Sunday, January 8, 2017

Epiphany I - God's Missions Movement

Epiphany 1
Jan 8, 2017
Fr. Phil Eberhart


God's Missions Movement



With acknowledgement of Rev. John Stott, and his article in Path Light:  The Bible in World Evangelization, pp. 3-7.


I want this morning to prime the pump - to whet the appetite for the course we are embarking on beginning next Sunday morning in our Adult Forum Time called Path Light, Toward Global Awareness.  This is going to be a 5 week study of the paths that God uses to "get the Word out!"  

This sermon is taken from the very first article in the book, by Rev. John Stott.  I will be quoting directly from the article in some parts of the sermon this morning.

Epiphany is the season of light - specifically the Light of the World as it is revealed to the World, the whole world.

During this Epiphany we are going to be studying the ways that the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is taken to the world by ... us!  If you remember the video a few weeks back ...  "WE are the plan!"

And the plan - God's Plan - for US is entirely found in The Bible!  Here is the first Stott quote:

"The Church's commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible!"

The more we are convinced and convicted that the Bible is actually TRUE, the more likely we are to actually GO! Our hope here this month and next is to begin to understand our Christian movement as a missionary one!  We are sent from a missionary God!  We'll develop that a bit.

So first of all, the Bible gives us our MANDATE (first M) for Missions... for World Evangelization.

In our world today we see two opposite and equal poles that have developed in the world: on the one hand, a radical fanaticism has developed, which sees its job as conversion by any means possible, including violence, warfare, ... any means possible!  We see it on the news almost daily.  

The other, opposite pole of that pendulum is a religious pluralism that claims that all religion is the same!  It asks us to COEXIST in the famous bumper sticker.  Can't we all just get along, because all religion is the same... it takes us all to the same place!  Right?   Um... no.

Even a cursory study of the world's religions will reveal that to be an out and out lie.  No such claims are made by any religion, except the Johnny-come-lately pablum that is being fed to those who so want it to be true!  

Both poles severely resent and openly oppose any kind of evangelism.  The one because it represents departure from its aims, the other because it means that there are exclusive claims among the religions of the world.

Let's look at our MANDATE in that light.

Abraham was called by God.  Abraham didn't invent Judaism!  This is revealed by God.  And the promise to Abraham, when it was revealed to Him in Genesis 12, was that "all nations will be blessed through you."  God has always had the whole earth in view, from the very beginning.  Our Mandate is the whole bible!  From beginning to end - from Creation to Maps!  "The Spirit and the Bride say come!"  God is the Spirit and We are the Bride!  With one voice the invitation is made to the whole world, "COME!"

We pray it ... "...So clothe us with Your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of Your Name!"

Our MANDATE is clear to anyone who will see!  We must "hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" this Word of God and we will "hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the Missio Dei - the Mission of God - the MANDATE of God to US, his people, from Abraham to REZ!  The Mandate has never changed.

So lets look to the Bible also for our MESSAGE (2nd M).

It's the whole story!!  We encapsulate it every Sunday when we say The Nicene Creed.

We believe... in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth!  

From before time in eternity, God the creator has been a missionary God. The Psalmist tells us that Creation itself speaks without end!  This God chose Abraham some 4000 years ago - chose him and made a covenant with him to "bless him, and his family, and through him all the families of the earth." (Gen 12:1-4)

Paul tells us in Romans that we who believe, we who have faith, are counted as Abraham's descendants!  The People of Christ are the descendants of Abraham. The Old Testament prophets are prolific with words about the coming Messiah - words which Christ claimed and endorsed while here on earth in His incarnation.  Jesus equally had the whole world in view as He was "sent from the Father."  Likewise the apostles and the church took up this view as they were filled with the same Holy Spirit and sent to "Jerusalem, all Judea, to Samaria and the Uttermost Parts of the Earth!" (Acts 1:8)  As I've preached before, the movement of the Spirit of God is ever outward!

