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, February 19, 2018

The Wisdom of White Cats

The little sisters went into a room to play ball.

 “We must be careful not to wake the white cat,” the tall one spoke softly. 

“Or to spoil the roses,” the fat one whispered, “but throw high dear sister, or we shall never hit the ceiling.” 

“You dear children,” thought the white cat, “why do you come to play here at all?  Only just around the corner are the shady trees and the birds singing on the branches, and the sunshine flecking the pathway.  Who knows but what, out there your ball might touch the sky?  Here you will only disturb me, and perhaps spoil the roses, and at best you can but hit the ceiling!”

I came across this story a while back as I was preparing for my weekly English Free Talk class, and I thought that it spoke a great truth about human potential.  That truth is that we define the limits to our own potential.  Why place all of our energies in an area where we’re limited by our own natural abilities and talents?  We cannot exceed our own limitations on our own.  It is like being in a room and trying to hit the ceiling with the ball rather than changing the circumstances and making it possible to reach for the sky!  There is an aspect of human potential that makes it possible for us to exceed natural limitations; it’s called faith.  Today I want to post on “reaching for the sky.”

Mark 9:21-24 (NKJV)9:21 So He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." 23 Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

Can You Believe?

I was inspired by the story of these sisters because it speaks about something I talk about frequently; self-limiting behavior.  Look at what our text says, “If you can believe, all things are possible.”  So the question is, “Can you believe?”

For example, do you have the faith to believe that if you tithe that God can help you to do as much with the remaining ninety percent, as you could with one hundred percent that isn’t blessed by God?  That’s a question of faith: With God all things are possible.”

Do you have faith to believe that you can fast for three days?  Can you believe that you can tap into God’s power through fasting?

Mark 9:27-29 (NKJV)9:27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" 29 So He said to them, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting."

Both of these are things that allow you transcend normal human abilities.  This is accessing the supernatural.  It’s what I mean by “Reaching for the sky!”  If the circumstances of your life make you think that what you need from God is impossible, then you are playing ball in a room where you will only reach the ceiling.  There are limits to what you can do.  There are limits to what can happen through your efforts.

If you exercise your faith through prayer and fasting you can remove the limits and the sky becomes something that’s within your reach.  Exercising your faith puts your circumstances in God’s hands:

Matthew 19:26 (NKJV)19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

What really inspired this post was talking to people in my congregation about a three-day fast that was coming up.  I asked them individually, “Are you going to fast?”  I received a number of different responses, such as the following:

“I’ll fast at breakfast.” 

“I’m only going to fast on Tuesday.” 

“I have to work.” 


My wife and I ended up being the only ones who fasted the entire three days.  I had offered options when I announced it, in an effort to encourage people to join with us and stretch the limits of their behavior.  “If you’ve never fasted maybe commit to one day or try to do what you can do!”  My intention was to get people to stretch themselves.  We had never had anyone commit to fasting with us in prior fasts.  The problem was I said “stretch yourself,” but everyone heard “you only have to fast for one day.”  The other thing I said was this: “Do you know what they call fasting without prayer?  Dieting.”  I was encouraging them to join us and pray, but no one did. 

I’m not complaining about it, I’m using this to illustrate how we “build a room” around our faith.  This is self-limiting behavior.  People wanted God to move.  People needed God to move but didn’t create an opportunity where God could move.  A move of God is activated by faith!

Think about this:
A woman comes to Jesus who’d had an issue of blood for twelve years.  She thinks, “If I can only touch His robe, I can be made well!”  She fights her way through the crowd; she reaches Him and touches the hem of his garment.  She’s literally lying on the ground grabbing his cloak.  What does Jesus say to her?  “Your faith has made you well.”

And there’s this:
A woman comes to Jesus; her daughter is demon possessed.  She’s not a Jew, she’s a Syro-phoenician woman; a pagan.  At first, Jesus tries to send her away.  He says, “It’s not right to give the children’s food to dogs.”  He’s saying this isn’t for you, it’s for the Jews.  The woman persists, “Even the little dogs get the crumbs that fall from the master’s table!”  Listen to His response: “Great is your faith – Let it happen as you want!”

Finally, there’s this:
A blind man hears a great commotion.  He finds out that Jesus is coming down the road.  He shouts out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Everybody tells him to be quiet, but he yells it again, even louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus hears him, and asks, “What shall I do for you?”  The blind man asks for his sight.  Jesus says, “Go your way your faith has made you well.”

Faith is what makes the impossible, possible!  Without faith, you are limited to natural laws of physics.  You can only throw as high as your strength allows.  But with faith, you can grab a hold of the supernatural.  That means you can go beyond what is naturally possible.  You can throw as high as your faith allows.  You can even reach the sky!

What Does Your Faith Look Like?

In the biography of Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, there’s a story of Jobs recruiting a man to take the helm of Apple Computer.  He’s the CEO of Pepsico.  At first, the man turns him down.  The man is having a crisis.  He’s not sure he can move to California.  He doesn’t know what’s best for his children.  He’s wondering how taking on this failing company will help his career.  There were so many things to consider.  Finally, Jobs asks him, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?”  After all of this, he agreed to become Jobs’ successor.

