Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’

© August 13, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 13, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                       

Opening Hymn #466: God of Grace and God of Glory; Choruses                         

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

Responsive Reading #646 (Spiritual Warfare – Ephesians 6,                                2 Corinthians 10, 2 Timothy 4)     

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                             ‘Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Our lesson today, entitled: ‘Standing Firmly, In the Eye of the Storm, Safe from All Harm’, we will examine what the Apostle Paul referred to as The Whole Armor of God in his letter addressed to the Church, composed of God’s holy people in Ephesus, found in Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV):

 The Whole Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

At first blush, we might mistake Paul’s Epistle as describing instructions, telling the members of the Church of Ephesus to don a soldier’s armor for battle. Such misinterpretation of the scriptures happens when the reader has difficulty differentiating between when a Scripture passage is read literally and when read as a metaphor.

Clearly, in Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul intends the Armor of God to be a metaphor for the aspects of what the church needs to prepare for the spiritual battle that occurs when the devil unleashes an onslaught of spiritual forces of evil against the Church of Christ, Jesus.

I recall as a youth in San Antonio,Texas, Hurricane Carla brought heavy rain and wind for hours and suddenly, as the eye or centre of the storm passed overhead, the rain abruptly stopped, the sun came out, and a quiet calm arrived. It was eerie, that while eye of the storm appeared as a pleasant reprieve from the violent storm front, there were still signs of impending danger. The birds reinforced this sense of dread by the conspicuous silence; no singing or calls. Dogs in the neighborhood were strangely silent as well. Looking west, in the distance, I could see the storm wall which is the boundary of the eye. It was at the boundary of the hurricane’s eye, I could make out two distinct funnel clouds indicating a pair of sister tornadoes showing why the eye wall is considered to be a hurricane’s most devastating region. But before I had a chance to fully appreciate the beauty and danger of Carla’s eye, the trail edge of the storm arrived in its fully fury!

Tornado generated at the eye wall of a Hurricane

The devil continuously attacks the Church in many ways, because through Christ Jesus, the members are saved and the devil wants to separate us from the grace of the Lord that we receive. Satan will try to lull Christ’s Church by drawing attention to the calm of the eye of the storm, while ignoring  the dangers.

But Christ does not bring us a temporary calm from life’s storms, but promises us  to save us from the fury of the storm waves, launched upon us by the devil, We are saved by His amazing grace, Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV):

And God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

We find a good description of meaning of the Armor of God protects us from a storm of evil in a commentary authored by Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia:

 Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20

Susan Hylen, Associate Professor of New Testament
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

The active role of the church is not altogether surprising, given the writer’s previous indication that God has “raised us up with [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places” (2:6). This exaltation is a unique expression of the church’s identity among New Testament writings. However, it is interesting to note that, while Christians are already seated with Christ in the heavenly places, this position does not eliminate the need for struggle. The wrestling “against the spiritual forces of evil” also takes place “in the heavenly places” (6:12).

While modern Christians are likely to have a view of heaven as a paradise in which no evil dwells, the writer of Ephesians is drawing on a different set of cultural assumptions, one in which a struggle between cosmic forces occurs within the heavenly realm. Christians, who already reign with Christ in some sense, are obligated to participate in this struggle.

The armor of God that the church takes up relates to the message that the author has already laid out. The theological message of Ephesians 1-3 is now depicted metaphorically as preparation for a spiritual battle in which believers engage through their actions. By girding themselves with the “belt of truth” (6:14), readers metaphorically prepare themselves for the work to which they have already been called: they are to “speak the truth in love” to one another (cf. 4:15, 25). Similarly the “breastplate of righteousness” relates to the “new self” with which they are to clothe themselves, as beings “created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (4:24).

The author has earlier explained the “gospel of peace” (6:15), for which readers should ready themselves by putting on shoes. In reconciling Jews and Gentiles into one body, Christ “is our peace” (2:14). The elimination of hostility through Jesus’ death on the cross is central to the letter’s understanding of the heart of the gospel message. It is this message of reconciliation that should lead the church to the behavior indicated here and in the rest of Ephesians 4-6.

In addition to these, the reader is exhorted to take up “the shield of faith” (6:16). According to Ephesians, faith activates the power of God (cf. 1:19; 2:8). Salvation is God’s gift, yet it also comes through the believer’s faith (3:12). It is “through faith” that Christ dwells in the believer’s heart (3:17). Metaphorically, taking up the shield of faith communicates the protection that faith activates. The salvation that comes as God’s gift through faith is depicted as the ability “to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (6:16).

Prayer (6:18) is an activity that is connected to the taking up of God’s armor. The author also prays on behalf of the church for their strength and understanding (cf. 3:13-19). The church is instructed to pray for all of the saints and for the author as well. The cosmic adversaries of 6:12 carry an eschatological tinge, because the imagery of God taking up God’s armor to seek justice was related in first century culture to the notion of the day of the Lord. Yet in Ephesians’ reworking of the imagery, the battle with cosmic forces is not simply a battle delayed for a future day of God’s judgment, but is a present battle believers must engage on a regular basis.

