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, August 24, 2017

Bamboo in the Garden

Have you ever seen a stand of Bamboo?  It grows out from one stalk in different directions in the ground.  So, the area covered by the bamboo grove is constantly being enlarged.  If you want to reforest an area it’s very effective because it grows and spreads rapidly. 

The difficulty is in trying to contain it.  What happens is that shoots called rhizomes spread underground and the plants sprout out of the ground along the rhizome.  Now, these are not like roots. They’re stalks of the plant that grow horizontally under the ground.  They’re very tough and difficult to remove.  You don’t see them growing, they’re hidden under the soul.  The only way you know they are there is that a plant sprouts out of the ground and shows itself.  All of the Bamboo in a garden are connected by rhizomes.

If you plant them in an area and don’t want them to spread beyond that area, you must be diligently searching for and tearing out the rhizomes, because when one is removed another immediately begins to generate.  Some types of Bamboo can grow up to twenty-four inches in a day.

2 Samuel 11:1-17 (NKJV)
11:1 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child." 6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. 8 And David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." So Uriah departed from the king's house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 So when they told David, saying, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?" 11 And Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing." 12 Then David said to Uriah, "Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die." 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

Rhizomes in Our Lives

David is God’s man to lead Israel but sin has overcome him, just like Bamboo overtaking a garden.  The first step is a step away from responsibility.  David stepped away from the battle.  He’s no longer contending against the enemies of Israel.  He hasn’t really done anything wrong yet, but he’s resting in what God has already done in him and through him.  He’s let his guard down.

This is how sin works in us.  We’re delivered.  It’s not necessary to pray for that deliverance any longer.  It’s not necessary to be contending.  “I don’t need to pray for that anymore, I won’t fall into that again.”

I had a friend that began to look at pornography.  His wife caught him at it, and he confessed and was delivered from it.  The problem was that he thought he’d overcome it.  So he decided to check himself and ended up right back in the same problem again.  He’d let his guard down…He’d stopped contending for that deliverance.

In the garden, you need to continue to hunt down the rhizomes.  The only way that you can control the growth is through constant attention.  If you stop searching for and removing the rhizomes, the Bamboo will get out of control again.

We need to constantly be digging for rhizomes of sin in our hearts or that sin will spread and appear again. 

David has neglected his heart and stalk of lust has grown up.

2 Samuel 11:2-3 (NKJV)
11:2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof, he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"

From this stalk of lust, rhizomes have spread out to other areas of his life.  Lust led to adultery, lies, cover-ups, manipulation, and murder.  That sin of just looking at a naked woman and lusting sexually for her finally led to the murder of an innocent man.

The events that led to the resignation of President Nixon started in a simple enough way.  There was a break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC.  The break-in was illegal, but what cost President Nixon his job wasn’t the original crime.  What cost him his job was the cover up of those things; the lies, the manipulations and all that resulted from that.  The original break-in led to the crimes that destroyed Nixon.

In the Bamboo plants, there is one stalk.  That stalk puts out rhizomes and other plants manifest themselves in different places.  As a result of the way the plants reproduce, all of them in a particular area are connected.  All of the sin in our lives is connected like the Bamboo.

Sin defiles and deceives the human conscience, and thereby hardens the human heart.  A sin-hardened heart grows ever more susceptible to temptation, pride, and every kind of evil.  Unconfessed sin, therefore, becomes a cycle that desensitizes and corrupts the conscience and drags people deeper and deeper into bondage. – J F MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience

Sin is aggressive – like an organism; like a virus.

Genesis 4:7 (NKJV)
4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
The man-eaters of Tsabo is a true story of man-eating lions that were killing and devouring native workers on a British railroad project in Africa.  In the end, the lions were destroyed as the British leader set up a stand in the trees and waited for days until the lions attacked again.  He maintained a vigil in order to protect the people.

No less of a commitment is needed in our lives.  If David had pressed into the things of God; if he had continued to do what was necessary to protect Israel from the enemies of God, he would have been removed from the temptation.

When we take ourselves away from the things of God; the battle for souls and things that strengthen faith, we create distance from God.  When we stop reading our bible or praying we’re drifting away from God.  The closer you are to God the less likely you are to sin.  When we’re close to God it is difficult to get something between us and God.  It’s much easier when there’s a distance between us and God.

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the enemy [God].  It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that they’re cumulative effect is to keep the man away from the light…Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.  Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Closeness to God eliminates opportunity for Satan to draw us into decisions that lead to sin.  Satan doesn’t force us to do anything; we make a decision to sin.

David stumbled on to Bathsheba.  It wasn’t something he was looking for, but when he asked who she was, and sent for her, he made a decision to sin.  That decision was the result of his traveling on a path that led to a separation from the will of God.

