Sunday, June 14, 2015

Constrained by the Love of Jesus

3rd Sunday of Pentecost
June 14, 2015
Fr. Philip Eberhart

Captured and Constrained by Love

This week all of our scriptures contain a theme word:  The theme is planting!  And of course the image of planting is not complete without the image of harvesting or reaping.  The two go together don't they?

We're close enough to the land here in the west, that we kind of instinctively know that we're fast approaching the time when harvest (the wheat harvest) should be upon us.  In about 3-4 weeks, in fact, - around the 4th of July the harvest should begin in eastern Colorado and move this way.  It's already begun in some parts of Okla and Tx and Ks.  The rain has played havoc with that process and may actually delay the harvest, because there has to be a certain dryness - a certain level of moisture in the wheat itself to proceed.

I love this gospel reading about the farmer, who does the stuff but admits he is clueless about how the stuff grows!  He just puts it in the ground, waters it, weeds it and watches it.  And up it comes, first the little green leaves peeking through the ground, - the miracle begins - and there is joy there for the farmer!

There is potential that is built in and the farmer knows of that potential, for each stalk of wheat.  And the farmer is into cultivating potential!!  That is what all the dedicated activity of the other 51 weeks of the year is about!  The cultivating, the weeding, the watering and the watching.

Ya know soil isn't very discerning!  It will accept any kind of seed that is put in, and activate that seed for the "crop" that that seed will produce.  Whether weeds or wheat, the soil doesn't discern, the soil doesn't care!

The farmer cares - the farmer plants particular kinds of seeds - actually according to what he wants to harvest! to reap.  Because he knows in his bones, You reap what you sow! 

We reap what we sow!

It's not just a principle for the farmer, but for all of us in life.  And this morning I want to bear down on a particular kind of seed and a particular kind of sowing - the Kingdom kind, not the farmer kind.

The fact is that we are all farmers in the Kingdom of God!  God is relying on us, at some level and in some degree, to be engaged in the work of planting seeds.

So let's look for a moment at what "seed" is actually.

The seed you plant is the kind of crop that you want to reap.
If grace, then grace;  if honor, then honor;  if peace, then peace!
What is it that you need to sow, in order to reap a harvest?
if money, then money; if righteousness, then righteousness.

Whatever you plant, that is what comes up and produces fruit in your life.  To have honor, you must sow or give honor;  to have grace, then you give grace;  to grow in righteousness, you sow righteousness; 

Do you sow righteousness?  What do you mean, preacher?

The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way:
[Heb 12:11 NASB] 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

You sow righteousness, by attending to the discipline of the Lord and by sowing the disciplines of the Lord.  It's what we were talking about last week - the discipline of waiting on God - of watching with Him, of attending to Him, to Investing in Him, and of spending Time with God.
That's sowing unto righteousness.  And what you sow is what you reap.

Now let's turn for a minute to the NT passage from Paul.

This is the beginning of one of my favorite passages from 2 Cor 5:14 here through the end of the chapter:  but let's just look at two facets here.

Paul tells us here that he is compelled by the Love of Christ.  Our reading translated it "urges us on."  The word that Paul uses here is a very strong word that only comes up 12 times in the NT.  It is variously translated but the picture is of being pressed from every side = actually like a cattle squeeze chute!

We are compressed from every side - by the love of Christ!!!

Encompassed, Pressed In, Compelled, = the word is used of large ships as they go through narrow straits of water.
Is the picture coming clear?

Look at what Paul says:
Here is part A...
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

An understanding of what Jesus has done - in dying for us and for all people, leads us to a lifestyle decision:  "that those who live might not live for themselves, but for him who dies and was raised for them."

And then part B...
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Have you begun to see people differently?  Can you see people as human beings, not human doings?  Not for what they do or have, but for who they are?  See them for the potential that each one has?  See them through Jesus' eyes -through God's eyes?

