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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

God is Able

For a while, I worked in a business that taught developmentaly disabled people how to work. We would have them come in and we would teach them about being responsible and faithful; we would teach them to come and be prepared to work; we would teach them a work ethic. We taught them to do many things. And it was good for them. They learned a lot. But I think the most important thing they learned was that they had abilities…They were ABLE to do things.  But they had limits, because of their handicaps.

We all have limitations, don’t we? Sometimes they’re physical limitations, or mental limitations, or emotional reasons why we can’t do things. But we have limits; sometimes time or physical laws limit us. We can’t go beyond those. For example, we can’t exceed the speed of light. It would violate the laws of physics.

But God doesn’t have limitations like we do. God is limitless in his power: He’s God, He’s transcendent. He exceeds the limits. That’s what I want to post about today…the transcendence of God. The power of God, the ability of God: God is able.

Ephesians 3:20-21
20Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God is Able

That word able comes from the Greek word dunamai, the Strong’s Hebrew-Greek lexicon defines it like this: to be able or possible: - be able, can (do, + -not), could, may, might, be possible, be of power. It speaks of God’s possibilities. God’s abilities affect our lives. God can make the impossible, possible.

Mark 10:27 (NKJV)
27 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible."

God is able, He can do things that we can’t do. I was thinking of the widow of Zarephath;

1 Kings 17:9-16 (NKJV)
9 "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, "Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink." 11 And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." 12 So she said, "As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." 13 And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel: 'The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.' " 15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah.

This is an example of God’s ability. God is the one who caused the jar to not go empty. It wasn’t the widow’s ability. She couldn’t do it. She didn’t have the power. It wasn’t Elijah’s ability, he had no ability to create more flour. It was solely God’s doing, but…there’s something you should see here.

The widow and Elijah could do nothing to keep the jar full of flour; with them it was impossible. But with the action they took God was able. What action did they take? They took a step of faith. The widow provided for Elijah and because of that action God was able to provide for her. We have to understand that faith is an action word. Faith isn’t passive.

What does that mean? Sometimes we think that faith means that we believe. I believe Jesus was God on earth, but that just takes place in our minds and hearts. That’s intellectual belief, we believe. But faith means that we take an action in accordance with our belief. We act in faith. The following is an example of acting in faith.

Matthew 14:28-29 (NKJV)
14:28 And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." 29 So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.

We know that it isn’t normal that people can walk on water. But Peter in his faith is sure that Jesus can call to him and he will be able to walk across the water to Jesus. So what does he do? He acts in faith and gets out of the boat and starts walking to Jesus. That’s an act of faith. That’s active faith, "I believe it, so I act accordingly."  Now I want you to think about this for a moment. Peter can’t actually walk on water, can he? Without Jesus there to call to him what would happen?  Peter would sink. In fact, there comes a moment in the middle of this experience where Peter’s faith falters.

Matthew 14:30 (NKJV)
14:30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"

Peter gets scared. He thinks I’m walking on water in this storm and he loses faith. He begins to sink. But what else has changed? Nothing. Jesus is still there, the command to come has not been rescinded, Peter has gotten out of the boat…but now he’s sinking. The only change was that Peter lost faith. Jesus was able to command Peter to walk to him on the water, while Peter had faith that he could. So Jesus’ ability resides in our faith. It isn’t Peter who is able to walk on water, it is Jesus who is able to call Peter out to walk on water…while Peter has faith. In the widow’s case, because she had the faith to feed the prophet before herself God was able to provide for the widow.

God is transcendent; He is not bound like we are to natural laws. He is able to do what we can’t do. Look at these examples of God’s transcendence:

God created the earth out of nothing – Genesis 1:1
He made mankind from mud – Genesis 2:7
He wiped out the earth with a flood – Genesis 7:17-21
He changed water into wine – John 2:1-9
He fed 5,000 men with 5 loaves and 2 fish – John 6:1-12
He rose from the dead – John 20:1-10

You and I are not able to do any of thse things on our own, but God did all of them. God is able.

God Can Move in Our Circumstances

Do you realize that God can move in our circumstances? God is able to do what we can’t. Look at this interesting scripture:

Matthew 6:27 (NKJV)
6:27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

What can we do on our own? Not much; we can’t cause ourselves to grow. We can’t heal ourselves. We are not able to act in a supernatural way. We’re limited. We’re restricted to our talents and skills, and our ability to learn. Even with these limitations, mankind has been able to accomplish much.

But think about this what have we ever created? We’ve used the things God has created, with a word, to make something we’ve engineered. But we have to face facts we are really able to do little.  But I’ve seen God do miracles. I’ve seen people healed of many diseases. I’ve seen God overcome circumstances that people thought were impossible. He’s moved in circumstances where we were unable to do anything.

They have been working on a cure for cancer for how many years? Thirty, forty, and they can control cancer to a certain extent now, but can they cure it? No they can’t, but I’ve seen God cure Cancer, because God is able to affect our circumstances.

1 Kings 18:42-45 (NKJV)
18:42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, 43 and said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." So he went up and looked, and said, "There is nothing." And seven times he said, "Go again." 44 Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, "There is a cloud, as small as a man's hand, rising out of the sea!" So he said, "Go up, say to Ahab, 'Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.' " 45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel.

Israel had been in the midst of a famine for three and a half years and Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel to pray. A cloud the size of a man’s hand rose up out of the water and God used that cloud to bring rain. God changed the circumstances in of famine in Israel. What activated God? It was Elijah’s prayers. Once again we see faith in action. Elijah’s prayers activated a move of God. Elijah believed God would bring relief, so he went to the top of Mount Carmel and prayed and God responded. But I see something interesting in Elijah’s faith. He prayed and at first nothing happened. So he gave up? No, he prayed again…and again until God responded. It took seven times, before the cloud came up. How often do we pray for something and when we see no response at first, we give up? Persistent prayer spoken in faith is sometimes required. Because of Elijah’s faith God is able to change the circumstances.

God moves in our circumstances. We see this time and time again in the Old Testament history of Israel. God moved to deliver his people out of oppression in Egypt. He called Moses. God gave Joshua the plan for defeating Jericho. God sent a messenger. God defeated one hundred thirty-seven thousand Midianites with three hundred men, using Gideon as a leader. God intervened in the future of mankind. He sent Jesus as a redeemer.

These are examples of God being involved in the needs of people. This is God changing circumstances where we are unable to change them. Because God is able.

When we are struggling with issues today, God is able to move in our circumstances. We think we have to solve them ourselves: That we have to change the circumstances to make things work out. But in reality, we often can’t change the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

If we have an incurable disease like Muscular Dystrophy, we can do nothing to change our circumstances, but God can. The people of Japan after suffering a tsunami and nuclear meltdown can do nothing to change those circumstances, but God can. Most circumstances in our life that affect us in a strongly negative way, we can’t change, but God can. He changed the circumstances in Israel’s famine and he can change the circumstances in your life.

According to Faith

There are a number of interesting stories in Matthew Chapter 9 about some people who come to Jesus for healing.

