The lesson from Jacob’s life is that God works with our obedience and in spite of our disobedience to make his plan come to pass.

Moses – Giver of the Law Moses was the father of two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, yet he also served as a father figure to the entire Hebrew people as they escaped from slavery in Egypt. He loved them and helped discipline and provide for them on their 40-year journey to the Promised Land. At times Moses seemed to be a larger-than-life character, but he was only a man. He shows today’s fathers that overwhelming tasks can be achieved when we stay close to God.

King David – A Man After God’s Own Heart One of the great strugglers in the Bible, David was also a special favorite of God. He trusted God to help him defeat the giant Goliath and put his faith in God as he was on the run from King Saul. David sinned greatly, but he repented and found forgiveness. His son Solomon went on to become one of Israel’s greatest kings.

Joseph – Earthly Father of Jesus Surely one of the most underrated fathers in the Bible was Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. He went to great pains to protect his wife Mary and their baby, and then saw to Jesus’ education and needs as he was growing up. Joseph taught Jesus the carpentry trade. The Bible calls Joseph a righteous man, and Jesus must have loved his guardian for his quiet strength, honesty, and kindness.

jesus-can-restore

As believers in the Resurrected Christ and as vessels of the Spirit of the Living God, it is our responsibility to edify or build the body of believers in our church, not in numbers, but in faith. Each member of Christ’s Church must help build the church, by edifying and restoring the faith of its fellow members to counter the tendency towards decay and destruction over time.

Throughout the ages, the key to building and maintaining a strong church body, that is able to resist the onslaught brought by Satan, having strength in faith and not through numbers. In other words, the quality of the faith of a church body is more important than the quantity or number of members within the church.

And our hope and promise come from Jesus Christ, who by having been crucified for our sins, has removed God’s judgment and restored us to God’s favour. Through Jesus, we are forgiven, sanctified, and given the promise of a comforter in the Holy Spirit. Additionally, we are given the covenant of our own resurrection upon Christ’s return.

In a similar manner, a church with limited resources, yet strong in faith, is buoyed by the Spirit so that may achieve much more than a larger corporate body of members with tepid faith. Even though the latter may have vast financial resources, the Spirit is absent.

The Spirit greatly rewards a church’s faith by multiplying modest means to achieve the Lord’s objectives. Just come to BLCF on a Wednesday evening to see not only the proof of how the Holy Spirit multiplies and rewards steadfast faith; you will see but how the Spirit restores the faith of those who keep or renew their trust for a loving caring God.

So when life brings forth challenges, fraught with pain and sorrow, do not despair, but trust in Him and endure, as we read in Hebrews 12:7 (ESV):

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Hebrews12:7

And on this Father’s Day Sunday, let us not only honour our earthly fathers but also glorify our Father in heaven and remember that He is an awesome God who keeps His covenant and shows a steadfast love for all his children.

Proverbs 23:24 (ESV)

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;

he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.

Let us pray…

Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King

(to the tune of ‘Michael Row the Boat’)

Happy Fathers Day

Benediction (Revelation 1:5b-6):

5b And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen

Creation-hands-L

Just an update, I recently looked at the Google photos of my old Valley Hi neighborhood and was pleased to see that Sam Rayburn Jr. High, now called Sam Rayburn Middle School, has undergone a Nehemiah-like change, having been totally rebuilt. Kudos to those who restored the vision of their ancestors, giving this lesson a Scriptural-like positive ending, or should I say beginning.

