Sermon April 30, 2006 : The gentle warrior

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Date: April 30, 2006
  • Location: New Testament Christian Church, Plymouth MA

Dr. Paul Jehle: I met Roberto and Mercedes Miranda several years ago and they’re in the third decade of ministry here in New England, among the many that God has sent from the Hispanic and Brazilian community as missionaries to America. Don’t we need it? Amen. We need it. And they have planted themselves very firmly here in New England. We share many things in common with them, which has kind of drawn our hearts together. They have a common vision with us to see the Kingdom of God touch every area of life.

How many of you have heard that before? Amen. Call the biblical world view, we share a real hunger for that, we share a hunger for New England. We believe God wants to touch New England again. Amen. And Roberto has been instrumental and used by God to begin a network of ministries called Covenant for New England who really see New England touched and we have a heart. I said to my wife ‘God must be moving upon Roberto’s life, I keep hearing God…. I’ve been commuting to Boston twice a week for months for various activities and I told Viny I don’t want to really get used to this’.

But praise God, there’s a hunger because God is doing something in Boston. Alleluia! And of course out here too, among the trees and shrubs and all of us. Glory to God. We have a hunger in a joint similarity in recognizing that God wants to restore intercessory prayers, strategic intercessory prayers to the body of Christ, when we really see things occur on our needs since.

We also share a common vision that Christians ought not to merely be Christians in pews on Sunday, they should get out into the community. Amen. Let our light shine and congregation Lion of Juda, let by pastor Roberto and Mercedes are very involved in their community, very involved on lots of outreach ministries, there in the inner city of Roxbury where they are touching all of these individuals.

But you know, the most important thing that brings us together is we believe God is a word from the Lord for us from brother Roberto’s because he loves Jesus Christ. Amen. That’s the number one thing. I mean, everything else can come and go but…. Come Roberto, and bring what God has given you. Let’s welcome him here to………. church .Introduce your wife for us.

Dr. Roberto Miranda: Good morning, I am so honored, so blessed to be here, and my wife, Mercedes, let me just ask her to stand for a moment…. We are really privileged to be here with you, a chosen congregation, a congregation that we have admired from afar. I believe that maybe even before all, than I start getting closer for the ministry and emotionally as friends, I had heard about your congregation through a couple who happen to have a summer home not too far from here, Luis and Janet Morales, who are right here, and they came back to Boston and spoke about this church that they enjoyed so much.

I started getting a little jealous because they had liked this so much and they like the worship and they like the spirit there, and they said ‘you know, it’s just like our church’. I think they were exaggerating a little bit because the composition, the racial composition is a bit different and the context is different, and yet you are and we are, we’re like each other in many, many ways. I mean, in a sense this context that we are and I was thanking the Lord for the voyage, just the trip, and it is a voyage from Roxbury to here, to Cedarville, and to Plymouth and so on. It was such a beautiful trip, it enabled our spirits to get more in tune with the Lord as we prepared to come this morning.

It couldn’t be further in the sense of the beauty of this area, almost the pastoral look of this area, from the inner city where we are, and yet what makes us the same is that that spirit of Jesus Christ unites us. The vision and the desire and the passion to see God’s glory established in this land, to see the name of Jesus enthroned and to see the valleys of the Kingdom of God permeate society. That’s something that is very much in my heart and I know that it’s a passion of your pastor’s and of this community as a whole. And I know that God has lead us together, has brought us together and I believe that is a little bit prophetic that I, Latino from the inner city, am here this morning sharing with a congregation such as you, because one of the things that God wants to do this time is to break those artificial barriers of ethnicity and race and you know, socio economic level, and to make us aware that all the things that bring us together, that unite us, than they’re so much more powerful than the things that divide us, the believers. And we need to start tearing down those areas of discomfort and to start seeking those areas that make us kindred spirits with each other.

And so, all these thoughts were going through my head as I came this morning, as I come to you. And I have been asking the Lord to really give a word that goes beyond just the generic, you know, as preachers we can always reheat a message that seems so more applicable and you know, coast, but I really fear that spirit and I have asked the Lord to give me something that will be specific, that might bless your heart and that will really come from my heart and from the Lord’s spirit directly to us.

And you know, that’s hard to do with a congregation such as yours because in a sense, you are very blessed and very balanced and you seem to have it all, in a way. You know, I was thinking of that question that is asked, What do you give the man who has everything? Well, what do you preach to the church that seems to have everything, that seems to have the balance of the spirit, and that seems to be in tune with what God is seeking to do at this time and that seem so passionate of the things that are close from God’s heart and that is establishing that balance that, I think, God wants to see more and more in his church?

