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, September 8, 2015

Do you Believe?

Recently, we have seen, in the Middle East that a number of Christians have been, martyred. Men have knelt before their persecutors and without resistance allowed their throats to be cut.  Why would they do that? They were given a choice between renouncing their faith and converting to Islam, or dying.

They had to BELIEVE that Jesus was who He said He was!  They had to believe that the cross, that bloodstained cross really is the instrument of their redemption.  That’s the only way they could lay down their lives for what, to many has become just a symbol; a piece of jewelry.

Today, in this post I want to put that question to you.  Do YOU believe?  Is the cross just a symbol or is it the power of God? 

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NKJV)
2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

The Eloquence of the Cross

This is a question that all Christians should ask themselves:  Do I believe? – Do I really believe?

I know some salesmen.  They’re really good salesmen; they could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.  They know the right words to say to influence you to agree.  I also know the key to being a good salesman.  You have to believe in your product.  You have to believe that what you’re selling is the very best of that type of that product.  Do you want somebody to buy your product?  Then make sure it’s a product that you would want to buy.  The very best way though, is to demonstrate how good it is. 

As Christians we want to tell people about Jesus, and we think we have to be salesmen:  That we need to speak eloquently about Him:  That our words need to be persuasive, but I want you to know that the cross speaks for itself.  Look at what Paul said, “I did not come with excellence of speech…”  Paul did have that eloquence in his words.  He didn’t have his “salesman patter” down. He said, “[I came] in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

So, I was thinking about this.  What is a demonstration of the Spirit and of power?  Isn’t one of the ways we demonstrate through how our lives are led.   It’s in how we live.  It’s in making our lives a reflection of Jesus’ life.  It’s in other people seeing how redemption works in us.  That’s the eloquence of the cross.

How is redemption seen in your life?  I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately.  I know what God has done in me.  I’ve shared my testimony.  I went from a horrible messed up life to what I have now.  I’m a different person than I was.  It was a dramatic change, but not everyone can relate to that.  Some people, their testimony is, “Before I got saved, I was a decent, honest person, now I’m a decent, honest person who knows Jesus Christ.”  So, how can you demonstrate the Spirit and power?  You can do that by showing the same redemptive power that you have received to other people:  through forgiveness, through selflessness and through unmerited kindness.  You’re kind to people who don’t deserve your kindness.  All of those things Jesus did on the cross.  He forgave sin – all of us have sinned, even the decent, honest ones.  He GAVE his life – His life wasn’t taken from Him – selflessly for us sinners, and enemies of God. 

Romans 5:8 (NKJV)
5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
He did that, even though we put Him on the cross.  Even though we didn’t deserve His kindness.  Even though we rejected Him and put Him on the cross.  He went there for us, for our redemption.  That was His purpose on the earth. That was the purpose of the cross – REDEMPTION!

1 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV)
1:15 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.

Paul said that Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  That was his whole reason for being here – redemption.  Paul brings that redemption down to a personal level, by saying, “of whom I’m chief,” He’s saying, He died for sinners; sinners like me!”  Paul says, "Jesus died for me!"

1 Timothy 1:16 (NKJV)
1:16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all long-suffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

I obtained mercy – As a pattern for those who come after me.  That’s the pattern we should follow, “showing all long-suffering.”   Like Jesus did for Paul.  When we act like Jesus in all long-suffering and forgiveness others can see power of redemption.  That’s the eloquence of the cross.

The Value of Human Life

Recently, a number of videos have been released about Planned Parenthood.  These videos show Planned Parenthood selling the bodies of the children whom they have aborted.  As I watched the videos I was struck by the callousness of the women in the videos, haggling over the price of these innocent human beings’ bodies.  One woman is carelessly eating her lunch as she discusses the best way to remove the body, kill the baby and preserve the organs intact.  Another woman while negotiating the price of each body, looking for the maximum financial benefit says, “I want to drive a Lamborghini.”  It sickened me that they were talking about human beings' bodies as if they only had a financial value.  Look at what was paid for us.  Look at the ransom that had to be paid for our sin; my sin, your sin.  It had to be purchased; a price had to be paid.   Do you know the price that was negotiated for each aborted baby’s body?  $100 USD.  That was the negotiated price, but do you know what price was paid for each of us?  The blood of Jesus – God – spilled on the cross. 

Jesus suffered the most gruesome death ever devised by man when He suffered and died that day.  The thing that’s so powerful about that is that it was personal – He died for us all – individually, like Paul said.  Jesus didn’t die for an ideal, He died for you and I, personally.  If you were the only person who ever lived; if you were alone on this earth, He would have come and died just for you!  What’s the value of a human being?  To the ghouls at Planned Parenthood its $100 USD but to Christians it is the life that was given for us. 

Our lives have value, our God was willing to sacrifice for us, but what does that mean for us?  When we look at other people; homeless people, people from other nations, people of other races, when we look at them what are they worth to us?  Do we see a value in them?  Do we feel compassion for them?  That same blood was spilled for them.

What about those who’ve mistreated us?  Those who have hurt us?  They’ve gossiped or slandered us.  They’ve cheated us in business.  They’ve persecuted us.  Can we be compassionate to them?  Can we forgive them like Jesus did?  That’s really the whole question of this post.  Can WE show the long-suffering and redemptive power of Christ?  We are called to be like Christ, even when it’s hard.

Matthew 5:44-45 (NKJV)
5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
That's what Jesus meant when He said, "Take up your cross and follow me."

Do You Really Believe?

That brings me back to my original question, “Do you really believe?”  The cross isn’t just a necklace or a pair of earrings.  The cross isn’t just to mark the location of a church.  These days the cross is cleaned up.  It’s a hip fashion accessory.  It’s just another symbol in today’s society.

