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 17, 2015

The Power of Decision

 A number of years ago there was a sports show on television called “The Wide World of Sports.”  The show began with a montage of sports action with a voice over that said these words:  “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  The video footage showing during the words, “the agony of defeat,” was of a ski jumper by the name of Vinko Bogotaj, who crashes while racing toward the bottom of the jump.  In the crash he falls off the side of the jump structure.  It’s a brutal crash.  He could have been killed.

Few people know, though, that Bogotaj intentionally ended the jump before he could fly.  He was jumping at the end of the day and cooling temperatures had caused the snow to become icy. He realized that he was gaining too mush speed; that he would land beyond the landing slope and could potentially be killed.  He was forced to make a decision that, even through it was a great risk, he would have to try to stop himself.

We are often faced with the same kind of decisions, where we have to weigh out what is the greater danger.  When ewe make a decision with great risk we need to put all of our energy in to seeing the decision we make be successful.

I’ve heard Pastor Mitchell, make the statement, “man has a sovereign will (what we call free will), and God will not violate that.”  In other words, he’s saying that we make our own choices.  God doesn’t make decision for us.  He may set up circumstances by which a decision must be made, but ultimately it’s up to us.  We are the ones who decide what we’ll do with those circumstances. 

We make many decisions over the course of our lifetimes.  One of the decisions that we make is whether or not we’ll step into the will of God for our lives.  Will we accept our salvation?  Often this is a simple decision, like the one the skier had to make?  Sin is killing me; quit or not?  Once that decision is made it leads to a much more difficult decision.  What am I willing to do to stay in the will of God?  This is the real decision, because many times what happens to us is that we get saved and we make some changes in our lives.  We step out of the overt sin.  Most Christians aren’t drug addicts any more, but is that all the will of God entails? 

There are decisions that we make that are less clear and more uncertain.  If we have a sovereign will and God will not violate that then, ultimately being in the will of God comes down to a decision that we make.  Today, I wan to post on the power of decision, from this passage of scripture:

Esther 4:6-17 (NKJV)
4:6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king's gate. 7 And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries to destroy the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people. 9 So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: 11 "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days." 12 So they told Mordecai Esther's words. 13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" 17 So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.

The Circumstances of Decision

We are all familiar with this portion of scripture,  the Jews are living under the king of Persia, who has given power to a man who despises them, and has determined to have them killed.  He has taken a decree to the king that calls for the annihilation of the Jews, and that order has been granted and has gone out.  This is in place; it’s going to happen.  On a certain day the people will rise up and kill all the Jews. 

So, this is a time of desperation.  There is a great need for deliverance.  If you think about it for a moment, it’s also a picture of us in the bondage of sin.  There is impending death:  the wages of sin is death.  There is the jealous and angry hater of the Jews:  Satan despises us, too.  There is a sense of desperation that the people will survive.

How many of you reading this were desperate at the moment when you made the decision to get saved?  Many of us had come to the end of our rope and there was nowhere else to go.  Maybe you were in prison.  Maybe you were facing death.  Many of  you had destroyed your life in another way.  There was a desperate quality to our lives.  Change or die.  So we came to a place where decision became necessary.  The circumstances were against us, we had come to the place of decision, like Vinko Bogotaj,  A decision had to be made, “Do I continue down the jump or do I throw myself off the ramp?”

In our text there is certain annihilation of the Jews by their enemies. There is something that can be done to bring deliverance, but that thing is done at great risk.  The time for a decision has come. 

Think of wjhat must have gone through Bogotaj’s mind as he hurtled down the ramp.  He knew by the speed that he was traveling that he was in grave danger if he continued.  But there must also be the question is his mind, “What will happen if I throw myself down on the ramp?”  he would no longer be in control and a fall from the ramp at high speed was also very risky.  This is a crisis point requiring a decision.  A decision must be made. 

Esther is also weighing out the risks in the decision she has to make.   This is a crisis decision.  Do I allow the Jews to be annihilated?  Do I step in and risk the king’s wrath?  She made her decision, she struggled through the process and said, “Okay, I’m in the best position to influence the king, and I understand the risk of going to him, and she made her choice.

William James, the philosopher once said, “When you have to make a choice and don’t do it, that is a choice, in itself.

God has a will; there is a will of God and we know what that is. It is the salvation and deliverance of all of mankind.

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

We’re the ones who have to decide.  God can’t force us to love Him and repent, but many times what He does is lay out the consequences and let’s us make the decision.

Deuteronomy 30:14-19 (NKJV)
30:14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. 15 "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 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;

This is a call to a decision to be in the will of God.  God doesn’t force it on us; He lays out the consequences and says, “Now, what are you going to do with it?”  He will not violate our will.  He didn’t with Adam, He just laid out the consequences of violating the command, “You will surely die.”  He didn’t violate Esther’s will, either.  Mordecai just told her what would happen if she didn’t intervene on the Jew’ behalf.

Esther 4:13-14 (NKJV)
4:13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

Mordecai lays out the consequences, “You and your father’s house will perish,” and he calls her to a decision.  ‘Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”  “You decide, Esther, whether or not you will be used by God.  I won’t interfere with your decision.”  God didn’t interfere with their will and He won’t with our either.  We have a sovereign will.  So then it has to be that God moves through the decisions of men.  The Jews are delivered through Esther’s decision to risk it all. 

That’s why when I pray for people I pray that people will make decisions that will bring them deeper into the will of God.  I pray that they make decisions that bring about deliverance; that bring about a desire to obey God; that bring about a stronger relationship with God.  These types of decisions are decisions that can bring about a move of God. 

