Blessed Quietness in the Storms of the Soul

BLCF: Spiritual-war-wave-vs-light

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Blessed Quietness in the Storms of the Soul’

© April 10, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin April 10, 2016

Sparling_2_4_1_08, 4/3/08, 12:25 PM, 8C, 9324x10101 (0+1252), 117%, Custom, 1/50 s, R16.1, G8.2, B15.3

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #650 (Trials and Temptations – from James 1 and 1 Peter 1); Prayer                                         

Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain; Choruses                             

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

Scriptures: Leviticus 11:4-8; Mark 4:35-41; Mark 5:1-20; Mark 7:14-30

BLCF: Jesus_calms_the_storm

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and worship Service. This morning’s lesson, Blessed Quietness in the Storms of the Soul, will examine the two types of storms or challenges to our faith and salvation, often encountered by followers of Christ. These challenges may be thought of as being either internal or external in nature, or more precisely viewed as having characteristics that are mostly of a mental/emotional nature or existing in the physical environment.

We have a good example of the physical/external threat in the Scripture passage found in Mark 4:35-41(ESV), entitled:

Jesus Calms a Storm

BLCF: Jesus calms the sea

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

BLCF: Jesus_Apostles-17

Jesus and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, sailing from Capernaum south and east to the Region Gerasenes. The Sea of Galilee, also described as a large long lake, similar to Ontario’s Lake Nipissing, being subject to the effects of the prevailing winds which generate large rolling waves. These storms can be sudden and unpredictable, posing a threat to even moderately size vessels.

BLCF: Jesus-troubled-man

The storm described in Mark 4 was so severe, that they threatened to swamp and sink the vessel. Fearing for their lives, the disciples woke Jesus, who was sleeping upon a cushion located at the bow of the boat.

Jesus rebuked the wind and commanded the sea to be at “peace” and to “be still”.

Jesus then turned to his disciples asking them why they were so fearful and questioning why they were still lacking in faith’

It was almost as if part of the reason for the cruise was to test the faith of the disciples in the face of the threat of a great storm and affording the Lord with an opportunity to demonstrate that he was in fact the Son of God.  Jesus brought peace and calm by giving commands to these elements of nature to become calm, Mark 5:1-20 (ESV):

Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon

BLCF: freedom

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.[a] And when Jesus[b] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

BLCF: herd-of-pigs

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed[c] man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus[d] to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

Footnotes: a. Mark 5:1 Some manuscripts Gergesenes; some Gadarenes b. Mark 5:2 Greek he; also verse 9 c. Mark 5:15 Greek daimonizomai; also verses 16, 18; elsewhere rendered oppressed by demons d. Mark 5:17 Greek him

 

Leviticus 11:4-8 (ESV)

BLCF: clean_unclean_food_chart

Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.

 Mark 7:14-30 (ESV) What Defiles a Person

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.”[a] 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?”[b] (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.”

Jesus is neither telling anybody that what you eat or drink. is unimportant. nor whether or not you should wash your hands. He is challenging the legalism of behavior professed by the Scribes and Pharisees, which they used as a criteria of judging “the faith” of others.

What really matters is our faith for God, not whether we observe a set of rules disguised as expectations from on high.

 

The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith

BLCF: Annibale_Carracci,_Cristo_e_la_Cananea,_1595,_Parma

24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.[c] And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Footnotes: a. Mark 7:15 Some manuscripts add verse 16: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear b. Mark 7:19 Greek goes out into the latrine c. Mark 7:24 Some manuscripts omit and Sidon

As born-again believers in the resurrected Christ we must turn away from old beliefs and habits that do not glorify God or edify the body of believers. If we do find some aspects of our Christian walk that is not in line with Christ’s Commandments, like the son who said that he would not work for his father and then changed his mind, we too can change by the grace of our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #192: Joys Are Flowing Like a River (Blessed Quietness)                     

Benediction – (1 Peter 5:10-11):  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

 

BLCF: SIN-CAN-DEFILE-MANY-BIBLE-QUOTES-HD-WALLPAPERS-HEBREWS-12-15-spreadjesus.org