The first one who comes is a man whose daughter has just died. He asks Jesus to come because he knows that Jesus can raise her from the dead. When they get to his house the mourners are there. People are crying and wailing. The mourning for this dead young woman has begun. But the father of the girl is nonplussed. He believes that Jesus can raise her. Jesus tells the people, “She’s not dead, she’s sleeping.” They all begin to mock and ridicule, but the father’s faith sees it through. He doesn’t stop having faith. Jesus shoos everyone out but the parents and raises the girl.

As He is on the way to the dead girl’s home a woman with an issue of blood sees Him. She’s been sick for many years. She’s been to many physicians and she’s still suffering. For this woman this is a huge issue. Because of the blood, she is considered unclean; no one can touch her. For 12 years she has lived without the touch of another person: Her husband can’t hold her, her children can’t hug her. In fact, she’s required by law to walk down the street and cry out, “Unclean,” so strangers don’t accidentally touch her and become unclean. But she says to herself, “If I can only touch His garment, I can be made well.” And so she makes a huge effort to get to Him and touch Him and she’s healed.

Look at this version in Mark Chapter 5:

Mark 5:25-34 (NKJV)
5:25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, "If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well." 29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My clothes?" 31 But His disciples said to Him, "You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, Who touched Me?' " 32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction."

It is by faith that these things are done. Jesus felt the power go out from Him, but it wasn’t an action he took. Her faith activated that move of God, Jesus told her, “Your faith has made you well.” Faith activates a move of God.

Finally, there is this that takes place in Matthew Chapter 9:

Matthew 9:27-30 (NKJV)
9:27 When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" 28 And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith let it be to you." 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, "See that no one knows it."

There is an interesting line here, Jesus says, “According to your faith, let it be to you.” Let’s break this down, for a moment. That phrase, according to, means: in conformity to. An example of the meaning is this: You are paid according to your skills. If your skills are high, you are paid more. If your skills are low, so is your paycheck. So Jesus says, “According to your faith let it be to you.” If you have enough faith, let your healing be complete. If you have no faith, then you won’t be healed. So He is telling them that if you have the faith you will be able to see. God is able to heal; He does that in us according to our faith. God healed all of these in Matthew Chapter 9 according to their faith. The father had faith, even as the mourners were there preparing to bury his daughter, he believed that Jesus could raise her. The woman with the issue of blood had faith, Jesus even tells her her faith has healed her. The Blind men called him “Son of david.” This is a reference to the Messiah. They are calling Jesus, messiah. They are saying to Him, “You’re God, you can heal us.” Jesus tells them with as much faith as you have let that be how much you are healed.

In all these cases it was the faith of the people that caused them to be healed. God is able. It is our faith that activates God’s ability on our behalf. If the father hadn’t believed Jesus was able to raise his daughter and never came to Him what would Jesus have been able to do? If the woman with the issue of blood, never reached for his garment, what would Jesus have been able to do? If the blind men hadn’t called out they would have remained blind.

In your circumstances are you able to go in faith to Jesus? Do you believe that He is the circumstance changer? According to your faith…

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Word About Intention. Mostly My Intention but Hopefully God's, As Well

The Standing Stones Sermon Blog is written to offer encouragement, teaching and self-examination for people. It is filled with sermons that I have preached both at the church I pioneered in Riverside and the church, here in Taoyuan City. I take my notes and fill them in, in written form. I don’t write out my sermons in the form you see them prior to preaching them. They are in note form, so that I can have “trigger points” to preach out of. Writing them out in this form makes me concentrate on form, sentence construction and making the word of God easily understandable. That’s the real point for readers of this blog. I want people to be able to clearly see how the word of God can bring change to their lives. I want them to be able to see the power of the Kingdom of God.

What is interesting is that the sermons that deal with sin are sometimes received very critically. I’ve been told, I need to calm down. I’ve been told that religion shouldn’t be a burden. Well, the truth is that the word of God should bring correction to our lives. Sin must be confronted, so that it can be repented. Some of the sermons in this blog focus on the need for an examination of our lives, our hearts and our intentions. This is essential to a successful Christian life. It is also a major part of sermonizing. People can’t respond to the call of God in their lives until they recognize that they are living against the will of God.

This is why we were given the "Law" in the first place. So that we would recognize where we have violated the will of God. So we would understand our rebellion toward God. We can see we are sinners. The "Law" calls attention to the fact that we can’t ever be good enough on our own to enter the kingdom of God. Who has never lied? Who has never stolen? We're all sinners, we all fall short of the glory of God. We might think that what we have done is not a "big sin:" That really, we’re good people and so what we have done will be overlooked. But this is not so! In God’s eyes all sin is an affront to him. All sin carries the same penalty, the Bible says, ”The wages of sin is death.” All sin requires the death penalty. If the penalty for each sin is the same then all sin is equal inthe eyes of the judge.  If this is true, then none of us will enter the kingdom of God, because we have all sinned.

This is why God sent Jesus as a redeemer. Jesus is the one who has paid the penalty of our sin. His death is the death that was required by our sin. So you, I, all of us are the ones that put Jesus on the cross. His death releases us from the penalty of that sin. But we must believe: That he is God and the remedy of our sin and we must repent and begin our lives again. Christians call this being born again. It is also essential to entering heaven.

The sermons contained in this blog are written for that purpose. They are also written to encourage people to focus on, and live out, the will of God for their lives. The title of the blog was chosen after thinking about the purpose of the blog. As I say in the introduction the purpose of the stones that were stood on end were to mark the times when God moved powerfully in the life of the person who stood it up. They were to be reminders to people as they passed them that God had moved there. That God had done something. I look at the sermons that have been preached to me as the “Standing Stones” in my life. Those sermons have caused me to look at my life and what needs to be changed so that I can more fully live out the will of God for my life.  Some of the sermons that I have heard are reminders of what God has done for me and in my life. My intention with the sermons provided in this blog to cause us to look at lives: To see where we need to work harder to live out God’s will: To recognize when God has done something powerful in our lives: and where necessary to repent of sin. The sermons themselves can be a “Standing Stone in someone’s life.

Feel free to copy them off the site and save them on your own computer or to share them, with other people. The word of God is always free.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Barak the Messiah

Editor’s Note: This sermon was written in 2008 immediately following the election of Barak Obama as President of the United States of America it has been updated to reflect current events.. President Obama is a polarizing figure in American Politics. The mention of his name can incite anger on both sides of the political spectrum. The Standing Stones Sermon blog is not a political blog. There is no commentary being made on his fitness or competency in the office of President of the United States. This sermon is based on observations of the media and press during his campaign. The sermon is on the possibility of ascendancy of the Antichrist. We are not suggesting that Barak Obama is the Antichrist. We are only attempting to show how it will be possible, at some future time, for people to accept the antichrist as a god.