The church’s struggle is a heavenly one against spiritual powers, but it is acted out on a more mundane level in the types of behavior to which the reader is called. The “chains” of the writer’s imprisonment (6:20) are another reminder of the ways that the “cosmic powers of this present darkness” impinge on the lives that believers live in this world. The armor of God does not mean that the church will not encounter difficulties, then, but enables Christians to encounter such difficulties. Through perseverance and prayer, the church may boldly proclaim the gospel even in the midst of persecution and hardship.

http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=379

The Armor of God described by Paul in Ephesians 6 is composed of elements, some of which are provided by the Lord, such as: truth, righteousness, salvation, and the Spirit.

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus – The way, the truth, and the life

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) – The righteousness of God

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

Hebrews 7:25 (ESV) – Salvation through Christ

25 Consequently, he is able to save completely those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

 

 

  2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) – Spirit given by God

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

The remaining elements of the Armor of God, come from the church or body of believers, they are: peace, faith, prayer, and fasting.

Hebrews 12:14 (ESV) – Peace with Everyone

14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

 1 John 5:5 (ESV) – Faith in Christ

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

 1 Corinthians 7:5 (ESV) – Prayer and Fasting

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

In conclusion, when we don the Armor of God, we dwell with confidence in a place of refuge which is a fortress from all the spiritual forces of evil that come forth as schemes of the devil, an assurance described in Psalm 91:1-6 (ESV):

My Refuge and My Fortress

 

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

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

Let us pray…

 

Closing Hymn #544: When I Can Read My Title Clear

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                           

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  

Advertisements

God Saved This Sinner

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God Saved This Sinner’

© July 2, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 2, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           Opening Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound; Choruses         Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings  Communion: Responsive Reading #626: The Last Supper (Mark 14)          Responsive Reading #640: Redemption in Christ (Romans 5)                         Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘God Saved This Sinner’

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday worship and Praise Service, here at BLCF. And as today happens to be the first Sunday of July, it is the day that we traditionally partake in Communion, where we celebrate the gift of salvation given us by our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

Today’s lesson is entitled: ‘God Saved This Sinner’. But what does it mean when someone say that: “God has saved me”?

Let us look at some examples of circumstances where people believe that God had  interceded in a life or death challenge, and where the survivors describe their being saved as an example of Divine providence. As it happens, these testimonials came from my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.

San Marcos River flash flood in Palmetto State Park, Texas

Many years ago, while a child living in Texas, I recall our family visited my three year old sister, Rhona, at Gonzales Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center. Rhona had suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury and had to be taught as to how to use a wheel chair, walk with crutches, and others skills to overcome her disabilities. Warm Springs, built in 1937 during the polio epidemics and closed in 2001, was one of the few facilities equipped to address the needs of  civilian paraplegics and quadriplegics in Texas at that time.

The distance from San Antonio to Gonzales was 74 miles, over an hour’s drive,  and dad worked six days a week to help pay medical expenses, causing the family to be limited to visiting Rhona on Sundays.  We often would pick up Rhona from Warm Springs and go for a picnic at the Palmetto State Park which was situated adjacent to the Rehab Center.

The park had volcanic warm springs, having many ponds with a high in Sulphur content, there were a number of picnic areas located along the banks of the San Marcos River which ran through the park.

Texas Hill Country

The park itself was set in the Texas Hill Country, a region which, following thunderstorms and heavy rains, would  be subject to flash floods. On occasions of severe floods, most of the park was below grade and would end up some 15-20 feet underwater.

It was on one such Sunday, following heavy rainfalls, the family embarked for a picnic in the park. The entrance  to the picnic areas required driving over a fairly steep hill, which had a crown that prevented dad from seeing that the San Marcos on the other had flooded well above its banks. As we drove over the crest of the hill, dad stopped the car just above the raging river waters, where I recall seeing picnic tables being swept away, along with tree trunks and other debris. If dad had stopped a few seconds later or if  he did not successfully engage the ’55 Chevy Nomad station wagon into reverse gear, both the car and our family would have been lost to the flooding waters. Fortunately, dad backed to car away from the danger.

Years later, I remember dad saying to  me that, “God had saved us.” He then recalled two other life or death incidents where members of the family indicated that God have saved them from an untimely death.

Lighthouse Skagen, Denmark

The first involved his grandfather Knudsen, who was the lighthouse keeper near Skagen, Denmark. Located at the northernmost tip of both Denmark and continental Europe, the Skagen Grey Lighthouse jutted well into the North Sea.

Denmark Map

Dad said that his grandfather remembered  exactly how many steps he needed to climb, carrying barrels of lamp oil,  up to top of the lighthouse. On one occasion, great-grandfather Knudsen recalled using semaphore, that is signaling by flag, to a ship that carried Britain’s Queen Victoria. In those days ships and lighthouses had no radios for communication.

Semaphore – Flag Signal Chart

Great-grandfather Knudsen’s other vocation was a fisherman. If the weather was threatening, he would have man the lighthouse in deference to fishing. It was on one such occasion, that many of the fishermen of Skagen were lost to a severe storm, while great-grandfather Knudsen operated the lighthouse. My dad said that great-grandfather Knudsen remarked that, “God had saved me.”

Pikes Peak, Colorado ( in the Background)

Dad indicated that his father, my grandfather, Niels Mickelson, was saved, while taking the family out on a Sunday outing,  where he drove a car to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.