 

A Secure Faith That Sustains Through Trial and Temptation

BLCF: Faith3

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘A Secure Faith That Sustains Through Trial and Temptation’

© October 18, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin October 18, 2015

BLCF: building_a_secure_faith

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #650 (Trials and Temptations – James 1 and 1 Peter 1); Prayer                                      

Opening Hymn #224: How Firm a Foundation; Choruses                                          

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

Today Scriptures: Genesis 3:8-24, Job 1:1-12, 1 Peter 2:18-23   

BLCF: Faith

 

 Let us pray…

Our lesson today looks at how we are able to deal with the suffering caused by life’s tests and temptations depends upon how well prepared we are.

When I was a young student in school, I used to dread tests and exams. This dread was usually directly proportional to the importance of the test to the final mark in the subject.

My problem with tests and exams was resolved by how I prepared for them. The first step in my preparation was to understand what the purpose of test, which was often related to subject, involved.

For example, tests in subjects such as spelling, basic arithmetic and history usually required a simple memorization, or learning by rote, of  terms, tables, events, dates, peoples, and places. I found that with these subjects requiring memorization of facts and figures, that repetition is the key to being prepared, and a review the night before was often beneficial.

Higher levels of related subjects would call an understanding and application of the rules of grammar, mathematical equations and formulae, and understanding the effects of ethnic, social, political, and economic change upon various peoples on a national or global scale. Exercises that included the application of the rules throughout the term helped me to understand and prepare for tests in these subjects.

The true test of our education comes with the practical application of what we have learned to address the challenges and problems that we face in reality. How successful we are meeting these real life tests and resolving our problems often depends how faithful we were in our preparation before we are tested.

In our faith walk, we find that there are many accounts of people being tested and suffering throughout The Scriptures. In order to understand these tests and how we may apply them to resolving our own tests and sufferings, we must first understand their purpose.

In our first Scripture, we encountered the suffering that came as a result of God’s judgement upon Adam and Eve, as well as all of humanity, because of sin,

Genesis 3:8-24 English (ESV):

BlCF: AdamEveCastOut

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[a] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[b] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,     

cursed are you above all livestock     

and above all beasts of the field;

on your belly you shall go,     

and dust you shall eat     

all the days of your life.

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,     

and between your offspring[c] and her offspring;

he shall bruise your head,    

 and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;     

in pain you shall bring forth children.

Your desire shall be for[d] your husband,     

and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife     

and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,     

‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you;     

in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;     

and you shall eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your face     

you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,     

for out of it you were taken; for you are dust,     

and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.[e] 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:8 Hebrew wind b. Genesis 3:9 In Hebrew you is singular in verses 9 and 11 c. Genesis 3:15 Hebrew seed; so throughout Genesis d. Genesis 3:16 Or against e. Genesis 3:20 Eve sounds like the Hebrew for life-giver and resembles the word for living

God decreed that Adam and Eve, as well as all generations their offspring would be separated from the paradise of Eden, no longer having a close relationship with God, and subject to hard labour, pain of childbirth, shame, self-loathing, and ultimately, death. These judgements and sufferings come as a punishment for sin.

We find another account of challenges and tests, this time when God permitted the devil to inflict tests and suffering upon Job, the Lord’s faithful servant. The testing was meant to show whether faith comes from prosperity and when prosperity is removed, faith will also disappear. Satan was permitted to bring suffering upon Job, to the point of death. Job 1:1-12 (ESV):

Job’s Character and Wealth

BLCF: Job2

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

BLCF: Satan Before the Lord by Corrado Giaquinto, c. 1750

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

We know that Job’s faith passed the tests and his trust in his Lord was rewarded with God restoring Job to being more prosperous than before when the testing began.

Which brings us to the third type of suffering found in the Bible,  which we find is described in 1 Peter 2:18-23 (ESV)?

