Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Lacking Nothing, While Banking Your Treasure in Heaven‘
©January 5, 2014 by Steve Mickelson
BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:
Responsive Reading #618 (Heavenly Treasure – Matthew 6); Prayer
Opening Hymn #63: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
Today’s Scriptures: Exodus 2:1-14; Luke 16:19-31; Mark 10:17-25
Exodus 2:1-14 (ESV) The Birth of Moses
2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. 2 The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. 3 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. 4 And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. 5 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. 6 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.” 7 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?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. 9 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]
Moses Flees to Midian
11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.[c] 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.”
Luke 16:19-31 (ESV) The Rich Man and Lazarus
19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers[b]—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Mark 10:17-25 (ESV) The Rich Young Man
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Footnotes: a. Mark 10:24 Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches
Let us pray…
Welcome to the house of the Lord in the heart of Toronto, on this – the first Sunday of the New Year 2014. In the service today we observe the Second Advent or the “return of Jesus” by way of Communion. But before we partake in the Lord’s Supper, I would like to talk about today’s Scriptures, which give us a good idea what the Lord values in HIS children.
Our first verse, from Exodus 2, describes the circumstances of the birth of Moses, the son of a Levi, a Hebrew slave, was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised as a Prince of Egypt. It turns out that the biological mother of Moses was hired to be nursemaid to the baby found in a basket amongst the bulrushes, which afforded Moses an opportunity to bond with his real mother. It is amazing how God works things out. It is likely that some of the compassion that Moses had for the Hebrews had its origins in the loving care he received from his nursemaid mother.
Eventually, Moses gave up his place as a son of Pharaoh and Prince of Egypt. However by acknowledging his true birthright as a Hebrew would likely result in his own enslavement. But before this happened, Moses killed an Egyptian whom he found beating another Hebrew. Moses fled Egypt to the land of Midian, eventually to have an encounter with God, in the form of a burning bush. God had chosen Moses to lead the Hebrews out of servitude and enslavement, through the desert, to deliver HIS laws, and eventually to HIS promised land. Moses had the unique understanding of Egyptian Royalty which would be useful when dealing with Pharaoh in the assignment of freeing the Hebrew slaves.
Today’s second Scripture from Luke 16, known as Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus tells the story of an ‘rich’ man who dressed and ate well, while just outside the gate to his house lies Lazarus, a poor, starving man, who is covered with sores. Eventually both men die, with angels bringing Lazarus to join Abraham in heaven.
Lazarus is an interesting name for a character in this Parable, as it has the following meanings (sheknows.com):
The name Lazarus is a Hebrew baby name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Lazarus is: God will help.
The name Lazarus is a Biblical baby name. In Biblical the meaning of the name Lazarus is: Assistance of God.
The name Lazarus is a Greek baby name. In Greek the meaning of the name Lazarus is: God is my help.
Also, this is the only Parable where Jesus gives a name to one of the protagonists, Lazarus. It is worth noting that the other main character remains nameless and, unlike Lazarus who dies and is brought to heaven by angels, is judged and is sent to Hades or Hell. To God, material wealth does not get you to Heaven. And there is a point when it is too late to repent and ask for forgiveness and avoid judgment. The rich man ended up in Hades and sought mercy for his thirst not unlike the compassion that Lazarus desired at the rich man’s doorstep. The man’s request is denied. Next, the rich man asks for the opportunity to notify his brothers who are still living, so that they may avoid the same fate. The man is told that it is unlikely that people who have ignored the words of Moses and the Prophets will be convinced if someone such as Lazarus were raised from the dead.
This is very interesting, as the Parable tells us that there are people who will never believe or have faith, even if the messenger is raised from the dead. From this, we may conclude some people will embrace faith, even if the messenger is known to have been raised from the dead, which is precisely what our Lord Jesus Christ did. It is interesting, though sad, for those who refuse to believe. But we as believer must continue to witness to those who do not have faith, until it is too late. For we never know whether or when a person may change his heart and embrace faith so as to be saved before it is too late.
Our third Scripture teaches the same lesson as the parable, is an account where a young rich man approaches Jesus and asks how he may inherit eternal life. In contrast to the rich man in the ‘Lazarus Parable’, the young rich man seeks from Jesus what is necessary to enter God’s Kingdom. The outcome for the young man seems to be more hopeful than the rich man who ends up suffering in Hell after death. In addition to seeking God’s Kingdom before death, the young man has some knowledge of religion and awareness of God, as he has observed all of God’s commandments from the youth. It appears that this rich man will not end up in the same place as the rich man in the Lazarus Parable. But wait, there is one stumbling block.
Jesus perceives that the young rich man’s religious practices are tainted by something the young man values more highly than he should. Jesus instructs the young man to sell all that he has and give all the proceeds to the poor. In other words, the Lord has perceived that young man values his own personal wealth over the welfare of the poor. In spite of a desire for eternal life, the young man is unable to relinquish his material wealth in exchange for heavenly treasure received by demonstrating love and compassion for the poor.
Jesus uses the exchange with the rich man to teach how difficult it is for those who are preoccupied with worldly values to enter he kingdom of God or to follow the Way of Jesus. This gives us some insight to how Moses was able to establish a relationship with God, as he had already surrendered all his worldly wealth and power associated with the position of an Egyptian Prince, and he had demonstrated compassion for the vulnerable: the Hebrew Slaves in Egypt.
