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 16, 2012

Who's Excellent?

The people in the above video are doing excellent things.  They are doing things that are extremely difficult.  They have to put great effort and time into learning and perfecting these things.  But they have no eternal value.  These things are to please men not God.  And all of them have succeeded.  These things are impressive but they’re of little value.  They’re entertaining and exciting, but what value do they have beyond that?

“Human excellence means nothing unless it works with the consent of God.”

Today I want to explore excellence within the framework of the will of God. 

Colossians 3:22-25 (NKJV)
3:22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

Are We Excellent?

According to Mirriam-Webster Dictionaries, excellence can be defined as:  very good of its kind: FIRST-CLASS

"Excellence in any art or profession is attained only by hard and persistent work."
Theodore Martin

Have you taken any time to examine what you’re doing for God?  What are the things you’re doing for God.  Have you set aside any time for Him and His purposes? 

Excellence is seen in a number of ways:  I’m reading Steve Jobs biography right now, and there’s an interesting anecdote about jobs’ stepfather.  He’s the type of man that likes to restore cars and do things with his hands.  At one point Jobs was watching and helping as his father built a cabinet.  And his father was taking time to make sure that everything about the cabinet was done right and looked beautiful…even the parts no one would ever see.  He used high-quality wood even for the back of the cabinet. That’s excellence.

Wanting to be sure that the finished product is high-quality; not throwing something together that looks good on the surface but taking the time and putting in the thought to do it right.  That’s doing something with excellence.

In our day and hour so many things are done to give the appearance of excellence without actually being excellent.  For example, I was reading about a car company in Finland that developed a high-end electric car.  These cars look like sports cars, they have beautiful interiors.  They sell for more than $100,000 USD each.  But a couple of weeks ago every single car that they’ve built was recalled, because they have a fire risk.  They spontaneously burn up.  The engineering on the battery system, that no one would see, was not up to industry standards.  They have the appearance of quality but they’re not excellent. 

This translates to how we do things for God as well.  If you look around at the church world you see beautiful modern buildings, with all the latest technology, all of the programs.  I know one church that even has a Starbuck’s right on their campus.  On the surface they’re the ideal of the modern, “Super Church.”  I’m not saying that these things are bad in and of themselves.  But inside, people are not involved in real evangelism or winning sinners to Jesus.

We used to have a booth at a night market type event in Riverside and for a while they put us next to this other church.  I listened to the way people talked to people who stopped at their booth.  They talked about all the programs…”We have a singles ministry, we have a volleyball ministry, we have coffee shop and Christian bookstore.  Who are they trying to get to the church with those kinds of things?  As a sinner I never would have set foot in a Christian bookstore.  So whom are they trying to reach…other Christians, maybe?  So then evangelism just becomes an exercise at getting people in the door.  It’s not about getting them saved; it’s about filling the pews.  I wonder if God looks at these things and calls it excellence.  Is that meeting the standards of God will?  Or is it putting the face of evangelism on a marketing strategy. 

In my last post I talked about how each of us has strengths that can overcome each other’s weaknesses:  That maybe you’re strong in an area where someone else is weak.  In that way we can overcome our weaknesses and as a church we can be effective at reaching people. That’s why Christianity isn’t an individual pursuit.  That’s why the church was intended to be a body of believers.  But excellence as a body is dependent on us being excellent as individuals.  If all of us are doing what we do with excellence then our efforts as a group will be excellent. 

If you’re involved in ministry, take a look at your ministry efforts, are you doing what you’re doing with excellence?  If you’re not involved with your church’s ministry, is that meting the standards of God’s calling on your life?  Are you excellent in the things of life, work, family, marriage, but not doing anything for God? 

What does our scripture say?  “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,” (Col 3:23)

The first part of this scripture is in this context:  Do what you do as if you’re doing it for God.  Do what you do with excellence, not just to look good, but because it’s the right thing to do.  That means every aspect of our worldly life.  We need to obey our bosses, because it’s the right thing to do, not because we want to look good for them so they will reward us with a raise or a promotion or whatever.  It also means every aspect of our spiritual life as well.  We should desire to be as much like Jesus as possible, and jesus did everything with excellence.

The Excellence of God – Being like Him

God is into us being excellent, because God is excellent.

Job 37:23 (NKJV)
37:23 As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him; He is excellent in power, In judgment and abundant justice; He does not oppress.

