Sunday, December 16, 2012

Stones of Remembrance

“What Do These Stones Mean?”
A Message by BWC Media Pastor
 Rev. Keith Kiper
Our Text: Joshua 4:1-9 -
 Common English Bible (CEB)

4 When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Pick twelve men from the people, one man per tribe. 3 Command them, ‘Pick up twelve stones from right here in the middle of the Jordan, where the feet of the priests had been firmly planted. Bring them across with you and put them down in the camp where you are staying tonight.’”

4 Joshua called for the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one man per tribe. 5 Joshua said to them, “Cross over into the middle of the Jordan, up to the Lord your God’s chest. Each of you, lift up a stone on his shoulder to match the number of the tribes of the Israelites. 6 This will be a symbol among you. In the future your children may ask, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 Then you will tell them that the water of the Jordan was cut off before the Lord’s covenant chest. When it crossed over the Jordan, the water of the Jordan was cut off. These stones will be an enduring memorial for the Israelites.”

8 The Israelites did exactly what Joshua ordered. They lifted twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, matching the number of the tribes of the Israelites, exactly as the Lord had said to Joshua. They brought them over to the camp and put them down there. 9 Joshua also set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests had stood while carrying the covenant chest. They are still there today.

A wise person once said that history should be a guiding post, not a hitching post. There really is a lot of truth in that quote, isn’t there? As time goes by, we tend to remember the best about the past, forgetting the not so good, maybe trying to completely forget some of those other foolish things we may have done back there in the good old days. Of course, that was before we became older and wiser. Someone once said it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. It may have been my wife Vicky talking about me!

History can repeat itself in the church world also. Certain trends may come and go. Worship styles may change. I personally don’t think it matters what your personal choice is as long as it centers on worshipping God and doesn’t become a routine where we are caught up in the act of worship and not honoring our reason for worshipping the Creator.
That wise 20th century philosopher Jack Handy said, "Probably the earliest fly swatters were nothing more than some sort of striking surface attached to the end of a long stick."

As we look at the book of Joshua today, we see that Joshua wanted the people to remember the past and what God had done for them. Remember when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Yet, later they complained when in the desert because they remembered how they had eaten when they were slaves. Human nature doesn’t change much does it?

Although God would work a miracle to allow the people to cross the Jordan River on dry ground, Joshua knew that only those who saw the incident would remember it. Joshua wanted to leave a legacy for the next generation-those who would be born long after the miracle occurred. Joshua wanted to create a way to communicate God’s greatness to the children of Israel who had not yet been born. He devised a plan called the “Stones of Remembrance.” Are we in this generation leaving stones of remembrance for the next generation?
Let us take a look at this today. What are our “Stones of Remembrance?” What principles and  worldview are guiding our lives? Are we as a Church passing on the important things to our children and future generations? Do they have something to help them remember that God does not change?  If we are not, then they will only remember the secular world’s ways and ideals, and pass these on to their children and grandchildren. Worldview does matter. Just look at the suicide rates today. Tragedies like the school shooting in Connecticut seem to become commonplace in our Godless society. Yes, satan is alive and well on planet earth. But I know someone who is greater.
So, what can we do church? How can we insure that the next generation realizes what is really important. How can we pass the values on to our children? I don’t profess to have all the answers to these questions. I do believe, however, that the Bible gives us all the answer we need. Let’s take a look at some of these today.

Have you seen the car insurance commercial with the rocket scientist? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that much of our education system is in shambles in America today. Our educators unfortunately have forgotten the values and Christian principles that guided our nation in the past. The stones of a divine Creator have crumbled into the rubble of Darwinism and evolution. Situational Ethics have replaced right and wrong. And, yes, sadly, this has even affected those who have grown up in the church.

As parents, we are the ones who are responsible for our children’s moral upbringing. We not only have to teach them the meaning of right and wrong, we have to demonstrate it in our lives and actions. Our worldview must dictate how we act. Sadly, today many want to separate their life into compartments. The fall did not destroy our original calling and purpose in life, it just made it more difficult. Genesis 3:16,17 uses the same Hebrew word for the labor of childbearing as for  the labor of working and growing food.  This text tells us the two central tasks of adulthood-raising are still the next generation and making a living. We are hindered by living in a sinful and fallen world.  When God redeems us through His Son, He releases us from the guilt and power of sin.
Because of what Jesus did on the cross, our work here on earth takes on a new meaning as well. We offer our gifts to God as a way of participating in making His Kingdom come to earth. With our hearts and minds renewed, we must press on with love for God and a renewed delight in carrying out His plans through our service to Him.
In many Christian schools, the typical strategy is to inject a few narrowly defined “religious” elements into the classroom. Prayer and Bible memorization is usually added. The problem is that they teach exactly the same thing as the public government schools. This is spreading a thin layer of spiritual devotion over the subject matter like icing on a cake. The problem is the subject matter is often the same.

