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.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Guarding the Fruit

Editor's Note:  The theme for our church this year is that this is "2015 is the Year of Fruitfulness."  We have a desire to see the church built in Taoyuan City and spreading to the rest of Taiwan.  This sermon was preached on a way to impart the vision to bear fruit, that will be lasting and remain until Christ's return.  I fruit is borne then it is important that we guard the fruit so that it cannot be stolen or slip away.

I used to work with a woman that had a saying when you asked in she was busy.  She would say, “I’m busier than a one-eyed fox watching two hen-houses.”  She had a lot of other colorful phrases but I wouldn't use most of them.  What she was saying is that it was difficult to do a good job at any one thing because there were so many other things to do. 

We all have busy lives, don’t we?  We’re all busier than one-eyed foxes, but there are some things we need to focus on.  Jesus has given us a task.  He has placed a burden on us, and that is that we’re to reach our generation.

John 15:15-16 (NKJV)15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

It is appointed to us that we should bear fruit and that our fruit should remain.  In order for fruit our fruit to remain we need to protect it.  Today, I want to write about protecting the fruit that we have been.

1 Kings 20:38-40 (NKJV)20:38 Then the prophet departed and waited for the king by the road, and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 Now as the king passed by, he cried out to the king and said, "Your servant went out into the midst of the battle; and there, a man came over and brought a man to me, and said, 'Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.' 40 While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone." Then the king of Israel said to him, "So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it."
Guard this Man

The context of this is that the King of Syria threatened Israel, and God delivered them over into israel’s hands.  God wanted the King of Syria dead, but Ahab the king of Israel let him go.  He saw an opportunity to make some money, so basically he refused to do what God wanted.  He was disobedient and this prophet let him know what God said.

I think there’s a lesson for us in this warning.  We are called, (The Bible says appointed) to bear fruit and that the fruit we bear should remain.  If that’s the case then we are called to guard the fruit.  To guard the man we are given to guard; to not let the fruit “slip away.”

Let’s look for a moment at the excuse that’s given for the loss of the prisoner, “While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.”  The guard got too busy “here and there” to pay attention to what he was given to do.  Here and there seems to imply that he was busy with many things.  He was jut going about daily life and the man slips away – he’s just gone.  The result is that the guard has to pay with his life for losing the prisoner.

There is a task that is appointed to us:  To bear fruit and that our fruit should remain.  So we have the same task as the guard; to keep the fruit that was given to us.  That fruit should not be allowed to slip away, and that’s the challenge isn't it?  How do we keep people serving God?  How do we inspire people to remain in the will of God?  We are often distracted by our busyness. 

The guard in the text tells the king I was busy here and there, “I had things to do; things that needed my concentration; things that were no doubt important, but that’s why he was lost.  It wasn't me it was all that I had to do that allowed him to slip away.”

That’s what he’s saying, “I had things to do so I couldn't pay enough attention to the man and he escaped while I was busy with all those things.  It’s not my fault…it was my busyness.”  The king called it a decision.

That’s interesting isn't it?  The man decided that the things he was busy with were more important than guarding the man.  You’d think that with his life on the line, making sure the prisoner didn't escape would be his highest priority…but the prisoner was ignored and he got away.  Has that ever happened to you?

Have you ever focused on some trivial task that you ere doing and lost track of the time?  Have you ever been so intent on doing one task that you forgot to do something that was more important?  We've all done that.

The reality of it is that you've made a choice.  You have given priority to the lesser thing.  We often allow the things we’re busy with get in the way of the larger thing, which is obedience to God.  Look at this moment in the lives of Martha and Mary.  They’re friends of Jesus:

Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)10:38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Martha is busy, she’s trying to serve all of these people who've come to her home.  Her sister Mary has chosen to sit and listen at Jesus’ feet..  Martha was distracted with too much serving.  She was too busy to hear from Jesus.  She was too busy for the word of God.  She was preoccupied with the lesser task.

We are often like this.  I’m too busy for Bible Study.  I have too many other things to do that I can’t go on outreach.  I’m too busy here and there.  I don’t have time to help anyone who is struggling with staying saved.  God should keep them.  Well, He’s given us that job – To guard the fruit.

I think that sometimes we get distracted with all of our church tasks and lose sight of the talks of keeping the fruit.   We’re too busy for new relationships.  One of the concerns in our church is, whether or not people have relationships with people in the church, outside of the church.  Do they spend time with others in the church?  Do they talk to each other?  Do they pray for each other?  Do they have any concern for others in the church and their salvation, or are they too busy here and there?