Jesus claims "all authority in heaven and on earth" - and on that basis commissions us to GO!  To spread the news, the Good News, the "Euangelion" of His coming and of His death, His resurrection, and ascension!  The news of His soon return and the ACCESS to God that we have as believers.  We have become the Bride who says COME!

Quoting Stott again:  "The Church of God is a multinational, missionary community, under orders to evanglize until Christ returns."

Not only has God given us the Mandate and the Message, He has provided for us THE MODEL! (3rd M)
He has given us not only the What but the HOW!  "We learn how to preach the Gospel by considering how God has done it!"

What we learn as we read how God has done it is about His Humility - the humiliation of coming as a baby, being born in a cattle stall, living in abject poverty as a refugee, and growing up as a worker in the world.  The mystery of the Incarnation is the key to understanding the HOW of God!  Stott calls it "the climax of the self-communicating God!"

The Word became flesh!  And made it's habitation among us! (Jn 1:1-14)  

The same principle of Incarnation is seen in the giving of the written Word of God!  100% God AND 100% Men! The divine communicated through the human!  The principle is "identification without loss of identity" and it is the "model for all evangelism, especially cross-cultural evangelism." (p. 5)  So often failure in evangelism, means that we have failed to identify with those we are going to!  Jesus fully identified with us, in every way tempted as we are, yet without sin. The Kenotic Principle of Philippians 2 applies clearly.  He humbled himself - emptied himself-  and became a man, even to the kind of death he suffered!  Likewise our MODEL is a radical self-sacrifice, all the while maintaining the love that God pours out, into our hearts, as we have access to Him, to His presence and to His power.

That brings us finally to the 4th M - MOTIVE POWER!  Our only way forward is by the Motive Power of the Holy Spirit!

We cannot bring change of life!  Our fight is not against flesh and blood!  Paul tells us up front (Ro 1:16) that the Gospel IS the Power of God for salvation, to the Jew first and then to the Greek!   Our power is not found in our strategies or our methods, nor in our willpower or determination!  Our power is found in the Gospel preached!  The Word of God spoken!  It is the Word of God that is the Power of God.  It is in fact called the Sword of the Spirit!   Not even our sword!  Our job is to simply speak it.  To let it loose in the world!  

One more Stott quote:  "Without the Bible we have no gospel to take to the nations, no warrant to take it to them, no idea of how to set about the task, and no hope of any success!"

But with the Bible God gives us the mandate, the message, the model and the motive power we need to GO - to Go with God's Word and tell the world.  "So let's seek to repossess it (the Bible) by diligent study and meditation.  "Hear, Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly Digest".  "Let's heed its summons, grasp its message, follow its directions, and trust its power.  Let's lift up our voices and make it known."

Amen and Amen!

Our closing prayer today is the opening collect you will hear next Sunday:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!

Christmas Eve
Dec 24, 2016
Fr. Phil Eberhart


Merry Christmas !!

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Merry Christmas !!

How many times have you heard it or said it this month?  Merry Christmas!

I want to spend just a few minutes tonight, on the eve of Christmas, thinking with you about what it means to say...  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Merry is what we all want to be... Right?  What we wish for ourselves and hopefully, for others.  What we share with family and with friends in emails, and FB posts and a few still send cards!  Updates, newsletters, year end letters.  But all with a simple wish -- Merry Christmas!

We sing songs -  with radio stations dedicating 24/7 playtime from Thanksgiving to Christmas - the 12 days of Christmas has become the 30 days of Christmas!!  We've started seeing Christmas displays and some decorations as early as Halloween - in an effort to make the Christmas season MERRY for the retailers!  HO HO HO!

I heard it when I put a dollar or two in the red kettle at King Soopers - stopped and talked a few times with the bell ringers for Salvation Army at different places.  Merry Christmas!

Why Merry? 

What's merry about this holiday?  What sets it apart from other days that capture our imaginations and make us happy?  

Let me just say a word about what makes this season different,  ...  Merry!     

