Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stones-Throw from Each Other

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s-Throw from Each Other’

© September 9, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 9 2018

Originally shared with BLCF on November 15, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 15, 2015

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                        Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses                             Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                     Responsive Reading #648: A Challenge to Faith (John 8:1-11)                         Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                         ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’

 Let us pray…

As you may surmise from the Scripture verses, today’s lesson, entitled ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’, will look at accounts of stoning in the Bible.

Before talking about these passages, let us check with our Wikibits for a definition of this cruel form of execution:

Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until he or she dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Slower than other forms of execution, stoning within the context of Modernism or contemporary Western Culture, is considered a form of execution by torture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning

The first of today’s accounts of stoning an individual is found in John 8:1-11, where we have the familiar account of a woman who was caught in adultery, who was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus as part of a plan to test and trap our Lord, as he was teaching in the temple.

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.”

Jesus was asked what should be done with the adulteress, citing that Mosaic Law mandated that she be stoned or killed for her transgression. But as Jerusalem was under Roman jurisdiction, and only Roman officials had the authority to judge or execute the woman.

The trap was intended to have Jesus side with one authority over the other. If Jesus agreed with the Mosaic Law, to stone the woman, the scribes and Pharisees would inform the Roman authorities that Jesus was guilty of usurping the authority of Rome. If the Lord told them to bring the woman to the Roman authorities, the scribes and Pharisees could accuse Jesus of breaking the Mosaic Laws.

We see that our Lord did neither, but challenging anyone who believed himself to be without sin, to cast the first stone at the woman. No stone was tossed and the crowd dissipated. Jesus then asked the woman whether any of her accusers had remained, to which she answered no. Jesus responded that neither did he accuse her, instructing her to go and sin no more.

Our second Scripture Verse, tell the story of the Apostle Stephen, the first to be martyred for preaching truth from the Scriptures.

Acts 6:8-15 (ESV) Stephen Is Seized

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Acts 7:51-60 (ESV)

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes: a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Our verses, form Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7:51-60 describe how Stephen was falsely accused of speaking against before the council accused by several groups of speaking blasphemous words against the Law of Moses, God and the temple, any consideration of these violations carried the death penalty of being stoned.

Stephen was arrested and instead of defending refuting the false charges, pointed out how his accusers were guilty of bearing false witness and rebelling against the authority of God. In Acts 7, Verses 1-50, Stephen gives a concise, condensed accounting of how previously, Joseph, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus were victims of those who challenged God’s authority, with Solomon having the audacity of attempting to house God in the temple.

Chapter 7 of Acts gives a wonderful synopsis of the challenges the people of Israel gave to God’s Prophets and His Son. While the Speech or Sermon of Stephen covers centuries of time, we see a repeated pattern of disobedience to God, which resulted in the children of Israel repeatedly being punished by God, who allowed them to be enslaved or subjugated by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and the Romans. We see how God repeatedly demonstrated His love and compassion for His children by providing leaders to deliver them from death and enslavement, with His Son, Jesus, providing a way from the judgment for sin.

Stephen’s truthful account of how God’s love was spurred; His rules disobeyed; and His Son rejected, angered his accusers, who killed the Apostle by stoning him. Before his death, Stephen, being described as being full of the Holy Spirit, looked towards Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of the Father. Stephen’s last words were to commend his spirit to God and to ask Him to forgive those who persecuted him.

Our third set of Scriptures describes the faith transformation of Saul of Tarsus by an encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus in Acts 22:6-21.

Acts 22:6-21 (ESV)

Paul on the Road to Damascus

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

This is the same Saul described in Acts 7:58, who watched the garments of those who stoned the Apostle Stephen, as Saul acknowledged in Acts 22:20.

We see that instead of having Saul being punished for his crimes of murder, our Lord showed compassion to Saul, who now identified himself as Paul, now an apostle of the Gospel and way of the Lord. Such is the degree of love and compassion demonstrated by our Lord and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrifice had removed the judgment of sin from those who confess by faith, including Saul of Tarsus.

