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

Bible Joshua Rahab River

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© March 9 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin March 9, 2014

 

BLCF:trusting_God's_will

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #642

(Call to Consecration – Romans 12); Prayer

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

Scripture Verses: Joshua 6:2-20 and James 2:14-26

Joshua 6:2-20 (ESV)

BLCF:Joshua_Martin

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

BLCF:battle_of_Jericho

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

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

JerichoWalls7Priests

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

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

 

BLCF: Women-of-Valor-Rahab          

                                                     

Let us pray…

 

A short while ago, Sophie and I watched a television broadcast of the 2010 of the Karate Kid movie.  This remake had some script changes from the earlier version of the movie starring Jadan Smith, as the student, and Jackie Chan playing the teacher.

BLCF: wax on, wax off

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

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

BLCF: Jaden_Smith_Jackie_Chan_Karate_Kid

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

The only people of Jericho to survive were those in the household of Rahab, a prostitute who gave shelter and safety to messengers that were sent by the Lord.

BLCF:Rahab

Some of you may recall a message that I shared here at BLCF a few years ago about the healing of Naaman, a Gentile, who was Commander of the army of the King of Syria. Naaman was afflicted with Leprosy, is described in the fifth chapter of 2 Kings. A servant girl who was captured from the people of Israel and served in commander’s household told the Commander’s wife that she believed that the God of Israel could heal Naaman of Leprosy.

BLCF: servant_speaks_to_Naaman's_Wife

Elisha, a prophet of Israel, refused to touch, anoint, touch or even speak to Naaman, instead sending a servant to deliver a letter, instructing the Syrian Commander to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times.

Initially, Naaman was infuriated that Elisha had refused an audience with him and that he was told to bathe in the Jordan River instead of a river in Syria, so he stormed away. But Naaman was convinced by his servants that Elisha was a  mighty prophet of God, reminding their master that he was promised to be healed, if he followed Elisha’s directions. Eventually, Naaman did follow the instructions and was completely healed of his affliction.

BLCF: 2Kings5

 

We see with both actions, one which destroyed Jericho and the other, being the healing of an affliction, are examples of how God rewards obedience and faith. It is interesting to note that Joshua and Naaman, each, were instructed to repeat an action seven times.  Fortunately, both Joshua and Naaman did not quit after completing only six repetitions, electing instead to faithfully follow their instructions to the end. In both accounts, we see how the repetition of seemingly insignificant actions such as marching in circles or bathing in a river, can have miraculous consequences when God is involved. And also interesting is how God’s Glory is revealed through the faith demonstrated by a servant girl and a prostitute. How marvelous that a leper, who does not have the birthright of the people of Israel, may receive God’s blessing for actions that demonstrate a faith and trust in the Lord!

But why were Joshua and Naaman instructed to repeat their action seven times? After all, would doing such action one time be enough to satisfy God? Is there any significance to seven repetitions asked of Naaman and Joshua? To understand the significance of the number 7 in the Holy Scriptures, let us look to an excerpt from biblestudy.org:

 

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

BLCF: Seven in the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

  God gave a seven-fold blessing to Abraham:          

                    Seven-fold blessing Abraham received from God

BLCF: God's Promises to Abraham

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

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

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

Psalm 12:6 (ESV)

BLCF: Covenant_through_Christ

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

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

Psalm 12:6 (CEV)

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

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

BLCF: God's_Promises_New_Covenant

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

What was God’s 7 part Covenant with Israel?

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

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

Then follows the seven-fold blessing: –

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

BLCF: MiraclesofJesusChrist

 

And the number seven has relevance found in the seven miracles described in John’s gospel of the New Testament:

What are the 7 miracles written about in the gospel of John?

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

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

BLCF:Jesus'_miracles

And then there are the seven miracles performed by Jesus on the SABBATH:

What were the 7 miracles Jesus performed on the SABBATH?