And so, I prayed about this and the Lord gave me more than anything just an insight, and intuition that I hope to develop. I’m not totally sure where the spirit will take us, but I do have a sense of basic thought that I’d like to be able to develop with you this morning. And I have a couple of texts that will be meandering through as we go into this meditation.

I would ask you to go with me to First Kings, chapter 19, a well known passage, and I will go from there to a couple of other texts. I hope I won’t read too long but even the just the texts themselves and how they come together, I think you’ll find something very, very beneficial.

And so First Kings 19, as I say, very familiar to many of us, the story of Elijah as he flees in this fit of depression that overcame him. It says: “Ahab told Jezebel, -by the way, let me warn you, I’m not too familiar with the English names of the Bible, I always preach in Spanish. I may put one or two of them but please forgive me, make the necessary adjustments there if you mind, as I read-.

“Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with his sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say ‘may that God’s deals with me be it every so severely if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them’. Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba, in Judah, he left a servant there, while he himself went a days journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord’, he said, ‘take my life, I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said ‘get up and eat’. He looked around and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you’. So he got up and ate and drank and strengthened by that food he traveled 40 days and 40 nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, God all mighty, the Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death to the sword. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by’. Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, God all mighty, the Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The Lord said to him ‘Go back from where you came and go to the desert of Damascus, when you get there, anoint Hazael, king over Aran, also anoint Jehu who is son of Nimshi, king over Israel, and anoint Elisha, son of Saphat, from Abelmeholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escaped the sword of Hazael and Elisha will put to death any who escaped the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”

I’d like to lead you now to John, actually let’s go before that, to Luke, chapter 10 and what I want to do is assemble these texts and their messages and hopefully bring about some sort of synthesis between the different teachings that are contained in them.

Luke, chapter 10, verse 38, another well known passage. Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary: “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made, she came to him and asked ‘Lord, don’t care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me’. ‘Martha, Martha’, the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her”.

Let’s read one last passage and by now you’ll be wondering, ‘what is this guy doing with all these different …. They seem so far from each other? But John, chapter 15, verse 4 and this might bring you closer to where we are going.

John 15:4, beautiful words of Jesus as well “Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. The man remains in me and I in him and he will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers, such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burnt. You remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given. This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit showing yourselves to be my disciples.” Lord’s words be blessed.

Father we commit at this time to you again and we simply look to you and focus our thoughts in you now. Lead us, speak to me first, speak to all of us and let us have your fresh revelation for this moment in Jesus’ name. Amen.

As I said before, I have a basic insight that I want to share with you and that I need to share with myself and my own congregation. As we stand at the brink of what I believe are momentous times, times of great things that are awaiting the church, times when the Lord of the universe prepares to move powerfully, in a transformative sort of way upon the world. And as I said this before, I don’t know all of this fits in eschatology and in my own understanding of what I have read until now in scripture, I have stopped trying to assemble all the pieces that are in Revelations and in the various prophesies of Jesus and the gospel and the Old Testament, as to the sequence of events that will lead to the final coming of Jesus, but I do have this deep sense, and not only I but many, that something major is about to erupt upon the earth.

Sometimes we speak of Boston, and Massachusetts and even when in our more ambitious moments, in New England, but I really believe that what God is preparing to do is going to touch the entire earth and that nations are going to be impacted in unprecedented sorts of way and that we are going to see manifestations of the glory of God that have never been seen before.

Now, this may be simply my Latino enthusiastic blood making the better of me, but no, I do believe that is shared by many prophetic sensibilities all over the world. When Jesus was ready to incarnate and come to the earth it is clear that there were many announcements all over the world of a coming king and a visitation of God. Israel certainly was full of messiahs and of promises that the Messiah was coming soon and surely enough he came, in a very unexpected way, but the Messiah did come and there were prophet who were waiting: Ana, Simeon, they knew that within their lifetime they would see the chosen one of God.

And God never does anything, it says in the Bible, without letting his prophets know, without sharing it with his church. And Jesus said ‘I will call you friends now, but I won’t call you servants any more, because I will let you know, I will share with you the things that are in my Father’s heart’ and so I know that as God prepares to bring a visitation to the world and to this country that concerns us so much, he wants his people to understand this and so he is visiting his people with this sense of pregnancy. Many of us are pregnant with a sense that God wants to do something. We’re not sure what it is but there is an imminent visitation of the spirit and many prophetic voices have contributed their own insights into this process, that God ids preparing to unleash.

So, it is time of imminence, it’s a time of something ….God wanting to do something very powerful and we need to be ready. We need to understand the sequence of things that need to be in place and we need to get our nets ready and we need to establish structures that can contain the harvest that God wants to bring. And we need to strengthen the foundations of our churches in order to support the weight of God’s glory. Because when God touches a structure, I mean, his weigh can just destroy it if it’s not ready.