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

As followers in Christ, we may expect to suffer unjustly for their faith. Like Job, we can expect Satan to bring testing and suffering upon us, though we do not deserve it. However, unlike Job, through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are graced with the company of the Holy Spirit to allow us to endure our suffering. Both Adam and Eve had to endure the shame and hardship wrought by their sin. And while Job kept his faith, he did not have the benefit of the presence of the Holy Spirit to help him endure the pain and suffering inflicted upon him by Satan.

On the front of today’s Bulletin you will read that while we may be accused and punished unjustly, we may take comfort and have peace that God is with us through the Spirit, Romans 5:1-5 (ESV):

Peace with God through Faith

BLCF: Romans-5-1-justified-by-faith-green_

5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith[b] into this grace in which we stand, and we[c] rejoice[d] in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Footnotes: a. Romans 5:1 Some manuscripts let us b. Romans 5:2 Some manuscripts omit by faith c. Romans 5:2 Or let us; also verse 3 d. Romans 5:2 Or boast; also verses 3, 11

As believers in the gift of Christ, we may rejoice in our pain and suffering, without the worry of Job or the shame of Adam and Eve, but with the comfort and hope brought to us by the Holy Spirit, secured in faith in the knowledge that we may endure any test we may endure. If we deserve it, faith in Christ makes it undeserved. The Sprit brings us comfort and joy having the understanding that God will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us unblemished in His presence.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #252: O Soul, Are You Weary and Troubled?

Benediction: – (1 Peter 5:8-10):

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

 

BLCF: 1Peter.5.8-SatanIsOurEnemy

Overcoming Temptation

 BLCF: James_4-7

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Overcoming Temptation’ 

© June 29, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin June 29, 2014 

Originally Published Sunday August 15, 2010

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #650 (Trials and Temptations – James 1 and 1 Peter 1); Prayer

Opening Hymn #63: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name; Choruses  

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

Today’s Scriptures: Genesis 3:12-13 and Matthew 4:1-11

BLCF: temptation 

 

 

Let us pray…

The Scriptures indicate that as believers in the resurrected Christ, we may anticipate three kinds of trouble or challenges in our walk as Christians.

The first type of challenges to Christians includes: discipline, judgment or rebuke from the Lord. Though it is true that having confessed our sins, accepted salvation through Jesus Christ we are exempt from the judgment of death for our sins that does not mean that we are exempt from conviction by the Holy Spirit for unGodly thoughts, words or deeds we do as believers, however we must confess our sins.

In 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV), we read:

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The second type of challenges to Christians includes: tests, trials, persecutions and sufferings. These challenges may cause the believers to experience anything from minor teasing for our faith to extreme suffering, sometimes death, typically at the hands of non-believers, who feel they must attack believers to justify their lack of faith.

It is interesting in researching this message how many web pages and sites were dedicated to attack or persecute the Christian believer, saying: “if you claim to be a follower of Christ, then prove it by demonstrating the power of your God-given gifts by performing a miracle!” This is a very dangerous proposition, for it implies that the gifts of the Spirit may be used like a circus side-show or magician’s trick for the amusement and entertainment of others. A perfect example of this second challenge was the temptation Satan threw at Jesus which is found in today’s bulletin. Here we read Jesus’ reply in Matthew 4:7 (ESV):

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

While such tests do not come from God, they may be used by the Holy Spirit to grow our faith or the faith of others. The testimony of how we should react to these tests and suffering is illustrated in 1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV):

12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

In today’s lesson, I will be speaking on the third type of challenge or trouble that Christians face: that of temptations or attacks from the enemy, Satan. Such temptations from Satan are real and are evident next door, at the Paradise Strip Club. It is perfect example of what Martin Luther meant when he said:

 “For where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.

luther

Martin Luther

Club Paradise exists to promote lust of the flesh and the exploitation of women and the Devil conducts services there every single day of the week.

First let me point out that, as believers in Christ, there is no sin if you experience temptation from Satan. Satan is the enemy, and knows our weaknesses. He knows which of our buttons to push, where we are vulnerable, and edeaveavours to tempt us away from God’s authority in our lives. The potential of sin from a temptation occurs in our response to the temptation: Do we give in to the temptation, and sin?

