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.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Faith, Fellowship and Fortitude

We face a number of battles in life.  Things are not always easy.  We’ve heard preaching on adversity in the Christian’s life.  We’ve heard preaching on struggle and disappointment.  We know that Christianity doesn’t guarantee an end to all our troubles. 

We like to think we’re self-sufficient, don’t we?  But the fact is, we can’t do everything alone, sometimes we need God.  In fact there are three things that are crucial to living out the will of God; faith, fellowship and fortitude.  Those three things will see you through the battles of life and into the kingdom of God. 

Today I want to write about faith, fellowship and fortitude from a familiar portion of scripture. 1 Samuel 14:1-6

This story takes place during a battle between Israel and the Philistines.  This is when Saul with 600 men is facing a garrison (or fort) of Philistines.  He’s hopelessly outnumbered.  There is no way he can defeat them with 600 men.

It takes place just after Saul has usurped the role of the priest and offered a burnt offering, thinking that Samuel was going to be late.  Samuel showed up on-time and told him that God had torn the kingdom from him, looking for a man after God’s own heart.

Saul is sitting under the Pomegranate tree, he’s waiting for something to happen.  He’s waiting on God.

But Jonathan is eager to see God’s deliverance so he gather’s his armor-bearer and they attack the Philistines, just the two of them and they kill twenty Philistines on a half-acre of land and then there’s an earthquake and the Bible says the Philistines just melted away.


Let’s take a look at the things that are happening in this story:

1 Samuel 14:1-3 (NKJV)
14:1 Now it happened one day that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the Philistines' garrison that is on the other side." But he did not tell his father. 2 And Saul was sitting in the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men. 3 Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord's priest in Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. But the people did not know that Jonathan had gone.

In these three verses we see a contrast in faith.  On the one hand we see Jonathan who tells his armor-bearer, “Let’s go attack the Philistines.” “Let’s take an action and see if God will move.”  We see this faith more completely in verse 6.

1 Samuel 14:6 (NKJV)
14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few."

What restrains God?  He can save through many or He can save through a few.

Faith is an action word.  It doesn’t mean to sit and believe that God will magically do something.  Through faith, we take an action.  We call it a step of faith, don’t we?  So Jonathan decides to actively move on his faith that God will deliver by Jonathan’s actions.

On the other hand we see Saul, who is sitting under the pomegranate tree.  He’s got the priest in an ephod.  The priest wore the ephod to consult the oracle of God.  Saul’s looking to hear from God.  Saul is waiting for God to move.  But in waiting, what’s he doing?  He’s doing nothing.    The circumstances aren’t going to change by waiting.  Saul isn’t doing anything to activate a move of God.  He’s not acting in faith, he’s waiting for magic. 

Let’s think about that for a moment.  Is that faith?  “Okay, I prayed, now I’m going to sit down here and wait for God to wave his magic wand and change my circumstances.”  The question here is, “Does waiting around change our circumstances.  In your own life, when was the last time that doing nothing improved a bad situation. 

There are no more soldiers marching to Saul’s position.  The Philistines aren’t going anywhere; they smell an easy victory.  Nothing is going to change through Saul’s waiting.

Look at the Bibical definition of faith: 

Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)
11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Faith gives substance to what we hope for.  It’s the evidence of what we don’t see.  In other words faith makes our hopes and dreams real.  How do you make it real?  By acting in Faith. 

Saul is sitting, waiting for God to move and nothing is happening.  How many of us have real needs that only God can meet?  What are we doing to see those needs met?  Jonathan steps out and acts in faith.  God moves powerfully in response to his faith.  The deliverance of Israel comes from that act of faith.  Saul waits for God; Jonathan acts, knowing God will respond.  Which one is acting in faith?  So, simply said, faith is the catalyst to a move of God.  It is vital for a Christian to not only believe but to act in faith to see God move.

But I’m not talking about acting rashly.  I’m talking about prayerful, considered acts of faith.  Jonathan isn’t rash in his decision to go to the Philistines.  First, he enlists the armor-bearer; he asks the question, “Should we do this?”  Secondly, he looks for God to be involved; “This will be the sign,” he’s asking God which way should we do this.  “What’s your plan for the completion of this thing?”  Thirdly, he acts and God’s answer comes out of that action.  Once they showed themselves the Philistines responded according to the sign they were looking for from God.  This is a pattern for us in decision-making.  As Christians we need to act in faith.