BLCF: rebuilt_Sam_Rayburn_School

Rebuilt Sam Rayburn School http://www.nisd.net/schools/info/42

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship BLCF Church

Nehemiah

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love’

© June 15, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Published June 16, 2013

BLCF: Bulletin June 16, 2014

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2013 

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #593 (God and the Family – Genesis 1, Deuteronomy6, Ephesians 5 and 6); Prayer

Hymn #22: Stand Up and Bless the Lord; Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: Nehemiah 9:6-21; 32-36 and Hebrews 12:7

BLCF: Happy Father's Day Tie

Let us pray…

For the message on this Father’s Day Sunday, I would like to share with you the story of Sam Rayburn Jr. High, a middle school located in a small subdivision located just west of San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas. As BLCF is a church that is located in the heart of Toronto…

View original post 3,988 more words

The Awesome God, Who Keeps Covenant and Steadfast Love

Nehemiah

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Awesome God, Who Keeps Covenant and Steadfast Love’

© June 15, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin June 15, 2014

Originally Published June 16, 2013

BLCF Bulletin June 16, 2013 

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #593 (God and the Family – Genesis 1, Deuteronomy6, Ephesians 5 and 6); Prayer

Hymn #22: Stand Up and Bless the Lord; Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: Nehemiah 9:6-21; 32-36 and Hebrews 12:7

BLCF: Happy Father's Day Tie

Let us pray…

For our lesson on this Father’s Day Sunday, I would like to share with you the story of Sam Rayburn Jr. High, a middle school located in a small subdivision located just west of San Antonio, deep in the heart of Texas. As BLCF is a church that is located in the heart of Toronto, I found that the lesson found in today’s Scripture verses from Nehemiah, Chapter 9 have relevance on giving insight and understanding to the stories of the two buildings.

Some fifty years ago, in response to the needs of a growing, vibrant community, the local school district contracted to build a new middle school. The builders wanted to construct not just an ordinary run of the mill school building, but a structure that was ahead of its time, having a form that was practical in purpose, though innovative and appealing in its design.

Now the Wiki bits of this story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Rayburn). The  community built Sam Rayburn, a middle school whose namesake Samuel Taliaferro “Sam” Rayburn (January 6, 1882 – November 16, 1961) was a Democratic lawmaker from Bonham, Texas, who served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for 17 years, the longest tenure in U.S. history. Rayburn was born in Roane County, Tennessee, on January 6, 1882, 24 days before Franklin D. Roosevelt, a fact noted by the news media while Roosevelt was President and Rayburn was Speaker.

Rayburn was baptized by Elder H.G. Ball in the Primitive Baptist Church, also known as Old Line Baptist or Hard Shell Baptist Church. Rayburn graduated from Mayo College (now Texas A&M University-Commerce) in Commerce, which was located in northeast Texas. He attended the University Of Texas School Of Law while teaching school, and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1908.

Although many Texas legislators were on the payroll of public service corporations, Rayburn refused to do so. Later, while serving in Congress, a wealthy oil man had a very expensive horse delivered to Rayburn’s farm in Bonham. No one apparently knew the oil man delivered the horse except him, Rayburn, and a Rayburn staffer. Rayburn returned the horse. This practice of refusing to accept fees from clients who had interests before the Legislature was “virtually unheard-of” at the time, but sadly no so much today.

Speaker of the House, Sam ayburn

Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn

In shaping legislation, Rayburn preferred working quietly in the background to being in the public spotlight. As Speaker, he won a reputation for fairness and integrity. In his years in Congress, Rayburn always insisted on paying his own expenses, even going so far as to pay for his own travel expenses when inspecting the Panama Canal when his committee was considering legislation concerning it, rather than exercising his right to have the government pay for it. When he died, his personal savings totaled only $15,000, and most of his holdings were in his family ranch.

I guess you would classify Sam Rayburn as a person who put into practice his Christian values, rather than a Christian who practiced politics. He was an exemplary model for all those involved in politics today. Now class, let us get back to school!

Sam Rayburn Jr. High, like its namesake, was quite different from its predecessors. The school was clad by louvered panels, set some six feet from the windows and afforded shade from hot Texas sun from May to October, while allowing cool breezes caught from the hillside location. The louvers were angled so that in the winter the sun helped warm the classrooms. Built on the top of the west side of a large valley that afforded a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. The two story school was comprised of two wings. One wing consisted of a gymnasium and cafeteria, under them ran a long hallway designed to shelter students and staff from the ravaging winds of a passing tornado.