JESUS!

No matter what our circumstances, the news that God himself has taken up our cause ... has come to stand along side us ... has offered himself to us ... fully, with no guarantees ... no strings attached.   The reason we are here tonight and the reason over a billion celebrate this night is that because of Jesus, born in Bethlehem of Judah, from Nazareth of Galilee, raised a carpenter become itinerant preacher in Israel, 2000+ years ago;   because of this Jesus, we are given a gift beyond our wildest imaginations.  

We have been given, through this child and who he was among us and what he did during his 33 years here and how he died, a gift of unimaginable riches, of incomparable wealth, of untold treasure - IN HIM.

We say MERRY but the Bible calls it "joy unspeakable and full of glory!"  That is the weight behind the word, MERRY.

Paul tells us that nothing we can experience here on earth can outweigh this glory!  It outshines everything that we can see with our eyes!  It outweighs all the sorrows and pain, all the sickness and surgery, all the cancer and yes, even the darkness of death.  As we experienced earlier this week, the saying is true ... "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?"  All has been out weighed - out shined by the life, death and resurrection of this little baby child.

MERRY doesn't even touch it, friends.  We are so much more than Merry, because of Jesus -- because of Christ mass.

The center of Christmas is CHRIST!  The never ending power behind Christmas is CHRIST JESUS - EMMANUEL - GOD WITH US.  No matter how our culture would like to displace him, I revel in the fact that as I drive around from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I can, at almost any time hear the story of this amazing gift in the music of the season ... of the hymns and Christmas songs on the radio.  Sure there is a lot of sentimental goo but every now and again you hear O Holy Night, or Silent Night, or Joy to the World, or Angels We Have Heard on High.  You hear Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas declaring Luke 2 to be the REAL MEANING OF CHRISTMAS! 

(Christ candle processes to center of church - church is darkened of all lights)

 The songs we sing on this night tell a never-ending story, and no matter how hard we work to cover it over with decorations, with tinsel, with piles of presents - nor how the weight and tragedies of life try to drown our joy, to kill our spirits, or annihilate our hearts - Christ stands at the center of it all with a light that will not - that cannot be quenched! If we just look to Him as the Center of our lives, He gives us the light to walk in this land of darkness and distraction.  

(lighting of candles)

Thus we come to reflect His glory!  A glory, as the Gospel tells us, that is from the Father's One and Only Son!  That light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it!  And so we say to one another, Merry Christmas!   Merry Christmas!   Alleluia, and Merry Christmas. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

ADVENT IV - GO !!!

Advent IV
December 18, 2016
Fr. Phil Eberhart


Ready, Set, GO!!

This morning is our final Sunday of Advent - last Sunday before Christmas!  This is GO Sunday!

I want to start this morning with the little video trailer that is on our website.  Many indicated that they have not listened to it yet!  I've put it in the text of my sermon on my blog last week or two ago.  I'm not sure how many availed themselves of that resource.  So here it is again.  I just want you to hear this minute and a half challenge...


What happens when the Body of Christ SHOWS UP!???   People get to know that God is Good!

We become the hands and feet of Jesus - We become God with skin on!  We become the only Bible a person may ever read!!!

This morning is the last in our series of preparatory sermons for the season of Advent.  A season of anticipation and personal and corporate preparation, but for what?

The presents under the tree?  The advent of Santa?  NO!

This preparation is for the greatest adventure you will ever live!  This preparation is for the ADVENT OF GOD on planet Earth! And the fact that that God has not only sent His one and only Son to be the Savior but has now enlisted us in the enterprise of His Kingdom and has sent us with a mission.

Look at the preamble to the Roman Letter this morning in our readings!

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

First of all, I want to tell you that you are called!  You may not be called to hold the office of an Apostle, or a Prophet, or and Evangelist, or a Pastor or Teacher, BUT you are called to exhibit all of those qualities in their varying measure, according to the gifting of Christ that is in you!