Seven miracles wrought by Christ on the Sabbath day: –

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

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

But even though the Scriptures indicate that the number seven is significant, it is the combination of faith and action that is important. So in the accounts of Joshua and  Naaman, which is more important, the action or the faith? James indicates that both are important:

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

BLCF: faith and work together

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

BLCF: unbalanced

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

Footnotes: a. James 2:16 Or benefit

BLCF: balanced

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

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

BLCF: trials

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: Jesus-example

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

BLCF Christ_among_people_e_wang

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #225: Standing on the Promises

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

BLCF: HOPE

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Walking on Water: An Act of Religion or Faith?

BLCF: Jesus walks on the water

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday

Walking on Water: An Act of Religion or Faith?

©October 27, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 27, 2013

 Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 18, 2010

BLCF: Apr 18_2010 Bulletin

BLCF Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading ##669 (The Lord’s Servant – 2Timothy2 & 3r of Prayer);r of Prayer Prayer                                              

 Opening Hymn #287: My Faith Has Found A Resting Place

Let us pray…

The title for today’s lesson is entitled: ‘Walking on Water: An Act of Religion or Faith,’ poses the question as whether our response to the calling of the Holy Spirit is an act of religion or of faith.  But before we explore this question, let us talk about the terms religion and faith, as defined by the Wiki bits database, better known as Wikipedia.

 Religion and Faith (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia):

 The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith, belief system or sometimes set of duties;[1] however, in the words of Émile Durkheim, religion differs from private belief in that it is “something eminently social”.[2]                                                                                                                       

Faith is confidence or trust in a person, thing, deity, or in the doctrines or teachings of a religion or view (e.g. having strong political faith). The word faith is often used as a synonym for hope, trust or belief.

In religion, faith often involves accepting claims about the character of a deity, nature, or the universe. While some have argued that faith is opposed to reason, proponents of faith argue that the proper domain of faith concerns questions which cannot be settled by evidence.    

Footnotes/References:  1.Kant, Immanuel (2001). Religion and Rational Theology. Cambridge University Press. p. 177. ISBN 9780521799980  2. Émile Durkheim|Durkheim, E. (1915) The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. London: George Allen & Unwin, p.10.    

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith#Faith_in_world_religions

I differentiate the two, by viewing religion as being an overt expression of rituals and expressions of an individual’s faith. And faith is part of the spiritual component of any religion. While it is possible to study and practice the Christian religion, such practices absent of faith or belief in Christ are futile and meaningless. It is interesting that faith gives substance to our religion. Or as expressed so eloquently in the book of Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) with the subheading, By Faith:

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 And we have two perfect examples of the power of faith to overcome water as a danger was told in the two Bible accounts read today. From the Old testament, we read in Genesis, Chapter 6, how the Lord gave specific instructions to Noah, with respect to the construction of the ark, including the materials gopher wood covered in pitch, as well as the dimensions, how many decks and its cargo, both animals and food stuffs.                                    

Genesis 6:13-22 (ESV)      

13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh,[a] for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.[b] Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits,[c] its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits.     16 Make a roof[d] for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.”

22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.                                                                                                               

Footnotes: a. Genesis 6:13 Hebrew The end of all flesh has come before me b. Genesis 6:14 An unknown kind of tree; transliterated from Hebrew c. Genesis 6:15 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters d. Genesis 6:16 Or skylight      

And in Matthew, Chapter 14, we have the New Testament account of the apostle Peter, asking by Jesus command, to allow him to join the Lord on a walk upon the stormy Sea of Galilee. The Lord identifies himself and assures those in the boat to take heart and not to be afraid, where Peter replies: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Peter then joins the Lord on the water. All is well until Peter realizes where he is standing, gets distracted by thinking about the nature of his actions rather than how is able to do such a miraculous act. In other words, Peter loses faith and sinks into the water, and to which the Lord comments: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

This portion of Scripture gives an account of the power of faith and the consequences of an absence of faith.

  Matthew 14:22-32 (ESV):  Jesus Walks on the Water   

 22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

Another example of a faithful response to a command from the Lord is recorded in Exodus 7:1-13 (ESV) entitled:

Moses and Aaron Before Pharaoh 

   

7 And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”

 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.      

Our other Bible verses in today’s bulletin are accounts of water as well but as a source of life and means of sustaining life.

