Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Vantage Points

Last year on Chinese New Year we had a car accident.  We were parked near an intersection and a truck cut the corner too tight and damaged the left rear quarter panel of our car.  When the police responded, the first thing he did was look to see if there was a camera on that intersection.  He talked to the other driver, he spoke to my wife, but then looked for the camera, because he wanted to see the accident from the camera’s vantage point.  The camera, because it was up on a pole had a wider view of the accident. It had a better vantage point to help the officer determine who was at fault.

That phrase VANTAGE POINT means a place or situation affording some advantage:  A comprehensive view or commanding perspective.  In other words, the camera’s angel and perspective of the accident gave the officer an advantage in determining who was at fault.

Today, I want to look at vantage points at work in our lives:

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NKJV)
30:19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."

Making Choices

How often do you make choices in a lifetime?  I don’t mean choices like which shirt to put on, or what to eat for breakfast.  I’m talking about life choices; decisions that affect more than day to day living. Decisions like who to marry, what job to take, or buying a home:  Decisions that can affect the outcomes of your life, or your children’s lives.

I don’t know about you but I've made a number of choices that have turned out to be life decisions.  Allowing my pastor to speak into my life was one.  Opening myself up to pioneering a church in Riverside, California was another.  Coming to Taiwan as a missionary was still another.  But there were others, too.  Moving to Southern California, marrying Brenda, having children, all of those things were life decisions.

Before I got saved I had to make my decisions alone.  I had to try and understand all of the effects of the decisions I was making.  How would it affect my future?  Would it open the door to opportunity?  Would this decision change the outcome of other decisions I had already made?  If you’re wise you have to examine all of those things, when you make an important decision. 

One of the things that people often overlook is, will this decision enhance or detract from my relationship with God?  Will it cause the relationship to be closer or will it begin the process of separation from the will of God?

The big problem with making decisions is that we can’t see the future.  We can’t know how situations or dynamics will change as we move forward, because we don’t have the proper vantage point to see clearly the outcome of the decision.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”?  It speaks of a limited perspective.  You can see what’s right before you but you can’t see the big picture.  You can see the parts and situations right in front of you, but you can’t see how those things make up your overall future.  We make a decision around one problem or obstacle and another one is immediately in our path that we have to make another decision to get around.  Because of our limited perspective we make a series of small decisions but have no idea if those will takes us in the direction we need to go to get out of the forest.

Our text is about making decisions; choosing blessing or choosing death.  When I say that we make decisions that enhance or detract from our relationship with God, I’m talking about choosing blessing or death.  There is the example of the prodigal son:

Luke 15:11-12 (NKJV)
15:11 Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood.
Here is a young man that’s made a decision.  It’s a life decision, but look at it:

He’s causing damage to family relationships.
He’s asking for his inheritance, which he’s not prepared to manage.
He’s leaving a loving father to travel far away.

I’m sure the outcome of that decision isn't what he intended.

Luke 15:13-16 (NKJV)
15:13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.

So what has he chosen?  He’s chosen death.  This is a parable, a story that Jesus has told to illustrate a point.  In this story the father represents God.  So, this young man has made a decision that moves him away from God.  It’s a decision that moves him out of God’s will for his life.  Think about his motivation for a moment.  I see this with young people all the time.  They’re eager to be on their own; to begin life on their own terms, away from the influences of their parents, but they need to be careful, because the decisions that they make can have unintended consequences. 

The same is true of us as adults.  Sometimes, we think we’re looking for the will of God, but actually are substituting our will for God’s will.  Decisions have to be made prayerfully and with an eye to unintended consequences. How will those decisions affect your children or your spouse later in their lives. 

Recently, we've seen people in our church make decisions that limit their access to the Word of God and the Will of God.  The problem is that limiting access to God is choosing death.  This is from our text, “choose life that you and your descendants may live.”

Deuteronomy 30:20a(NKJV)
30:20 that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.

That you may love the Lord and obey His voice and cling to Him… What kind of decisions are you making?  Are you limiting the time you spend in the presence of God?  Are you doing what’s necessary to cling to Him?  Are you obedient to the commands and will of God?  It’s in those decisions that we find life or death.

Choosing Life in the Twenty-First Century

There is no decision that we can make that doesn't come with some balance or sacrifice – Simon Sinek

When we decided to bring our family to Taiwan, to preach the Gospel, there were a number of trade-offs that we understood would take place.  We’d be moving thousands of miles from our support system.  We’d be giving up our country and all the things that go with living in the United States.  We had to sell our car, our home and most of what we had.  We gave up friends and family to move here.  That was the trade-off to being in God’s will.  We made a decision to choose God’s will.

It wasn't about making more money.  It wasn't about an advantage that we could gain over other people.  It really wasn't about what WE wanted.  It was about God’s calling and God’s will for our lives.  Our destiny is tied to Taiwan.  There were trade-offs.  There are always trade-offs but living the will of God is a choice.

