Sunday, October 21, 2018

Jesus gives a "slap on the head"

Fr. Phil Eberhart
Pentecost XXII
October 21, 2018

A slap on the head

I need a couple of volunteers this morning... Oh... let's see...
Doug and Duane ---

Come up here and stand on each side of me...

Any of you watch NCIS?

Doug knows what's coming.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus ever wanted to just do the head slap that Denozo gets every once in while from Gibbs? In this case, a double head slap!! For James and John!!

Ok you guys can sit down. They were chosen at random, you know~~

Look at the last few phrases of your gospel this morning...
let me read from the Passion Translation...

You are to lead by a different model. If you want to be the greatest one, then live as one called to serve others.44 The path to promotion and prominence comes by having the heart of a bond-slave who serves everyone. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone, and to give his life as the ransom price in exchange for the salvation of many.”

Over and over and over again with the disciples and with us, Jesus deals with our ego needs to be first, to be greatest, to be seen, to be known -- we constantly have to check our intentions and motives for working "for the Lord."  Is it truly "for" HIM, or is it subtly for me?  

This weekend at the healing seminar I met a new friend who asked a great question:

How do we know that when we get to the end of the road, we won't be among the ones that Jesus said "He never knew?"  You remember the end of the sermon on the mount in Matt 7 - there are the scariest words in scripture...

Jesus Warns of Pretenders

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the realm of heaven’s kingdom. It is only those who persist in doing the will of my heavenly Father. 22 On the day of judgment many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, don’t you remember us? Didn’t we prophesy[j] in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons and do many miracles for the sake of your name?’ 23 But I will have to say to them, ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you!’[k]
24 “Everyone who hears my teaching and applies it to his life can be compared to a wise man who built his house on an unshakable foundation. 

Here Jesus is warning of false prophets and spiritual pretenders.  As my new friend asked the question, the Lord said to me, "the pretenders are the people who take my glory to themselves."  

Look at the opening verse of our Hebrews passage this morning, - it's one of my favorite "word" verses... again I'm reading from TPT:

12 For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy,[j] and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword.[k] It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone[l] and marrow meet![m] It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts. 13 There is not one person who can hide their thoughts from God, for nothing that we do remains a secret, and nothing created is concealed, but everything is exposed and defenseless before his eyes, to whom we must render an account.[n]

Jesus himself is the "living Word of God" and what the writer of Hebrews is saying here is that it is Him with whom we deal when it comes to our "true thoughts and secret motives!  

I've always been a bit fearful of that passage in Matthew, because I know well how self-deceived and self-aggrandized I can get - how I am most of the time.  Pastors and people in ministry have to constantly take their spiritual inventory according to the Word of God, to allow the light of the Word to penetrate down to those places of thought and motive and to bring purity there.  We must be careful not to touch God's Glory for ourselves.

When we start taking a census of the powerful things that God has done through us, we are in danger of moving into that realm!  That's not to say that we can't share testimonies of His power, but the emphasis needs to be in the fact that we are, in Paul's word, "broken, clay pots" that only shine because the glory of God shines through the cracks.  We're all "cracked pots!"  And God's power is seen to NOT be from us.

So what is our stance on these things and how do we proceed.  Jesus gives us a strong clue right after his warning when he starts talking about the house build on bedrock. 
He says, "everyone who hears and applies my Word - who hears and does."  It's that last step of OBEDIENCE to God's word and His way that makes us a "keeper" in God's kingdom.

Paul said his goal was to "know Christ in the power (dunamis) of His resurrection and in the fellowship (koinonia) of His sufferings." (Phil 3)  When we share in Christ's sufferings for doing good (works of power) in His Name, it tends to burn out the dross of our ill intentions and our impure motives.

Over the years I've had many opportunities to walk away from the pastorate.  Pastors do that today in the thousands each month!  My call to this work that I received when I was 10 years old has been tested in fire so many times I've lost count.  I've had to stop myself and take stock of who I am doing this for many times!  It is a constant fight, that all ministers, professional and lay, must contend with.

So what?   What now?

Let's read on a bit further in Hebrews:

Jesus, Our Compassionate King-Priest

14 So then, we must cling in faith to all we know to be true. For we have a magnificent King-Priest,[o] Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who rose into the heavenly realm for us, and now sympathizes with us in our frailty.[p]15 He understands humanity, for as a Man, our magnificent King-Priest was tempted in every way just as we are, and conquered sin.[q] 16 So now we come freely and boldly to where love is enthroned,[r] to receive mercy’s kiss and discover the grace we urgently need to strengthen[s] us in our time of weakness.[t]

So what did you just hear?