When the spirit moves and God’s revelation comes, it can either destroy or it can give life. We see that in the story of the arch. They’ve been wanting to bring the arch into Jerusalem but he was not ready, he didn’t have the right understanding of God’s laws and how he wanted that arch to be handled, his glory to be touched and that first attempt generated death, because God can be terribly sinister as he can also be incredibly loving. But we need to understand, we need to prepare the minds of our people to understand God’s holiness and God’s extreme power and his methodology. I believe that one of the things that God will want to do in this time is to rescue things that have been dormant, aspects of his revelations that have sort of reseeded in the word but that now will be brought forward in the minds of God’s people, that they will be able to understand certain principles that lay kind of hidden within the pages of scripture and vessels that have been captive afar will now be brought back into the temple for the used for the proper worship of the Lord, the preparation of God’s glory.

These are the things that are happening and so the church must be preparing itself. We must not wait until the glory comes to then scramble about trying to get ready for what God is doing. We must be prepared for the king and the highways must be established as Isaiah says ‘what is crooked must be made straight, and what is too high must be made low, and what it too low must be raised, to prepare the way to the coming king.’

I think that passage is prototypical of this time as well, it wasn’t just for the coming of the Messiah, the first coming. There’s a lot of repetition that we seen in prophesy and so a lot of texts that were applicable for a certain time or for the coming of Jesus, are now becoming also very applicable. And so there’s all kinds of texts that are very…. They’re paradigms, they’re models, they’re prototypes for things that God wants to do in our time. And God’s people must be asking for wisdom and understanding to seek out these principles in order for us to be ready for the visitation of the Lord.

Whenever God wants to do something mighty, he always first prepares the people, prepares the scenario, prepares the house, gives directions, calls his people to clear understanding, he lines them up and reads the words to them and says ‘This is what I expect from you. This is what you must do’. He did that with the Israelites before they went into Canaan and he is doing it with his church now.

We are in a time, as I say, there are texts that are paradigms for our time. This Elijah text I believe is one of them and I have preached about it in a couple of other occasions, but there is a certain application that I want to give to it today. And this is what ….. this text and this is the essence of…… What I want to say is that even as we are consumed with the urgency of the times that we are living, the conflictive nature for the church of the times that we are living, when we see society so distant from the father’s heart, from the values of the Kingdom of God, so alienated from the teachings of scripture. When we see so many ungodly things being established in the legal and judicial structures of our nation. When we see even the church itself so far at times from the truth of God, when we see even people who love the Lord and who say and are convinced that they love the word, at times I believe, fudging on the word and looking at people and what the world thinks with one eye and with another eye to scripture and to the Lord, and the slippery slope that I think is so subtle being unleashed in the hearts of God’s people, you fear. And you know, your heart is consumed with passion and you are focused on the task and the temptation is to take out your sword and start slashing left and right and to become obsessed with the task that is ahead and to start doing things and to become active.

This is what Elijah lived. He lived in such a time, where the structures of society were overturned and Israel had gone way, way into idolatry, led by a demonic woman and her weak husband, where the masculine, the feminine were turned upside down and the king was dominated by this feminine spirit that was also you know, demonically induced and controlled. And a spirit had fallen over Israel of idolatry and the values were completely overturned and the structures of society were reflecting this demonic influence.

And here is Elijah, an eminently masculine spirit confronting this situation and I say that for a reason which I hope to develop in a moment. We see him in action before this moment, in chapter 19, he had just finished confronting that spirit, that power. The …. ministry has taken….. he has confronted at a national level the demonic root of idolatry and of what’s ailing Israel. He has destroyed it, he has…… it’s been the culmination of perhaps years of ministry where he has focused on, and hearing God’s word and executing God’s word, and he has done it in a radical sort of way. And a major victory has been gained for the Lord.

And we are at those times. We want to see that in our land. We want to see that kind of transformation in our land. But something happens in the life of Elijah. This is an extremely intriguing moment in Elijah’s ministry. Some might see it as a moment of weakness or a set back for Elijah. After that great victory, in typically psychoanalytical fashion he becomes depressed. Psychologists say that often, after great victories come great depressions as well. And Elijah after executing 450 prophets and this great moment at a national level, he falls into a deep depression, leaves his servant on the side and goes deep into the desert and asks God to kill him.

