Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives 2019

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives’

© May 5, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 5, 2019

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on September 28, 2014, and February 5, 2017

BLCF: bulletin-february-5-2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                        

Opening Hymn #55: For the Beauty of the Earth; Chorus

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

Responsive Reading #607 (Creator and Sustainer – Psalm 104); Prayer                                               

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                         ‘Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives’

Let us pray…

Today’s lesson at BLCF, we will have a look at surviving in the wilderness of life’s trials and tests with comfort and mercy from the Lord.

Recently, there has been on television, a number of popular “Reality Series” which document peoples’ ability to overcome the challenges of surviving in a hostile environment. While a working knowledge of survival skills is useful, the key to successfully meeting the challenges and tests in the wilderness rests in one’s attitude or their frame of mind.

But this morning, I would like to discuss what is meant by the “wilderness,” that is described in the Scriptures?

We find one definition of the wilderness, specifically in the region of Judaea, from the web site bibleplaces.com:

Judean Wilderness

Also known as Desert of Judah, Jeshimon, Midbar Yehuda, Wilderness of Judaea, Wilderness of Judah Place of Refuge.

Because of its lack of water and good routes, the Judean wilderness has been (mostly) uninhabited throughout history. Consequently it was an ideal place for those seeking refuge from enemies or retreat from the world. When on the run from King Saul, David hid in various places in the Judean wilderness (the Wilderness(es) of Ziph, Maon, and En Gedi are part of the Judean Wilderness).

John the Baptist preached here, and it seems likely that this was the wilderness where Jesus was tempted. Herod the Great built two fortresses (Herodium and Masada) in this area for protection should his people ever revolt against him.

http://www.bibleplaces.com/judeanwilderness.htm

So when Moses sojourned in the wilderness, he found more than a refuge from Pharaoh, as we find in Exodus 3:1 (ESV):

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

In Exodus 3, we have the account of God revealing Himself to Moses by way of a burning bush upon a mountain. God revealed to Moses His intention to free the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt. Moses was the key to the Lord’s plan, which included leading them through the same wilderness.

But why would God want His people, who suffered greatly at the hands of their Egyptian taskmasters, venture through the wilderness before reaching their “Promised Land”? To help us understand why let us look at another take on the usage of the term “wilderness” in the Scriptures, is that posted by Jeff A. Benner at ancient-hebrew.org:

Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings:
Wilderness ~ midvar
By Jeff A. Benner

For forty years God had Israel wander in the ‘wilderness’. Insights into why God had chosen the wilderness for their wanderings can be found in the roots of this word. The root word is ‘davar’ and is most frequently translated as a thing or a word. The original picture painted by this word to the Hebrews is the arrangement of things to create order. Speech is an ordered arrangement of words. In the ancient Hebrew mind words are ‘things’ and are just as ‘real’ as food or other ‘thing’. When a word is spoken to another it is ‘placed in the ears’ no different than when food is given to another it is ‘placed in the mouth’.

The Hebrew name Devorah (Deborah) means ‘bee’ and is the feminine form of the word davar. Bees are a community of insects which live in a perfectly ordered arrangement. The word ‘midvar’ meaning wilderness is actually a place that exists as a perfectly arranged order as its ecosystem is in harmony and balance. By placing Israel in this environment he is teaching them balance, order and harmony.

http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_wilderness.html

To recap, the trek of the Hebrew people was intended to help them become reacquainted with their God, with the wilderness as their school. But the balance, order, and harmony to be restored in the Lord’s people come with His promise of a pardon for all sins. As we see in Isaiah 40:1-5 (ESV), entitled:

                Comfort for God’s People

40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[
a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 40:2 Or hardship b. Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one crying

The Scriptures description of a voice crying out in the wilderness is echoed again by John the Baptist’s testimony in John 1:19-23 (ESV):

The Testimony of John the Baptist

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight[a] the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Footnotes: a. John 1:23 Or crying out, ‘In the wilderness make straight

The wilderness, where John the Baptist refers to himself as “voice in the wilderness” was prophesized by the prophet Isaiah, describing the restoration of balance, order, and harmony, as well as the promise of a pardon from sins, through Christ, Jesus. Jesus also had a wilderness experience immediately after he was baptized by the Holy Spirit, where the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-11(ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

We see that the devil tested Jesus by tempting him to satisfy his hunger; having God rescue him as he leaped from a high precipice; and then offering Christ all the kingdoms of the world if he would worship Satan instead of the Father in Heaven! It is interesting that all the temptations Satan offered Christ were refuted and refused with Jesus responding with Scripture that spoke of actions of obedience and faith.

All of us encounter at some time in our lives, the challenges of a “wilderness trek”, where Satan challenges our faith by tempting us in a time of adversity. And just as Moses and the Hebrew people, as well as Jesus, we can allow the experience to draw comfort, through God’s Holy Spirit, knowing that as believers in the Resurrected Christ, God has blessed us with His goodness and mercy, by our faith in the Lord.

Let us pray…

Communion (Institution of the Lord’s Supper) – Matthew 26:26-29:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn # 440: All the Way My Savior Leads Me

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):

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

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Does God Allow Suffering In The World and Why God Allowed Good Things Happen To Bad People?