Dorothy Sayers said, ”If our religion does not speak to our work lives, then it has nothing to say about what we do with the vast majority of our time. No wonder people say religion is irrelevant! How can anyone remain interested with a religion which seems to have nothing in common with nine-tenths of our life.”

Most of us have heard of the veggie tales videos. The founders of veggie tales talk about how this dual thinking almost snuffed out their creative talents in creating this ministry. Phil Vescher says he always wanted to make movies. But the message he always heard growing up was that full time ministry was the only valid and meaningful Christian service. Young people had only two choices-become a missionary or a minister. So Phil packed his bags and headed off to Bible college.
Yet the more he saw the powerful influence movies were having on kids, the more he thought he should produce high quality films with a Christian message. He decided God could use a filmmaker or two. Phil and his friend Mike Nawrocki started a video company. Many of their classmates and friends became youth ministers and pastors. Phil and Mike became the voices of Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber. Just think if these two had not broken free from the secular vs. sacred mindset! Every member of the body of Christ has been gifted for the benefit of the whole. We all lose out when those gifts are not used. Maybe God is calling you today to use those gifts He has given you.

Paul mentions spiritual gifts often in the New Testament and gives us some great advice. Let us look at some of these.
1 Corinthians 12:1
[ Spiritual gifts ] Brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:1-3 (in Context) 1 Corinthians 12 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations
1 Corinthians 12:4
There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
1 Corinthians 14:1
[ Spiritual gifts and church order ] Pursue love, and use your ambition to try to get spiritual gifts but especially so that you might prophesy or teach.
1 Corinthians 14:12
The same holds true for you: since you are ambitious for spiritual gifts, use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at building up the church.

It becomes clear that these gifts are for every Christian. They are not just for those in “full time ministry.”  We must pass these truths on to our children and grandchildren. As with Joshua we need to choose our own stones of remembrance. In Joshua’s time, the Hebrew people took their tabernacle with them as they traveled. Jesus came so that we become the tabernacle where God can dwell in us. Psalm 48 celebrates Mt. Zion, or Jerusalem at the dwelling place of God. The real focus is not on the earthly city, but God Himself.
God is great and deserving of great praise.
He dwells with His people and is a refuge for them.
He is the great King who is feared throughout the earth.
He is a God who loves
God’s praise resounds to the ends of the earth.
He is righteous and the source of righteousness.
He is the God of justice.
He is God forever and forever.
God is the guide of His people.

The Bible talks about becoming as little children. In William Bennetts book,” The Book of Virtues, he has included a poem by Olive A. Wadsworth. Even though written as a poem for children, I believe it speaks to us about the importance of a parent’s first responsibility. That is the nurture of our children and grandchildren. I believe it speaks to adults and children alike.
Over in the meadow,
In a hole in a tree,
Lived an old mother bluebird
And her little birdies three.
"Sing!" said the mother;
"We sing," said the three:
So they sang, and were glad,
In a hole in the tree.
Over in the meadow,
In the reeds on the shore,
Lived an old mother muskrat
And her little ratties four.
"Dive!" said the mother;
"We dive," said the four:
So they dived and they burrowed
In the reeds on the shore.

Over in the meadow,
In a snug beehive,
Lived a mother honey bee
And her little bees five.
"Buzz!" said the mother;
"We buzz," said the five:
So they buzzed and they hummed
In the snug beehive.

Over in the meadow,
In a nest built of sticks,
Lived a black mother crow
And her little crows six.
"Caw!" said the mother;
"We caw," said the six:
So they cawed and they called
In their nest built of sticks.

Over in the meadow,
Where the quiet pools shine,
Lived a green mother frog
And her little froggies nine.
"Croak!" said the mother;
"We croak," said the nine.
So they croaked, and they splashed
Where the quiet pools shine.

Over in the meadow,
In a sly little den,
Lived a gray mother spider
And her little spiders ten.
"Spin!" said the mother;
"We spin," said the ten.
So they spun lacy webs
In their sly little den.