I think if he wouldn’t have feared God so much, he would have taken his own life. So he says ‘God, I can’t take it any more. It’s too much for me’. His psyche, his psychological structure has buckled under the pressure of ministry. When the times that we are fighting now, the things that we are being called to confront, we must be very careful. Churches must be careful, pastors must be careful, pastoral couples, leader couples must be careful. We must pray for our children, we must pray for our churches because demonic attacks will be unleashed and just the very tension of knowing that what you represent is not popular, that sometimes you are going to be called to be in conflict with even the people that you love and respect in other ministries, in other churches that love the Lord, that makes it so much harder because you can easily neutralize liberals and people who don’t believe in the word and so on, but how difficult and how draining it is to confront even the ones who love the Lord at times. It drains you.

And then there’s just the subtle weight, the burden of the demonic on your minister, on your life, surrounding the streets that you walk by, dominating the context that you move in. As you see things that touch your heart and that wound you and that sadden you in television, in other places and you see your own spirit interacting with all that dirt, it’s a difficult thing. You are going to be weakened.

And so, as we enter into the fray we must be very careful that we don’t do so lightly. We must do it with huge reverence and sense of the fear of the Lord and a sense of our own weakness and confessing weakness and with humility, because that is the only defense that we have. Pride will destroy, excess of self confidence will destroy us. And so we must take account of who we are. There must be much confession, much visiting of our own soul, our own motives and much committing ourselves just for the grace of Jesus Christ and great sense of our own brokenness, even as we point out what the culture needs to do to align itself with the values of the Kingdom of God. We must always be looking at ourselves first, not in a sense of, you know, sick introspection, but in a godly way of examining ourselves as the scripture says so that we might not be judged as we examine ourselves and that the devil might not judge us, because he is a merciless Pharisee, he’s very good at bringing our sins before the Lord.

But, Elijah is feeling the brunt of all that accumulative pressure and he buckles under. Really, for me, the beauty of this text is the drama of the man, no longer the great prophet, the minister who has done great, great things, but just the naked man brought to his shear humanity, reduced to just being a man, stripped of all his ministerial dignity and power and brought to getting in touch with his feelings and getting in touch with his God, and to be brought into a closer understanding of who is the God that he serves.

You see, because I always say, God doesn’t just want to use us. You know, God is not like some of these corporations that you sign your soul to them, you sign your marriage to them, you sign your children to them, your emotional well-being. And they say ‘we’ll pay you 200.000 dollars a year but you have to give us the essence of your life. And then when you become divorced and your children hate you, and you’ve got a couple of ulcers and a couple of nervous breakdowns. Then they just throw you out, you know, to recover or whatever, or to just deal with the consequences of your life. They use you, the pay you well, but there’s no real ultimate desire to serve you and to nourish you and to replenish the energies that you’re giving. God is not like that.

God is a Father and when he uses us, he wants to nourish us, he wants to put back into us, he wants to sow into us. And the thing that he’s most interested in is that we get to know him, that we have intimacy with him, that we honor him with our life, with the quality of our feelings and our being, because ultimately the result is really totally secondary to him. He can bring about the result in an instant.

As a matter of fact it’s just a game that the Father plays, by allowing us to do certain things. He doesn’t need us in any way ultimately. It’s more like the father who sits his son on his knees in front of the steering wheel and makes his son believe that he is driving the car, really God is doing it.

And so his interest is really for the process. I always see God in the process, not in the result. He allows for certain things to happen and to be involved in certain things, because as we sweat for him, as we bleed for him, as we cry for him, it’s an offering that ascends to heaven and he’s delighted by that smell of that sacrifice. So all that God does is just enact certain dramas so that as we enter into them and participate in them, his message will be displayed. The principles of his kingdom will be announced. His glory will be established and Satan will be shamed as he sees God’s creatures honoring him and serving him, it’s ultimately the drama that interests God.

And so, we must take our eyes off this excessive focus on action and on result and place it on the process of our lives and who we are before God and who God is for us, and how well we know him and the quality of our inner lives with him. These are the things that really concern the Lord and we must be attentive to that and this is the drama that he is trying to resolve here with Elijah.

There was another text that I didn’t read and I will…… it completes the complexity of what I’m trying to point to. Well, another well known text in the Book of Mika, and I believe is chapter 6, where the writer says, “with what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with cows a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands rivers of oil? Shall I offer my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you? to act justly and to have mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

It’s the entire gospel reduced to this very essence. God is such a simple being. That’s scandalous to say, it’s also the most incomprehensible complex entity that exists and to say that he exists is a stupid thing because he doesn’t even exist. He’s beyond words. But yet, he’s so simple in his heart, so simple in his tastes, so easily moved by one of his creatures, when that creature loves him deeply and wants to honor him and humbles himself before him. That’s all that God wants. Even as we fail him, even as we try to do for him, even as we dedicate our lives to him, even as we make all kinds of efforts to honor him and to establish his kingdom, we must remember, you know, that all he wants is just a simple dish when he comes and visits our house. No subtle sauces or flavors, you know, exotic flavors, God loves a nice pork chop with some mashed potatoes and a salad, and he’s happy with that, you know?