1 Samuel 14:6-12 (NKJV)
14:6 Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few." 7 So his armorbearer said to him, "Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart." 8 Then Jonathan said, "Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say thus to us, 'Wait until we come to you,' then we will stand still in our place and not go up to them. 10 But if they say thus, 'Come up to us,' then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand, and this will be a sign to us." 11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, "Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden." 12 Then the men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armorbearer, and said, "Come up to us, and we will show you something." Jonathan said to his armorbearer, "Come up after me, for the Lord has delivered them into the hand of Israel."

Jonathan wanted to see a move of God.  He was looking for the deliverance of Israel.  At this time in Israel’s history, The Philistines were dominating them.  Israel didn’t have any blacksmiths, they were forced to go down to the Philistines to have farming tools sharpened…so they had no weapons to defend themselves.  Look at this:

1 Samuel 13:22-23 (NKJV)
13:22 So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son. 23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.

You can see what a desperate time this was for them.  They’re facing a force that greatly outnumbers them.  They have no weapons.  The Philistines will totally dominate any kind of battle, then they’ll “own” Israel.  This is a desperate moment.

Jonathan isn’t looking out for his own self-interest here he’s looking for the deliverance of all of Israel.  He knows that deliverance is only possible through supernatural means.  Only God can do this, for Israel it’s impossible.  They only have about six hundred men; only Jonathan and Saul have weapons.  Jonathan is ready to act but he knows he can’t act on his own so he enlists the armor-bearer. 

Jonathan and Saul are under huge pressure, here.  But look at how each reacts:

Saul waits to see what God will do; he doesn’t look to any of the others.  He’s trying to deal with all on his own.  Remember in Chapter 13 he offered the burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel to come.  He moved to solve a problem on his own and in his own strength.  They’d been sitting there for a while…The people were frightened, they were hiding, they were leaving.  Saul didn’t want to wait for Samuel because he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to hold his force together so he orders the animal to be brought for the burnt offering.

1 Samuel 13:9-12 (NKJV)
13:9 So Saul said, "Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me." And he offered the burnt offering. 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 And Samuel said, "What have you done?" And Saul said, "When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12 then I said, 'The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.' Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering."

So he acted alone and look at the outcome:

1 Samuel 13:13-14 (NKJV)
13:13 And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."

The Lord would have established his kingdom forever, but because he acted alone he lost it all.  In Chapter 16 Samuel anoints David to be king of Israel, while Saul and his heir are still alive. 

But now look at how Jonathan reacted.  He went to the armor-bearer; he wasn’t intending to act on his own.  He went to a brother; someone with whom he is of one accord.  He acted in fellowship with another man whose strength was as strong as his own.  In Christian terms, they acted in fellowship. 

We aren’t alone.  Christianity was never intended to be a solo pursuit.  We are intended to be together and strive together.  Last week in, “Are You Spiritually Fat?” I wrote about striving together.  That’s God’s will that we will be in fellowship with each other.  That’s why in Hebrews Chapter 10 it says this:

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NKJV)
10:24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

That verse is talking about fellowship; we need each other. 

We can see that Jonathan and his armor-bearer were of the same mind.  The armor-bearer tells Jonathan, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.”  He’s merely saying, I’m with you.  I believe with you.  I’m of one accord with you. 

Before I came to Taiwan, I pastored a church in Riverside, California. There was a family member of one of the Riverside church members that became very sick.  He had made tea of a plant that was a dangerous and powerful drug and he ended up in the hospital.  This woman in our church is there to pray for him, she’s witnessing to him and his wife.  Afterward the wife turns to her thanking her and says this: “My heart is with you.”  Do you know what that is?  It’s fellowship.

This is what the armor-bearer said to Jonathan.  “Do it, my heart’s with you.”  Look at what was accomplished:” 1) they defeated the garrison of the Philistines and 2) God moved powerfully and brought about the deliverance of Israel.  In acting together we can overcome, in acting alone we’re doomed. 


According to Mirriam-Webster Dictionaries, Fortitude can be defined as strength of mind that enables one to meet danger or bear pain or adversity with courage

Jonathan’s faith carried with it fortitude.  It took courage in this instance to act in faith.  Two men facing a whole garrison, that’s courageous.  That’s fortitude.  The odds were against them and they acted courageously, anyway. 