“Today, America would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order (referring to the 1991 L.A. Riot) Tomorrow they will be grateful. This is especially true if we were told that there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated. It is then that the people of the world will plead to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the World Government…” Dr. Henry Kissinger 1991
“Did you ever get the feeling that the only reason we vote is to see if the polls were right?“ Robert Orben
“Democracy is voting for the candidate you dislike the least.” Robert Byrne
We are living in extraordinary times; I am increasingly convinced that we are living in the last of the last days. In the last week we have seen an unprecedented natural disaster occur in Japan, in addition to a man-made disaster in the meltdown of a nuclear power plan. Protest in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt have accelerated, the government of Libya in attacking, both unarmed and armed rebel-citizens has resulted in attacks on that nation by The US, UK and Canadian forces. Less recently, the call for a world currency has been made by Russia and China, and for the first time in history, the government of the United States is supporting that call. We are living in the days of Biblical prophecy.

The times are winding up, the hoof beats of the four horsemen of the apocalypse are being heard in our generation. I believe we will be the generation that will see the return of Jesus Christ and the rapture of the church. In this post I want to examine the “Signs of the Times.”

Matthew 16:3
3 “and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.

Matthew 24:4-16
4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.6 “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.8 “All these are the beginning of sorrows.9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.10 “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.11 “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.13 “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

The Rise of the One

“Many see in Obama a messiah like figure; a great soul and some affectionately call him Mahatma Obama”. - Dinesh Sharma – Marketing Science Consultant
“(He is) A light worker – an attuned being with a powerful luminosity and High-Vibration integrity who will actually help usher in a new way of being.” – Mark Morford – Reporter San Francisco Chronicle
“He communicates God-like energy.  He’s a lot closer to a Jesus-type than any other candidate…What if God decided to incarnate as men preaching, “hope and change.” And what if we didn’t recognize them, because we are so dull and let them slip away, not availing ourselves of the chance to be led by God!”Steve Davis, an average voter in South Carolina
Matthew 24:23-24
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.24 “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

I’m not saying that President Obama is the Antichrist. But this is the type of fervor that will sweep the Antichrist into power. Never before in history have things like this been said about any political candidate. There has always been conversations about a candidate’s ability to lead. We have always heard about charisma. But we have always stopped there: We’ve never dared to call a candidate the Christ.

“This is bigger than Kennedy…this is New Testament”
Chris Matthews, MSNBC Commentator

“Obama’s finest speeches do not excite...They do not inform. They don’t even really inspire, they elevate…He is not the word made flesh but the triumph of the word over flesh…Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves.”
Ezra Klein, Associate Editor, The American Prospect Magazine
Even president Obama in his inauguration speech noted that, “this is the time when the rise of the oceans began to slow; when the planet begins to heal.”

Revelation 13:5
5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.

Very quickly comes the time when the world will embrace a man as the savior of the world: The bringer of world peace: A man that will usher in the time of the tribulation and the final curtain call of the earth.

It’s amazing how much of the world embraced the election of Barak Obama. 210,000 people in Germany went to see him. They said that he brought peace to the Niger Delta region. He hadn’t even taken office yet. The Pope has prayed, “May God help Obama bring peace.” They were looking to him to solve the Mideast problems.

I think it is interesting that the US media was afraid of George Bush and his declaration that he was called by God to be the President of the United States, but they have no fear about referring to president Obama as the “word of God” or his election being of New Testament proportions. Its as if it get easier to look for the Messiah.

“Obama comes along and he seems to have the answers, this is New Testament.”
Chris Matthews MSNBC
Suddenly the press is looking for Jesus and finding Him in a political candidate. Have you ever wondered how a man, an unknown could rise to the office of the most powerful man in the world in only four years. It cannot be merit. There were no accomplishments there was no merit. But yet the press hails him as a messiah-like figure and the man who can save the world. This is so unbelievable that it can only be possible if a spirit is behind it.

Revelation 16:13-14
13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

The world today is a very divided place. A leader can either bring it together or divide it further. Look at the political landscape of the United States att this point in history. The only time where the nation was more divided than this was in 1861, when the Civil War broke out.

America has become a nation where anything goes. Everyone is choosing up sides. It seems that common ground can’t be found; every group is against another. Racial violence is up…Liberals and conservatives are at war with each other…every possible divide is exploited and every chasm becomes an abyss. Christians are verbally assaulted and shouted down. We’re called haters and bigots. Organizations are looking to remove every vestige of the God of the Bible from the public life. When push comes to shove, I wonder where the President will stand…Will he, like everyone else, in the interest of peace denounce Christians?

We may not be seeing the rise of the Antichrist, but we are seeing the rise of the Antichrist spirit. When the Antichrist is in power we will call him God all the time thinking that he’s Jesus, the Messiah.

Revelation 13:12
12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

But Jesus will not be ushered in by an election or by a world crisis, He will return like this:

Matthew 24:27

27 “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

“From what we have seen in recent years – the creation of a missile defense system, the encirclement of Russia with military bases, the relentless expansion of NATO – we have gotten the clear impression that they are testing our strength” – Dimitry Medvedev, President of Russia quoted on Fox news - November 5, 2008
“Mr. Medvedev is first expected to usher constitutional changes that would allow Mr. Putin to return to his old job for 12 more years…the report bore all the signs of deliberate Kremlin leak designed to prepare the Russian Public for Mr. Putin’s return.” London Telegraph - Nov 7, 2008
“"As one Russian observer put it, weapons sales create allies. Russia is using weapons and nuclear reactors the same way imperial Germany used railroads – to bolster and influence the dominant power in the Middle East.” The Heritage Foundation – March 5, 2007

Who are Russia’s allies in the Middle East?  The Organization of the Islamic Conference: The OIC has tried to make its presence felt in areas of interest to the Muslim world, an approach which appears to have the tacit approval of the Russian leadership. In 2003, President Vladimir Putin was invited to deliver the opening address at the OIC summit. This event was followed by a marked warming of relations between Moscow and the OIC with new positions created in the Russian Foreign Ministry to improve ties. Business Network Summer 2005

Who is the OIC? It is an organization of 56 Islamic Countries. Afganistan, Bahrain, Itran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen are all members. Find them on a map and then look at this:

Ezekiel 38:1-6
Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying,2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,3 “and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.4 “I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.5 “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet;6 “Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you.

After you’ve found those nations on a world map, turn to the back of a Bible and look at a map of the ancient world and find the nations listed in this scripture. You will be amazed to see that these are the same nations.

Rosh is Russia, could Vladimir Putin be Gog? Many of the recent problems with Iran and nuclear weapons follow the sale of centrifuges used to enrich plutonium for use in reactors and weapons from Russia to Iran Putin is aligning himself to once again lead Russia. Iran and other Islamic nations are allied with Russia and eager to declare war on the west. Time and time again the president of Iran has threatened to “Wipe Israel from the map:” The complete annihilation of Israel. With nuclear weapons made from enriched plutonium this indeed becomes a possibility.

