Dear Sister Lily

Lily

 Puspumalar (Lily) Durayappah  

  November 6, 1925 – January 25, 2014

It is with deepest sympathy and regret that we announce following a brief illness, the passing of our dear friend Pusmalar (Lily) Durayappah. 

Sister Lily, a devout Christian, was greatly involved with fellow members of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church. 

Though we knew you for a time, we take comfort that you have joined the Lord for eternity.  

Our condolences go to Lily’s son Ruben and her family.

BLCF - I Am

Funeral arrangements for Lily have been made through:

 Highland Funeral Home

3280 Sheppard Avenue East

Toronto, ON, M1T 3K3

416-773-0933

http://highlandfuneralhome.ca/

Visitation/Memorial to be held on Saturday, February 1, 2014 between 

2 – 6 PM.

 

 Funeral Service Monday, February 3

For time – please contact the funeral home.

 

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Sin Forgotten and Forgiven through God’s New Covenant

BLCF: John_7-8

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Sin Forgotten and Forgiven through God’s New Covenant‘

©January 26, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin January 26, 2014

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:  Responsive Reading #640 (Redemption in Christ – Romans 5); Prayer                                                                                                                                                                 

Opening Hymn #96: Praise Him! Praise Him!; Choruses 

Scriptures: Leviticus 20:10 and John 8:1-11                                                                                     

Let us pray…

Last Sunday, at BLCF, our Sunday message included the lesson of the Lord healing of a man who was blind from birth; a miracle challenged by the Pharisees. And two Sunday’s ago, the message dealt with what the Lord meant when he referred to himself as being the “Bread of Life”, warning his disciples to beware of the “Leaven of the Pharisees” and “leaven” being used as euphuism for the “teachings” of the Pharisees.

This Sunday, we have in John, Chapter 8, the account of the women caught in adultery, who was brought to the Lord, as he taught in the temple. We touched upon this account at last Wednesday’s Bible Study and little more in the message that I shared at the BLCF Café community Dinner. Today, I hope to conclude the topic, by looking at the involvement of the Pharisees, who sought the Lord’s opinion of a woman, who had committed the sin of adultery, as an opportunity to challenge Jesus and even have him arrested. But before we examine the Scriptures, let us go to our Wiki Bits definitions, to find out just who these miscreants of Christ, who were known as the Pharisees.

BLCF: Mark_7_6

                                         Pharisees – (wikipedia.org)                                                      

Pharisees were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought in Judea during the Second Temple period beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE) in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism (commonly known as simply Judaism).

The Pharisees appear in the New Testament, engaging in conflicts between themselves and John the Baptist and with Jesus, and because Nicodemus the Pharisee (John 3:1) with Joseph of Arimathea entombed Jesus’ body at great personal risk. Gamaliel, the highly respected rabbi and defender of the apostles, was also a Pharisee, and according to some Christian traditions secretly converted to Christianity. There are several references in the New Testament to Paul of Tarsus being a Pharisee.

The New Testament, particularly the Synoptic Gospels, presents especially the leadership of the Pharisees as obsessed with man-made rules (especially concerning purity) whereas Jesus is more concerned with God’s love; the Pharisees scorn sinners whereas Jesus seeks them out. (The Gospel of John, which is the only gospel where Nicodemus is mentioned, particularly portrays the sect as divided and willing to debate) Because of the New Testament‘s frequent depictions of Pharisees as self-righteous rule-followers (see also Woes of the Pharisees and Legalism (theology)), the word “pharisee” (and its derivatives: “pharisaical”, etc.) has come into semi-common usage in English to describe a hypocritical and arrogant person who places the letter of the law above its spirit.  Jews today who subscribe to Pharisaic Judaism typically find this insulting and some consider the use of the word to be anti-Semitic.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees

Now back to today’s lesson. Let us begin by reviewing today’s Scripture verse, taken from John’s Gospel, Chapter 8, verses 1-11.

BLCF: John_8

                                                      John 8:1-11 (ESV)                                                           

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

BLCF: John8-11

So by what authority did the Pharisees, who were legalists with respect to the Scriptures, avoiding any spiritual interpretation of the Mosaic Law, and in some regard removing God involvement from the law. And without Spiritual discernment or guidance, the Scriptures become documents that can be best understood in a strictly literal way. It is not surprising therefore, that the Pharisees took the rules found in Leviticus 20, as their authority to be judge, jury and executioner of anyone who violated any of the Ten Commandments that Moses brought to the People of Israel.

And for women caught in the act of adultery, the punishment was quite clear, as we see in today’s second verse, which is from the Book of Leviticus, Chapter 20; Verse 10.

                    Leviticus 20:10 (ESV) Punishments for Sexual Immorality                      

10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of[a] his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.                                                       

Footnotes: a. Leviticus 20:10 Hebrew repeats if a man commits adultery with the wife of

If you look at the end of Leviticus 20, you will see the prescribed punishment being death by stoning. But there is something about implementing the sin of one commandment, “thy shall not kill” as a punishment for another, “thy shall not commit adultery.” Does this make sense? Who is supposed to judge such sins?  What about God’s plan for forgiveness, through Jesus?

God's Law

God’s Law

One may argue that Jesus had not yet died on the cross, and so the Pharisees were justified in expecting to kill the adulterous women, as forgiveness from sins would only be possible after Christ’s crucifixion. But wait a minute; there are a couple of “Old Testament” verses that we need to take into account.

 If you read Ezekiel, Chapter 33, verses 14-19, we read that the punishment of death can be commuted.