WHAT?   No one told me about this before I signed on!!

Here is your job description!  From Ephesians 4:11 and 12

Let me read it to you:

[Eph 4:11-13 NLT] 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work andbuild up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

MEASURING UP TO THE FULL AND COMPLETE STANDARD OF CHRIST!

WOW!   We have a ways to go, huh?

Let me bring those two passages together for us.  Paul, the great Apostle to the Gentiles, is writing the Romans in what is undoubtably his Magnum Opus - his own "gospel" as it were - the story of what God was doing in Christ, not from a historical, factual point of view like Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, but from a theological point of view!  Romans is the Theology of the Gospel of Christ - it is a theological mission statement.

We can take hints from what has become called the "Roman Road" - an outline of the plan of Salvation in Christ!
Scripture passages from Romans, chapters 1 to 11

Ro 1: 20-21;                                   although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as  
                                                                       
God, nor were thankful

Ro 3: 23                                          For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.

Ro 5:8                                             while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom 6: 23                                       wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life

Ro 10: 9-10, 13                               if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and                                                                                 believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the                                                                           dead, you will be saved. ...whoever calls on the name of                                                                         the LORD shall be saved

Ro 11:36                                        of Him and through Him and to Him are all things,


The Road is simple, but not easy!

My point here is that Paul had a clear vision of what He was supposed to be doing!  Often we do not!  But out task is the same as his was!  What is that?   to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name.

In other words ... or word...  GO!

SHOW UP!

At lunch with a friend from REZ this week, I heard the admission that when he says "Here am I!  Send me!"  he is often ducking behind the pew!  Ever feel like that.  When the teacher is about to call on someone, you wish you had the power to vanish - to become invisible!

You put your hand over your eyes and hope she can't see you!  Don't make eye contact under any circumstances!!!
 
I learned a new word from my engineer daughter a couple months back!   Have you heard it?    VOLUN-TOLD !!
I love it !!

VOLUNTOLD  -  The state you find yourself in when the teacher sees you!  And you have to stand beside your desk and recite the poem you wrote, or something else that is equally icky!!

VOLUNTOLD -  The place you occupy when the platoon takes a step back after the Sargent asks for volunteers!

VOLUNTOLD -  What happens when you are UNWILLING, UNAVAILABLE and DISOBEDIENT.

OK!  So let's explore those three a bit...

We've heard these three ad infinitum here:   Willingness - Availability - Obedience

The task we are talking about the is work of the Kingdom of God - the MIssio Dei , the Mission of God!

Jn 3:16-17  we all know the first part but do we know the second?

[Jhn 3:16-17 NASB] 16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

The mission of God is the salvation of the world.  It's that simple.
And our mission is (or should be) His Mission!

"To Connect people to Jesus Christ and His Kingdom" is our REZ Mission statement.  We do that through Willingness - Availability and Obedience to HIM.

The call of God that Paul was talking about was that of an Apostle (read Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor or Teacher) whose JOB it was to equip God's People for the works of their service -  That means that the works of our service are, in varying measures, apostolic and prophetic and evangelistic and pastoral and teaching.  These aren't names for the guys and gals in the robes up front - they are the pentagon of the work of the church!

The Pentagon is the hub of our armed forces - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard!  Each has a particular specialty in the "pentagon" of activity that is needed around the world.  Likewise with the Church - the agent of the Kingdom of God around the world!
These things are our marching orders and are the forms of Training that we must all go through in order for us to be EQUIPPED as soldiers in the Lord's Army (or whichever branch we are serving in, according to our calling and gifting).  

Everything we do as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teacher is designed to CONNECT PEOPLE TO JESUS CHRIST AND TO HIS KINGDOM!  As leaders we are working to equip you for these ministries and to seek the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in the work that you are going forth to do.

We are called into the most vital partnership ever imagined in the history of the world!  Partnership with God!  And its by His design. 
We've been VOLUN-TOLD!

The question is will we accept?