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

© September 24, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 24, 2017

Based Upon a Message Originally Shared with BLCF on August 31, 2008

BLCF Bulletin August 31_08

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                     Opening Hymn #182: Marvelous Message We Bring; Choruses                      Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Responsive Reading #670: The Day of the Lord (from 2 Peter 3)                    Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Does God Allow Suffering In The World?’

Let us pray…

I would like to begin today’s lesson by reading the headlines of a few recently posted news articles:

Harvey, Irma, Jose, And Now, Maria — Is The 2017 Hurricane Season The Worst One Yet?                                                                           https://www.dogonews.com/2017/9/23/harvey-irma-jose-and-now-maria-is-the-2017-hurricane-season-the-worst-one-yet

Floods kill over 1,200 in India, Nepal and Bangladesh                              http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/floods-kill-1200-india-nepal-bangladesh-170826230610924.html

Third earthquake hits Mexico in September, this time of magnitude 6.8 https://globalnews.ca/news/3764935/earthquake-mexico-magnitude-6-8/

Everybody knows of someone has personally suffered a personal tragedy that has caused us to question our faith. Perhaps they have suffered such tragedy in their own lives.

In fact our Lord personally suffered to the point of death on the cross and just before his death, Jesus asked a question often spoken by others in the wake of tragic circumstances, Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

So through his son, God has experienced some an example of the human suffering that happens in the world to innocent people. Jesus was innocent of any sin, yet he died a horrific death.

Suffering and pain was not brought to this world by God, but as a result of disobedience to God. In Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV), we read:

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

We know the consequences of the temptation by the serpent and the consequences of disobedience to God is the judgment of death. And that Jesus took upon himself the punishment of death so that we may be good or sanctified unto God, if by faith we accept the  gift of salvation.

This verse from Genesis 2:17, helps us understand the consequences of disobedience to God. But how do we reconcile tragedies which occur to an innocent person or someone who has strong faith in God?

You may remember the story of Joseph, a son favored by his father, but seemingly forsaken by his God. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph rose to a position where he could have measured revenge upon his family.

Instead, Joseph showed them compassion and was instrumental in saving the Jewish people at a time of famine. God had a plan for the Jewish nation and it was implemented after Joseph endured much suffering.

In 1997, I experienced job loss twice within a year: once when corporate downsizing by my employer ended a 17-year term of and again when a four-month contract ended .

In our society we often tend to mistakenly identify who we are with what we do. And if our job is lost due a corporate take-over, we may feel that we have no value if our job falls-victim to a corporations restructuring.

That year of my life, I found to be a time of personal challenge to both my confidence and my faith. At that time of challenge, I found myself revisiting the Book of Job, which gives the account of a man of faith who was tempted and challenged, though he never allowed his circumstances to diminish his faith in God, as we read in Job 1:1-12 (ESV):

Job’s Character and Wealth

1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed[a] God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.

Satan Allowed to Test Job

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan[b] also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Footnotes: a. Job 1:5 The Hebrew word bless is used euphemistically for curse in 1:5, 11; 2:5, 9 b. Job 1:6 Hebrew the Accuser or the Adversary; so throughout chapters 1–2

Job was tempted over and over, by Satan. But Job never renounced his faith in God. Even Jesus was tempted by Satan and the Lord met the challenges with Scripture and the comfort of the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 3:16-4:17 (ESV)

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

The Temptation of Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,     lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,     the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness     have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,     on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16  Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17  Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

After a year of searching for employment, a head-hunter found my resume, which led me to being hired at a job, perhaps one of the best I ever had. At the time I recall my father remarking: ‘Sometimes good things happen to good people.’ This comment spoke volumes to me, as dad had seen that through my suffering I was faithful to my God and, as had happened gto Job, He did not allow me to endure more than I could bear.

In the years to follow, I would again be personally challenged three more times again by corporate restructuring and down-sizing. However, each time I kept my faith and the Lord provided for my needs.

Harold Kushner authored a book which made popular the phrase my father quoted to me, as Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner observes in aish.com:

Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi, followed precisely such an approach in his best-selling book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Few “Jewish” books in recent decades have had a greater impact upon those dealing with life’s personal tragedies. Kushner is regularly cited, in both the Jewish and non-Jewish media, as an expert on suffering and a variety of other ethical issues.

 Kushner came to the topic of suffering through a terrible tragedy in his family: He and his wife lost a young son to a particularly perverse degenerative disease – premature aging syndrome. He has thus paid a heavy price for the right to talk about suffering. Though we shall be very critical of Kushner’s conclusions, nothing we say should be seen as a personal criticism of him, or an attempt to in any way diminish the awful suffering he had to bear. It would be contemptible to pass judgment on another’s experience of a tragedy of such magnitude.

If we are critical of Kushner’s ideas, ¡t is only because he has offered his views to the public as a consolation to those suffering emotional distress or pain and as an authentic Jewish response to the problem of suffering. As we shall see, they are neither.

While Kushner is in some sense a believer in God, his own faith was severely tested by the prolonged agony that he and his wife endured. He felt the need to construct a theory that would reconcile his tragedy with Judaism’s belief in God’s benevolence.

 He concluded that to maintain his belief in God he must reject either God’s benevolence or His omnipotence. He chose the latter course. God, in Kushner’s view, created the world and provides the foundation of moral principle. But He cannot quite control the world He created. He hopes for our good and He sympathizes, as it were, with us in our pain, but He is powerless to do anything about it.

