Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, March 28, 2016

We Need the Supernatural

What I think we need is the supernatural!  We need God to move beyond our abilities.  God has used the supernatural before, as a way to draw people in to hear the Gospel. 

We want to have an impact on our community.  We want to see the will of God working in the lives of our friends, families, coworkers and neighbors.  If people see the supernatural working in us, then they will be able to believe that God who can have an impact on their lives.  Today, I want to post on God’s use of the supernatural.

Acts 8:5-8 (NKJV)
8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.

Signs and Wonders

How many know that people are looking for real power?  That’s why there are so many religions.  People are looking for a power that will move them beyond where own abilities can take them.  People need a God who has power, it that right?  Don’t we all want a God who can meet needs that we have struggled to meet?  Everybody is searching for a God that has power.

Well, here is the good news – WE serve a God of miracles.  He opened the Red Sea.  He rained food from Heaven.  He brought water out of a rock.  He held the sun in one place.  God is a God of the supernatural.

Jesus also brought about miracles:

Acts 10:38 (NKJV)
10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

So we are serving a God of power.  It’s one thing to explain that to people.  We can tell people that Jesus did miracles.  We can tell them what Jesus did and people will accept it.  There’s a difference, though, between accepting what we say and seeing the miracle happen before their eyes.  There’s a difference.  In our text, Philip preaches Jesus and people listened and accepted what he said because of the miracles that Philip did. 

Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews.  He had a seat on the Sanhedrin.  He was a Pharisee and he said to Jesus, “We know that you have come from God because no one can do the things you have been doing unless God is with him.”  That element of the supernatural is what convinced Nicodemus of who Jesus was.  Look at this scripture:

Mark 16:17-18 (NKJV)
16:17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

In other words, there will be signs that follow us: Demons will be cast out.  We’ll speak with new tongues.  We’ll lay hands on the sick and they’ll recover.  What are those things?  They’re miracles; they’re signs.  Jesus performed those signs and people believed.

John 11:43-45 (NKJV)
11:43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go." 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.

They believed because they saw the miracle.  Philip performed those signs and people believed.  We need a visible dimension of the supernatural in our church.  We need to be like Philip and demonstrate the Power of God. 

One of the things that was really exciting as a new convert was seeing the miracles of healing.  This week, as we did communion a couple of people got healed and it was refreshing to hear them just say, “Hey it’s gone.”  It was fun to see them get as excited as I did, when I was a young believer.  People get saved because they can see the Power of God.

John 2:23 (NKJV)
2:23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.

Many believed in His name when they saw the signs.  The signs He did persuaded them.  Jesus even sent out His disciples and told them:

Matthew 10:7-8 (NKJV)
10:7 And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

He’s telling the “Use the signs.”  Use the supernatural – show them the signs.  In our day and hour we also need to show the Power of God.

The Early Church

The Book of Acts is full of men showing the Power of God.  There is huge growth in the early churches men like Philip were scattered from Jerusalem and ended up in far-flung places, preaching Jesus and performing miracles.  There will always be arguments against logic.  People can counter just about anything that you’ve said, but it’s difficult to argue against a leg growing out when you’ve seen it with your own eyes.

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the enemies of God platted to kill Jesus because of that act.  They also plotted to kill Lazarus.

John 12:9-11 (NKJV)
12:9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

How could they deny Jesus’ power when this man who everyone knew had died is standing right there?

Acts 3:6-7 (NKJV)
3:6 Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

Peter and John, at the Gate Beautiful raised a lame man and the Bible says many heard the word and believed; about five thousand of them.

Acts 5:15-16 (NKJV)
5:15 so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. 16 Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed.

People brought out the sick and lame in the hopes that Peter’s shadow would fall across them and they’d be healed.

Acts 19:11-12 (NKJV)
19:11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.

Paul gave people handkerchiefs and articles of clothing and people got healed.

This is how the church was birthed.  This was God’s strategy for reaching men.  The Bible tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  I believe that this same strategy is available to us today.  All of this is the power we were told we would receive through the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8:

Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

God is telling us that when we receive the Holy Spirit we receive power to be witnesses of Him, and we can use that power to do the things that He did.  Thank God for the Holy Spirit.

This is for believers. It’s not just for pastors and evangelists.  It’s for believers like you and I.  Anything pastors and evangelists can do – you can do.  I think we need to use the supernatural on outreaches and in church services.  We can show people that there’s an alternative to the traditional Taiwanese religion.  We can show them the power that God has and that the idols don’t have.

A Plan of Attack

I think there’s a problem in a large part of the church world, today.  I believe that a big part of the problem is that people don’t have faith.  They don’t have faith to give. They don’t have the faith to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  They don’t have faith to witness and testify, and they don’t have faith to pray for the sick.  Some people I’ve prayed for don’t even have the faith to accept that they’ve been healed.  I pray for them and we see God do something powerful in them and I ask them, “What about the pain?”  They say, “Well, it doesn’t hurt…RIGHT NOW.”  There are even those who don’t even have the faith to be prayed for.