At the beginning of the morning we prayed:   Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us;

The power of God is always pointed outward!  We receive it but its not for us!  Our greatest danger is that we keep it to ourselves!  It's great to see God at work in our lives, right?  

But we must never forget the lesson of the seas in Israel!  There are two seas.  One receives and gives out and the other just receives.
One if filled with life and life surrounds it on every side.  The other is named DEAD.

God's Spirit and His calling on our life is always pushing us outward!  Jesus promised it:    Acts 1:8
"When you receive power, you will be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth!"

We have been Voluntold friends.  Let's pray...

Lord Jesus Christ;  you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace!   So clothe us with your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love, might bring those who do no know You to the knowledge and love of you, for the honor of your Name.   AMEN

Sunday, December 11, 2016

ADVENT III - SET !!!

Advent III
December 11, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart



SET !!


Today is the third Sunday of Advent.  The anticipation is rising - the day is drawing near!

In a race event like at the Olympics, what is happening when you hear "Ready ... Set ... GO!"  The gun fires and the runners are off like a shot.  There is a scene in the movie Chariots of Fire, where Ben Cross's character is practicing the start with his Lebanese coach.  The two most important times in the race are at the starting gun and at the finish line.  Both require a focus that is THE FOCUS of the message this morning.

It occurs to me that being SET, for a runner, as for other sports, is the moment when all the training and conditioning, the weight room, the running track, the muscle training of repeated starts, all come to the sharpest point - the most focused moment in the life of the runner.  The same is true of all of life!  Christian life as well!

On this Sunday of Advent I want us to consider our position in the Ready - Set - Go! formula.  What does it mean for us to be SET as a Christian?

We all do this to a greater or lesser extent in our every day life - we have to do the Ready -Set- Go formula in our every day life.  If we are going to live our life with any sense of competency or accomplishment, we must get ready on a daily basis, we must be set for the work that we do and all that happens before we actually do anything! 

There is a good deal of preparation that goes into almost any task or set of tasks that we undertake in life.  Especially those who are in professional roles, as doctors, lawyers, preachers, lawmakers...  each one must complete a certain regimen of tasks to be SET to do their given role in the world they work in.  We all do it.

So how do we get SET, as Christians?

I've talked a lot over the last years about Willingness, Availability and Obedience -  getting SET as a Christian for the work of the Kingdom of God is doing all you can to sharpen the "ability" part of availability!  Well, wait a minute!  You've said that ability doesn't matter, as much as availability - that God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called!  What do you mean that we have to sharpen our "ability?"

Isn't it strange how God works with us?  He expects 100% of us in our efforts in our Christian life for Him, and then He comes along side by the Holy Spirit, and cheers us on, and enables us with His power to do more than we think we can, to do super abundantly more than we can ask or imagine - and it happens in an incredible INCARNATIONAL partnership that is 100% ME and 100% HIM!

Do you remember the scene in  the movie "Facing the Giants?"  The team and the coach are at the end of a practice session.  And the coach takes the team leader and blindfolds him and puts him on the 20 yard line, with another player riding on his back.  Then he is asked to do an all fours crawl down the field to see how far he can go.  Along the way the coach gets down on his knees beside the blindfolded player encouraging him and calling him to more, more, MORE!! until at the end he has crossed the goal line, 80 yards with another 200+ lb player on his back!!  

Friends, God has not called us to ease and rest in our Christian life -  He has called us to the work of the Kingdom of God and to be ready, to get SET, for His coming - and part of that work is the partnership He has called and equipped us for in His Gospel work in the world!
Getting SET is different for each task - each race - each contest.  Getting SET is different for each profession.  It's different for an architect than it is for a radiologist - different for an accountant than for a rocket scientist!

So What does getting SET look like as a Christian?  In any of these professions, men and women will tell you that the preparation is as much mental as it is physical, even in the sports camps - from the Olympics to Sunday afternoon football, the mental preparation is paramount - the same is true of being a Christian and being used by God in His Kingdom!