 As to why a God Who had the power to create the entire universe in the first place would create one that He is powerless to control, Kushner basically shrugs his shoulders and contents himself with noting that the world is relatively good for most people most of the time. We might designate this theory as “randomness plus God.”

Unable to understand why a good God would allow individuals to suffer, Kushner ends by neatly defining the question away. He cannot even conceive of the possibility of any understanding, and so concludes that we have no answers because there are no answers. Much of what happens ¡s nothing more than random chance. Pain and tragedy are a necessary consequence of a world over which God does not exercise complete control.

http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/why_harold_kushner_is_wrong.html

This illustrates the great danger to Christians who are challenged by personal tragedy and give in to the temptation to feel that they are victims of overwhelming circumstances beyond their control and that God has no power or interest in intervening, as God is aware in tragic circumstances, but content in strictly observing them.

If this were true, God would have not likely created Adam and Eve and would have never intervened through the messages of the prophets and God would have never have chosen to give us Jesus, to die for our circumstances. And further, God would not have allowed Jesus to perform his miracles, the most noteworthy being his resurrection from the grave or the gift of the Holy Spirit. As far as bad things happening to good people, this only happened once and He volunteered! And the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for our salvation indicates that God, through His Son, Jesus, provides the means for good things (our salvation) to happen to bad people (sinners – all have sinned).

In his publication, I Wonder Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, posted on the site day1.org, the Reverend Charles D. Reeb comments on the experience of H.G. Spafford:

H.G. Spafford had the following experience. In 1873, his wife and four children sailed from New York to France on an ocean liner. Mr. Spafford was unable to make the voyage with his family because of business commitments in Chicago. He told them goodbye, promising to meet them in France in a few weeks.

At two o’clock on the morning of November 22, 1873, when the luxury liner was several days out, ¡t was hit by another liner. Within two hours, the ship sank. Nine days later when the survivors landed at Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband these two words, “Saved alone.” When he received her message, he quickly booked passage on a ship to Europe to join his wife. On the way over, the captain called him into his cabin and said, “I believe we are now passing over the place where your family’s liner went down.”

Well, that night in the mid-Atlantic, filled with much pain and sorrow, Mr. Spafford wrote five stanzas, the first of which contained these lines:

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,                                                         

When sorrows like sea-billows roll,

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul!”

And these words have been a part of one of the most popular hymns in the church today. Little did Spafford know that his words would give comfort to so many people.  God turned his scar into a star.

We can’t control the fact that bad things will happen to us. They just do, and one day we will find out why. But the one thing we can control is how we respond to the bad things that happen to us. We can get bitter or better! We can stay angry at life and at God and never move on, or we can give our pain to God and allow him to do something beautiful with it. Then we’ll be able to say with confidence:

 I will be untouched in the midst of fire

I will stand firm in the midst of a storm

I will not crack in the midst of chaos

I will not lose heart when the world is torn

I will not fear when the heat blazes

I will not fret when drought comes

I will bear fruit in the midst of all of it

I will march to a different drum

I will discover victory in tragedy

I will trust in El Shaddai

I will laugh in the face of death

I will wave evil and pain goodbye

http://day1.org/955-i_wonder_why_bad_things_happen_to_good_people

Going back to Jesus’ words, we the Lord cried in pain and anguish atop of the cross in Mark 15:34 (ESV):

34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This leads us to explore why does God allow bad things to happen to good people, or perhaps we should ponder why, through the salvation of Jesus, we should ask ourselves: Why God Allowed Good Things Happen To Bad People? Quite an interesting thought!

In conclusion, I suggest we consider when happens, when force is applied to an egg: if the egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. But if an egg is broken from the inside, life begins. And by faith in the sanctification and the gift of the Holy Spirit inside of us, our new life begins.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #328: Anywhere with Jesus I Can Safely Go

Benediction – (Romans 12:2):

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

© April 2, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 2, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Opening Prayer

Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God; Choruses

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

 Responsive Reading #620: The Church (Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians)

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God’.

Most of us operate within lines, borders, or thresholds that separate an area where we want to live and function. But history records many such significant geo-political lines.

In 1493, Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI drew a line on the globe, where everything east was open to exploration and exploitation by the Portuguese, and all the lands west would go to the Spanish. This meant that the whole w4estern hemisphere, except Portuguese Brazil, would go to the Spanish. We know that the Danish, Dutch, English, French and Indigenous Peoples might not agree with this line.

And there are the lines drawn throughout history, including the battles, borders and walls. One US president gained fame for wanting to build a wall, while another for wanting to tear down another.

You may recall that Jesus drew lines in the sand when he suggested that whoever was without sin had the right to cast a stone of judgment and condemnation at an adulterous woman. In other words we should judge ourselves before we decide to judge others. And the sins of others do not justify our own and vice-versa.

But the problem here is not so much the existence of sin, that is a given, but how we able to avoid the temptation of crossing that threshold between avoiding a sin and committing it.

We find Jesus who had the distinction of both being God’s Son and a son of humanity, was not exempt from the temptation of sin. And just as happened in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, the devil, whose name is Satan, sought to tempt Jesus from his Godly mission in this world, as we read in Luke 4:1-13 (ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The influence of the devil’s influence is great and far-reaching. We see that no sooner is Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit and acclaimed by his Father in heaven, do we see the devil working at pulling our Lord across the threshold of temptation into sin.