All of these questions in his thinking:  All of these circumstances distracted him from his faith in himself.  We, as Christians, allow circumstances and our thinking about them, to distract from, and limit our faith in God.  That’s what the white cat in the opening illustration was talking about.  You have to be careful of waking the cat.  You have to be careful of spoiling the Roses.  It makes it difficult to reach the sky!  We sometimes are so focused on the cats and the roses in our own lives that we can’t break through in our faith.

This man that took over Apple computer almost threw away the opportunity to change the world by worrying about the things that would take care of themselves.

Matthew 6:30-33 (NKJV)6:30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

When you act in faith then, “all these things shall be added to you!”  Victory comes through faith.  Great victory comes through great faith!

In 1 Samuel, chapters thirteen and fourteen, the Philistines have again attacked Israel.  Saul has taken six hundred men to meet them, but they’re hugely outnumbered and people are deserting.  Saul’s worried about these things:  “What happens if I lose?” “How can I keep things together with all these men leaving?”  So he sits under the pomegranate tree doing nothing.  He’s not moving.  He’s not preparing for the battle.  He’s just sitting there.  He represents the army of God, but he has no faith.  His lack of faith has paralyzed him.  There can be no victory without a fight!

How often are we like Saul?  We have a need but we just sit there doing nothing.  We even call that faith.  We don’t pray, we don’t fast, or we pray our little prayers and complain when it doesn’t happen right away.  There is the possibility that God is ready to move but we haven’t created an opportunity for God to move.  There’s also the possibility that God is moving but it doesn’t look like what we’re expecting, so we wait; just like Saul!

There is another side to this story, though.  Jonathan and his armor bearer are also there.  They’re on another flank.  They’re in a different area.  They are also greatly outnumbered.  There’s a garrison of Philistines.  A garrison is a fort.  This is their home ground.  Jonathan and his armor bearer are only two people, but Jonathan isn’t worried about distractions.  He’s not saying, “Oh dear, there are only two of us, how many can we possibly beat.  What will they do to us if we don’t win the battle?” 

Instead, he calls on God to show him what to do.  When God shows him, he does it!  God gives two men a great victory over the Philistines.  They couldn’t have done that on their own without faith!  With faith comes victory – With great faith comes great victory!

God Moves in the Supernatural!

I want you to see the last moments of the battle against the Philistines:

1 Samuel 14:13-16 (NKJV)14:13 And Jonathan climbed up on his hands and knees with his armorbearer after him; and they fell before Jonathan. And as he came after him, his armorbearer killed them. 14 That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armorbearer made was about twenty men within about half an acre of land. 15 And there was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling. 16 Now the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and there was the multitude, melting away; and they went here and there.

God brought an earthquake and the Philistines melted away!  God moved supernaturally to bring about the victory.  God moved in a way that Jonathan could not!

How many reading this are looking for a victory in some aspect of your life?  How many need a move of God in your finances; your love life; your health or your ___________? (fill in the blank!)  How many need something from God?  How many of you are willing to do what God says to do to get it?  Bring tithes into the storehouse; seek first the kingdom of God; this kind comes out with fasting and prayer;  “Your faith has made you well!” 

Are you throwing a ball and hitting the ceiling, or are you throwing it to reach the sky?  The things you think are impossible, aren’t impossible for God!  “With God all things are possible!”  We know that intellectually.  We can recite that scripture.  It’s easy to say, isn’t it?  We say it all the time, in fact, we have a banner in our church that says it in Chinese, but do we have the courage to live it?  You really can have victory in your life, but you have to have the courage to step out in faith because no faith equals no victory!  Remember the wisdom of the white cat.  Do you want to throw a ball to touch the ceiling or do you want to reach for the sky? 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

It's Not About You

I have noticed over the years that people come to church for all kinds of reasons.  They mostly have to do with themselves.  When you’re a new convert it’s perfectly acceptable, to be self-focused. After all, we come to a place where we can accept salvation when we have torn our lives and our psyches apart. I was on the verge of suicide when I got saved.  I needed some time to work through all of those issues before I could focus on other people’s needs.  But there comes a time when our focus has to change.  We have to stop worrying about our own needs and begin to work on that thing to which God has called us all.  It’s not all about us; it’s about the purposes of God.

Mark 11:15-17 (NKJV)
11:15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "

A House of Prayer for All Nations

We read this and we think that Jesus is angry because people are making money and cheating people in the temple.  There’s much more than that going on here, although that’s a part of it, hence the “den of thieves” reference.  But Jesus is careful to make the statement, “My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all nations.” 

Where this took place was the Court of Gentiles.  This is the place where non-Jews were allowed to come to the temple to worship.  It was the place where they could come and pray to God.

Gentiles were not allowed in the Temple itself or in the areas where the sacrifices were done.  They had a special place.  That was the place that the Jews chose to turn into a market. 

They didn’t have a concern about the Gentiles.  They thought the temple was all them about their needs.  But God was clear that the Temple had a place for all nations to worship.  This is why Jesus was angry.  There was a place for everyone in the temple; it wasn’t just all about the Jews.

Look at how Jesus reacted in this parallel scripture from the Book of John:

John 2:13-17 (NKJV)
2:13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up."

He made a whip and whipped them out – to drive them out.  The disciples were watching this and they remember the scripture in Psalms 69:9, “Zeal for your house has eaten me up.”

