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, April 18, 2016

Just Do It!

There are some people who like to think that they have faith.  They pray; they believe God; they do have a certain type of faith.  I’ve preached often enough that faith is action.  We take action based on our faith.  In other words, we live out what we believe.  Sometimes, though we’re hesitant to take a step of faith and even more than that sometimes we’re resistant to take a step of faith.  Today, I want to post on taking a step of faith:

Exodus 14:10-15 (NKJV)
14:10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?' For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness." 13 And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace." 15 And the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.

God Has Already Moved

Here, we stand with Israel after leaving Egypt.  They have fled the country and are standing before the Red Sea and Egypt’s army is bearing down on them.  It seems pretty dire at this moment, but is it really as hopeless as it seems?  Yeah, the people are fearful.  Yes, Egypt’s army is looking for blood and revenge.  It’s not going to be pretty if they catch them. 

You can’t really blame the Israelites for their terror.  They’re stuck.  There are mountains blocking them from going north around the Red Sea.  There’s only the Red Sea ahead of them and Egypt is coming after them.

You have to remember what God has already done, though.  Look at this list:  He saved Moses as a child in the River Nile.  He brought him into Pharaoh’s household where he was educated and raised to be a leader.  He kept him for forty years in the desert to be the deliverer of Israel

He’d done ten major miracles to get them this far.  Water turned to blood, frogs, lice and of course, the death of the first-born.  Through all that He'd preserved them.  They didn’t have to endure the plagues in Egypt.  He’d come to deliver them from bondage.  That was His purpose in the first place.  In this moment, He has placed himself between the armies of Egypt and the people of God as a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night.

God had already moved powerfully to get them to the Red Sea and protect them.  Why would they think that God would bring them out there and leave them to die?  It’s because the problem wasn’t a problem on God’s part.  It was something in the Israelites character – unbelief.  They didn’t see a possible solution; what could they do?  The failing isn’t God’s it’s theirs. 

How many times are we like Israel in this moment?  We testify, “Wow, God has moved powerfully on my part.  Look at all God has done for me so far.”  When it gets hard; when it seems like trouble is coming, all of that faith goes right out the window and we say the same thing to God that Israel did, “Did you bring me this far just to kill me?”

We pray and we say, “God help me with this thing – I need you God.”  I have to tell you something God’s blessing almost always comes through adversity. 

I wrote it last week, “If there’s no battle there’s no victory.”  Look at all that Job endured.  In one day he lost his family, his wealth and his health, but in the end he went on to great victory.  He ended up with twice as much as he had before the calamity.  His wife told him to curse God and die.  Look at his response:
 Job 2:10 (NKJV)
2:10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

When that adversity comes, though, we always say, “What happened to God?  How can I trust God in all of this?”  Then we give up, “I guess it wasn’t God.”  We look for someone to blame.  Israel chose Moses.  Who do you blame – Your husband, wife, business partner, pastor…or God? Or, do we cry out God, DO something – God YOU move! That’s what Israel did and what did God say?

Exodus 14:15 (NKJV)
14:15 And the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.

Take a step of faith.  Does it sound to anyone else like God’s a little irritated here?  Have you ever heard someone say, “God helps those that help themselves”?  People always think that’s in the Bible.  It isn’t.  It doesn’t say that anywhere in the Bible.  But in this scripture it does say, “I brought you this far, so trust me and just keep going.”

The Course is Set

Psalms 37:23-25 (NKJV)
37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand. 25 I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread.

The psalmist is looking back over his life, “I have been young and now I’m old…”  I’ve gone completely through life and I’ve never seen God’s plan for His people fail, because it IS God’s plan.

In my own life I know that what I’m doing in Taiwan is God’s will for my life.  I know that this is God’s plan for my family, but I want you to know that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  It’s God’s will and plan for our lives, but it’s still a struggle. 

I feel like Israel sometimes, too.  God, why won’t people lock in?  Why don’t people give?  Why am I always worried that the rent isn’t going to get paid?  “Oh God, move in these circumstances.”  God is saying the same thing He said to Israel, “Just move forward and I’ll take care of the rest of it.”  Just don’t stop going forward, because that’s the place where God can move in our circumstances.  If we quit trusting Him and quit moving forward then He can’t push the obstacle out of the way.  He’s stuck there with us. 

Let’s go back to the Red Sea for a moment, and pick up where we left off:

Exodus 14:15-18 (NKJV)
14:15 And the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. 16 But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 17 And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen."

If Israel stays where they are there’s nothing God can do, but if they move forward God can change the circumstance and take away the adversity.  He can open the Red Sea and deliver them…and He will.  God will bring us through the problems, just like He brought Israel through the Red Sea.  Do you want to know why?

Psalms 103:13-14 (NKJV)
103:13 As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

How many of you were able to trust your own father?  We know that our father has our best interests in mind.  We know that he loves us and wants the best for us.  If our earthly father is able to give good gifts to us, how much more is our Father in Heaven able to do that?  It’s harder to trust God though, because we aren’t always able to see Him moving on our behalf.  We aren’t always able to see what He’s doing for us.  Sometimes, what He’s doing even looks like a problem or like adversity, but God may be clearing a way or causing us to think in a different way.

In our text, Israel is stopped cold by their circumstances and with Egypt bearing down on them this must look like an impossible situation.  They really don’t have any choice but to trust God and go forward.  They can’t go back to Egypt at this point.  The death of the first-born pretty much burned that bridge.  Going forward is the only real choice that they have.

God does move and changes the circumstance.  The Red Sea is opened and they go through on dry land, God causes the Egyptians to follow them into he sea and then closes it on them.

The Struggle becomes and advantage, because Egypt doesn’t have the strength after that to pursue them through the wilderness.  The Israelites make a clean escape.  They’re free to go forward after that.  If that hadn’t happened Egypt could have pursued them all the way to the Promised Land and possibly destroyed them.

This is Where Faith Becomes Real

How easy is it to believe God when you’re not doing anything?  You’re comfortable; everything seems to be working out.  You’re not facing anything, so there are no roadblocks to progress.  It’s always smooth sailing.  It’s when we step out and try to do something that it becomes stressful and nerve wracking.  When we try to do something, that’s when our faith becomes real.  That’s when we really have to trust God. 

If you’re trying to do something, look back at what God has done to get you to that place.  What miracles has God done?  What circumstances has He changed?  What fights has He fought on your behalf?  Did He do all of that to kill you where you’re at now, or do you need just to move forward and let Him bust through the obstacles you’re facing now?  There’s an old Nike Sportswear ad campaign that has this tag line:  Just Do It! 

I’m not recommending recklessness.  You need to be sure that what you’re doing is God’s will.  You need to be “prayed up” and know that it’s God’s plan.  If you’re sure of that, then you need to move forward in faith.  Believe that God will bring you through the circumstances.  That struggle that you’re going through may be the thing that you need to succeed – Just like Israel.  The Red Sea at first, was an impossible problem, but then became the thing that guaranteed their success.

Maybe God is trying to teach you something that will equip you at a later point for a different obstacle.  The whole lesson here is to believe god and step out in faith.  Your faith becomes real in action.  It doesn’t take any faith to talk about what God CAN do, but it takes a lot of faith to move in spite of the circumstances and SEE what God will do.

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