Am I saying you should put your life on hold to only church things?  Of course not, we all have to work and raise kids, and do what we have to do.  But I believe there’s a balance to do the will of God.  For years, I balanced a full-time job; my family and my church activities, so I know it can all be balanced.

Some people say they’re just too busy, but they have time for a lot of other things.  When it comes to new people coming into the church, you don’t have to invite them to come and live with you, but how about a friendly lunch after church, or a phone call once in a while.  Make them feel cared about.  Make a friend.  Find out what you have in common and invite them to do that, that’s how you made the friends you have now.

The best friends that I have in life started out just like that; someone reached out to me when I first came to church.  Helping people to lock into church is vital for their spiritual well-being.  It’s the way we guard the fruit – not letting it slip away.

It’s Part of Being of One Accord

Look with me again at John 15:16:

John 15:16 (NKJV)15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

That appointment to bear fruit is attached to a promise: That whatever you ask in my name, He may give you.  Another translation says it like this, “In order that whatever you might ask the father in my name, he may give you.” (Weust Expanded New Testament).  When you say “in order” it means that one thing follows the other.  It’s like saying “If you will bear fruit and that fruit remains, then whatever you may ask of the Father he will give it to you.” 

The context of this statement is telling the disciples, “I no longer call you servants but friends, if you do what I command.”  A friend understands what the master is doing.  With a servant, that’s not necessarily true:  he servant does things because the master ordered them to do it. A friend, on the other hand, does what he does because he’s in agreement.  Your friends don’t do what you tell them to do, just because you told them to, they do what they agree with.  So this context tells us that the disciples are in agreement with Jesus.  When they follow His orders they are of one accord.  They have the same purpose.  They have the same priorities.

What if we’re not in agreement?  What if we’re not of one accord?  Will the people we reach be fruit that remains?  I think if we’re not of one accord then there will be hesitation to make them feel welcome.  People will resist reaching out to others.  People will resist following up on new believers.  Follow-up is essential to having fruit that remains.  They come to church and they expect the pastor to be friendly.  It’s part of his job description – be friendly.  It’s the congregation’s response they’re looking for.  They wan to know what the people in the congregation are like.  Fruit that remains indicates that we are in one accord.

John 17:11 (NKJV)17:11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

That they may be one – in thought and purpose
As we are one – in thought and purpose:

That they will remain united in thought and action as the ones that came before them were united, so that they will all be of one accord.

Now look at this prayer of Jesus:

John 17:20-21 (NKJV)17:20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Jesus is praying that we as believers will be of one accord so that the world will know that this real:  That this is ordained of God.  I we are all of a different mindset then there’s no real difference between us and the world.

This is often my prayer.  I sometimes wonder why there are things that are visible in people’s lives in our congregation that I wouldn't want in my life.  Why do I feel so strongly about certain spiritual principles and people in the congregation don’t.  If we’re not of one accord it results in confusion for the newcomers, and in confusion that fruit cannot remain.

How to Bear Fruit and Have it Remain

I believe that there are several things that we as a congregation can do to see out church grow.  How many people realize that church growth is more dependent on the congregation than the pastor?  People don’t come to church because the pastor is great.  They come because of the congregation.  They come because of relationships they have or want to have with people in the church. We need to focus on the people we've been given.  We need to include them in our lives, and show them they’re accepted.  There’s a need for us all to come to be of one accord, because we’re not all going in the same direction.  We don’t all participate in the strategy of the church to reach souls.  There is a need for people in the congregation to share in the vision of the church to reach the lost.  People should begin to rise up and take on for themselves a personal vision to reach other people that works together with the church’s vision.

We can’t be afraid to reach out to people who may not be the “type” of people we’re comfortable with.  Those that seem to be the least lovable are often those who most need to be loved.

We can’t be afraid to witness or to share our testimony with people.  We don’t always know what they struggle with in life and your struggle may be the same type of thing they with which they struggle.  The thing that most touched me and brought me to the will of God was a drama about Mexican gangsters, when I had never had any experience at all with them.  The drama touched on an area of struggle in my life, with which other people, regardless of culture or ethnicity, may struggle.

Finally, it is important that we do not neglect those that do come.  Reach out to them.  Make friends with them.  Help them to feel like they are a part of something.  Show them that we care about them, so that they will desire to remain.  This is how we guard the fruit and don’t allow it to slip away.

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