And the message of the cross has been watered down:  Not too much sacrifice, the prosperity doctrine, anything goes grace, but that’s not what the cross is.  The cross is rough – It tore into His flesh.  The cross is bloody – He spilled His blood there and the cross is the price of Redemption.  It’s the work that He did to buy us back into a relationship with God.  He paid that price so we don’t have to. 

He left us with the work of the cross; to present it to others, so that they can be redeemed.  But we can’t or won’t do that unless we truly believe it.  It’s the message of God’s love for us.  It’s the message of God’s grace and long-suffering.  It’s the message of mercy.

We can bring that message to others if we truly believe what God did for us.  If we truly believe that the sin has been taken, then we can face death without fear.

That’s how the Christians in the Middle East can face martyrdom for Jesus.  That’s how a group of church leaders in North Carolina can forgive the murderer of nine of their church members.  That’s how a young woman can face her classmate as he held a gun to her head and asked, “Do you believe in Jesus?” knowing what was coming, look him calmly in the face and say “Yes.”   They believe; they REALLY believe.

I hope none of us will ever have to make choices like these.  I pray that none of us ever has to face anything like that, but I believe that society is polarized and soon we’re going to have to make a choice.  It’s prophecy.  It will come to a choice.  I think in America that time is close, and it will come to Taiwan, too.  Now more than ever we have to be sure of what we believe. 

Do you REALLY believe the message of the cross?  Can you model redemption in your life?  So that others will desire it?  Can you reflect the mercy of Christ and demonstrate the selflessness of Christ?  Can you find hope and strength in what Jesus did on the cross:  The hope of a better world with Him; the hope of Eternal life; the strength to accept persecution?  Do you believe in the cross – The bloodstained cross?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The God of Location

I believe that God put me into the best place for me when he placed me into my home church.  My pastor could relate to me.  He had similar business experiences.  He was able to talk to me on a scientific and on a business level, and he could relate to me as a person.  I had met a lot of other pastors nearby but there was never the same level of relationship.

If you’re a part of my congregation you’ve heard me say this a million times:  God has a plan your life.  One thing that you may not realize, though, is that God’s plan includes a location.  Where you are is as important as what you do in God’s plan. Location is important to God.  If you study your Bible you can find a number of places where God has brought things back to one location.

In this post I want to examine the importance of location to God.  God is a God of Location.  In order to do that I want to use the following scripture as a “jumping off’ point.

Genesis 22:2 (NKJV)
22:2 Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

God Uses Places

This is the moment when God is testing Abraham’s faith.  He sends him to Mount Moriah to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering.  He’s looking for Abraham’s faith. 

Later in Israel’s history David numbers the people of Israel and God judges that and sends the Angel of Death.  David builds an altar on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 

1 Chronicles 21:26-28 (NKJV)
21:26 And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the Lord; and He answered him from heaven by fire on the altar of burnt offering. 27 So the Lord commanded the angel, and he returned his sword to its sheath. 28 At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there.

God heard from David on the threshing floor and stopped the judgment, but look at this:

2 Chronicles 3:1 (NKJV)
3:1 Now Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Look at where the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite was, it was on Mount Moriah; The same place that God sent Abraham to offer Isaac.  God called Abraham and provided a ram at this place.  He answered David’s prayer at this same place.  Finally, He had Solomon build the temple on the same mountain.

This is not the only time that God did this:

Exodus 3:1 (NKJV)
3:1 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.

God called on Moses to deliver His people, you know the story.  Moses was out tending sheep and God called him to the burning bush.  The scriptures tell us that that the place where the burning bush was located was called Horeb, the Mountain of God.  After Moses delivers the people they come to Mount Sinai.  Mount Sinai and Mount Horeb are the same place.  God meets again with Moses on that same place. 

Exodus 3:4-6 (NKJV)
3:4 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." 6 Moreover He said, "I am the God of your father--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

This is the same place where God met with Moses and gave him the law.  It is also the place where God passed by and revealed Himself to Moses. 

Later, Elijah has just destroyed the priests of Baal and he’s hiding from Jezebel in the wilderness and God sends an Angel and tells him to go to a place:

1 Kings 19:8 (NKJV)
19:8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

So, here are two places that keep recurring in God’s history:  Mount Moriah and Mount Horeb (Sinai).  God has used these two locations.  At Mount Moriah he responded to needs.  He met Abraham’s need for a substitute offering for Isaac, and he met David’s need for an end to the plague judgment.  At Mount Horeb, he revealed Himself to both Moses and Elijah. 

There were other places as well.  There’s Bethel where God promised Abraham a land for his descendants.  Later, he reiterated that promise to Jacob, also at Bethel.  There’s something about location that’s important to God. 

He had a specific place in mind for His people.  There was “Promised Land.”  The Promised land was a specific piece of real estate.  God even went so far as to outline the specific borders of the land. 

Prophecies were often specific with regard to a location where something would take place.  It was prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, specifically. The prophets named a location.

God has plans for our lives.  He has a plan for each of us, and our locations are a part of His plan.  There have been a number of times that evangelists have come to preach here and they’ve called out my daughters and told them, “being in Taiwan is tied to your destiny.”  In other words, God sent them here for a reason.  It is a part of His plan for their lives.

A plan is like a blueprint for a building.  A blueprint for a building is designed around the place where the building will be built.  The location is of prime importance when you’re developing a plan for a building.  I believe the same is the when designing a plan for our lives.  The place where God brought you to salvation is the location for God’s plan to be developed in your life.

When we were first pioneering the church I pastored in Riverside, a woman came to the church service.  This was very early in the church’s history.  So early, in fact, that my family were the only people there.  At first, she was very uncomfortable and told me that she was there by accident.  I told her that I believe that there are no accidents; God brought here to that place as the beginning of His plan for her.  God brought you to your church as well; it is the beginning of His plan for you.

Where We are is as Important as What We Do

Psalms 37:23 (NKJV)
37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

George Mueller once said, “The steps of a good man are ordered and the stops as well.”

