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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Satanic Strategies

When we go through troubles we think God is mad at us.  “God’s punishing me,” or “Why is God doing this to me.”  But only good things come from God, so when we have bad things happen to us, we assume it’s the devil, and it is…in a way.  I want to look at some things in a different light.  I want to look at struggle and turmoil through Job’s experience, and apply it to our lives.

Job 1:6-12 (NKJV)
1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." 8 Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" 12 And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

God Allows Satan’s Attack

God called a meeting of the sons of God – wait what?  I thought God had only one Son.  Jesus the Son of God:  Jesus is the only begotten Son of God:  Begotten, means born.  The phrase “sons of God” in this usage refers to direct creation.  They have no mom.  Adam is a son of God.  Satan is a son of God, that’s why he’s at that meeting

The second thing we need to know about Satan is that he’s running to and fro on the earth.  He’s here; he’s there.  He isn’t omnipresent.  He can’t be in more than one place.  He’s not like God.  He’s not everywhere.  He’s running to and fro on the earth.  He’s here on earth.

Do you ever feel like you’re under spiritual attack, but then things get better for a while and then the attacks return?  It’s because he’s gone away and then comes back.  When he tempted Jesus in the desert in Luke 4 Jesus resisted.  Look at what it says:

Luke 4:13 (NKJV)
4:13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

He does have helpers, though, so there are always attacks.

We have this idea that if we’re saved, love God, and live righteously then we won’t be attacked by the devil, because we’re under God’s protection, but look at our text.  Here’s Job, blameless and upright, he’s doing all the right things.  God even brags about him, but the devil says, “Yeah, because you give him everything, and you’ve built a hedge around him, (you protect him), so of course he loves you…but take it all away and he’ll curse you in this.”  So, the devil wants to attack Job, because he IS righteous.  The devil doesn’t go after you if you’re a Christian in name only.  If you’re not living the will of God, he doesn’t have to go after you.  He already owns you.  He doesn’t have to lead you into some gross sin.  He just needs to turn you away from God.  This is what he’s trying to do with Job.  “He’s blameless and upright?  I can make him curse you.” 

So here’s the hard part to understand – God says “Oh yeah, try it!  Do whatever you want, just don’t kill him.”  God allows us to be attacked.  Satan has to have permission to go after us.  This isn’t God testing us, it’s the devil:

Luke 22:31-32 (NKJV)
22:31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you; that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Satan asks to test Peter, and Jesus permits it.  He even knows that Peter will fail:  “And when you have returned to me…”  In other words, “After you stop backsliding…” 

There is a level of protection there.  God does protect us, but when we allow Satan to turn us away from God we lose that protection, because we no longer belong to God.  If you don’t belong to God, to whom do you belong?  John 8:44 says, “You are of your father the devil…”  Even the Pharisees started out trying to do the right thing.  Their laws were created with the idea that those laws would keep them on the right side of God.  They wanted to be blameless and upright, but the devil slipped in and corrupted.  This is why it’s so important that our trust be in God and not in ourselves.  They tried to be righteous on their own and left a door open for the devil to corrupt them.  They trusted their laws and not God.  God wants us to trust Him.  Trusting God is what we call faith.

If you read the entire book of Job, faith is what keeps him.  Throughout the book, it says, “Job did not sin with his lips.”  He didn’t accuse God.  He didn’t blame God.  He recognized that blessing comes with testing.  He’s right; blessing comes in on the back of adversity.  If you don’t know suffering you can’t know blessing.

So, why does God allow the devil to attack?  He does that so you can see your need to trust God.  He does it so that you can experience blessing.  He does it all for His own glory.  Here He is, He’s bragging to Satan, “You can’t turn Job – He’s locked in – He’s going to worship me, no matter what!”

The devil is an opportunist.  He’s looking for ways to destroy.  He’s opposed to God.  He’s opposed to what God is doing in your life, and he’s looking for a way to take you out.  His goal is to separate you from God.

The Devil Has a Plan for You

The other thing that we can see in our text is that the devil’s a planner.  He has a plan for your life.  He devises a plan to take you away from God and puts it into play at an opportune time.  Remember, that in Luke four, he left Jesus until an opportune time.  He was looking for a time when Jesus would be vulnerable.  The devil looks for vulnerability.  He watches for us to open a door to sin. 

Genesis 4:7 (NKJV)
4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."