Pikes Peak, Colorado

The mountain’s elevation is some 14,115-feet or 4,302.31 meters, above sea level, which is well above grandfather’s mile-high home town of Denver. A mile is 5,280 feet or 1609.3 meters. In those days, the route up to the summit of Pikes Peak was unpaved and had no guardrails or barriers. It was a challenge both to the skill of the driver and  the soundness vehicle to make the trip to the summit and back safely.

Road up on Pikes Peak, Colorado

It was on one occasion, while driving up the mountain, that a careless driver sped down the mountain had the bumper of his car catch the bumper of grandfather’s car, causing both cars to spin on the narrow roadway. Grandfather’s car ended up spinning over the edge of the mountain, only to be stopped by a small pine tree. My grandfather told my dad that that was the day that, “God had saved both me and my family.”

It is not uncommon for Christians to pray for travelling mercies and protection by God for those whose journeys may bring them into harm’s way.

Today also happens to be the day following Canada Day 150, which is the country’s  Sesquicentennial or 150 Anniversary.

Canada Sesquicentennial Celebration in Ottawa

Yesterday, I watched watched a broadcast  from Ottawa of the Canadian Sesquicentennial Celebration Ceremonies, which began with the singing of the British National Anthem, God Save the Queen. This singing of The Queen led me to think about the topic for today’s lesson: ‘God Saved This Sinner’.

Both the title and the lyrics seem to plea to God to save the Queen.  While Prince Charles was present at the ceremonies, I was curious about the criteria required for the use of the anthem In Canada. This led me to the following Wikibits:

God save the Queen in Canada

Royal Anthem of Canada

The sovereign and her or his spouse are saluted with the entire anthem, while other members of the Royal Family who are entitled to royal salute (such as the Prince of Wales) receive just the first six bars. The first six bars also form all or part of the Vice Regal Salute in some Commonwealth realms outside the UK (e.g., in Canada, governors general and lieutenant governors at official events are saluted with the first six bars of “God Save the Queen” followed by the first four and last four bars of “O Canada“), as well as the salute given to governors of British overseas territories.

 “God Save the Queen” (alternatively “God Save the King”, depending on the gender of the reigning monarch) is the national or royal anthem in a number of Commonwealth realms, their territories, and the British Crown Dependencies.[1][2]The author of the tune is unknown and it may originate in plainchant, but a 1619 attribution to John Bull is sometimes made.

The phrase “God Save the King” is much older than the song, appearing, for instance, several times in the King James Bible.[17] A text based on the 1st Book of Kings Chapter 1: verses 38–40, “…And all the people rejoic’d, and said: God save the King! Long live the King! May the King live for ever, Amen”, has been sung at every coronation since that of King Edgar in 973.[18] Scholes says that as early as 1545 “God Save the King” was a watchword of the Royal Navy, with the response being “Long to reign over us”.[19][20] He also notes that the prayer read in churches on anniversaries of the Gunpowder Plot includes words which might have formed part of the basis for the second verse “Scatter our enemies…assuage their malice and confound their devices”.

Further information: Canadian royal symbols § Verbal and musical symbols, and Anthems and nationalistic songs of Canada

By convention,[64] “God Save the Queen” is the Royal Anthem of Canada.[65][66][67][68][69] It is sometimes played or sung together with the national anthem, “O Canada“, at private and public events organised by groups such as the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion, police services, and loyal groups.[70][71][72][73][74] The governor general and provincial lieutenant governors are accorded the “Viceregal Salute”, comprising the first three lines of “God Save the Queen”, followed by the first and last lines of “O Canada”.[75]

“God Save the Queen” has been sung in Canada since the late 1700s and by the mid 20th century was, along with “O Canada”, one of the country’s two de factonational anthems, the first and last verses of the standard British version being used.[76] By-laws and practices governing the use of either song during public events in municipalities varied; in Toronto, “God Save the Queen” was employed, while in Montreal it was “O Canada”. Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson in 1964 said one song would have to be chosen as the country’s national anthem and, three years later, he advised Governor General Georges Vanier to appoint the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the National and Royal Anthems. Within two months, on 12 April 1967, the committee presented its conclusion that “God Save the Queen”, whose music and lyrics were found to be in the public domain,[77] should be designated as the Royal Anthem of Canada and “O Canada” as the national anthem, one verse from each, in both official languages, to be adopted by parliament. The group was then charged with establishing official lyrics for each song; for “God Save the Queen”, the English words were those inherited from the United Kingdom and the French words were taken from those that had been adopted in 1952 for the coronation of Elizabeth II.[66] When the bill pronouncing “O Canada” as the national anthem was put through parliament, the joint committee’s earlier recommendations regarding “God Save the Queen” were not included.[77]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Save_the_Queen

It seems that my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all believed that they were delivered from certain death by God’s grace. However, the Royal Anthem has roots in a sentiment that is somewhat different, being rooted in the expression “Long live the King”, which is believed to have been taken from the Scripture passage from 1 Kings 1:38-40 (ESV):

King Solomon

38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and brought him to Gihon. 39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.

By contrast to the salvation described in the Royal Anthem, the accounts of four generations of the Mickelson family members being saved on three occasions, seem to be examples of God’s intervention to deliver them from death. My parents and sister, Rhona, are today with the Lord. For many in the family, the faith in God remains.