What does that mean; the steps of a man are ordered?  That means that God has planned the steps of His will for you.  God has a plan and a purpose and He has set you in motion and guided you along the path that leads to His will.  The PLACE where He draws you to serve Him is part of His plan for you.  It’s part of His ordering your steps.

Think of it like this:  You’re going to take a journey and you get out a map and you trace the roads on which you’ll be traveling.  Planning where you will stop each night is an important part of the planning.

God has placed you on a journey called “His will” and He has planned out the road you’ll take.  He’s also planned the place you’ll start from and where you’ll stop along the way.  

God puts you in a place to facilitate His plan for your life.  So making a decision to leave that place must be based on God’s will.  It should be done prayerfully, not in anger, not in saying, “God made a mistake.”   God placed you in your place for a reason. What happens, though, is that as we age in our salvation we begin to think that we understand more about God and His will and we begin to make decisions that WE think are God’s will, but they’re really our OWN thoughts.  I believe that God placed you in that church for His reasons:  That God has a plan for you that includes being in that place.

People will often come to me and tell me, “I’m going to do this,” or, “I’m going to do that.”  They’re not asking me for input, they’ve already made up their mind.  Often, I can see that what they’re doing is outside of God’s will.  I can’t say anything that’s going to change their mind, so they turn around and say, “Pastor gave my decision his blessing.”  It’s not what I think that’s important, it’s what God thinks.  It’s not my plan that’s being frustrated; it’s God’s plan. 

I got saved in Colton, California.  As a person who lived and did business in the area, I had no love for that city.  The city leaders at the time were notoriously corrupt.  There was a lot of gang violence and other things.  I had always said I would never live in that city…but then I got saved there.  I gave myself to God’s plan for my life.  I DECIDED that I would serve God in that place and do whatever it was that God had for me.  I even moved to Colton and lived there for a number of years.  God’s plan moved forward in my life.

Colton was the place where God’s plan for my life unfolded and eventually led me to Taiwan to preach the Gospel.  I’ve been out preaching for almost 15 years, but I’m still connected to that same pastor and congregation, where I got saved.  My ministry is really an extension of my pastor’s.  He is still intimately involved in my life.  That’s how the plan of God is facilitated in my life.  God has led me to Taiwan, but the journey started in Colton.

I often see people going from church to church, visiting here and there, but there isn’t anything that they’re doing for God.  They are looking for something that caters to their needs; their plan.  They aren’t growing; they aren’t grabbing hold of God’s will, because God’s plan is rooted in the place that He put them.  If you are thinking about moving on from your church, you need to think long and hard about it.  You need to carefully pray about it, because God has a plan for you and LOCATION is a part of that plan.

Locking into the Location of God’s Will

I had rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the throne of England out of the will of God.  David Livingstone

Why do you think God sent you to the place He sent you?  This is an important question, “Why did God choose that church for you to be saved, or to be a part of?”  God has a plan for your church, as well as for your life.  The steps of the church are also ordered by God, and part of God’s plan for the church is YOU.  Look at this scripture:

Romans 12:3-8 (NKJV)
12:3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

God knows the needs of the church.  He knows that the pastor doesn’t have all of the abilities that are needed to move His plan forward.  He sets you together so that the pastor can use your strengths and you can use his:  So that your pastor can replace your weaknesses with his strengths and you can replace ypur pastor's weaknesses with your strengths. 

Even more importantly, some people are sitting back and not using their gifts to move God’s will; to move God’s plan forward.  Some people are sitting on their hands saying someone else will do it:  Someone else will fill in the gaps, but that’s not God’s plan.  You are needed to be in your place and participate with your strengths.  God needs you to answer His call on your life.

All of the men I mentioned in the first part of this post were in their place and responded to God’s “steps.”

  1. Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah.
  2. Moses answered the burning bush in the same place.
  3. David pleaded with God on Ornan’s threshing floor.
  4. Solomon built the temple in that same place.
  5. Moses met with God at Mount Sinai.
  6. Elijah saw God on the same mountain.

God called them to those places, the men responded and did what was asked of them.  God has that same expectation for us as well.  We’re all busy, but God still has a plan for your life.  The problem is His plan may not be your plan.  If you want God to move in your life; if you want God to respond in your life, you might try responding to what God is calling you to do.  You might try doing what God is laying on your heart in the church that you’re at.

 God has a plan for you and that plan begins in the church where God placed you.  There’s a part that you have to play in the plan of God.  He doesn’t do it all for you.  You have to work to see God’s plan happen in your life.  You have to put energy into doing what you’ve been called to, in the place God called you to do it.  It’s worth it…God’s plan includes blessing you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Power of Decision

 A number of years ago there was a sports show on television called “The Wide World of Sports.”  The show began with a montage of sports action with a voice over that said these words:  “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  The video footage showing during the words, “the agony of defeat,” was of a ski jumper by the name of Vinko Bogotaj, who crashes while racing toward the bottom of the jump.  In the crash he falls off the side of the jump structure.  It’s a brutal crash.  He could have been killed.

Few people know, though, that Bogotaj intentionally ended the jump before he could fly.  He was jumping at the end of the day and cooling temperatures had caused the snow to become icy. He realized that he was gaining too mush speed; that he would land beyond the landing slope and could potentially be killed.  He was forced to make a decision that, even through it was a great risk, he would have to try to stop himself.

We are often faced with the same kind of decisions, where we have to weigh out what is the greater danger.  When ewe make a decision with great risk we need to put all of our energy in to seeing the decision we make be successful.

I’ve heard Pastor Mitchell, make the statement, “man has a sovereign will (what we call free will), and God will not violate that.”  In other words, he’s saying that we make our own choices.  God doesn’t make decision for us.  He may set up circumstances by which a decision must be made, but ultimately it’s up to us.  We are the ones who decide what we’ll do with those circumstances. 