When Abraham left Haran to follow God to that place, he left everything behind:  He left family, he left friends, he left everything.  He chose the to follow the call of God.  He got blessed, but first there was sacrifice.  He made his decision on God’s calling.  The first thing you have to do is determine what it is that God’s calling you to.  It’s backwards to go and then try to determine whether or not it was God’s call. 

Let’s look at Gideon for a moment.  God has called Gideon to fight against the Midianites, but Gideon can’t believe it.  Gideon thinks, “I’m not a leader.  I come from the lowliest family in all of Israel.” He’s not sure if it’s really God that’s called Him. He wants to be sure, because there is a lot a stake.  So look what he does:

Judges 6:36-40 (NKJV)
6:36 So Gideon said to God, "If You will save Israel by my hand as You have said-- 37 look, I shall put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said." 38 And it was so. When he rose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece together, he wrung the dew out of the fleece, a bowlful of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew." 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, but there was dew on all the ground.

Before he does anything else, he determines whether or not it’s God that’s called.  The thing is that God calls you according to HIS purpose.  God called Abraham to establish HIS promise.  God called Moses to deliver HIS people into the Promised Land.  God called Gideon to deliver HIS people from the oppression of the Midianites.  God always calls us to HIS purposes.

Do you want to know if it’s God that speaking to you?  If you do, then you have to determine what purpose God would have for that thing, you think is God’s calling.  God’s calling will be specific.  God doesn't call you to a place so you can get close to God.  He expects you to do that where you are.  God will have a specific purpose for your calling, something that will impact something God is doing.  When God called me to Taiwan I knew it was God because I understood His purpose in my coming here.

Granted there are benefits to me to be in Taiwan. It’s less expensive than living in the US.  I've met people whom I love, that I wouldn't have met if I stayed home.  I like living here, but that wasn't God’s purpose in my calling.  Those are the blessings of obedience.  The calling was for His purposes.

The Vantage Point

So why am I writing all of this?  Let’s go back to the forest for a moment.  We’re in the forest, among the trees.  Our vision is limited.  We can’t see past the obstacles to make a decision that will move us out of the forest.  We don’t have the proper vantage point for that, but God does.

Think of it like this, God is above; He sees the whole forest.  He sees where you are and where you need to be… He can guide you in the direction to go, to find your way out of the forest; to get past all the obstacles.  If you allow Him to He will order your steps.

Psalms 37:23 (NKJV)
37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

God directs our steps.  The steps of a good man are ordered. So God has a direction for you.  God has a plan for your life.  He’s calling you to something.  That’s what that means – the steps of a good man are ordered.  God can help you make a decision, but you have to be open to having your steps ordered.  Are you listening for God’s calling?  Are you really looking for God’s plan for your life?  Do you want God to order your steps?  If you’re not looking for God’s plan, it’s your plan you’re looking for.  If you’re not asking God to order your steps, then you’re asking God to make your plan work out.  “This is what I’m doing God, make it happen for me.”  Things turn out much better if we allow God to direct us. He’s up there looking at the direction you’re going.  “Turn right, there’s a big rock you won’t get past if you go left.  Stop, now go left because otherwise you’ll have that raging river to swim across.”  God can guide you around the obstacles in a way that will lead you out of the forest.

I was just reading a book on Mount Everest*.  This guy climbed the mountain and on the day he was supposed to summit, his Sherpa guide fell sick.  He was by himself.  He didn't have a Sherpa guide to help him.  So, he went alone.

He made it to the summit.  He took a few pictures.  He celebrated a few minutes up there, but on the way down something happened.  He went snow blind.  This is temporary blindness that comes from the reflection of the sun off the snow.  He was completely blind; he couldn't see at all and had to descend the mountain like that.  Here’s the thing, no one had ever survived that on Everest.  He thought he was going to die.  All he could think about was his family, his children and his wife, how much they would miss him, and how much they needed him.

Do you know what he did?  He fell down on his knees and prayed for God to guide him.  He prayed God would help him, show him where to put his feet, help him to find the fixed ropes. He turned himself over to God’s guidance.

He went through a lot that day.  A three-hour descent turned into a seven-hour one.  There were missteps and fumbles but he made it through.  He made it to Camp Four, were there were people that could help him.

We’re often like that guy.  We do things; we get ourselves into situations, because we make decisions on our own.  He knew he shouldn't have gone up alone, bit he didn't want to be distracted from HIS goal.  He was blinded by his pride.  He didn't know if there would be another opportunity to reach the summit on this trip or if he’d have to come back again.  He didn't weigh it all out; he didn't seek God, first.  He went out and then after got into trouble, he asked God to bail him out. 

He finally surrendered.  I can’t do this alone God.  I will never make it through this on my own.  God you have a better vantage point.  God you can see the direction better than I can.  God guide my steps – pick my direction.  I will be obedient to your plan and I will be blessed. 

As far as the future goes, we’re all snow blind, but if we surrender to His directions, God can see us through.

* Blind Descent: Surviving Alone and Blind on Mount Everest, Brian Dickinson, Tynedale Publishing, (c) 2014

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