You may recall last week’s message, how in Exodus, Chapter 17 the people of Israel, having seen and benefited by the power of God to bring water from a stone,  as witnessed through the actions of  Moses and Aaron, acts of faith and obedience to His instructions to free them, still complain of their thirst to Moses. Exodus 17:1-7 (ESV):

Water from the Rock

17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

 4 So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”

And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah[a] and Meribah,[b] because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”                                                                                                                             

Footnotes: a. Exodus 17:7  Massah means testing b. Exodus 17:7  Meribah means quarreling

So in spite of the complaints from the congregation of Israel, Moses faithfully follows Gods directions to extract water from a stone, though he names the place Massah and Meribah, which means testing and quarreling.

And in spite of this and all the previous acts of faith which were answered by the providence of God, the people again complain and quarrel to Moses as we read in, Numbers 20:1-12 (ESV):

The Death of Miriam  

20 And the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. And Miriam died there and was buried there.

 The Waters of Meribah        

2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. 3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! 4 Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”

6 Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces.

And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.”

9 And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

 Moses Strikes the Rock       

10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.

12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

So why did Moses and Aaron, faithful and trusting servants of God, appear to receive such a severe punishment as not being allowed to enter into the land the Lord promised?   

Let us review the acts of faith we have seen so far in response to directions from God:

Genesis 6:22 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. 

Exodus 7:6  6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 

Matthew 14:22-32  28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

We see in Genesis 6, Exodus 7 and Matthew 14, the Lord giving a command and the faithful response resulting in a miracle.

And in Numbers 20, Moses initially does what the Lord commands:

Numbers 20:9  9 And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

But then Moses deviates from God’s instructions by adding his own personal words and opinions to an act of Providence, and instead of speaking to the rock he chastises those assembled: 10 Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”  And Moses deviates further from God’s directions by striking the rock twice instead of speaking to the rock:

11 And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.

Moses was a man with a temper, as he threw down the tablets of God’s commandments when he descended from the mountain and found the people of Israel had returned to the pagan life of worshiping the golden calf and other idols.

Even though God provided the water requested, the Lord was not pleased that Moses had changed His instructions in order to taint an act of Divine Providence. Moses was upset over the return of the people’s bickering and quarreling. God had not told Moses to address this aspect of their behavior. Moses had placed his personal desires above faithful obedience and had abused the power and authority entrusted to him by the Lord, as we see in Numbers 20:12:

12 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

We know from the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration in Matthew 17 that Moses was allowed into heaven with Elijah, because of how Moses did not follow the directions of the Lord, he was not permitted to finish what he had first started: leading the people of Israel into their promised land. Matthew 17:1-7 (ESV):

The Transfiguration

17 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son,[a] with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” Footnotes: a. Matthew 17:5 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

As Christians, we must focus on the Lord’s commission, which is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ unto the ends of the earth. We are not to use such opportunity to lecture others with our personal opinions or allow such emotions, which are not of the Spirit, to taint God’s message of love and reconciliation, as Moses had when he did not follow the Lord’s instructions.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #313: My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less

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    

 

Perseverance through Troubled Times

BLCF: Seeking Healing through Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Perseverance through Troubled Times’

©October 6, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin October 6, 2013

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #648 (A Challenge to Faith from Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer                                              

Opening Hymn: #43: Praise to the Lord, Almighty

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Prayer and Worship Service here at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship.

Today’s lesson is entitled Perseverance through Troubled Times. I would like to share my experience of a time of trouble and personal challenge.

Four years ago, this month, indeed from this Sunday, I faced one of my most difficult challenges to my personal health, as well as a test of faith. For it was in the middle of October right here in this church sanctuary, following the Sunday morning service that I started to see what appeared to be flashes of light in the corner of my eye. It looked as if I perceived, in my peripheral vision, flares of light as if someone were taking flash photos nearby. Then, just as suddenly as the flashes had begun, they stopped, not to return until the next Sunday, accompanied by dark spots of jet black floating in my field of vision. By alternately closing each of my eyes, I determined that the flashes and spots were only viewed by my right eye. My brain had somehow merged the images so I thought I was seeing them by both eyes.