He says ‘all I want of you is your heart. I want your love. I want your humility. I want you to want to honor me and if you can offer that to me, then I can raise all your mistakes, all your sins, all your errors in ministry, all your omissions, because your heart is good for me and I approve of it’. And that’s the way we must serve the Lord, even as we thrive to honor him and we give him our best, every day we examine ourselves and ask ‘Lord, how can I serve you better?’ But deep inside there must be a foundation of total trust and yielding and commitment to the grace of the father, knowing at the end of the day, even if we have failed him, he’ll say ‘it’s ok my son, my daughter. Go to sleep, I’ll make up for whatever loss has taken place.’ That’s the heart of God.

And that’s why he brings Elijah into that place of nakedness and crisis, because he doesn’t want the prophet to go and retire without really having known who the father is. And so, Elijah, yes, he is going because he’s depressed but God has engineered, in a sense, this whole drama and so, I believe that the reason why Elijah was brought into that place of crisis was because there was one side of God that Elijah had never really, or…. I believe, perhaps never had access to.

You see, Elijah was a violent prophet. He was a hard man. I mean, you have to have a strong constitution to order the death of 450 men and watch them die. You must have a strong constitution to stand before a whole nation and to run the risk of making an absolute fool of yourself and then signing your own death sentence if you fail at what he was daring to do at that moment, to usher in a super natural visitation of the Lord. You had to be a strong psychological nature to come head to head against a demon like Jezebel and Ahab and to go against the entire nation and to run from place to place, day after day, because people want to kill you and the whole nation, the police and the army are seeking your head because you are a cause of consternation to the nation.

And so, God needed a spirit like Elijah. He had to be a violent spirit. Violent times require violent men and women of God. Certain psychological disposition that is necessary in this time of the church’s life and of society as it is constituted presently, God will require a church that is very defined, very aggressive in many ways, very militant and that is precisely one of the dangers that I see so much of the Evangelical church in America just wanting to please, rather than to do the hard task of confronting in a loving spirit the culture and speaking the word of God and saying the truth to itself first and then to the world, and cleaning up the house.

There has to be hygiene that has to be done. There has to be a house cleaning that has to take place within the church before the church can do anything outside. And so the church must be relentless in its pursuit of truth and implacable in announcing the truth, even as they seek to cultivate the spirit of Jesus Christ.

But, this is where the thing is. There’s a danger in that as well, because if we don’t maintain the proper balance between absolute integrity and that implacable annunciation of the truth, we can fall into Phariseesm, into hardness and harshness and sterility of spirit. We can become unattractive and we can become judgmental and lose our winsomeness, because I believe that the gospel makes people winsome, just like your beautiful children that I saw there, such cleanliness, such purity.

That has a cost to produce that kind of sensibility takes a lot of hard work, but there’s a beauty there that many people world in the secular world, in the secular neurotic, God alienated world that they live would entry. But there’s a price for that, and we must retain the beauty of our life as a church, the freshness of our psyche and our emotions, the beauty and the health of our marriages, the harmony of our relationship with our children and with each other.

We must make sure that even as we fight with the sword in one hand, we also protect beauty, tenderness, love, humility, the ability to laugh at ourselves and to laugh with the world and to enjoy beautiful things, to enjoy a good piece of music and to put a pair of shorts on and you know, lose reverence for ourselves and be able to tell a joke and to be simple, not to be self conscious, to be people who reflect the fullness of life that Jesus came to give to us. We must protect that, because that is one of our more powerful weapons.

So we must not become so driven of the result of fighting the world and fighting the culture that we neglect to understand that there are things that go even beyond that and before that and that we must protect them. And that it’s not ‘either’ ‘or’, but ‘both’ ‘and’, and so we, as churches must dedicate a lot of time and meditation and energy to retaining the freshness of the gospel and the beauty of the gospel and the quality of life that God needs, both to be pleased when he looks at us and also for the world to see the difference of being a believer and of drinking of that fresh fountain that is Jesus Christ, the word of God. We must pay attention to those two.

And so God wanted to correct the balance in Elijah’s psyche and so he brings him into this crisis, and if you see the whole tone of that narrative in chapter 19, from the very beginning you see that what God wants Elijah to be in touch with is first his own frailty, his own feminine side if you will, and forgive me if I scandalize you here, I mean it not in a technical, theological way, but he wants Elijah to be in touch with the feminine aspect of God as well.