Perhaps the most innovative design were the two air conditioned multimedia lecture halls, located in the centre of the classroom wing. Sound-proofed and windowless, the lecture halls had staggered seating on a gradient like the slope found in the sanctuary of BLCF. The halls were equipped with a stage and a retractable projector screen for presentations, variable lighting control and built in PA sound system. These halls provided a good environment for students to view films, slide or filmstrip presentations, music concerts, lectures, for tests and exams. They also provided an additional safe place to ride out a tornado if students or staff could not get to the safe hallway under the cafeteria wing of the school.

I attended grades 6 and 7 of my education at Sam Rayburn. In grade 7 English class, we observed the explosion of a Quonset hut at Medina Air Force Base on the opposite side of the valley, generating a mushroom cloud above the valley and a rain of ash the next day. I was at my locker in the school a week or so later, a passing student told me that John Kennedy had been shot in the head. Less than an hour later, the Principal solemnly announced on the PA system that the president had passed.

Medical expenses for my sister Rhona, a victim of a traumatic spinal injury, had caused us to lose our home and furnishings and move into a rental property in the city, closer to my father’s work place.

Fast forward some 3 years to 1967, and my family had immigrated to my mother’s birth place of Toronto. Canada had offered better medical care for Rhona, and gave the family refuge from the riots and social unrest; America’s version of Arab spring. In the next 13 years, I graduated from Secondary School, attended University, returning home after my mother suffered a massive heart attack. I entered the workforce and stayed home until Mom passed away some fourteen months later. A couple of years later, I met Sophie, the love of my life who first led me to the Lord and then later to the altar. Then in 1980, having resigned after seven years at Pitney Bowes, I had a month’s hiatus before starting my new job at Kodak Canada. Thanks to Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor’s providing a safe haven for the Americans in Iran, our family was able to take a vacation to Texas, courtesy of Greyhound Coach Lines’ “Thank you Canada” discount rates. After seeing the sites, we travelled to the old neighborhood. The house showed changes from time. Trees were bigger and Sam Rayburn Jr. High looked older and in need of a coat of paint.  I did not return to Texas again for some 17 years, when our family drove to San Marcos to visit my brother-in-law at a rehab facility for people with severe head injuries. I wanted to show my kids my old neighborhood. Time and tide had not been kind to our old house, which looked quite run down, sporting iron bars on the exterior windows and doors. No longer manicured, the back yard now featured an old rusty pickup truck sitting on blocks.

Sadly, Sam Rayburn School was more shocking to see, being the victim of more neglect than the old homestead. The shutters were dilapidated, some cracked and broken; others dangling awkwardly from their supports. The name of the school, once boldly displayed in steel letters mounted on the brick facade of the school had eroded to the wind, rain and possibly vandalism, so that letters were missing or illegible. It seemed that the hope and vision that gave birth to a unique place of learning and a beacon of education had met its demise.

The Book of Nehemiah is a book of the Hebrew Bible, which we Christians refer to today as the Old Testament. When we read the story in the 9th Chapter of Nehemiah, we can easily see how neglect and loss of a community’s faith and vision can lead to the path of destruction as had happened to my old school.

Nehemiah Rebuilding the Walls

Nehemiah Rebuilding the Walls

Told largely in the form of a first-person memoir, Nehemiah concerns the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, a Jew who was a high official at the Persian court, and the dedication of the city and its people to God’s laws (Torah). The events take place in the second half of the 5th century BC, and together with the Book of Ezra, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible.

In the 20th year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, (445/444 BC), Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the king. Learning that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild them, and Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mission to rebuild the walls. Once there he defied the opposition of Judah’s enemies on all sides—Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines—and rebuilt the walls within 52 days, from the Sheep Gate in the North, the Hananel Tower at the North West corner, the Fish Gate in the West, the Furnaces Tower at the Temple Mount’s South West corner, the Dung Gate in the South, the East Gate and the gate beneath the Golden Gate in the East.