We are compelled by the love of Christ!  It says that Jesus was moved with Compassion - same stuff!  That compassionate, and passionate love of Jesus for people who are hurting is what moves us to be and to do for His Kingdom!  And here we are urged to look with eyes wide open to the needs of those around us - with "bowels of compassion" like Jesus had.  What some of the early evangelists of this past century called a "passion for souls."

I need you to check your passion level this morning?  Check you COM - passion level this morning?  Is there something that is lacking - something that is the "More" that could be inside there, in your heart, that motivates you to speak to someone - a little outside of your comfort zone - to ask someone if you might be able to pray for them, for family, for some need.

We pray for open doors for ministry in lives around us - but doors often don't just open by themselves, do they?  We must sometimes reach out and open the door.  see if its unlocked, if that life is accessible - you might be surprised at times. 

Just a listening ear will open up great opportunities for ministry!

What are you planting in those around you?  What kind of seed.
My final challenge is for you to plant that which can "spring up to eternal life."  That seed is finally, this Word of God.  No greater seed there is!  No greater gift there is than this Word planted in the heart of someone who is watching you!

It is your call to duty!  Are you praying for the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest?  Are you ready to be sent - willing, available and obedient?

Let's pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, your love so compelled you that you spent your very self, in life and in death, for us and for others all around the world.  Give us, we pray, such a touch of your heart of compassion, that we might be filled with Your love for the world - and for our neighbor.  Send us Lord as agents of reconciliation - ambassadors for your Kingdom, in the lives of those we meet and we pray, Lord, open doors for us to speak on your behalf, into the lives of those who do not know you.

In the Name of Jesus and for the sake of His Kingdom,

Amen and Amen.

WAIT is a four-letter word!

Sunday, June 7
Pentecost 2
Fr. Phil Eberhart

The Grace of Waiting on God

How many of you know that WAIT is a four-letter word?

Now in our culture when we use the phrase "a four-letter word" we mean something very particular.  Often our conversation - or conversations we hear out in the world are strewn with these "four-letter words!"

And so when we call WAIT a "four-letter word" it means that it is something to be avoided - something that we eschew - that we want to move away from, or a time that we try hard to move through as quickly as possible.

WAIT is the hardest word in the Bible, often, for us to hear.

It is a cultural thing for us, who grew up in a culture of instant gratification - microwave dinners - fast food - instant coffee ... and the list goes on and on and on.

If we want something we want it NOW and if we don't have it, especially in America, then we go get it.

Have any of you noticed yet that God doesn't work on our timetable?  We cannot really "schedule" a revival!  Oh, we can schedule it and go through the motions - add lights and cameras and action - but trying to schedule God's arrival is a bit above our pay grade!  Don't you think?

I'm reminded of the confrontation of Elijah with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel in northern Israel.  It's recorded for us in 1 Kings 18 - almost a comical scene, where Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to a duel of sorts!  The prophets of Baal place their offering on the altar and begin the dance, the cutting, the bleeding for their god - and nothing happens.  In fact, to such an extent was nothing happening that Elijah begins to jeer and to egg them on - try this, try that - maybe your god is asleep or maybe he's gone on vacation!

So often we behave like the prophets of Baal - trying to figure out ways to get God to do what we want Him to do. 
But you know what - our God doesn't work that way.
He says... WAIT.

Wait means we make room for Him. Now that may take a while, because the God we serve fills the whole universe with His presence!  But to wait on the Lord, means we make room for Him, here - in our hearts.

When she was 5 our oldest daughter Alyssia told us, "I know about God!"  We said, "REALLY!??  What do you know about God?"  She matter-of-factly answered, "God breaks your heart open and moves in, and He puts it back together, so He can live there."

She really DID know about God!  The wisdom and simplicity of a 5 year old. Oh that we, complicated sophisticated adult Americans could grasp the simplicity of God's love for us and desire to dwell in our hearts.