Paul uses three images:  The Soldier, The Athlete, and The Farmer.  (2 Tim 2: 1-7)  James, uses the farmer in this morning's reading.
The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I want to consider the "strengthen your hearts" comment.  What does getting SET look like as a Christian?  SET for His Coming??


1.  It looks like taking the whole enterprise of being a Christian as MORE THAN A HOBBY!  Paul's analogies are people who take their "work" very seriously.  We need to toughen up our mindset if we are going to be useful in the Kingdom of God - hardship is a way of life, not a passing moment in time.  We have bought the whole consumer enchilada as a Church in America!  It's all about me, it's all about my comfort and all about my preferences!  We need to have a healthy dose of LORDSHIP!   It's really NOT about me, my likes, preferences or opinions!  It's about JESUS, HIS LIKES, PREFERENCES AND OPINION.

2.  Training starts NOW!  Wake up!  Get up! Stand up! Suit up!  The problem is that when you're doing this as a hobby, you don't really tolerate TRAINING well! When you're playing "flag football" there really isn't any training!   And this is "Training in Righteousness!"  This is training of our mind, our body, our will, our emotions, our everything!  And where does the training come from?  

3.  Here ... (Bible!)  2 Tim 3:16  Profitable for "Teaching, Reproof, Correction and Training in Righteousness."  If your not fingering the pages of your bible in study and prayer daily, personally, and in a group of some kind, then you are in this as a hobby ... poking it with a stick once a week to see if it's really alive!

4.  And I'm not talking about casual reading, I'm talking about drilling for the water of life!  We're about to drill a well in Rwanda, and I've become familiar again with the parameters of water well drilling.  The soundings of the earth, the picking of a spot, the counting of the cost to cut down through hard rock.  We have to approach our study of God's Word like drilling a well!  Dig deep!  Cut through the rock of our hard hearts!  Allow the Word of God to speak and be "living and active, like a two-edged sword, cutting down between bone and marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

5.  In that process you will come to know His voice!  Listen!!  His is the voice of the Encourager - the Comforter - the One, called alongside to help, to cheer you on - and it is in that way that you will begin to discover HIS empowerment, HIS giftings in you, and HIS particular call to the work of His Kingdom.  And no, it can't be done alone!  The whole enterprise is in community.  The household of Faith.  Look around you and smile!  Welcome to the Communion of the Saints!  Welcome to the Kingdom of God expressed on this planet!

6.  Now get SET.  Discover the passion that He has placed in you.  The gifts He has given you to match the passion.  Let His compassion become your passion, remembering 1 Cor 13, without love its all nothing!  Get SET!  Study to show yourself approved!  Endure hardship!
Then put on the armor - the pads - the suit - the fatigues - the collar!   Whatever it is that sets you apart for the profession you are called to and do it with all (all means?  ALL)  your might.  100% of you for 100 % of HIM, what Chambers called MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST!

That's what we're after here.  That is what the world needs from us.  That is what Christ demands of us.

Just one final reading in that light:

[Eph 6:10-18 NLT] 10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.


Friends, there is a lot of putting on and standing up to do.  We have to be SET in our minds and in our hearts, in our bodies and in our emotions, in order to do the work He is calling us to do.  Our willingness is just the beginning.  Our MINDSET is one of readiness that forms and shapes our avail-ability, so that He can use us when we are called on to be Obedient to His voice.

This season of ADVENT is a time when we check our MINDSET, we then check our ARMOR, making sure we are prepared to be used by Him in the work that He has called us to do.

Let's pray.  I want to pray a prayer that the late Bishop Terry Kelshaw wrote:

Lord Jesus Christ
Master Carpenter of Nazareth
Who on the cross
In wood and nails
First worked our full salvation;
Use well your tools
In this your workshop
That we who come to you rough hewn
May by your grace
Be fashioned to a true beauty and usefulness
In your service.

   AMEN

ADVENT II - READY !!