Neither the plea to God to preserve the life of a monarch, nor the apparent intervention to preserve my ancestors seem to describe the salvation described in Micah 7:7 (ESV):

 

But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.

 Neither the King, nor Queen, nor any of my ancestors appear to be waiting on God for deliverance. The type of deliverance or salvation the Scriptures describe being waited for by the author are of the spirit, not of the body, as we see in Romans 10:5-13 (ESV):

The Message of Salvation to All

 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

It seems that people consider salvation as God saving their bodies from death, when we know the Bible says that our bodies will wither and die. We are born again in the Spirit and that Jesus will intercede in God’s judgement for  our sins, thanks to the grace given us by the sacrifice our Lord, Christ Jesus.

The fact that Jesus has been resurrected forever, means that Jesus is the eternal High Priest for all of humanity who have faith in the Lord for all time, Hebrews 7:22-25 (ESV):

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost[a] those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 7:25 That is, completely; or at all times

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #413: God Is My Strong Salvation

Benediction – (2 John 3):            

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.

Star Tracks Talent Agency (Star Tracks © 1998 Estate and Heirs of Rhona Winifred Mickelson – All Rights Reserved).

Faith like a Kite

BLCF: a Bird and a Kite

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Faith like a Kite’

© March 15, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin March 15, 2015

BLCF: fly_a_kite

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #611 (Comfort from God – from Isaiah 40); Prayer

Opening Hymn #191: Spirit of God in the Clear Running Water; Choruses

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

 Scripture Verses: Leviticus 11:13-19, Mark 7:1-23, Ezekiel 10:8-22

BLCF: Red Hi-Flier Kite

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where I would like to share with you a lesson entitled: ‘Faith like a Kite.’

March is a month frequented by clear, blustery days. Just the other day, as the wind picked up paper and other debris, I was reminded of a day in my youth , well over fifty years ago in San Antonio, Texas.

My family lived in a house in a new subdivision, that bordered on some old ranch or  farmland that seemed to have been neglected for many years, where the Prickly Pear cacti, Spanish Dagger, Live Oak and Honey Mesquite had returned, growing over most of the landscape.

Our house was located on a corner lot, located on the border of the subdivision, called “Valley Hi”. To the east of the house was Lackland Air Force Base, which located located west of the city of San Antonio. To the west of our house, was a field, beyond which was a six lane highway which looped around the city. West of the Loop 410, was the overgrown forest which was eventually to be developed into Phase 2 of the Valley Hi Housing development. With no apologies to composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II or to author James A. Michener, it seemed to me that the local Valley Hi Mall would constantly play, as background music for shoppers, the Soundtrack from stage play/movie South Pacific, including “Bali Hi.”

BLCF: boy_flying_kite

At this time of my life, my favorite activities included riding my bike, exploring the local overgrown woods and on windy days, flying a kite. Often my mom would send me to the local ice house, the Texas equivalent of Ontario’s milk stores, to pick up any grocery items that she required for dinner that day. For my efforts, I was allowed to keep a dime or quarter of the change from the purchase, which I could use as I pleased. A penny would buy a stick of Double Bubble gum or two of Bazooka gum. Six cents would get me a Popsicle from a Cravy Ice Cream truck.

BLCF: Cravy Ice Cream Truck

With a dime, I could purchase a comic book. While a quarter was the price of a copy of Mad Magazine or a kite kit. I chose the kite. Now you may wonder why not make my own? Well to construct a kite, you would need to have paper for the kite, wood (like that found on the side of orange crates), string, and glue to secure the seam of a loop around the kite’s perimeter, through which string would be threaded and attached to wooden cross that secured the frame of the kite.

BLCF: diamond_kite

A large grocery bag and string could easily be procured, but the orange crate would be more difficult to obtain. And a small bottle of Elmer’s glue would cost 15 cents. If I saved up a dime more, I could purchase a complete kite kit, which included a small plastic piece that held the two wooden cross pieces together. I would have to save an additional 15 cents to buy a spool of 100 yards of twine or string for the kite. The kites sold by the ice house came in only one color, dark red.

The simple diamond kit could be assembled in five minutes, but I learned early on that the kite needed a tail, made of cloth for stability. Otherwise, the kite would circle in ever-larger cycles, until it dove into the ground. Mom kept a bag of rags, made from worn shirts and blouses, for cleaning jobs around the house and provided the ideal material needed to construct a tail for the kite.

BLCF: Hi-Flier Kite 2

My dad worked six days a week at two jobs to pay the bills, including the medical expenses for my sister, Rhona, who was confined to a wheelchair, after suffering from a spinal injury when she was just three years old. Sunday was our family day, where we would have an evening bar-b-que dinner. Dad would serve as master of the grill or the  grill meister.

It was on a warm windy afternoon that  dad had invited  Malcolm, a co-worker over for dinner. Malcolm was a young man, about half dad’s age, but still he was over twice my age.  On that blustery day, in order to pass the time while waiting for the Mesquite charcoal to burn white, I had decided to fly my new kite which I had assembled the day before.

When Malcolm had arrived, my kite was airborne and I had played out about a third of the 100 yards of twine. The strong wind, from the east, had caused the kite to rise up only 10 yards above the ground. Usually the weight of the string prevented you from using more than a spool, before the kite would fall to the earth. But this was not the case on this windy Sunday afternoon. Soon, I had reached the end of the spool of twine, but I had another spool inside the house. Malcolm has sensed that this flight was unusual and agreed to take control of the string while I retrieved the other spool of twine and tied it to the first.