The Result of Sin

Bamboo is what biologists call an “extremely opportunistic” plant.  It wants to exploit all of the sunlight, water and nutrients for its own reproduction.  This plant isn’t concerned about the others in the garden and if left alone will destroy every other plant in the garden by robbing them of nutrients.

David has turned away from the Will of God.  He’s backslidden at heart.  We often think of backsliding as when we are already engaged in sin, but backsliding begins when we slide back away from God and pursue our own desires.  David was already backslidden when he sinned with Bathsheba.  He backslid when he tarried in Jerusalem, because he’d already begun the process of pulling away from the will of God.  All of the other things that took place were the result of that original sin of pulling away from God.

David and Uriah knew each other.  Uriah was a mighty man; one of David’s elite hand picked.  They were friends.  There was a camaraderie between them, but sin is selfish.  David’s not thinking of Bathsheba; He’s not thinking of Uriah.  He’s thinking only of David.  David’s not even thinking of his children, because sin always computes out in our children’s lives.  David’s sin played out in his children’s lives in a way he didn’t expect.

Deuteronomy 5:9 (NKJV)
5:9 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,

Sin in our lives follows us into the next generations.  In David’s case his son Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar – selfishness and lust.  David is angry but he can’t judge the sin in Amnon.  He can’t judge the sin that he himself had fallen into, but Absalom, Tamar’s brother did judge it and killed Amnon.  Absalom went into exile after that, and when given the right to return, he tried to usurp the government of his father.  Look at his reasoning:

2 Samuel 15:4 (NKJV)
15:4 Moreover Absalom would say, "Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice."

He believed that his sister never received justice, so he overthrew the kingdom.  David’s sin played out in his children’s lives.  Their lives came under the influence of sin and it destroyed them.

Bamboo can infect not only the garden in which it’s planted but it can spread and affect another garden that’s next door.  The rhizomes being underground can easily pass under a fence and into the garden of a neighbor.  Our neighbors in Riverside planted Bamboo next to their fence in order to give them privacy.  My wife had to be constantly digging and cutting rhizomes that passed under the fence in an effort to keep them out of our yard.

Amos 1:9 (NKJV)
1:9 Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, And did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.

Tyre and Israel had a relationship of brotherhood at one point.  It’s a picture of relationship between people in the congregation; regard, concern – I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine.  But Tyre sold out the relationship when they broke the covenant of brotherhood.  They joined with the enemy of Israel and instead of living peacefully they sold out – Every man for himself.

In the garden the assault is underground and it isn’t until the stalk manifests itself that the assault can be recognized.  By then it can be too late and only a pitched battle will save the garden.

The church can’t be protected from what is hidden.  Discord in relationships, loss of dominion causes the church to stall.  Sin in the church affects us all.  The effort turns to keeping people from scattering and forward momentum stops.

Eradicating the Bamboo

Bamboo can be beaten, but in order for that to happen the rhizomes must be found and removed along with the original stalk.  It must all be removed.  Any stalk that’s left will begin to put out rhizomes.  Any rhizome left will put up other stalks.  In order to defeat it it must all be destroyed.

2 Samuel 12:13-18 (NKJV)
12:13 So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die." 15 Then Nathan departed to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became ill. 16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, "Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!"

David recognizes his sin and repents.  This is more than just crying out he’s actively contending for God to move.  The relationship must be restored.  The connection to God will must be strengthened.  The consequences of the sin played out in the death of the child, but God restored David – never removing him as king.  God blessed him later as he allowed his son to rule after him.

1 Kings 15:4-5 (NKJV)
15:4 Nevertheless for David's sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; 5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

It took David contending to live for God after that.  We have to have a resolve to live for Jesus. 

Have you ever taken a piece of paper and folded it over, then torn the paer along that line?  When it’s been folded it’s easy to tear it along the fold, because that fold becomes a weakness in the paper.  Sin, when we have fallen once, will attack us at that same place; that fold in our lives seeking once again to gain entry into that weak place.

We must contend in order to overcome.  Where is victory found?

1.        Remember that what is hidden from people God sees.  When we know that wickedness lies in our heart yet we fear God we can have victory.

Matthew 10:28 (NKJV)
10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

2.        The second thing that brings victory is a right relationship with your pastor.

Hebrews 13:7 (NKJV)
13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

Hebrews 13:7 tells us to submit as well.  Your pastor will hold you accountable for your sin.  That’s why I call my pastor, Pastor and not by his name.  I have submitted my life and I’m accountable to him.

3.        Don’t neglect your relationship with Christ.

Hebrews 2:3 (NKJV)
2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

This Scripture speaks directly to our relationship with Jesus. 

If you want victory do the things you’re supposed to do:  Pray, read your Bible, go to church, and be in fellowship with your pastor.  Stay vigilant, looking for and judging sin.  Root every bit of sin out of your life, so that it can’t spread into other sin.  Finally, contend for victory.  Fight to remain in the will of God, and free from sin.

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