Advent II - Dec 4, 2016
Fr. Phil Eberhart


READY !!!



Last week, on Advent 1, we talked about alarms and coming awake from sleep and the necessity in our coming awake to
PRAY< PRAY< PRAY!

Pray by yourself - in your own closet - your WAR ROOM!  How many have not seen the movie, War Room?  You need to see it.

Pray with others in the Body of Christ!  ADD EXPONENTIAL POWER TO YOUR PRAYERS BY PRAYING IN UNION, IN AGREEMENT-
IN CONCERT with other believers from this Body and from other parts of Christ's Body.  This is the source of a true unity and what late Bishop Terry Kelshaw, would call a "true usefulness" in the Hands of the Carpenter from Nazareth, for us as His Body.

Finally, Pray outside these walls!!  Prayer is our primary tool for seeing the hand of God in the world about us --- through us!!  It is our belief that God desires to engage the world with His healing power, with His amazing grace and with His unfailing Love ---- through US!!
Did anyone watch the clip this past week on our REZ website? (click here to watch)  The World finds out that God is Good when the Body of Christ actually SHOWS UP!

PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!!

Now this morning I want to take another poll!

How many here decorate for Christmas?   Almost 100%!

Now the level of decoration varies greatly I think.  How many decorate outside?

    That is a commitment beyond what I have. Mostly because I don't climb ladders very well!  In fact, they don't make ladders that are made for people like me!!  I'm more of a lift truck kind of guy!!

   But there are some here who decorate amazingly!  We were at a home in our parish yesterday for a luncheon with Pastor Bob who we will hear from a bit later regarding the Tartu Academy, and the decorations were out in force!  ALREADY!  In looking around I was thinking, hmmm, they must have a second house, where they store all these decorations!!  It was beautiful and amazing!!

The point is that in some measure we all have to prepare for the season. Here in America it seems that most of our preparation is external to us.  It is lighting the house (let your light so shine, before men, that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven!)
It is putting up a tree and buying presents.  Putting up a Christmas village or a train set or model of Bethlehem or just the Creche. 

When we had the girls at home we would put up an Olive wood Creche we got in Bethlehem.  And over the course of the Advent season, other characters came to visit the Babe in Bethlehem.  Barney, the purple dinosaur!  Barbie and Ken made an appearance,  Even Santa came and knelt before the Christ Child!

How do you prepare for the Coming of the Christ?  How do you get ready?

I heard Advent referred to recently as a "mini Lent!"  Our gospel this morning features John, the Baptizer preaching "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" It has "come near!"  

We have to get ready, and I want to give us a template for that repentant preparation this morning.

As I read through our readings this week I was struck by how many times words describing the character of God were used:  words like justice, righteousness, steadfastness, faithfulness, encouragement, hope!  As we were praying together this past Friday at Erev Shabbat at Congregation Roeh Israel, I was led to pray from Micah 6:8.  Do you remember the verse?

Let me sing it for you, and you can go back and listen to the recording and memorize the verse:

He hath shown thee, O Man, what is good...
And what doth the Lord require of thee...
but to do justly, and to love mercy, 
and to walk humbly with Thy God.  
Sing it with me a couple of times ...

Now hopefully that gets stuck in your rememberer and you find yourself humming the tune and remembering the words.  If not just
come back to our website and click on the link for the sermon site and click on the sermon titled, "READY"

In his letter to the church, Jesus' brother James, tells us that the Word of God is like a mirror, in which, when we look we can see ourselves as we really are.  This Word is one that gives us a template for considering ourselves in the light of God's commands.  Let's look for a moment...

TO DO JUSTLY

The concept of Justice in Holy Scripture is always tied to the character of God, those attributes I mentioned earlier.  His righteousness, his unfailing love, his equity, his encouragement. 