I recalled reading an article some years ago that described visions similar to what I was experiencing as symptoms of when the retina of the eye had become detached. The next day, I arranged to get an emergency appointment to see (no pun intended) my Ophthalmologist. After a careful examination and some tests, the doctor told me that he could see no evidence of a detachment or in his words a hole or tear of the retina and that my symptoms are likely caused when the fluid in the eye thickens with age and slides down in front of the retina. I was sent home. However, over the next few days, my symptoms progressed and worsened. Now I could see the shadow in my field of vision that bothered me so much that I resorted to covering my right eye with a tissue. The next morning, I returned to the Eye Doctor and was informed that not only did I have a retinal tear, but one so severe that I needed emergency surgery as soon as possible in order to save the vision in my eye! The Doctor apologized that he did not see the tear at my previous visit.

Of the two hospitals in Toronto that could perform the procedure, only St. Michaels Health Care could take me in on such short notice and an appointment was made for the next day. That night, with all the lights out and even my eyes closed, the hole made it appear as if I were viewing some strange green moonscape, its illumination indirect, much like a full moon. My worry and concern about losing vision to the eye were high. I had done all the right things: recognizing the significance of my symptoms and by promptly seeking out a specialist. Still, I faced the prospect of losing the vision in the eye, unless I underwent surgery in the same hospital that both my sister and father had died. I was stressed and overwhelmed beyond belief until my phone rang.

On the phone was Diane, a sister in Christ who attended Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, who had called to find out how my visit with the doctor went. It was interesting as Diane was blind from untreated Diabetes in her youth. When I told her that I was to undergo surgery the next day on my eye, Diane offered to say a prayer with me. As we prayed, I felt the peace and presence of God’s Holy Spirit fall upon me. The peace continued at the Hospital and throughout the three and half hour emergency eye surgery,  during which I was not totally under the anesthetic, so I was able to hear, throughout the procedure, the dialog between Dr. Louis Giavedoni, one of Canada’s top ophthalmologists and his student Dr. Casey (not Ben).

Later, after the procedure, a couple from our church dropped by the hospital to visit,  to whom remarked that for the week before the operation, I felt like a person without a vision, (pun intended). But a year later and two more procedures, one for a new lens and another to clear the sheath by laser, the eye is like it was before the tear. Actually, my visual acuity improved by the new lens.

 

From this experience, the Spirit had taught me patience, trust, and the importance of prayer when facing adversity. I find that the Lord has made me more empathetic than before. I recall tears welling up in my eyes as those Chilean miners who were trapped for month’s deep underground were rescued. With restored vision, the Spirit gave me an extra dose of compassion to others who suffer.

The Bible has a wealth of verses that tell believes how to persevere in times of trouble. The following verses found on the inside of today’s bulletin cover many aspects of how we may cope with adversity and by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, in the process becoming  both stronger and more confident in our faith in God:

  1. Perseverance: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  –  James 1:12 (ESV)                                                     
  2. Have Fun: A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.   – Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)                                                                                            
  3. Preparation: Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” –  1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV)                                                                                              
  4. Forget Yesterday: Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)                                                                                                               
  5. Confidence: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  – Joshua 1:9 (ESV)                                                                     
  6. Be Humble: Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  – 1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)                             
  7.  Don’t Forget: But the  Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. – John 14:26 (ESV)                                                                      
  8.  Finally, Follow Jesus’ Example:

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do Not Grow Weary        

 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.                                                                      – Hebrews 12:1-3

Let us pray…

Our Closing Hymn is #126: Amen! Amen!

Communion: Luke 22:7-20 (See back page of the bulletin)

The Passover with the Disciples

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus[a] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9 They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10 He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11 and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13 And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

BLCF Communion

The institution of the Lord’s Supper

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[b] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[c]

Footnotes: 1. Luke 22:8 Greek he 2. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again 3. Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood)

Benediction (1 Peter 5:10): 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. -Amen

Remember don’t go to church. Be the church!

BLCF: Be the church

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