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, March 31, 2014


Jack London, the author of adventure books, such as The Call of the Wild and White Fang was passionate about the kind of life that he wanted to live.  He described it this way; “I would rather be ashes than dust!  I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot.  I would rather be a superb meteor every atom of me in a magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.  The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist.”  Jack London lived his life with passion.

It’s better to burn out than to fade away, my, my hey, hey. – Neil Young

What kind of person are you? Are you willing to step out and take a risk?  Are you the type that would rather be ashes than dust, or do you want to play it safe?  Never venturing out and risking for what God wants to do in your life and through your life? 

It’s interesting what happens to us as we age.  When we’re young we’re filled with excitement.  We aren’t afraid to take a risk.  We aren't afraid to do things that would frighten people.

Former president George W. Bush when he was asked about his college lifestyle, responded with these words:  “When I was young and irresponsible I was young and irresponsible.”  How many of us could say the same thing about certain times in our own lives, but we grow out of it.  We mature with age, and one of the things that happens to us as we age and acquire things is that we become settled and unwilling to risk the things we care about.  We begin to look at passion as irresponsible behavior. 

Charles Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest.  “Because it’s there,” he answered.  In his day that caused quite a clamor because he was married and had children.  People thought that it was an irresponsible act for a man with children.  He was obsessed with the idea of standing on the highest mountaintop in the world.  He was passionate about what he did.  He was passionate about who he was.

He wasn't afraid to do whatever it took to stand on that mountain and that passion cost him his life.  I want you to know, though, there’s room for passion in our lives.  Much of what makes life interesting and exciting is the passion for life that’s in us.

When I took my first job after college at Davis Waste Removal Company in Davis, Ca there was a young man there who would prepare himself every day before leaving on his route.  He would stand next to his truck in the morning, or in the break room, or anywhere there was people and say:  “I’m fired up…I’m gonna do it.  I’m fired up!”  If you asked him how he was doing when you saw him in the morning, he would say, “I’m FIRED up!”  It was infectious, after a while every one was saying it, “I’m fired up!”  This guy loved his job.  He was passionate about going to work.  It was a workout for him and it made the job exciting.

His passion not only helped him to be successful, but it worked on all of us who worked alongside of him.  We all loved our jobs.  There’s room for passion in the things of God.  In fact, it’s a requirement of Christ, that we be passionate about his calling on our lives.

Someone once said, “Apostasy makes Jesus unhappy but it is passivity or the lack of passion that makes him angry.

Today I want to post on maintaining passion in our day and hour, from this portion of scripture:

Revelation 3:14-22 (NKJV)
3:14 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked-- 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." ' "

The Laodicean Age

This scripture is an indictment of the church as it is today.    Our Time is a time in history when churches are goal oriented, and purpose driven.  They have a mission.  The question is, “Is it the same vision as the builder of the church.”  It really bugs me when people from other churches try to win away people from our church to theirs.

This always happens when people first get saved.  Someone witnesses to you and you come and get saved and suddenly…everyone you know is a Christian.  They all start inviting you to their church.  They never mentioned they were Christians before.  You never knew that they even went to church, but now they want you to go to THEIR church.

In our church we’re trying to reach the lost.  We’re trying to touch people who don’t have Jesus.  Why do people want to try to reach their friends in other churches?  I think what we’re seeing is the idea that people want to respond to the command to preach the Gospel but that there is a fear that holds them from reaching out to people they don’t know.  It’s always easier to talk to someone who’s like-minded, especially when it’s something that might be a bit controversial.  What did our parents teach us?  Never talk religion or politics, right?  Why not?  For one thing, those things are things that we’re likely to be passionate about and passion makes people uncomfortable, so they just try to avoid the controversy.

I've heard a lot of strange things.  I've heard people “witnessing” about the Starbucks that shares their parking lot.  Our church in Riverside had a booth at the city’s market night.  People would come to our booth and invite us to their church.  It was like they were standing outside our door and outreaching for their church.  In fact, one time we did a music outreach INSIDE the church building and some people came inside and passed out flyers for their church.