How often do we face things in life that require courage?  We make decisions that will affect our families.  We make decisions in business that are a risk .  We make decisions that will completely change or lives, forever.  That takes fortitude…and faith. 

That’s what happened in 1 Samuel 14.  Jonathan acted in faith, fellowship and fortitude and God gave Israel a great victory.  I want you to notice that Jonathan wasn’t acting selfishly here.  He was acting for all of Israel.  But I also want you to know that God will meet your individual needs as well, when those needs further God’s will for your life. 

Faith, fellowship and fortitude:  These three things are vital to the Christian experience.  God is expecting that we will be of one accord and strive together for victory.  We need each other. 

One of the problems I’ve seen over and over is people making decisions on their own, without God, and without counsel.    There was a couple in Riverside that decided that they would move to Mexico to pursue a career.  The man told me, “There’s more opportunity in Mexico.”  Seven percent of the population of Mexico has immigrated to the US, legally and illegally looking for the opportunity to feed their families. 

But this couple, like Saul made the decision to go on their own, without God and actually ignoring counsel.  God even spoke to them through a sermon, I preached the day before they left and I didn’t even know they had made this decision at the time.  They lost everything, eventually came back and now they’re gloriously saved, living for Jesus and blessed.

But look at the lesson; they acted more like Saul than Jonathan.  God puts churches together because we all have gifts that benefit each other.  It’s like marriage; Brenda has strengths, talents and abilities I don’t have.  I have strengths, talents and abilities she doesn’t have, but together we make a good team.  The same is true in the church.  We can benefit from our association together.  Striving and fighting together makes us much stronger than fighting alone.  If we act together in faith, fellowship and fortitude, God will bring about a victory in our church…and in our individual lives. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are You Spiritually Fat?

I have a pie in my hand.  It’s a pie with a wonderful texture.  A chocolate cream pie with fluffy swirls of chocolate whipped cream.  Small delicate wheels of chocolate and a beautiful coating of glossy milk chocolate over a layer of chocolate cream and a layer of chocolate cake inside a pie shell.  This is one of Taiwan’s most delicious chocolate pies. I recently held this pie up and described it, and asked what people would do to get me to give up this pie.

There were a number of answers:

  1. “I would tell you ‘I love you,’ everyday for two weeks.”  (my daughter)
  2. “I would tell you, ‘I love you everyday for a year.’ (One of the brothers)
After that the answers turned a little more serious:

  1. I would pray for it.
Finally I got the answer I was looking for:

  1. I’d ask for it.

Indeed, to ask for the pie is all that was necessary, but then I refined the questioning a little more.  “How much of this pie do you want?”  The answer was disappointing, “Just a little slice.”

This is a good illustration about how we react to God.  We desire God.  We want to have God come into our hearts.  We ask for the promises of God.  But then what?  What do we do after that?  We limit what we’ll let God do in our lives.  In this post I want to write about getting all of God.

Luke 11:9-10 (NKJV)
11:9 "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

We Have to Ask to Receive

How do we go about receiving God’s grace?  What is the method of our salvation?  Is it found by doing good things?  Is it found by just saying the right words?  Or do we receive salvation by asking God for His Grace and mercy?

A while back I wrote out a simple sinner’s prayer for the people in my congregation.  So they could read it and understand how to pray with other people for salvation.  That’s a part of our service.  That’s what the altar call is about.  We ask who wants to get saved.  I wrote out the prayer so the people would also understand that salvation comes through faith.  If we look at the prayer, though, what is it?  It’s asking God for forgiveness and asking Jesus come into your heart and change you.
To receive the wonderful gift of salvation all we have to do is ask.  Just ASK.  We have to ask to receive. 

But it doesn’t end there.  Salvation shouldn’t be the only thing we want from God.  The Bible is full of the promises of God. 

Give and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:38)
Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I will be among them. (Matt 18:20)
Whosoever believes in Him shall not perish… (John 3:16)

There are promises all through the Bible.  Here’s another one:

Whatever you ask in My name I will do it.  (John 14:14)

The problem is that we don’t ask.    When we don’t ask we won’t receive.  Actually, we can’t receive.  There are many times when I have called for people to pray for healing and no one responds.  I wonder how many times people were in need of healing and didn’t come forward.  People complained about not feeling well or hurting, which is why I called for a healing line.  But they didn’t come.  I wonder how many others didn’t even mention they needed healing.