Jesus wasn’t always the gentle, comforting person we think of, Jesus confronted the Pharisees, “You white-washed tombs”! “You painted sepulchers full of dead man’s bones”!  You look good on the outside but you’re corrupt on the inside!  He has a zeal for the purposes of God.  God’s purpose for the temple wasn’t just so the Jews could worship – It was a house of prayer for all nations. – The Gentiles too!

We come to church thinking, “it’s all about me!”  God has given me this place to get comfort.  God says this is a place for all nations.  Are you even concerned about God’s purpose, or is it all about you?  Look at this scripture:

Matthew 16:21-23 (NKJV)
16:21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" 23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

Jesus is describing the facts of His crucifixion, but Peter doesn’t want to lose Him.  Peter loves Jesus.  He loves the comfort of being in His presence, but Jesus confronts that – He called him Satan.  “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter, you’re only thinking of yourself.  It’s not about you Peter, it’s about the purposes of God!

God’s purpose for Jesus was to die on the cross, to redeem all of mankind.  The Cross was for all men, so was the Temple.  That's also what the church is for.  It’s not just for the comfort and warm feelings of God that we feel.  Its purpose is to bring other people to Jesus.  Jesus was eaten up with zeal for the purposes of God. 

The early church had revival because they looked outward.  They had all things in common.  They shared with each other.  They cared about each other.  How come you resist praying for each other?  Why do you avoid outreach?  Sometimes people are there physically but you’re more of a distraction than a help.  You don’t encourage your brothers and sisters to come.  Do you even notice that some people aren’t attending regularly anymore?  People come and get saved but no one encourages them or prays with them.  It’s not all about you! 

If Jesus walked into your church during service, what would He do?  Would he start tossing tables?  Would He make a whip of cords?  Would He call somebody Satan?

How Many Will Have to Die?

I want to turn into another direction for a moment.  I want to look at Israel in the battle for the Promised Land.  God does a miracle and brings them across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land.  Now they have to fight for it, so God gives them a plan to defeat the walls of Jericho.  He also tells them that the spoil of the land belongs to Him.  It’s a type of tithe; the first fruits.  All of the Gold, all the precious things that belonged to the people of Jericho are to be left on the field of battle, they belong to God.  Those things are His, but look at what happens:

Joshua 7:1 (NKJV)
7:1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.

Achan saw the wonderful things that God had reserved for Himself and he couldn’t resist taking some of them.  He buried them in his tent.

Joshua 7:21 (NKJV)
7:21 "When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it."

He’s thinking about himself:  A beautiful garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of Gold.  He couldn’t resist it.  The Bible says he coveted it:  Lust, selfishness, he was only thinking of himself. He wanted the precious things of God, only for himself.  Look what happened as a result.

Joshua 7:4-5 (NKJV)
7:4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.

Achan was selfish.  He wanted those beautiful things for himself.  It was all about him and his needs, but look at the outcome:  thirty-six people died as a result of his selfishness. 

Joshua 7:11-12 (NKJV)
7:11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.

Is God serious about our sin?  Oh, you bet He is!  Because of Achan’s sin of putting his needs first thirty-six people died.  Innocent people died because of his selfishness.  Maybe some of them were people that he cared about.  Maybe some of them were friends and family.  They were fellow soldiers.

Maybe Achan needed those things.  Maybe Achan was looking out for his family.  Whatever the reason thirty-six people died because he was selfish. 

How many will die because of your selfishness?  How many co-workers and classmates?  How many friends and family members?  How many will pass into an eternity in Hell because you can’t be obedient?  You do realize that God has a commission on your life; a purpose for your life?  God has called you to reach others.  “Go and preach the Gospel”, that’s a command.  Not doing it is disobedience and that’s a sin.  It’s selfishness and that's also sin, and it will cause other people to end up in Hell. Here’s the really hard part.  God will hold you accountable for that.  Achan and his entire family were stoned and burned to death. Not just Achan, his entire family – perished.  It’s a terrible sin to put what you want over the purposes of God!

Go And Sin No More!

Okay, I’ve done the cutting.  I’ve opened wounds.  I’ve probably made some people angry.  I don’t want to do that, but God woke me up with this – Every point, every scripture.  I had to get up and write it all down so I wouldn’t forget.  I have to be obedient to what God speaks to me.  I don’t want to put my desires over God’s purpose.  If God is going to wake me up with this I have no choice but to preach and post this.

I’ve learned something in sixteen years of preaching.  If I’m going to cut, I need to heal.  So, here’s the salve, here’s the medicine, here’s the grace.

Jesus is at the Pool of Siloam – People went there to be healed.  There was a man who had come there for many years and he’d never been healed.  He was still suffering:

John 5:5-8 (NKJV)
5:5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."

Jesus sees this man and asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” Immediately the man goes into all the reasons he hadn’t been healed.  “No one helps me.  Someone gets in before me.  I can’t do it on my own.  I need help and no one will do it.  I want to be well but I have reasons.”  Who’s he thinking about?  He’s having a pity party.  Jesus wants to do a miracle for him but he can’t take his eyes off himself and his suffering.  Finally, Jesus tells him to take up his bed and walk.  Jesus had grace in the midst of the man’s sin.

Selfishness is sin.  In fact, selfishness is the root of all sin.  The love of money is the root of all evil, right?  The love of money is selfishness – I have to get my slice.  Keep your hands off my stack.  It’s what the Jews at the Temple loved!  It’s what Achan loved! It’s selfishness. 

