FIFTY EIGHT

Pastor Terry Inman

2-26-12

 

Elvis died at age 58 The first Chevy Impala was built in 58!. John Denver’s Father holds the supersonic speed record for the B-58 Bomber. Wilt Chamberlain holds the record for the most points scored by a rookie. You’re right 58!  58 is sponge Bob’s lucky number!

So What is significant about 58? There is a new movie out titled 58. It is part of a global initiative to end extreme poverty by living out the message of Isaiah 58. I was invited to a theater in the San Jose for a private preview last fall. We will conclude our Harbor Light Missions Summit on Sunday night March 11th with a special screening at 6 PM.

Here’s the trailer for the movie 58.     

58 is a compelling movie but what really caught my attention was two of the special features. One was filmed in the Mathare Valley in Kenya where we have given thousands of dollars to help feed and clothe kids coming out of this abysmal slum to attend Christian School. We have also funded the building of family centers for orphans and girls at risk.

The other feature is footage of rescuing victims of sexual slavery in India. Last year we gave over over sixty thousand dollars through Project Rescue to help build Homes of Hope for these young women in recovery. David Grant was with us last year. Both of them are returning.

Today I want to kick off our summit with a look at these prophetic scriptures in Isaiah 58. The theme of this years three Sunday summit is Pray-Give-Go. The key verse in Isaiah 58 is verse ten.

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”    

This is a Harbor Light verse! Notice is says, “spend yourselves”. We Americans are the big spenders! We are the number one consumer nation in the world. But this not about spending on ourselves, it is spending ourselves! Another term for spending is devoting or allocating recourses.

The next three weeks we are going to take fresh look on how we allocate our time and resources; spending ourselves in prayer, in giving and in going!  Jesus said, Go! make disciples of all nations!

This Wednesday marked the beginning of the traditional Lenten season.

Lent is a forty-day period of devotion and preparation leading up to Easter. Historically it is a period of fasting or abstinence. Like many things it has lost it’s meaning and for most people it is just ceremonial.

That was the case with a day of fasting practiced by ancient Israel. It had become a empty ritual. Listen the God’s word to the Prophet.

“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. (RON) Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. (v.1-2)

These are good religious folks. They were seeking God. They wanted to know what he was doing. They thought they were a righteous nation. It’s so easy to mix religion with culture. Both get diluted and polluted.  

They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ (v.3)

They were trying to get closer to God. Apparently they wanted his presence. They were fasting but it went unnoticed. God doesn’t respond to hunger strikes. He is not obligated or impressed with performance.

Fasting is not about getting God to do something. It’s simply a way to express your spiritual hunger. When we dial down or physical appetites we heighten our spiritual sensitivity. Fasting can make us a bit irritable.

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. (v.3-4)

The nation had fallen on hard times much like ours. There was a lot of economic and social injustice. Some were taking advantage and enslaving even their own people. The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. There was unrest and civil disobedience. It was like “occupy Jerusalem”. There was exploitation, disorder, and class warfare.

Speaking of exploiting your workers. Economic oppression and injustice isn’t new. There is a lot in the news right now about the wages and working conditions of the teenagers that make our IPHONES, IPADS and MAC’S in China. Apple made 25 billion last year and we all love our devises.

But these kids from the villages make 25 cents and hour and live in small crowded rooms with several bunks. ABC news says, they work 14 hour shifts repeating the same task and get one day off a week. Recently they had to install suicide nets because of a rise in fatal statistics.

OK I know that’s their problem, not mine. Well I think God cares about that. James, Jesus brother, took on wealthy oppressors. “You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.   James 5.1-4 (NIV) Now I’m not trying to incite demonstrations. Just think about it.  

Isaiah continues: “You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is. 58.1-5 (NIV)

Fasting helps us hear God’s voice but not if we are drowning it out with hypocrisy. There are some genuine reasons to fast. 

<!--[if !supportLists]-->•     <!--[endif]-->It changes us. It draws us into greater awareness and dependence on God.

<!--[if !supportLists]-->•     <!--[endif]-->It is a natural response to grief or to a holy opportunity. Both are found in extreme poverty.

 

<!--[if !supportLists]-->•     <!--[endif]-->It is an act of solidarity with the poor. We will better understand their reality when we choose to go without.

 

<!--[if !supportLists]-->•     <!--[endif]-->It liberates resources. Choosing to use those resources to help the poor is a practice that goes back to the dawn of Christianity

 

So let me encourage you to fast forward the next 40 days. Join with our church or your small group in a partial or complete fast. This will be hard. It should be hard. But it will change what you’re hungry for. 

Try it. See what God does with your hunger. See for yourself if that new hunger doesn’t drive you to new levels of action.

Now I’m not talking about giving up stuff for Lent like TV or facebook. I’m talking about the kind of abstinence that creates and appetite for God. Fasting in the scriptures always connected with praying, giving and going.

Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before beginning is ministry. He was able to overcome demonic deception and temptation. In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas were sent out on a mission through prayer and fasting. In Acts 14 leadership was appointed and anointed in the church as a result of prayer and fasting. Fasting was a common practice among the early Christians.

But here in Isaiah the fasting God chooses and blesses is more than abstinence it is investment. It’s not just doing with out something it is giving out something! It is “spending ourselves” !

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?     Isaiah. 58.6-7 (NIV)

God cares about justice, freedom, adequate food, shelter and clothing. That’s what Matthew 25 is all about. Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Now there is also a return on our investment. There is a payoff when we pray, when we give, and when we go!

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  Is. 58.8 (NIV)

Light is a manifestation of the Glory of the Lord. Is. 60.1 -5 says, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. “Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm.

Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.  God has brought the nations to us! We are a light!

If we spend ourselves, God presence, power, healing, restoration, protection and provision are promised. Just call and he says, hello, here I am. “I am” is the name he gave Abraham. It means the all-sufficient one.

All this is conditional. “if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”  Is. 58: 10

There’s even more benefits. He guides, he satisfies, he strengthens, and he refreshes! “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  Is. 58.11(NIV)  

This word came at a time when Israel was trying to rebuild their nation after years of captivity. They were struggling, they were despondent, and they were even oppressing their own people.  It’s natural to pull back on our generosity in hard times. We start sparing ourselves rather than spending ourselves. God was ready to bless them if they were obedient.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.  Is. 58.12 (NIV)

I love this last verse. He told them to honor His Sabbath and keep their covenant to love him and serve him. Keep your word and stop going your own way. Stop doing as you please and there will be blessing.                             

God says, “You will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”  Is 58:14 (NIV)

This kind of fasting is really feasting! It’s “spending ourselves” Let’s pray, let give, let’s go!  Let’s fast forward!