The modern church is in danger of being like the church in Laodicea, a church that has lost its passion and willingness to risk for the Gospel to move forward.  How did the Laodicean church lose its passion?

Revelation 3:17 (NKJV)
3:17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked--

Laodicea was the wealthiest city in Asia Minor.  They produced garments made out of black wool.  The wool wasn't dyed black the garments were made from wool that occurred naturally in the sheep of that area.  It was a wealthy enough city that in 61 AD when there was a destructive earthquake the people rebuilt on their own, refusing to accept money from Caesar.  They were a wealthy and self-sufficient people.

This is a reflection of the church world today.  Prosperity has become the measure of success for a church.  The church has stepped into the Laodicean age.  This is what churches are becoming in our times.  They’re wealthy with the world’s goods:  Huge buildings, beautiful grounds and all the latest technology.  They believe that they’re spiritually enriched:  That because of the crowds and the resources that they’re blessed of God because of their spirituality.  They have need of not even one thing.  They are self sufficient; “God has blessed us.”

That’s the same way the Laodiceans must have felt.  Have you ever witnessed to rich man?  You tell him all that God wants to do for him and he has no need of God…and then tells you why.

“God has given me everything I have.”

That sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it:  “I’m rich, I have increased in goods, I have no need.”

What is God’s response in this:  “You do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked…”

The Laodiceans had become comfortable because of their prosperity.  They became passive; they didn’t want to risk what they had.  God hates passivity.

Revelation 3:15-16 (NKJV)
3:15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

You know Oolong tea should be served at exactly 85 C (185 F).  If you allow the tea to get cooler that that it changes the taste of the tea.  I can tell you from experience that lukewarm Oolong tea is not good.  If it’s hot it’s good; if it’s cold, it’s good.  Lukewarm is not good, though.

Another way to say passion is fervent desire.  The word fervent implies glowing, burning, boiling passion.  This is the calling of the church:

Romans 12:11 (NKJV)
12:11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

God is refreshed by our passion, our fervency for his commands and His calling on our lives.  He doesn't want a tepid, lukewarm response.  He’s looking for passion.  There are three things that have happened to Laodicean church:

  1. They lost their passion and fervency for the faith.  There’s no longer an excitement for the things of God.
  2. They have become arrogant; conceited.  We’re rich, increased in goods.  We must be the church that God has called us to be because we’re so blessed.  Jesus reminded that they’re wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.
  3. Finally, they’re Christ-less, Jesus isn't a part of the church.  He’s outside knocking looking to be allowed in.

This isn't the church that Jesus had in mind when He began the church, but this is the church it has become and even more so in our time.

Where a Passionate Church Begins

Eric Liddell, an Olympic Gold Medal runner and missionary to China unlocked the secret to the passionate life.  His was a model of passion as described by Paul in:

Colossians 3:23-25 (NKJV)
3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

During Liddell’s university years that phrase, “Whatever you do,” centered on running, on being the fastest possible.  Afterward his life focused on his missionary work in China.  He did them both “heartily” – flat out, wide open passionately – “as to the Lord.”  Passion causes us to approach all the activities of our lives the same way Liddell did.

What’s the secret to a passionate church?  The secret to a passionate church is passionate people.  Where does passion in a person come from?  It comes from a decision to be passionate:  Just like Eric Liddell made everything he did as if he was doing it for the Lord:  Just like my trash collector friend made a decision to get “Fired up!”  What decision have you made?  Is your faith passionate?  Are you going flat out, wide open?  Or are you holding back?

There is a place near where I grew up called, Carnegie Cycle Park.  It was place where off-road motorcycle riders would go because there were a lot of trails and hills to climb.  There was one particular hill that my friends called, “The Drag Hill.”  The hill was nearly a 45% grade, and covered with loose rock.  The strategy was to make a run at the hill with the throttle wide open in the highest gear and power your way all the way to the top.  You had to stay on the throttle all the way.  If you let off it was over, you’d never make it and would probably crash.  I saw this happen often enough. 

