Sunday, January 29, 2012

Speaking for God - Epiphany IV 2012

Epiphany IV
January 29, 2012
Philip D. Eberhart

Speaking for God

Last week I made the appeal for us to keep the main thing, the main thing in this season of difficulty and transition that we are in in the Anglican Mission. This morning’s readings highlight the place from which we speak, as Christians in both the Church and in the world, to those around us.

Knowledge vs. Wisdom

The readings this morning have to be taken as a whole set. And the theme that is developed through them is the vast difference between “speaking YOUR mind and speaking the LORD’S MIND!”

In Deuteronomy 18 we see a promise and a warning from the history of Israel:
The Promise: I will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses)… who shall speak to them everything that I command.
The Warning: “Any prophet who … presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak-- that prophet shall die."
A great promise and a stern warning … to the People of God.

How can you tell? Do you ever say things to others “in the Name of God?” Well, in fact, not many of us walk around consciously delivering “words” from the Lord. But have you ever gotten a “word” for someone? Sometime they come in the midst of conversations, or in random thoughts – you suddenly know that that wasn’t “from you.”

God uses us at times to BE His Word in a situation or with a person in their struggle. Most often that happens as we are simply, “living and moving and having our being” - IN HIM - along the way. But what if we were more intentional about that part of our Christian experience?

What if we were consciously seeking something “from God” for those around us? Do you think that God would respond positively? I do! If fact I think that God is on-tiptoe waiting for us to allow Him to manifest His love and care for others in the “words” we speak to them on His behalf.

Now I’m NOT advocating a kind of pompous “Thus Saith the Lord” approach. But I am saying that God is anxious to communicate His love to us and to others through us, in the course of our daily conversations and manner of life.

Here is the difference that is pointed out in our scriptures this morning between knowledge and wisdom.

If we share from knowledge, we think we know a lot and have a lot to share with others, whether they need it or not – and we think they always need it!
If we share from wisdom, we know that we don’t know it all, and that even what knowledge we have is probably “tainted” with our own flesh and desires.

If we share from knowledge, we overpower the other person with facts and arguments, trying to make them see our side.
If we share from wisdom, we listen to their side and ask questions that help them to come to new, and we hope better, conclusions about their life.

If we share from knowledge, its more about us and what we can deposit in their life or thinking to bring change.
If we share from wisdom, we know that change only comes from Jesus and we must lead people to Him, not us, for answers to their questions.

Do you see the difference? Have you experienced both in your life?
I heard a great story this week from a member of our parish, as we shared a bit at our last ALPHA class from last fall.

[A gentleman who works with one of our members here, is a landlord of several properties & has spent a great deal of time telling the horrors of rental property ownership. Late rents, torn up properties and all those headaches that go along with that business. It seems that over Christmas, in fact on Christmas Eve, he called a renter who was delinquent to tell him that he was going to have him evicted. As they talked, the renter said that they were on their way out to a Christmas Eve service somewhere. The reference to Christmas eve and church, reminded the land lord of our member here and that “he would probably not be happy with my evicting someone on Christmas Eve!” As a result the landlord gave the man grace, calling again after the holiday, finding out that a job was imminent for the renter and receiving full payment for the rents due and back payments for over due rents!]

Friends, I want to tell you that this is a picture of the main thing I was talking about last week. In some way, the member of REZ and the way he walks out his faith at his workplace had an incredible impact on his co-worker – without saying much at all.

I was struck by a verse from our Corinthian reading: Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

From the New Living here: 2 Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. 3 But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes”

Or from JB Phillips translation: “1b-3 It is not easy to think that we “know” over problems like this, but we should remember that while knowledge may make a man look big, it is only love that can make him grow to his full stature. For whatever a man may know, he still has a lot to learn, but if he loves God, he is opening his whole life to the Spirit of God.”

Our psalm give us a hint as to the difference here between knowledge and it application in wisdom: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; *
those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom

It is the fear of the Lord – reverence for God and humility before Him – that sets simple knowledge apart from its wise application in our life. Wisdom is knowledge applied with an eye toward whole-hearted obedience to God. And whole-hearted obedience to God and to His Word is the “fear of the Lord” applied.

It’s here that what people experienced in Jesus’ own teaching began: Jesus own life of prayerful obedience to the Father was the fountain head of His power and of his authority. “I don’t do anything except what I see the Father doing!” Jesus said. When did Jesus SEE his Father doing stuff? He saw it when he was in prayer and preparation for his day, away from the crowds.

How do you get the “words” that you speak to other people on God’s behalf? Just come up with them yourself? If we look at the warning I mentioned in Deut. 8 above, I suggest that you NOT do that. Its not from OUR knowledge, but from God’s Word that we are to speak.

Have you ever read something in your morning readings that came up again during the day: Just in the course of a conversation you were having, something someone said to you or something that triggered your memory of a particular verse or thought? This is how God uses His Word to speak to us and to others through us.

And when we know its from Jesus, we can speak with the same kind of authority that He spoke with. That still isn’t a “Thus Saith the Lord” statement from us, but we can preface our statement with, “you know I read something about that just this morning (or whenever) in the Bible: … “ OR “Wow, that’s really interesting. I prayed about something like that this morning!”

We open conversational doors as we listen to what others say and how they mean what they say. We speak to others on behalf of Christ and God, letting them know that God loves them and has them in mind. And once in a while, we get to hear that our presence or a memory of us or something we’ve said or done, has impacted the life of one that we are friends with or of a co-worker.

God’s design is for us to impact our world with His love! What we receive here in this fellowship and at this table is not for us, friends. It’s for them. That’s the main thing that we are up to.

May God richly bless us as we see to be wise in our words and ways, with those we love and with those we live with, at home, at work, at play – every day. AMEN. And AMEN.

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