There is an aggression there – Its desire is for you.  He’s watching for signs of potential temptation and sin.  He listens to the words you speak, looking for weaknesses in faith. 

Job 2:10b (NKJV)
2:10b  In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

I’ve posted on the power of words a number of times.  The words we speak can provide the devil with an opportunity to attack us.  Complaining is a vulnerability.  Gossip and slander are vulnerabilities.  Speaking in unbelief is a vulnerability.  The devil is looking for those things that he can use against you.  His plan is to leave you discouraged and filled with unbelief.  Here’s an example:

Luke 22:33-34 (NKJV)
22:33 But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." 34 Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me."

Peter’s bragging that he will go to death with Jesus.  Throughout the New Testament we see Peter – He’s impulsive with words – He’s outspoken – He’s brash.  He speaks what his heart wants, but he doesn’t always have the resolve to see it through.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  He’s vulnerable and the devil uses it:

Luke 22:55-60 (NKJV)
22:55 Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, "This man was also with Him." 57 But he denied Him, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him." 58 And after a little while another saw him and said, "You also are of them." But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" 59 Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, "Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean." 60 But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying!" Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

Peter told Jesus that night that he would follow Jesus to death, but within hours he’s accused and he falls apart.  The devil saw his opportunity.  He saw Peter’s vulnerability and he took Peter out.  Peter went out weeping bitterly.  In a matter of days Peter was so discouraged and broken that he said, “I’m going fishing.”  He went back to his old life.  He’s backslidden.  He’s not trusting God; he’s lost.

That’s exactly what the devil planned for him.  “Simon, Simon the devil has asked to sift you like wheat.”  He knew where Peter was vulnerable.  He knows where your vulnerabilities are, too.  He’s listened to you.  He’s watched you.  He has a plan for you, and it’s the opposite of God’s plan for you.  God has destiny for you – The devil has discouragement.  He wants you so discouraged that you can’t serve God, either.  He wants you filled with unbelief, too.  He wants you to turn back to your old sin-filled life because then he wins.  That was his plan for Job.  That was his plan for Peter and that’s his plan for you.

The Devil’s a Strategist

In order to defeat an enemy you need three things:

1.        You need to understand your enemy’s vulnerabilities.
2.        You need to have a plan to defeat the enemy.
3.        You need a strategy to implement the plan.

The devil is a strategist.  Once he has determined your vulnerabilities and figured out what needs to be done to defeat you, he begins to build the steps to move you into that plan.  It’s like a game of chess.  One has to be able to think a number of moves ahead of your opponent.  The devil needs a strategy to move you out of God’s will.  He’ll come up with a series of steps to destroy you.

In Luke four, the devil had a three-part strategy to take Jesus out.  His plan was to keep Jesus from fulfilling His destiny on earth.  He wanted to keep Him from being the salvation of mankind.  So, he ran the first step in his plan:

Luke 4:1-4 (NKJV)
4:1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."

He’s trying to get Jesus to be more human than He is God.  He’s trying to appeal to His flesh.  Hunger is the vulnerability.  “Give in to the flesh.  You don’t have to be hungry.  The stones will become bread for you.”  The flesh will take you out if you let it.  That didn’t work so the devil moved on:

Luke 4:5-7 (NKJV)
4:5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."

He’s trying to appeal to His carnal appetites – Lust.  Power and wealth are the vulnerabilities.  “You can be like a king here without having to suffer.”  Ruling the Kingdom of God is His destiny.  The devil says, “I’ll just hand it all over.”  It’s a shortcut to that destiny.  Trying to shortcut God’s will, will take you out.  That didn’t work, either, so the devil moved to the final step in the plan.

Luke 4:9-11 (NKJV)
4:9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' 11 "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' "

He wants Jesus to demonstrate that He’s the Son of God.  Pride is the vulnerability that the devil wants to exploit, here.  In this case, it’s the pride of presumption.  “You’re the Son of God; you know that He will catch you.  You can manipulate God.  If they see God catch you they’ll accept you.  That’s a better plan than God’s.”  That’s presumption and pride:  Those things will take you out.

Satan is doing the same thing in your life.  He’s listening and looking for your vulnerabilities.  He’s developing a plan to destroy you, and he’s working out the strategy to get you there.  You need to get a handle on your heart.  You need to examine your words and your actions to find out where you’re vulnerable.  If you close the door on sin, protect your mind and heart, you can protect yourself from demonic attack.  People serve God successfully for fifty or sixty years.  They endure until the end.