And if Satan chooses to tempt God’s own Son, we should not be surprised that the devil would temp a disciple of Jesus, Matthew 16:13-26 (ESV):

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[c] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord![d]This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance[e] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades c. Matthew 16:19 Or shall have been bound… shall have been loosed d. Matthew 16:22 Or “[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!” e. Matthew 16:23 Greek stumbling block f. Matthew 16:25 The same Greek word can mean either soul or life, depending on the context; twice in this verse and twice in verse 26

You may recall that at the closing of the account where Satan tempted Jesus that the devil left Jesus for an opportune time. What better time than when Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and after the Lord blesses Peter, choosing him to be the rock upon which Christ will build His Church? Sure enough, Satan tries to tempt Jesus by placing the seeds of doubt in the mind of this elected disciple. It shows us that if Satan cannot tempt us directly, he will try to influence us through those whom we love and trust.

Some years ago, I worked for a company that chose to have its annual picnic at African Lion Safari. Employees and their families were allowed a discount for tickets to a catered lunch in an area in the park.

After lunch we were invited to participate in a tug of war with an elephant. I remember many of us strong and foolish participants took up a long rope marked by yellow tape. The first side to pull the rope across the line would win. Needless to say, the elephant won with little or no apparent effort pulling 20 strong individuals across the line.

That is the way of sin. We seem to have our lives and boundaries from sin securely protected by the imaginary an imaginary wall held together by the mortar of the strength of our own determination. And as if using the strength of some imaginary giant pachyderm effortlessly pulls us across the line.

It is only with the power of the Holy Spirit of God are we able to safely keep Satan’s temptations behind us and maintain the line from sin.

Let us pray…

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship "May Day" 2011 Communion Sunday

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

 Closing Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus

Benediction – Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives

BLCF: judean-desert-wide

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives’

© February 5, 2017, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on September 28, 2014

BLCF: bulletin-february-5-2017

BLCF: thank_God_trust_God

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Opening Hymn #55: For the Beauty of the Earth; Choruses                                 

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

Responsive Reading #607 (Creator and Sustainer – Psalm 104); Prayer        

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                

‘Finding God’s Comfort and Mercy in the Wilderness of Our Lives’

BLCF: Gods Mercy is greater - animated

Let us pray…

For today’s lesson at BLCF, we will have a look at surviving in the wilderness of life’s trials and tests with comfort and mercy from the Lord.

Recently, there has been on television, a number of popular “Reality Series” which document peoples’ ability to overcome the challenges of surviving in a hostile environment. While a working knowledge of survival skills is useful, the key to successfully meeting the challenges and tests in the wilderness rests in one’s attitude or their frame of mind.

But this morning, I would like to discuss what is meant by the “wilderness,” that is described in the Scriptures?

We find one definition of the wilderness, specifically in the region of Judaea, from the web site bibleplaces.com:

Judean Wilderness

BLCF: voice in the wilderness

Also known as Desert of Judah, Jeshimon, Midbar Yehuda, Wilderness of Judaea, Wilderness of Judah Place of Refuge

Because of its lack of water and good routes, the Judean wilderness has been (mostly) uninhabited throughout history. Consequently it was an ideal place for those seeking refuge from enemies or retreat from the world. When on the run from King Saul, David hid in various places in the Judean wilderness (the Wilderness(es) of Ziph, Maon, and En Gedi are part of the Judean Wilderness).

John the Baptist preached here, and it seems likely that this was the wilderness where Jesus was tempted. Herod the Great built two fortresses (Herodium and Masada) in this area for protection should his people ever revolt against him.

http://www.bibleplaces.com/judeanwilderness.htm

So when Moses sojourned in the wilderness, he found more than a refuge from Pharaoh, as we find in Exodus 3:1 (ESV):

BLCF: Moses-near-Mt-Horeb

3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

In Exodus 3, we have the account of God revealing Himself to Moses by way of a burning bush upon a mountain. God revealed to Moses His intention to free the Hebrew people from enslavement in Egypt. Moses was the key to the Lord’s plan, which included leading them through the same wilderness.

But why would God want His people, who suffered greatly at the hands of their Egyptian taskmaster, venture through the wilderness before reach their “Promised Land”?

To understand, let us look at another take on the usage of the term “wilderness” in the Scriptures, is that posted by Jeff A. Benner at ancient-hebrew.org:

Ancient Hebrew Word Meanings
Wilderness ~ midvar
By Jeff A. Benner

Judean Wilderness

                                 Judean Wilderness

For forty years God had Israel wander in the ‘wilderness’. Insights into why God had chosen the wilderness for their wanderings can be found in the roots of this word. The root word is ‘davar’ and is most frequently translated as a thing or a word. The original picture painted by this word to the Hebrews is the arrangement of things to create order. Speech is an ordered arrangement of words. In the ancient Hebrew mind words are ‘things’ and are just as ‘real’ as food or other ‘thing’. When a word is spoken to another it is ‘placed in the ears’ no different than when food is given to another it is ‘placed in the mouth’.