Jesus had to die because of it.  It’s the reason the Pharisees turned Him over to Pilate.  They wanted to hang onto their money and power.  Selfishness put Him on the cross, but look at His almost last words, “Father forgive them!”  Forgive them for their selfishness and envy.  Forgive them, for murdering innocent blood.  Forgive them; they don’t even know what they’re doing.

At the pool of Siloam, Jesus ran into the man he healed again and He said to him:

John 5:14-15 (NKJV)
5:14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Go and sin no more!  He was made well and his sin removed.  We’re all here because we need Jesus’ grace.  We’re all here because we want his comfort and blessing.  Your comfort is found in your repentance.  Your blessing is found in His purpose.  He has a purpose for you and your church.  The purpose of the church is the salvation of others.  Let’s not be like the Jews and Achan; callous and selfish.  Repent, be made whole and sin no more!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Stewardship: Destroying The Spirit of Not Enough

I have never done something like this before, but I really believe that there is a spirit in our generation that’s crushing Christians.  Not just Christians, really this spirit is one of the spirits of our age and in this post, I want to expose that spirit, and I want to try to help those who are suffering in this way.

How many of you readers think your job doesn’t pay you enough?  How many of you are struggling with your finances?  How many of you are living “paycheck-to-paycheck”?  You only have enough to make it until you get paid again.  What happens when you lose your job?  What happens if someone gets really sick?  When something like that happens you face a real crisis, right?

“How are we going to make it?  There’s nothing in the bank!”“How are we going to pay the bills associated with this?”

This is where most fights take place in a marriage.  Most of our fights are around money.  You look at your financial situation and you say, “We don’t have enough!”  There’s no money for anything other than scraping by.  No money for a family trip: No money for a nice dinner out,  No money for giving (and I’m not just talking about the church.)  Financial planners will tell you that giving is the best way to move forward financially.  They will tell you to build in some room for giving.

The problem is that there’s a spirit at work in our generation.  There’s a spirit that’s choking us:  The Spirit of Not Enough!  This is the spirit that says, “You don’t make enough – You need more.”  It’s the spirit that steals your contentment – You’re constantly complaining about finances.  This spirit kills your marriage and family – Divorces often center on financial problems.  This spirit destroys our lives – You suffer depression and unhappiness.  All of this is because of the Spirit of Not Enough.  Where does this spirit come from?  Who does the Bible say steals, kills and destroys?  Today, I want to post on stewardship.

God Supplies Us

Matthew 25:14-15 (NKJV)
25:14 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.

We can look at this in the following way:  First of all the scripture talks about talents.  In this case, talents are not abilities like playing the banjo or acting.  A talent is a measure of weight; approximately thirty-five kilograms (about seventy pounds).  Depending on if the talent was Gold or Silver, it had a value – It was worth something.  In 2017 dollars a talent of Silver would be worth US $14,407.00.  So these servants were given a great deal of money.

Secondly, the money was given to them according to their abilities.  It wasn’t given to them based on their need.  It was according to their ability to do what?  Juggle?  Sing?  No, it was given to them based on their ability to manage it. How do I know that?  Look at verse 19:

Matthew 25:19 (NKJV)
25:19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

If the money was given to them based on their need, there would be no settling of accounts.  As more need came up, more would be given.  The master came and settled accounts with them.  He’s saying to them, “Let me see what you’ve done with my money.”  The money belonged to the master.  Where does your money come from?

Psalms 50:9-12 (NKJV)
50:9 I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is Mine And the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. 12 "If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine and all its fullness.

This is God speaking and He clearly says, “The world is mine and all its fullness!”  Fullness means wealth, abundance, and prosperity.  All of the wealth in the world belongs to whom?  God!  Your money isn’t really yours – It has been entrusted to you, in the same way, that the master in the parable has entrusted his money to the servants.  It is given to you to manage!

We’re stewards of God’s money.  What is a steward?  According to Merriam-Webster Dictionaries, it is one who actively directs affairs; a manager, actively directs affairs.  Actively directing includes planning and investing:  making more out of what you have.  It’s about making sure that you have enough.

Before I started pastoring I was a businessman.  At one point in my career, I managed a transportation department for a non-profit organization.  Every year that non-profit reserved money to operate the transportation department.  They would say, “Here is your budget for the year!”  If I used it all in one month, I would be unable to operate for the next eleven months.  If I wanted to add something that pushed me over the budget, I had to “find” the money somewhere else.  So I would have to plan my expenses and revenue for the next year.  I had to plan so that what I was given would be enough.

I believe that the first key to being a good steward is to recognize that what we are given is enough.  This is about contentment.  Think about this, how much anger and bitterness do we create when we constantly think, “I don’t have enough.”?  Contentment is the first thing I mentioned that’s stolen.

It’s not wrong to look at what you have and want to make more; after all, that’s what’s expected of us.  It’s what a manager does.  He/She makes smart decisions with what he/she has in order to make it grow.  A manager doesn’t cry about being given more but puts what he already has to work for him.  A manager manages.

That means you have to have a plan – This is how I’m going to spend this money; this much to expenses and this much to invest.  A savings account is a type of investment; it pays interest.

The man gave the servants according to their abilities to plan, to invest and to manage.  If you want more, then you have to manage what you have effectively.  The servant who was given five talents had a greater ability to manage it than the servant who was given one talent.

