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, January 2, 2012

Knitting in Church

I have recently had surgery on my arm and the wound is at that stage where it's beginning to itch.  It’s very itchy.  That’s because the skin is knitting together.  When the surgeon cut my skin he separated it into two pieces.  It’s becoming one piece again.  It’s knitting together. 

In a church we take a number of individuals; separate pieces and we try to knit them together.  Try to put them together into one church.  When something is knitted together both parts become one, they move together they work together they go in the same direction seeking the same goals. 

What should be happening in any church is that everyone is becoming of one accord:  That everyone is moving together, striving together for the same thing.  It’s easy to look at the church and say that putting together outreaches and events, that witnessing and bringing in people is the job of the pastor, but if your heart and your pastor’s heart are knit together then you will be doing the same things the pastor is to reach people. 

This is my third post in a row on fellowship.  I’ve been preaching on it a lot, recently, in order to build the camaraderie among the people in my church.  I think it is important that we recognize our need to be together and to strive together.  W need to remember that we were brought together for a reason:  So that   we could bring our strengths and them to the strengths of others, overcoming each other’s weaknesses to win our city for Jesus. 

In this post I want to bring home the need to knit our hearts together.  I’ve said it before; Christianity isn’t a solo pursuit.  There is a call on each of us to reach people with the Gospel.  The call is on all of us, not just the pastor.  Jesus didn’t just send the apostles out to preach, He sent the seventy also.  That’s the pattern of the church of Jesus Christ. 

It isn’t a shepherd who makes sheep.  The sheep make more sheep.  Each of us has influence with people with whom your pastor could never have influence.  Each of you meet and rub shoulder with people whom he will never meet.  Look around your church, whom have you invited and brought in and led to Jesus?  I’m not talking about people from other churches; I’m talking about sinners. 

This is my first post for the New Year.  I preached this New Years Day, the day when people make resolutions for change in the following year.  I think this is a good time to evaluate our commitment to the will of God and make any resolutions necessary for the New Year.  So from this portion of scripture: 

1 Samuel 18:1-4 (NKJV)
18:1 Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father's house anymore. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

The Relationship

This scripture is talking about the knitting together of Jonathan and David’s hearts.  We can see from reading this that there is a deep relationship that has been started between the two men. 

In many ways we can see that the men are very much alike.  We know about Jonathan’s charge on the Philistine Garrison with his armor-bearer in 1 Samuel 14, and we know about David’s assault on Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.  They are the same kind of men.  They’re both courageous.  They’re both full of faith.  They’re both men of action; they took the action of their faith.  They trust God with their lives and expected God to bring about a supernatural victory.  They are kindred spirits.  That word kindred means that they are of a like nature:  They have the same spirit.

It’s interesting that they come from completely different backgrounds.  Jonathan is the eldest son of the king.  He is the next in line for the throne.  He has been raised with the best of everything.  He has given the best education in the kingdom to prepare him to rule the kingdom.

David on the other hand, is the youngest of the seven sons of a shepherd.  He works in the field as a shepherd, his education can’t compare with Jonathan’s.  They’re two different people that come from two different backgrounds and yet at this moment they’ve knit their hearts together.  What would cause that?

Why would them come so close together in this moment?  What is it that they have in common?  What is it that draws them together?  I believe it’s their faith in God.  What they share most is that they’re in the will of God. 

In our church we have a number of people from completely different cultures, educational backgrounds and interests, but one thing links us all together…Jesus.  The one overriding thing in our lives is Jesus. 

David and Jonathan’s desire to be in the will of God for their lives is the thing that knits their hearts together.  These two completely different individuals came together because of their desire to do the will of God.  It occurs to me thatwe can sall come together for the same reason. 

When we decided to come here we had the support of everyone in our home church.  Everyone supported the Taoyuan City church financially.  Everyone prayed for the Taoyuan City church..  Everyone was excited that THEY would be reaching another country through us.  The funny thing is that we are all very different.  Many of the people in that church came from Mexican gangs.  Many were drug addicts.  Many were alcoholics.  Some were high school dropouts.  Some are highly educated.  Many of them didn’t even know where Taiwan was.  Some people still ask me, “How’s the Thai food?’  But I don’t now, I live in Taiwan not Thailand. Most Americans are kind of geographically challenged.
The point is that they rallied behind our pastor’s decision t send us here.  They pray and support us even though we come from such different backgrounds.  Our hearts are knit together for the people of Taiwan.  We are of one accord.

There’s an interesting dynamic that took place in the early church that we can see in the Book of Acts:

Acts 2:1-4 (NKJV)
2:1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

They were all of one accord in one place; that’s when the Holy Spirit fell.  That’s when God came upon them and began to indwell in them.  When they were of one accord in one place. 

Acts 2:46-47 (NKJV)
2:46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

They were continuing daily with one accord in the temple.  When they were in one accord that’s when God added to the church.  When we’re not scattered and doing different things; when we’re together and on the same page, or knit together, that’s when God can bring increase into the church. 

Finally, look at this:

Matthew 12:25 (NKJV)
12:25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

If we are divided and scattered we are destined to desolation.  Do you know what desolation is?  It’s barrenness or a lack of fruitfulness.