In recent days we have seen the “democracy movements” in the Middle East. Protestors have risen up against the tyrants of the Middle East. But look closely who is being overthrown. It is in secular Middle Eastern nations that we are seeing this revolution. Of course, there is no doubt that these are tyrannical dictators leading these countries, but whom are the “revolutionaries” representing? In Egypt it was the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has sworn to destroy Israel, one of the goals of those who were fighting for democracy in Egypt was the suspension of Mubarak’s peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. These people are the enemies of Israel. Vladimir Putin and Russia may soon be in a position to lead these countries to war against Israel.

With this war and the rise of the Antichrist we could see the rise of the One World Government. If you think a world government is not on the horizon look at this:

“In the next century nations as we know it will be obsolete, all states will recognize a single global authority. National sovereignty wasn’t such a great idea after all.”
Strobe Talbot – President Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State 1998
The sovereignty of all nations is threatened with the establishment of a Global financial system. A one-world economy, if you will.

“The world’s most influential finance ministers and central bankers broadly agreed today that its financial system needed reform amid the worst financial crisis in 80 years, but they fell short of their task of outlining a detailed framework for change. The finance officials at this weekend’s gathering of group of 20 officials in Sao Paulo, Brazil, had intended to come up with concrete proposals as a basis for discussion by their heads of state at meetings in Washington D.C. on November 14-15.”
Dow Jones Newswires November 9, 2008
Every head of state is looking for a solution to the world’s financial crisis and that solution may be in the creation of Global economic system. China and Russia have both called for the establishment of a world currency. This is not unusual on its face, in recent years both of these nations have called for this before. But for the first time the United States Government has supported the idea of a global currency. A global currency will further erode the idea of sovereignty among nations. The one-world economy of the Bible is c,oser than you think.

Revelation 13:16-17
16 He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

How Does That Make You Feel?

As I’ve said before, this is not a political piece. The idea of this is not to infuse you with fear and hatred. But politics are the signs of the soon return of Jesus Christ. I believe we are close to his return and the rapture of his church.

On the one hand I find it terribly exciting to be a part of the last generation: the generation that will see the return of Jesus Christ. I believe there are people reading this who will never taste death. This event is on the horizon line of time and we are rushing toward it.

The problem is that not everyone will hear the call. Not everyone will hear the trumpet’s blast, only those that are “in Christ.” I am filled with a sense of urgency to reach the lost.

I live in Taiwan and the percentage of those who are of a Western Religion is about 5% of the population. The percentage of Christian is smaller still. Of the 23 million people living here only a small portion will hear the final call.

With the world stage such as it is, how much time could possibly be left before these Biblical prophecies are fulfilled? How much time could be left before Jesus returns?. How many people do you personally know that would be left in the event of the final call?

These are highly polarized times. Close elections in the US demonstrate a fifty-fifty split. Violent protests in recent days demonstrate the depth of emotion for one side or the other and the depth of hatred for righteousness grows day by day.

2 Timothy 3:1-7
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

This is the signature scripture for our day and hour. We are unable to turn back to simpler times so we must prepare for the times that we face. This is the time when Christians must galvanize into the Army of God and press forward to draw others into his safety. We can no longer allow ourselves the luxury of complacence. There is little time left. On the one hand I am comforted by the knowledge his soon return but on the toehr hand I am filled with a sense of urgency.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gehazi Changes His Mind

The Devil held a great anniversary, at which his emissaries were convened to report the results of their several missions. "I let loose the wild beasts of the desert," said one, "on a caravan of Christians; and their bones are now bleaching on the sands."

"What of that?" said the Devil, "their souls were all saved."

"For ten years, I tried to get a single Christian asleep," said a third; "and I succeeded, and left him so." Then the Devil shouted, and the night stars of hell sang for joy.—Martin Luther

I believe this is a great strategy of Satan. Not that he can cause committed, mature Christians to step into some great sin. But that he can wear down our resolve to live for Jesus. He can cause us to take our eyes off Jesus and place them on our circumstances and ourselves, so that we will begin to doubt the grace of God and begin to look for our own definition of blessing, and through that, retreat into sin.

I believe this is what happened in the life of Gehazi, the disciple of the prophet Elisha. It’s a warning to you and I because it could easily happen to us, as well. In this post I want to look at the, “The Fall of Gehazi:”

2 Kings 5:20-27
20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”21 So Gehazi pursued Naaman. When Naaman saw him running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him, and said, “Is all well?”22 And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me, saying, ‘Indeed, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the mountains of Ephraim. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of garments.’ ”23 So Naaman said, “Please, take two talents.” And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and handed them to two of his servants; and they carried them on ahead of him.24 When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed.25 Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, “Where did you go, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.”26 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?27 “Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow.

Gehazi Was a Man of God

In our text we see the greed of Gehazi. We see how he abandons the things of God to run after money. We understand that this is evil. How can we sell the power of God? The Gospel and the power of God are always free, that’s how it is supposed to be,

In our church we pray for the sick and we don’t charge people for our prayer. What would you think if in the back of the sanctuary we had a sign like this:

Healing from:

Coughs, colds, flus…$25
Back Injuries….$15.00

We don’t charge for these things. We don’t have a price for weddings. We don’t have admission tickets for church services. These things will always be free will offerings.

In our text Naaman comes to Elisha for healing and he’s healed. God does a miracle and completely heals Naaman of his leprosy. Elisha sends him away with no charge for his healing. But Gehazi runs after him,.and asks for a price. This is a very interesting moment because I don’t think that this has always been in Gehazi’s character. I believe that when Elisha chose him, that Gehazi was a man of God.

Because there is something that Elisha saw in him, when he was chosen to be a disciple. Do you think that Gehazi would have chosen him if he knew that his character was like that? He’s a prophet of God. God would have spoken to him about Gehazi’s character, don’t you think?

Gehazi, at the moment in our text, has been with Elisha for a while. Elisha has used him for many things.

2 Kings 4:12-16
12 Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him.13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’ ” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”14 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.”15 So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway.16 Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!”

So Elisha has used Gehazi to call the Shunammite woman. This is the woman who provided food and shelter for him. He wants to repay her in some way. But what strikes me about this is that it is Gehazi who perceives this woman’s need. He’s the one who sees deep into her heart and sees what she really needs, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.” He understands that that she isn’t likely to have someone to care for her after her husband dies. Gehazi sees that need in her life.

You can see by her reaction, that this is an issue of great importance for her, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!” What we are seeing here in Gehazi is compassion. He’s compassionate about this woman’s plight. He wants to see her receive the thing that she needs most; what will bring joy into her life. That’s not the attitude of a greedy man, is it? Greed is well illustrated in the following story:

An old saint, while journeying, overtook two travelers. One was greedy, avaricious, and covetous; the other was jealous and envious. When they came to the parting of the ways, the saint said he would give them a parting gift. The gift was this: Whoever should make a wish first, would have his wish fulfilled—and the other man would get a double portion of what the first had asked.