There is also the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  People are afraid of receiving that gift, they’re afraid of speaking in tongues and being embarrassed so they don’t allow it.  On our church website (www.pottershouse.blogspot.com), we have testimonies of some of the saints.  One brother makes this statement:

"However, two months later, when I was to go out mountain-climbing alone, I suddenly thought of Jesus, and no one was nearby, and I wouldn't be embarrassed, so, I start to pray, confess what I have done wrong in the past, decide to repent, believe Jesus Christ."

I don’t think he’s alone in that.  I think there’s a lot of fear about how it will look to others, especially in Taiwan.  People are worried about what their family will think or say.  I’m not criticizing my brother, though; I think people everywhere are like that.  But what I don’t understand is, why are we afraid of receiving more of God. 

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)
11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Our lack of faith puts us outside the will of God.  If you really want God to do something in your life; if you really want all that God has for you, then you need to seek Him…diligently.  Ask for all of God that you can get.

You know, when it comes to politics many people are very outspoken, sometimes too outspoken.  But every time you make a political statement there’s about 50% of the population who doesn’t like what you say.  We’re not afraid to offend people with political statements.  So why are we so afraid to let other see us declaring our faith or simply obeying God (by speaking in Tongues.)  Is that what makes us afraid to receive the gift, what others will think or say? 

Do we want all of God?  God comes in three parts; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Do you want all of God or just a slice?  Are you on a God diet?  Are you afraid to become “spiritually fat?”

Proverbs 13:4 (KJV)
13:4 The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.

I want to have a fat soul, so give me all of God.  If you want it all, you have to ask for it.

Seek and You Will Find

When you need a job what do you do?  Look for it!  When you’re trying to find a certain book, what do you do?  Look for it!  When you’ve lost something what do you do?  Look for it!  When you need something from God what do you do…wonder why God doesn’t just give it to you?

The Bible says seek and you will find.  If you want something from God you need to take an action to find it.  What do you really need in life?  Where can you find the thing that you need?  I’ve seen people turn to all kinds of different things for answers. 

Do you turn to science?  Does science have all the answers?  Are scientists the ones who have a handle on all knowledge and reason?  To answer that let me say that many scientists are beginning to believe that Aliens from another planet are responsible for life on this planet.  Professor Richard Dawkins, eminent evolutionist said this:

“Well, it could come about in the following way. It could be that at some earlier time, somewhere in the universe, a civilization evolved, probably by some kind of Darwinian means, probably to a very high level of technology, and designed a form of life that they seeded onto perhaps this planet. Now, um, now that is a possibility, and an intriguing possibility. “  

What he’s saying is that aliens created life on this planet.  Some guys will say anything to avoid admitting that God exists.  This is supposed to be one of the brilliant scholars of our time.  But he doesn’t have any answers.  He has no proof of what he says…so he makes it up.  Should we go to people like him for answers?  So where should we go for the answers to problems in life?  What should we do when we really need something?  The Bible says, “Seek and you will find…”  God will respond if you’re seeking Him.  But the question is, “Are you seeking Him?  Are you really contending for a move of God?”   

That word contending is an interesting word.  Contending means striving.  But the root of the word contending comes from the same root as the word contest.  Contending means that we strive or work, together:  Each of us struggling, or fighting, without letting up for a common goal.  Fighting together as a team.  So if we want to see God move, we need to contend, together.

Philippians 1:27 (NKJV)
1:27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

This scripture seems to imply that we strive together for common goals.  But did you know we can strive together for individual needs, as well.  That’s why we have prayer requests.  Do you pray for other people’s needs when you’re alone or just when they’re brought up as a prayer request at church?  That’s contending; working together to see people’s needs met.

Have you ever heard of synergy?  Synergy means that two people working together can accomplish much more than two people working independently on the same thing.  If we strive and contend together we can receive much more than if we remain independent and self-centered.

So if we want the most of what God has for us, we need to contend with other people to see that their needs are met.  Striving, or contending, like this is seeking God.  Remember Hebrews 11:6?

11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

The diligence with which we seek Him is an expression of our faith.  This scripture tells us he rewards those who diligently seek Him. 

We all need things from God.  There are things that are beyond our abilities:  Things that are impossible for us.  But those things are not impossible for God.  God is able to do all things.  But it is up to us to “activate” the move of God.  God is “activated” by our diligent seeking of Him.  He is “activated” by our faith. 