Now we know that God is neither man nor woman, please understand that, but there’s a sensibility we associate with the feminine, that is very real and God has that, that’s why he made man and woman, because man and woman together reflect the complexity of God’s personality. He has both sensibilities, I mean we sexualize that in our biology, but the essential spirit, the outlook, the wiring of man and woman, that is within God.

God has that nourishing side that we associate with the feminine, the protecting, the patient, the nurturing side, the covering side, the ministering side, as well as he has the legislative, vigilant, combative, structural side which is the masculine dimension, and he brings the two together.

Now, Elijah, I believe was all man, I mean, he liked a good steak, a good football game, and don’t come to him with anything subtle, no classical music for him, not even jazz. Give him a good country tune and he was fine with that. And God wanted to make his prophets more complex, he wanted to bless him, he wanted him to know the fullness of God before he could go on with his minister, or even though he retired.

So, he brings Elijah into this dimension and so, first, get him in touch with his frailty, his own weakness, and being in touch with his emotions, which women are so good at, and recognizing who he is truly, that he is just a man, that he is burdened by his drama and that he has suffered and that he can’t continue going on and saying ‘everything is all right’ and just, you know, taking it all in. So, he acknowledges that and if you see, you know, from the moment ….. God …. Into a deep sleep and when Elijah wakes up, there’s God quietly ministering to him, giving him something to eat. God’s again providing, nurturing, nourishing side.

And there’s a psychological process that is taking place at that moment, the man is finally resting, getting his emotions settled and then he falls back to sleep. And then, when he wakes up again there’s water and basic nourishment for him. And then, you know, he sets on a journey for a further encounter with God’s personality. That encounter was implicit, I mean, the teaching was done just by ministering to him, it was done directly into his spirit. But now he goes before the cave and God says ‘Elijah, now I want you to know me more deeply than what I have downloaded into your spirit, through that objective blessing that I gave you back there by feeding you’.

And so, God enacts this drama: three powerful manifestations, fire and earthquake and wind that a man of Elijah’s psychological constitution would understand very well and would identify God with. The fire that consumes things, the earthquake that turns the earth upside down, and the wind that shakes everything up. Yet, he says, you know, ‘God must be here. God be….. definitely God must be over there.’

But God says ‘No, that’s not the incarnation that I wanted to assume this time, Elijah, and then finally that soft wind, and Elijah who was sensitive to the spirit immediately he puts his cloak on his head and in a sign of prayer and reverence, because he knows ‘oh, this is where God is visiting me. This is the modality in which God is visiting’.

See, God wanted Elijah to be in touch with that other side of God, almost the side of Jesus Christ. I mean that’s an artificial polarity that I’m establishing here, but in a sense, you know, it was the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, although it is more complex than that. For a moment we can draw that distinction, needing. You know, Elijah eminently Old Testament prophet and God, the soft wind, the consoling wind, the refreshing wind that Elijah’s spirit so needed, that Jesus Christ came to exemplify so beautifully.

So, the two sides of God meet before Elijah and he understands now really who God is and who he is. And I think that that is what God wanted to give this chosen man of God and this what we, God’s people, as we inhabit a context very similar to the one that Elijah moved in, in our time, and as we prepare to fight battles very similar to the battles that Elijah fought, we must learn that lesson. This is what God is saying to his people. This is what God is saying to me, in my own temperament. He says ‘you must be careful to keep both sides of me in balance. You must be aware of both sides.

Our churches must be aware of both elements, even as we fight and we become engaged in the culture wars and God will call us to do battle in major sorts of ways, we must never lose sight of the complexity of the terrain that we walk on and of the kinds of weapons, the repertoire of weapons that we must wield in order to be effective. We cannot become warriors in the sense of harsh, merciless, judgmental people who lose our freshness. We must always be drinking of the water of the spirit, we must always be lubricated by the anointing of God’s spirit. We must always flow within the beauty of worship and remain close to the word and in prayer, and again, practice the disciplines of the spirit, that the fruit of the spirit must be with us all the time.

We must cultivate the gentile elements of the fruits of the spirit, even as we ask the Lord ‘give me the gift of the spears that I can do battle for you’. We must keep that dual dimension of God: the masculine, the feminine, always in place.