The Lord will come and knock at our door, asking us to allow him to come into our hearts. If we answer his call by accepting his gift of salvation, confessing to him our sins, and allowing him to be our Lord in our lives; we are born again in the Holy Spirit. We are given the choice to cast a stone of sin or drop that stone and answer the knock at the door and be sanctified from sin through Christ. The decision is ours’. The decision, that is just a stones-throw away.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                            The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone’

 © September 2, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 2, 2018

Originally Published on October 9, 2011 

BLCF Bulletin October 9, 2011 Bulletin  

Blood from a Stone

Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone

  Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                  Opening Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride; Choruses                        Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings           Responsive Reading #606: (Blessings from God – Psalm 103)                                       Message by Stephen Mickelson:  ‘Water from a Rock, Blood from a Stone’ 

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Happy Labour Day Weekend to each and every one of you. And since today happens to be the first Sunday of the month we give thanks to the Lord’s gifts of Salvation, Sanctification, and the Holy Spirit by taking the elements of communion. This leads us to the following questions:

What Is Communion And Why Do We Do It?

(Courtesy of the New Spring Network)

 Have you ever wondered why Christians eat a small piece of bread and drink a sip of wine (or grape juice) in some church services?

You’re not alone.

 For thousands of years, the Church has continued a practice called communion, or depending on different church traditions, the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist.

Communion uses bread as a symbol for Jesus’ body and wine as a symbol for His blood. Yes, it sounds strange. But why do Christians talk about eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood? Are we cannibals?

Where Did Communion Come From?

Jesus started the tradition of communion. He instructed His followers to use bread and wine to remember the sacrifice He was going to make when He died for our sins on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

 Jesus called Himself “the bread of life,” which means that we’re nourished by Him, we survive because of Him, and He satisfies us when everything else leaves us empty (John 6:48-51). There’s a connection between our nearness to Jesus, believing in Him, and being fulfilled by Him (John 6:35).

The early Church celebrated Jesus by taking communion, sometimes every day (Acts 2:42-46). They saw that every time they gathered around a table to eat and drink, it was a chance to recognize Jesus and thank God for all He’s done.

Reasons Not To Do Communion

Taking communion doesn’t make you a Christian. It doesn’t save your soul or get you to heaven.

God actually warns us about taking communion without considering what it means and why we’re doing it. The intent is not for us to mindlessly perform a ritual, but to intentionally set aside time to remember what Jesus has done and why He did it (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).

Why Christians Do Communion?

It’s not about the bread and wine; it’s about the body and blood of Jesus.

It’s not about the ritual or the method; it’s about listening to Jesus and doing what He says.

Communion is not an obligation, but a celebration.

Communion celebrates the Gospel: Jesus was broken for us so that we can be fixed by Him.

Celebrating communion marks the story of Jesus, how He gave Himself completely to give us a better life, a new start, and a fresh relationship with God (1 Peter 3:18). It’s not about a ritual to revere, but a person to worship. Jesus is less concerned about the method of celebrating communion and more concerned that we celebrate it.

 As often as we remember Jesus, we should celebrate Jesus.

Communion is important because it’s a command to remember. Jesus wants us to remember every time we taste bread and wine, and even when we sit at the tables in our own homes, that He is the one who provides all we need. He gives us the physical food that we need to survive and the spiritual nourishment we need to keep taking our next steps with Him.

https://newspring.cc/articles/what-is-communion-and-why-do-we-do-it

What does the Bible indicate the importance of giving thanks to God? The following Scripture is taken from the 12th Book of the New Testament, which is  Colossians 3:15-17 (ESV):

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The above scripture is attributed to have been authored by Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, to the church in Colossians, so named for being located within Colossae. Colossae is in the region of the seven churches of Revelation 1-3. In Colossians 4:13 there is mention of local brethren in Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. Colossae was approximately 12 miles from Laodicea and 14 miles from Hierapolis. Members of the congregation at Colossae had incorporated pagan elements into their practice, including the worship of elemental spirits. The Epistle to the Colossians declares Christ’s supremacy over the entire created universe and exhorts Christians to lead godly lives. The letter consists of two parts: first a doctrinal section, then a second regarding our conduct. In both sections, false teachers who have been spreading terror in the congregation are opposed. But just we find in Biblical times, as today, some people conduct their worship or faith practices incorporating pagan beliefs. In time the worship ignores and forsakes our Lord.

And what is the Lord’s view of such pagan observances?  We read in Nehemiah 9:1-3; 15-17: (ESV):

The People of Israel Confess Their Sin

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month, the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.  And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.  And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day

 You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.

