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, June 28, 2010

We Are What We Speak

When former president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, was running for Senate, he got the idea to release an extremely vile rumor about his opponent. He called in his campaign manager and explained what he wanted to do. The campaign manager said to him, “You can’t say that, it’s not true.” Lyndon Johnson coolly replied, “I know it’s not true but let’s make him deny it, anyway.”

Lyndon Johnson understood the power of words. He understood that spoken words have the power to destroy. An accusation alone is often enough to derail a career or destroy a reputation. But in the same way words can destroy they can build up. Words have destructive power but they also have creative power. God spoke the world into existence.

Genesis 1:1-5
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

The whole first chapter of Genesis: The creation of the universe is like that. And God spoke; and God spoke; and God spoke. The world was created on the spoken word of God.

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was in the beginning with God.3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

This is the power of Word of God. And we can see that power today. Lives are built up and destroyed by the power of spoken words. Today, I want to write about the power of the words we speak.

Numbers 13:23-33
23 Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs.24 The place was called the Valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the men of Israel cut down there.25 And they returned from spying out the land after forty days. 26 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.27 Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.28 “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there.29 “The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.” 30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.33 “There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

The Power of Words

This is an interesting moment in scripture. Moses has sent twelve men to spy out the Promised Land. This is the land that God has given to Israel in the Promise to Abraham. This is the promise that was eight hundred years in the making. These men have gone and looked at the land that is the land of promise.

They have brought back something that represents the blessing of God they brought back with them this huge cluster of grapes. Two men had to carry it between them on a pole. It was huge. It is a sampling of the blessing and abundance of God

So here they have the faithful promise of God and visual picture of the blessing of God that’s in store for them, but what are they speaking? “The Land flows with Milk and Honey, nevertheless…” Do you know what that word nevertheless means? It means BUT, HOWEVER. Essentially they’re saying we have seen the promise of God and we see His blessing, BUT… Then they begin to speak words that sew fear into the hearts of the people.

Numbers 13:28
Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there

The people are strong; the cities are fortified; the land devours it’s inhabitants; there’s giants there…. we’re doomed, we’re all going to die. Look at the affect on the people.

Numbers 14:1-5
So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness!3 “Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”

They gave up. The can see the grapes, the visual picture of the blessing and promise of God. But it is the words that are spoken that influence them.

It’s just like listening to the news today. Global warming…we’re all going to die. The Oil spill…our way of life is over. Your cell phone can give you cancer…Swine flu will kill us all…George Bush…Hurricanes…the economy. Come on! Everything is about fear and discouragement. Don’t think this stuff doesn’t have an influence on people. The dirty little secret is, that’s what it is intended to do. It is intended to discourage us.

The real problem is that too often, we speak words that lead to our own discouragement. “I’m not very smart…I can’t do it…I’m afraid I’ll fail…What if I get sick?…I’m depressed, doom, gloom, despair” Even worse than that, we speak words of discouragement to and about each other. “You can’t do that…Are you sure you’re right…You’re so lazy…You’re such a b****."

It was Vladimir Lenin, leader of the communist revolution in Russia who said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth," and he should know.

Examine the words that you speak. Are your words designed to encourage or discourage? Do the words that you speak build up the hearer or tear him down?

The interesting thing about words is that they don’t have to be spoken to a person to affect them. In Numbers Chapter 23 Balak, the king of Moab calls Balaam to curse Israel for him. Apparently, Balaam is famous for this. He’s the “go to” guy when you want to curse someone. Look at what Balak says about him, “for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” So Balaam goes to Balak so that he can curse Israel. But God doesn’t allow him to speak a curse, instead he gives him blessing to speak.

Numbers 23:5-11
5 Then the LORD put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.”6 So he returned to him, and there he was, standing by his burnt offering, he and all the princes of Moab.7 And he took up his oracle and said: 1 “Balak the king of Moab has brought me from Aram, From the mountains of the east. ‘Come, curse Jacob for me, And come, denounce Israel!’8 “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced?
9 For from the top of the rocks I see him, And from the hills I behold him;
There! A people dwelling alone, Not reckoning itself among the nations.
10 “Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, And let my end be like his!” 11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and look, you have blessed them bountifully!”

