Food for Thought, Food for the Hungry

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 to 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 gentleman 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 the 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 lifestyle 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. At 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 an 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 are 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 and sisters, you did it to me.’

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Seeing the Invisible through the Lens of Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Seeing the Invisible through the Lens of Faith’ 

© July 29, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 29, 2018

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on March 8, 2015

BLCF: Bulletin March 8, 2015

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #35: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #601: (Faith and Confidence – from Psalm 27)                 

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Seeing the Invisible through the Lens of Faith’

 

Let us pray…

Life can often seem to be an emotional roller coaster, especially if you read the news. Last Sunday morning, we celebrated the answer to the collective prayers offered by millions of people from around the world, when fourteen soccer players and their coach were rescued from the bowels of the earth, inside a monsoon flooded cave in Thailand. Regretfully, a retired marine dive lost his life during the rescue.

Soccer-team-rescued-from-cave-honours-lost-diver-Thailand-2018-07-06

By Sunday evening, the tears of joy for the cave rescue were replaced by tears of sadness, when fifteen people in Toronto, their families, and our city had their collective lives shattered after a shooter changed their lives forever.

Such acts of violence have been addressed more than once from this pulpit, most recently on the topic of God’s admonition to us to protect innocent children. The two victims who lost their lives in the shooting spree were both students, girls aged 18 and 10 years old, respectively.

#DanforthStrong – #TorontoStrong

After the tragedy, there was a scramble to see whether the shootings were part of a larger plot that threatened public safety and an investigation of the motives that triggered the shooter to commit an act of senseless violence as well as his methods, in order to prevent a reoccurrence of any attacks in the future.

Municipal politicians voted to ban the public’s possession of handguns within the city of Toronto. Ironically, the gun used in the shooting was stolen during a break-and-enter in Saskatoon in 2015. It is unlikely the new ban would have any effect upon those who obtain weapons from illegal sources.

The flag at half-staff at Toronto City Hall

How, as Christians who believe in Jesus, the Resurrected Christ, cope with the atrocities of life, both of large and minor scale? The answer is faith. As you might expect, faith is the subject of today’s lesson.

I would like to commend those in the congregation who have faithfully come to our Praise and Worship Services here, in spite of the hot and humid Sundays that we experienced this summer.

In Hebrews 11, the Apostle Paul gives us a great definition for faith, followed by a number of examples throughout the Scriptures of individuals who made bold decisions and action, based upon their faith.

Instead of discussing the entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews for this morning’s lesson, I would like to focus on events related to the life and actions of the Prophet Moses, who is the subject of today’s Scripture verses, taken from Exodus 1:8-22, Exodus 2:1-10,  and Numbers 20:6-13.

Before we examine the life and times of Moses, let us look at Paul’s definition of faith found in Hebrews 11, which you will find on the back of today’s Bulletin:

Hebrews 11:1-3; 17-29; 39-40 (ESV): By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

In Exodus 1:8-22, we see that Pharaoh of Egypt was described as not knowing Joseph, in that he forgotten how the prophet of God had saved the people of Egypt when he preserved the people from famine. Pharaoh chose to oppose God’s chosen people, and by doing so opposed God, by deciding to kill the firstborn Hebrew males.

Exodus 1:8-22(ESV): Pharaoh Oppresses Israel

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews[a] you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

Footnotes: a. Exodus 1:22 Samaritan, Septuagint, Targum; Hebrew lacks to the Hebrews

The Hebrew midwives, at great personal by opposing risk, chose to defy Pharaoh and preserve the newborn, indicating that the Hebrew women are stronger than Egyptian women and have no need for midwives.

Exodus 1:8-22 (ESV): The Birth of Moses

2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes[a] and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”[b]

Footnotes: a. Exodus 2:3 Hebrew papyrus reeds b. Exodus 2:10 Moses sounds like the Hebrew for draw out

It is worth noting that Moses and the Hebrew People owe their own survival to a group of brave and faithful women:  to the midwives who opposed Pharaoh’s edict, to Moses’ mother and sister who preserved the child from drowning on the Nile, and to Pharaoh’s daughter who chose to adopt Moses as her own.

It is ironic that Egypt’s firstborn males were destroyed on the night of Passover and most of the remaining males drowned when the sea closed upon Pharaoh’s army, as they chased Moses and the Hebrews who had crossed the sea that God had parted. The judgment of Pharaoh was executed upon Egypt.

Numbers 20:6-13 (ESV): The Waters of Meribah

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, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “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.” 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.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah,[a] where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.

Footnotes: a. Numbers 20:13 Meribah means quarreling

Because Moses allowed his own personal feelings towards the rebellious people of Israel to use the miracle of the Lord as an opportunity to vent his anger instead of glorifying God, he was not allowed to enter The Promised Land. Moses was unfaithful in following the directions God gave him as to using words to bring forth water.