BLCF: red-diamond-kite-10

Dinner was served, and rather than reel in the kite, Malcolm, my dad and I, each took turns manning the kite string, while the others ate. It was after supper, as we neared the end of the second spool that Malcolm offered to go to the ice house and purchase more twine, commenting that we might have the makings of a world record in the kite world.  And so a third spool of twine was added, and the red kite seemed like a dot in the late afternoon sky. Eventually, Malcolm made two more trips to get more twine, making the total length of the five spools some 500 yards. The twine ran west from the back yard, over 200 yards of field, the six lanes of highway, and far over the woods that lay beyond, disappearing into the red setting sun. But, as the sun set, as often happens in that part of the country, the winds that chased the sun paused, as if to catch its breath, and suddenly the red kite, like the sun, fell down from sight, its four hour flight had ended.

BLCF: KiteFlying

I realized that the kite was lost. It was dark, tomorrow was a school day, and by the time I came home in the afternoon of the next day, it would be difficult to find the remnants of the twine across the highway, as passing cars and trucks would have severed the string.

For a time, with the help of a stiff wind, the kite had overcome the force of gravity, the combined weight of five hundred yards of twine, and provided us with a flight to remember.

BLCF: how-does-a-kite-fly

As a Christian, I believe that, in some respects, flying a kite is like faith in God. In part, our faith relies upon the invisible Holy Spirit to lift us, spiritually, towards God in Heaven. Both the wind and the Spirit are invisible and without form, but are capable of doing something supernatural, beyond nature.

The kite, by design, provides lift in the presence of the wind, overcoming gravity, and rising above the earth. The string provides, by way of tension, the resistance required to facilitate the upward lift for the kite. The tail provides stability to the kite, while keeping it in a vertical orientation.

The Holy Spirit, acts like the wind with the kite, enables our faith to be lifted closer to God. The Bible, which is the Word of God, acts like the tail of the kite; keeping our faith stable and oriented towards Him. The string is like our belief in the Gospel of Christ and the truth in the Scriptures. All of these aspects of faith are necessary and work together to enable us to transcend the limitations of the world and climb towards that which is Spiritual.

After I wrote this message, I looked online for some graphics to illustrate today’s bulletin, when I post it on our BLOG. In my search, I found that several others had authored similar posts which compared flying a kite to some aspect of Christian faith, though with mixed reactions from readers. Many of the negative responses included comments that comparing faith to flying a kite was to trivialize one’s faith in God and the Gospel of Christ. After all , there is no mention of kites in the Bible, or is there?

Well, yes and no. One of our Scripture verses, used in today’s lesson, does mention a kite; in Leviticus 11:13-19 (ESV):

Clean and Unclean Animals

BLCF: unclean_food

13 “And these you shall detest among the birds;[a] they shall not be eaten; they are detestable: the eagle,[b] the bearded vulture, the black vulture, 14 the kite, the falcon of any kind, 15 every raven of any kind, 16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the short-eared owl, 18 the barn owl, the tawny owl, the carrion vulture, 19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Footnotes: a. Leviticus 11:13 Or things that fly; compare Genesis 1:20 b. Leviticus 11:13 The identity of many of these birds is uncertain

But what kind of kite is described in Leviticus 14? We have three common definitions for a kite:

BLCF: scissortailedkite

Kite kīt noun: kite; plural noun: kites                                                                                

1. a toy consisting of a light frame with thin material stretched over it, flown in the wind at the end of a long string.                                                                              

2. Sailing informal – a spinnaker or other high, light sail.                                          

3. A medium to large long-winged bird of prey that typically has a forked tail and frequently soars on updrafts of air.

https://www.google.ca/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=&oq=kite+definition&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4RVEB_enCA601CA602&q=kite+definition&gs_l=hp…0l5.0.0.2.79948………..0.EdKQjgwemhg

Kite, as used in this Scripture, is bird that is unclean and not fit to eat. I do not think it likely to have a flying toy or part of a watercraft on the menu! That is why many readers object to us saying faith is like an unclean bird. Is the kite really unclean, as stated in the old Mosaic Laws? We find our answer in Mark 7:1-12(ESV):

Traditions and Commandments

BLCF: dietary_rules

7 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly,[a] holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash.[b] And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.[c]) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,     

but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,     

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)[d]12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Well if the Lord said that, spiritually speaking, we are not defiled by what we eat, which makes kites no longer unclean, what is it that does make a person unclean? Let us continue reading Mark 7, Mark 7:14-21(ESV):

What Defiles a Person

BLCF: defiles

14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”[e] 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”[f] (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 7:3 Greek unless they wash the hands with a fist, probably indicating a kind of ceremonial washing b. Mark 7:4 Greek unless they baptize; some manuscripts unless they purify themselves c. Mark 7:4 Some manuscripts omit and dining couches e. Mark 7:11 Or an offering f. Mark 7:15 Some manuscripts add verse 16: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear g. Mark 7:19 Greek goes out into the latrine

But even though kite, the toy, is designed to imitate the bird having the same name, some continue to argue that we demean our belief in God by comparing our faith to an object that is just a toy and behaviour that is not serious. After all, we all understand the meaning of the phrase: “Go fly a kite!”

