Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Power of Praise

Often as Christians we engage in what we call Spiritual Warfare. For example, life is often difficult. It’s one battle after another. Nothing ever seems to be easy. But what often happens is that we blame the devil for all of our difficulties.

“I got a flat tire…stinkin’ devil!” “The kids are tired and irritable…stinkin’ devil!”

Sometimes, we just give the devil too much credit, because guess what…most of that is just life. That’s what life is, one hurdle after another. I don’t think the devil is that obvious. I think he’s very subtle and attacks us in ways that we don’t even realize are attacks.

I’m sure he wants to keep us on edge, but the little irritations of life aren’t the real strategy. They are just part of his keeping us under unrelenting pressure. Work problems that can’t be ironed out in one workday, children who are selfish (which is the nature of children, anyway), fights with your spouse, not over big things but the little day-to-day spats. Add in some financial pressure and a touch of disappointment, and that’s where you’ll find the real strategy.

Those things just seem like life, but it’s where the real attack comes in. It can either wear you down to the point where you don’t have fun serving God anymore or it’ll cause you to blow up your testimony. Then you begin to lose confidence to witness to other people.

“Why should they listen to me after the things I’ve done, recently.” “I’m not having any fun with serving God, how could I convince someone to serve God.”

Or you become depressed. I’m not talking about that blue feeling, or just a little sadness. I’m talking about the depression that demobilizes you.

I met a young woman in a mental institution the other day. She was young, attractive and eight months pregnant. These are all things that you’d think she’d be happy about. But she was suffering such a deep state of despair that she was unable to work up the energy to take care of her most basic needs. She’s in bondage to depression, that’s an attack.

When you’re depressed like that being involved in the activities of the church becomes drudgery. Or it causes you to do something explosive that takes you right out of the will of God. Sometimes, the attack can just cause you to lose confidence in God and create doubt in your mind. The devil doesn’t have to draw you into sin, all he has to do is bring you to a place where your faith is replaced by unbelief and he wins.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I tried Christianity, and it just didn’t work”? Chances are this is someone who faced an attack like I just described.

The devil’s attack is subtle and designed to separate us from God. But it is a battle that we can win, here’s a strategy from the book of 2 Chronicles.

2 Chronicles 20:20-25
20 So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.”21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:
1 “Praise the LORD,
For His mercy endures forever.”
22 Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.23 For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
24 So when Judah came to a place overlooking the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude; and there were their dead bodies, fallen on the earth. No one had escaped.25 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away their spoil, they found among them an abundance of valuables on the dead bodies, and precious jewelry, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and they were three days gathering the spoil because there was so much.

The Battle is Spiritual

What we’re seeing in our text here is a spiritual battle: A battle that is being fought without the direct participation of the people of God. These kinds of battles have been fought in the lives of all Christians. Do you realize that there was a spiritual battle that was fought for your own soul on the day you made a decision for Jesus? The Bible is full of other spiritual battles, like this one in Daniel Chapter 10:

Daniel 10:12-13
12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.13 “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.

Daniel had had a vision and he needed answers to understand what God was trying to speak to him about the last days. So he began to fast and pray. And Gabriel tells him as soon as you began to pray God dispatched me to bring you the answer you sought. BUT, the Prince of Persia withstood me twenty-one days.

This is a battle that was fought in the spiritual world. These are not two men fighting. What is interesting is that the battle between the angel and the Prince of Persia had an affect on Daniel. Spiritual battles will affect us in the natural world. Daniel was unable to understand the vision until the angel broke through. A spiritual battle can inhibit us from doing what God has called us to do.

Daniel did play a part in this battle, but not a direct part. He continued to fast and pray during the time of that battle. He was unaware of what was taking place. He only knew that he hadn’t received revelation from God, yet. So he continued to pray and contend. That’s our part in spiritual warfare. Now let’s go back to our text.

We Are Appointed to Praise

In our text we see that King Jehoshaphat, “appointed those who should sing to the Lord and praise the beauty of holiness as they went out before the army.” So the people were appointed to sing and worship God and praise his holiness. That was the only part they played in this battle: They praised God. And that is the call on all Christians, we are appointed to sing and praise God. We are all involved in the spiritual battle for men’s souls.

It’s too bad that it isn’t just a physical battle. That we can’t just say I’m going to fight harder and make it work. But the fact is that God gives the increase. It takes that battle out of the natural realm, where we can fight and places it into the spiritual realm. So we can’t just say, I’ll pass out more flyers; I’ll invite more people and I’ll just go to outreach more and watch it happen. There is something that must take place outside of our understanding and ability. We need to continue to do those things, but there is battle that takes place, where we can’t see, in the spiritual realm.

This is what makes it so important to pray for new converts; because often when someone gets saved the battle intensifies. It doesn’t just end then. Sometimes life gets harder right after you get saved. You become too busy to come to church. Relationship and family pressure increases. Daily pressure is increased. There is a battle that continues to be fought and we must continue, just like Daniel, to do our part to see the battle won. Our praise motivates God to action. Look at verse 22 of our text:

2 Chronicles 20:22
22 Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.

Once the people began to sing and praise THEN God set ambushes for the enemy. That’s why we are appointed to sing and praise. The singers and praisers led the army out to the battle, but God fought it.

We don’t lead a physical army.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,

We lead a spiritual army and the battle can be won as God sets ambushes for the enemy.

Praise leads us to Victory

What’s interesting in our text is that the battle turned out to be between the enemies themselves. The Army of Judah basically watched as the enemies turned on each other. I’ve seen this happen a million times.

Have you ever had things going wrong and you thought this is going to kill me. This is the worst thing that can happen and then have it turn out to be the best thing that could have happened. You thought that something that was happening couldn’t have been any worse for you, then as you look back and it was best that it happened that way.

A friend gets laid off his job that he loves, he thinks, “It’s over, what am I going to do, now?” Then he gets offered a job that pays more and is even more suited to him. But if he’d been offered it while working at the other place he wouldn’t have taken it.

That’s how God sets ambushes against the enemy. He uses his own devices against him. He turns catastrophe into victory. God destroyed the Ammonites, the Moabites and the people of Mt. Seir, through the praise of His people. We can lead the spiritual army with praise and see God respond and bring revival to the city we’re fighting for.

There’s one other thing: There are people in the church who struggle with bondages. There are battles taking place in individual lives as people sit in the pews. Part of the reason for that is that we only praise God when there’s been a victory and not when we’re in need of one.

The people of Judah were in need of victory. They faced a huge multitude of their enemies. They were hopelessly outnumbered. Even the king was scared. The intention of the enemy was to destroy them. (Does this sound familiar?)

They had reason to be depressed. They were under huge pressure. Things were looking very ugly. But they got together and fasted and praised God. And God gave them a great victory. Praise isn’t just to celebrate victory, its also to ward off defeat.

Praise is a part of the church service because we are often in the heat of battle in church. It centers us on the things of God and God is able to give us a victory. If we want a victory in our city, we need to rise up and praise God. If we want a victory in our personal lives, we need to rise up and praise God.

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