                                                  Ezekiel 33:14-19 (ESV)                                                      

14 Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live.

17 “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. 18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. 19 And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this.

 God judged the violation of any of His laws subject to the same penalty: death.  But He did provide a plan for forgiveness, called “The New Covenant”, which is described in Jeremiah, Chapter 31, verses 31-34.   

   

God's New Covenant Message at BLCF Church

God’s New Covenant: Jesus Christ

                   

                        Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV) The New Covenant                                    

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Now playing the devil’s advocate, some may say that the Pharisees were able to implement God’s judgement against the adulterous women because they were without sin. Let me direct you to Jesus challenge to the Pharisees in John 8, verse 7; “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” As he spoke this, Jesus was able to avoid engaging a debate with the Pharisees or others in the crowd and tempered their anger by continuing to casually write with his finger in the ground.

BLCF: John_8_7

One by one, the accusers realizing that they were not sinless, and therefore not in a position to judge or execute the women, left the scene. And in the end, no one remained. And we read in John 8, verse 10; Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

BLCF: Has no one condemned You

Jesus communicates volumes in just a few short sentences. By challenging the group that only the sinless may cast the first stone, Jesus points out that everyone is guilty of the sin, and therefore deserving of the sane judgment: death. The older men leave first, not necessarily because of their wisdom of their years. Because they were older they had accrued more sins in their respected lifetimes than the younger men.

BLCF: Dont Judge

Jesus statement in John 8:7 challenges the authority of the Pharisees to implement any judgement that is reserved solely to God. We see this expressed succinctly in James, Chapter 4, verses 11-12.

                                                James 4:11-12 (ESV)                                        

11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[a] The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?                                                                                                     

Footnotes: a. James 4:11 Or brothers and sisters

BLCF: NO CONDEMNATION

As followers of the resurrected Christ and believers in the Way of the Lord, we are implored to exercise the same compassionate heart of forgiveness towards each other that was expressed in Jeremiah 31, this time echoed in Colossians 3, verses 12-15.

                                               Colossians 3:12-15 (ESV)                            

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

And as a reminder, again, we see in Luke, Chapter 6, verses 37-42, what our judgement will be, if like the Pharisees, we are determine to judge and not forgive.  

                                   Luke 6:37-42 (ESV) Judging Others                                               

  37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

And we conclude today’s lesson with the Scripture taken from John 3, verses 31-36, with a reminder of God’s New Covenant, through His Son, Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit without measure and eternal life, by way of obedience and faith to God, by way of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, we face God’s wrath and death described in Leviticus 20.

                                                                                           

BLCF: Jesus Can

                 John 3:31-36 (ESV)    

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #308: My Hope Is in the Lord

Benediction – (Colossians 3: 15):                                                                                                                                                                                                           And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

BLCF:john8_7

Help Toronto’s Homeless Keep Warm This Cold Winter

BLCF:ExtremeColdWeatherWBBLCF:ColdestJanMornings

Now that the weather’s turning cold, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is asking for donations of socks, gloves, scarves and toques for our homeless and marginalized guests in the heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. Donations may be brought to the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, (Wednesdays between 6 and 8 PM). To arrange delivery at a different time, contact Sophie by email: blcfcafe@yahoo.ca or call BLCF at 416-535-9578.

Not a bread line, food bank or soup kitchen, BLCF Café has been serving wholesome dinners to upwards of 150 of Toronto’s homeless every Wednesday evening since January 2008.

BLCF Cafe/BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, one block west of Lansdowne Avenue. Help bring some warmth to those in need.

Image

Transformed by the Touch of a Homeless Man – A True Story by Kent Holland

 

(http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080503023611/uncyclopedia/images/c/c8/Portrait-of-Homeless-Man-IMG_3825.jpg)
Transformed by the Touch of a Homeless Man – A True Story by Kent Holland

I had just sat down in the Philadelphia 30th Street Station and tucked myself comfortably behind a newspaper to await my train to Washington, D.C., when, to my dismay, I saw a homeless man walking up to me.  His approach was slow and deliberate. He stood before me, waiting for me to make eye contact.  When I finally looked up to acknowledge him, I was discomforted by this man, probably in his mid-forties, with dirt and grease on his hands and unkempt clothing.

What struck me most about him, though, were his indescribable eyes, eyes that seemed to know me, that seemed to penetrate right through me; that appeared be full of love, compassion and sorrow. Being a rational, unemotional lawyer, I tried quickly to put those thoughts out of my mind.  I thought I must be imagining things.

We looked at each other in silence for a moment and then he asked, “Sir, may I speak with you?”

My first thought was, “Oh no, here we go again, another bum begging for a handout.” I had never appreciated the plight of the needy.  They made me uncomfortable and perhaps a bit afraid.  I felt they should stop bothering people, and go out and get a job like everyone else.  I had apparently never learned (or perhaps I had forgotten) the Scripture that tells us:  “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”  1 John 3:17-18.

I wasn’t inclined to give this man any attention, and I certainly didn’t want to give him any money.  But he hadn’t asked for money.  He asked only: “May I speak with you?”  What kind of a question was that?  As I pondered him and his question, his incredible eyes gripped me.  Finally, I couldn’t remain seated any longer.  I stood up to face him.

“Will you feed me?” he asked.

I wasn’t prepared for that question.  As he continued to speak, his language seemed peculiarly articulate, and his words became increasingly strange and disquieting.  He spoke like a well-educated and intelligent man, not at all like what I would have expected based on my image of him.