The Wisdom of Investment

The money was given to the servants to steward; to manage.  They took what they were given and made it work.  Two of them made the money work for them, one did not.

Matthew 25:16-18 (NKJV)
25:16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise, he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.

Two of them were effective in managing the money.  They used it to trade.  They increased the amount.  The other man didn’t do anything with it.  He buried it.

There’s an expectation that we’ll make wise decisions; that we’ll use the money appropriately and use it to bring an increase.

I said that planning was a big part of managing money.  One type of a plan is a budget:  This is my income – This is how much I have.  These are my expenses – This is what it takes to operate.  The money I have minus my expenses leave an amount that can be invested.  That’s a plan, “I’ll take what I have, use it to pay my expenses and to invest in the future.”  That’s planning.  We call it a budget.  I make this much.  My expenses are this much.  My investment is this much.

As I said before, I was a businessman prior to serving as a pastor.  And I’m going to reveal to you the basic tenet of a successful business.  If this were a college course it would be Business 101.  Here it is:  Increased Sales and Reduced Costs means Greater Profits.  That’s how business works; it’s really not complicated:  More money coming in and less money going out.  That’s how you make money.

Unfortunately, what happens in our lives is often the exact opposite.  We have reduced revenues and increased expenses.  Something I learned in my very first management position I have taken with me throughout life:  Expenses can be controlled.  You can use the air conditioner less often.  You can turn off the lights when you’re not in the room.  You can set up a food budget and buy only within that budget.  Here’s the biggest thing, and the most painful.  You can cut up your credit cards.  That will stop you from buying things you can’t afford.

Credit cards make it easy.  “I want it now.  I can pay for it later… at eighteen percent interest.”  Debt is what devours our paychecks.  Who does the Bible call the Devourer? 

Having a lot of debt is like burying your money.  You’re giving away to the bank what you could be investing.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “Credit Card Slave”?  The Financial Commission of Taiwan has coined this phrase, “credit card slave”.  A Credit Card Slave is a person who can only pay the minimum payment on their credit card.  You can never get out of debt that way because you’re only paying the interest and nothing on the purchases.  The problem with that is that you’re not managing the money.  The bank is managing the money – for themselves not for you.  They’re increasing their revenues, but you’re not decreasing your expenses.  You’re not being a steward.  You won't be able to give a joyful account of the money when God calls to “settle accounts.”  Remember whose money it is!

…a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them (emphasis mine.)

The money that you have is not yours – It’s God’s.

When the man called for an accounting what happened? 

Matthew 25:20-23 (NKJV)
25:20 So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' 21 His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' 23 His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'

When the servants who made a profit presented it to the man he rewarded them, “Enter into the joy of your lord.”  They were joyful; they were happy.  Joy is found in properly managing money.  It goes back to contentment.  It goes back to good marital and family relationships.  It goes against depression.  It’s wise to properly steward the money God has given to you!

It’s a Sin to Squander God’s Money

Now look at what happens to the servant who buries the money:

Matthew 25:24-27 (NKJV)
25:24 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' 26 But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming, I would have received back my own with interest.
The man rebukes the servant – “You should have at the least given it to the bankers!  That’s the minimum investment.  You should have done something with it!”  He calls him wicked and lazy, and then:

Matthew 25:28-30 (NKJV)
25:28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Two things have happened here:  First, what he had was taken from him.  He lost everything.  All that had been entrusted to him was taken away.  We are expected to manage the money.  If we bury it and don’t manage it, we will not receive any more.  When we allow debt to control us we will eventually wind up losing everything:  bankruptcy; nothing for retirement.  Sometimes we even lose the family, everything is gone. 

Here’s the worst part of all of this:  where is the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth?  It’s Hell.  God considers a lack of proper stewardship to be a sin.  It’s a sin to squander God’s provision for your life.   That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? 

That’s the first thing, but look at what else happened.  What he had was given to the one who increased by five what he was given.  If we properly manage what we are given then God is able to entrust us with more.

If you’re reading this and right now you’re in a situation like this don’t despair.  Don’t condemn yourself!  I’ve struggled in this way, myself.  The wonderful thing is you can repent.  I know that a lot of people go through this.  For insight on managing money and getting out of debt, I would recommend that watching “Dave Ramsey on 7 Baby Steps for Super Savings” on YouTube.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Revelation – Something that’s hidden that becomes known.  We have revelations all the time.  Do you know what revelation sounds like?   It sounds like this, “I didn’t know that!”  That’s revelation – Something you didn’t know, you now know.  A while back I posted a sermon titled, “Eight Ways to Hear from God.” It’s a sermon about the different ways that God reveals something to us.  Reveal is the root word of revelation.  That’s what I want to post about today – 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.

We Need a Revelation of God

How many can understand that we need a revelation of whom God is?  Even more specifically we need a revelation of who Jesus is.  Our text tells us that “without revelation, we cast off all restraint.”  In other words, unless we have a revelation of Jesus – Anything Goes!  We will not restrain ourselves.

Here’s an example, God has delivered Israel from Egypt.  He did powerful things to cause Pharaoh to release them.  In fact, He did some of the most powerful miracles in history:  The plagues, the death of the firstborn, the paring on the Red Sea; miracles never seen again.  Even at that though, they had no revelation of God!

I understand that some things remain hidden from us:

1 Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)
2:9 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

The things which God has prepared for us remain hidden.  They’re yet to be revealed – Paul calls the “mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God ordained.”