Go fly a kite! Verb See Go chase yourself! See also: fly

Go fly a kite!   (mainly American informal) – something that you say in order to tell someone who is annoying you to go away Go fly a kite! It’s just not funny anymore.

http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Go+fly+a+kite!

BLCF: kite warning

But flying a kite is not a trivial pursuit. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin used a kite, an iron key, a thin metal wire, and a Leyden jar to confirm that lightning was static electricity.

BLCF: Franklin Kite

Hargrave kites were used in the early 1900’s to carry weather instruments aloft.

BLCF: Hargrave_weather-kite

The Nares Life Kite was used to save sailors from stormy seas.

BLCF: Nares Life Kite

The Wright Brothers Flier, the world’s first heavier than air craft was developed on a design based on a large kite which carried the first human aloft.

BLCF: WrightBrothers1900Glider

And the world’s first suspension bridge across Niagara Gorge began with a kite flying contest.

The following kite article was posted on:

MEETING IN THE CLOUDS BLOG – by Angela (No Surname)

The Massive Bridge Started From A Kite String (Posted on June 27, 2014 )

 BLCF: Niagra_bridge_started_with_a_kite

Nearly 170 years ago, the mighty Niagara Falls, previously known only to the local Native Americans, was becoming the new tourism Mecca, but the only way to cross the imposing gorge was to go upstream and take a turbulent ride in a small ferry. A bridge spanning the gorge was envisioned to provide a highway over the gorge and allow commerce and people to pass more freely between Canada and the United States.

The Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge Company in Canada, and the International Bridge Company in USA were given the charter to build a bridge but leading engineers of Europe and North America quickly advised it could not be done.

Charles Ellet, Jr. was hired to construct the bridge. The building of a suspension bridge is commenced with stretching a line or wire across the stream. However, the turbulent roaring rapids, the 800-foot wide gap, and the 225-foot high sheer cliffs of the Whirlpool Gorge made a direct crossing impossible. Ellet and his colleagues held a dinner meeting at the Eagle Hotel in the Village of Niagara Falls, to brainstorm the problem. Ellet proposed the use of a rocket. A bombshell hurled by a cannon was also suggested. Local ironworker, Theodore G. Hulett suggested offering a cash prize to the first boy who could fly his kite to the opposite bank.

Ultimately the bridge engineer chose the idea inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s experiment with a kite. Organizing a kite-flying contest, he offered $5 to any boy who flew a kite across the gorge and secured the kite string to the other side. Youths from nearby towns flocked in to participate. 16-year-old Homan Walsh finally got his kite across the gorge and secured its line to a tree.

Using the kite line across the 800-foot chasm, Charles Ellet and his team tied a heavier line to the kite string and pulled the joined lines across. They pulled successive heavier and stronger lines across until the final bridge cable—7⁄8 inch thick—was hanging across the gorge.

He built a temporary suspension bridge as the first part of his plan. On January 31, 1848 the Buffalo Dailey Courier published this account; “We have this day joined the United States and Canada with a cord, and are making preparations to extend a foot bridge across by the first of June” 

Not long after, Ellet left the project after a bitter financial dispute with the bridge companies. A three-year hiatus followed before the companies hired John Augustus Roebling to complete the project. Roebling used Ellet’s bridge as scaffolding to build the double-decked bridge. By 1854 his bridge was nearly complete, and the lower deck was opened for pedestrian and carriage travel. On March 18 1855, a fully laden passenger train drove across the upper deck at 5 miles per hour and officially opened the completed bridge. This massive structure started with a kite string.

https://meetingintheclouds.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/this-massive-bridge-started-from-a-kite-string/

So while flying a kite may seem like a trivial pursuit, serving no practical purpose, we see that having faith in God is viewed by unbelievers in the same light.

Ezekiel 10:8-22 (ESV)

BLCF: ezekiel102

The cherubim appeared to have the form of a human hand under their wings.

And I looked, and behold, there were four wheels beside the cherubim, one beside each cherub, and the appearance of the wheels was like sparkling beryl. 10 And as for their appearance, the four had the same likeness, as if a wheel were within a wheel. 11 When they went, they went in any of their four directions[a] without turning as they went, but in whatever direction the front wheel[b] faced, the others followed without turning as they went. 12 And their whole body, their rims, and their spokes, their wings,[c] and the wheels were full of eyes all around—the wheels that the four of them had. 13 As for the wheels, they were called in my hearing “the whirling wheels.” 14 And every one had four faces: the first face was the face of the cherub, and the second face was a human face, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.

15 And the cherubim mounted up. These were the living creatures that I saw by the Chebar canal. 16 And when the cherubim went, the wheels went beside them. And when the cherubim lifted up their wings to mount up from the earth, the wheels did not turn from beside them. 17 When they stood still, these stood still, and when they mounted up, these mounted up with them, for the spirit of the living creatures[d] was in them.

18 Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.

20 These were the living creatures that I saw underneath the God of Israel by the Chebar canal; and I knew that they were cherubim. 21 Each had four faces, and each four wings, and underneath their wings the likeness of human hands. 22 And as for the likeness of their faces, they were the same faces whose appearance I had seen by the Chebar canal. Each one of them went straight forward.