Oh, the mystery and wonder of a God who, though He fills the furthest corners of the universe, chooses to be known and to dwell in and among His people!

Friends, when it comes to waiting on God we have need of understanding and patience.  God's hand is not short, nor is His desire small to be among us or to manifest His work in our midst.  The point of waiting is not for Him, but for us!  The point of waiting is preparation.  The point of waiting is humility.  The point of waiting is for us to move away from our own self-reliance and impatience, and to do things HIS WAY, not our way!

This past week in our intercessory time the Lord gave us a word that bears repeating here, as a principle of waiting.

In Isaiah 50, the prophet speaks for the Lord and says this:

[Isa 50:10-11 ESV] 
10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. 
11 Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.

Isn't this a picture of the way that we wait on God ... NOT!

What the Lord is saying here, through Isaiah, applies to us directly!  We have come, here at REZ,  to boast in "our" verse from Proverbs 3: 5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.

Oak likes the next verse too, and often quotes it.  Can any of you say what the next verse is?

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

The takes us directly back to Isaiah 50.  The warning here is for us - when we are surrounded by darkness - when we don't know which way to turn - when we cannot move for lack of light - we are told to trust in the Name of the Lord and to rely on our God.  We are told to wait.

And the next verse is a strong indictment on those who will not wait - those who build for themselves their own fire - their own firebrands to light their way.

How counter-intuitive and counter-cultural this is for us.  For we Americans who are the purveyors of light in the world!  For us who to walk in darkness is almost unknown - the flip of a switch lights a "fire" of our own kindling!  We know nothing - absolutely nothing - of sitting alone in the dark with God, and saying I trust You!

And I believe that we are going to need that gift.  That grace.
Days are coming that are going to be dark. And without some practice now, we are not going to know how to wait.

I urge you to take time away from your busy-ness - from the frantic pace of your day or days -  yes you can start small, 7 minutes!! - and if you have to start early - perhaps it means getting up a few minutes earlier - or turning off the news a few minutes earlier - whatever!  In whatever way you can carve out the few minutes, make a beginning of waiting on God!

   Remember in the garden, Jesus was praying and the disciples were sleeping?  His question?  "Could you not watch with me one hour?"  Start there - just one hour. Most of us cannot even manage that, just like the disciples!!

    When I was taught to be a counselor, I was taught about "attending" - being present and fully engaged, not thinking about my answer, not wondering in my thoughts, but present to the person.  How can we be present to God?  Perhaps if we are present to Him, He will become present to us!

    We think of investing in terms of money, but I want to challenge you to invest your time, your thoughts, your life and your heart ... in Jesus!  Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!  Make Jesus your investment!  What kind of return on investment might there be if you do?

Waiting is TIME FOR HIM
    Ever hear of "quality time?"  That is what we're talking about - giving God quality time.  And sometimes He wants quantity time as well!  Have you ever taken a day away to pray?  Can you even wrap your mind around it?  A day to read and study the scriptures - to hear what God might say to you about your life?  Go with a Bible and an empty notebook.

I want to finish this morning by turning back to our scriptures from the Psalm and the NT reading.  Read with me beginning at the 4th verse of the Psalm

I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.
My soul waits for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, wait for the LORD, *
for with the LORD there is mercy;
With him there is plenteous redemption, *
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

And from the NT Reading, beginning at "SO..."

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Let us Pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,  you are the light of the world!  In your light, we see light.  In you there is no darkness at all.  Open our eyes, Lord, that in our darkness we may see your light and by your light may walk in your ways.  Save us from the temptation to kindle our own fires, to light our own ways by our ingenuity and in our impatience.  Show us how to wait for you: to Watch with you, to Attend to you, to Invest in you and to spend Time with you.  Help us Lord to say again, "My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchman for the morning; More than watchman for the morning!"

In your Name we ask it for your glory and the glory of your Kingdom, Jesus!