Sunday, May 3, 2015

Following the Moving Green Line

Following the Moving Green Line

Fr. Phil Eberhart
5th Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2015


Most here are probably familiar with a couple of commercials that are airing currently or have recently, by Fidelity - an investment account provider and, lately, GO automotive has a similar commercial.  The main feature of both ads is a moving green line, that takes them from where they are to where they want to be - or where the ad maker wants them to be!

Do you ever wish for a moving green line that would guide you through the tough decisions of life?  Its kind of crazy, right?   To think that something might be at work to lead us in a specific direction in our life!  

Some of you may remember the talk that we had during the ALPHA Course with Nicky Gumble about How Does God Guide Us?
In it he talked about 5 C.S.'s.  Now this is a pop quiz that really isn't fair because most of us haven't listened to an ALPHA tape in almost a decade!  I racked my brain and could come up with 4:
Commanding Scripture; Circumstantial Signs; and Common Sense, Community of the Saints.  Close after so long.  That means it was a good teaching:  So to get the last one I had to look in the book!  Questions of Life.

Sure enough it was.

COMMANDING SCRIPTURE -  When it comes to questions of guidance, God has already spoken on a whole range of subjects and we don't have to question what He wants for us.  We have to search it out - and sometimes wrestle with it. But its pretty plain for those who seek God's wisdom and ways with humility.

COMPELLING SPIRIT - The one that I missed in trying to remember the 5 was the one that I kind of take for granted. This is the moving green line!  The One who is poured out on all flesh to glorify Jesus!  The One who actually does the washing and making us new! The One who moves toward us if we are willing - who moves into us if we are available - and who moves through us, His wonders to perform, if we are obedient.

COMMON SENSE -  When you become a Christian you don't leave your brain on the altar.  John Wesley said that mostly when God guided him to act He did it by presenting reasons to his rational mind to act in a certain way.  God gave you a brain - use it!  That is not to say that God cannot take you into strange directions - or counter-intuitively lead us.  We'll come to that in just a minute again.

COUNSEL OF THE SAINTS (OOPS, NOT COMMUNITY) -  Life is repleat with opportunities to seek wisdom from others, from parents, from friends, from elders in the faith, from those who have done what you want to do before you.  Now that I have grey hair, I get a lot more questions like these from younger men, pastors around me, even from strangers sometimes.
God gave you two ears for a reason - listen twice as much as you talk!

finally, CIRCUMSTANCIAL SIGNS - Open doors and closed doors.  This is where a great deal of trust must come into play.  What we pray for our daughters and their husbands is "Lord protect them from what they cannot see."  I think God does that a lot.

Now turn back with me to the lesson from ACTS this morning.  I want to look at Philip's encounter with an eye toward the 5 CS's and the moving green line!

Ready?  Someone read the first 8 words...
"An angel of the Lord said to Philip"

So what do you make of that?  Anyone here ever had an angel of the Lord speak to them?  The number even in Scripture is fairly small - but it happened a lot around the times when God was moving in power and favor and as God wanted to move the Gospel to new nations.  Peter had a dream, just before meeting with Cornelius, the Centurion.  Paul had a vision of Jesus himself - got knocked off his horse!  Blinded.  Of course Mary and Joseph had this experience as well. 
So not many experience an angelic visit, but they do happen!

OK ... what did he say?  Anyone?
"Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a wilderness road.)

I get a kick out of Luke here (the parentheses) - How counter-intuitive is the instruction?  Why go out into the wilderness, if you are an evangelist?  Wouldn't you want to go somewhere where there were people in abundance, not rabbits in abundance?  Go there and preach to the cactus plants?

But Philip was willing, available and _________________?  Obedient.

Out he goes and the story goes on:
"So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah."

Well it just so happened, that someone was on the road!  Wow, what a coincidence!  And what a coincidence that he was reading from the scripture that spoke about Jesus.

And what a coincidence that Philip was there.  But it wasn't the coincidences that got Philip's attention.  He was paying attention to another voice!  The COMPELLING SPIRIT.

Another six words anyone?
Then the Spirit said to Philip,

He was listening not to the signs - the coincidences, but to the Spirit of God.  As we said earlier, the Scriptures are replete with examples of God's personal guidance - through dreams, angelic visitation, prayer, or a kind of inner knowing.  We aren't sure how Philip experience the Voice of the Spirit, but we are sure that he did!  When God speaks to you clearly, there is no mistaking it and no escaping it.

And so Philip, goes near in a very bold obedience to God's voice of instruction.  It wasn't something that you just walked up to and hopped on!  This was a very powerful person - we are told of his exact position and the extent of his power.  But we are also told, what he was reading at the time.  As I said - what a coincidence!

Just happens to be reading from Isaiah, and not just anywhere in Isaiah, but Isaiah 53 - in direct reference to Jesus and his suffering.  Something that the Ethiopian was probably familiar with having spent from Passover to Pentecost in the holy city.

Now I want you to note that Philip begins how?  By listening and asking a question?  So often that could be our role as well.  Just listen and ask a question!

Do you understand what you are reading?  God had prepared a way for Philip to come alongside.  This is what we need to have our ears open to, friends.  Where is God acting to bring you alongside someone who has these same kinds of questions?

When God puts us into the paths of people, God intends that we have our ears open and our mouths shut!  We will hear the cry of a human heart, if we listen long enough.  People are desperate to share their questions, especially where the Bible and God and Heaven and the afterlife are concerned.  All people have are question!

Are you listening?

Are you willing?  Are you available?  will you be obedient to His voice - his leading?

The commercials have a moving green line that leads you to financial security or to a new car or to something that you desire.  But what I offer this morning is a moving Spirit of God - always moving like the wind.  A leading Spirit of God who directs us into places and circumstance - into jobs and workplaces - where people are - people who are hurting and questioning - who need someone to listen to them;  someone to come and change the atmosphere of the place they work.

Like Fr. Edward in the University!!  The atmosphere in that place changed over the 8 months he was there.  He had a lot of time to listen and to speak accordingly. In that 8 months 12 men gave their lives to Christ and many are still walking with the Lord - for them and for Fr. Edward that cell became a crucible.  The refiner's fire burned hot in that place and transformed both the messenger and those to whom he was sent.  Dare I say that?  

Edward was sent.
Philip was sent.
You and I are sent, friends.

Get your ears on.  Listen to God and to others.  The doors for effective ministry will open up for you along the way.
Many of you already have such testimonies - many of them.  We are a sent people.  And where ever we are, God will use us to effect this kind of transformation.  Shall we pray?


Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out you arms of love on the hard wood of the cross, that everyone might come withing the reach of your saving embrace.  So clothe us with your Spirit, that we, reaching our hands out in love, may bring those who do not know You to the knowledge and love of You, for the honor of Your Name!  Amen and Amen. 

Lord use us as instruments in your hands.  Send your Spirit before us and lead us.  Give us boldness to ask questions and to speak of what we know to be true, among those we work with and play with.  Let us bring Your Kingdom near - your peace present - and your love and grace to bear on the real life situations that people face every day.  Use us, Jesus, to be your hands, your feet, your gentle words to those around us.  Send us, Jesus.  Send us.  Here we are.

Amen.

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