“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. 17They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.

The key part about this scripture is that in spite of their sins, that some refused to obey God’s Laws or even to acknowledge what the Lord had provided for his people, God’s love remained steadfast. That He is a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, in spite of our sinful, ungrateful tendencies.

Colossians 3:17 –  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Many in today’s society seem to have found themselves wandering in the wilderness, stiffening their necks to their Lord as had happened in the time of Moses, in Exodus 17:1-7 (ESV):                           

Water from the Rock 

All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.  Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

So Moses cried to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” And the LORD said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.”

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

It is sad to see that as a reminder of the people’s ungrateful attitude, Moses saw fit to name this spring created by the Lord as Massah and Meribah, which as you see in the footnotes translates as  [a]Exodus 17:7 Massah means testing [b] Exodus 17:7 Meribah means quarreling.

We often find ourselves in a place where instead of counting our blessings, creating a litany of complaints and criticisms.

I remember some years, as a young man, new to the Christian faith, I attended a church meeting. The associate Church Pastor had taken great pains to prepare coffee for those in attendance. When offered a cup, I not only said no thank you, saying that “I am all ‘coffeed-out’ and that I should not be drinking so much coffee”, to which several others in attendance acknowledged the same. By adding those remarks, I had made the Pastor’s efforts appear to be something worthy of complaint, instead of just an act of love and kindness to others.

It was only some years later when I had the opportunity to really understand how we can harm others with our casual comments.

For several years, as President of a local computer club, I also edited the clubs newsletter which consisted of 20 pages per issue, with ten issues a year. In those days, computer technology lacked high-resolution scanners and word recognition software. Since many of the articles we printed came from printed articles from other clubs with whom we exchanged newsletters, and the newsletters were not in electronic form, we either had to transcribe articles, a difficult task for this two-finger typist or photocopy, cut and paste masters copies for the local photocopy shop. Needless to say, I chose the latter. Still, the process of producing 20 pages of a newsletter, which included a page or two outlining the clubs activities in my own bi-line translated into 8-10 hours of labour effort every month.

You can imagine my feelings when I proudly presented the new issue of the newsletter, which one or two members, instead of acknowledging my hour’s efforts, seemed to take delight in obvious typos or spelling errors. Needless to say, after four years of what seemed to be a thankless job, I decided to step down as president and newsletter editor. But I have a good idea of how that Associate Pastor felt, as, after my remarks, he stopped making coffee for our church meetings. Yet, in spite of all our bickering and complaints, God still loves us. He has not given up on us. Now that is something for which we may be thankful.

With a little faith, Moses produced water from a rock, and to be grateful for God’s work, which is for some people, like getting blood from a stone. That is why we all should obey God’s law as described in Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV):

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

So let us demonstrate our gratitude to both our Lord, as well as our neighbours as found in 1 Chronicles 16:8-12:

David’s Song of Thanks

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
11 Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles and the judgments he uttered,

 Let us pray…

Communion – An Act of Fellowship and Demonstration of Our Faith:

1 John 1:3 (ESV): Fellowship

 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Communion

Communion began on the annual celebration of Passover Supper when Jesus told his disciples to remember his sacrifice as they ate the bread and drank the wine.

Just as Israel celebrates the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, when the angel of death passed over their homes, so believers in Jesus celebrate and remember his sacrifice for the judgment of all of our sins when he died on the cross.

Communion uses bread as a symbol of his body and juice as a symbol of his blood. The act of taking communion does not save us, it is an act of worship and remembrance our Lord, who instructed his followers to continue, until the day he returns.

Luke 22:14-20 (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] Footnotes: a. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again b. Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood)

Hymn #569: When upon Life’s Billows

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.