The Hebrew name Devorah (Deborah) means ‘bee’ and is the feminine form of the word davar. Bees are a community of insects which live in a perfectly ordered arrangement. The word ‘midvar’ meaning wilderness is actually a place that exists as a perfectly arranged order as its ecosystem is in harmony and balance. By placing Israel in this environment he is teaching them balance, order and harmony.

http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/27_wilderness.html

So the trek of the Hebrew people was intended to help them become reacquainted with their God, with the wilderness as their school. But the balance, order, and harmony to be restored in the Lord’s people come with His promise of a pardon for all sins. As we see in Isaiah 40:1-5 (ESV), entitled:

                Comfort for God’s People

BLCF: Will-of-God

40 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare[
a] is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:[b]
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 40:2 Or hardship b. Isaiah 40:3 Or A voice of one crying

But the Scriptures description of a voice crying out in the wilderness is echoed again by John the Baptist’s testimony in John 1:19-23 (ESV):

The Testimony of John the Baptist

BLCF: John-the-Baptist

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight[a] the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Footnotes: a. John 1:23 Or crying out, ‘In the wilderness make straight

BLCF: judean_desert

The wilderness where John the Baptist refers to himself as “voice in the wilderness” described by the prophet Isaiah, describing the restoration of balance, order, and harmony, as well as the promise of a pardon from sins, through Jesus. The Lord, also, had a wilderness experience immediately after he was baptized by the Holy Spirit, where the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-11(ESV) :

The Temptation of Jesus

BLCF: Satan Tempts Jesus

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

BLCF: map-judean-desert-temptation_jesus

We see that the devil tested Jesus by tempting him to satisfy his hunger; having God rescue him as he leaped from a high precipice; and then offering Christ all the kingdoms of the world if he would worship Satan instead of the Father in Heaven! It is interesting that all the temptations Satan offered Christ were refuted and refused with Jesus responding with Scripture that spoke of actions of obedience and faith.

All of us encounter at some time in our lives, the challenges of a “wilderness trek”, where Satan challenges our faith by tempting us in a time of adversity. And just as Moses and the Hebrew people, as well as Jesus, we can allow the experience to draw comfort, through God’s Holy Spirit, knowing that as believers in the Resurrected Christ, God has blessed us with His goodness and mercy, by our faith in the Lord.

Let us pray…

BLCF: Piasecki-LastSupper

Communion (Institution of the Lord’s Supper) – Matthew 26:26-29:

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn # 440: All the Way My Savior Leads Me

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):

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

 god-brings-you-to-it-and-through-it

David Over Goliath: A Victory of Faith

BLCF: david-vs-goliath

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘David Over Goliath: A Victory of Faith’

 © September 25,2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: September-25-2016

BLCF: God_Lord

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #602 (Divine Deliverance – Psalm 33) of Prayer; Prayer

Opening Hymn #255: Would You Be Free from the Burden

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

Today’s Scripture: 1 Samuel 17:1-54, (Additional Scriptures: Psalm 33:13-19, Matthew 4:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-31)

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service here at BLCF Church.

For our lesson this morning, we will discuss the contest between David of the People of Israel and Goliath the champion of the Philistines, described in today’s featured Scripture, 1 Samuel 17:1-54 (ESV). Because of the length of the passage, we cannot include the Scripture in today’s Bulletin and ask that you follow along in the pew Bibles.

David and Goliath

BLCF: david-and-goliath

 17 Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim.And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered, and encamped in the Valley of Elah, and drew up in line of battle against the Philistines. And the Philistines stood on the mountain on the one side, and Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with a valley between them. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six[a] cubits[b] and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail, and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels[c] of bronze. And he had bronze armor on his legs, and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. And his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons. In the days of Saul the man was already old and advanced in years.[d]13 The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem. 16 For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.

17 And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers an ephah[e] of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. 18 Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them.”

19 Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. 20 And David rose early in the morning and left the sheep with a keeper and took the provisions and went, as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the encampment as the host was going out to the battle line, shouting the war cry. 21 And Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. 22 And David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage and ran to the ranks and went and greeted his brothers. 23 As he talked with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.

24 All the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were much afraid. 25 And the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel. And the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.” 26 And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”27 And the people answered him in the same way, “So shall it be done to the man who kills him.”

28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 29 And David said, “What have I done now? Was it not but a word?” 30 And he turned away from him toward another, and spoke in the same way, and the people answered him again as before.

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock,35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

38 Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, 39 and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine.

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath[f] and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron. 53 And the people of Israel came back from chasing the Philistines, and they plundered their camp. 54 And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.

Footnotes: a. 1 Samuel 17:4 Hebrew; Septuagint, Dead Sea Scroll and Josephus four b. 1 Samuel 17:4 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters c. 1 Samuel 17:5 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams d. 1 Samuel 17:12 Septuagint, Syriac; Hebrew advanced among men e. 1 Samuel 17:17 An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters f. 1 Samuel 17:52 Septuagint; Hebrew Gai

BLCF: david-and-goliath-bible-story

 

I would like to make some observations with respect to the account of David versus Goliath. It is clear that Goliath was a very tall individual, over 6 cubits tall. A cubit being approximately 18 inches, which makes the Philistine warrior over 9 feet or 270 cm feet. To understand the size of Goliath’s frame, we read that the weight of his chainmail coat was some 125 lbs. or about 56.7 Kilos!