Footnotes: a. Ezekiel 10:11 Hebrew to their four sides b. Ezekiel 10:11 Hebrew the head c. Ezekiel 10:12 Or their whole body, their backs, their hands, and their wings e. Ezekiel 10:17 Or spirit of life

What does this passage, which describes a vision of a creature having the face of an eagle mean?

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Ezekiel 10:8-22

BLCF: Ezekiel_10

Ezekiel sees the working of Divine providence in the government of the lower world, and the affairs of it. When God is leaving a people in displeasure, angels above, and all events below, further his departure. The Spirit of life, the Spirit of God, directs all creatures, in heaven and on earth, so as to make them serve the Divine purpose. God removes by degrees from a provoking people; and, when ready to depart, would return to them, if they were a repenting, praying people. Let this warn sinners to seek the Lord while he may be found, and to call on him while he is near, and cause us all to walk humbly and watchfully with our God.

http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=26&c=10

BLCF: kite_before_sunset

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #355: I’m Pressing on the Upward Way

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):   

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: go-fly-a-kite_header

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

Standing by Faith on Heaven’s Table Land

BLCF: alpha and omega2

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘’Standing by Faith on Heaven’s Table Land’ 

© November 17, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 17, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #611 (Comfort from God – Isaiah 40); Prayer

Opening Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Today’s Bible Verses:

Jeremiah 40 (ESV) Jeremiah Remains in Judah

40 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord after Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he took him bound in chains along with all the captives of Jerusalem and Judah who were being exiled to Babylon. 2 The captain of the guard took Jeremiah and said to him, “The Lord your God pronounced this disaster against this place. 3 The Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said. Because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey his voice, this thing has come upon you. 4 Now, behold, I release you today from the chains on your hands. If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you well, but if it seems wrong to you to come with me to Babylon, do not come. See, the whole land is before you; go wherever you think it good and right to go. 5 If you remain,[a] then return to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon appointed governor of the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people. Or go wherever you think it right to go.” So the captain of the guard gave him an allowance of food and a present, and let him go. 6 Then Jeremiah went to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah, and lived with him among the people who were left in the land.

                                Jeremiah 41(ESV) Gedaliah Murdered  

41 In the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah, 2 Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him rose up and struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor in the land.           3 Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there.

4 On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before anyone knew of it, 5 eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord. 6 And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come in to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” 7 When they came into the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and cast them into a cistern. 8 But there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Do not put us to death, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he refrained and did not put them to death with their companions.

9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael had thrown all the bodies of the men whom he had struck down along with[a] Gedaliah was the large cistern that King Asa had made for defense against Baasha king of Israel; Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain. 10 Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.

11 But when Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. 13 And when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him, they rejoiced. 14 So all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 16 Then Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him took from Mizpah all the rest of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, after he had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam—soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, whom Johanan brought back from Gibeon. 17 And they went and stayed at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt 18 because of the Chaldeans. For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.                                                                                                                 

   Footnotes: a. Jeremiah 41:9 Hebrew by the hand of

                      Jeremiah 42:1-17 (ESV) Warning Against Going to Egypt

42 Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near 2 and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” 4 Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: 10 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. 11 Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. 13 But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. 17 All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.

Let us pray…

Our lesson today comes from Jeremiah, Chapters 41 and 42 tell the story of the assassination of Gedaliah, the ruling governor, by Ishmael while dining together at Mizpah. In Jeremiah Chapter 40, we read that Gedaliah was forewarned by Johanan the son of Kareah, who had learned that the Amorites had approached Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to kill the governor. Not only did Gedaliah refuse to heed Johanan’s warning, but accused him of telling lies. Gedaliah’s misplaced trust in Ismael was a fatal decision.

So who were the Amorites who arranged the assassination of Gedaliah and why?

Let’s check our Wiki bits for a historical backdrop to Gedaliah’s death:

The term Amorites is used in the Bible to refer to certain highland mountaineers who inhabited the land of Canaan, described in Genesis 10:16 as descendants of Canaan, son of Ham. They are described as a powerful people of great stature “like the height of the cedars,” (Amos 2:9) who had occupied the land east and west of the Jordan. The height and strength mentioned in Amos 2:9 has led some Christian scholars, including Orville J. Nave, who wrote the classic Nave’s Topical Bible to refer to the Amorites as “giants.”[7]

The Amorite king, Og, was described as the last “of the remnant of the Rephaim” (Deut. 3:11). The terms Amorite and Canaanite seem to be used more or less interchangeably, Canaan being more general and Amorite a specific component among the Canaanites who inhabited the land.

The Biblical Amorites seem to have originally occupied the region stretching from the heights west of the Dead Sea (Gen. 14:7) to Hebron (13:8; Deut. 3:8; 4:46-48), embracing “all Gilead and all Bashan” (Deut. 3:10), with the Jordan valley on the east of the river (4:49), the land of the “two kings of the Amorites,” Sihon and Og (Deut. 31:4; Josh. 2:10; 9:10). Both Sihon and Og were independent kings. These Amorites seem to have been linked to the Jerusalem region, and the Jebusites may have been a subgroup of them. The southern slopes of the mountains of Judea are called the “mount of the Amorites” (Deut. 1:7, 19, 20).