All around me, finely dressed men and women hurried off to dinners, shows, and business meetings.  Others, like myself, looked forward to getting home to their families.  Many milled about in the cathedral-like structure, with its spacious halls and its magnificent columns rising to meet beautifully carved and painted ceilings high above.  Others slept. Some chatted with colleagues or friends.  Others sat idly, lost in thought, daydreams or fantasies.

I wondered why he had so intentionally picked me out of this mass of people.  So, I asked him, “With all these people sitting around daydreaming, why did you choose me? Why did you pick me from behind a newspaper?”

“Because,” he answered, “you look like a gentlemen with whom I should speak.”  Those were his actual words.

This homeless man actually used better grammar than I normally do.  He sounded like an English teacher and I wondered,  “What’s going on here?”

Even stranger than his speech was the fact that instead of asking for money, he said his purpose in approaching me was that he thought he “should speak” with me. Now, this got my interest.  What could he possibly have to say to me?  In my cynical heart, I was disdainful and critical of this man.  He looked like he was perfectly capable of working for a living, but had chosen to live the life of a bum instead. I just came right out and challenged him, saying,

“You’re obviously a well-educated man.  You speak better than I do.  Why aren’t you working instead of being on the street?”

“I’m glad you asked that,” he replied. “I hoped that you would permit me to share something with you.  I’m a pharmacist by training.  For twenty years I was employed as the pharmacist at a hospital right here in town.  Life was good.  I had a wife and two children.  I had a nice house.  I thought I had it all.  Yes, life was good; until the day I received a phone call at the pharmacy telling me that my house had burned down and my wife and children had perished in the flames.”

Perhaps his story would have made me suspicious since it had obvious potential as a good come-on for a beggar to use.  But truth was in his teary eyes.  Even the genuine sadness in the matter-of-fact way he told his story made it impossible for me to doubt its truth. He went on to explain his situation.

“After losing my family, I could no longer think clearly. I couldn’t concentrate well enough to make a prescription. But even if I could, I no longer had any desire for my job since I had lost my whole reason for living.   Everything I lived for was gone.  I’ve been on the streets ever since, talking to men like you who need to know.  I share with them, and eat with them, but I never ask for money.  It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten, and I’m very hungry, will you feed me?”

Looking back on the scene now, I’m embarrassed to say that by this point in the conversation I was still clueless about what was happening here.  My insensitive and foolish response was to offer a couple dollars so he could buy something.  He looked at me with kind eyes and gently declined my offer of money.

Once again, he asked:  “Will you please feed me?”

Did he mean this literally and, if so, what did he expect me to do?  I asked if I could buy him a burger and fries at the McDonald’s located in the station.  But this was not what he had in mind. Instead, he asked me to join him for lunch at the small atrium-like cafe located in what might be described as a chapel hall just off the main cathedral of the station.

At this point, I didn’t know what to say.  What could I say to this increasingly mysterious man who had picked me out a crowd and then confidently directed me to the specific café where he expected me to join him for lunch?

I had a train to catch but, as I considered the homeless man, my heart was strangely moved.  What began as a passing thought that perhaps I might as well sit down with this man for a few minutes became a compelling desire to do just that.  The train could wait.  There would be another one later. Talking with this man had become the single most important thing I could do at that moment, even though I didn’t understand why.

We went over to the cafe and ordered a good meal.  We sat together and talked for quite a while. Our conversation touched on issues that I wouldn’t normally discuss with an acquaintance of many years.  He asked me questions about myself and what I was doing with my life.  Perhaps my guilty conscience made me imagine things, but it seemed that he knew things about me that I didn’t want him to know.  I felt like he could see the immorality that was ruling my life, and that I was well on the way to destroying my marriage and family.  Without actually saying so, he seemed to know that I was living for my own self-gratification, driven by the desire for prestige, power, and enough money to gain financial independence.  My life style could be described by the motto: “I want it all, and I want it now!”  One of my friends even printed that saying on a large button and fastened it to the lampshade in my law office.

Finishing our meal, I rose to leave.  He turned to me then and asked: “Will you make me a promise?”  I must have given him a surprised and bewildered look.  He held my eyes with his as he said, “Think about this. The next time you see someone who is poor, needy or homeless, remember me!  I once had everything you have now.  I had a wife, two children, a good job and a home.  I lost them all in an instant.  The difference between you and me is so small.  You could lose everything as quickly as I lost it.  Remember me.  And remember that all you have is by the grace of God.”

When he spoke of the grace of God I thought of how often I had heard preachers, parents and teachers speak similar words.  They had always seemed so trite.  Coming from this man, however, I was awestruck by the simplicity and truth of this statement.  In that moment, I experienced an odd sensation. I felt that his words had hit hard right where I needed to be hit.  Even as I stood there, I found myself thinking that this man got to me like no preacher or teacher ever managed to do.  I had often quoted the scripture saying “It is by grace you are saved, through faith … it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9).  But I had forgotten the very next verse which states that we are created by God to do good works (vs.10).   Then there is the Scripture in the New Testament book that says:  “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:15-16). I can tell you that as I stood before the homeless man my eyes were opened to the fact that my own faith was bogus.  It wasn’t real.  It was mere words.  It wasn’t backed up with action.  My faith was dead.

The homeless man wasn’t even done with me yet. Looking steadily into my eyes, he asked: “The next time you see a homeless person or a someone in need, will you feed them, will you care for them, will you clothe them, will you meet their need?  Don’t give them money. That isn’t what they need.   They need you.  Will you give them of yourself?  Will you love them?”  This final question stunned me.