We’re Pentecostals.  We believe that what happened on the day of Pentecost is still happening today.  At least, that’s what we’re supposed to believe.  What did Peter have that we don’t?  He was uneducated.  He was a fisherman, not a theologian.  He was an average guy, not really special in any way, but God did powerful miracles through him.  People thought, “If his shadow falls on me, I can be healed.”  What did Peter have that you don’t?  Maybe it’s the faith that God could use him:  Faith that the promise of the Holy Spirit is real.

Acts 2:39 (NKJV)
2:39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

WE are the ones who are afar off – As many as the Lord will call.  He’s not looking for someone who’s special.  If you’re saved – You’re called.  WE are the ones who will prophecy and have visions.  WE are the ones this promise is for.    THESE are the last days.  We need to pray and contend for the supernatural in our churches.  We need to stand in faith and pray for the sick.  We need to contend for more of the Holy Spirit.  We need to pray, read our Bible and come to church to bolster and strengthen our faith, and we need to step out in that faith.

In the Old Testament, there’s a moment when the Ark of the Covenant is captured.  The Ark of the Covenant is proof of the power of God because it contains the Ten Commandments written with the finger of God.  There is also a bowl of the miracle food that God provided to Israel while they were in the desert.  Finally, it also contains Aaron’s rod that, through a miracle budded in the desert. The ark was captured by the Philistines and they put it in a room with their gods, particularly Dagon, who is the fish god.  The next morning Dagon had been thrown down from his shelf and shattered.  Dagon, the idol lay in pieces on the ground, as God showed his power is beyond that of the idols.  God did that supernaturally.  He threw Dagon down supernaturally.  I believe that it’s time that some idols fell in our cities and nations.  Let’s cry out for a supernatural move of God.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Being in Place

We recently had revival with Pastor Eric Strutz.  On the Saturday of that revival Pastor Strutz preached a powerful message.  People were moved.  Afterward, someone came and asked me if we had recorded that sermon.  We hadn’t.  If you weren’t there, you missed it.  A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon on faith, and people got up after service and spontaneously testified about things that God as doing in their lives.  If you weren’t there, you missed it. 

This is the nature of how God moves.  He doesn’t say,   “Wake up; I’m going to speak to you in this service, go and hear a life-changing message from Me!”  That’s not how He works.  He speaks and moves, and He does it with the ones that are in place to hear it.  He speaks to the ones who are crying out to hear from Him.  He speaks to the ones that are in place when He speaks.

I’ve preached messages that I know would help specific people with the needs in their lives, and they weren’t there for that service.  I know that some people don’t think that I could preach anything that would speak into their lives, but I’m only speaking what God has given me to speak.  I’m not trying to move them, God is!  I can tell you about specific sermons that I’ve preached where God has spoken into someone’s life on an issue that I knew nothing about.  People have asked, “How did you know that I’ve been going through that?”  I didn’t…but God did. 

Today, I want to post a message about being in the place where God can reach you:

John 20:19-22 (NKJV)
20:19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

The Movement of God

This moment in our text is the moment when the resurrected Christ came to meet with His disciples.  He came to commission them to His will.  He came to send them to preach the Gospel, and in the process He breathes onto them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  He is literally imparting His Spirit into them.  This is a powerful move of God taking place at this moment.  Look at the setting when this takes place:  They are together on the first day of the week.  God meets with us when we’re together. 

Hebrews 10:21-25 (NKJV)
10:21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

What is this scripture saying?  That it’s not enough just to have faith.  It’s not enough to just have stopped sinning.  It’s not enough just to be steadfast in our beliefs.  It’s not enough just to encourage each other to live right.    Those are all things we need to be doing to be living the Christian lifestyle.  Those are necessary and helpful, but it says that there is one other thing we should be doing – gathering together. 

I’m talking about fellowship here.  I don’t mean fellowship in the sense that we’re hanging out and eating food.  I’m talking about being of the same mind, and gathering together to worship God.  That’s fellowship.  Why gather?  To exhort and encourage one another to live for Jesus.  The word translated as exhort means to call nearer.  How important is it for us to be able to call each other nearer to God?  Your presence in church is encouraging to someone else.  This scripture is telling us that it is vital to the Christian experience.  

What do you want from God?  Do you want more of Him in your life?  Do you want to see Him move powerfully in your circumstances?  Do you want to hear from God?  If so, then the next question is:  Are you putting yourself in the place where He can move?