Goliath, acting as a champion for the Philistine army, challenged the army of Israel to provide a champion so that the two champions would fight to the death. The people of the victor would find the people of his opponent surrendering to enslavement to the victor.

While members of the army of Israel, fled in fear from the Philistine giant, young David,  a juvenile who was deemed to be too young and small to join the ranks of the army of Israel, was outraged by the offensive remarks made by Goliath against God. He sought to answer Goliath’s challenge to Israel by volunteering to his people’s champion in the contest.

BLCF: the-battle-belongs-to-the-Lord

 

The key part of this passage is  1 Samuel 17:31-37 (ESV), where David acknowledges that God delivered him from the lion and the bear, and God will deliver him from the hand of Goliath:

31 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. 32 And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock,35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”

When King Saul heard of David’s remarks about the challenge, he had young David brought before him. But when the King saw the conviction of faith in young David, he granted the request,saying “Go, and the Lord be with you.” Saul’s comment about God going to battle with David reveals both Saul and David shared a strong faith in the power of God to protect the champion for God’s chosen people, Israel.

We see that David refused the armor and weapons offered by Saul as he had not tested or trained with them, choosing instead, to face his opponent armed solely with a sling, five smooth stones from a nearby brook, and confidence that the Lord will deliver him.

And after David arrived at the place of combat between the two armies, we see the two combatants exchange words, 1 Samuel 17:41-47:

41 And the Philistine moved forward and came near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 And when the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was but a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance.43 And the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

David’s victory over an enemy of God’s chosen people, the People of Israel, was a victory of faith and trust that God. For it is only the supernatural power of God, given as faith’s reward, not any earthly weapon or tool, which enables us to defeat the devil, sin and death, as we see in Psalm 33:13-19 (ESV):

BLCF: keep_calm_power_in_name_of_jesus

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.

The eye of the Lord was upon David, who came upon the field of combat, not as a king or might warrior, but a humble shepherd. David was chosen because of his great faith, not because of his physical strength, stature, or soldering experience. King Saul could have searched, and possibly found a giant warrior in his ranks to battle Goliath. But a victory by a similar sized warrior of similar stature to Goliath would likely have been credited to human skill or weapons.

Not only was David, a young shepherd, with no experience as a warrior, but with an abundance of faith in God, who deftly demonstrated how the Lord empowers the meek to defeat those who oppose Him.

Another example of God electing to demonstrate His power through a humble personage is our Lord, Jesus,  the Son of God, who was born in a modest stable, arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey, washed the feet of his disciples as an example of his ministry, and  surrendered his life in payment for the judgment of the sins of humanity.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we know Jesus was tested by the devil immediately after his baptism where he received the Holy Spirit, Matthew 4:1-11 (ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

BLCF: even_Jesus_was_tempted

 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Jesus fought the devil’s  temptation of both body and spirit, using the Word of God to defeat the devil.

Just as David used a faith in God, along with sling and a pebble, to defeat a mighty opponent, Goliath, which in turn led to the defeat of the Philistine army, Jesus used the Scriptures to defeat a greater foe, the devil. David used a sling to fire pebbles that were smoothed in a natural stream by the hand of God, not in the forge of man. The victory came from God’s supernatural power given in reward to David’s stalwart faith.

The Word of God has power, when spoken by a believer, but is perceived as foolishness to those lacking faith, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (ESV):

 Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

BLCF: Power-of-God

 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[a] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[b] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[c] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[d] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 1:21 Or the folly of preaching b. 1 Corinthians 1:26 Greek according to the flesh c. 1 Corinthians 1:29 Greek no flesh d. 1 Corinthians 1:30 Greek And from him

Only God can enable a young shepherd armed with a sling and pebble and heart of faith defeat a giant opponent and ultimately an army.

In the same manner, God empowers his son, Jesus, to overcome the judgment of death for all believers, defeating the devil’s plan to bring death and destruction upon humanity. The key word in this statement is believers, who have unconditional faith in the unconditional love of God.

Faith in Christ gives us a victory over the devil, over the judgment for sin. Faith in the Lord rewards believers with the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit and a victory over death by the promise of eternal life, our own resurrection, and life eternal on the day Jesus returns.

Let us pray…

BLCF: holy-spirit-as-power

Closing Hymn #225: Standing on the Promises

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):                                                                            

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

BLCF: david-goliath

Christian Stewardship: Cherishing the Godly Gift

BLCF: STEWARDSHIP

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Christian Stewardship: Cherishing the Godly Gift’

© November 1, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

Based On a Message Shared at BLCF September 6, 2009

BLCF Bulletin November 1, 2015

BLCF: Gifts-of-Grace

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #600 – Christian Stewardship (Psalm 24 and 50, Haggai 2, Leviticus 27, Proverbs 3, Malachi 3, Matthew 22, 2 Corinthians 9, 1 Peter 4); Prayer                                  

Opening Hymn #58: This Is My Father’s World; Choruses                                            

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

Today’s Scriptures: John 3:16, Luke 10:27, Luke 16:1-13, Luke 4:1-13  

Let us pray…

As we conserve daylight by changing our clocks for daylight Savings Time, today’s lesson is about conserving and stewardship of God’s gifts to us.

A wise man once said: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion.” This is quite a profound statement. But what is meant by the statement: “It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It’s a lot easier to make a dream a delusion”, especially with respect our faith, our walk with Jesus?

