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Jul 17, 2011

In Between Time, Sunshine, and Water

Passage: John 15:4-5

Preacher: Eric Stapleton

Series: God's Presence

Category: Sanctification, Christian Walk

Keywords: holy spirit, beer, fruit, garden, improv, growth, abide, jesus, moody, graham


What is the key to spiritual growth? Whose responsibility is it and how does it happen? Looking at the analogy of gardening, beer brewing and improvisational theater, lets look at what wonderful things can happen in between time, sunshine, water, and a whole lot of Holy Spirit


Anybody here have a hobby? What is it? I’ve not really been one for hobbies until recently. Hobbies are good things. They are something we enjoy doing. They are something we don’t need to get paid to do. They do, however require a process that involves an investment of time, cultivation, maybe a certain degree of attention to detail. And very often it is not just an ongoing process but there is a product at the end that we are working towards that gives some degree of satisfaction—a ship in bottle, a complete collection of butterflies, coins, stamps, whatever. Maybe it’s a more artistic endeavor like painting, writing, sculpting, etc.


I think being made in God’s image means that we are also made to desire to see things grow and become complete. I think God has placed in each of us the desire to be a part of his creative process in some way or another. I think hobbies are meant to be more than just a way to pass the time.


Usually, it is something that, even if we share an interest in it with others, we spend a significant time applied to the activity by ourselves. Even on Facebook (which is not a hobby) there is a significant obsession with games that involve simulated creation of farms, aquariums, cities, etc. so it becomes a virtual hobby that people receive a similar feeling of satisfaction from as a hobby.


My dad was into model trains for a while. Oddly enough it started with a Christmas present for me. I wanted this train set. It was called The Golden Eagle. And it was an engine with a few cars, some track and a matching golden caboose. My brother got The Silver Streak. It was fun, we laid out the track watched the trains run. My dad couldn’t leave it alone and within two years it was taking up a fair part of the living room, with mountains, homemade tunnels, trestles, switches and miniature village.


And like a said, I haven’t really gotten into hobbies per say until recently. I picked up two hobbies in the last few years. One, is brewing beer. The other is gardening. And even though I’ve come up with a few nice ales, lagers, and a large Chinese cabbage, I still would consider myself a rank amateur at both.


But both hobbies have really been part of a longer term life lesson God has been teaching me. That is that worthwhile goodness takes time to develop and during that time, there are a few elements that are out of one’s control. I’ve entitled this message, In Between Time, Sunshine, and Water. When it comes to seeing the fruition of any great thing of eternal value that we would set our hands to, whether it be a a vocational ministry, a missionary endeavor, or even the cultivation of our own souls and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, ultimately, it takes time and supernatural input from God.


Whether I’m putting together an ale or planting a gardening there are certain tasks that I do to produce a good product. I use purified water, sanitize the equipment, measure out the hops, malted barley and such for five gallon batch of beer. For a garden, I’m going to be planting seeds, composting, fertilizing, weeding, watering, weeding, pruning and such for my garden.


In all that though I don’t get to control whether there is enough sunshine for the garden nor do I get to ensure the complex processes of flavoring and fermentation that the yeast sets in motion for my beer. Also, it just takes time. For a garden to produce it’s fruit takes months and so does batch of beer.


I could just buy these items from the store, but these hobbies go beyond filling a void in my belly. There is a satisfaction in growing something, producing something, in baking a cake from scratch. Yes, as a child, I enjoyed receiving a model train set but as an adult, my dad probably got a lot more satisfaction from the process of getting his hands wet with Paper Mache and forming mountains.


There is a scene in a movie called the Matrix where neo receives all the knowledge he needs for such martial arts as kung fu, jiu jitsu and such. And that’s fiction. It can’t work that way. It’s not just about what’s in the head but how all the nerves and synapses form over time in connection with nerves attached to the muscles that do the work—muscle memory. You only gain a physical ability like martial arts or dancing not just by being exposed to it and taught it. You have to work it repeatedly over time. In karate we’re taught everything we need to know to be a black belt in the first year. Yet, it takes at least three years to become a black belt. Why? It takes that long for the brain to build the nerve connections to make it automatic. Karate is pointless if you have think about it and try to remember it while someone is attacking you. In truth, someone could take all the content in a few weeks but it just wouldn’t be enough. It takes time for those biological processes to happen.