The greedy man knew what he wanted, but he was afraid to make his wish. He could not bear the thought of his companion getting twice of what he had. The envious man was also unwilling to wish first, because he could not stand the idea of his companion getting twice as much as he would get. So each waited for the other to wish first. At length the greedy man took his fellow by the throat, saying he would choke him to death unless he made his wish. At that, the envious man said, "Very well, I will make my wish. I wish to be made blind in one eye." Immediately he lost the sight of his eye—and his companion went blind in both eyes. And so, the legend goes, Envy and its companion, Avarice, has blinded and cursed the souls of man ever since.

This story is a perfect example of the way a greedy man thinks, but this isn’t how Gehazi is thinking. He’s showing genuine concern and compassion for the Shunammite widow.

Gehazi is also used to attempt to raise this woman’s son:

2 Kings 4:29-32
29 Then he said to Gehazi, “Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on your way. If you meet anyone, do not greet him; and if anyone greets you, do not answer him; but lay my staff on the face of the child.”30 And the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her.31 Now Gehazi went on ahead of them, and laid the staff on the face of the child; but there was neither voice nor hearing. Therefore he went back to meet him, and told him, saying, “The child has not awakened.” 32 When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed.

Even though there was a failure of Gehazi’s part and this child wasn’t raised. Elisha had sent him on this mission. He was acting in Elisha’s place. He was a representative of the prophet. You chose those to represent you that would act in the same character with which you would act.

I had a General Manager who said something to me, a number of years ago that I thought was profound. There was a young man who worked for him. This kid was good looking, he was smart; he was personable. He was an excellent salesman and because of those attributes and he acquired a lot of business for the trash company we worked for. But he decided that he was interested in a young woman in the office, and as their relationship blossomed there were telltale marks of their physical relationship all around his neck. And I remember that this General Manager warned him, that those marks were not appropriate given his type of work. The next time he showed up with them, he was fired. As the GM’s supervisor, I was concerned that he would fire a young man with such great sales and he made this reply, “He is representing this company, he represents you, and he represents me, I can’t vouch for his character and so I can’t let him be my representative.”

People often ask me for letters of recommendation, as they look for work. But I don’t always give them if I can’t vouch for their character. Or I will give a guarded one, “ I like this person, but I don’t know what his work or character is like.” Why do I do that? Because in recommending him I am making him my representative. He now represents my judgment. Elisha the prophet must be at least that careful about whom represents him. That person doesn’t represent just Elisha, he is also God’s representative. So I don’t believe that Gehazi had this character flaw when he began serving Elisha. I believe that he was a man serving God.

But this represents a huge danger to us. The danger is that we may start out our walk with God in the right ways: Living for Jesus; doing the right things; having a real burden for souls, but that we can be overtaken by sin. I believe that’s what happened in Gehazi’s case. Not that he was evil, he seriously pursued the things of God. He was a disciple. I’m sure he understood that he would be the prophet after Elisha’s death. He was working toward that goal, but at some pint he derailed and we can see his end in scripture.

The Change in Gehazi

Beware of growing covetousness, for of all sins this is one of the most insidious. It is like the silting up of a river. As the stream comes down from the land, it brings with it sand and earth, and deposits all these at its mouth, so that by degrees, unless the conservators watch it carefully, it will block itself up, and leave no channel for ships of great burden. By daily deposit it imperceptibly creates a bar, which is dangerous to navigation.—Feathers for Arrows – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The sin of greed and covetousness is rarely explosive it is a sin that builds up over time. It’s different from a sin like sexual lust. People can be affected immediately with that. People are always having one-night stands. You may not have left the house thinking, “I’m going to do something stupid and reckless,” until the opportunity presented itself. Greed and covetousness are not like that. It is something that builds up in you. Greed is a lifestyle.

I’m not really writing about greed. This post isn’t written on the evils of greed. What this post is really about, is that we can be servants of God, and if we aren’t careful, sin can overtake us just as it did in the life of Gehazi. Where did Gehazi go wrong? When did this begin to rise in him? There isn’t really insight into that in the Bible, but we can see his thinking in verse 20 of our text:

2 Kings 5:20
20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.”

First of all, Gehazi says, “My master has spared Naaman.” But Elisha didn’t heal Naaman, God did. Elisha recognizes this fact, by not accepting Naaman’s gift. But Gehazi sees it as an opportunity to payment. He sees it as something they should be paid for. “ My master has spared him. Elisha’s done this wonderful work.” “Isn’t that worth something? Naaman thinks it is.” This is where his thinking begins to get murky…”If he’s willing to give, why shouldn’t we accept it?”

What Naaman is offering will make them fabulously wealthy. What Naaman is trying to give them is an enormous sum of money. But that isn’t what Elisha's looking for. He isn’t using his ministry for personal gain. He’s doing the will of God.

Secondly, Gehazi says, “But as the Lord lives…” I swear to God, I’m going to get some of that money. My master spared him and we deserve this money. That’s what he’s saying. It’s like politicians that have sold out the security of their country for money. I preached a sermon once on Congressman “Duke” Cunningham. He thought because of his service he deserved to take money from a defense contractor. This is Gehazi’s way of thinking.

Gehazi probably has never been rich. He’s the servant of the man of God. I’m sure that wasn’t a real lucrative position. He may see this as an opportunity for wealth and perhaps he thinks something like this:

"Here’s an opportunity to be blessed and Elisha turns it down. But I’ve been a good servant, he should have thought about me.” He’s struggled for years, he’s worked hard, he’s done the right thing…and now he’s wondering where’s the blessing of God. He thinks he deserves to be blessed, and he swears by God that he’ll have what’s owed him..

I had dinner a while ago with a man who was selling his home on a short sale. That means they have foreclosed and they will forgive part of the debt. But prior to the foreclosure he bought another house. And then stopped paying for the one he is short selling. Because he could get a nicer house for less money and he thinks he’s better off. A real estate agent in the church suggested this to him. And he used words like, “I’m blessed.” He said he was praying that his son-in-law would be able to find something like that.

This man has been a Christian for years. He really thinks this is the blessing of God for all the work he has done for God over the years. But God can’t honor that, he’s stealing and lying. There is a twist in his thinking that I think is similar to Gehazi’s. I’ve made all this sacrifice for God and he’s going to bless me…I swear to God.

Finally, Gehazi acts on his impulses. This is where he steps into sin. He was tempted before, but now as he takes action that temptation becomes sin. He makes up a story to tell Naaman. Then he lies to Elisha. God can’t honor that sin and the leprosy comes upon Gehazi.

The problem is that we are always tempted. It’s the strategy of Satan to wear down the saints. We see our sinner friends with all kinds of blessing. We see them enjoying things that we don’t have or can’t afford. We’re involved in the work of God shouldn’t we be blessed? The real issue comes in the definition of blessing that you use.

The Real Blessing

The word blessing has several meanings:   According to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary blessing can be defined, among other things as:

1. To invoke divine care upon
2. To confer happiness upon

The really interesting aspect of the word blessing is found in the root of the word. The word bless comes from the old English word that means blood. So blessing comes from the word blood.

Where is blessing found? It is found in the blood that was shed for us. Our salvation is the blessing of God.