And this is why the text of Martha and Mary is so relevant to this. Because Martha is another warrior who wants to serve, who wants to do the right thing and wants to minister to the Lord, and wants to be obedient, and wants to be efficient, and wants to be effective and is task-oriented, and wants to accomplish what the Lord needs. She wants to provide for the Lord. She wants to make him comfortable, she wants to honor him, and she must take care of the dinner and of the cleanliness of the house, and get everything ready, and prepare the salad, and get all the dishes in place, and so on. And there’s Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus, and I think we have him a little bit unjust with Martha, the world and the church need Marthas, but the problem was that these two beings, these two aspects of ministry were dichotomized, they were artificially broken in Mary and Martha, and they should have been together.

Mary and Martha should have been one being, doing ministry but at the same time not neglecting the intimacy that is so necessary with the Lord, because ultimately he is the source of all results and of all fruit. And so when Martha complains to the Lord and in her complain, she was not only complaining about Mary, but she was complaining about Jesus as well, not disciplining Mary. Jesus says ‘Martha, you got to adjust your understanding here. Mary has chosen the most important thing and it shall not be taken away from her’.

I thought of, as I was meditating on the sermon, of the prime directive. How many here are fans of Star Trek? I don’t know if you heard of the prime directive. It just came back to me…. It was an association that came to me. The prime directive is one of the governing…. Probably the most important or one of the most important governing principles of the whole Star Trek effort and enterprising which is that this superior culture, that is represented by Captain Kirk or Card or whatever, shall never interfere with a less advanced culture, shall never do anything that interferes with the normal process of development of another culture, shall not provide its technology, or its knowledge or whatever. Each culture should be allowed to progress in its own way, organically.

And so it’s a prime directive: nothing should take its place. That’s why it’s called the prime directive, it’s a core guiding principle.

You know, this is the essence: what I want to allude to, the zone that I want to kind of delimit by my sharing with you, is precisely the prime directive of the church. The prime directive is the fact that our access, our resting place, our foundation, our source, the guarantee of our success in ministry, and of all the things that we so want to do for the Kingdom of God, is intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, remaining glued to him, remaining with his essence, his personality, his outlook, his mentality, his temperament, flowing freely through us and manifesting itself through us.

It’s not me, it’s not my agenda, it’s not my ministry, it’s not my sensibility, it’s not my education, it’s not my background, it’s not my culture, it’s Jesus Christ, supplanting me, taking over me, setting me aside so that his glory, his character and his love, his power, his integrity can manifest themselves through me. Because if any bit of me interferes, I am lost and the world is lost, to a degree that I have any influence on it. It has to be Christ, Jesus Christ.

Just like Paul said, ‘when I came to you, to the Corinthians, I made a decision not to preach anything except Jesus Christ and him crucified’, and this is what we must understand as we seek to do great things for the Lord, we must be attentive to the prime directive. God wants us to know him, and he wants to make sure that he knows us in the sense of, we have had intercourse with him, we have had intimacy with him, we have kept ourselves open to him and to his influence and we are channeled on to him, we are yoked on to him.

No superficial warriors will do for the battle that is ahead. No superficial churches, no churches that are rigid and sterile will be able to perform the task that God needs to be performed in this time. It’s only a fresh, tender, loving church but at the same time incredibly focused on giving God glory and announcing God’s truth and having integrity and being totally yoked to the word of God.

It’s the two, they’re not mutually exclusive. We have drawn this superficial separation between the love of Christ and his truth and they’re together. They have always been together in dialogue from eternity, and that explains the mystery of incarnation and God’s plan of salvation. It’s the two together and we must keep that in mind always, always and cultivate it with the Lord.

Father help us raise healthy churches where the love of Christ is prevalent, where the fruit of the spirit is preached, where the quality of our relations with each other is peerless and exemplary. Help us to get our marriages together, help us to have inner life that will glorify when you come and visit us and look inside of us. Help to be good parents to our children, to be good husbands to our wives, to be good neighbors and at the same time, you know, to inspire holy respect when people see us, because they know that there’s another side of us, that’s a steel bar running right inside our tenderness, and our love as well. And that is the word, the truth of God which we will not compromise and we will die for it if we need to, and we will fight for it if we need to. We are called to be tender warriors, loving swordsmen and women. The paradox, the two intention with each other for we cannot separate them. And that’s what really honors the Lord, that’s the kind of church that will accomplish what God wants to be accomplished.

And I draw up to a close because after the Lord reveals himself to Elijah in that level of complexity, he says to Elijah, ‘you know, Elijah’, and there’s not a period and then another sentence, it just flows into it, you know, there’s nothing announcing the interpretation of the magnitude of what takes place, beginning with verse 15, chapter 19.

“The Lord said to him: ‘Go back the way you came and go to the desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael, king over Aram, that’s Syria, also anoint Jehu, who’s son of Nimshi, king over Israel, and anoint Elisha, son of Saphat from Abelmeholah to succeed you as prophet”.