Too often in the things we do for God, we start out full throttle, full of power and speed determined to make the run.  Some guys, though, see something and they let off on the throttle and never make it.  I’m talking about people who've said they want to do something for God, but somewhere along the line they've let off the throttle: Lost the speed and momentum and the opportunity to make a mark for Jesus.  They are even in danger of losing the kingdom.

Often the problem is the same as for the Laodiceans.  People begin to think, “I’m comfortable.  I don’t want to risk the prosperity I've already received or the prosperity I’m working toward, because I put God first in my life.”  When that happens passion is turned into passivity and finally complacency and you are in danger of falling out of salvation, altogether.  Here’s a little truth for you.  If your not trying to move forward in your salvation, you WILL fall back.

Passion begins in individuals.  Revival is started in each of our hearts.  When there is a revival in each of us the church will begin to experience revival.  Passion is the same way.  If we’re all personally passionate then the church is passionate.  If we the church is passionate then we can do something.

One of my friends was pioneering a number of years ago.  He had a young man come in and get saved at one of his outreaches.  He came into the church and locked in, then he brought his girlfriend.  Then her mother came.  This young man began to get excited about the things the church was doing.  A passion the preach the Gospel got all over him, and so he began to street preach and witness to other young people and the church exploded as young people came in and got saved and began to follow in this one kid’s footsteps.

It started with one kid’s passion about preaching and spread to all of his friends.  These guys would get saved and see the passion in the others and they’d think that’s what being a part of the church was all about.  When your friends come an see what you’re doing what’s their impression of church?  What do they think your church is all about?  Do they think it’s a LAID BACK church?  I certainly hope not.  I've been called a lot of things in my life, but laid back has never been one of them. 

The Loadicean church was a laid-back church and it made God want to puke.  We need some wide-open, full throttle disciples.  Passion is what come from within each of us.  Are you passionate?

How do we Become Passionate Individuals?

Elisha is a great picture of passion for the things of God.  On the day Elijah was taken up he couldn’t shake Elisha. 

2 Kings 2:1-2 (NKJV)
2:1 And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2 Then Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Bethel." But Elisha said, "As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!" So they went down to Bethel.

2 Kings 2:6 (NKJV)
2:6 Then Elijah said to him, "Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan." But he said, "As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!" So the two of them went on.

He saw Elijah taken up in a whirlwind and received the mantle.  Elisha was passionate about receiving the promise of God.  He held on to Elijah to see what God had for him.  He wanted a double portion of that.  In the end he did twice as many miracles as Elijah.  How dow e become like Elisha?

There are three ways to maintain our passion:

  1. Stretch Yourself. 

President John F. Kennedy once said:

Only those who dare to fail miserable will achieve greatly.

Only those who would rather go out in a blaze than be stifled in dry rot will be able to do what needs to be dome to achieve.  If you want all that God has for you, you need to be willing to risk to get it all.

  1. Spend time with passionate people.

Remember the illustration about Davis Waste Removal or about the nTeenagers who had such passion?  What got everyone going in both those instances was the passion of someone else.  Passion is contagious; it spreads to everyone around it.  My children always tell my wife, “We’re bored.”  Brenda has the right answer, though, “You’re not bored, you’re boring.”  She’s not really trying to insult them, she’s just saying that their bored and don’t have the energy to do anything, because they have no passion for anything.

  1. Look for something to get excited about.

Some of us need to get our heart rates up about something; anything.  Are you not excited about what God has done in your life?  Do you know all that God has planned for you?  No, some of it’s going to be a surprise.  Do you think that God has something good for you?  Do you want to see it all come to pass?  Maybe you need to be passionate about seeing it through.

Want to have something to get excited about?  Look at this:

Revelation 3:21-22 (NKJV)
3:21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." ' "

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit on my throne.  The throne of the King of the Universe; we can sit there if we overcome.  Overcome what?  Overcome what the Laodicean church needed to overcome, their lack of passion for the things of God.  That’s what we need to overcome in the modern church as well. 

I want to be able to come to church and hear people say, “I’m fired up!  God’s going to so something today and he’s going to let me be a part of it… WHOA, I AM FIRED UP!”


