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.