Jerusalem rebult by Nehemiah

Jerusalem rebuilt by Nehemiah

He then took measures to repopulate the city and purify the Jewish community, enforcing the cancellation of debt, assisting Ezra to promulgate the Law of Moses, and enforcing the divorce of Jewish men from their non-Jewish wives.

After 12 years as governor, during which he ruled with justice and righteousness, he returned to the king in Susa. After some time in Susa he returned to Jerusalem, only to find that the people had fallen back into their evil ways. Non-Jews were permitted to conduct business inside Jerusalem on the Sabbath and to keep rooms in the Temple. Greatly angered, he purified the Temple and the priests and Levites and enforced the observance of the Law of Moses.

nehemiah map susa - jerusalem_map

While Nehemiah did seek to rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem and restore the Temple as a holy place of worship, his narrative accurately points to his real concern about the faith or should I say lack of faith of and ingratitude to God as  was demonstrated by the people of Jerusalem, as we read in Nehemiah 9:6-21 (ESV):

6 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. 7 You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.

Nehemiah 9 verse 6 

9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. 11 And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. 12 By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go. 13 You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14 and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. 15 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

Nehemiah-9-Verse-21 

16 “But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17 They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. 18 Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, 19 you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. 21 Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

The story of how the walls of Jerusalem had deteriorated can be viewed as a metaphor for the church, which we know is not brick and mortar, but a body of believers. Many of God’s Chosen have repeatedly drifted away from their true God, and had chosen other gods. In this case the faith of body of believes had decayed almost to ruin and needed to be rebuilt in order that the members of the body could revive their faith and trust in the Lord. It is not surprising that many businesses and groups currently use the name Nehemiah or a derivative of the name as their corporate badge. The Nehemiah narrative indicates that the people have lapses of faith more than on one occasion. Still God is an awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love for His people, Nehemiah 9:32-36 (ESV):  

 32 “Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day.33 Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. 34 Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. 35 Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. 36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.                            

As Christians reading the Nehemiah account, we should not only concern ourselves with the rebuilding the fallen body of the church, we need to understand and avoid the circumstances that caused the church to fall in the first place. We do know that since the fall of Adam and Eve, humanity carries the stolen gift of knowledge of good and evil, as well as burden of sin. People are given the choice between following God in faith and listening to Satan at our peril.

When we walk in faith in the Lord, we contribute to a strong church body that can resist the attacks of an opponent whose sole desire is to tear down and destroy God’s Eternal Kingdom and replace it with his own worldly domain. A domain like the walls of the city of Jerusalem that were not maintained, can crumble and deteriorate over time, falling into dust and debris.

But do not despair. All is not lost. While Scriptures do record the accounts of many fathers, many of whom are exemplary models for the Christian fathers of today. If you turn to the back page of today’s bulletin, you will see several fathers who were keepers of the faith. This summary comes by way of About.com:

Famous Fathers in the Bible Who Set Worthy Examples – About.com

God the Father God the Father, the first Person of the Trinity, is the father and creator of all. Jesus, his only Son, showed us a new, intimate way of relating to him. When we see God as our heavenly Father, provider and protector, it puts our life in a whole new perspective. Every human father is also a son of this Most High God, the constant source of strength, wisdom, and hope.

Adam – The First Man  As the first man and first human father, Adam had no example to follow except God. He faltered on that, plunging the world into sin. He also had to deal with the tragedy of his son Cain murdering his other son, Abel. Adam has much to teach today’s fathers about the consequences of our actions and the absolute necessity of obeying God.

Noah – A Righteous Man Noah stands out among fathers in the Bible as a man who clung to God in spite of the wickedness all around him. What could be more relevant to today? Noah was far from perfect, but he was humble and protective of his family. He bravely carried out the task God assigned to him. Modern fathers may often feel they are in a thankless role, but God is always pleased by their devotion.

Abraham – Father of the Jewish Nation What could be more frightening than being the father of an entire nation? That was the mission God gave Abraham. He was a leader with tremendous faith, passing one of the most difficult tests God ever gave a man. Abraham made mistakes when he relied on himself instead of God. Still, he embodied qualities that any father would be wise to develop.