Gehazi gave up his salvation. The leprosy of Naaman came upon his family for generations. So greed may be seen as an inherited curse, passed from fathers to children. It’s a curse that must be actively broken, repented and renounced as a curse.

We need to protect ourselves from every type of sin. We need to remain in right thinking about blessing for one thing. We need to examine our hearts; we need to look at our motivations for the things that we do. Even in struggle there’s blessing…if you have the right definition of blessing. Rejoice not that you have everything you want, rejoice that your name is written in heaven.

I have a friend who isn’t saved. She comes from a fairly wealthy family. But right now she has nothing. She and her husband live in an apartment with the linoleum peeling up in one place. They have to share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. All of her furniture is second or third hand. They are not in a great financial position. But she is happy and delighted to be there, because she has a husband who loves her and is devoted to her. She has the right outlook on life.

I know a number of Christians that can learn from her attitude. She is grateful for what she has not bitter about what she doesn’t have. I’ve been reading a blog entitled, “Words of Eternal Life,” by Mike McArthur and he has been listing “Gifts I have noticed this week.” He’s thankful for small things: Blessings in his life. It occurs to me that this is how we should view life. By dwelling on those things we fight off the desire for more.

In the church world I have seen too many people with the same thought process of the man with the foreclosure. I’ve done a lot for God I deserve to be blessed. You need to think that you’ve already received the blessing you’re no longer on the way to hell.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Depart From Me, Oh Lord for I am a Sinful Man

If you’re serious about living out God’s will for your life, then you have witnessed, testified and preached the Gospel to people. But are you always successful at winning people to Jesus? I’m not. I do all of those things, but I don’t see everyone I preach to convert to Jesus. I know some people who seem to win everyone to Jesus. I’ve often thought, “What makes some people so successful at winning people to follow Jesus?” Why are some people able to be used so powerfully by God, while others just as diligent, struggle?

Sometimes we try to analyze that: And we have a lot of cynical reasons why people aren’t seeing a lot of conversions. We think: They aren’t really trying, or they’re too fearful, or they aren’t saying the right things. These are really cynical reasons. I’m sure there are some who struggle in these ways, but not everyone.

But I’m not talking about people those that struggle with presenting the Gospel; I’m talking about active Gospel spreading Christians. I think there’s more to it than the things I mentioned above.

I believe that many people witness and testify; I believe many preach the glory and power of God; many preach the wrath of God; many preach God’s redeeming love but they’re just not winning people to the kingdom. They’re involved, they’re busy about the business of God, but they just aren’t experiencing the fruit.

In this post, I want to consider one thing that hinders us from being successful in the pursuit of the will of God. It is the will of God that people repent and find Eternal Life. That’s why he commissioned us to, “make disciples of all nations.” There is a spiritual aspect to the winning of souls and I want to look at that today.

Luke 5:4-11
4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”5 But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.”6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken;10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.”11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

The Humility of Comparing Ourselves to Christ

I am part of a church-planting fellowship. I began preaching in a pioneer work in Riverside, California in 2001. There have been other men who have been launched out to preach the Gospel in Southern California. They have come here from states where they have experienced explosive growth in fellowship churches. Pioneer churches that have grown to 50 or 60 people seemingly overnight. But that hasn’t really been the experience of men pioneering in Southern California. There are churches that have been there for ten years with only a handful of people. The majority of churches there grow very slowly with people coming in one at a time: Each one a battle in itself.

And we have heard things from these men. “I think there are mistakes being made here.” “I’m going to do what the leadership teaches.” “Southern California is a plum that’s ripe for the picking, people just don’t know how to exploit it.” We’ve heard these things from men several times. But in every instance these men went home after two years, saying things like, “Well I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see.”

What is the real issue here? Why did these competent, confident men fail in Southern California? Is it Southern California or something that’s working in their own hearts? Each of us was launched out with a confidence that God will move through us. We’re confident that we will see the revival that’s promised; that God will do something powerful through us.

At our conference we are prayed over by powerful men of God, we are prophesied over by these men. They say, “God is going to use you.” Or “He’s going to give this city over into your hand.” And we gain the expectation that there is something special about our personalities or experience that God can use.

And God does use us. Christian believers are God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. Jesus did the work of salvation on the cross, but when he ascended into heaven he left us the commission to preach and win others to Him. We’re Plan A in God’s strategy for mankind…there is no Plan B. So the question then is, why is it so hard?

Remember Peter? In his first sermon he preaches before three thousand people and after he finishes they all cry out, “men and brethren what must we do to be saved?” I have to be honest with you this has never been my experience. Why did God move so powerfully through Peter, but the rest of us aren’t having that kind of success?

I want to look closely at the circumstances of this encounter that Peter has with Jesus in our text. This is not the moment when Peter and Jesus first met. In fact, Peter was already a believer that Jesus was the Messiah, when this takes place. He is already a disciple of Christ.

John 1:35-42
35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!”37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour).40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

This moment in this scripture takes place immediately following Jesus’ baptism. This is when He is in the very early stages of His ministry.

When we come to the moment in our text Jesus has already done the miracle in Cana. He has already turned water into wine. In that miracle Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. They have seen this miracle they have accepted Him as the Messiah. They are already followers of Jesus before this moment in our text takes place. Our text isn’t the moment that Peter recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, he already knew Him in that way. But Jesus has not yet begun to use the disciples. They aren’t out winning souls, yet.

In the moment we repent we begin a relationship with Christ, right? It is that moment when we recognize that Jesus is our Savior and we turn our lives over to him. It is in that moment that we have a revelation of who Jesus is. It is in that moment that we turn our lives over to Him. That’s what repentance is, and we even say that, don’t we? “I’ve given my life to Jesus!” That’s a revelation of Jesus as Lord over our lives. But there is something more that must take place, before we can be soul winners. We see that thing in our text.

Peter sees the miracle of the fish, and immediately he has a revelation of his relationship to Jesus. But he’s already acknowledged Jesus as Lord over his life. He is already calling him Master. He’s already following Him and learning from His teaching. In this moment Peter has a revelation, not of who Jesus is, but who Peter is. “Depart from me, oh Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Peter comes face to face with the depravity of his own soul. He comes face to face with his weaknesses. He comes face to face with the sin that’s in his life. He compares himself to Christ and discovers who he really is.

When I was in Riverside I used to go to the courthouse and preach sometimes, early in the morning. There was another guy who also went there to preach. I remember once that as he was preaching everyone began to yell and mock. But there was one person in particular, a lesbian that became extremely hostile, threatening and dangerous. Afterward as I was talking to him I said, “You handled that well.” He said, “She’s a sinner. But all sin is an affront to God and equal in his eyes. My sin is no worse than hers.”

This is a man who when he compared himself to Jesus found out who he really was. He’s the one who put Jesus on the cross. But he wasn’t alone because so did you and so did I.

Peter is looking at Jesus seeing Him for who he is. But the revelation isn’t that Jesus is God, he already knew that. The revelation is that next to Jesus, Peter is nothing but a sinful man. Look at How the Phillip’s translation translates this verse:

When Simon Peter saw it he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Keep away from me Lord I am only a sinful man.”