An uncomfortably long moment passed while I thought about it.  Quietly, almost reverentially, I replied, “I will.” His eyes gleamed as he smiled and wished me well.  As I boarded the next train for Washington, the impact of what had happened to me in Philadelphia and how it was going to fundamentally change my life had not yet dawned on me.  This homeless man had ministered to me in a powerful and moving way.  A day has rarely gone by since then that I have not remembered him with his incredible, loving eyes, peering into me.  I often wonder about him and whether he could have led me to such a change without this being a divine appointment.  As a new love and compassion seemed to well up inside of me from depths previously unknown, I realized that when I said “yes” to the homeless man, I had said yes to God.

As the days and weeks passed after that, I found myself practically walking on air with a deep sense of peace and joy.  I began talking to people and taking an interest in people that I previously would have crossed the street to avoid.  While traveling in other cities since then, I have found myself asking homeless men to join me for dinner, buying bus and train tickets for men who claim they need to get home, and spending time listening to them and talking with them. That might seem like odd behavior for even a man much more spiritual than I.  It was certainly extraordinary behavior for me.

Having no rational, reasonable explanation for my transformation, I concluded that I had experienced a spiritual encounter of a most dramatic kind.  In my search for the source of this new experience, I bought a copy of an easy to read version of the Bible, The New International Version (“NIV”).  One of the first passages to catch my attention was in the first book of the New Testament, at Matthew, chapter 25, which describes a scene when people will be brought before the “heavenly throne.”  Two large groups of people are standing before the King.  One group He blesses and the other He rejects.

To those He blesses He says: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  To the surprise of the good people who say that they don’t know when they did any of these things for the King, He will respond: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  And for a final irony, he turns to all those people standing at his other side and tells them they are cursed and must depart his company because they didn’t care for Him when He was in need.

The startled outcry of these people is that they attended religious services and were good and decent folks, and surely there must be some sort of mistake because they never saw the King hungry or thirsty, or a stranger or needing clothes, or otherwise needing help. But the King responds, “whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

As I think about all the homeless and needy people I have ignored and passed by, while secure in my belief that I was acceptable to God because I put my faith in Him and attempted to live a good life, my heart aches with the knowledge that by ignoring these people who needed me, I have ignored and rejected God.

Much of organized religion today makes a great show of pomp and ceremony but seems to be lost in empty words, lacking any godly purpose or mission. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God tells the people “Stop bringing meaningless offerings.  Your incense is detestable to me. . . When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers I will not listen.” (Is. 1:13). This is rather dramatic.  In fact, it’s how I felt in my own life. Just as he wasn’t listening to their prayers, He wasn’t responding to my prayers either.  Why? God rejected their empty worship, and told them the kind of religion he wants to see.  He says: “Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow (Is. 1: 17).  So what is the Religion that God accepts?

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress….” James 1:27.

The Bible states that we are to live by the Spirit of God and bear the fruit of the Spirit, including “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  (Galatians 5:22-23). If we take this seriously and ask ourselves whether we are genuinely experiencing and bearing these “fruit,” I believe we will see that each of us needs to accept the homeless man’s challenge, to make the decision from the depths of our being, to say yes to those in need, and to give consistently of ourselves (a listening ear, a helpful hand, and a compassionate heart).  This includes sharing ourselves and God’s compassionate love with not only those who have physical needs but also with those who have spiritual and emotional needs — not only those who are strangers to us, but those who are our colleagues at work, family members, club members, and neighbors.  This radical personal transformation of bearing fruit, giving of ourselves  (not just our money and our words), is the natural result of answering the call of the homeless man, answering the call of God.

When I said yes, my life dramatically changed.  An empty chasing of success has been replaced with a life of  significance.  I still earn my living as a construction lawyer, but where I find true peace, contentment and joy is through the experience of God’s love – especially when I share that love with others in meaningful ways.  How about you?  Have you heard the call?  How are you answering?  Are you saying yes?

J. Kent Holland, Jr. 6505 Chesterfield Ave. McLean, VA 22101 703-623-1932  Kent@KentHolland.com

             Matthew 25:35-40 (ESV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’

Footnotes: a. Matthew 25:40 Or brothers and sisters

Restored Vision: The Lord’s Reward For Patience and Perseverance of Faith

BLCF: John 9

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Restored Vision: The Lord’s Reward For Patience and Perseverance of Faith‘

©January 19, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 19, 2014

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Announcements and Call to Worship:  Responsive Reading #651 (The Holy Scriptures – 2Peter 1, 2 Timothy 3, Hebrews 4, Romans 15, Psalm 119, Isaiah 40); r of Prayer)) Prayer

Opening Hymn #350: Open My Eyes, That I May See                                          

Choruses                                                                                                                              

Scriptures: Mark 8:16-26; John 9:1-41  

Let us pray…

Last Sunday, at BLCF, we our lesson, we talked about what the Lord meant when  Jesus had referred to himself as being the “Bread of Life” and warned his disciples to beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees, where leaven is used as a euphuism  for the “teachings” of the Pharisees.

This Sunday, I would like to share how the miracles performed by our Lord acted as euphuism for something else so as to teach an important lesson beyond the miracle alone. In a way, the miracle acts like a parable for something more significant spiritually.

In today’s scriptures, we have two accounts of two miracles, where our Lord made the blind see.

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Our first verse is from Chapter 8 of Mark’s gospel, where some people asked Jesus to restore vision to a blind man at Bethesda, just after the Lord warned the disciples to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees”, which causes them to start literally discussing bread amongst themselves:  

       Mark 8:16-26 (ESV) Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida

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16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus[a] laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 And he sent him to his home, saying, “Do not even enter the village.”  