The Lessons of the Good Samaritan

BLCF: GoodSamHands

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

The Lessons of the Good Samaritan’ 

 © August 19, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin August 26, 2018

Originally Published on May 2, 2010, and later on June 8, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin June 8, 2014

BLCF:Good_Samaritan 

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #25: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee; Choruses     

Responsive Reading #653 (Love and Discipleship – John 13 and 1 John 1 and 3)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Lessons of the Good Samaritan

 

Let us pray…

Today’s message is entitled ‘The Lessons of Good Samaritan’, also know as The Good Samaritan, referring to one of the parables Jesus used to teach and give insight to God’s will in our lives. The word “parable” comes from the Greekπαραβολή” (parabolē), the name given by Greekrhetoricians to any fictive illustration in the form of a brief narrative. Later it came to mean a fictitiousnarrative, generally referring to something that might naturally occur, by which spiritual and moral matters might be conveyed. A parable is a short tale that illustrates universal truth, one of the simplest of narratives. It sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. It often involves a character facing a moraldilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences. The dilemmas presented in Jesus’ parables often mirrored the real-life situations faced by those whom the parable is presented. As God has provided us with the Bible as a lamp to guide us through life, the Parable of the Good Samaritan was written for all who read His word.

BLCF: good-Samaritan

Luke 10:25-37 (ESV) The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

Therefore, we may consider the Good Samaritan Parable was written expressly for both you and me. Any lessons learned from the parable are lessons given by God to us, for our benefit, and are just as relevant today, as they were in the time of Christ.

BLCF: Tale-Yax

The following story published April 26, 2010, by the Calgary Herald as reported by Tom Leonard, in New York’s The Daily Telegraph on April 26, 2010:

More than 20 people ignored a dying man for nearly two hours as he lay on a New York street after saving a woman from being mugged.

CCTV footage showed Hugo Tale-Yax, a homeless man, collapsing with stab wounds on a pavement shortly after stopping the mugger, who was armed with a knife. He lay dying in a pool of blood as people strolled past, some pausing briefly to look at him.

One even emerged from a nearby building to photograph Mr. Tale-Yax, a 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, with his mobile phone. Another man bent down to shake him, lifting him to reveal the pool of blood, but he still walked away.

When police and firemen finally arrived at 7:23 AM on Sunday in the Jamaica neighbourhood of Queens to find Mr. Tale-Yax was dead, he had been lying there for an hour and 40 minutes.

The same video footage earlier showed an unidentified woman being accosted by a man, who was then involved with a scuffle with Mr. Tale-Yax. As the other two fled in opposite directions, Mr. Tale-Yax staggered a few yards before collapsing.

He was found by firemen responding to an emergency call. Police said they received three calls, one about a screaming woman and another about a man lying in the street. But both calls apparently gave the wrong address and officers found the right location only after a third call.

BLCF: homelessman_Tale-Yax

The incident has reminded New Yorkers of the notorious killing in 1964 of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death in Queens.

BLCF: kitty-genovese

The story of Kitty Genovese In March, 1964, a New York City woman named Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was raped and stabbed to death as she returned home from work late at night. According to a newspaper report published shortly after her death, 38 people had witnessed some or all of the attack, which took place in two or three distinct episodes over a period of about a half hour—and yet no one did anything to stop it; no one even reported it to the police until the woman was already dead. Although the murder itself was tragic, the nation was even more outraged that so many people who could have helped seemingly displayed callous indifference. And so the failure of bystanders to intervene became known as “Kitty Genovese Syndrome”—or, sometimes, just “Genovese Syndrome” or “Genovese Effect.” Social psychologists sometimes call it the “bystander effect.”

BLCF: bystander-effect

It is interesting that we now have a social psychological term for people when they do not want to get involved in the injury of a stranger, even though such intervention might save the victim’s life, the Kitty Genovese Syndrome. In Mathew 10:27, Christ tells us that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, then it appears in the murders of Miss Genovese and Mr.Tale-Yax that there are at least 58 people who lack such love or compassion. Either one might still be alive today if one had shown enough compassion to help, to be a Good Samaritan.

Ironically, Mr.Tale-Yax, perhaps because he was homeless valued life so highly, that he risked his own life to save a stranger and was rewarded for his efforts by his own death thanks to twenty who made no effort to help this Good Samaritan. And as Mathew 25:40 states: ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did to me.’ So not only do the 58 bi-standers by not assisting the victims of these crimes demonstrated a lack the love for their neighbor, they are judged by their actions do not have a love for God as well.

So what is it we may learn from the Parable of the Good Samaritan? In Luke 10:25, Jesus was tested by a lawyer who wanted to know how he may inherit eternal life. In Luke 10:26 Jesus answered this question with a question of his own: “What is written in the Law?” and tested the lawyer’s understanding of the scriptures by pairing with his first question, with a second question: ”How do you read it?”