1.  Cling in faith to what you know to be true - HIS WORD
     "HOLD FAST" TO OUR CONFESSION~  What is that?
That... We have a magnificent King-Priest, Jesus Christ who rose into the heavenly realm for us!  We are never more in danger than when this belief slips to a back burner in our consciousness!

2.  Clearly comprehend WHO is in Heaven, making Intercession for us!  JB PHILLIPS puts it this way:
For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned.

3. So... therefore ... because of that!  We get a bowl of lettuce!
4:16 Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.
Turn with me to Heb 10 for more lettuce!
19-25 So by virtue of the blood of Jesus, you and I, my brothers, may now have courage to enter the holy of holies by way of the one who died and is yet alive, who has made for us a holy means of entry by himself passing through the curtain, that is, his own human nature. Further, since we have a great High Priest set over the household of God, let us draw near with true hearts and fullest confidence, knowing that our inmost souls have been purified by the sprinkling of his blood just as our bodies are cleansed by the washing of clean water. In this confidence let us hold on to the hope that we profess without the slightest hesitation—for he is utterly dependable—and let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds. And let us not hold aloof from our church meetings, as some do. Let us do all we can to help one another’s faith, and this the more earnestly as we see the final day drawing ever nearer.

Friends, we're in this together, as we say in our marriage vows, "for better or worse."  

One of the greatest dangers in the modern church is the ease with which we leave.  One of the greatest pains I ever experience is when someone leaves our church, for whatever reason, good or bad.  But our consumer culture "churchianity" that is a mile wide and an inch deep has set us up for what we see now all across western Christianity.

We are in a culture that will be standing before the throne of Jesus and he will say "I never knew you!"

Please eat your lettuce!  Inwardly digest the steps that God has given us in His Word to 






Now a final "lettuce"...

Let Us...  PRAY...

Eternal God, Heavenly King.  You have made a way through the curtain of Jesus' body, torn in two, for us to come, to draw near in faith.  But even the drawing near we need help with Lord!  We love to do our own thing ... we love to get the glory ... we love to hear the praise ... Forgive us and help us to never touch Your glory or Your praise!  
We come to you in time of need, asking for your mercy and for your grace to help.  We want to "know you" even as we are known by You!  Let us experience Your love in its fullness, the depth, height, width and length, even though we have no capacity to comprehend it.
Bring us close to You, Lord Jesus and enwrap us in your arms of love.  We want to hear in the depths of our hearts Your Words - I KNOW YOU - I LOVE YOU - YOU ARE MINE.

In Jesus we ask, seek and knock...
for the sake of His Kingdom and the fame of His Name.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Effectual, Fervent Prayers Availeth Much!

Pentecost XXI
October 14, 2018
Fr. Phil Eberhart

God, our refuge and strength, true source of all godliness: Graciously hear the devout prayers of your Church, and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who sits at your right hand to intercede for us, and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns in everlasting glory. Amen.

Well, it's good to be back in the fold here at REZ.  I've been traveling for the past two Sunday's, one on Kingdom business and one on personal, as our family gathered last weekend over Columbus Day weekend with my 88 year old mom in Burlington.

I've been on an interesting journey across America the last couple weeks - to a place in Indiana called Heartland Church - a former Vineyard become Anglican church that has a growing influence in Anglican worship music - to a songwriter's retreat!  First time for me and I'll be previewing a new song for you at the offertory this morning.  I told someone yesterday it was the first time I've ever been in quite such a community of "creatives."  It was good for me and I feel that there may be another song or two brewing!  

From Indiana I went to Washington DC last week - yes, last week!

The National Prayer Assembly happens each year and is scheduled about a year in advance - this year meeting at the Ronald Reagan Center, just about 3 blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Ave.  We had opportunity to prayer walk the Supreme Court building and the Senate office buildings (all three) on Tuesday, stopping to pray at specific, important races for the coming election.  

Then on Wed and Thurs we gathered at the Reagan Center to pray in concert and unity over the themes and issues in our nation.  Needless to say, when the dates were picked, the organizers had no idea the strategic nature of the times we would be in DC for.  Just a couple of highlights...