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Compromising with the World

We’re all under a bit of pressure, aren't we?  People work on us, to live like they do. Think about this, we live in a world full of sinners.  We work with them; we have them in our families, for our bosses, co-workers, teachers, and classmates.  They think it’s weird that we aren't interested in living like they do.  In fact, they think we’re weird.

At our weekly Bible study, my wife reminded me of something that happened to me, before I became a full-time pastor.  My co-workers were talking about a television show they had seen the night before, and they asked me if I had seen it.  I just answered, “I don’t have a TV.”  That’s all I said.  I wasn't being judgmental… I didn't see the show, because I don’t have a TV, but people got very upset.  “You’re preaching to us all the time!” they shouted, “You’re always judging us.” 

I said, “I’m not doing anything like that.  I didn't say TV was bad.  I didn't say you were bad for watching it.  I didn't even say what you were watching was bad.  All I said was “I didn't see it, because I don’t have a TV.  Sheesh.’”

I know a number of people who are sinners that don’t have TVs.  They just think it’s a waste of time, so they don’t have one.  I wonder if people get that upset when they say they don’t have a TV. 

Can you see there is a pressure to conform to what they do and think?  The problem is that we’re called to be separate.  Today, I’m going to post a message on compromising, from this portion of scripture:

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Promises are Conditional

By Adopting the Gospel to the age, men have crippled the Gospel.

The problem is that we live with people who don’t think the way that we do and we end up with this pressure to compromise.  We need to be careful of this, because all to often they can influence us away from God’s will, look at this story:

The city of Glasgow in Scotland was settled by a religious people who adopted a motto:  “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Gospel.”  As one generation succeeded another, the city grew into an important commercial and industrial center.  Business loomed larger, in the minds of civic leaders, than religion.  Finally, its Chamber of Commerce voted to shorten the motto to make it read: “Let Glasgow flourish.”

Glasgow was established as a place that would flourish through the preaching of the Gospel, but over the years there was a pressure to move from the Gospel to business.  I believe that one of the reasons Glasgow began to flourish as a business and industrial center, in the first place, is because of the people’s reliance on the Gospel.  In time there was a drift away from the Gospel as the heart of the city’s values to business and commerce.  This is a valuable warning for you and I, we can also drift from God’s will as the center of our value system to the desire to “get along” or be acceptable to those who live in the world apart from the will of God.  I want to illustrate this with a look at the life of Solomon:

1 Chronicles 28:5-9 (NKJV)
28:5 And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. 6 Now He said to me, 'It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father. 7 Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments, as it is this day.' 8 Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever. 9 "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.

In our text, David is anointing Solomon to be the King over all of Israel.  It’s interesting that Solomon was chosen because he wasn't the first-born.  Amnon and Absalom were both  born before Solomon, but they had died as a result of their sin:  Amnon in the rape of his half-sister Tamar, and Absalom in his rebellion against David, the king.  Solomon was chosen and God made a promise to him; that his family would rule over Israel forever.  That promise carried the condition that he was, “steadfast to observe my (God’s) commandments and my (God’s) judgments, as it is this day.”  It is a similar situation with us.  There is the promise of Eternal Life but that promise is also conditional.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)
7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Jesus isn't talking to sinners, here.  He’s talking to the church.  The things He mentions, prophesying, casting out demons, doing wonders are the signs of them that believe.  He’s talking to His followers.  What is the criterion for entering the Kingdom of God?  Doing the will of His Father in Heaven.  Look at what He says to those who don’t so the will of His Father, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!”  IF we want to inherit the kingdom, THEN we need to do the will of God – follow His commands.

If Solomon will be faithful about following God’s commands, then his descendants will rule over Israel, forever.  If we will follow God’s commands then we will have Eternal Life:  The same promise and the same conditions.  The problem for Solomon was that at the end of his life he wasn't living up to the conditions of that promise.  He wasn't following God and the kingdom was taken away.  How did he get to that point?  What led to final breakdown that caused his family to lose the kingdom?  Why is this a warning for us? It’s because the same thing can happen to us!

Compromise Leads to the Decay of the Will of God

Did you know that most of the great Ivy League universities were founded to teach Christianity? 