BLCF: avoid_temptation

 

Christian Author Oswald Chambers describes temptation in this way:

“A man’s disposition on the inside, i.e., what he possesses in his personality, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of that nature. Every man has the setting of this own temptation, and the temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition.”

BLCF: garden-of-eden-first-sin 

 

Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan with the promise of possessing the knowledge of God, in discerning good from evil, demonstration a lust or desire to become like God, an account is given in Genesis 3, starting with verse 1 (ESV):

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

BLCF: Genesis 3

 

 8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

That was the beginning of the Fall of Mankind from God’s Grace. Like children sometimes do when they have done something wrong, Adam and Eve felt guilty and hid themselves. But they could not hide from God. Seeing themselves naked, Adam and Eve became ashamed and covered themselves which we see starting in Genesis 3:12.

12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Not only did Adam and Eve feel shame and guilt, they attempted to behave crafty like Satan and place the blame on someone else for their own actions. Adam blamed Eve and even God by saying (in Genesis 3:12):

The woman whom you gave to be with m, she gave me the fruit and I ate”.

Eve behaving no better, put the blame on Satan (verse 13):

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

This is why, in order to receiver God’s Blessing of Salvation, we must confess our sins, and don’t blame our spouse and don’t blame the Devil. For the sin is not the temptation, it is how we react to it. Do we resist the temptation? And if we give in to the temptation, do we accept responsibility for doing so? It is not uncommon to be tempted, as we read in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):

13No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

BLCF: Joseph_resists_temptation 

We see this in the story of lust of the flesh. Joseph, who was tempted by the wife of Potiphar’s wife we find in the Bible, Genesis 39, staring with verse 1:

 1Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

 7And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

11But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.  

Joseph’s resisted his master’s wife by physically removing himself from temptation. Sometimes the best way to handle problems is to walk away from them. Walk away from lust, from a conflict, from a situation that creates strong emotion which may cause us to act on impulse and break God’s commandments.

My son, Johnathan, played hockey for a number of years, as a defenseman. Many times in the game, he would be challenged by a player on the opposing team to respond to an illegal check or hit, where the intention was to get him to retaliate and get a penalty. Johnathan’s response was to skate away from a situation which would hurt him and his team. It gets tougher for some players, when both friends and family encourage a player to take the low road the penalties for a lack of control, when tested.

Which brings us to Job, who was tested and tormented by Satan, where Job’s friends and his wife, both tried to get him to deny God, or at least to blame God, for the circumstances of the death of his children; the loss of his wealth and livestock; and the boils on his body. But Job remained steadfast in his faith, as we see in Job 1:22 (ESV): 

22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Unlike some “fair-weather Christians”, Job not only resisted temptation to sin against God, he acknowledged God in bad circumstances as well as  the good, Job 2:10 (ESV): 

10 Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”

BLCF:Job1-21

 

In all  of his trials and tests Job did not sin with his lips. Job refused to renounce God and he refused to blame God for what has happened to him. He kept his faith in the Lord. This should be the path we take when we experience trying times. We are reminded to keep the faith, for God does not tempt us, as we read, again, in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):

3No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

But some non-believers argue: what kind of God allows the faithful to suffer as Job had? The Bible has an answer to this challenger inHebrews 2:18 (ESV):

18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Often, our suffering tempers us for future challenges and enables us to help others to cope with similar circumstances.

BLCF: ilya-repin-get-behind-me-satan-1895

 

The proof that temptation is common not only to men and women, you may recall that immediately after Jesus, who was sinless, had been baptized by John and had the Holy Spirit come upon him, that Christ was immediately tempted by Satan in the wilderness, as was described in Matthew 4:1-11 (ESV):

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, “’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and 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.'” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,”‘You shall worship the Lord your God   and him only shall you serve.'” 11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

When Satan tempted Jesus, he appealed to three things: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. First he challenged Jesus, after a 40-day fast, to use his powers to make food and satisfy his fleshly needs. Next, he challenged Jesus to look at the world from a high place and offered him dominion over all he saw. Finally, he tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from a tower, saying that surely, as God’s son, he would be saved – which was an appeal to pride.