The lawyer’s reply was: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” In Luke 10:28, we have Jesus acknowledge the lawyer’s reply as having answered correctly, telling him that by doing what he said he will live.

BLCF: heart-of-a-good-samaritan-reveals

The Parable of the Good Samaritan starts with a lawyer, Greek nomikos, who is a “legal expert, or a jurist, or a lawyer, and a man who is skilled in interpreting the Jewish Torah testing Jesus on a point of law.” The Jews often called upon a lawyer or jurist of the scriptures to settle legal issues. The purpose of using this question to test Jesus was not intended to reaffirm the lawyer’s faith in Christ, but more likely an attempt to find a flaw in His understanding of the scriptures. Jesus was quite astute by turning the question back to the lawyer and giving him the test, instead. Another interesting aspect of Jesus response was to allow the lawyer to answer his own question and to follow it up by advising the lawyer to show love of God and love to others, indicating that the attempt to trap Jesus implied motives absent of love for either, but more of an earthly desire based on distrust or fear.

The priest and Levite in the parable represent the religious elite. These people were characteristically arrogant and hypocritical, treating others they considered to be of a lower class, such as Samaritans, with contempt. Samaritans, in particular, were looked down upon. For though holding claims on Judaism, they were not pure Jews. They were half-breeds both genetically and theologically, a mixture between the Jews of captivity and the Samaritan people of the land they were captive in. Jews typically held Samaritans in contempt. The Samaritans were not gentiles and were still bound to the same law as the Jews. The parable illustrates the Jesus’ characteristic trait to humiliate the proud and lift up the humble, and thus he used a Samaritan in his illustration.

Jerusalem and Jericho are connected by a 27 Kilometer road. This road is quite steep, dropping over 4800 KM in altitude. In the times of Jesus, this road was notorious for robbers and thieves. The prospect of traveling this route and encountering a victim as described in the parable is quite within reason.

While the reaction of the priest and Levite could be rationalized that both avoided the half-dead man on the road because they feared the man to be not a victim but bait for a trap set by thieves. The fact that neither returned with help really shows the how self-absorbed these two were. The other rationalization for their reaction might be the fear that the victim was already dead and touching a dead body, if not a Jew, would defile particularly the priest to the point that he would not be able to collect, distribute or consume sacrifices presented to priests as tithes. Levites were descendants of Levi, but not of Aaron. Levites assisted priests, who were descended of Aaron, in the temple. The same expectation of non-defilement would apply. Whatever the reason for the journey of the priest and the Levite, each felt their business more important than the life a wretched victim found half-dead on the road, without help left to die.

So if the priest and Levite had decided to not stop to help this man, we would not be surprised if Samaritan had decided to do the same. Instead, we see in Luke 10:33 that the Samaritan shows compassion and acts on his compassion by stopping and treating his wound, then taking the man to an inn on his own animal, and paid in advance for the man’s room and board; promising to return and pay for any more spent for the care of the man.

Another example of a modern day Samaritan left to die by individuals with “more important” priorities is found among the elite mountain climbing community and their treatment of climber Lincoln Hall, who was rescued by Dan Mazur and Mazur’s team of fellow climbers, as described in summitclimb.com.

BLCF: dan_mazur_

Dan Mazur is most widely known for his discovery and assistance in the rescue of Lincoln Hall, an Australian climber on Mount Everest on 25 May 2006. Lincoln Hall had been ‘left for dead’ by another expedition team the previous day at around 8700m on Everest after collapsing and failing to respond to treatment on the descent from the summit. Mazur and his fellow climbers – Andrew Brash (Canada), Myles Osborne (UK) and Jangbu Sherpa (Nepal) – in abandoning their own attempt on the summit in order to save Hall’s life epitomised the noblest traditions of mountaineering. Their sacrifice was underscored by the death of a British climber; David Sharp, who died a few days before Hall, lower down on the same route. Approximately 40 people said they saw Mr. Sharp in distress, and walked past him, but no one rescued David Sharp, and he subsequently died. Sir Edmund Hillary, who made the first ascent of Everest in 1953 with Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, spoke out against those 40 people, and said that nothing like that would have happened in his day.

http://www.summitclimb.com/new/default.asp?chyes=y&mtype=&prid=519&vid=520

BLCF: mt_everest

What was Mazur’s opinion of his team’s actions in contrast to the inactions of other climbing teams with respect to helping a climber left to die on the route to the peak of Mount Everest? The website uwpexponent.com provides us with Mazur’s view on the subject:

In May 2006, Mazur made headlines when, while leading a small group of climbers on Everest, he discovered an injured climber named Lincoln Hall.  Hall had been left for dead by his own climbing group a day prior. Mazur and his group risked their lives to save Hall’s.