Even though Israel saw the things that God did, they seemed to not understand whom God was, or their responsibility to Him.  If they had known God; if it had been revealed to them, why did this happen?

Exodus 32:3-4 (NKJV)
32:3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!"

They’d witnessed all of the plagues on the Egyptian people.  They’d seen what God did to rescue them at the Red Sea.  They’d experienced God’s provision in the desert.  So, how could they say, “This is your God, oh Israel, that brought you out of Egypt,” about a golden calf that they made with their own hands?  They had no revelation of God, and they reverted to the familiar gods of Egypt, and where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint:

 Exodus 32:5-6 (NKJV)
32:5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord." 6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Aaron built an altar; he proclaimed a feast to the Lord, so everyone got up early, offered sacrifices, sat down to eat and rose up to play.  This isn’t the church picnic; they weren’t getting up to play volleyball.  That word “play” is a euphemism – a euphemism is a nice way to say something.  We do this with our kids all the time, “You need to go number one or number two?”  “Number one” and “number two” are euphemisms for…well; you know what they’re euphemisms for. “Play” in the Bible is a euphemism for sexual immorality.

False religion almost always involves sexual immorality.  Diana worship included temple prostitutes.  Molech worship was made up of sexual acts.  Even early Mormons were polygamous – many still are today!  Israel has cast off restraint – Egypt’s worship in ancient times included sexual immorality.

There is no revelation of whom God is.  This event takes place while Moses is up on the mountain, meeting with God, and receiving the Ten Commandments.  He’s been gone for a while.  He hasn’t been seen, God’s commandments haven’t been revealed.

In our society, today we seem to have this understanding that Jesus is a savior.  “He’s my Lord and Savior,” isn’t that what we say?  What’s interesting is that even though we call Him “Lord and Savior,” we treat Him only as a savior.  He died for our sin.  He forgave me – His grace.  We have that revelation of Him as a Savior.  We really think that He will always save us from our sin – no matter what.

1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This is all true; He is our savior; He is faithful to forgive.  He has acted with grace; there is grace in our lives.  This has all been revealed in scripture.  The problem is that we see Him only as a Savior and we need to have a revelation of Him as Lord, too.  We need to see that Jesus is also God because if we don’t have that revelation of Him as God then we are just like the Israelites and we are in danger of casting off all restraint.

Think about this:  If you will always be forgiven, then you can do whatever you want.  If I sinned, I just have to confess it, and I’m forgiven.  That’s what Catholics do – I can live like the devil, then just go to confession and it’s over.  If you have the revelation that Jesus is Lord then you recognize His authority over your life. 

John 14:15 (NKJV)
14:15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments.

That’s Jesus speaking, but it is also God’s word.  Here’s an Old Testament quote:

Exodus 20:6 (NKJV)
20:6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

This is the proper revelation of Jesus:  He is Savior and Lord!

Reigniting Revelation

Throughout Israel’s history, they struggled with this.  There were warnings and judgments throughout the Old Testament because people were always turning away from God.  Very often it was the kings and leaders who led them away.  They built high places to worship false gods.  They installed Asherah poles.  They openly adopted the worship of the people God had called on them to destroy when they took possession of the Promised Land.

In Elijah’s time, the King, Ahab and his wife, Jezebel turned the people of God away to worship Baal.  They brought in Prophets of Baal. 

It was a difficult time for Israel.  They were in the midst of a great drought.  The king called the prophet of God “Troubler of Israel”.  People were hurting and many followed the king into Baal worship.

It was so bad that Elijah thought that he was the only one in all of Israel that was worshipping God.  The people had lost their revelation of God, once more.  The people had become blind to the fact that God – only God – had the power to change their circumstances.

So, he set upon a bold strategy.  He challenged the Prophets of Baal to a contest.  He told them to build an altar of sacrifice and place an offering on it, then call upon Baal to send fire and consume the sacrifice.  So they did –

1 Kings 18:26, 29 (NKJV)
18:26 So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, "O Baal, hear us!" But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made.
18:29 And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.

They did those things and nothing happened – there was no power there.  Then Elijah did the same things and he filled pots with water and dumped them over the offering.  Look at what happened:

1 Kings 18:36-38 (NKJV)
18:36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, "Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God and that You have turned their hearts back to You again." 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.

God sent the fire; the people saw God’s power, and the Bible says they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God!  The Lord, He is God!”  After this God changed the circumstances and brought the rain.  The judgment ended when they turned back to Him.  What thing caused them to turn back to God?  God’s power was revealed to them!  They had a new revelation of Him as God. 

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, right now, if I saw God’s power, I would believe in Him one hundred percent.  I’m not seeing it, though; my circumstances are still the same.  I believe that the problem is that you see Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord!

He doesn’t have priority over your life.  Your prayers are half-hearted if you pray at all.  You resist the authority God has placed in your life.  You have a timetable for God to do things for you. 

“I came to prayer meeting, for three weeks and nothing happened.”
“I tithed for a whole month and the windows of Heaven never opened!”

Does this sound familiar?  Moses has been gone a month, “Here are my earrings.  We need another god!”  They had a revelation of God as Savior.  He saved them in Egypt – He was a savior, but the didn’t have a revelation of Him as Lord.

Exodus 32:5 (NKJV)
32:5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord."