Five kings of the Amorites were first defeated with great slaughter by Joshua (10:10). Then more Amorite kings were defeated at the waters of Merom by Joshua (Josh. 11:8). It is mentioned that in the days of Samuel, there was peace between them and the Israelites (1 Sam. 7:14). The Gibeonites were said to be their descendants, being an offshoot of the Amorites that made a covenant with the Hebrews; when Saul would break that vow and kill some of the Gibeonites, God sent a famine to Israel.

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

It seems that the Amorites were embittered by how the people of Israel were treated by the king of Babylon. Some were released from captivity, including Jeremiah, with others left in the care of Gedaliah at Mizpah. Johanan the son of Kareah brought a force to free those captured by Ismael and to avenger the murder of Gedaliah. But Ismael had managed to escape and Johanan and other leaders now feared their own deaths at the hands of Ismael and decided to flee to Egypt. They sought out Jeremiah, God’s prophet, for approval of their plan:

  “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.”      – Jeremiah 42:2-3 (ESV)

In Verse 4 of Jeremiah 42, we read Jeremiah’s response:

 “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.”   – Jeremiah 42:4 (ESV)                    

And then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us. 6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.” – Jeremiah 42:5-6 (ESV).

It sounds like Johanan and the others had already decided on a plan of action, without first seeking God’s approval, and now sought God’s approval after the fact. We get the impression that rather seeking the Lord’s direction; they wanted God’s rubber stamp approval to their plan. Funny how some of the so called faithful seem to behave that God is subject to their beck and call, rather than the other way around!  Lack of trust and faith in the Lord can result in fear and distrust.

This Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of another assassination of a leader. I recall clearly after lunch going to my locker at Sam Rayburn Jr. High in San Antonio, and my friend John approached and said that the President had been shot. I told him that he should be doing something better than going around the halls of the school telling sick jokes. After all President Kennedy was popular with many of the youth. Ironically, my dad, Harry L. Mickelson, was a television news editor for KENS-TV, a CBS Network outlet in San Antonio, Texas had a sound on film interview with President Kennedy the day before he was killed in Dallas. Among other things, Kennedy indicated that he planned to pull the US troops out of Viet Nam by the middle of1964. This interview was filed away in the tombs of KENS and was never broadcast because of the events that happened the next day. Like Gedaliah in Jeremiah’s time, Kennedy was a leader who showed compassion particularly to the disenfranchised:

7 When all the captains of the forces in the open country and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land and had committed to him men, women, and children, those of the poorest of the land who had not been taken into exile to Babylon, 8 they went to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, Johanan the son of Kareah, Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, Jezaniah the son of the Maacathite, they and their men. 9 Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid to serve the Chaldeans. Dwell in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. 10 As for me, I will dwell at Mizpah, to represent you before the Chaldeans who will come to us. But as for you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and store them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have taken.” 11 Likewise, when all the Judeans who were in Moab and among the Ammonites and in Edom and in other lands heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant in Judah and had appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, as governor over them, 12 then all the Judeans returned from all the places to which they had been driven and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah at Mizpah. And they gathered wine and summer fruits in great abundance. – Jeremiah 40:7-12 (ESV)

The 1960’s were quite a turbulent time in the history of the United States. The first Roman Catholic was elected President, and was assassinated. The same fate happened to his brother, Robert Kennedy, as he ran for the same office as his brother, as well as Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King. Racial riots and anti-war protests all were part of a turbulent period in US history not unlike last year’s Arab Spring or the Second American Revolution. Echoes of the same sentiments may be heard by radical political groups today.

Last Sunday, I spoke how the poppy symbolizes the brave sacrifice of the soldiers who died in battle. And while the battle may have been won, sadly war continues with killing of soldiers and innocents in violation of God’s laws. God sanctioned the death of only one man, his son Jesus, who died to atone for our sins, for our transgressions. And as Jesus had been resurrected by the power of the Spirit, believers who confess to have sinned and accept the sacrifice of Jesus, are given the assurance of forgiveness, the covenant of the resurrection from death, and the gift of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. As believers, the expectation from God is to follow His direction and to honour and glorify Him as Lord in our lives.

This is not what happened with the Johanan and the leaders, who dishonored  and demonstrated a lack of faith in the power and protection from God, by desiring to flee  to Egypt from the threat of Ismael, and by doing so turning away from God. Even though they said that they would abide by God’s reply, their decision to flee show an absence of trust in their God. As we see in Jeremiah 42:

7 At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, 9 and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: 10 If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. 11 Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. 12 I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. 13 But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God 14 and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, 16 then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. 17 All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them. – Jeremiah 41:7-17 (ESV)

God expects us to demonstrate faith and trust, particularly in times of adversity. He does not want us to revert back to our old life, as Johanan and the others had sought when they decided to ask Jeremiah to get God’s approval to flee into Egypt, a nation of idols, false gods and lack of faith in the one true God. And God made it clear that such action is an act of disobedience and breach of a covenant with the Lord, resulting in the death, which they fear.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, Jesus, we are held to a similar standard of faith and trust in the Lord. Jesus has promised us his kingdom and in return we must demonstrate to God worship that is acceptable, with reverence and awe.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #355: I’m Pressing on the Upward Way

Benediction – (Hebrews 12:28-29):

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,  for our God is a consuming fire.

BLCF trinity footer

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