We make many decisions over the course of our lifetimes.  One of the decisions that we make is whether or not we’ll step into the will of God for our lives.  Will we accept our salvation?  Often this is a simple decision, like the one the skier had to make?  Sin is killing me; quit or not?  Once that decision is made it leads to a much more difficult decision.  What am I willing to do to stay in the will of God?  This is the real decision, because many times what happens to us is that we get saved and we make some changes in our lives.  We step out of the overt sin.  Most Christians aren’t drug addicts any more, but is that all the will of God entails? 

There are decisions that we make that are less clear and more uncertain.  If we have a sovereign will and God will not violate that then, ultimately being in the will of God comes down to a decision that we make.  Today, I wan to post on the power of decision, from this passage of scripture:

Esther 4:6-17 (NKJV)
4:6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king's gate. 7 And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries to destroy the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people. 9 So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: 11 "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days." 12 So they told Mordecai Esther's words. 13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" 17 So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.

The Circumstances of Decision

We are all familiar with this portion of scripture,  the Jews are living under the king of Persia, who has given power to a man who despises them, and has determined to have them killed.  He has taken a decree to the king that calls for the annihilation of the Jews, and that order has been granted and has gone out.  This is in place; it’s going to happen.  On a certain day the people will rise up and kill all the Jews. 

So, this is a time of desperation.  There is a great need for deliverance.  If you think about it for a moment, it’s also a picture of us in the bondage of sin.  There is impending death:  the wages of sin is death.  There is the jealous and angry hater of the Jews:  Satan despises us, too.  There is a sense of desperation that the people will survive.

How many of you reading this were desperate at the moment when you made the decision to get saved?  Many of us had come to the end of our rope and there was nowhere else to go.  Maybe you were in prison.  Maybe you were facing death.  Many of  you had destroyed your life in another way.  There was a desperate quality to our lives.  Change or die.  So we came to a place where decision became necessary.  The circumstances were against us, we had come to the place of decision, like Vinko Bogotaj,  A decision had to be made, “Do I continue down the jump or do I throw myself off the ramp?”

In our text there is certain annihilation of the Jews by their enemies. There is something that can be done to bring deliverance, but that thing is done at great risk.  The time for a decision has come. 

Think of wjhat must have gone through Bogotaj’s mind as he hurtled down the ramp.  He knew by the speed that he was traveling that he was in grave danger if he continued.  But there must also be the question is his mind, “What will happen if I throw myself down on the ramp?”  he would no longer be in control and a fall from the ramp at high speed was also very risky.  This is a crisis point requiring a decision.  A decision must be made. 

Esther is also weighing out the risks in the decision she has to make.   This is a crisis decision.  Do I allow the Jews to be annihilated?  Do I step in and risk the king’s wrath?  She made her decision, she struggled through the process and said, “Okay, I’m in the best position to influence the king, and I understand the risk of going to him, and she made her choice.

William James, the philosopher once said, “When you have to make a choice and don’t do it, that is a choice, in itself.

God has a will; there is a will of God and we know what that is. It is the salvation and deliverance of all of mankind.

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

We’re the ones who have to decide.  God can’t force us to love Him and repent, but many times what He does is lay out the consequences and let’s us make the decision.

Deuteronomy 30:14-19 (NKJV)
30:14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. 15 "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;

This is a call to a decision to be in the will of God.  God doesn’t force it on us; He lays out the consequences and says, “Now, what are you going to do with it?”  He will not violate our will.  He didn’t with Adam, He just laid out the consequences of violating the command, “You will surely die.”  He didn’t violate Esther’s will, either.  Mordecai just told her what would happen if she didn’t intervene on the Jew’ behalf.

Esther 4:13-14 (NKJV)
4:13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

Mordecai lays out the consequences, “You and your father’s house will perish,” and he calls her to a decision.  ‘Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”  “You decide, Esther, whether or not you will be used by God.  I won’t interfere with your decision.”  God didn’t interfere with their will and He won’t with our either.  We have a sovereign will.  So then it has to be that God moves through the decisions of men.  The Jews are delivered through Esther’s decision to risk it all. 

That’s why when I pray for people I pray that people will make decisions that will bring them deeper into the will of God.  I pray that they make decisions that bring about deliverance; that bring about a desire to obey God; that bring about a stronger relationship with God.  These types of decisions are decisions that can bring about a move of God. 

Do you want God to move in your circumstances?  If you do, then you have to make a decision that allows God to move.  I’m going to walk away from this temptation; that’s a deliverance decision that God can move in.  I’m going to do those things that will bring me closer to God.  God can move in that, but when you make decisions to distance yourself from the people of God or the Word of God you stifle God’s ability to move in your life.

Look at Psalm 119:106

Psalms 119:106 (NKJV)
119:106 I have sworn and confirmed That I will keep Your righteous judgments.

What’s the psalmist doing here?  He’s proclaiming a decision that he has made to love out the will of God.  He’s made a decision that gives God room to move in his life.  It’s the same with us.  I preach what God gives me to to preach and it’s up to you to decide what you will do with it.  You can make a decision to ignore what’s preached or you can latch onto it and apply it to your life.  Which decision is a decision that allows God to move?

There is a Commitment to Decision

President Andrew Jackson said, “Take time to ponder but when the time comes for action stop thinking and go!”

This is where the rubber meets the road.  Once you decide to be used by God you have to follow through.  That’s usually the hardest part.

Esther 4:16 (NKJV)
4:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"

I’m sure esther examined the choices available to her.  She understood that the king could have her killed for coming when she wasn’t called to come before him.  She knew the risk of the decision but she allowed it to play out.  “If I perish, I perish.”

This was life and death.  There were real consequences to this decision and she was going   to have to trust God.  Have you ever had to face life and death surgery?  When I was a baby I had a heart condition thatwas life threatening.  The only resolution for this problem was surgery, but the problem was that this surgery had never been performed on a six-month old child.  If I didn’t have the surgery the probability was that I would die.  If I did have the surgery the chances are that I wouldn’t survive the surgery.  So, if I didn’t have surgery I would likely die.  If I did have the surgery I could die, but not definitely die.  How would you like to make that decision?