Three aspects of the temptation are worth noting. First, that Satan had attempted to beguile or fool Jesus through the use of scripture, which Jesus not only discerned as a trick by putting God to the test. Second, that Jesus responded to Satan’s twisting of the scripture with the correct use of the Word of God. And third, Jesus acknowledged God’s authority over all, including Satan and rebuked the Devil by telling him to leave. Satan did leave, which tells us who really the master of both Heaven and earth is: our Lord Jesus!

BLCF: God's_Word_like_a_Lion

 

Just as Jesus responded, when tempted in the wilderness, we must be prepared to resist temptation by being prepared by studying and knowing the Bible, so as to discern when Satan is attempting to fool us. On the topic of Biblical Discernment, in his book, “The Best of the Christian Research Journal, Whose Ethics? Whose Morals?,author Hank Hanegraaff writes(Page90):

“Often it is difficult to determine what is true and what is false in a world that offers a puzzling array of solutions across abroad spectrum of belief systems, most of which contradict each other and, as such, underscore the critical need for Christians to develop godly discernment. Discernment is a word that appears fairly often in the Bible (1Sam:32-33, 1Kings 3:10-11 and 4:29; Psalm 119:66; Proverbs 2:3; Daniel 2:14; Philippians 1:9).

Colossians 2:8, similarly, reads:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principals of the world, rather than according to Christ”

Because so many facts, claims and opinions are being tossed about, Christians need to develop discernment to avoid being taken captive by false ideas. These distortions of the truth, often appear in the form of fallacies. A fallacy, by definition, is a mistaken idea, an error, or a flaw in reasoning. Examples are:

  • The fallacy of “Equivocation”: the use of vague terms, as used by cults. Cults will twist a truth to make it suit their purposes.
  • The fallacy of “Card Stacking”, that is the selective use of evidence. There may be more facts to an argument than are stated.
  • The fallacy of the “Red Herring”, use of a tangent to distract an opponent from the issue in question.

 

Satan is well-versed in the use of faulty reasoning to attempt to trick us into rationalizing actions which are contrary to God’s laws. And rationalizing such behavior gives Satan control of our lives.

BLCF: cs-lewis-quote

 

Christian Author C.S. Lewis once said:“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is…You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.”

 

As you can see C.S. Lewis draws an interesting conclusion, that only believers are tempted, as non-believers readily surrender readily to temptation. In a sense, temptation is not being dealt with by non-believers. It just does not exist in their reality. Non-believers do not have a faith in God, from which they may be tempted.

 

BLCF: Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)

 

So no test, trial or temptation comes from God which we read in James 1:13-15 (ESV):

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Again, we are reminded that God does help us through difficult times in our lives, as we are again reminded by 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):

 3No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

 BLCF: be_careful_sin

 

In conclusion, how we overcome temptation from Satan goes hand-in-hand with the strength of our faith and trust in the Lord. It is our trust in the Lord or our belief that he will eventually deliver us from the challenges or stumbling blocks that Satan places in our path. The graphic on the back out today’s bulletin reminds us that:

Satan knows your name, but calls you by your sin; while God knows your sin, but calls you by your name.

 

BLCF: Satan_knows_But_God_knows

 

The fact that we, as believers, will suffer temptations is a given. If we prepare ourselves by reading on scripture, avoiding conflicts and snares that Satan uses to draw us away from God’s path, we may resist the Devil. Our faith and trust in God allows us to have confidence that we will not suffer more than we can endure. Our reliance on the power of both prayer and the Holy Spirit, carries us through life’s challenges. This helps us to grow our confidence and faith in God. As the Apostle Paul put in Romans 8:36-39 (ESV):

36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

BLCF: dead2sin

 

 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor 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.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

BLCF: praying_hands_albrecht_durer

 

Benediction (Luke 11:2-4):

2Our Father which art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

3Give us day by day our daily bread.