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Footnotes: a. Mark 8:25 Greek he

 So we see two stories juxtaposed together that are similar. When Jesus speaks of a spiritual danger, in terms of the leaven of the Pharisees, the disciples see the Lord literally talking about loaves of bread. In this regard, the disciples do not have a clear vision of the Lord’s words. The Lord tells the disciples that if he were worried about bread, he could again perform a miracle where he fed five thousand from five loaves and fed four thousand more from seven loaves. He first asks them, “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?”  All these are characteristics of the Pharisees, who in spite of the miracles the Lord had performed to feed two multitudes, demand that Christ perform another. In a way, the disciples are behaving like Pharisees, denying the God’s power and presence being demonstrated by the miracles he performed.

And at Bethesda, the man who was sightless mistook the people he saw for trees. It was as if the man did not understand what it was he saw. Jesus then laid hands again upon the man, who opened his eyes and could see. It is interesting, without faith and the Holy Spirit, our perception or vision of our surroundings would be different. We would be blind to the spiritual discernment of what we see, just like the Pharisees in our second Scripture verse from John, Chapter 9:

                         John 9:1-41 (ESV) Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

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9 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is he.” Others said, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” 10 So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I do not know.”

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. 14 Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. 15 So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. 17 So they said again to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

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18 The Jews[a] did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus[b] to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

BLCF: John_9

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”[c] 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt;[d] but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

Footnotes: a. John 9:18 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time; also verse 22 b, John 9:22 Greek him c. John 9:35 Some manuscripts the Son of God e. John 9:41 Greek you would not have sin

Authored by Luke pre-Pentecost, the blindness in this passage is better explained in Chapter 9 of John’s gospel,(who authored his gospel some 30 years after receiving the Holy Spirit Pentecost), where we see the healing of a man blind from birth as an illustration of two forms of blindness, one physical and the other spiritual: “Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt.”

BLCF_Walk_by_Grace_not_by_sight

 

And those who are blind is further explained in Paul’s 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Just as Jesus used Leaven of the Pharisees, where leaven is used as a euphuism for teachings, as when Jesus describes himself as the “Bread of Life”, there is a lesson in the miracles of Jesus, which in effect act as a parable lesson beyond the act to “those who see” and are not of “little faith”. Many times both the disciples and other followers made the mistake at viewing Jesus’ words and acts they had witnessed in a narrow, literal way that the Lord, on more than one occasion, rebuked them as being “ye of little faith.”

BLCF: 2_COR_4_18

Our two Scripture verses present euphuisms for all people who are born into sin, with the man blind from birth, and those who have strayed from God, as represented by the blind man at Bethesda. Both euphuisms present us with the concept that we may be forgiven our sins and reconciled with Him through faith in Jesus.

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This leads us to the testimony of a man who was blinded to the presence of God in his life and who had sinned gravely against his fellow man. This man, whose soul was lost, had a faith experience that he describes, as being found by God, with his vision restored.

John Newton’s beloved hymn “Amazing Grace” is expression of the composer’s faith testimony, where a blindness that is restored represents forgiveness and redemption of his sins through faith in Jesus Christ!

The following is an extract of a short biography on John Newton authored by Rusty Wright entitled: Amazing Grace in John Newton – A Christian Witness Lived and Sung.

BLCF: John Newton

 

Rusty Wright provides a compelling summary of the life background of John Newton, composer of Amazing Grace.  Newton’s life, even more than his famous song, is an amazing testimony to the saving grace offered to each of us by God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Newton’s life is a Christian witness to the amazing grace of our loving God.

“How Sweet the Sound”

Are you familiar with the classic song Amazing Grace? You probably are. Do you know the inspiring story behind its songwriter? Maybe like I did, you think you know the real story, but you don’t.

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John Newton was an eighteenth century British slave trader who had a dramatic faith experience during a storm at sea. He gave his life to God, left the slave trade, became a pastor, and wrote hymns. “Amazing Grace! (how sweet the sound),” Newton wrote, “That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”{1} He played a significant role in the movement to abolish the slave trade.

Newton’s song and story have inspired millions. Amazing Grace has been played at countless funerals and memorial services, sung at civil rights events and in churches, and even hit pop music charts when Judy Collins recorded it. It’s loved the world over. In South Korea, a local audience asked a coworker and me to sing them the English version; they responded by singing it back to us in Korean.

Newton wrote the lyrics, but the tune we know today did not become linked with them until about 1835, after his death.{2} My university roommate and I used to try to see how many different tunes would fit the Amazing Grace lyrics. My favorites were Joy to the World (the Christmas carol), Ghost Riders in the Sky, and House of the Rising Sun. Try them sometime. They work!

Jonathan Aitken has written a biography titled John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace.{3} Aitken sees some parallels between his own life and his subject’s. Aitken was once a prominent British parliamentarian and Cabinet member, but perjury landed him in prison where his life took a spiritual turn. He’s now active in prison ministry and Christian outreach.

John Newton’s journey from slave trader to pastor and hymn writer is stirring. But it has some surprising twists. You see, Newton only became a slave-ship captain after he placed his faith in Christ. And he left the slave trade not because of his spiritual convictions, but for health reasons.