Psalms 8:1 (NKJV)
8:1 To the Chief Musician. On the instrument of Gath. A Psalm of David. O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

I look around me and marvel at the earth and the things of the earth.  How everything fits together and works together perfectly.  Look at your hand for a moment.  It’s the perfect tool isn’t it?  You can use it to do so many things.  How your body is made.  So many things such complexity and every thing works together perfectly.  How your mind works alone is amazing.  There is a book called “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” that talks about how our bodies work. 

 In our bodies alone we can see the excellence of God.  How much more is it evident in the rest of the universe?  Look at this scripture:

Romans 1:20 (NKJV)
1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

We can see God in the details of creation.  God’s excellence shows in his creation.  Who is the creator of the universe?

John 1:1-3 (NKJV)
1:1 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.

According to John, Jesus is the creator of the universe; everything that was made was made through Him.  He’s the creative power of the universe.  So the question becomes, who are we?  Are we His disciples?  If we’re here to learn from Him and be like Him then we are His disciples. 

That’s the definition of a disciple.  Not just someone who learns but someone who desire to be like their teacher.  When mwe go to school we’re learners, right?  We go there to learn many things, does that make us disciples of our teachers?  No, because the desire to be like the teacher is what makes us a disciple.

I was talking to a brother in the Zhongli church, the other day and he was telling me about one of the new guys in the church.  He talks to him; he was showing up late for church and this brother tells him, “I’m never late, because I want to get all I can get from God.”  So the guy listens to him and begins to come to church on time. That’s the discipleship process.  That’s what being a disciple is about being like the one who teaches.  So if we are disciples of Christ then we should desire to be like Him in every way.  That includes doing what we do with excellence.

I want to look at two men of the Bible who did the things they did with excellence.  The first is Joseph.  We know the story of Joseph.  His brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt.  Then his master’s wife lied and he went to prison.  Then he got out and became Pharaoh’s right hand man.  But take a look at Joseph’s character for a moment.  I want you to see something about how he did things:

Genesis 39:4-6 (NKJV)
39:4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. 5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. 6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph's hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

So Potiphar put everything he had into Joseph’s control. He didn’t even know what he had except what was set on the table before him.   Can you imagine?  Everyday he sat down and said “Oh look bread!  I guess we’re not broke yet.”  That’s big-time trust isn’t it? 

Joseph didn’t let him down either.  The Bible says the Egyptian was blessed for Joseph’s sake.  Because God wanted to bless Joseph, Potiphar got blessed, because Joseph did what he did with excellence.  Is your boss blessed because you work there?  Joseph was excellent in prison and the jailer trusted him over all the other prisoners.  He was excellent in his work for Pharaoh.  His diligence saved Egypt and Israel from the famine.

The other one I want to look at is Daniel:

Daniel 6:1-4 (NKJV)
6:1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.

Daniel has an excellent spirit; he was given to excellence in all that he does.  There was no error found in him:  None, zip zero nada, 零.  He has an excellent spirit so the king trusted him above all the others.  As Christians people should be able to see that in us.  You know, we can’t do everything perfectly, we’re human, but perfection isn’t excellence, anyway. Excellence is found in faithfulness, giving your best effort and attention to detail.  It’s from doing it the very best you know how and learning from the mistakes you made and doing it better the next time. 

As an executive I never got angry just when there was a failure on somebody’s part.  If they did what they did with their best effort I would just point out the error and we’d go on.  But if they were careless or kept making the same mistake and never learning from it then there’d be fireworks.  Excellence is found in giving your best.

Being Excellent

How are we excellent?  It’s found in verses 23 and 24 of our text:

Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)
3:23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

So what is it constitutes excellence?  Doing everything as if we’re doing it for Jesus, know that in Him we have our reward.  Isn’t it interesting that God cares about how we do things?  Do you know why God is interested in how we do our tasks; how well we work for our bosses; how well we do what the things we do for Him?  He cares because it reflects on the Gospel. 

People should see Christ in us.  That means being excellent.  People should see the power of God to change lives in us.  That means overcoming our weakness and sin.  People should see the excellence of God in us, because we are living as much like Him as we can.  Because we’re His followers we should be like Him and that means being excellent in our approach to everything.  Can you imagine what a powerhouse our churches could be in our communities if everyone in the church approached the call of God with excellence?   We could turn the world upside down.

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