Jonathan Gives Up the Kingdom

There is an interesting exchange that takes place in our text.  It’s found in verse number 4:

 1 Samuel 18:4 (NKJV) 18:4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

Jonathan takes of his robe and sword and belt and gives them to David.  The robe signifies Jonathan’s royalty.    It’s the thing that marks him as the king’s son and heir to the throne. It is the symbol of his inheritance of the throne.  By giving them to David he is transferring his royalty onto David.  In other words he’s saying, “You are now a part of royalty; you are now the successor to the king.”  We know that in1 Samuel 16, Samuel has already anointed David the King over Israel.  Jonathan is making a stand for the will of God.
Look at what happens later in their relationship.  Saul has decided to kill David.  In Chapter 18 he tries to pin David to the wall with a javelin.  In Chapter 19 he sends soldiers to David’s house to kill him in his sleep.  His wife, Michal, lowers him down the wall so he can escape.  He escapes to a city called Naioth.  Saul finds out and chases him to Naioth; David comes to Jonathan.

Finally, in Chapter 20, there is a big feast coming up.  Jonathan hatched a plan.  He told David to hide and when Saul asked Jonathan why David wasn’t in his place at the feast Jonathan would tell him that Jonathan had given David permission to go and worship.  Saul’s reaction would tell Jonathan if Saul was serious about killing David. 

So David and Jonathan followed the plan.  David missed the feast and when Saul asked Jonathan about David, Jonathan told him he had given David permission to miss the feast.  Look at Saul’s reaction:

1 Samuel 20:30-34 (NKJV)
20:30 Then Saul's anger was aroused against Jonathan, and he said to him, "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die." 32 And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said to him, "Why should he be killed? What has he done?" 33 Then Saul cast a spear at him to kill him, by which Jonathan knew that it was determined by his father to kill David. 34 So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had treated him shamefully.

It was obvious to Jonathan what Saul intended to do to David, so he warned David to flee.

So because his heart was knit with David’s Jonathan warned David to flee from Saul.  Jonathan has begun to protect David.  He knows by what Saul said that David will be the next king of Israel, not Jonathan.  He knows that saul as the authority wants David dead.  He’s going against his father’s wished because the will of God and his relationship with David are the most important to him. 

Sometimes, and this is especially true in Taiwan, the desires of our family members come into conflict with the will of God.  This can make serving God and being in the will of God difficult.  Something bad happens to the family and they look at you and say the reason this happened is because you have brought a curse on the family because you left the traditional Taiwanese religion.  There is anger and hostility.  This is exactly what happened to Jonathan, he came to a point where he had to decide between God’s will and his father’s.  Jonathan makes a stand against his father’s wishes because those wishes lie outside the will of God.

Look what the Bible says:

Luke 14:26 (NKJV)
14:26 "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

That word translated as hate doesn’t mean what we take it to mean today.  We use the word hate as a strong dislike for another.  The word literally means to love less.  So what Jesus is saying in this statement is that He comes first.  If we place Him first in our lives, then His will must also come before any others, including our own.

That’s why I can’t understand why so many things come before going to church and the other things Jesus has commanded us to do.  If you’re not doing his will, you’re not putting him first.  You may believe in him, but you’re not a disciple.  Jonathan put the will of God before everything else in protecting David.  God’s will came before his father’s will; it even came before being king.

What it Takes to Knit Our Souls Together

Today we need to take a look at where we are as individuals.  What are you doing to further God’s will?  Are you laboring to bring the Gospel to others in your community?  Do you have the same desire to build the church as your pastor?  Where is your personal vision with regard to the vision of the church?  Is your heart linked with your pastor’s?  Are you moving in the direction your church is going or are you doing your own thing?  Are you looking for what you can do within the pattern of your church or do you have a better idea?  Are you involved or are you thinking your role is to sit and watch?  Pretty tough questions, huh?  Your answers will tell you whether or not you are in aone accord with your pastor and your church.

There came a point in my Christian walk where I had to say, I’m going to surrender my will and my vision to the vision of my pastor.  If we’re all going in different directions we can’t move forward.  If we stay together we can accomplish what God is looking to accomplish in our city.

Let me give an example.  Say I’m walking down a path and across the path is a big Gate.  It’s welded shut.  It requires a key to open it.  Behind the gate are a lot of people.  The people are starving, some are hurt, some are suffering with sickness.  They need to be set free so they can be healed and helped.  I come to the gate and I try to push it open and nothing happens.  I fight and struggle and I manage to squeeze some between the bars a few are saved and the rest die. 

Or say there are a number of us there at the gate.  And we see the suffering people and we decide we need to help them.  So one person starts trying to dig a hole under the gate.  Another starts to chop down a tree to make a ladder.  A third starts to file at the weld on the gate.  We’re all doing different things but time is running out and before we can rescue everybody…most of them die.

But what if we come to that gate and all begin to work together.  One team begins to cut the lock and the others push on the door.  By working together we break the gate open and everyone escapes.  Which is the better way?

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