Do you want God to move in your circumstances?  If you do, then you have to make a decision that allows God to move.  I’m going to walk away from this temptation; that’s a deliverance decision that God can move in.  I’m going to do those things that will bring me closer to God.  God can move in that, but when you make decisions to distance yourself from the people of God or the Word of God you stifle God’s ability to move in your life.

Look at Psalm 119:106

Psalms 119:106 (NKJV)
119:106 I have sworn and confirmed That I will keep Your righteous judgments.

What’s the psalmist doing here?  He’s proclaiming a decision that he has made to love out the will of God.  He’s made a decision that gives God room to move in his life.  It’s the same with us.  I preach what God gives me to to preach and it’s up to you to decide what you will do with it.  You can make a decision to ignore what’s preached or you can latch onto it and apply it to your life.  Which decision is a decision that allows God to move?

There is a Commitment to Decision

President Andrew Jackson said, “Take time to ponder but when the time comes for action stop thinking and go!”

This is where the rubber meets the road.  Once you decide to be used by God you have to follow through.  That’s usually the hardest part.

Esther 4:16 (NKJV)
4:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"

I’m sure esther examined the choices available to her.  She understood that the king could have her killed for coming when she wasn’t called to come before him.  She knew the risk of the decision but she allowed it to play out.  “If I perish, I perish.”

This was life and death.  There were real consequences to this decision and she was going   to have to trust God.  Have you ever had to face life and death surgery?  When I was a baby I had a heart condition thatwas life threatening.  The only resolution for this problem was surgery, but the problem was that this surgery had never been performed on a six-month old child.  If I didn’t have the surgery the probability was that I would die.  If I did have the surgery the chances are that I wouldn’t survive the surgery.  So, if I didn’t have surgery I would likely die.  If I did have the surgery I could die, but not definitely die.  How would you like to make that decision?

There is a huge commitment inherent in that decision.  The doctors had to be committed to doing their very best to create the best possible outcome.  My parents had to be committed to accept the outcome whatever it might be, but ultimately there was nothing they could do.  It was in the doctors’ hands.  They had to trust them.

In Esther’s case, she was going to die if she didn’t talk to the king, but there wass also the possibility that she could die if she did.  Once she made up her mind it was all or nothing.  This kind of decision required a commitment to follow through.  She had to trust God.  Our decision to follow Christ must be an all out commitment to follow him:  All or nothing.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)
7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Thius is spoken to the church, isn’t it?  We have all done these things in His name.  These are the signs that follow them that believe.  Something has happened, though, these that have the signs that follow them that believe have been turned away at the door.  Entering in requires a commitment to the will of God.  It’s not a halfway thing; it’s all or nothing. 

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “One’s philiosophy is not best expressed in words.  It is expressed in the choices one makes.  In the long run we shape our lives and we shape ourselves.  The process never ends until we die.  The choices we make our ultimatly our responsibility.”

In other words, what we believe is expressed in our actions, in our decisions and in the way we live out those decisions.  In a pioneer church setting we often ask people, “Will you come to church, Sunday morning?”  “Will you be here, tonight?”  “Will you be at Bible Study on Wednesday?”  People often answer, “I’ll try.”  Do you know what “I’ll try” means?  It means no!  Successful people are not successful because they try.  They’re successful because they do whatever is necessary to make success happen.

People who enter into Heaven enter in because they lived out their decision to be in the will of God.  Remember the verse from Psalms?

Psalms 119:106 (NKJV)
119:106 I have sworn and confirmed That I will keep Your righteous judgments.

I’m not sure who the psalmist was, but we will see him in Heaven; he is committed to entering in.

What about you?  What do your actions speak about your commitment to serve God?  Are you serving God or are you trying?  Do you have both feet planted in the will of God or are you straddling the line?  A halfway commitment is no commitment at all.

Making the Decision Count

Someone once said, “The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to build and which bridge to burn.”

This quote speaks of wisdom.  It takes wisdom to weigh out certain circumstances ans all the ramifications of the decision at hand, and then make the wisest choice.  Moses found himself at this very place:

Hebrews 11:24-28 (NKJV)
11:24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

This is a pretty major decision that Moses made, right here.  He was the adopted grandson of Pharaoh.  He was in line to be king, and yet he turned away from the passing pleasures of sin and joined himself to the people of God.   This was an all or nothing decision on his part.

It required commitment, but according to the scripture there was something else; it required priority.  He gave priority to the things of God.  Esther did, as well, she gave priority to the people of God; to God’s will for them and for herself.

Esther 4:16 (NKJV)
4:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"

As she’s preparing herself to live out this decision, she gives priority to fasting and prayer.  I believe this is what gives her the faith to take the risk to go in before the king.  She’s able to trust God to deliver her and the Jews.

The more priority that we give to the things of God in our lives the stronger our faith will become.   We’ll be more likely to make a decision that God can move through.  Sometimes we feel so far away from God.  We feel like God isn’t moving in our circumstances, but we haven’t given him any priority or way in our lives.  We haven’t made any decision that allow Him to move.

We need to be like Esther and go all the way, no matter how it looks; no matter the risk.  How you prioritize your life will speak to what God can do in you.   All it really comes down to is a decision like Esther’s or Moses’.  You resolve within yourself what you want from God.  How much of God do you want in your life?  How much do you need God to move there?  Then you commit your time, your resources and yourself to that decision: All out Petal to the medal.  This is what I need and I’m going all the way to see it happen.  Make the things of God a priority in your life and you have opened up a door for God to move in your life.  You want to preach?  Make it happen.  You want ministry?  You know what it takes to have it.  You need God to move?  Give Him the ability to do it.  Don’t try – Just do it!

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