Peter is humbled. He goes from being the successful businessman; the acknowledged leader of this group of fisherman to being the humiliated sinner who can’t face Christ. Which are you? Are you the confident, self-assured religious person or the one who recognizes that you don’t deserve the relationship that you have with Jesus? There is a kind of arrogance that some Christians have that our sin is different because we have been chosen. But Peter says, “I’m only a sinner. I don’t deserve what I’ve been given.” He is humbled by the relationship he has with Jesus when he comes to grips with the depravity and depth of his own sin.

All of us know intellectually, that we don’t deserve our salvation; that we haven’t earned it. But it is when we understand, deep inside, the depth of our sin; the wickedness that rules the human heart, specifically the wickedness that still rules our own heart, and the sacrifice of Jesus for us, that we are finally broken and humbled. When Peter recognizes this, then Jesus calls him to usefulness. When he is broken and humbled by his own sin, Jesus says, “ Do not afraid, from now on you will catch men.”

We, as Christians, depend on a formula, or an ability to speak out, or to speak our testimony in a way that inspires as the thing that God can use. We put our faith in our talents, our abilities, and a pattern to reach people. These things help, but it is God that brings the increase, through our efforts. He can use us when we are humbled, by who He is and what He has done for us. It was after Peter fell down and declared his humility before God that Jesus said; He would use Peter to win souls.

Three Things That Came From This Revelation

I want to look at three men from the Old Testament who had the same revelation in their encounters with Christ and what made them useful through that revelation.

Moses and the Burning Bush

Moses had been on the backside of the desert for forty years to escape the wrath of Pharaoh. Do you remember the story? Moses rises up as a deliverer of the Israelites from Egypt. But he tries to do it on his own. He sees an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew and Moses kills the Egyptian. He buries him in the sand but the thing becomes known and Moses is forced to flee for his life. After forty years God calls him from a burning bush to deliver God’s people from Egypt.

Exodus 3:1-5
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.2 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”

The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire. We can understand this Angel of the Lord to be Jesus because when the Angel called him from the burning bush He is recognized to be God. So here is Moses having an Old Testament encounter with Christ and in this encounter Moses has a revelation of who he is.

Exodus 3:11
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Basically Moses is saying, “Why me, who am I that you would choose me?” Look at the Good news Translation of this verse:

But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

He says, “I’m nobody, how can you use me?” Do you ever feel that way? I do. I’m not talented; I don’t have any influence. I’m nobody. I compare myself with someone like Greg Laurie and I realize how incompetent I really am. But God has used me.

God’s not dependent on who we are. He’s not dependent on our influence or power. Often God moves through us, not because of us, but in spite of us. It’s not something we do; it’s something that God does, supernaturally.

Moses is just like me…he doesn’t have any confidence in his ability to deliver Israel.

Exodus 4:10
10 Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

He is saying is that he doesn’t have the skill or ability. He’s asking how he can be the one that God would choose to speak for Him. He has a revelation that he needs a supernatural move of God. God uses him powerfully, and the reason that God can use Moses is precisely because he needs a supernatural move of God in order to be successful. Remember, his first attempt to deliver his people, is what put him out on the backside of the desert in the first place. When he thought he could do it on his own. But when he realized he had to depend on God, then God was able to use him.

It’s not us that wins people to Christ it’s Him. Look at what Paul said:

1 Corinthians 3:6
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

Isaiah, The Prophet of God

Isaiah 6:1-5
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.3 And one cried to another and said: 1 “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.”

He comes face to face with the God of the Universe. He sees God in His Glory sitting on His throne. He sees the worship that’s there. He feels the power of God as the doorposts of Heaven shake. He has a revelation of the uncleanness of his lips. He recognizes he’s unqualified to speak for God. He’s thinking of the things he’s said; the blasphemies, the lies, the filth. How can God use unclean lips to speak to His people?

Who of us is qualified to speak for God? How can we speak the word of God through lips that have sinned? These are lips that have lied, they’ve gossiped, we have spoken foul things, curses all of it. How can God use us to speak into other people’s lives?

We know who we are, don’t we? Isaiah knew who he was. He knew the foulness of thoughts he had verbalized. I had a friend who, whenever someone said some disgusting cuss word in mixed company, or something perverted or foul, would always say, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?”

That’s Isaiah, “Can I speak for God with this mouth?” But God used him…because God can remove the uncleanness of our lips.

Isaiah 6:6-7
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.”

It was his recognition of the uncleanness of his lips that made it possible for God to be able to cleanse them. We must recognize our sin and uncleanness before God can cleanse us. That’s why we repent. We recognize our sin and our inability to remove it ourselves, so we cry out to God. Then He is able to use us.

Gideon Delivered Israel from the Midianites

Judges 6:11-15
11 Now the Angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites.12 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him, and said to him, “The LORD is with you, you mighty man of valor!”13 Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.”14 Then the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”15 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

Here's Gideon’s encounter with Christ; the Angel of the Lord. He tells Gideon, Go in this might of yours and deliver Israel. Gideon says, “How can I? I’m from the weakest family in the smallest province of Israel. I have no strength, no power, and no plan. How can I lead Israel?” He is recognizing that without God he can’t do anything. He can’t depend on his own talent. He doesn’t have any. He can’t depend on his own leadership. He isn’t a leader he’s the least.

Many times when I go to meetings or have conversations with other pastors. I’m intimidated. Not because they try to intimidate or act like I’m less than them. But because I look at their ministries and think I don’t measure up. I don’t spend hours discussing theology with the evangelists who come to our church because I think, “What do I know compared to them.” Sometimes, I think I could do better for my congregation by turning it over to someone else. But God placed me here and I believe that.

I have come to the understanding that it’s not my abilities or my knowledge. I’m not the one who is really ministering to my congregation. I trust that it’s God who is ministering to them. I pray that God will minister to them in spite of my shortcomings. God doesn’t need me to be big and important to minister to them, he’s the one who’s doing the ministering.

He didn’t need Gideon to be a powerful leader in order to deliver Israel. It’s because Gideon recognized that he wasn’t a great leader that God was able to use him. Because God wanted to show the people, it isn’t Gideon, it’s God.

We Can Be Useful to God

Do you know what I think happens with those men who come thinking their going to set Southern California on its ear and then end up going home after a couple of years? I think that they’re missing this revelation of themselves. There’s a certain amount of arrogance in their attitudes, don’t you think? They are depending on the formula. They’re depending on their abilities and failing to see that we are of little consequence in God doing what He will do. They are missing the humility that Peter had when he cried out, “Depart from me, oh Lord, I’m a sinful man.” When we recognize the brokenness of our own lives, we can understand the mercy of God.

John Newton, an English preacher, saw a man from Bath converted, touched and changed by God and he spoke to a minister in Bath asking him if he knew that man. The minister said, Yes, I know him he is of the wickedest sort. If God can change him then I’ll never doubt that God can save any man. And Newton replied, “I’ve had no doubt of that ever since he saved me.”