You know, now that God has resolved the issue of ‘I want you to know me and I want invest in you and I want to heal you of your simplicity of understanding of who I am. Now that I have blessed you and I have strengthened you as a man, now, go and take care of business, and I’m going to show you that you’re embattled understanding of the kingdom is completely wrong. I have power over the international scene, over Israel, over the spiritual scene.

So, go and anoint the guy who’s going to be the king of the most powerful nation around you and I’m going to change that system. And go and anoint the person who’s going to succeed that demonic kingdom of Ahab, and I’m going to fix things up and I’m going to cleanse that whole thing up. And then, go and anoint the person who’s going to substitute you as my prophet in my spiritual dimension, in my kingdom, because I have control over everything. And I have reserved for myself, by the way, 7000. You’re not alone Elijah. I hate to disappoint you but there are 7000 others that I have reserved for myself and I strengthen them to remain faithful to me, and they’re there.

And there’s a church that is here, in this nation, that loves the Lord, that fears the Lord and that nation is, that other nation is awaiting to be brought out. Those leaders have been prepared by the Lord quietly. They have been raised in the secret places and prepared for such a time as this.

And in a moment God will assemble his whole system because he is the greatest systems’ thinker that there is in the universe. God is in control. Let’s not a lose sight of that. Let’s not become embroiled and overwhelmed by this idea that somehow the Kingdom of God is embattled and surrounded and at a loss. God is never at a loss.

The gates of hell shall never prevail against his church and the pacts and the covenants that were established by godly people will be honored. And God waits his time because he’s never in a hurry, he knows the end of the story. He’s not as insecure as we are, so he’s not in a rush to prove himself. We must understand that. What we must do is know him and be possessed by our love and our passion for him and make sure that our intimacy with him is clear and that our values are clear and that our life brings honor to him and that we know him as wants to be known.

And then he can take care of all the other stuff that seems so overwhelmingly difficult in a moment. He can use us then to do the great, the leveraging things that will manipulate the culture, that will resolve things much more quickly and thoroughly than we can ever imagine, because then, now, we can flow in the fullness of his intentions. We will understand the fullness of his directions.

This is why Jesus says ‘remain in me and I in you and you will bear much fruit’. As we remain in Jesus, as we allow him to infuse us with his system, with his mentality and his sensibility, there’s no contest. All that fills us with fear and a sense of exhaustion, and impossibility will all of a sudden seem so doable, so easy.

This is the call of God for us today, for this congregation, for my congregation. I have been preaching this sermon to myself even as I share it with you. This is the word of God for our church. I prepare to do great things.

The other text that came to my mind, I won’t preach and I’ll leave you right now, I promise. Joshua preparing to go into the land, Jesus says…. The Lord says ‘prepare yourself for today and prepare the people. I shall begin to do great things’. Circumcise the people, get them purified, that’s what we were asked.

We’re at the brink of great, great events and God is saying ‘Get yourself ready, check the directions, check the instructions, check the manual, read it again. Make sure that you have it all in place, that you, your procedure is correct, your heart is clear. Visit my truths, examine yourselves in the light of my word and my values for tomorrow I shall do great things among you’.

Let us stand for a moment, and let us actively receive the word of God in our lives, as I want to do right now. Father, you are speaking to your church, you are preparing to do great things and you are choosing your people, you are presenting realities to us. You are confronting us in that loving, inimitable style of the Father and we delight in you and your voice. We’re not threatened by it, we’re not saddened by it, on the contrary, we’re thrilled of what you’re preparing to do. So we receive you, Lord. Father, may we be found worthy, obedient, attentive, humble as we seek to do your will.

Help us to keep Jesus at the center. Help us to keep the values of your kingdom at the center. Deliver us from the pride of thinking that somehow it depends on us and let us be mere scribes, mere instruments in your hands to align ourselves with your timetable, your methodology, your core principles, your vision mission.

I bless this church, Father. They’re a prophetic church, they stand as a symbol of this land and so many things that are precious to your heart. And I declare your heart, your protection, your purposes on this family.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of their life at this moment. Lord, we embrace your truth. We honor your truth. We bow before your truth and we say ‘let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven with no obstructions, Father. Just use us, deign to use us. We do not deserve it, but we will count it an honor to be used of you, Lord. May your blessing rest upon us. May your word nestle itself deeply within our sensibility today, only what you want to remain, open our spirits, we receive your seed, Lord, may continue to yield life.

Thank you for your word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Sermon delivered by Dr. Roberto Miranda taped April 30, 2006 at New Testament Church of Cedarville in Plymouth, MA Listen

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