But you may say how much does a preoccupation with acquiring and maintaining one’s wealth and worldly possessions interfere with faith? What would happen if our fortunes are reversed? Let me share with you a short article I recently came across which gives just such an account. It was untitled, so I gave it the title: ‘Switched at Birth’:
‘Switched at Birth’ – Julian Ryall
Subtitled: ‘Japanese man accidentally switched at birth grew up in poverty while other baby lived life of privilege’
Julian Ryall, The Daily Telegraph | November 28, 2013 7:01 PM ET
(Republished by the National Post)
TOKYO — A Japanese man born to wealthy parents grew up in poverty after being given to another couple in a hospital six decades ago, while the infant who took his place went on to live a privileged life of private tutoring and university, and is today head of a property firm.
The 60-year-old man – who has declined to give his name – was raised reliant on handouts from the state after the man he thought was his father died when he was just two. The woman he considered his mother had to support his three older brothers, and there were few comforts in their one-room apartment as he grew up.
The man had to study at night school while working day shifts in a factory before finding steady employment as a driver with a transport company. He did not marry, and now helps take care of three men who are not his brothers, including one who has suffered a stroke.
The infant who was given to the man’s biological parents was born 13 minutes later at the San-Ikukai Hospital, in Tokyo’s Sumida ward, and grew up in relative affluence.
This boy had a personal tutor, went to university and is the head of a successful property company. His three brothers work for major companies, according to media reports.
‘It is impossible to assess the scale of the pain and disappointment the parents and the man had to suffer’
Questions were only raised when those brothers recently realized that he bore little resemblance to any of his relatives.
In 2011, the family requested access to hospital records and DNA tests subsequently confirmed the mistake.
The error apparently happened when a midwife took the newborn babies to be bathed and then returned them to the wrong mothers.
Speaking to media in Tokyo, the man condemned to a life of hardship described his shock at learning the people he grew up believing to be his parents and brothers were unrelated to him.
“I wondered how this could have happened,” he said. “I could not believe it. To be honest, I did not want to accept it.”
The Tokyo District Court this week ordered the hospital to pay the man 38 million yen ($393,000) in damages as a result of the mix-up, significantly less than the 250-million yen ($2.6-million) the plaintiffs had been seeking.
“The links between the man and his real parents were severed and the man was forced to grow up in a poor home,” Judge Masatoshi Miyasaka said in his ruling. “The mental anguish he went through was enormous.
“There were far-reaching differences between the two family environments and the plaintiff suffered an unreasonable loss as a result,” the ruling said.
“It is impossible to assess the scale of the pain and disappointment the parents and the man had to suffer, as they were deprived of opportunities to enjoy their parent-child relationship forever.”
‘I could not believe it. To be honest, I did not want to accept it’
The man’s biological parents both died before the error came to light and he is still coming to terms with the impact of the events of 60 years ago.
“I might have had a different life,” he said. I want [the hospital] to roll back the clock to the day that I was born.”
He is particularly angry at never having the opportunity to meet his real parents.
“As I saw picture of my parents, I wanted to see them alive,” he said. “For months, I could not hold back the tears every time I saw their pictures.”
He added that the woman who raised him may have suspected something was amiss. “I think my foster mother may have sensed it,” he admitted, pointing to the physical differences between himself and his brothers.
The hospital initially attempted to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the 10-year statute of limitations had run out. The court dismissed that claim and ruled that the statute of limitations only began when the results of the DNA tests were confirmed.
The hospital has not confirmed whether it will appeal against the ruling. http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/11/28/japanese-man-accidentally-switched-at-birth-grew-up-in-poverty-while-other-baby-lived-life-of-privilege/
We have in this story, the account of two babies: one born of wealthy parents and the other whose parents lived in poverty. After 60 years, the impoverished man, a caretaker for three ‘brothers’ who are not even related to the man, has one main regret: that he never had an opportunity to meet and talk to his biological parents, now deceased. There did not seem to be any regrets for lost or missed opportunities or wealth that were afforded to the man whose place he had exchanged with, through a mistake made some six decades before.
It is also interesting, according to the story, that the wealthy man, who should have been raised in poverty in his place, seemed to show a callous disregard towards his true biological parents, his true siblings, or the man took in his place to live a life of poverty. Perhaps he was too busy running the property company to care. And the man who lived in poverty gave no indication of abandoning brothers who really are not related to him, from a family that a fateful mistake had been given to him.
In this story, it is not difficult to speculate which of these two men would have difficulty finding God’s Kingdom if both were presented with Christ’s Gospel of salvation, and which would not. One may live a life of extreme poverty and still have more to share, than someone who is raised in wealthy circumstance. We find a good conclusion to today’s lesson in Luke 12:32-33 (ESV):
32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
Let us pray…
At this time, as believers in the resurrected Christ, let us take a moment to reflect upon the act of Communion, whereby we acknowledge the gift and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ made on behalf, so that we may be judged sinless before God and have confidence of the New Covenant that promises us eternal life upon his return.
Communion: Luke 22:14-23 (ESV) Institution of the Lord’s Supper
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b] 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory
Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.