“When the story became international news, I was really surprised,” Mazur said.  “I didn’t do anything different on that climb than I normally would have in that type of situation.”

During the rescue, Mazur attempted to flag down two passers-by for help.  The climbers claimed they did not speak English and continued on their journey to the top. Mazur later discovered that they did in fact speak English.  Mazur explained that the urge to reach the top often effects the decision making of mountain climbers.

“They said they didn’t stop because they were working on a research project and didn’t have the time to,” Mazur said.  “I then asked them in a non-confrontational way what they thought about people who climb to the top and can’t make it down on their own.”

Mazur further explained that the two hinted that if people are not strong enough to get back down on their own, they essentially deserve to die at the top.

“Every one of us has the ability to stop and help someone out, every last one of us,” said Mazur.  “However, every last one of us also has the ability not to stop.”

http://uwpexponent.com/features/2013/03/21/mazur-speaks-about-everest-climb-rescue/

BLCF: good_samartin_trditional_view

According to John Welch’s Commentary, this parable is an allegory of the Fall and the Redemption of Mankind:

“This parable’s content is clearly practical and dramatic in its obvious meaning, but a time-honored Christian tradition also saw the parable as an impressive allegory of the Fall and Redemption of mankind.

“This allegorical reading was taught not only by ancient followers of Jesus, but it was virtually universal throughout early Christianity.”

In this allegorical interpretation of the parable, perhaps Jesus was hinting in this parable of the fact that he was going to pay the price for our salvation.

BLCF: Good_Samaratin

I would like to offer another interpretation of the parable; that this parable is an allegory, but with a different paradigm or point of view from the traditional. With all due respect to John Welch and others, I would like to offer a different allegory, wherein Christ is represented not by the Samaritan, but instead, Christ is the fallen victim, avoided by the quote “Corporate Religious Groups”,  or modern-day Pharisees whose focus is upon achieving their self-serving goals. They would find nothing worthwhile to the corporate group’s interests in helping a half-dead wretch on the road or any other poor individual unable to contribute financially to their organization’s bottom line or financial growth. Such groups would deem it not only advantageous to themselves to not stop and help; better to give misery a wide berth, as stopping would only impede its self-serving financial objectives.

It is surprising that I have been asked on occasion by people associated with Christian Groups: “Why do we at BLCF Church bother wasting resources and time hosting the BLCF Café Community Dinner in the heart of Toronto for the homeless and marginalized? After all, what could they contribute financially to our church in return?

My response is: “Really! I mean really!

BLCF: isaiah_582

Members of such large misguided religious corporations are represented in the parable by the Priest and Levite. They find that the dying individual does not fit into their corporate schedule. Besides, they are already late for some important meeting, and anyway, it’s contrary to their business plan to assume the liability or risk of helping a relatively insignificant individual. After all, it’s all about numbers and corporate sponsorship.

In the parable, it appears for the Priest and the Levite and the Levite, their focus was more upon themselves, their position in the church, and the fact that there was nothing to be personally gained, by stopping to help this man; a viewpoint which flies in the face of the Lord’s expectation of the practice of believers, as we see in Proverbs 14:31.  Now, it is popular among some Christian circles to portray Jesus as a radical with a totally different view from the Scriptures, which we refer today as the Books of the  Old Testament. But what Jesus taught in Matthew 20 about helping the least of our brothers and sisters was totally in sync with the Old Testament. It was Pharisees, Scribes and other Jewish leaders who twisted the interpretation of the Scriptures to suit their own worldly priorities instead of the Lord’s, not unlike some so-called Christian churches today. Fortunately there those who hold close to the Lord’s intended purpose in the Scriptures. Just below the graphic illustration of the Lord’s Commandments in Luke 10, we find the verse from Proverbs 14.

BLCF: heart-of-a-good-samaritan-reveals

Proverbs 14:31 (ESV)

31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,     

but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.