There is a huge commitment inherent in that decision.  The doctors had to be committed to doing their very best to create the best possible outcome.  My parents had to be committed to accept the outcome whatever it might be, but ultimately there was nothing they could do.  It was in the doctors’ hands.  They had to trust them.

In Esther’s case, she was going to die if she didn’t talk to the king, but there wass also the possibility that she could die if she did.  Once she made up her mind it was all or nothing.  This kind of decision required a commitment to follow through.  She had to trust God.  Our decision to follow Christ must be an all out commitment to follow him:  All or nothing.

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!'

Thius is spoken to the church, isn’t it?  We have all done these things in His name.  These are the signs that follow them that believe.  Something has happened, though, these that have the signs that follow them that believe have been turned away at the door.  Entering in requires a commitment to the will of God.  It’s not a halfway thing; it’s all or nothing. 

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “One’s philiosophy is not best expressed in words.  It is expressed in the choices one makes.  In the long run we shape our lives and we shape ourselves.  The process never ends until we die.  The choices we make our ultimatly our responsibility.”

In other words, what we believe is expressed in our actions, in our decisions and in the way we live out those decisions.  In a pioneer church setting we often ask people, “Will you come to church, Sunday morning?”  “Will you be here, tonight?”  “Will you be at Bible Study on Wednesday?”  People often answer, “I’ll try.”  Do you know what “I’ll try” means?  It means no!  Successful people are not successful because they try.  They’re successful because they do whatever is necessary to make success happen.

People who enter into Heaven enter in because they lived out their decision to be in the will of God.  Remember the verse from Psalms?

Psalms 119:106 (NKJV)
119:106 I have sworn and confirmed That I will keep Your righteous judgments.

I’m not sure who the psalmist was, but we will see him in Heaven; he is committed to entering in.

What about you?  What do your actions speak about your commitment to serve God?  Are you serving God or are you trying?  Do you have both feet planted in the will of God or are you straddling the line?  A halfway commitment is no commitment at all.

Making the Decision Count

Someone once said, “The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to build and which bridge to burn.”

This quote speaks of wisdom.  It takes wisdom to weigh out certain circumstances ans all the ramifications of the decision at hand, and then make the wisest choice.  Moses found himself at this very place:

Hebrews 11:24-28 (NKJV)
11:24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

This is a pretty major decision that Moses made, right here.  He was the adopted grandson of Pharaoh.  He was in line to be king, and yet he turned away from the passing pleasures of sin and joined himself to the people of God.   This was an all or nothing decision on his part.

It required commitment, but according to the scripture there was something else; it required priority.  He gave priority to the things of God.  Esther did, as well, she gave priority to the people of God; to God’s will for them and for herself.

Esther 4:16 (NKJV)
4:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"

As she’s preparing herself to live out this decision, she gives priority to fasting and prayer.  I believe this is what gives her the faith to take the risk to go in before the king.  She’s able to trust God to deliver her and the Jews.

The more priority that we give to the things of God in our lives the stronger our faith will become.   We’ll be more likely to make a decision that God can move through.  Sometimes we feel so far away from God.  We feel like God isn’t moving in our circumstances, but we haven’t given him any priority or way in our lives.  We haven’t made any decision that allow Him to move.

We need to be like Esther and go all the way, no matter how it looks; no matter the risk.  How you prioritize your life will speak to what God can do in you.   All it really comes down to is a decision like Esther’s or Moses’.  You resolve within yourself what you want from God.  How much of God do you want in your life?  How much do you need God to move there?  Then you commit your time, your resources and yourself to that decision: All out Petal to the medal.  This is what I need and I’m going all the way to see it happen.  Make the things of God a priority in your life and you have opened up a door for God to move in your life.  You want to preach?  Make it happen.  You want ministry?  You know what it takes to have it.  You need God to move?  Give Him the ability to do it.  Don’t try – Just do it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Guarding the Fruit

Editor's Note:  The theme for our church this year is that this is "2015 is the Year of Fruitfulness."  We have a desire to see the church built in Taoyuan City and spreading to the rest of Taiwan.  This sermon was preached on a way to impart the vision to bear fruit, that will be lasting and remain until Christ's return.  I fruit is borne then it is important that we guard the fruit so that it cannot be stolen or slip away.

I used to work with a woman that had a saying when you asked in she was busy.  She would say, “I’m busier than a one-eyed fox watching two hen-houses.”  She had a lot of other colorful phrases but I wouldn't use most of them.  What she was saying is that it was difficult to do a good job at any one thing because there were so many other things to do. 

We all have busy lives, don’t we?  We’re all busier than one-eyed foxes, but there are some things we need to focus on.  Jesus has given us a task.  He has placed a burden on us, and that is that we’re to reach our generation.

John 15:15-16 (NKJV)15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

It is appointed to us that we should bear fruit and that our fruit should remain.  In order for fruit our fruit to remain we need to protect it.  Today, I want to write about protecting the fruit that we have been.

1 Kings 20:38-40 (NKJV)20:38 Then the prophet departed and waited for the king by the road, and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 Now as the king passed by, he cried out to the king and said, "Your servant went out into the midst of the battle; and there, a man came over and brought a man to me, and said, 'Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.' 40 While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone." Then the king of Israel said to him, "So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it."
Guard this Man

The context of this is that the King of Syria threatened Israel, and God delivered them over into israel’s hands.  God wanted the King of Syria dead, but Ahab the king of Israel let him go.  He saw an opportunity to make some money, so basically he refused to do what God wanted.  He was disobedient and this prophet let him know what God said.

I think there’s a lesson for us in this warning.  We are called, (The Bible says appointed) to bear fruit and that the fruit we bear should remain.  If that’s the case then we are called to guard the fruit.  To guard the man we are given to guard; to not let the fruit “slip away.”