Jacob – Father of the 12 Tribes of Israel Jacob was a schemer who tried to work his own way instead of trusting God. With the help of his mother Rebekah, he stole his twin brother Esau’s birthright. Jacob fathered 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. As a father, however, he favored his son Joseph, causing jealousy among the other brothers. The lesson from Jacob’s life is that God works with our obedience and in spite of our disobedience to make his plan come to pass.

Moses – Giver of the Law Moses was the father of two sons, Gershom and Eliezer, yet he also served as a father figure to the entire Hebrew people as they escaped from slavery in Egypt. He loved them and helped discipline and provide for them on their 40-year journey to the Promised Land. At times Moses seemed to be a larger-than-life character, but he was only a man. He shows today’s fathers that overwhelming tasks can be achieved when we stay close to God.

King David – A Man After God’s Own Heart One of the great strugglers in the Bible, David was also a special favorite of God. He trusted God to help him defeat the giant Goliath and put his faith in God as he was on the run from King Saul. David sinned greatly, but he repented and found forgiveness. His son Solomon went on to become one of Israel’s greatest kings.

Joseph – Earthly Father of Jesus Surely one of the most underrated fathers in the Bible was Joseph, the foster father of Jesus Christ. He went to great pains to protect his wife Mary and their baby, and then saw to Jesus’ education and needs as he was growing up. Joseph taught Jesus the carpentry trade. The Bible calls Joseph a righteous man, and Jesus must have loved his guardian for his quiet strength, honesty, and kindness.

jesus-can-restore

As believers in the Resurrected Christ and as vessels of the Spirit of the Living God, it is our responsibility to edify or build the body of believers in our church, not in numbers, but in faith. Each member of Christ’s Church must help build the church, by edifying and restoring the faith of its fellow members to counter the tendency towards decay and destruction over time.

Throughout the ages, the key to building and maintaining a strong church body, that is able to resist the onslaught brought by Satan, having strength in faith and not through numbers. In other words, quality of faith of a church body is more important than the quantity or number of members within the church.

And our hope and promise comes from Jesus Christ, who by having been crucified for our sins, has removed God’s judgement and restored us to God’s favour. Through Jesus, we are forgiven, sanctified, and given the promise of a comforter in the Holy Spirit. Additionally, we are given the covenant of our own resurrection upon Christ’s return.

In a similar manner, a church with limited resources, yet strong in faith, is buoyed by the Spirit so that may achieve much more than a larger corporate body of members with tepid faith. Even though the latter may have vast financial resources, the Spirit is absent.

The Spirit greatly rewards a church’s faith by multiplying modest means to achieve the Lord’s objectives. Just come to BLCF on a Wednesday evening to see not only the proof  of how the Holy Spirit multiplies and rewards steadfast faith; you will see but how the Spirit restores the faith of those who keep or renew their trust for a loving caring God.

So when life brings forth challenges, fraught with pain and sorrow, do not despair, but trust in Him and endure, as we read in Hebrews 12:7 (ESV):

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Hebrews12:7

And on this Father’s Day Sunday, let us not only honour our earthly fathers, but also glorify our Father in heaven and remember that He is an awesome God who keeps His covenant and shows a steadfast love for all his children.

Proverbs 23:24 (ESV)

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;     

he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.

Let us pray…

Hymn #84: Come and Praise the Lord Our King                                                               

 (to the tune of ‘Michael Row the Boat’)  

 

  

Happy Fathers Day

Benediction (Revelation 1:5b-6):

5b And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen

Creation-hands-L

Just an update, I recently looked at the Google photos of my old Valley Hi neighborhood and was pleased to see that Sam Rayburn Jr. High, now called Sam Rayburn Middle School, has undergone a Nehemiah-like change, having been totally rebuilt. Kudos to those who restored the vision of their ancestors, giving this lesson a Scriptural-like positive ending, or should I say beginning.

BLCF: rebuilt_Sam_Rayburn_School

Rebuilt Sam Rayburn School http://www.nisd.net/schools/info/42