John Newton came to a revelation of who he was in his encounter with Christ. He realized the depth of his own sin and brokenness and God used him powerfully because he was able to speak of the mercy of God. How merciful God is that He would save someone like me. This is what Paul said of the same revelation in his life and we know how powerfully Paul was used by God..

1 Timothy 1:15
15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

I’m sure some of you think that you’re unable to minister to others because you think you don’t know enough, or that someone has greater knowledge than you, or is more spiritual. But God doesn’t need all of those things to use you. He needs your willingness to obey Him, even though you don’t think you’re qualified. God doesn’t need your skills and abilities. He doesn’t need your influence and power. He needs your willingness and your desire to touch others.

Your city is in desperate need of you having Peter’s revelation. Your friends and families are in desperate need of your having that revelation. Look at yourself, honestly and clearly, who are you in comparison with Christ? If you do that you, I believe, will have no choice but to cry out the same thing, “Depart from me, Oh Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Surrender to Win

At the end of World War 2, the nation of Japan was devastated. They had poured all of their resources into their war effort. The destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima devastated their economy. It was the destruction of these cities that led to Japan’s surrender. Japan was a ruined nation at the end of World War 2.

But after their surrender the United States began to pour money and resources into rebuilding Japan. And after that they became one of the strongest economies in the world. They went from a destroyed economy to the second largest economy in the world because they surrendered. Sometimes you have to surrender in order to win. Today, I am writing about surrender.

Genesis 32:24-31
24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him.26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.”28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip.

The Struggle

This moment takes place as Jacob has left the home of Laban, his father-in-law. Let’s refresh the story. Jacob and Rebeckah conspired to usurp the blessing of Isaac that was meant for Esau. Jacob was sent to Laban to find a wife from among the people of God. When Jacob arrived there he fell in love with Rachel and worked seven years for Laban in order to marry her. But on the wedding night Leah, Rachel’s older sister was switched for Rachel and Jacob had to work another seven years to receive Rachel’s hand in marriage. Then he worked another seven years to gain a flock. Finally after twenty-one years Jacob, was told by God to leave the home of Laban and return to the home of his father. Jacob left, but he knew that there would be a confrontation with Esau as he traveled home.

So as he is traveling he gets word that Esau is traveling toward him with four hundred men. Jacob is afraid of what Esau will do and so he comes up with a strategy. He separates himself from his family in the hopes of protecting them from Esau’s anger. he begins to send gifts to Esau in order to turn aside that anger.

Now he finds himself alone on the night before his encounter with Esau and a man wrestles with him until the breaking of day. He was fearful, he didn’t know what to expect and now he ends up wrestling with God.

This is something that God has sent him to do. This is the will of God for his life.

Genesis 31:13
13 ‘I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’ ”

Just because we are in the will of God doesn’t mean that we won’t face difficulty. When we recognize that the direction we are going will result in difficulty, we have a tendency to struggle with God. Have you ever done that? Some people struggle with giving. It’s God’s will that we give and support the work of God, but times are tough. The economy isn’t great. Our finances aren’t what we think they should be. We’re worried about the future, about having enough to meet our own needs and we struggle with God about giving to the church. Or we struggle with God about his call on our lives. Or we struggle with God about _______________. (Fill in the blank with your own struggle.) The struggle is really about who’s will, will prevail.

“ Okay God, I know you expect me to give to your work, but what about the things I need and want?”

“Okay God, I know you’ve called me to preach and to pastor a church, but I need to make more money than that.”

What we’re saying is, “God I know what you want, but it doesn’t really fit in with what I want.”

Jacob wrestles with God for one whole night and God is unable to prevail against Him. Believe it or not, this is pretty common. God deals with us about His will for our lives and we begin to wrestle with God about that. God cannot move us against our own will. He has given us a sovereign will and won’t violate that.

We know that because if He was willing to violate our free will He could have prevented Adam and Eve from sinning against Him. He could have prevented the Jews from crucifying Jesus. But that isn’t how God works. God lays His will out to us and then looks for our reaction. Sometimes, we respond to God’s call, easily, especially when it meets with what we want to do. But other times we struggle with God wanting God to conform to our will rather than us conforming to His.

For example, God has promised us He will bless us if we will give.

Malachi 3:10-11
10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. 11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the LORD of hosts;

But, any pastor will tell you that people often struggle with that and don’t give. Those people are unable to receive the promises that come with giving. We want God to bless, but his will is that blessing comes through our faithful giving. He can’t force us to give and so we, through our struggle with Him are the stumbling block to blessing in our own lives.

Jacob Finally Surrenders

This Man that Jacob is wrestling with has injured him. He put his Hip out of socket. Jacob realizes that he is unable to beat him in a fight with this injury.

How many know that God often causes surrender through injury. We are injured in some way that causes us to surrender to God. I know that this is true because it was true in my own life. I fought with God for many years. But it wasn’t until I was wounded that I became humble enough to surrender. It wasn’t until I could see that I couldn’t win that I grabbed a hold of God and just held on. I surrendered and because of that surrender I won. Sometimes, surrender is just grabbing hold of your opponent and hanging on.

Have you ever seen a boxing match? The two boxers are fighting and there are blows being exchanged and when one man begins to really beat the other up. That man who’s being beaten will grab the other and hold on to him. Then the referee will split them up.

This is a picture of surrender. “I can’t keep away from you. I can’t block your punches anymore; I can’t do anything,” so he grabs him and just holds on. The other man fighting him is then powerless to punch him.

This is what Jacob does. He grabs Him and just holds on. “I give up. I’m not letting go until you bless me.” He surrenders right there ,”I’m done fighting…” and then what happens? He gets blessed.

"What’s your name?”

"Jacob, (thief, con man, liar)”

"Not anymore, now your name is Israel…You have prevailed with God.” Israel means literally, prevailed with God. Prevailed means won over. He won God over to his side, his point of view. “Okay I’ll bless you.” But how did he win God over? Did he defeat God in the wrestling match? No he didn’t…he won God over by surrendering.

How do we surrender? By saying, “God I’m not going to fight anymore. I’m going to hang on to You and live out Your will, Your calling and Your commands.” You do that and guess what happens.


God Will Change You Permanently

As he crossed over the river he limped on his hip. There is a permanent mark on him from his encounter with God here. He is physically changed from this encounter with God. We never see Israel in the same way again. He isn’t Jacob anymore. He isn’t a liar or con man, he becomes a man who is honored.

Genesis 50:7
7 So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt,

Pharaoh’s household went up to bury him. When was the last time you heard of a thief getting an honor like that? Israel was not the same man Jacob was.

And we are permanently changed when we surrender to God. I’m not talking about saying a prayer and repenting. I’m talking about saying, “Not my will God but yours.” That’s surrender. “I desire nothing…but the will of God. That’s surrender. And if you live that way, you’ll never be again what you were before. You’ll be Israel, because you will have prevailed with God. You will have won. Sometimes we need to surrender to win.