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Courtyard Worship Service Bulletin

Courtyard Worship Service Bulletin

August 9, 2020

Prelude

Welcome

Hymn Medley

Amazing Grace

(verse 1)

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.

(verse 2)

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

(verse 1)

I am weak, but thou art strong; Jesus, keep me from all wrong;

I'll be satisfied as long as I walk, let me walk close with thee.

Just a closer walk with thee, grant it, Jesus, this my plea,

Daily walking close with thee; let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

(verse 2)

Through this world of toils and snares, if I falter Lord who cares?

Who with me my burden shares? None but thee, dear Lord, none but thee.

Just a closer walk with thee, grant it, Jesus, this my plea,

Daily walking close with thee; Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

I'll Fly Away

(verse 1)

Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away;

To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away; When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

(verse 2)

When the shadows of this life have grown, I'll fly away;

Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away; When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away; When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

Prayer

Scripture Lesson: Lamentations 3:40-42

Sermon (see transcript below)

Ministry of Music: Come, Let Us Return (G. Kendrick)

Prayer of God's People

The Lord's Prayer

Closing Song

Blessed Assurance

(verse 1)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood. 

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; 

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. 

(verse 3)

Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest, 

Watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love. 

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; 

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. 

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; 

This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long. 

Benediction

Postlude

Preaching Pastor: Dr. Mofid Wasef

Assisting Pastor: Rev. John M. Scholte

Director of Worship: Elizabeth Virkler

Piano: Ronél Wishnuff

Violin: Jennifer Williams

Bass: Pete Harrison

Cajon: Ronnie Valles

Tech: Luke Graham & Nyx Jesmani

Sermon: Return to the Lord

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven: ‘We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.’ (Lamentations 3:40-42)

One of the most famous stories in the Bible is the story of the prodigal son. After the young son had ran away and ended up in a foreign land, he returned back to his father with an attitude full of repentance. The story of the prodigal son is our story. But before it was our story, it was Israel’s story. 

The people of Israel, representing God’s son, disobeyed God. Israel ended up like the prodigal son in a foreign land. The difference between the prodigal son story Jesus spoke of (Luke 15) and Israel’s case, is that the prodigal son left home on his own. Israel, on the other hand, experienced tough love and was sent to a foreign land after they disobeyed God. The prodigal son also had an awareness of himself that allowed him to recognize his depraved situation. He said, “I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you’” (Luke 15:17-18). Israel, however, was called to return from their bad situation in the foreign land of Babel by someone else. The prophet Jeremiah, the author of the book Lamentations, called on Israel to repent and return to God: “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” (Lam.3:40).

Jeremiah’s call was powerful. There are three main points to ask to understand the significance of Jeremiah’s call to Israel to repent.

  1. What went wrong? Why did Jeremiah call Israel to repentance? 

  2. Did Israel repent? 

  3. Did God hear their prayer? What was God’s response? 

  1. What went wrong? Why did Jeremiah call Israel for repentance?

God promised Abraham with land and a blessed nation. God called Israel, the seed of Abraham, out of Egypt. Mosses told Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me” (Ex.4:22-23). God is faithful. He fulfilled His promise and brought Israel to the Promised Land. The Promised Land was like a new Garden of Eden. Israel dwelled in it just like Adam did in the Garden of Eden. 

Deuteronomy 8, gives us almost a replica of Genesis 2. In Genesis 2, God put Adam in the Garden with a warning that if he disobeyed God he would surely die (Gen.2:17). In Deuteronomy 8, God put Israel in the Promised Land, a land like the Garden of Eden, “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” (Deut.8:7-10). Then, like what God said to Adam, God warned Israel, “And if you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.20 Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Dut.8:19-20). As God made His dwelling place in the Garden, God also made His dwelling place in the tabernacle until He made it permanent in His Temple in the Promised Land. 

But Israel, like Adam, disobeyed God. They worshipped other gods and forgot God’s commandments. What happened to Adam happened also to Israel. Israel became like the prodigal son, from Jesus parable. Israel sinned greatly. God who is, “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps.145:8), gave Israel many chances. God sent them several prophets to warn and advise Israel to come back to the Lord. But Israel rejected God and His prophets. One of the prophets that was sent to Israel was the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s message was full of harsh warnings to Israel and its future. Jeremiah started his message saying, “for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer.2:13). Jeremiah’s message was about the judgement of God that would be coming soon.

Unfortunately, the people of Israel did not listen to Jeremiah and did not come back to the Lord. In 589 BC, Nebuchadnezzar of Babel, placed siege around Jerusalem. In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army ended their siege by destroying the temple, Jerusalem and its homes. What Nebuchadnezzar did brought an end to the Davidic dynasty. The people of Israel were also taken away from their Promised Land.

After this, the prophet Jeremiah, who warned Israel and spoke about all of this for many years, was distraught. Jeremiah walked around the shreds, scraps and remnants of the city and looked at the destructed temple and wept. Jeremiah cried with laments as if he was in a funeral. 