Lost and Found

Newton was the prototypical “bad boy.” His devout Christian mother, who hoped he would become a minister, died when he was six. He says that through much of his youth and life at sea, “I loved sin and was unwilling to forsake it.”{4} At times, “I pretended to talk of virtue,” he wrote, “yet my delight and habitual practice was wickedness.”{5} He espoused a “freethinking” rationalist philosophy and renounced the Christian faith.{6}

Flogged and demoted by the Navy for desertion, he became depressed, considered suicide, and thought of murdering his captain.{7} Traded to work on a slave ship, Newton says, “I was exceedingly wretched. . . . I not only sinned with a high hand myself, but made it my study to tempt and seduce others upon every occasion.”{8}

In West Africa he partnered with a slave trader and negotiated with African chiefs to obtain slaves.{9} Life was good, he recalled. “We lived as we pleased, business flourished, and our employer was satisfied.”{10} Aitken, the biographer, says Newton engaged in sexual relations with female slaves.{11}

One day on another ship, Newton was reading—casually, “to pass away the time”—an edition of Thomas à Kempis’ classic, On the Imitation of Christ. He wondered, “What if these things were true?” Dismayed, he “shut the book quickly.” {12} Newton called himself a terrible “blasphemer” who had rejected God completely.{13} But then, as Forrest Gump might say, God showed up.

That night, a violent storm flooded the ship with water. Fearing for his life, Newton surprised himself by saying, “The Lord have mercy on us!” Spending long hours at the ship’s helm, he reflected on his life and rejection of God. At first, he thought his shortcomings too great to be forgiven. Then, he says, “I . . . began to think of . . . Jesus whom I had so often derided . . . of His life and of His death . . . for sins not His own, but for those who in their distress should put their trust in Him.”{14}

In coming days, the New Testament story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) particularly impressed him. He became convinced of the truth of Jesus’ message and his own need for it. “I was no longer an atheist,” he writes. “I was sincerely touched with a sense of undeserved mercy in being brought safe through so many dangers. . . . I was a new man.”{15}

Newton discovered that the “new man” would not become perfect. Maturation would be a process, as we’ll see.

From Slave-Ship Captain to Pastor

After his dramatic experience at sea, Newton saw changes in his life. He attended church, read spiritual books, prayed, and spoke outwardly of his commitment. But his faith and behavior would take many twists on the road toward maturity.{16}

Newton set sail again on a slave ship, seeing no conflict between slaving and his new beliefs. Later he led three voyages as a slave-ship captain. Newton studied the Bible. He held Sunday worship services for his crew on board ship.{17}

Church services on a slave ship? This seems absolutely disgusting today. How could a dedicated Christian participate in slave trading? Newton, like many of his contemporaries, was still a work-in-progress. Slavery was generally accepted in his world as a pillar of British economy; few yet spoke against it. As Aitken points out, this cultural disconnect doesn’t excuse Christian slave trading, but it does help explain it.

During my youth in the US south, I was appalled by racism I observed, more so when church members practiced it. I concluded that some merely masqueraded as followers of Jesus. Others had genuine faith but—by choice or confusion—did not faithfully follow God. It takes years for some to change. Others never do. Aitken observes that in 1751, Newton’s spiritual conscience “was at least twenty years away from waking up to the realization that the Christian gospel and human slavery were irreconcilable.”{18}

Two days before he was to embark on his fourth slave-trading voyage as ship’s captain, a mysterious illness temporarily paralyzed Newton. His doctors advised him not to sail. The replacement captain was later murdered in a shipboard slave uprising.{19}

Out of the slave trade, Newton became a prominent public official in Liverpool. He attended Christian meetings and grew in his faith. The prominent speaker George Whitfield encouraged him.{20} Life still brought temptations. Newton engaged in the common practice of accepting kickbacks until a business ethics pamphlet by Methodism founder John Wesley prompted him to stop, at significant loss of income.{21}

Eventually, Newton sought to become an ordained minister, but opposing church leaders prevented this for six years. Intervention by the Earl of Dartmouth—benefactor of Dartmouth College in the US—helped launch his formal ministry.{22} Newton was to significantly impact a young Member of Parliament who would help rescue an oppressed people and a nation’s character.

Newton and Wilberforce: Faith in Action

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William Wilberforce was a rising star in Parliament and seemed destined for political greatness. As a child he had often heard John Newton speak but later rejected the faith. As an adult, conversations with a Cambridge professor had helped lead him to God. He considered leaving Parliament and entering the ministry. In 1785, he sought the advice of his old pastor, Newton.

Newton advised Wilberforce not to leave politics. “I hope the Lord will make him a blessing, both as a Christian and as a statesman,” Newton later explained.{23} His advice proved pivotal. Wilberforce began attending Newton’s church and spending time with him privately. Newton became his mentor.{24}

Perhaps you’ve seen the motion picture Amazing Grace that portrays Wilberforce’s twenty-year parliamentary struggle to outlaw the trading of slaves. If you missed it in theaters, I encourage you see it on DVD. It was after spending a day with Newton that Wilberforce recorded in his diary his decision to focus on abolishing the slave trade.{25} During the arduous abolition campaign, Wilberforce sometimes considered giving up and quitting Parliament. Newton encouraged him to persist, reminding him of another public figure, the biblical Daniel, who, Newton said, “trusted in the Lord, was faithful . . . and . . . though he had enemies they could not prevail against him.”{26}

Newton’s biblical worldview had matured to the point that he became active in the abolition movement. In 1788, he published a widely circulated pamphlet, Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade. “I hope it will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me,” he wrote, “that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”{27} His pamphlet detailed horrors of the slave trade and argued against it on moral and practical grounds.