Let’s look for a moment at the excuse that’s given for the loss of the prisoner, “While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.”  The guard got too busy “here and there” to pay attention to what he was given to do.  Here and there seems to imply that he was busy with many things.  He was jut going about daily life and the man slips away – he’s just gone.  The result is that the guard has to pay with his life for losing the prisoner.

There is a task that is appointed to us:  To bear fruit and that our fruit should remain.  So we have the same task as the guard; to keep the fruit that was given to us.  That fruit should not be allowed to slip away, and that’s the challenge isn't it?  How do we keep people serving God?  How do we inspire people to remain in the will of God?  We are often distracted by our busyness. 

The guard in the text tells the king I was busy here and there, “I had things to do; things that needed my concentration; things that were no doubt important, but that’s why he was lost.  It wasn't me it was all that I had to do that allowed him to slip away.”

That’s what he’s saying, “I had things to do so I couldn't pay enough attention to the man and he escaped while I was busy with all those things.  It’s not my fault…it was my busyness.”  The king called it a decision.

That’s interesting isn't it?  The man decided that the things he was busy with were more important than guarding the man.  You’d think that with his life on the line, making sure the prisoner didn't escape would be his highest priority…but the prisoner was ignored and he got away.  Has that ever happened to you?

Have you ever focused on some trivial task that you ere doing and lost track of the time?  Have you ever been so intent on doing one task that you forgot to do something that was more important?  We've all done that.

The reality of it is that you've made a choice.  You have given priority to the lesser thing.  We often allow the things we’re busy with get in the way of the larger thing, which is obedience to God.  Look at this moment in the lives of Martha and Mary.  They’re friends of Jesus:

Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)10:38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Martha is busy, she’s trying to serve all of these people who've come to her home.  Her sister Mary has chosen to sit and listen at Jesus’ feet..  Martha was distracted with too much serving.  She was too busy to hear from Jesus.  She was too busy for the word of God.  She was preoccupied with the lesser task.

We are often like this.  I’m too busy for Bible Study.  I have too many other things to do that I can’t go on outreach.  I’m too busy here and there.  I don’t have time to help anyone who is struggling with staying saved.  God should keep them.  Well, He’s given us that job – To guard the fruit.

I think that sometimes we get distracted with all of our church tasks and lose sight of the talks of keeping the fruit.   We’re too busy for new relationships.  One of the concerns in our church is, whether or not people have relationships with people in the church, outside of the church.  Do they spend time with others in the church?  Do they talk to each other?  Do they pray for each other?  Do they have any concern for others in the church and their salvation, or are they too busy here and there?

Am I saying you should put your life on hold to only church things?  Of course not, we all have to work and raise kids, and do what we have to do.  But I believe there’s a balance to do the will of God.  For years, I balanced a full-time job; my family and my church activities, so I know it can all be balanced.

Some people say they’re just too busy, but they have time for a lot of other things.  When it comes to new people coming into the church, you don’t have to invite them to come and live with you, but how about a friendly lunch after church, or a phone call once in a while.  Make them feel cared about.  Make a friend.  Find out what you have in common and invite them to do that, that’s how you made the friends you have now.

The best friends that I have in life started out just like that; someone reached out to me when I first came to church.  Helping people to lock into church is vital for their spiritual well-being.  It’s the way we guard the fruit – not letting it slip away.

It’s Part of Being of One Accord

Look with me again at John 15:16:

John 15:16 (NKJV)15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

That appointment to bear fruit is attached to a promise: That whatever you ask in my name, He may give you.  Another translation says it like this, “In order that whatever you might ask the father in my name, he may give you.” (Weust Expanded New Testament).  When you say “in order” it means that one thing follows the other.  It’s like saying “If you will bear fruit and that fruit remains, then whatever you may ask of the Father he will give it to you.” 

The context of this statement is telling the disciples, “I no longer call you servants but friends, if you do what I command.”  A friend understands what the master is doing.  With a servant, that’s not necessarily true:  he servant does things because the master ordered them to do it. A friend, on the other hand, does what he does because he’s in agreement.  Your friends don’t do what you tell them to do, just because you told them to, they do what they agree with.  So this context tells us that the disciples are in agreement with Jesus.  When they follow His orders they are of one accord.  They have the same purpose.  They have the same priorities.

What if we’re not in agreement?  What if we’re not of one accord?  Will the people we reach be fruit that remains?  I think if we’re not of one accord then there will be hesitation to make them feel welcome.  People will resist reaching out to others.  People will resist following up on new believers.  Follow-up is essential to having fruit that remains.  They come to church and they expect the pastor to be friendly.  It’s part of his job description – be friendly.  It’s the congregation’s response they’re looking for.  They wan to know what the people in the congregation are like.  Fruit that remains indicates that we are in one accord.

John 17:11 (NKJV)17:11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

That they may be one – in thought and purpose
As we are one – in thought and purpose:

That they will remain united in thought and action as the ones that came before them were united, so that they will all be of one accord.

Now look at this prayer of Jesus:

John 17:20-21 (NKJV)17:20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Jesus is praying that we as believers will be of one accord so that the world will know that this real:  That this is ordained of God.  I we are all of a different mindset then there’s no real difference between us and the world.

This is often my prayer.  I sometimes wonder why there are things that are visible in people’s lives in our congregation that I wouldn't want in my life.  Why do I feel so strongly about certain spiritual principles and people in the congregation don’t.  If we’re not of one accord it results in confusion for the newcomers, and in confusion that fruit cannot remain.

How to Bear Fruit and Have it Remain

I believe that there are several things that we as a congregation can do to see out church grow.  How many people realize that church growth is more dependent on the congregation than the pastor?  People don’t come to church because the pastor is great.  They come because of the congregation.  They come because of relationships they have or want to have with people in the church. We need to focus on the people we've been given.  We need to include them in our lives, and show them they’re accepted.  There’s a need for us all to come to be of one accord, because we’re not all going in the same direction.  We don’t all participate in the strategy of the church to reach souls.  There is a need for people in the congregation to share in the vision of the church to reach the lost.  People should begin to rise up and take on for themselves a personal vision to reach other people that works together with the church’s vision.