The word that is used in the Hebrew here is used over 400 times in the OT and it most often means Judgement!  To Judge rightly, in the way that God judges.  The scriptures tell us that God sees things differently than we do.  Any of you ever flown over mid America.  When you take off, what do you see these days?  A patchwork quilt of circles and squares from the farmland below in the Fly-Over America, between the coasts!  But the view is very different down on the quilt, believe me.  You never get the same sense of grandeur when you are tilling the land and planting the crops and watering them and harvesting them!  If you've ever flown over Great Britain, you can't really make out the stone walls that separate each piece of countryside from the next.  They look like little dotted lines.  And God looks at our world and sees things differently - "His ways are Higher than our ways,  His thoughts than our thoughts!"

So what does doing JUSTLY mean for us?  It means taking part in the Character of God - that is what we are promised as those who are now IN CHRIST!  If you look at verses like 1 Cor 13, the description of Divine Love - AGAPE- or the list of behaviors in Romans 12 or 2 Peter 1 you can get a good idea of what we are talking about - taking on the Character qualities of Jesus! 
But how?

Just two verses for you here:   
2 Cor 5:21           He became sin who knew no sin, that I might become the righteousness of God, IN HIM.
Galatians 2:20    It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me...

Take some time to consider these words along with your consideration of self as you seek to DO JUSTLY this week.

LOVE MERCY

Anyone here who doesn't love mercy??!!!!  Especially when its directed toward us!  towards me!!   I love mercy!!

Now turn it around.  It's is not Mercy FOR you that is in view here, but Mercy FROM YOU!

In his model prayer, and in several parables Jesus teaches us that what we have received of God's mercy, His forgiveness, His unfailing love, we are to pass on to others who offend us, or injure us, or otherwise come across our path adversely.

I was convicted yesterday of this as I was driving, trying to change lanes and getting honked at, (which is my personal pet peeve), throwing up my hands at the driver behind me, and as I looked in the mirror I saw the sticker on my window, which interestingly in my rear view mirror is not backwards - it reminds, IN GOD WE TRUST!!! 

I did not love mercy very much yesterday, as I rushed from meeting to meeting to meeting!

How do you SHOW MERCY when someone crosses you, offends you, injures you?  It is then that we need to LOVE MERCY!  Not just when we receive it.

WALK HUMBLY

And finally, we are told to Walk Humbly with our God!  

In 2 Chron 7:14, an oft quoted verse for many Christians in our country for the past... oh ... 3 or 4 decades, it tells us to humble ourselves before God.

It's interesting that this particular word only appears twice in the OT.  Here in Micah and in Proverbs 11:2 
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly H6800 is wisdom.

Over and over and over again throughout scripture, we are urged to be "lowly", "humble", "not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought."  We are told to humble ourselves before God and He will lift us up.  Remember the song?

Humble Thyself in the sight of Lord (echo) (repeat)
And He (echo) will lift (echo) you up, 
Higher and Higher
and He (echo) will lift (echo) you up.

Another song for your mental tumbler this week!  And its easier said than done, right?  I find it hard to humble MYSELF!  Most often I find my self BEING HUMBLED.  Finding out from God, sometime through the instrumentality of another (Val), that I'm not really 
ALL THAT!  Or she just looks at me with that look, and asks, "Whose deal is this anyway?"

Perhaps the greatest moment of humility we can find on this planet is when our "knees bow and our tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!"  That is our posture in prayer!

So we are back to Prayer again this week.  Friends we can't do this preparation on our own!  Christ Jesus has to Make Us READY.
So our work is still the work of PRAYER - of COMING TO HIM - OF COMING ON BENDED KNEE.

And out of that position of bowing down we begin to WALK HUMBLY, we find MERCY in His Love and are encouraged to share it with others as we DO JUSTLY.

The work we are called to in this season is to ready ourselves for His ADVENT.  His coming into the world, and His Second Coming!
Nothing will take us to that last coming of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords as us walking in the ways of Micah 6:8

Sing with me... again:

He hath shown thee, O Man, what is good...
And what doth the Lord require of thee...
but to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God.

Let's Pray:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.