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Abolitionists sent a copy to every member of both Houses of Parliament. Newton testified before important parliamentary committees. He described chains, overcrowded quarters, separated families, sexual exploitation, flogging, beating, butchering. The Christian slave-ship captain who once was blind to his own moral hypocrisy now could see.{28} Jonathan Aitken says, “Newton’s testimony was of vital importance in converting public opinion to the abolitionist cause.”{29}

Wilberforce and his colleagues finally prevailed. In early 1807 Britain outlawed the slave trade. On December 21 of that year, grace finally led John Newton home to his Maker.

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Lessons from a Life of Amazing Grace

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John Newton encountered “many dangers, toils, and snares” on his life’s voyage from slaver to pastor, hymn writer, mentor, and abolitionist. What lessons does his life hold? Here are a few.

Moral maturation can take time. Newton the morally corrupt slave trader embraced faith in Jesus, then continued slave trading. Only years later did his moral and spiritual conscience catch up on this issue with the high principles of the One he followed. We should hold hypocrites accountable, but realize that blinders don’t always come off quickly. One bumper sticker I like reads, “Please be patient; God is not finished with me yet.”

 

BLCF: Growing in Christs footsteps

 

Humility became a hallmark of Newton’s approach to life. He learned to recognize his shortcomings. While revising some of his letters for publication, he noted in his diary his failures to follow his own advice: “What cause have I for humiliation!” he exclaimed. “Alas! . . . How defective [I am] in observing myself the rules and cautions I propose to others!”{30} Near the end of his life, Newton told a visitor, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”{31}

Newton related Jesus’ message to current events and everyday life. For him, faith was not some dull, dusty, irrelevant relic but a living relationship with God, having immense personal and social relevance. He grew to see its import in fighting the slave trade. He used both the Bible and friendship to encourage Wilberforce. He tied his teaching to the news of the day, seeking to connect people’s thoughts with the beliefs that had changed his life.{32}

Newton was grateful for what he saw as God’s providence. Surviving the storm at sea that helped point him to faith was a prime example, but there were many others. As a child, he was nearly impaled in a riding accident.{33} Several times he narrowly missed possible drowning.{34} A shooting accident that could have killed him merely burned part of his hat.{35} He often expressed gratitude to God.

Have you ever considered writing your own epitaph? What will it say? Here’s part of what Newton wrote for his epitaph. It’s inscribed on his tomb: “John Newton. Once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy.”{36}

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Notes

1. From Olney Hymns, 1779; in John Newton, Out of the Depths, “Revised and Updated for Today’s Readers by Dennis R. Hillman” (Grand Rapids: Kregel 2003), 9. Newton’s autobiography was originally published in 1764 as An Authentic Narrative, a collection of letters between an anonymous writer (Newton) and a pastor. Newton was not yet ordained when he wrote the letters.
2. Jonathan Aitken, John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 233.
3. Aitken, op. cit.
4. Newton, op. cit., 24.
5. Ibid., 33.
6. Ibid., 34.
7. Ibid., 34-37; 40-41.
8. Ibid., 44-45.
9. Ibid., 57-64; Aitken, op. cit., 63-64.
10. Newton, op. cit., 60.
11. Aitken, op. cit., 64.
12. Newton, op. cit., 69.
13. Ibid., 65, 68.
14. Ibid., 69-80; quotations from 71, 75.
15. Newton, op. cit., 82-83.
16. Aitken, op. cit., 85 ff.
17. Ibid., 91, ff.; 106, 107.
18. Ibid., 112.
19. Ibid., 125-126.
20. Ibid., 127-137.
21. Ibid., 140-141.
22. Ibid., 143-177; 193.
23. Ibid., 304.
24. Ibid., 299-308.
25. Ibid., 310 ff.
26. Ibid., 315 for the quote about Daniel; 312-316 for background on Wilberforce’s thoughts about quitting.
27. Ibid., 319.
28. Ibid., 319-328.
29. Ibid., 319.
30. Ibid., 243.
31. Ibid., 347.
32. Ibid., 293-296. See also Newton, op. cit., 154.
33. Newton, op. cit., 23.
34. Ibid., 23, 66-67, 94-95.
35. Ibid., 85.
36. Aitken, op. cit., 350, 356.

© 2008 Probe Ministries


About the Author

Rusty Wright, former associate speaker and writer with Probe Ministries, is an international lecturer, award-winning author, and journalist who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.

Further information about Probe’s materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:

Probe Ministries
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075
(972) 941-4565
info@probe.org
www.probe.org

Copyright information

http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4221333/k.C49E/Amazing_Grace_in_John_Newton.htm

Newton’s biography describes the life of a sinner, who early in life, not only refused to accept Christ’s gift of salvation, but grew to live a morally depraved life as captain of slave ships. But like Saul of Tarsus, Newton had a life changing experience, eventually becoming an ardent advocate for the abolition of slavery.

Newton’s influence upon William Wilberforce, by planting a message of salvation early in Wilberforce’s life, ultimately leading him first to Jesus, then to champion the cause of abolishing slavery in Britain. Like the blind man in Bethesda, whose vision was restored in stages, God’s restoration of the souls of Newton and later Wilberforce took many years, which shows us that God’s answer to prayers sometimes takes years or decades of patience and perseverance on our part.