 4And forgive us our sins;

For we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.

And lead us not into temptation;  

 But deliver us from evil .                                                                                                        

– Amen  

 BLCF: enforce-victory

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

              ‘Steadfast in Faith and Sanctified in Times of Distress’ 

 © August 18, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

                             BLCF Bulletin August 18, 2013     

Call to Worship Responsive Reading #650:

‘Trials and Temptations’  (James 1 and 1Peter 1)

   BLCF Church: Trust God                                                        

Let us pray…

For his birthday a week or so ago, our younger son, Jeffrey was asked where would he like to dine out. Jeffrey chose to go for a Chinese Buffet for the family celebration. Along with the bill, we were given the traditional fortune cookies. Now I don’t take much stock in fortunes or horoscopes, but my cookie opened to reveal a message that was more profound than just a fortune, as it read: “In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends.”  Such was the story of Job, where Satan challenged God that the faith of Job was a result of his prosperity and it would soon evaporate once Job faced adversity.

The book of Job is considered by most Biblical scholars to be the oldest of the scriptures and Job was believed to be the wealthiest man of his time. It documents the story of this faithful servant of God, who was tested to the point of death by Satan, Job 1:1-12 (ESV):

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

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

You may recall that Job lost wealth, family and suffered personal afflictions. His friends told Job that the Lord was punishing him for some sin or transgression committed either by Job or a member of his family. Even Job’s wife told her husband that she suffered almost as much as Job. Except for her health, she too lost everything: home, family, and possessions. Her attitude and response exactly matched the one Satan had set out to evoke from Job – that of cursing God. How ironic that Satan seemed to have achieved his goal with Job’s companion, though not with Job.

Did Job’s wife realize that she had surrendered to Satan’s manipulative scheme? Did she feel her loss so great that she didn’t care that she was wrong? Or did she respond to her calamity merely in a fit of emotion, which later passed, taking her bitterness with it? We don’t know the answer to any of those questions. All we know is that she responded just as most people would likely have under similar circumstances: she got angry at God and insisted that Job do the same.

We know that Job’s story ended in Job being restored to health, wealth, and family. But the question arises: “for what reason did God have to allow Satan to test his obedient and faithful servant?” Were the Lord and Satan involved in some idle chess game, with Job as a pawn?  I believe that the Lord had several reasons for allowing Job to be tested by Satan.

Satan challenged God, indicating that Job’s faith was the result of the hedge the lord has built around Job. The Lord allowed Satan to take away Job’s wealth and family, in short, to remove the so-called hedge that Satan had claimed were the reason for Job’s faith. The toughest part for Job was the fact that Job had sensed to some degree that the Lord had distanced himself from a person who had demonstrated steadfast trust and faith in God, (Job 23:3):

Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! 

David, too, had undergone a period of similar testing, (Psalm 22:1):

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?                                                           

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

And even though Satan, may have his way at times, the key to making it through the snares and traps that the devil sets is to maintain our trust in the Lord, having the faith that He will rescue us from our predicament, (1 John 5:19):

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

And in Psalm 31:14-15, David maintains his faith:

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies 
and from my persecutors!

 

trust-in-the-lord

 

Not only, did Job and David go through similar tests, at some point, each had experienced a separation from God, but Jesus too was left alone in his suffering on the cross at Calvary, Matthew 27:46:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 

In order to suffer the full weight of the judgment and punishment for our sins, Jesus had to be abandoned by God. Was this really necessary? We see in Isaiah 53:4-6:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The lesson taught by Job’s test by Satan was meant not only for our benefit but also as a lesson to the heavenly hosts (angels).  It taught both the angels and us, that faith does not come from having worldly wealth, but the wealth of the Spirit. Remember Satan was once an Angel, who had fallen from grace by rebelling against God’s authority.