The Golden Calf – They made the Lord with their own hands.  You have to be careful that you don’t try to make Jesus in your own image of Him.  You need revelation!

Revelation Comes Through Faith

When the power of God was revealed to Israel they turned back to God.  When that received revelation of God’s power. 

What did Elijah do to help them to have a revelation?  The first thing was that he had faith.  Look at boldness with which he offers the challenge.  There are four hundred fifty of them and one Elijah.  He didn’t back down in the face of that.  He even stood there and mocked them, “Maybe your god is sleeping or on a journey!”  He knew that God was going to respond.

The second thing was prayer.  He prayed “Hear me oh Lord.  Let them know that You’re God.  Let them know I’m your servant.  What a declaration of faith in prayer.

The third thing is how he prayed.  He’s not saying, “Oh, help me, help me!  I need you to do this God!  It’s all about me God!”  He prays, “Show them that You’re God!  So that Your will, will be done.  It’s not about me – It’s about You, God!”

James 4:3 (NKJV)
4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

If you’re praying as if it’s all about you, you don’t have a revelation of God as Lord over your life.  Pray with faith, “God, show me whom you are!  Make yourself real to me!”  Give God authority and power over your life.  He’s Lord and Savior, not just Savior!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bamboo in the Garden

Have you ever seen a stand of Bamboo?  It grows out from one stalk in different directions in the ground.  So, the area covered by the bamboo grove is constantly being enlarged.  If you want to reforest an area it’s very effective because it grows and spreads rapidly. 

The difficulty is in trying to contain it.  What happens is that shoots called rhizomes spread underground and the plants sprout out of the ground along the rhizome.  Now, these are not like roots. They’re stalks of the plant that grow horizontally under the ground.  They’re very tough and difficult to remove.  You don’t see them growing, they’re hidden under the soul.  The only way you know they are there is that a plant sprouts out of the ground and shows itself.  All of the Bamboo in a garden are connected by rhizomes.

If you plant them in an area and don’t want them to spread beyond that area, you must be diligently searching for and tearing out the rhizomes, because when one is removed another immediately begins to generate.  Some types of Bamboo can grow up to twenty-four inches in a day.

2 Samuel 11:1-17 (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." 6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. 8 And David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." So Uriah departed from the king's house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 So when they told David, saying, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?" 11 And Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing." 12 Then David said to Uriah, "Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 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.

Rhizomes in Our Lives

David is God’s man to lead Israel but sin has overcome him, just like Bamboo overtaking a garden.  The first step is a step away from responsibility.  David stepped away from the battle.  He’s no longer contending against the enemies of Israel.  He hasn’t really done anything wrong yet, but he’s resting in what God has already done in him and through him.  He’s let his guard down.

This is how sin works in us.  We’re delivered.  It’s not necessary to pray for that deliverance any longer.  It’s not necessary to be contending.  “I don’t need to pray for that anymore, I won’t fall into that again.”

I had a friend that began to look at pornography.  His wife caught him at it, and he confessed and was delivered from it.  The problem was that he thought he’d overcome it.  So he decided to check himself and ended up right back in the same problem again.  He’d let his guard down…He’d stopped contending for that deliverance.

In the garden, you need to continue to hunt down the rhizomes.  The only way that you can control the growth is through constant attention.  If you stop searching for and removing the rhizomes, the Bamboo will get out of control again.

We need to constantly be digging for rhizomes of sin in our hearts or that sin will spread and appear again. 

David has neglected his heart and stalk of lust has grown up.

2 Samuel 11:2-3 (NKJV)
11:2 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?"

From this stalk of lust, rhizomes have spread out to other areas of his life.  Lust led to adultery, lies, cover-ups, manipulation, and murder.  That sin of just looking at a naked woman and lusting sexually for her finally led to the murder of an innocent man.

The events that led to the resignation of President Nixon started in a simple enough way.  There was a break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC.  The break-in was illegal, but what cost President Nixon his job wasn’t the original crime.  What cost him his job was the cover up of those things; the lies, the manipulations and all that resulted from that.  The original break-in led to the crimes that destroyed Nixon.

In the Bamboo plants, there is one stalk.  That stalk puts out rhizomes and other plants manifest themselves in different places.  As a result of the way the plants reproduce, all of them in a particular area are connected.  All of the sin in our lives is connected like the Bamboo.

Sin defiles and deceives the human conscience, and thereby hardens the human heart.  A sin-hardened heart grows ever more susceptible to temptation, pride, and every kind of evil.  Unconfessed sin, therefore, becomes a cycle that desensitizes and corrupts the conscience and drags people deeper and deeper into bondage. – J F MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience

Sin is aggressive – like an organism; like a virus.

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."
The man-eaters of Tsabo is a true story of man-eating lions that were killing and devouring native workers on a British railroad project in Africa.  In the end, the lions were destroyed as the British leader set up a stand in the trees and waited for days until the lions attacked again.  He maintained a vigil in order to protect the people.

No less of a commitment is needed in our lives.  If David had pressed into the things of God; if he had continued to do what was necessary to protect Israel from the enemies of God, he would have been removed from the temptation.

When we take ourselves away from the things of God; the battle for souls and things that strengthen faith, we create distance from God.  When we stop reading our bible or praying we’re drifting away from God.  The closer you are to God the less likely you are to sin.  When we’re close to God it is difficult to get something between us and God.  It’s much easier when there’s a distance between us and God.