In his lamentations, Jeremiah wrote five chapters of songs to lament for and with Israel. He remembered the great old days of Judah and the pride and superiority of Jerusalem. Then he wept for the current situation of the city, people and the temple. But in the midst of his lament, Jeremiah remembered God’s love and mercy. Jeremiah sang the famous song that we all know, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (Lam.3:21-26). Jeremiah called Israel back to God in repentance. With all this understanding of the context and background in our mind, this leads us to the second question:

  1. Did Israel repent?

To answer this question, we need to ask first, what is repentance?

Repentance is to stop what we are doing, turn 180 degrees, and keep going in the opposite direction. All humans run away from God. Repentance would be for humans to stop running away from God, turn around, and run back towards God. Repentance then involves admitting wrongdoing, stopping what is wrong, taking an action to change direction, and running towards God. As we run towards God, we come to him with confession and petition for forgiveness. 

The prodigal son is a great example of repentance. He ran away from his father to a foreign land. Then when he returned to himself, he stopped what he was doing, turned around and ran back towards his father. “I will set out and go back to my father” (Luke 15:18). When he saw his father, the prodigal son ran to him and said his confession asking for forgiveness, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21).  If this is what repentance is, did Israel repent? Did Israel respond to Jeremiah’s call for repentance?

The only clear answer for this question is found in Daniel 9. There were three major prophets living during the Babylonian Exile. Daniel, who was taken to Babel on 605 BC; Ezekiel, who was taken to Babel on 597BC; and Jeremiah who stayed home in Israel’s land. Daniel 9 records one of the most powerful prayers in the Bible. When Daniel was in exile, he remembered God’s promise that was spoken through Jeremiah, that the exile would last for 70 years. “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place’” (Jer.29:10).

70 years was over when Daniel said, “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Dan.9:2-23).

Daniel prayed on behalf of the people of Israel. Daniel gave us a great and clear example of what repentance should be like. It reminds us of the prodigal son. It also brings to our memories the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The tax collector, “beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Daniel’s prayer was a great example of repentance: to change direction, come in full confession, and petition for forgiveness. Did God hear Daniel’s prayer? This is our third question.

  1. Did God hear their prayer? What was God’s response

Daniel prayed on behalf of his people. What was God’s response to Daniel’s prayer? God responded with good news and bad news. 

The good news was that God heard Daniel’s prayer. “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed’” (Dan. 9:20-23). Israel was promised to go back to their land. They would rebuild the city and the temple. But there was also bad news. 

Because the repentance was only from Daniel and was not from all the people of Israel, there were problems. The bad news was that Israel would remain in spiritual exile. They would return to their Promised Land physically, but God would not return to them yet. They spent 70 years in the Babylonian Exile, but would have seven times the seventy years for God to forgive their sins and dwell among them again. “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place” (Dan.9:24). Israel had built the temple, but we never heard about the glory of God coming back. They lived 490 years in spiritual exile waiting for the Messiah to come. It was only when Christ came, the true Temple, that the spiritual exile was over. In Christ all sins, transgressions and iniquities were forgiven. In Christ, we saw the glory of God again. Scripture says that Christ, the incarnate Word of God, “dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

There are two books in the Bible that are famous with lament: Job and Lamentations. Both books express lament as a result of suffering. The difference is that the book of Job talks about suffering as a result of the righteousness of Job while the book of Lamentations shows suffering because of Israel’s sin. But both books bring to our attention the importance of repentance. Our life is full of pain, suffering and sin. We may be like Job, where we are righteous because we are saved by Christ. Or, some of us may still be living in a spiritual exile, away in a different land like the prodigal son or like Israel. Either way, we need to repent. I suggest three actions for us to take:

  1. Remember that challenges come every day. We are from God, but we still live in the flesh. Our body is still in this world, “and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1John 5:19). That means we are in a fight with evil and its power. We often fall into temptation. The Apostle Paul explained in Romans 7 that there is a struggle between the flesh and the spirit: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). Remember, “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph.6:12).  

2. Repentance should be lifestyle. We know that temptations will continue all our lives until Christ comes back, and that should empower us to stay in constant communication with God. We will fall often, but repentance is the way to bring us back to our Lord. “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” (Mic.7:9). “for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,” (Prov.24:16). When we sin, we should come back to God. God will always welcome us back. 

3. Be assured that Christ is with us and is on your side. We are not alone in our fight against temptation. Jesus is with us. Be assured that He is beside you and feels all that we go through: “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrew 2:18). God’s door and arms are open all the time for any who would seek Him. When I was child, I was taught in Sunday school that there is an emergency phone number to heaven which is 5015. Ps.50:15: “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Ps.50:15). Christ is with us every day always, we should not be hesitant to come to Him.  Christ is with us. Run to Him, He is on your side.