Harvard University was founded in 1638 with a special view to training pastors.  Up until 1700 more than half of its graduates went into the ministry, but by 1869 spiritual Harvard lay on its deathbed. 

Yale, from its 1701 beginning, was more conservative.  Its president addressed students on such topics, as “The Bible is the Word of God.”  A Yale Gospel group traveled about the country in evangelistic ministry.  Yale’s once evangelical stance has disappeared.  Out of 400 graduating students, 54 percent said they have no belief in any God. 

Dartmouth College was  founded to train missionaries to the Indians.  Princeton in its early days insisted the faculty “be convinced of the necessity of religious experience for salvation.”  Yet both left their orthodox paths and secularized.

What happened to those universities, which are now such a hotbed of atheistic thought? How did they turn out that way?  Not by the universities’ presidents, they and the trustees remained evangelical until the beginning of the twentieth century.  The real pressure came from the alumni.  They turned out more and more unsaved alumni, who could give or withhold donations.  They demanded a voice in the universities’ policies and the universities compromised their stand for the Gospel for money.  Compromise destroys our stand for the will of God.

Let’s go back to Solomon, what was it that caused him to turn out of the will of God?

1 Kings 11:1-2 (NKJV)
11:1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites-- 2 from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, "You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love.

Solomon married seven hundred wives from all the nations that God had told Israel to drive out of the Promised Land.  God told them He didn't want them to intermarry because they would cause Israel to compromise its relationship with God.

Compromise is always costly – and sometimes fatal.

The people we have relationships with, it doesn't matter if it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship, have an influence on us.  We find ourselves being drawn into the same things as those we hang out with.  Do you know how I became involved in rock climbing?  My friends were rock climbers.  Do you know how I got started drinking heavily?  My friends were heavy drinkers.  This is natural; this is what bonds us together.  We have like interests.  What’s that old saying?  Birds of a feather flock together.

In the US there is an interesting dynamic among immigrants.  Chinese immigrants tend to seek out other Chinese immigrants.  Mexican immigrants live around other Mexican people.  We have places like, Little Italy, Chinatown, Korea-town and others.  People who immigrate from other cultures tend to seek other people with the same cultural values. It’s comfortable, but the interesting thing is that this can suppress assimilation into American culture.  There is always that pressure to assimilate, but it’s easier to resist when you surround yourself with people that share your birth culture.  That’s why God wanted Israel to drive out the other nations in the Promised Land.  There would be pressure to assimilate with the prevailing culture, especially if you've married into that culture.

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 (NKJV)
6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."

This is the reason we encourage you to have relationships within the church.  Its why we encourage you to make the church the center of your life, because as we are together and building relationships with each other it helps us to resist the temptation to compromise with sin.  

God said, “Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.”  Have you seen that in your life?  Do you friends encourage you to behavior that is an affront to God?  To behavior that God would consider sin?  They don’t have the benefit that we as Christians have.  They don’t hear the Word of God all the time.  They don’t understand sin and its affect on us. 

Solomon, when he became king was an example for the people.  He went to God and when God offered to give him anything he asked, he wanted only wisdom to benefit his people.  He want ONLY God’s will for his life.  At the end of his life, though, he’s building altars to foreign gods; he’s encouraging people to worship on the altars of idols. 

1 Kings 11:5-8 (NKJV)
11:5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

He allowed himself to be influenced away from God’s will, by his wives and concubines.  He couldn't remain strong in the face of this influence.  He wanted to please his wives.  He wanted the relationships to remain close.  He compromised his stand for God.  How sad, because he lost it all, in order to feel close to them.

God’s answer to that was to split the kingdom.  The lands of eleven tribes when to Israel under a different king, and the land of one tribe, Judah, went to Solomon ‘s descendants.  They received Judah, only because God wanted to honor Solomon’s father, David not Solomon.

1 Kings 11:11-13 (NKJV)
11:11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen."

Solomon and his descendants lost out on God’s promise and the kingdom was destroyed.  Solomon’s influence on Israel remained through his son who was a brutal king, and who continued to worship pagan gods.  Eventually, for this very reason God judged Jerusalem and its people were carried off to Babylon.