By their motivations and actions in not showing compassion and help the least of these, they have brought upon themselves the same treatment for their souls, condemning death upon them, by putting their own interests first. The same could be said for individuals and organizations that focus on their own growth and make no provision for caring for those in need who cannot contribute to their bottom line. The Apostle Paul authored numerous letters to Christian churches whose membership had drifted away from the path given to them by the Lord’s gospel and word.

Now think back on the Good Samaritan Parable, where the traditional interpretation holds that the Samaritan in the parable represents Jesus. My belief that the penniless, naked, beaten, half-dead man on the road to Jericho is not the fallen Adam, but Jesus who was beaten, naked, abandoned, left to die. And how did I come to such a different conclusion? The answer is from Jesus own words, as we read in Matthew 25:31-40, where Christ tells us  exactly who the beaten (sick), the naked stranger on the road is:

BLCF:TheBystanderEffectByBenRoffelsenPhotography

Matthew 25:31-40 The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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.’

BLCF: Change-the-World

So if we walk by a beaten, naked, half-dead, penniless man left to die on the road, for whatever excuse we choose to rationalize our behavior, we have violated the rule stated in Luke 10:27b: “love… your neighbor as yourself.And since God states that how to treat or mistreat others, particularly the less-fortunate shows to God how we love him, Luke 10:27a.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”

BLCF: heart-of-a-good-samaritan-reveals

By violating these two rules, that is, by not demonstrating love to our neighbor who is in need, God says you are treating Him the same way and you condemn your soul to death.

But the keyword in Luke 10, is love, which the Apostle Paul describes for us as the “The Way of Love”, in 1 Corinthians 13.

1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) The Way of Love

BLCF: just_for_jesus

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 13:3 Some manuscripts deliver up my body [to death] that I may boast b. 1 Corinthians 13:5 Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing

BLCF: EvilThrives

In conclusion, the next time you see an opportunity to help others and choose to walk around or go the other way, from someone in need, you have brought upon yourselves a heavy judgment by Son of Man on the Day of Judgment. You have in all likelihood denied yourself a place in God’s Kingdom.

As believers in the resurrected Christ, we are considered to be “Born again” in God’s Holy Spirit, and if given an opportunity to be a “Good Samaritan” to demonstrate love and compassion to someone who is distress, we would do so without hesitation. Otherwise, as we read in Mathew 25:31-40, we can expect to be judged, accordingly.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:23-24):

 Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

BLCF: do_something

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.

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

 

The Awakening of the Prodigal

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

© June 17, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 17, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #49:  A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #659: ‘First Things First’ (Matthew 6 and 16)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Awakening of the Prodigal’

Let us pray…

Good morning and a happy Father’s Day to the dads who are in the BLCF Church congregation today, as we also celebrate the Day of our Father in heaven.

BLCF Church Sunday June 19,2011

For the lesson this morning, we will examine The Parable of the Prodigal Son, as recorded in Luke 15:11-22. But before we look at Luke’s Gospel, let us read a warning written to the Church in Sardis, to give us an insight to the story of the Prodigal Son, from Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV):

To the Church in Sardis

 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Biblegateway.com gives the following Commentary on the Message to Sardis, which helps us with what is perhaps the most damaging and urgent warning that was issued to a church in the Book of Revelations.

The Message to Sardis (Biblegateway.com Commentary)

The message to Sardis lists no specific enemies, internal or external. There is no name calling–no liars, no Balaam or Jezebel, no deep secrets of Satan, no synagogue of Satan, no throne of Satan. Consequently, of all the congregations in Asia, we know least about Sardis and its problems. Yet no other message is more damaging or more urgent than this one.

Too often, when we encounter no spiritual adversaries, it is because we are the enemy. The only enemy named at Sardis is the angel to whom the message is addressed.

Sardis was situated almost directly south of Thyatira, in the direction of Smyrna and the sea. Its greatest days were behind it, but this once proud capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia (later the western capital of the Persian Empire) was still, under Roman rule, an important center of the woolen industry. Abundant archaeological remains include a temple to Artemis, a huge gymnasium and the largest synagogue yet found in the ancient world, suggesting a Jewish community numbering in the thousands (Finegan 1981:177-78). A sermon of Melito, a Christian bishop at Sardis, entitled On the Passover (see Hawthorne 1975:147-75), testifies to a spirited, sometimes bitter, debate with this Jewish community in the second century. Yet as far as we are told, the problem of the congregation in John’s time was not with the Jews, nor with the Roman Empire, nor with false prophecy, but solely with itself.