While Moses and Elijah were observed by the disciples with Jesus, at the time of the Lord’s transfiguration indicates the Moses was raised up to Heaven, even though he was not allowed to lead his people to the Promised Land. Moses was punished, but not forgotten by God and was granted His grace.

So my advice to you this morning is no matter what your circumstance in this emotional roller coaster of life that you ride, always temper that ride with a large dose of faith. Only faith can allow us to make sense of the adage: “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it”, which is taken from the scriptures, 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV):

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

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

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.

Keep Strong Toronto, Attend the Taste of the Danforth

Keep Strong Toronto, Attend the Taste of the Danforth

 #TorontoStrong  #DanforthStrong #Danforth #TasteOfTheDanforth

#BLCF  #BLCFChurch #BLCFCafe #BLCFCA

Summer Worship Schedule At BLCF Church: July 8 – 22, 2018

 

 

Sunday, July 8 –  Sunday, July 22, 2018 

Steve and Sophie Mickelson will be away

and Margaret Kankis will conduct the

BLCF Praise and Worship Services.

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner will continue as usual on

Wednesday Evenings, from 6 – 8 PM.

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

© July 1, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin July 1, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on June 7, 2015

BLCF Bulletin June 7, 2015

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                    

O Canada! (See: below)                                                                                                         

Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding; Choruses                                     

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

Responsive Reading #634: Christian Unity (John 10 and 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)    

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                          

Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/anthems-canada.html#a11

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship and Happy Canada Day 2018! As today happens to be the first Sunday of the month, it is a Communion Sunday.

For our lesson today, entitled Prayer and the Holy Spirit: The ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Faith,  we will be looking at Prayer and the Holy Spirit, as the two dynamic elements of Faith in Jesus, whose sacrifice we remember in the communion portion of today’s service. Just as in communion, we are drawn together as a body of believers, in our prayers we are drawn closer to God’s Holy Spirit.

We know that the elements of communion are the bread and juice, but what are the elements of a prayer? Jesus gave us an idea in his response to the disciples’ question: “How should we pray?” in what we commonly refer to today as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

The Scriptures give us two accounts of Jesus’ example as of how to pray in Matthew, Chapter 6 and Luke, Chapter 11. For our lesson, I have chosen the example recorded in Matthew 6:5-13. While most references indicate the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew beginning at Verse 9 and ending with Verse 13, I find that the four verses previous to Verse 9 are just as important, as they explain not just the content of our prayers, but the attitude and manner of expression of the prayers.

Matthew 6:5-13 (ESV) The Lord’s Prayer

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 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]

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 e. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

There is the common practice among many Churches of reciting the Lord’s Prayer at every service. Such practice runs the risk of just heaping many words publically as described in Matthew 6:7-8. When Jesus taught the disciples how to pray, it was before the Day of Pentecost and so we could understand why the disciples did not discern or understand how to construct a prayer. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit’s presence brings a dynamism to our prayers and the Spirit with prayer act as a ‘Dynamic Duo’ to our faith requests. I am not talking about a Super Hero, but the Spirit delivers dynamism to the prayer. But what do we mean by the term dynamism? Let us check our Wikibits for an answer:

Dynamism [dahy-nuh-miz-uh m] /ˈdaɪ nəˌmɪz əm/ noun 1. Any of various theories or philosophical systems that seek to explain phenomena of nature by the action of force.

Compare mechanism (def 8), vitalism (def 1).

  1. Great energy, force, or power; vigor:

The dynamism of the new governor.

  1. Psychology. A habitual mode of reducing or eliminating tension.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dynamism

This synergy of Spirit and faith together make our prayers more than just hollow words. Faith in the Lord brings the Spirit and the Spirit mediates our prayers and His reply.

Just prior to his crucifixion for all our sins, the Lord gave his “High Priestly Prayer.

John 17 (ESV): The High Priestly Prayer

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth.

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Footnotes: a. John 17:15 Or from evil b. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God) c. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God) d. John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God) In verses 17-26 of John 17,

Jesus asks the Father that those who believe and follow him be sanctified, unified and that the love of God that is in Christ will be in them. The manner by which this request by the Lord may be achieved is by way of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ Prayer in John 17 describes how the Lord delivered on his promise to ask the Father to provide another Helper, described as “the Spirit of truth” earlier in John 14:12-17.

John 14:12-17 (ESV)

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[a] anything in my name, I will do it.

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[b] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[c] in you.