In World War II, we have the account of a wine steward who was responsible for caring for the finest collection of wine in all of Europe, which was kept in the wine cellar at the Chateau of Monaco.  At that time in history, the chateau was well known for its vintage, rare wines.  But the Nazis had overrun the city and now lived and dined in the chateau, expecting and wanting to drink the world’s finest vintage wines.  The wine steward resented those “slime Nazis” and cleverly and carefully hid all the rarest of wines deep in the cellar, serving his enemy only the cheapest and youngest wines, pretending that those wines were the best.  Stewards are people who care for precious property that is not their own, often preserving it from disaster. Though we may criticise the steward for not being lack of candor with the Nazi invaders, we can commend his desire to protect the valuable possessions with which he was entrusted.

Luke 16:1-13 (ESV) The Parable of the Dishonest Manager

BLCF: stewardship-are-managers_of_Gods_gifts

 1He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. 2And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ 3And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

 10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Footnotes: a.Luke 16:6 About 875 gallons b.Luke 16:7 Between 1,000 and 1,200 bushels c. c.Luke 16:8 Greek age d. d.Luke 16:9 Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions; also verse 11; rendered money in verse 13

So what is the message given to us here? It is a message of stewardship, a message of trust, and a message of care for something valuable which has been entrusted to your care.

Author Jack Kelley, in an article written for Grace Through Faith, helps us to better understand what Jesus wants us to understand. Kelly states:

The key in understanding the parable is to know whether the manager is acting on behalf of his master (The Rich Man) when he reduces the debts that the debtors owe his master. Luke 16:3 indicated he was. The manager says this, “My master is taking away my job.” Note the tense of the verb. The Rich Man did not fire him on the spot! He was in the period of time his master gave him to “give an account of your management” (Luke 16:2). The creditors were under the impression that the Rich Man was the one being generous with them and lowering the amount they owed him.

The shrewd manager was hoping the creditors would welcome him into their homes and give him hospitality if and when he lost his job and was in need. He was hoping the creditors would honour the messenger who gives them good news. Notice that it is the Master who commends the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly (Luke 16:8). The Rich Man had two choices:

The first was that he could expose the dishonest manager for acting independently of his wishes and tell his creditors they still owed the full amount of their bills. If he does this he would appear selfish and greedy (even though it would be within his rights).

The second was to let the actions of the manager stand and receive the praise given him by his creditors (and no doubt others within the community) for his generosity. He would learn from his mistake of allowing the manager, of whom he was suspicious, to act on his behalf. Next time he would fire someone on the spot.

Jesus follows up the parable with a challenge to those who follow him to be creative in their use of worldly wealth for eternal purposes! He contrasts “worldly wealth” with “true riches” (Luke 16:11). Jesus does not confuse the two. He concludes with the warning that no one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Money at the same time. You can only have one master. If money is your master then God cannot be. If God is your master then you should use your wealth in a manner that honors God. That is the point of this parable.

A manager is being fired by his master. Told to bring the books into balance before turning them over for a final accounting, he faces a serious situation. He’s too old for manual labour and too proud for welfare, so he asks his master’s debtors to come in and review their accounts with him. In private meetings he has the debtors write down their accounts to a more favourable amount. In so doing he earns points with both the debtors and his master. How could this be?

It was against Mosaic Law for Israelites to charge one another interest on credit extended, Deuteronomy 23:19 (ESV)

19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest.

Many merchants got around this restriction by overcharging for goods and services, taking excess profits in lieu of interest. (You can see a current example in the auto business. That 0% financing you got is really a loan whose interest is paid by the manufacturer out of excess profits added to the price of vehicles specifically for the purpose of funding such incentives.)

The manager had apparently dealt unfairly with the master’s debtors, tacking on excess profits in lieu of interest. From the story, there’s no indication the master either instigated or condoned any over-charging. Its discovery may even be one of the reasons for the manager’s sudden loss of position. Perhaps he was using these add-ons to compensate for the losses of which he was being accused.

Pretty Shrewd, Isn’t He?

Since the master commended the manager’s shrewdness in writing down the accounts, it’s hard to imagine he was being cheated in these dealings even though the Lord calls the manager dishonest. More likely, in settling with the debtors the manager was deducting the excess profits he himself had tacked onto their accounts, earning the gratitude of the debtors and the admiration of the master.

If so, his efforts resemble those of today’s Orthodox Jews during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, frantically going around to right all the wrongs they’ve committed against others in the preceding 12 months. They’re working to retain their place in the Book of Life before it’s closed for another year, simultaneously reconciling themselves to their friends and neighbours while getting back into God’s Good Graces.

Christians don’t need to work to get back into God’s Good Graces. Our names cannot be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life. But our willingness to ask forgiveness of someone we’ve wronged is more than an attempt at reconciliation. It’s an indication of the contrition in our hearts, a measure of our repentance for the sins that we have committed.

It takes a lot of hard work to make a dream reality. It is easier to make a dream a delusion if we are willing to sacrifice some of our integrity in the process, as was the case of the parable found in today’s lesson. The manager felt it was easier to deceive his master as well as those indebted to his master, than to confess to both, his wrong doing.

Jesus often told such parables to clarify a point of faith. The parable had faith based moral theme or lesson which can help us learn what God expect us to do in certain circumstances, as Stewards of God’s treasures, often in stark contrast to the way a non-Christian would behave under the same circumstance.