Avoiding Compromise

We make the same mistakes with our friends.  We want relationships with them to be close.  We want to please them and sometimes, to please them, we have to compromise our stand for God.  We do things that aren't right.  We ruin our relationship with our God over our relationship with a friend or relative.

You know I have friends that aren't Christians.  I’m not saying you have to end those relationships.  I have friends and family that aren't Christians, but I don’t let them influence me.  I don’t feel a need to please them all the time.  I keep my relationship with God strong, I pray, I read my Bible; I come to church services, every time, because I understand that those things will keep me strong enough to resist the pressure to compromise.

I don’t believe that one church service a week is enough to keep you from compromise.  If that’s all that you’re involved with the Word of God then it’s going to be difficult to resist temptation.  The Word of God equips you.  The Word of God strengthens you.  I have a friend who calls his midweek service the refueling service.  We need to refuel.  If you want to go somewhere you need to put gas in the car, right?  No gas – no go!  Look at God’s will for us:

2 Corinthians 6:16 (NKJV)
6:16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people."

As we live in God’s will for our lives He will dwell in us.  He will walk among us.  He will be our God. 

It’s easy to drift out of God’s will unless we continually strengthen and equip ourselves. After all, we live in the world; it’s difficult to live in the world and not conform to the world, BUT that’s what we’re called to do.  We’re called to be separate, to be holy, to be set-aside for God’s use.

Our weekly Bible study, at this writing, is called "GOD IS ABLE." God is able to keep us from falling, from backsliding, from drifting into sin. God is able to help us to stand up for what’s right and to resist the pressure to compromise.  Some of you are hanging out with people that aren't good for you, and they are leading you to compromise and you know you’re doing things that aren't right. Learn how to stand; be equipped by the Word of God.  Every church has people who are examples for you.    People that can help you to overcome compromise. Just being with the people of God can help you.

I say this all the time to my congregation, pray, come to church, and read your Bible.  Those things will help you to keep away from compromise, which is deadly to Eternal Life.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Directional Decisions

It is in moments of decision that your destiny is shaped – Tony Robbins

I can remember the very moment and the decision that I made that caused me to turn in the direction that led, fifteen years later, to attempt suicide.  I can see the exact moment:  All I needed to do was say something to someone, but I hesitated.  “What if I’m rejected?” was my thought.  That decision to hesitate, compounded by other bad decisions I made along the way, led to the despair and loneliness fifteen years later.

That decision of hesitation was a directional decision.  Not all decisions are active decisions sometimes not making a decision is decision enough.  That isn't to say that making better decisions can’t reverse those decisions, because eventually I made another directional decision that turned me onto the path that I’m currently on.

Today, I want to post on directional decisions.  This is something we, as Christians, need to be aware of, because even though sometimes it seems to be a minor decision, an obvious, or even right decision it can be a decision that turns us from the will of God.

1 Samuel 13:8-14 (NKJV)
13:8 Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. 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." 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."

Directional Decisions

What has happened here is that Saul has made a directional decision.  He has, in a moment of weakness and fear, made a decision that has actually changed his destiny.  This is the moment when Saul turned off the path that he was on, which was that his family would rule over Israel forever, to the loss of the kingdom, which would be given to another: A man after God’s own heart.  In Tony Robbins’ vernacular this was a destiny shaping decision.  God, literally changed his mind as a result of Saul’s decision to burn the offering without waiting for Samuel’s arrival.  This was not to be done.  Offerings were the job of the priests and no one else.

I believe there are some decisions that we make that cause a fundamental change in our hearts.  There is something that happens as we act in our own counsel that can cause us to compound the problem by making more bad decisions.  This isn't Saul’s only bad decision; this is Saul’s first bad decision.

In Chapter fifteen Saul refused to utterly destroy the Amalekites, even though God told him to do that.  It was another decision that moved him out of the path of God’s destiny for him.

At that time Samuel made this observation about what caused Saul to make these decisions:

1 Samuel 15:17 (NKJV)
15:17 So Samuel said, "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel?

The phrase “when you were little in your own eyes…” speaks of a humble Saul.  Saul has risen up in pride and this is the root of his problem for the rest of his life.