Jesus appears to them when they are together.  When He meets the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, there are two of them together.  On the sea, when they were fishing, they were together.  He came to them, not alone, but as a group.  Jesus didn’t pull Peter aside and whisper to him, “Feed my sheep.”  In our text, He didn’t come to them alone – He appeared to them all, together, and showed them His wounds.  It’s when we’re together that we can feel Jesus’ presence. 

“Where two or three are gathered in my name there I will be in the midst of them”

That’s not to say that we can’t feel a connection with God when we’re alone in prayer.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t hear from God, individually, but it is primarily through His word that we hear from Him.

In our text there was something imparted to them as they were together.  Look at this parallel scripture.  This is another look at the same moment:

Luke 24:36-45 (NKJV)
24:36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, "Peace to you." 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." 40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. 41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, "Have you any food here?" 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. 43 And He took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

First, Jesus shows them He is the same man that was crucified, by showing them His wounds.  Then, He demonstrates that He’s alive by eating food.  Finally, He opens their understanding that they might comprehend the scriptures.  What is preaching?  It is trying to open your understanding of the scriptures.  Jesus has given them understanding.  They didn’t have understanding before.  They left that meeting with something they didn’t have before they entered.  Isn’t that what we say happens in church, or should happen in church?

We sing that chorus:

You won’t leave here like you came in Jesus’ name
Bound, oppressed, tormented, sick or lame
For the Holy Ghost of Acts is still the same
You won’t leave here like you came in Jesus’ name

How many people believe that when they’re singing it?  I would think that if you believe that, that you would want to be at every church service you could.  You wouldn’t want to miss out on any of what Jesus has for you.  That song speaks of expectancy; that anything could happen.

My wife got saved in our fellowship church in Guam.  She told me a story about Pastor Cluck.  He would preach and often have words for people in the church.  One service he gave a word to every person that was there.  If you were a part of the church and you missed that service you missed out on a personal word from God.

God spoke to individual people, but it happened as they were assembled together.  I hear people say they don’t need organized religion.  They don’t need to gather together.  What they’re really saying is, “I want to do my own thing when I want to do it!”  Hebrews 10:25 says don’t abandon coming together to church, because that’s where God has opportunity to reach you.

Missing the Movement of God

John 20:24-25 (NKJV)
20:24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."

Thomas wasn’t there.  He missed this moment of visitation after Jesus rose from the dead.  He missed the impartation of His spirit.  When Jesus came He moved in the life of these men:

He brought encouragement, “They were Glad.”
He imparted something into them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
He brought comfort and blessing, “It is I, Myself.”
He gave them understanding, “…that they might comprehend the scriptures.”

Thomas missed it all.  He wasn’t there; he wasn’t in place.  He didn’t receive something that the others did.  He didn’t have the revelation.

Do you ever wonder why some people just seem to have more of God than you do?  A better understanding of what God is trying to do?  A more powerful relationship with God than you?  Maybe it’s because they place themselves in a place where God can move in their lives more often than you do.  Maybe one of the reasons that Thomas is so filled with unbelief, is because he took himself out of the place of revelation.  Do you wonder where Thomas was?  What was so important that it was worth missing Jesus? 

The problem was that Thomas didn’t know that this was the meeting where Jesus would show up.  He didn’t know that the resurrected Jesus would come to them at that time.  If he had known, I’m sure he’d have been there.  If God had warned him saying, “This is it Thomas.  This is the day you’ll be given revelation and gain understanding,” do you think he would have been there?  He would have been there. 

God works in God’s timing and He doesn’t check our calendar.  He moves when it’s His timing and if we aren’t there we miss it.  If we want to receive something from Him we need to make hearing from Him a priority, by being in our places at service.

That’s what happened to Thomas.  He missed out on the moment that would have helped him the most.  This is the one that would have showed him that Jesus was without a doubt the Christ.  This was Jesus AFTER the grave.  He would have known that all the struggle they’d gone through wasn’t in vain, because Jesus was still alive – He still is!  This was confirmation that they had chosen to follow the true and living God. 

There are a lot of people like Thomas.  They’re missing the will of God…and they don’t even know it.

Thomas Caught up With the Movement

John 20:26-28 (NKJV)
20:26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!" 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"

Thomas was back with them when Jesus came the second time.  Jesus made a special point to meet Thomas’ requirements to believe.  “Look at my hands, put your finger there.  Put your hand in my side.  Believe, have faith.”  Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.”  He got the revelation.  We never read about another time when they were together that Thomas was missing.  He went on to his destiny, reaching the world.  (He died in India, preaching to Hindus.)

This moment when Jesus reached out to Thomas didn’t take place when Thomas was alone.  It took place when they were together. 

God shows up at a church service to reach you.  God shows up at a church service to touch you.  God has a plan and a desire for your life.  Put yourself in the place where God can give you a revelation of Whom He is and what He has for you.  If you want an impartation of God in your life, you must be in a place where He can reach you.