I got to go personally and pray with Senator Gardner and his chief of staff on Wednesday morning.  I discovered that his mother-in-law is my mom's pastor in Burlington!  Small world!  
Our prayer time on Wed and Thurs at the National Prayer Assembly was electric.  Because of all that was going on in the media with the Kavanaugh hearings and the weight of the upcoming elections, we knew that we were there "for such a time as this."

One fun fact -  How many of you received the "Presidential Alert" on your phone last week?  First time that that alert system has ever been used, tested or otherwise!  The alert came at 2:18 p.m. and we had just moments before began praying for the President and his cabinet at the Assembly!  It was like a God-wink and affirmed the crucial timing and nature of our work of intercession!

Several of the intercessors who could go were invited to the Senate gallery for the debate on Friday last week before the Senate took their vote on Saturday morning.

Friends, we were the invited guests of several of the Senators, to provide intercessory prayer cover over these important debates, in person!  I just want you to know that these things are happening.  They're certainly not going to be covered by our media!

But I want to turn for a few minutes to our scriptures this morning, in light of all this!  How incredible that these scriptures were chosen for today - 400 years ago!

"The Word of God is living, and active - sharper than a two-edged sword - It divides between soul and spirit,  down to joints and marrow, between the thoughts and intentions in our hearts."

I came away from this week with a sense of awe.  Awe at the immensity of our God.  And the nearness of His Spirit and His direct concern for us and our lives and affairs!

Malcolm Muggeridge was quoted in the Alpha Course by Nicky Gumbel, as saying, "The primary difficulty in our grappling with prayer is grasping and comprehending Who it is that we are praying to!"  Nicky goes on to articulate the bigness of God by reminding us of the Voyager I satellite - interstellar probe and its journey to the stars. It will take hundreds of years for the satellite to reach anything like a neighboring star, and Genesis 1:16 adds all the stars as almost a tag line... "and He also made the stars." Almost an afterthought!

Who is it that we pray to?  God

How do you comprehend ... God?  What or whom do you see when you close your eyes?

Big grey-bearded Gandolf in the sky?  

Our scriptures this morning are just a few of many, many passages that "set us straight."  We confuse God with some mortal figure in heaven, a kind of judge that watches us when we slip up, or on the other end, a kind of sugar-daddy who hands out gifts and presents on demand!  Almost a kind of celestial vending machine.

This past week I had a sense of the awesomeness of our God and of the incredible privilege that we have of coming to Him through Jesus in prayer.

Today we are in the midst of our 24 hour prayer day for the 1 Church Initiative - a group of churches that each take a 24 hour "watch" to pray over our churches, our communities, our state and our nation.

We take for granted the access we have to God and are ignorant of the power that our prayers have, when we pray in accord and in alignment with Jesus' own intercessions!  We heard that in our opening prayer this morning...

Graciously hear the devout prayers of your Church, and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who sits at your right hand to intercede for us,

I want to urge you to do your duty - fulfill what we have been called to - to partner with the God of the universe, the most powerful force in the universe, to interceed with him!  To enter into the intercessions of Jesus at the right hand of the Father.

That is the picture I want to plant in your mind when you close your eyes to pray.  You are entering into an ongoing conversation between Jesus and His Father in the throne room of Heaven.  This is the privilege we have of ACCESS to God and to His presence.  Because of Jesus we can just "walk right in."

But never forget where you are and what you are engaged in!  Probably the most important work of your life!  

So I want to encourage you this morning to stand fast in prayer, especially in these days that are just ahead of us.  These are not going to be easy or comfortable days.  We already feel the pressure and weight of the times that we live in, but you need to know that, as James has said, "The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous person... of righteous people...  availeth much!"

And so we introduce the most pressing needs in our lives to the most powerful force in our lives... with three little words!

Let Us Pray!

Lord God Almighty, who has made all the peoples of the earth 
for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to 
the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength 
of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance 
with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who 
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, 
for ever and ever. Amen. 

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory
and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the
earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service
of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in
truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of
him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy

Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

Glory To You

Glory to you, Lord God of our Fathers;
     You are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;
    we will praise you and highly exalt you forever.
Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;
    on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.
Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;
    we will praise you and highly exalt you forever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths;
    In the high vault of heaven, glory to you.
Glory to you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
    we will praise you and highly exalt you forever.

Let us confess our faith!