Busy week this week…


This week was the national conference for Christian Youth Theater. It also involved a nation improv competition. I’ve been coaching a team since March. They were really good but when we got to the competition I realized that the others were better as in much. The members of the other teams really were able to anticipate each others actions, speech, etc. This is key in improv. My team didn’t have that. Why? We’d only been a team since March and some of my key players had missed a few practices because of other commitments. This was revealed in sharper relief when compared to other teams who obviously had spent a lot of time rehearsing together. After that first day of competition my team wanted to rehearse a lot last minute. I humored them but it was too late. What they needed was more time because like the organic processes in gardening and brewing, this time of “team mind” necessary for improv only takes place over time and practice…all the necessary ingredients working together.



For a vegetable to grow it draws nutrients from the soil into the plant with water that gives it a necessary amount of turgidity to support the leaves and eventually the vegetable that the fruit bears. Oh, and sometimes, a bee or a nice wind that only God can provide is necessary to get the pollen to the right part of the flower to start the vegetable growing. There is a combination of water, nutrients from the soil, sunshine, air temperature to some extent, all have to be transported to the pollinated flower in order to produce the vegetable or fruit. The capability to produce fruit, vegetables, a nice refreshing ale are all within the ingredients--the seeds, yeast, malted barley and the hops. Merely combining the ingredients isn't enough though. Human effort is not enough. There has to be other than human produced biochemical reactions for something good to happen.


The same is true for our souls, in order for something truly good to be produced in our souls, there has to be a divinely provided supernatural spiritual processes involved.


Just like it is not merely the planting, watering, weeding, and fertilizing that produce fruit in a garden, it is not merely Bible study, prayer, fellowship, worship, acts of service that produce fruit in the life of the believer. It is the life of God in Christ that produces fruit in the life of the believer.


John 15:4–5 (NASB95)

4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.


What do I mean when I say fruit? I mean the fruit of the spirit.


Galatians 5:22–23 (NASB95)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.


Notice how it says the fruit of the Spirit and not the fruit of your effort. Interesting. Sure, it is possible to produce this fruit by effort. But its just that, it's in effort. Wouldn't you rather have it produced by the Spirit so that it was naturally, or rather, supernaturally just a part of who you are? I think that's God's intention, that we become like Him where this fruit is simply our nature not our effort, something that grows out of us as opposed to a mask or costume to put on when we feel we need it.


"Oh, we're having guests over, better put on fruit masks." Wouldn't it be better to not have to worry about being caught off guard so that your 'witness' was not judged poorly?


I guess what I'm saying is that as Christians born of the Spirit we will produce fruit one way or another.


If for instance you're not feeling particularly yielded to the Holy Spirit and the inclination to practice self-control just isn't there. Well, if it's that much of a burden, don't put the effort into it. Eventually, not yielding to the Holy Spirit in the area of self-control will produce so much pain in your life and those around you that you may just grow to start 'feeling like it.' Or, your life eventually, and I say eventually because God is slow to anger, eventually your life becomes so scary that other people repent and take measures to not become the illustrative proverb that you have.

I know this because I lived with a guy over a year and half who was a Christian with a calling on his life and a family that included five lovely daughters. I watched his addiction to sex completely wreck his life and calling over the course of a year and a half.  I often heard him crying in the next room over his losses. Where's the fruit? Well, seeing this first hand, caused me to reflect when I got married and take that particular sin rather seriously and be willing to commit to take whatever steps necessary to avoid that path.


Philippians 1:6 (NASB95)

6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.


So, I don’t want to get confusing here. How is the fruit produced? It is the Spirit who produces the fruit in accordance to our design and yielded-ness. Just like a tomato plant doesn’t produce watermelons, not everybody is designed to be the next Billy Graham or Mother Theresa. Then again, you might be the mother, school teacher, or shoe salesman to such. The spiritual ancestry of Billy Graham has Edward Kimble in it. Who is he? He was an ordinary Christian who had a conversation with a shoe salesman about souls, not the soles of shoes but…I’ll finish that story later…has a happy ending.


We are, each of us designed to produce spiritual fruit that lasts and makes a mark on eternity. Each of us are designed to make a mark that lasts for eternity. Whoa! Watch it there Eric, next thing you know, you’ll be telling me I’m righteous or something. Yes. You are and because you are righteous, you will make a mark on eternity, not just your eternity but on others.


John 17:18–23 (NASB95)

18 “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.