When we act in pride we act against the will of God.

James 4:6 (NKJV)
4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

When we begin to make decisions in our own understanding that impact God’s calling on our lives, God resists us.  These are decisions made in pride and pride continues to grow as we continue to act on our own.  We fall victim to more decisions that turn us, or move us further away from God’s will.  When we make decisions for less of God in our lives it is because we have filled that space with something else.  We have elevated something else and placed it into that place where God once resided in our lives. 

Look at what God gives to Samuel to tell Saul after this incident:

1 Samuel 15:10-11 (NKJV)
15:10 Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.

Saul has “backed off” from serving God.  God isn't number one in his life anymore.  He has other concerns – The concerns of a king.  He took Agag, the king of Amalek prisoner. Agag is a symbol of Saul’s dominance and power over Amalek.  He saved the sheep to make a big show of offering it to God.  He’s saying, “Look at the wealth and power of the king.  I can offer all of this to God.”  He’s proud and his pride is propelling him out of the will of God and out of God’s grace.  These are directional decisions.

At the end of Saul’s life God’s no longer even responding to him and he ends up at the witch of Endor’s house trying to get advice from Samuel who has already died.  This all started with one bad decision; one directional decision to act on his own outside of the will of God.  I’m sure that decision seemed reasonable, even right at the time. 

He thought Samuel was late.  The people were scattering.  He had to do something to hold it all together.  In his mind, he thought that he had to do something to move God’s agenda forward.  So, he acted.  But Samuel wasn't late; he arrived at the end of the burnt offering.  Saul violated God’s command about offerings, that’s sin.  Sin will never result in God’s blessing.  When you put God aside for your own will you step out of the will of God and into the will of you, and lose out on God’s power and ability to overcome circumstances.  You become dependent on your own power and your own ability and the question becomes, “Who are you serving?”

Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)
6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Mammon is often used to refer to money or wealth, but really, it’s whatever you put before God.  In Saul’s case it was his pride; his unwillingness to lose face. Mammon for Saul was himself and his appearance before the people.  What is it in your case?

Decisions Affect Destiny

Life is the Sum of all your Choices – Albert Camus

How often do we make decisions that we think have no relation to the will of God for our lives?  Saul made a choice to do the burnt offering based on military and political decisions.  He couldn't go into battle when all his men were deserting so, he offered that offering to keep them together.  I wonder if he gave any consideration at all as to how that decision impacted the will of God for his life.

This is a moment of extreme tension.  They’re facing a enemy that outnumbers them by a huge amount – 36,000 plus “the sand on the seashore’ in multitude, against three thousand Israelis.  We can understand the reluctance of the men of Israel, they probably thought they were all going to die.  Saul is making his decision in light of those circumstances and left God’s power out of the decision.

I've seen this over and over.  I know people who were offered a job that paid one US dollar an hour more than they were making…but they had to move to a different city…and they left.  Some of them wound up in fellowship churches in other cities, but never really did anything for God, and others drifted completely out of the church and back to the old life.  That was never God’s destiny for them.

Saul made his decision without considering God’s power.  He never thought about what God had done before.  Gideon, in Judges Chapter seven,  faced the same size enemy, “As many as the sand on the seashore,” with only three hundred men, armed with only a jug, a lamp and a trumpet. God is able to bring about a victory beyond our abilities…if we trust Him.

I think it’s interesting that Saul panicked and couldn't wait for Samuel – The man of God.  He could have used his counsel.  He could have used the word of God to help him, but he was the king.  In his mind, he knew what to do and that decision cost him the kingdom.

Samuel wasn't a great general.  He wasn't a battle-hardened veteran, but he heard from God.  Any counsel Samuel gave Saul would be God’s counsel.  Besides, who knows that God didn't want to do something like he did with Gideon, so Israel would know it was God that delivered them, and that He was with them.  People have this great capacity to assign their victories to themselves and their defeats to the devil, and most often it’s a move of God that brings victory.  God used Gideon and his three hundred men to defeat Midian so Israel would know that it was God moving on their behalf.