We can’t be afraid to reach out to people who may not be the “type” of people we’re comfortable with.  Those that seem to be the least lovable are often those who most need to be loved.

We can’t be afraid to witness or to share our testimony with people.  We don’t always know what they struggle with in life and your struggle may be the same type of thing they with which they struggle.  The thing that most touched me and brought me to the will of God was a drama about Mexican gangsters, when I had never had any experience at all with them.  The drama touched on an area of struggle in my life, with which other people, regardless of culture or ethnicity, may struggle.

Finally, it is important that we do not neglect those that do come.  Reach out to them.  Make friends with them.  Help them to feel like they are a part of something.  Show them that we care about them, so that they will desire to remain.  This is how we guard the fruit and don’t allow it to slip away.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


This is the Queen’s Head formation in Northern Taiwan.  The interesting thing about it is that it as created by erosion.  That word erosion means to diminish or destroy by degrees; especially, to gradually eat into or wear away. 

Water from centuries of tides rolling in has worn away at the rock and created this formation.  The problem is that the government is afraid that in a short time the neck will erode to the point that it can no longer hold up the head.  It will fall over and be gone forever.

Erosion is a real force that takes place in nature, but if we aren’t diligent to guard against it, it can also take place in the church.  In fact, I believe that it takes place in the heart of every Christian and must be constantly checked. (By checked I mean stopping its progress.) Erosion can and will take you right out of the will of God and rob your church of its vitality and forward progress.

In this post I want to look at erosion that took place in David’s life and how it could have been avoided. 

2 Samuel 11:1-5 (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. 2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 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. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child."

The Erosive Attitude

So, this scripture is a snapshot of erosion taking place in David’s life.  This is after he has defeated Goliath fearlessly.  The Bible says he ran to the battle.  This is after he defeated the Jebusites through cunning and an ability to think outside the box.  This is after he’s led the troops out numerous times to defeat the enemies of God in power and authority.

All of those things, fearlessness, thinking outside the box, and acting in power and authority are signs of zeal.  That word zeal means eager interest in the pursuit of something.  In other words, you’re thinking about what you’re doing.  You’re trying to do your very best because of your excitement about what you’re doing.

That’s where David was in the beginning.  David’s zeal was for the kingdom of Israel; for the things of God.  You cans ee it in his actions.  But something has gone wrong here.  David has become complacent:  he’s backed off.  He’s no longer involved and that’s where the erosion begins.  This is critical for us to see;  Spiritual erosion always takes place when we back off:  When we stop being committed to the will of God:  When we stop acting out the calling of God that’s on our lives.  Take a moment to think about what you’re doing.  Are you acting out the call of God on your life or have you become like David?

David is thinking, “I’m king.  I don’t have to do these things anymore.  I can let someone else handle it.”  So, he let Joab do it.  The words, “I’m tired, I need to rest.”  “I just don’t feel like it.” are signs of the beginning of spiritual erosion.

So David begins to go down a path that leads to sin and problems.  His first mistake, we can call it sin, is with Bathsheba.  He’s not focused on God’s calling any longer.  He’s drifted into focusing on himself. 

This is so interesting; David has begun to focus on his own desires.  He’s no longer thinking of the welfare of Israel, so he stays away from the war.  He’s focused on his own issues.  His focus has become selfish, and that’s an opening the devil can exploit.

The devil begins to wear away at your zeal, your faith and finally, your ability to resist sin.  It’s dangerous to start walking away from the things of God.  That’s erosion beginning to take place in your life.

Think about the Queen’s Head formation illustration for a moment.  At one time there was a cliff, a strong, sturdy outcropping of sandstone.  It was attached to main island, but the relentless action of the ocean began to undercut the stone until now there is only a sliver of stone left supporting the boulder and in time that sliver will be worn away and the Queen’s Had will collapse.

The same thing can happen in your salvation.  People will say, “I’m a mature Christian, it won’t happen to me,” but David was a powerful example of a man after God's own heart and it happened to him, and the time when that erosion began was when David backed away from God’s calling.  God had called him to be king, but he stopped doing what kings did. 

Where are you?  Are you still pursuing excellence in your service to God or are you beginning to back away?  “I don’t need Bible Study.”  “I don’t need to be at church.”  “Outreach is a waste of time.”  Are you still zealously pursuing God’s calling on your life, or is erosion starting to take place? 

People never suddenly wake up and say, "Today I’m going to commit adultery.  I’m going up on the roof to see who’s taking a bath."  Instead, they begin to back away from commitments:  Being willing to commit to anything, and dropping the ball on previously made commitments.  Erosion takes over until their relationship with Jesus is supported by a thin thread and in danger of collapse. 

Salvation is a process.  It takes place in our lives over time.  In other words, our relationship Jesus builds over time and that’s how change takes place in our lives.  It doesn’t happen all at once.  Attitudes and other mindsets have to be broken and that usually takes place of time.  I want you to know something, though.  Backsliding is also a process.  It also takes time to happen.  There is a time when it starts, and that time is when you begin to get complacent, or like David when you begin to back away from God’s calling on your life. 

That’s when you begin to think, “I’m in ministry, but the standards of ministry aren’t necessary.  They’re just rules that are imposed.”  “I’m in ministry but I don’t have a responsibility to be an example for others.” and you begin to drift farther and farther away.  The dangerous part is that you don’t even realize that you’re drifting away.

It’s like Samson.  Samson violated the standards of his vow: The vow of a Nazirite. Look what eventually happened:

Judges 16:20 (NKJV)
16:20 And she said, "The Philistines are upon you, Samson!" So he awoke from his sleep, and said, "I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!" But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.