Footnotes: A. John 14:14 Some manuscripts omit me B. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7 C. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

How does the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is part of the Holy Trinity of God, change the manner in which we pray. Here is an excerpt from Ray C. Stedman’s article on The Holy Spirit and Prayer, from a Series: Jesus Teaches Prayer:

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

Author: Ray C. Stedman – Read the Scripture: John 14:12-17

It is significant to note that, though Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, he did teach them how to pray. Much of his teaching on prayer is found in this rich and fragrant passage, which is called The Upper Room Discourse, found in John, Chapters 13 through 17. It is a passage that is filled with astonishing concepts.

I know of no more challenging part of the Word of God than this. It is a vast area of mystery and beauty and glory. I never read it without feeling tremendously humbled in the experience of it. Perhaps in this place, more fully than anywhere else, our Lord unfolds to us the unique secret of Christianity, that aspect of life that has been called “the exchanged life.”

This is the secret of a Christian: He is not living his own life, he is living another’s life. Or, more accurately, another is living his life in him. Until you have grasped that as the mystery and key of Christian living you have not graduated from the kindergarten level of the Christian life.

This is what Jesus says: “In you” means that you are under the control of the Holy Spirit, and yielding obedience to his totalitarian sovereignty. It means the total collapse of all your rebellion against him.

“Oh,” you say, “I’m not in rebellion against the Spirit of God. Why, I’m a Christian. I don’t rebel against him.” Let me ask you: “What kind of life are you living? Is it God-centered, or is it self-centered? Is it to please yourself that your activities are done and your desires aimed?” Then you are in rebellion against the Spirit of God, and to have him dwelling in you means the total collapse of all that revolt until you are saying, “Lord Jesus, whatever you say, your word is my command. I am ready to obey.”

It is not our relationship with Jesus Christ which counts before the world, it is our resemblance to him.

http://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/prayer/the-holy-spirit-and-prayer

Unlike the disciples in Matthew 6 or Luke 11, we need not worry how to word our prayers, as we are accompanied by the Holy Spirit to help us express our concerns and to intercede on our behalf, as we see in Romans 8:26-27:

Romans 8:26-27

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Footnotes: a. Romans 8:27 Or that

In spite of understanding that the Holy Spirit facilitates prayer, many Christians struggle with how to receive the Holy Spirit. For we receive the Spirit by faith. Author Bill Bright describes three steps in the Scriptures to our being filled with the Holy Spirit in his article:

 The Steps to Being Filled with the Holy Spirit By Faith,

You can trust God right now to fill you

by Bill Bright

Millions of Christians are begging God, as I once did, for something which is readily available — just waiting to be appropriated by faith. They are seeking some kind of emotional experience, not realizing that such an attitude on their part is an insult to God — a denial of faith. But faith is the only way you can please God. Though you are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith and faith alone, it is important to recognize that several factors contribute to preparing your heart for the filling of the Spirit.

First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord. You have the promise of our Savior, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul admonishes in Romans 12:1, 2: “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Third, confess every known sin which the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness which God promises in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” I call this process “Spiritual Breathing.”

Just as you exhale and inhale physically, so you also breathe spiritually. You exhale spiritually when you confess your sins.

http://www.cru.org/train-and-grow/classics/transferable-concepts/be-filled-with-the-holy-spirit.7.html

The Holy Spirit provides for a dynamic dialog between God and the believers. Without the Spirit, prayer consists of hollow words with little hope of being heard by the Lord, let alone any reply. It is the Spirit acting as an Intermediary between the Lord and the believer that brings a Devine understanding to our deepest concerns far better than we can put them into words. As an Intercessor, the Spirit brings Devine comfort, encouragement and eventually understanding to the issues that we rise. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we may be assured that anything, for which we pray, according to the Lord’s will, will be heard and answered, 1 John 5:14 (ESV):

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

Let us pray…

Hymn #213: Let Us Break Bread Together

The institution or practice of observing Communion was first instituted at the Last Supper, which was the Passover Supper attended by Jesus and his disciple just prior to his arrest and death on the cross, describes the Lord’s suffering and sacrifice. While we must remember the sadness of Christ’s suffering, we must remember the joy experienced when the disciples met Jesus resurrected from the grave, which occurred twice with the breaking of bread on the Road to Emmaus and inside the Upper Room. We should take comfort that the Lord loved us so much that he would not allow the believers in Christ to be judged by, but forgiven of their sins. This is the confidence we have in keeping our faith and trust in Him.

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

Benediction – (Psalm 19:14): Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness’

© June 24, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 24, 2018

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on September 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin September 29, 2013

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn: #32: How Great Thou Art; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #605: Prayer of Penitence (Psalm 51)

Message by Stephen Mickelson:                                                                                                                           

‘Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness ’

 

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Praise and Worship service at BLCF Church. Today’s lesson is entitled: Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness.’