In First Samuel Chapter fourteen, Jonathan and his armor-bearer defeated a number of Philistines and then God brought about an earthquake that drove the rest away in fear, because he acted in faith and trusted God.  Jonathan’s decision to trust God was a directional decision.

I have a friend who overcame a poor education by trusting God.  He’s now the number two man in a multi-national electronics firm with only a high school education.  He had dropped out of high school and returned to get his diploma at thirty-four years of age.  This was after he became a vice-president.  This is the power of God to move on our behalf.  In the process, he made several decisions that proved to be directional decisions, as he gave and supported his church, and was involved in all the church’s activities. (A practice he continues to this day.)  Can you imagine the CEO of your company recommending to the board of directors of the company to make a high school dropout a vice president?  Only God could make that happen.  This man could have stepped away from the church while he was earning minimum wage but he decided to trust God for the increase, a directional decision.

I know a family that trusted God through a huge financial tragedy.  Their entire business burned to the ground.  They lost everything and, in addition faced fines for environmental impacts and fees for City fire-fighting services.  Expenses of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they continued to give and made a decision to put God first.  They were at every service, every outreach and every revival service.  Through this crisis, God brought them even more business.  Now, they’re successful enough that they can turn the business over to their children, so they can be available to go out and pioneer…they’re in their mid-forties.  They could have stopped giving, thinking they needed to hold on to their money, but they made a decision to release and trust God for their provision.

These types of decisions are directional, they’re “God first” thinking.  The problem is that often people don’t make these types of decisions.  They make “me first” decisions.  They are also directional.  If you’re making decisions that move God out of the center of your life, I don’t care how much you've prayed over them, they’re not God.  If it means that something replaces God, then it isn't God – it’s pride.  It’s the same kind of thinking that Saul used in Gilgal.

That decision moved Saul away from God’s will and the result was that Saul lost the kingdom that God had given him.  If we make those kinds of decisions then we are also in danger of the same result. 

We Can Reverse Course

You write your life story by the decisions you make – Helen Mirren

One day I walked into the Door Christian Fellowship Church in Colton, California and heard a sermon on commitment.  After the sermon there was an altar call.  I raised my hand, but when it came time to go forward, I hesitated:  Not out of fear but because I wasn't sure what to do.  One of the brothers came over and asked me if I wanted to pray and I said, “Yes,” and followed him to the altar.  This was another directional decision that put me back into a relationship with and led directly to my being in Taiwan.  The decision to respond to the altar call reversed the bad decisions that led to the destruction of my life.

Saul could have changed the course of life that he had placed himself on.  He could have made another directional decision and placed himself back into the right direction.

David did exactly that, so let’s take a moment and examine his life:

2 Samuel 11:1 (NKJV)
11:1 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

We probably all know what happened here.  David made a decision to stay home rather than go to war.  It could be another prideful decision, “I’m king, I don’t have to go.”  This decision, a directional decision,  took him in a direction that led to great sin in his life.

2 Samuel 11:3-4 (NKJV)
11:3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house.

That decision led to other bad decisions, eventually resulting in the murder of his friend and mighty man, Uriah the Hittite. 

Nathan the prophet pointed out his sin through a story and David realized what he had become. 

2 Samuel 12:13 (NKJV)
12:13 So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

David had gone from being a man after God’s own heart to God was going to kill him, but he repented  Repentance is directional; it changes the course of your life.  In this last illustration, I wrote about answering the altar call and how it changed my life.  It moved me out of the path of destruction and brought me into a relationship with God.

David changed his life at that moment.  We read throughout the chapters that deal with David’s life that he made decisions after consulting with God.  He examined the decisions that he made in light of the will of God for Israel and for himself.  The good decisions he made after that moved him further away from sin and folly and closer to God’s will. Directional decisions don’t have to be kingdom-losing decisions they can also be kingdom-gaining decisions.  It’s the direction that the decision propels you that’s important.  Does it take you onto a path closer to God, or does it take you onto a path closer to the world?  Are you making decisions to further the will of God in your life or to further the will of you?    Directional decisions:  Which way are you heading and how did you get on that path?