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the enemy [God].  It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that they’re cumulative effect is to keep the man away from the light…Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.  Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Closeness to God eliminates opportunity for Satan to draw us into decisions that lead to sin.  Satan doesn’t force us to do anything; we make a decision to sin.

David stumbled on to Bathsheba.  It wasn’t something he was looking for, but when he asked who she was, and sent for her, he made a decision to sin.  That decision was the result of his traveling on a path that led to a separation from the will of God.

The Result of Sin

Bamboo is what biologists call an “extremely opportunistic” plant.  It wants to exploit all of the sunlight, water and nutrients for its own reproduction.  This plant isn’t concerned about the others in the garden and if left alone will destroy every other plant in the garden by robbing them of nutrients.

David has turned away from the Will of God.  He’s backslidden at heart.  We often think of backsliding as when we are already engaged in sin, but backsliding begins when we slide back away from God and pursue our own desires.  David was already backslidden when he sinned with Bathsheba.  He backslid when he tarried in Jerusalem, because he’d already begun the process of pulling away from the will of God.  All of the other things that took place were the result of that original sin of pulling away from God.

David and Uriah knew each other.  Uriah was a mighty man; one of David’s elite hand picked.  They were friends.  There was a camaraderie between them, but sin is selfish.  David’s not thinking of Bathsheba; He’s not thinking of Uriah.  He’s thinking only of David.  David’s not even thinking of his children, because sin always computes out in our children’s lives.  David’s sin played out in his children’s lives in a way he didn’t expect.

Deuteronomy 5:9 (NKJV)
5:9 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,

Sin in our lives follows us into the next generations.  In David’s case his son Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar – selfishness and lust.  David is angry but he can’t judge the sin in Amnon.  He can’t judge the sin that he himself had fallen into, but Absalom, Tamar’s brother did judge it and killed Amnon.  Absalom went into exile after that, and when given the right to return, he tried to usurp the government of his father.  Look at his reasoning:

2 Samuel 15:4 (NKJV)
15:4 Moreover Absalom would say, "Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice."

He believed that his sister never received justice, so he overthrew the kingdom.  David’s sin played out in his children’s lives.  Their lives came under the influence of sin and it destroyed them.

Bamboo can infect not only the garden in which it’s planted but it can spread and affect another garden that’s next door.  The rhizomes being underground can easily pass under a fence and into the garden of a neighbor.  Our neighbors in Riverside planted Bamboo next to their fence in order to give them privacy.  My wife had to be constantly digging and cutting rhizomes that passed under the fence in an effort to keep them out of our yard.

Amos 1:9 (NKJV)
1:9 Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, And did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.

Tyre and Israel had a relationship of brotherhood at one point.  It’s a picture of relationship between people in the congregation; regard, concern – I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine.  But Tyre sold out the relationship when they broke the covenant of brotherhood.  They joined with the enemy of Israel and instead of living peacefully they sold out – Every man for himself.

In the garden the assault is underground and it isn’t until the stalk manifests itself that the assault can be recognized.  By then it can be too late and only a pitched battle will save the garden.

The church can’t be protected from what is hidden.  Discord in relationships, loss of dominion causes the church to stall.  Sin in the church affects us all.  The effort turns to keeping people from scattering and forward momentum stops.

Eradicating the Bamboo

Bamboo can be beaten, but in order for that to happen the rhizomes must be found and removed along with the original stalk.  It must all be removed.  Any stalk that’s left will begin to put out rhizomes.  Any rhizome left will put up other stalks.  In order to defeat it it must all be destroyed.

2 Samuel 12:13-18 (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. 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die." 15 Then Nathan departed to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became ill. 16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, "Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!"

David recognizes his sin and repents.  This is more than just crying out he’s actively contending for God to move.  The relationship must be restored.  The connection to God will must be strengthened.  The consequences of the sin played out in the death of the child, but God restored David – never removing him as king.  God blessed him later as he allowed his son to rule after him.

1 Kings 15:4-5 (NKJV)
15:4 Nevertheless for David's sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; 5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

It took David contending to live for God after that.  We have to have a resolve to live for Jesus. 

Have you ever taken a piece of paper and folded it over, then torn the paer along that line?  When it’s been folded it’s easy to tear it along the fold, because that fold becomes a weakness in the paper.  Sin, when we have fallen once, will attack us at that same place; that fold in our lives seeking once again to gain entry into that weak place.

We must contend in order to overcome.  Where is victory found?

1.        Remember that what is hidden from people God sees.  When we know that wickedness lies in our heart yet we fear God we can have victory.

Matthew 10:28 (NKJV)
10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

2.        The second thing that brings victory is a right relationship with your pastor.

Hebrews 13:7 (NKJV)
13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

Hebrews 13:7 tells us to submit as well.  Your pastor will hold you accountable for your sin.  That’s why I call my pastor, Pastor and not by his name.  I have submitted my life and I’m accountable to him.

3.        Don’t neglect your relationship with Christ.

Hebrews 2:3 (NKJV)
2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

This Scripture speaks directly to our relationship with Jesus. 

If you want victory do the things you’re supposed to do:  Pray, read your Bible, go to church, and be in fellowship with your pastor.  Stay vigilant, looking for and judging sin.  Root every bit of sin out of your life, so that it can’t spread into other sin.  Finally, contend for victory.  Fight to remain in the will of God, and free from sin.