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we profess our faith that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins, Romans 5:8 (ESV):

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But ask Christians: “What is meant by sin?”,  and you may get any of variety definitions: a sin is an act, it is state of grace or lack of, it is the legacy or birthright we carry as descendants of Adam and Eve; it is in our nature; it a manifestation of a defiant attitude towards our Maker; and so on.

No wonder there is some confusion among both believers and non-believers alike! It is very difficult to have a meaningful dialog or to witness about sin and salvation unless we have a mutual understanding and agreement of the terms that we discuss. The definition of salvation is fairly clear, but what about sin?

Let us have a look of how the Online Farlex Free Dictionary defines sin:

sin 1 (s n) n.

  1. A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate.
  2. Theology
  3. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.
  4. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.
  5. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.

intr.v. sinned, sin·ning, sins

  1. To violate a religious or moral law.
  2. To commit an offense or violation.

[Middle English sinne, from Old English synn; see es- in Indo-European roots.]

sin 2 (s n, s n) n.

The 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet. See Table at alphabet.

[Hebrew în, modeled on în, shin (the following letter).]

Sin (s n)

  1. Mythology

The Babylonian god of the moon.

[Akkadian Sîn.]

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Sin

We might have a better idea of what is a sin if we look at what Bible scholars commonly refer to as the original sin. In recent sermons, we looked at how Adam and Eve violated God’s singular rule: not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan stepped in and rationalized that eating the forbidden fruit would elevate them to the same level as God. Let us look at what happened after Adam and Eve chose to ignore God’s rule. In Genesis 3:17-18; 22-23 (ESV), we read:

17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

I find it interesting to note that the tree of life was not forbidden to Adam and Eve, which implies that they were able to eat from this tree and live forever before they ate from the tree of knowledge.

Note that Verse 18 states: in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; which indicates that Adam’s days are numbered and finite and eventually will end as indicated in Verse 19: 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

So the consequence of sin is death, but God has a plan, a solution, as we read in Paul’s epistle of Romans 5:12-18 (ESV):

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[a] because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass[b] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[c] leads to justification and life for all men.

Footnotes: a.Romans 5:12 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women; also twice in verse 18 b.Romans 5:18 Or the trespass of one c. Romans 5:18 Or the act of righteousness of one

But was sin the result of an act or the thought something else? Let us look at Romans 7:12-14 (ESV):

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

“Sold under sin” sounds like slavery. This is confirmed in John 8:34 (ESV):

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[a] to sin.

 Footnotes: a. John 8:34 Greek bondservant

But if, by definition, a sinner is a slave to sin, then what is the remedy? The remedy is Christ, Galatians 5:1 (ESV):

Christ Has Set Us Free

5 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

We have seen the consequences of sin and God’s solution in Jesus Christ. What does God expect from us in this equation? Let us next look at Colossians 3:5-6 (ESV):

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[a] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[b]

Footnotes: a. Colossians 3:5 Greek therefore your members that are on the earth b. Colossians 3:6 Some manuscripts add upon the sons of disobedience

So from Colossians 3, we see some expressions of sin and understand that sin is earthly or worldly in contrast to being spiritual. And the solution the Lord provided to us for sin is unconditional, Romans 5:8 (ESV):

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Still, God expects us not to surrender our commitment and drive, but that instead of allowing ourselves to be slaves to sin, which is associated with things that are of the world which is Satan’s realm, we must surrender ourselves to matters of spiritual reality which is the domain of God, Romans 6:16-22 (ESV):

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[a] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Footnotes: a.Romans 6:16 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface (twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20)

In addition to commitment to follow the righteous path which leads to sanctification and the promise of eternal life, we must remain vigilant to avoid temptation from Satan to given in to the impulses of our own carnal or worldly desires, which will lead us down the path to sin, James 1:12-15 (ESV):

12 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. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

God does not tempt us for He cannot be tempted. But knowing the law can lead to temptation. And temptation then leads to sin, Romans 3:20-25 (ESV):

20 For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Footnotes: a. Romans 3:20 Greek flesh

So the sin of humanity, as initiated by Adam, was removed by the righteous act of Christ in the Death in Adam, and changed to the Life in Christ verse we read earlier in Romans 5:12:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.  Thus, requiring faith on our part, as we read in Romans 3:22, which then leads to a Redemption through Christ: 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This passage indicates that though all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, all are entitled to redemption and grace to be received by faith. Faith or lack of faith is the key to sin. Adam and Eve sinned as a result of trusting Satan more than God. And the only way we can receive God’s redemption, grace and glory are to give up our faith in things of the world and return to having faith in God, by accepting the unconditional gift of Jesus Christ paid on the cross at Calvary.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn is #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Benediction (2 Peter 1:2): May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

– Go in Peace of the Lord