19 “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;

21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Their Future Glory

22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;

23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

So, remember that other verse where Jesus says, “whatever you ask for in my name will be granted” remember that verse? Can you picture it?


John 14:12–13 (NASB95)

12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Do you think that applies when Jesus prays to God for us, “so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” You think?

Well, aside from getting lost in the difference between “I will do” and “God will do” I think we have a much better than average chance of it being guaranteed that we’re all of us going to make our good marks on eternity in Christ’s name. Just sayin’

So, those of you who are somewhat savvy about the nature of a liturgical service are probably wondering, “what the heck does this topical sermon about beer and fruit have to do with the scripture readings?” Everything.

Remember how I said earlier that in gardening, we have certain works that we do to make the garden happen? You need to plant, fertilize, water, weed…pitch the yeast. Right, and how despite all that, it still requires elements that are beyond our scope, namely sunshine and time?

God’s working to produce fruit in our lives. It’s God’s Work, it’s His Holy Spirit moving, creating, building up and producing that fruit, sometimes imperceptibly slow. In the meantime, in between Time, Sunshine and Water we weed, we cultivate, we fertilize the soil. Reading the Word, daily, experiencing fellowship regularly, praying in the spirit constantly, worshiping  in words and deeds, truthfully. Be faithful in what God’s given you to be faithful with and He will produce the fruit.

Why must I do any of that? If God is so God like, can’t he just do it without my participation? Yes, he can? But he doesn’t want to. He wants us to experience the fulfillment and joy that He has eternally. It’s the difference between being a child and receiving a model train set with preformed tunnels, mountains and trees for Christmas; or being an adult and watching the thing grow piece by piece, getting your hands wet with paper mache forming the mountains yourself, living in the image of a creator God. That’s why.

Psalm 138, being grateful paves the way for further blessing

Psalm 138:1–8 (NASB95)


            1      I will give You thanks with all my heart;

      I will sing praises to You before the gods.

            2      I will bow down toward Your holy temple

      And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;

      For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.

            3      On the day I called, You answered me;

      You made me bold with strength in my soul.


            4      All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O LORD,

      When they have heard the words of Your mouth.

            5      And they will sing of the ways of the LORD,

      For great is the glory of the LORD.

            6      For though the LORD is exalted,

      Yet He regards the lowly,

      But the haughty He knows from afar.


            7      Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;

      You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,

      And Your right hand will save me.

            8      The LORD will accomplish what concerns me;

      Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting;

      Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Romans 8:18–23 (NASB95)

         18      For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

         19      For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

         20      For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

         21      that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

         22      For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

         23      And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

We have confidence and not despair as obstacle pop up, weeds, get in our way because we know that God is faithful and with the rest of creation we hope and rejoice in the revelation of the sons and daughters of God.

Both the Old Testament reading and Gospel reading both have to do with practicing mercy and forgiveness.

19      But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?

         20      “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

         21      “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Luke 6:36–42 (NASB95)

         36      “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

         37      “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.

         38      “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”

         39      And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?

         40      “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

         41      “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

         42      “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

Gratitude, Mercy, Forgiveness, Generosity ..that the fruit man, that’s what we want. We want to be supernaturally grateful, merciful, forgiving, generous, like Christ, like our Creator God. In the meantime, in between time, sunshine and water, we are reading the Word, daily, experiencing fellowship regularly, praying in the spirit constantly, worshiping in words and deeds, truthfully.

Here at Mosaic we’re also looking to bear fruit. To bear fruit as a congregation though, it’s going to take all these disciplines individually but also doing these disciplines together…the fellowship, the worship, times of prayer.

And we’re going to start doing more of latter. Starting tomorrow…Monday nights, you can come by Mosaic around 7:30 PM and a number of us will be praying…you can join us. It’s not structured. We’re just praying, not taking requests in particular, just praying out loud or silently. If it’s out loud, others can agree with you prayer. Some of you have already started doing this around some of the congregation member who have needed more intense amounts of specific prayer recently.

And fellowship. Don’t miss rehearsals, don’t miss the opportunities to meet and break bread together. If you don’t see any such opportunity, make one. Invite someone over for lunch or a chance to sample your homemade beer.



An ordinary Christian named Edward Kimble, shared the message of Jesus Christ with a shoe salesman name Dwight L. Moody, who reached Wilbur Chapman, who reached Billy Sunday, who reached Mordecai Ham, who reached Billy Graham. Look at what God has done over these many years with the spiritual fruit of an ordinary Christian.