Clean, white clothing in the book of Revelation is consistently a symbol of religious and moral purity, especially in the face of persecution (see 3:18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13), while soiled or disheveled clothing, or no clothing at all, is a symbol of religious and moral impurity and shame (see 3:17-18; 16:15). It is likely that the problem at Sardis was a strong tendency to compromise Christian faith for the sake of conformity to social and cultural standards set by Asian society and the Roman Empire. This spirit of compromise was linked not to one particular faction in the Christian community (as at Pergamum and Thyatira) but to the majority. The ones who had not soiled their clothes had become marginalized. They were the small faction. This explains the severe tone of the message, but it is impossible to be more specific as to the exact nature of the compromises made at Sardis.

 https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Rev/Message-Sardis

While we contemplate the warning to Sardis, I would like to point out a key part of the Revelation 3 warning, found in Verses 2 to 4, where the members of the church are accused of sleeping or have “closed eyes” towards being faithful in completing their assigned task of living witness and sharing, in word and deed, the Message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus:

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

Sardis is admonished to wake up, complete their tasks, and to not only remember the Message of the Gospel but adhere to their part of the New Covenant and to repent. If the people in the church of Sardis do wake up, they will face severe consequences.

With the Message to Sardis fresh in our minds, let us now read from Luke 15:11-22 (ESV), where a son who is blinded to the love and provisions from his father, and in the process becomes a prodigal, by squandering his inheritance:

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

 11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.

Footnotes: a. Luke 15:15 Greek joined himself to b. Luke 15:21 Some manuscripts add treat me as one of your hired servants c. Luke 15:22 Greek bondservants

Definition of prodigal (adjective)

1characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure lavish 

  • prodigalfeast 
  • prodigaloutlays for her clothes

2recklessly spendthrift 

  • the prodigalprince

3yielding abundantly luxuriant often used with of

  • nature has been so prodigalof her bounty
  • —H. T. Buckle

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/prodigal

In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells the story of an impatient, ungrateful son who demands to receive from his father his share of an inheritance before the death of his father. The father agrees to give the young son the share of the property to be given to the son and the son’s older brother, in advance of the Father’s death. Usually, a son has to earn an inheritance

Rather than acknowledging the gift, the son journeys from his father to a far-off country and squanders away all of the inheritance. A famine falls upon the land leaving the son destitute and desperate for food and the necessities of life, that he hires himself to feed pigs. Not only were pigs considered to be an unclean food, but feeding pigs would be considered the most undesirable of occupations.

It is while the son, who is starving, contemplates eating the pods that he is feeding to the pigs, wakens to the fact that his father feeds his servants better than what he is providing for himself.

The son then returns to his father to confess his sins against God and his father, asking for forgiveness and offering to work as a servant to his father.

The father feels compassion to his son and demonstrates the joy of his return by having a celebration feast and restoring the son by having him clothed in the best robe, giving him a ring and shoes.

The obvious lesson learned from Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son is that believers who have chosen to leave their Lord and faith practices, not unlike the members of the church in Sardis, are not forgotten or without hope. We see in the Parable which is the third in series that addresses the subject of “finding what has been lost”. The other two Parables deal with a lost sheep and a lost coin, respectively.

Another interpretation of The Prodigal Son is, as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven, sin has forced us away from Him, leaving us dying and destitute spiritually. However, we are offered the gift of full forgiveness and restitution of the inheritance lost by Adam and Eve when they abandoned their Father by eating the forbidden fruit in Garden of Eden.

By humbly confessing our sins, we are promised to be reunited with our Father in heaven forever, restored by the sacrifice made by His Son, Jesus for our behalf.

Like The Prodigal Son, we deserve His disdain, but God loves us. His greatest desire is for sinners to awaken to our Lord’s soft and tender calling to return home and to be reunited with our Father in heaven. On that day, there will be a great celebration of unbounded joy, Luke 15:7 (ESV):

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #266: Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling

Benediction – (Romans 12:2): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.