He’s operating under the assumption that he’s right with God, but God has departed from him.  That’s a dangerous place to be.  The Philistines grabbed him and put his eyes out.  He was blinded.  The devil will blind you to reality if it will work in his favor.

Your Actions Don’t Affect Just You

So, let’s get back to David.  David has stepped away from his calling.  He’s sinned with Bathsheba and she has become pregnant.  So, now David has a problem. He’s the king; he’s committed adultery with the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his mighty men.

How does he deal with this?  First, he brings Uriah home so that he can sleep with his own wife, and it will look like he’s the one who made her pregnant.  But, unlike David at this point, Uriah is an honorable man and he won’t go home and sleep with his wife, while the troops and the Ark of the Covenant are sleeping in tents on the battlefield.  So, when that fails, David tries to get him drunk, but Uriah still won’t go home to his wife.  Look what happens next:

2 Samuel 11:14-17 (NKJV)
11:14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die." 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

David has drifted far away from God’s will.  He’s committed adultery, and now he’s killed an innocent man, in order to cover it up.  He’s backslidden; he’s away from God.

It’s not just his sin, as horrible as it is.  It’s not just Uriah’s death.  Now he has included Joab in this.  He’s brought someone else along with him, in his drift away from God. 

2 Samuel 11:18-21 (NKJV)
11:18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war, 19 and charged the messenger, saying, "When you have finished telling the matters of the war to the king, 20 if it happens that the king's wrath rises, and he says to you: 'Why did you approach so near to the city when you fought? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who struck Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Was it not a woman who cast a piece of a millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you go near the wall?'--then you shall say, 'Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.' "

Here’s what’s interesting about this:  Joab receives an order to put Uriah where he will be killed.  He can’t just do that.  If he does then everyone will know.  Think about it, he can’t just put only Uriah in harm’s way, because then people will know that he did it on purpose.  Joab has to protect the king’s order. 

He has to make it look like the fortunes of war, so he sends the troops up to the wall knowing that they’ll get killed.  That’s why he says, “If David gets angry then say, ‘Oh by the way, Uriah the Hittite was killed.’”  David wanted Uriah dead, and he would know that that was what Joab had to do to keep the secret.  David has dragged Joab into this.  He has killed Uriah, but other men also had to die to protect the king’s secret.

When we, as Christians, do something against the will of God it affects a number of other people, as well.  This thing went from David didn’t want to go to war, to Joab murdering Uriah the Hittite and a number of other men to protect David’s adultery. 

Whom does the erosion of David’s calling affect?

Bathsheba – She couldn’t turn the king down in his indecent proposal.
Uriah – An innocent man murdered because he was unwilling to allow his own standards to be eroded.
And Joab – He also couldn’t turn down the order of the king, so he ruined his reputation as general and murdered valiant men.

None of us reading this are kings.  None of us have that kind of power, but we do have influence.  There are people who look to us for leadership.  For men, it is our wives, children and new converts in the church.  For women, it’s the younger women, newer converts.  We have a responsibility to wield our influence in a positive direction.

Titus 2:6-8 (NKJV)
2:6 Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.

Titus 2:3-5 (NKJV)
2:3 the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things-- 4 that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.

David has ignored his responsibility.  We must be careful not to allow ourselves to be eroded., so that we don’t influence people away from God.  Are your actions helping to move people into God’s will, or are you showing them that it’s okay to avoid the things that will bring them closer to God?

Erosion Can be Stopped

If you drive in the mountains of Taiwan often, you’ll see places where the highway department has taken steps to stop landslides and erosion.  They’ve erected barriers made of concrete.  They’ve put up nets to hold the soil into the mountain.  They have put things in place to protect motorists from the effects of erosion.

First, we need to stop the erosion that's taking place. If you look at the beginning of the next chapter, God has sent Nathan to rebuke David.  So, Nathan tells him the story of a man with many sheep who kills his neighbor’s pet sheep.  He’s comparing David, with his wives and power to the man with many sheep.  David is taking the Uriah’s only wife and love and misusing her. 

When Nathan finishes with the story, David is enraged and Nathan points to him and says, “That man is you!”  Look at what God says to David through Nathan:

2 Samuel 12:9 (NKJV)
12:9 Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.

Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord?  He’s asking David, "Why have you cared so little for your calling, and look at the effect?"  If David had done what he was called to do, this never would have happened.  God traces it all the way back to that one decision to begin tom drift out of God’s will.  Some people reading this have made decisions to drift.  Some of you have made the same decision as David, not to do what you’ve been called to do.  Erosion has already begun in your lives, so now you need to stop it.,  You need to do what David did.

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 repented and God put away the sin.  Repentance stops erosion.  After all of this David began to do the right thing.

2 Samuel 12:26-30 (NKJV)
12:26 Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the people of Ammon, and took the royal city. 27 And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, "I have fought against Rabbah, and I have taken the city's water supply. 28 Now therefore, gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called after my name." 29 So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah, fought against it, and took it. 30 Then he took their king's crown from his head. Its weight was a talent of gold, with precious stones. And it was set on David's head. Also he brought out the spoil of the city in great abundance.

David no longer stayed away from the battle.  He took his place as king and began to lead Israel, once more.  David got blessed because he turned back to the will of God. 

We can all have issues, but it doesn’t have result in permanent failure.  Things can go back to the way they were.  It’s a decision that we make each and every day.

There’s one last thing I want to point out.  Bathsheba and Joab had to do what the king ordered or die.  That’s how it works with kings.  If David would kill an innocent man to cover up his own sin he would kill them just as easily.  They could have made a stand and said, “it’s not happening,” but there’s a risk to making a stand.  If there’s an influence on you that you know isn’t right, then you need to make a stand.  God will hold us accountable for our decisions, regardless of the influence on us.  God held David accountable you can read about it in 2 Samuel 12:15-23.

God can move all of us forward, if we’re willing to apply God’s calling to our lives and remain in the calling.