Job did it.  He resisted the plan of Satan.  He guarded his heart and his lips.  Paul did it.  He said, “His grace is sufficient for me.”  I close with this:

James 4:7 (NKJV)
4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

He will flee from you…until a more opportune time.  Just don’t give him one.  He’ll attack you throughout your whole life, but you don’t have to let him win.

Monday, March 6, 2017

What Happens When We Lose Vision?

Recently, I was inspired to preach on vision.  I just finished reading a book on the beginnings of our fellowship.  [An Open Door, Ron Simpkins © 1985, Potter’s Press]  This book is filled with Pastor Mitchell’s vision for the fellowship and the Gospel.  What makes it most interesting is that pastor Mitchell never sat down and came up with a “Mission Statement.”  He never sat down and said, “This is my vision!”  Over time God revealed His plan and Pastor Mitchell did what God called him to do.

As we look back over the forty-seven years since our fellowship began, it’s difficult to deny that we have been in the midst of great revival.  We have planted churches all over the world.

It’s important to understand that as individual Christians, we must have a revelation of God’s will for our own lives that we can respond to if we want to reach our destiny.  Today I want to look at what happens when we lose that revelation:

Proverbs 29:18 (NKJV)
29:18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.
 1 Samuel 3:2-3 (NKJV)
3:2 And it came to pass at that time, while Eli was lying down in his place, and when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see, 3 and before the lamp of God went out in the tabernacle of the Lord where the ark of God was, and while Samuel was lying down,

Without Revelation People Cast Off Restraint

The Bible tells us that where there is no revelation that people cast off restraints.  We begin to operate outside moral limits.  We are governed by lusts and desires rather than what God has revealed to us about His will for our lives.  When we're acting on satisfying our own lusts, then anything goes.  We will do whatever we need to do to satisfy our basest desires, and sin takes over.

Revelation is vision.  It is something that’s revealed by God:  Something that at one time was hidden can now be seen.  God reveals His plan and purpose for our lives, but there’s a part that we play in God’s revealing.  We must pray and seek revelation from God.  “God show me what plan and will you have for my life.”  Once that’s revealed then it is up to us to act in a way that brings that revelation to life.   We call that living out God’s will for our lives.  We are moved by God’s will and not self will.  In other words, we need to be looking for God’s will. We need to have vision.

In our text we see Eli.  Eli is the leader of Israel.  He’s judge over Israel.  It’s his responsibility to lead Israel into the will of God for that nation.  He’s the one who has revelation, but look at this phrase: “when his eyes had begun to grow so dim that he could not see.”  He’s losing his vision; he’s going blind.  This speaks of his physical sight, but what happens in the natural can be a reflection of what’s happening in the spiritual realm.  He has lost his vision in a spiritual way as well.

1 Samuel 2:27 (NKJV)
2:27 Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, "Thus says the Lord: 'Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh's house?

Eli is Aaron’s grandson.  Aaron was chosen by God to be the one who ministers in the tabernacle. Only a descendant of Aaron can do that.  God clearly revealed Himself to Aaron, and his ability to see God’s revelation was passed down to Eli.  Eli, at one time had vision.  He’s going blind in a physical and spiritual sense, and that loss of vision played itself out in his son’s lives.

Eli has two sons, Hophni and Phineas.  Look at these men:

1 Samuel 2:22 (NKJV)
2:22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

They’ve violated their relationships with the people to whom God has sent them to minister.  They’ve used their authority in an unholy way.  They also took the meat of the offering before it was offered.  That isn’t how God had set it up.  Eli because, of his own loss of revelation and vision, didn’t hold them accountable.  These men have cast off restraint.  It’s up to us to seek a personal revelation from God.  Hophni and Phineas never had revelation.  They never had vision, and so there were no moral limits on their lives.  They did whatever appealed to their carnal flesh.  Because Eli had lost his own vision and revelation, it was never imparted into his sons.

This is one danger of backsliding.  It’s also the danger of putting worldly things, rather than spiritual things, first.  When we do that, we are imparting into our children that the calling of God is less important than the things of the world.

Hebrews 11:24-27 (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.

I’d say that Moses had vision that was revealed to him by God.  “Esteeming the reproach of Christ,” this is centuries before Jesus on earth.  “He endured as seeing Him who is invisible”.  There was a revelation of God’s call on his life and that revelation caused him to put aside the sin.