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Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #288: Amazing Grace! How Sweet the Sound

 

BLCF: Martin Luther King Jr

 

Benediction – (2 Peter 1:2):

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

BLCF: To Be A Christian

 

 

Signs, Faith, and the Bread of Life

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Signs, Faith, and the Bread of Life‘

©January 12, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 12, 2014

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:  Responsive Reading #648 (A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer

Prayer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I should Gain                                                                                              

Choruses                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Scriptures: Matthew 16:1-12; John 6:35-40; Matthew 27:50-54   

                                                                                  

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Let us pray…

Just after 12:00 noon, yesterday, my son Jeff had a dental appointment in Maple. After more than a week of snow, ice and Polar Vortex frigid weather, I thought it would be nice that Sophie and I go for a drive, without concern of ice covered roads or heavy snowfall. I did not anticipate that the relatively warm +5⁰ Celsius temperature would allow the formation of thick fog which became progressively thicker as we left Toronto.  Between the veil of low level clouds obscuring exit signs and the yahoos on the highway who insisted upon driving over the posted speed limit  with a lemming-like desire to bring themselves and all those around them into a catastrophic pile up on the highway, the drive was more of a tedious white knuckle trip than expected. A couple of times, we either missed either a road sign or a turn, and ended up taking longer than we expected to reach our destination.

Fortunately, we left early enough so  that we arrived at our destination only  a couple of minutes late, rather than the expected 10-15 minutes early for Jeff’s appointment. It seems that even the Orthodontist had made a wrong turn or two on his way to the clinic, because of the fog obscuring road signs and the landscape.

Ice Fog (680news.com)

Ice Fog (680news.com)

Our message today is a different type of signs. These were signs that God provided to a lost and wayward people, whose faith had become lost or obscured. God provided these signs in order to provide proof of HIS presence, power and authority as the only true God.

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Our first example of a sign from God comes from Exodus 16:4-8 (ESV), where the people of Israel had complained to Moses about their hunger and how God provided manna or bread from Heaven to sustain them:

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                                               Bread from Heaven

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”

In spite of the fact that the people of Israel had been delivered from bondage in Egypt, they complained. And by complaining to Moses instead of praying to God for a solution, they did not acknowledge HIS presence or authority. And Moses bluntly told them that their grumbling given towards their deliverer was the same as grumbling at God. In spite of this, God provided manna to feed His people.

BLCF: manna

Our second sign from God was the thunder and rain He sent to rebuke the people for not worshiping Him as their king, 1 Samuel 12:16-18 (ESV):

16 Now therefore stand still and see this great thing that the Lord will do before your eyes. 17 Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” 18 So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

BLCF: AltarLitByGod

Our third example of God’s sign was discussed in a sermon that I shared a few months ago, where Elijah asked God to light an altar so that they would turn away from the false god Baal and restore their faith in the one true God, 1 Kings 18:36-39 (ESV):

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

BLCF: Isaiah38

And again in the Book of Isaiah, we see the love and compassion of God, where He extends the life of Hezekiah by fifteen years and even causes the sun to go backwards in the heaven in response to Hezekiah’s prayer,  Isaiah 38:4-8 (ESV):                                                                  

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.[a] I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city. “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.[b]                                                                                                                                                                                          

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 38:5 Hebrew to your days  b. Isaiah 38:8 The meaning of the Hebrew verse is uncertain

I think that we a beginning to see a pattern here: that of God’s people drifting away from Him and repeatedly having to be reminded of His presence by way of supernatural signs through succeeding generations, often more than once to a particular generation.

BLCF: SignsOfHIS_Presence

It is not surprising that Jesus finds the Pharisees and Sadducees demanding a sign as proof that Jesus came from Heaven. This request shows how they have a problem of recognizing any authority other than their own, along with an arrogance to assume that they could command God in a manner reminiscent of the priests of Baal in the days of Elijah, Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV):

                           The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs 

16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

Demanding signs from Jesus indicates not only a lack of faith and respect on the part of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but a defiance to God’s authority, which brings them the following rebuke, continuing  in Matthew 15, verse 5:

                           The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees                                                        

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The best part of this passage is we learn an understanding that bread is used to describe the teaching of faith. And though the Pharisees and Sadducees had a large following of believers in the time that Jesus walked on earth, their religious teachings were not God’s teachings and therefore constituted false and without faith.

The only important teachings or “bread of life” are those lessons from Jesus, whose word became flesh and whose word is life, John 6:35-40 (ESV):

                                 I Am the Bread of Life

                              BLCF: Manna-bread-of-life

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

And the promise and prophecy of Jesus was observed upon his death on the cross and resurrection resulted in several supernatural signs as proof of the Lord’s power and authority, Matthew 27:50-54 (ESV):

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.   

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[a] of God!”                                                                                                                   

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:54 Or a son

By faith in the sanctification of the cross, the promise of the resurrection, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may have a continuous revival of faith and belief that Jesus died for our sins, to pave the way toward a new eternal covenant with our Father in heaven. Let us allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts to continuously renew a revival of a faith that abounds in belief in the restorative power of cross and hope for the promise of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: Manna Living Bread

And with a better understanding of the meaning of the ‘Bread of Life’, let us pray together the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us in Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV), as he instructed his disciples to:

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.[d]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
                      – Amen

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

Closing Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF: I_BELIEVE

BLCF; JesusSign

Thanks for volunteering!

 

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped serve meals at the BLCF Café on Christmas Day 2013 and New Year’s Day 2014, both holidays happened to fall on a Wednesday. With the help of these and other dedicated volunteers, our Community Dinner has not missed serving meals to the homeless and marginalized since opening day in January 2008.

BLCF Café needs volunteers to help feed the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto. If you or your group is interested in helping at the BLCF Café Community Dinner, contact Sophie at blcfcafe@yahoo.ca or 416-535-9578. Here is a link to our info brochure: BLCF Cafe Info Brochure

community-dinner-BLCF

 

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