So what exactly what treasure has God entrusted us with?

1 Peter 4:10-11 (ESV)

BLCF: Christian-stewardship

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

And let us not forget God’s most precious gift, His Son Jesus. Our faith in this gift is the reward of eternal life.

The Bible Says in, John 3:16 (ESV) – For God So Loved the World:

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

And how does Jesus want us to take care of his treasure? His instructions are clear, Luke 10:27 (ESV):

 BLCF: heart-of-Jesus

27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”

You and I are entrusted with God’s love. And God only asks that we freely accept his gift and faithfully give that love back to both God and to our neighbour. In order to make our gift acceptable, God sacrificed Jesus for our sins and make our faith acceptable in God’s eyes.

In the Parable in today’s lesson, Jesus said: “Turn in an account of your stewardship.  Give me a record of how you are handling the responsibilities that I have entrusted to you.” 

Jesus continues, “I have discovered that people who are faithful in the little things are faithful in the big things.  The person who is not faithful in the little things is not faithful in the big things.  The person who is faithful in both the little responsibilities and the big responsibilities, I will give even more to that person.  The person who is not faithful in the little things and not faithful in the big things, I will relieve that person of all responsibilities. To whom much is given, much is required. If you are not faithful with the little things of life, such as money, then who will entrust you with true riches?

When the Pharisees heard this, they scoffed at Jesus because they were lovers of money.

But stewardship is not about that narrow slice of life we call offerings to the church or that narrow slice of our time, talents and treasures that we give to church.  Stewardship is taking care of the precious gifts and people that God has entrusted to us and that is what I would like to talk about today.

The root of steward is the Greek word, oikos”, which means house.  Stewardship is taking care of household matters. A related word is oikonomics” from which we get the word, “economics:” Stewardship is taking care of money matters that God has entrusted to us. Still another related word is “oicology” from which we get the word “ecology”.  Stewardship is taking care of the earth that God has entrusted to us.

None of what you own truely belongs to you:  your clothes, house, furniture, pets, toys, plants, or family.  None of it belongs to you.  Can you take it with you when you die?  Of course not!  It’s not yours.  Everything in life belongs to God who entrusts you and me to care for these precious possessions.

Each of us has been made stewards of Gods treasures.

A Pastor who is hired by the Board and Members of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is expected to minister to the needs of the congregation through preaching, teaching, visitation and leadership that is both glorifying to God and which nurtures the spiritual growth of the congregation in a Christ-like manner.

Most churches entrust the care of their properties to trustees of the Bloor Lansdowne church properties. It is their responsibility to protect the church properties from those who may seek to use the Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Church and St. Helen’s properties for their own glorification and not for the glorification of God.

It is the responsibility of the Church Board at Bloor Lansdowne to see that the money spent is spent wisely and in a manner that glorifies God’s by building or edifying the faith and spirit of those who believe or seek God in the community of Bloor Lansdowne. The Board must ensure that God’s funds are not for the glorification of any person or group of people. Our church is facing hard financial challenges, which may require hard financial decisions to ensure that our church continues to exist, let alone be relevant in this community.

Your Church Elders are responsible to ensure that what is said, what is planned, and what is acted in the name of B.L.C.F., is said, planned and acted in a manner that is glorifying to God as well as showing love and respect to others within the church. For like that manager in the parable if any of what we say, plan, or  act is done in a manner to deceive God, who is the Master, cannot be tolerated and must be acted upon by the Elders. And so in the same manner anything said, planned or done which is hidden from others in the church is viewed with the same contempt by our Father in Heaven.

And as a congregation, we are stewards of our faith to God, this church (which is God’s house and His people), and to each other, as Jesus had commanded in John 3:16 and Luke 10:27. As stewards of God’s gifts, each of us are responsible to grow in faith to God, by trusting God, and showing Gods love by the way we treat one another. We are expected to demonstrate our support the church, both spiritually and financially.

But you may ask: why do the Pastor, the Trustees, the Board, the Elders, and the Congregation not just have faith and pray to God to provide for the means to take care of the church? My answer is while it is true that as Christian believers we must practice our faith through prayer, understanding His Word, and trusting God. We must remember what happened to Jesus immediately after he was convicted by the Holy Spirit:

Luke 4:1-13 – The Temptation of Jesus

BLCF: Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)

 

 1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8And Jesus answered him, “It is written,     “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”

 9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written,     “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’                        

11and

 “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”

 12And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 13And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The lesson from this passage from Luke is no matter what our position and line of responsibility as stewards of Gods church here at Bloor Lansdowne, we cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by Satan into putting the Lord our God to the test in matters that God has entrusted us to take care of. Each of us should think, speak and act as faithful and trustworthy stewards providing for the church in a manner that is honourable and glorifying to God and loving and respectful to one another. Just as Christ had a mission to be the Word Made Flesh, we have a mission to be good and faithful Stewards of the Faith.

Let us pray…

That is how we keep the flavor of our salt and project the light of Lord to others, to His glory so that we may be blessed, be happy in the Lord!

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

 Communion

BLCF: Communion_Sunday                                                                                                                                              

Benediction – (1 Peter 4:10-11): As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

BLCF: God-says-trust-me-i-will-show-you-psalm126-6