Has God revealed His calling and will for your life?  Do you understand God’s vision for your life?  Have you sought a revelation of God’s will, so that you can live it out?

Losing the Vision

1 Samuel 2:29-30 (NKJV)
2:29 Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?' 30 Therefore the Lord God of Israel says: 'I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.' But now the Lord says: 'Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.

The man of God has come to rebuke Eli, and warns Eli that he has drifted away from God’s call.  His sons have cast off all restraint; nothing any longer restrains them from their sin.  They even fornicate in the House of God.  So, God judges them and judges Eli for his unwillingness to restrain them.  Eli calls them out, but he doesn’t hold them accountable.  God tells Eli, “You honor your sons more than me.”  There’s judgment on God’s part and the promise is removed. 

All of God’s promises are conditional – IF you do this THEN I will do that.  You violate the if and God takes away the promise.  God has removed Eli’s family’s destiny. 

God has a destiny for your life that coincides with your calling.  If you live out your calling, then God will deliver on your destiny, but if you violate that calling your destiny is changed.  God will take that promise and give it to another man.  In this case, God chooses Samuel to replace Eli’s sons, as the one who will inherit the promise.  Instead of Hophni and Phineas becoming the next judges over Israel, Samuel becomes the next judge.

We also see this in Saul’s life, the first king of Israel.  God has told Saul that his family will rule over Israel forever, but after his disobedience and presumption God tears the kingdom from him and gives it to David; a man after God’s own heart.

1 Samuel 15:26-28 (NKJV)
15:26 But Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel." 27 And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. 28 So Samuel said to him, "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.

There’s a calling on our lives.  God has called us to something and He’s looking for obedience.  He’s looking for us to respond to, and execute His will, not trying to make our will God’s will.  That’s where Saul failed.  He lost God’s vision and replaced it with his own vision.  Because of that, he lost the kingdom and the promise for his son Jonathan.

Eli lost the vision and allowed his sons’ visions to rule him.  Because of that, his destiny was taken and theirs as well.  In both cases, God gave that same destiny to someone else; someone who would carry out God’s vision.

We need to be careful that we do what’s necessary to carry out God’s calling and vision in our lives if we want to see our destiny.  Vision lost is destiny lost.  We need to strengthen, and look to build on, God’s calling and destiny on our lives.

Maintaining Vision

In our physical lives a loss of vision is natural.  I don’t see as well as I did when I was young.  I went from 20/20 vision to bifocals.  In our spiritual lives, we are also in danger of losing vision. 

Pastor Mitchell has built his vision for our fellowship, based on God’s revelation for over forty-seven years.  It has grown over time.    In the beginning, the vision was for the church in Prescott.  It grew to include hippies and wanderers in town.  It grew to include discipleship; preparing men for the harvest fields.  It grew to releasing men to pioneer churches in Arizona, then into other states, and finally internationally. 

That vision has enlarged and strengthened over the years.  It went from that one church in Prescott, Arizona, to more than two thousand, two hundred churches in more than half the countries of the world.

The way he has maintained and even enlarged that vision is by contending for what God wants to do.  He prays!  He watches for open doors!  He listens to the men he has released into ministry.  He presses for more of God’s plan, and responds with a willingness to obedience.  That’s how he maintains and enlarges the vision. 

What about you?  Are you looking for God’s calling on your life?  Are you open to whatever God calls you to, even if it doesn’t fit in with your own plans? 

I never had plans to come to Taiwan.  I had never even thought about Taiwan, until God opened my eyes to his calling.  It was a revelation of His plan for my life.  I wanted God to lead me.  Even now I want to reach God’s destiny for me.  I’m still open to God’s calling.  There’s only one way to His destiny and that lies in our response to His calling.

When we allow ourselves to give in to our flesh; when we allow ourselves to put our own will first, we’re really casting off God’s will for our lives, and we are in danger of casting off restraint and bringing ourselves to a place of judgment.  In Eli’s case God judged his sons for their father’s loss of vision and their subsequent loss of restraint.

I’ve seen this in my my own as well.  Parents who had no vision of God’s calling on them, their children struggle with a loss of restraint:  Pregnant and unmarried, involved in drugs and homosexuality, and fornication.  All of these things are symptoms of a casting off of restraint and a loss of vision.  There will be judgment and a loss of destiny, unless those children begin to seek God’s revelation for themselves.  You can come back from this, if you repent and begin to look for a revelation of God’s will for your life and respond to that calling in obedience.