How is “diligently seeking” expressed?  First let’s define the word diligent: According to Mirriam-Webster’s dictionary diligent is characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort

So then, contending is an expression of diligence.  Contending is steady earnest, energetic effort.  Faithfulness, then, is also an expression of diligence, isn’t that right?  So what is faithfulness?  One part of faithfulness is praying for the others when you’re not with them.  One part of faithfulness is living out what you say you believe, when you’re alone.  Another part of faithfulness is being at church.  God often gives pastors something to preach that will really help people.  But the problem is that they never know when they can preach something like that because they I never know when people will be there.  In my church, whenever I preach on faithfulness, only the faithful ones hear it, because only the faithful come to church faithfully.  The ones who really would be helped benefit aren’t there.

Think about a job for a moment.  How many bosses are going to give you a raise if you’re haphazard about being at work?  How many bosses are going to be thinking about your family and your needs, when you’re not there?

I used to be on the phone or emailing with all my friends from Colton, all the time.  But since I’ve been here and not seeing them I rarely hear from most of them.  Out of sight out of mind.

The same is true in our jobs, if you want the most from your career; you have to be there to receive it.  The same is also true with God.  If you want the most of God’s promises, you need to be here where God dispenses them.

How many things come between you sand hearing from God?  What kinds of things are more important to you than diligently seeking God?  This goes back to my last point.  How can we strive and work together when we don’t gather together?  When we don’t pray together?  When we don’t join together to do the work of God.  That isn’t synergy it’s independently working on the same things.  Striving together is seen in faithfully gathering together to work toward the common goal of seeing each other’s needs met. 

If you want more of God your life, you need to rpess for more of God in the lives of the others in your church.

Reader’s Digest had an article called, “What Good is a Tree.”  This article talks about a substance that is produced when the roots of two trees touch that reduces competition.  A fungus is produced that links the two trees together, so nourishment can be transferred between them.

For example, if one tree has access to water and the other has access to sunlight the trees have the means to share together…they will both have water and sunlight.

We have need of each other’s prayers in order to receive the most from God.  If you’re not in church and diligently contending, you are actually keeping the rest of your church from receiving the maximum of God for their lives.

So Are You on a God Diet?

What about it?  Do you want a small slice of God or do you want it all; all of the promises; all of the blessing; all of the wisdom of God?  How much you get depends on how much you ask. 

When I go to Costco, I hate it when they give me samples of something to taste, especially if it’s something that I like.  Do you know why?  Because a little taste isn’t enough, I want as much as I want.  Sometimes I want to go to the end of the line to get another sample.  That’s greedy, huh?  But not when t comes to God because there is enough of God to satisfy everyone.  We can all have as much as we want.  All we have to do is ask and diligently seek Him.  If we will knock He will invite us in and give us whar we ask.

Recently, we went to Pizza Hut very close to the time when they were about to close.  They were cleaning up and getting ready to leave.  But we knocked on the door and they opened up and we were the last customers.  We ordered and they gave us what we had ordered.  But then, they gave us even more than what we ordered.  They had prepared something perishable and it didn’t sell, they were going to have to throw it away, but rather than do that they gave it to us.  That’s how God works, too.  Remember the story of Solomon’s first night as king?

He has a vision, God says what is that you want ask and I’ll give it to you.  So Solomon asks for wisdom and character to lead his people.  God gave it to him.  But then, check this out.  God says if you had asked for money and power I would have given those to you, but since you asked for wisdom and character, I’ll give you money and power, too

Solomon got all the promises of God and then some.  He wanted all that God had for him and God didn’t hold back.  I’d say at that time in his life Solomon wanted to be spiritually fat. 

What about you, what do you want?  You know, being too skinny is unhealthy.  In God’s spiritual medical system heart disease comes from being too skinny; from not being spiritually fat enough.  When our hearts aren’t filled up with God there is room for other things to come in and begin to displace God. 

There’s a type of firefighting equipment, it’s a chemical that displaces the oxygen from the area of the fire.  But it doesn’t work in as sealed room full of air, because there is no place for the air to go. 

The problem is that our hearts aren’t sealed there are leaks there; places where God can be displaced through.  If we aren’t full of God then other things can come in to our hearts and displace God through these leaky places.  We need to stay full.  We need as much of God as we can hold.  We need to keep pressing for more of God, because we leak.  How much of God do you want?  Do you want all of God or just a little slice?  Are you afraid to become spiritually fat?  How much of God do you REALLY want?