You may recall in John’s gospel, that as soon as Jesus had received the Holy Spirit, he was tested by Satan in the desert. The reason why Jesus suffered, unlike Job, was to atone for our sins and to show us an example of obedience and faith to the Father in Heaven, 1Peter 2:21-24:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

While we demonstrate our faith and trust in the Lord, he offers in return, his promise of salvation and sanctification by way of the suffering of Jesus on our behalf.

We see that Job was allowed to suffer, to teach us and the heavenly host where faith should be based, and how much faith we might need, by bringing us salvation and sanctification from the Lord. We are also given through Jesus, the promise of eternal life and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

But what about suffering today, particularly amongst the innocent? Does God have a plan in that suffering?

Paul Paraskevopoulos

Paul Paraskevopoulos

I have shared with some of you about my brother-in-law, Sophie’s brother, Paul Paraskevopoulos, who passed away almost two years ago after a short, unexpected illness. Paul was brain injured in childhood, having been run over by a truck. His injuries left Paul with the intellectual capacity of an 8-year-old. Even though mentally and physically challenged and being confined to a wheelchair in the last decade of his life, Paul was generally a happy soul, enjoying many of the simpler things in life.

I recall a few years before his passing, a time when Sophie and I were called into the hospital, as Paul had suffered from a kidney and blood infection which had a very poor prognosis. Paul was not expected to survive the night. I recall having a concern about Paul’s faith walk, whether he had made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as personal Saviour? I knew, as a youth, Paul had attended church with his siblings and later with some of the staff from West Park Hospital. My fears about Paul were dispelled when upon our arrival at Paul’s hospital room, before either Sophie or I had said hello, Paul opened his eyes and spoke: “You know that Jesus is in my heart. I love Jesus.” I knew that Paul was right with the Lord.

Paul eventually recovered from that illness in 2008 but passed away a few years later. Although he was not able to speak the last time I had arrived to see Paul in the hospital, I had the assurance that he was still right with the Lord.

It was not until Paul’s funeral, that I had the opportunity to fully understand why Paul was allowed to suffer so much.  Our family was moved to see that some forty or so support staff, as well as doctors and nurses,  attended Paul’s funeral. The impact Paul had upon this extended family was quite apparent. Paul was loved and appreciated by his caregivers as much as by his family.

At the memorial, I shared some of the happier times with Paul, as well as the story of Paul’s faith and testimony. At the cemetery, a staff member who had returned from her vacation to attend Paul’s funeral approached the family and shared a story about how Paul was at a get together that was recorded on video. And in the middle of the video, Paul broke into a chorus of “He Is Able” for the camera. It was then I realized that the staff was aware of Paul’s faith. That is faith had shown through his personality, and that many staff members had listened and learned from Paul’s testimony, where they may not have otherwise listened.

God had a plan and a purpose with Paul, as we see that both family and staff had learned through the simple childlike faith of a child in a man’s body can, the Holy Spirit had enabled Paul, as a believer in the Resurrected Christ, to maintain a happy, positive outlook in spite of a life of injury, suffering and pain. Though God did not cause of Paul’s predicament, still the Holy Spirit was able to teach others that through faith the believer is able to rise above his or her circumstances, and thus provide living testimony to others.

Paul Paraskevopoulos between Steve and Sophie Mickelson

It is interesting that Satan plans to destroy the believer’s faith when ‘bad things happen to good people’ fails, when the Holy Spirit allows the faithful to endure   adversity and distress, and empower them to become a living testimony which if far more powerful than words alone as we read in Isaiah 54:10:

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Though a man of strong faith and love for his God, Job was subjected to pain and suffering. Still, Job’s faith was steadfast and unwavering. Job demonstrated that faith will bring us through adversity. And if we keep our faith and trust in God, we may rest assured that we will be restored, sanctified and blessed. Let our faith rest in Jesus, who was tested and suffered greatly, yet maintained faith, trust, and love for his Father in heaven. As our Saviour, the Lord is our example that we may overcome suffering, pain, death and the testing of Satan.  For Jesus demonstrates the rewards of faith are the gift of sanctification, the promise of resurrection from death, and the comfort by way of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine

Benediction (James 1:12):  Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – Amen

Trusting God