Look at the reaction of Balak. He’s beside himself. He’s very upset. “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies and you have blessed.” But who has Balaam spoken to? He hasn’t stood on a cliff overlooking the people and yelled a curse down on them. He’s only spoken to Balak. But the words are released. The words are spoken and Balak is upset because it’s blessing that is spoken out loud. What we speak can affect people whether they hear it or not. I’ll give you an example: Couples who struggle in marriages:

Every couple has difficulties, do you know that? All of us fight, all of us have discord, but there is a commitment there. But something happens when the word “Divorce” is spoken out loud. “I’m sick of this, I ought to divorce him/her.” Right at that moment, even if it is spoken in anger, without really meaning it. It’s out there and the possibility is opened up. It would be interesting to know how many couples really never thought of divorce, until one or the other of them said that. I know this is true, because how many times have you talked to a divorced person who said, “I still love him, or I still love her.” As a pastor I’ve heard it often enough.

The same can be true of adultery. When you say it out loud it lodges in your mind. You begin to think about, steer toward it until eventually it happens.

Here is another interesting thought, what you say is what you do. Your actions will follow your words. If you say, “I can’t do that,” you won’t, because you have already given up. Our actions will always follow our words. In other words, what you speak is what you become. “I hate her.” “I can’t trust him.” “I’m a loser.” Remember a lie spoken often enough becomes the truth.

Words Can Build Up

You know, I praise God for my parents. They always taught me that I could succeed at whatever I put my mind to. They always spoke words of encouragement. I believed that I could do whatever I wanted with my life. My being in Taiwan and doing what I’m doing is proof of the power of those words.

What kind of things are you speaking to the people in your life? Are you encouraging them and building them up? Or do you words have the opposite affect. Are those words putting the brakes on their ambition and they abilities? In other words, are your words blessings or curses?

In our text the words that were spoken and the reactions of the people led to the loss of the Promised Land for an entire generation. Only two men from that generation saw the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb: The two dissenting spies. Everyone else who heard those words died in the wilderness. Why only Joshua and Caleb? Their words were filled with faith and blessing.

Numbers 14:6-9
6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes;7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land.8 “If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’9 “Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

How did he know that, because he knew the words of God? God said those exact words to Israel five times. The most recent being:

Leviticus 20:24
24 ‘But I have said to you, “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples.

Joshua heard those words spoken by God through Moses and they had a powerful affect on him. He has faith. It is the spoken word that brings faith. It’s not a bad thing to read the Bible, to sit quietly and read the printed words. But the Bible tells us that faith comes from hearing.

Romans 10:17
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It is the spoken word of God that brings faith. That’s why it is so important for us to witness and testify. The word of God spoken through us in faith brings faith to another person. It also has the added benefit of strengthening our faith as we hear our selves speak words of faith.

Romans 1:17
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

We sometimes think it was the miracles that Jesus did that brought people to faith. But the miracles were demonstrations of the things Jesus preached and spoke. There is a passage of scripture in John chapter 6, where Jesus is telling the people about his purpose. He makes a statement that causes them to understand that his purpose is not what they’re seeking from him and so they turn away. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them, “Are you going to go away also.” Look at Peter’s response:

John 6:68
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Notice that he didn’t say, “You have the miracles and the signs.” He said you have the words of Eternal Life. It was the words of Jesus that infused Peter with faith. It was the words that had the power of Eternal Life. God used words to bring the universe into existence; Jesus used words to bring Eternal Life.
Often we don’t stop and consider the words that we speak. People think that they can say anything as long as they say, “Just kidding,” as if the “just kidding,” erases the words that were already spoken. We need to be mindful of the words we speak. It’s better to speak words that encourage, words of blessing, words that build up. Do you want to improve your marriage, speak words that uplift? Tell her that you love her. Tell him he’s a good man, that you respect him.

Romans 14:19
19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.

That word “edify” means to build up. It comes from the edifice. An edifice is a huge building. The word implies strength; it implies security. The Taipei 101 is an edifice.

People are so fragile, sometimes; they can be destroyed by a callous word. I don’t want to be responsible for destroying someone because of my callousness. I wan to speak only words that will edify. I want my words to be an encouragement, a blessing and not a curse.

You know one of the reasons I’m glad I’m not in Southern California anymore? I got so tired of people always being so negative. I got tired of being cussed out. I got tired of hearing attacks on other people. I used to enjoy following politics, but the political system these days is all about attacks. It’s not “This is what I’m going to do for my country.” It’s “My opponent is a liar, and idiot….whatever.” What did Hillary Clinton call it? The Politics of Personal Destruction.

I’m not into it anymore. I want to hear the words of Eternal Life. I want to hear words of edification. But I need also to speak them. I can speak words of encouragement into the heart of another person. I can speak words of encouragement into my own heart. I want to be like Balaam, only I want to be famous for blessing and not cursing.

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