Saturday, January 25, 2014

Family Relationships


Matthew 16:18 “… Upon this rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

When Jesus talks about the Church, He is referring to His family … specifically His Bride and her children. Note Jesus indicates that His family must be built. This gives us to understand that family relationships take some planning, some time and some attention to the details. Good News is … family is designed by God to be so strongly related that the very gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Jesus wants us to be like Him and build strong families. He has given us keys to accomplish the task.

2014 is the Year of the Family at Church On The Rock and many of you are already experiencing both challenges and changes in your family. We began this journey a few weeks ago and each week since then I have heard testimonies from many of you how a few simple changes on your part have made huge differences in your families. Once again this morning I want us to remember two basic principles as we learn more about building our families God’s way.

1.   Begin with the end in mind
o   Keep our eyes on the prize and not on the problem
o   That means we need to get a goal and stay focused
2.   Accept small changes as a sign on our road to success 
o   Just like Elijah accepted a cloud the size of a man’s hand and like the father accepted the returning prodigal son as a sign things were changing
o   We need to acknowledge and reward small steps recognizing them as positive signs of needed change
o   We accept these small changes both in ourselves and in others

2 Corinthians 8:12  For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.

Change, even little changes, reveals willingness. God always accepts a willing heart. We also need to recognize and reward such willingness.

With these two perspectives in mind we are going to use the next four Sundays to cover the Essential Elements which are critical to any relationship, especially those primary relationships within a family. Every one of us should recognize and respect the Basic Bible Blueprint for family. When we understand these essential elements and how critical they are to the health and well being of our family, we will be able to make minor adjustments not only in how we think and act towards others in the family but also begin to shape our children, grandchildren and others we influence to enjoy healthy and productive relationships in the families they will eventually build as well.

How we think; how we feel; how we act; and what we say reveals nothing about the other person in the equation but everything about us.

Simply put – we must do our part while trusting God to challenge and change others. The 4 Essential Elements of Relationship we will survey in the next few Sundays are Family:
1.   Roles
2.   Rules
3.   Rights
4.   Responsibilities

Our Wednesday evenings are also very important to this process. This Wednesday evening I will teach you how to simply and easily share the Gospel with a family member in a non-threatening way. Remember, we don’t go fishing with an empty hook and we never let the fish see the hook. Ok – back to today’s lesson on family relationships: Today’s lesson: Relationship Roles

Have you ever attended a wedding or a family gathering and been asked the question: “Are you related to the bride or the groom?” or “How are you related to the family?” These often asked questions are not attempting to discover the quality or the health of your relationship, but rather simply “Where do you fit in?” You see, there is a family map whose diagram is understood by every culture, custom, race, language and generation. We relate to family in a specific, undeniable and clearly identifiable way.

Our relationships define our roles in life. Who you are to others, and how you relate to them, should affect how you think, feel, speak, act, interact and react concerning them in any given situation. Get it right or get it wrong and everyone with any sense knows it. Relationships were designed by God to work for everyone’s benefit and they do work when everyone does their part. However many times when one person fails to do their part others in the equation take that opportunity to abdicate their responsibility to do their part as well. Two wrongs never make a right and our role in the family is not determined by whether or not others do their part.

This week I was speaking to a young mother of 3 children in Houston whom I had just met. She is a part-time hairdresser and her husband is a Houston firefighter. In our conversation she told me about her brother and sister-in-law who had caused the family so much trouble in the past that they haven’t talked in three years. As I listened to the story I had such compassion on the whole family. Her mother and father were hurting, she was hurting, but had buried the pain and disappointment so deep she couldn’t recognize it, and it was also evident to me that her brother and his wife and children were hurting and missing out on so much as well.

She finished the story and moved on to another subject but I could not get the family out of my mind. I considered how I might offer her some small step towards God’s goal for this family. How could I motivate her to be God’s hand reaching out?

Finally I said: “You know Lisa, how you feel and how you act towards your brother and sister-in-law says nothing about them and how they are but it reveals everything about you and how you are.” I continued, “They don’t have to be perfect or even be sorry for you to love them and pray for them and show them you care.” I took a breath, looked her in the eyes and said, “A little step might go a long way right now … surely there is something you can do to show who you really are.” Then I concluded, “God showed His love for me when I needed it most …”

This is what sisters do – what daughters do – what family does … we care!

You may be a father or a mother, a husband or a wife, a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister – but whether a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling or spouse – you have a family role to play which is defined by your relationship. There is a Basic Bible Blueprint for family and
just because someone to whom you are related is not fulfilling their part does not mean you should not fulfill yours. Family may depend on you.

Perhaps you have asked the reasonable question: “What is my responsibility to a family member who is not doing their part?” – I promise we will cover the answer to that question as we continue in this series. But for now, our first step is to realize that we are born into family and family is God’s continuing will for our everyday lives. Each one of us has a role to play and God has given us instructions on how to think, act, interact and react concerning others in every conceivable situation in both the good days and in those disappointing and stress-filled times as well.

Turn with me to a Bible account of a family in turmoil and let’s see what a difference one person doing their part can make.

Luke 15
11  Then Jesus said: "A certain man had two sons.
12  "And the younger of them said to his father, ’Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.
13  "And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
14  "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
15  "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16  "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the husks that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17  "But when he came to himself, he said, ’How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18  ’I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19  "and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."’
20  "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
21  "And the son said to him, ’Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22  "But the father said to his servants, ’Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23  ’And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24  ’for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

These same results can be experienced in every God-given relationship if we understand and embrace our role in the family and give God the time and opportunity to challenge and change others to embrace theirs. Will you do your part? (I want to encourage you to read Ephesians Chapters 5&6 this week and pray God gives you the grace to do your part.)

Being family is not a choice but a God-given role. Whether or not you play that role according to God’s script is a choice. We cannot come up with a better blueprint. Decide today to not allow disappointments, anger, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, hurt from the past or others to keep you from doing your part. You have a God-given role to play.

You are not responsible for everyone and what they may choose to do but you are responsible to do your part in God’s family plan. This does not mean it will always be easy but God’s grace will always be sufficient. Recognize and do your part and, give God the time and opportunity to (do His) work on others as only He can. And remember:

1.  Stay focused on the goal
2.  Be very thankful for small changes along the way

Now, let’s bathe our families in prayer again today. Some of them need real help, real bad, and real soon!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Called To Lead By Example

We’re going to be looking at Deuteronomy 6:4-9   The Shema
Deuteronomy 6:4  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
5  "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6  "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
7  "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
8  "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
9  "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

1.  He must be Lord
Deuteronomy 6:4  "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
            I want you to see how this expression is used elsewhere in the Bible
            Zechariah 14:9 And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it    shall be--"The LORD is one," And His name one.
He must be our God AND Supreme, with no rival.  Hear means to hear and obey

2.  Love Him completely with nothing held back. 
Vs. 5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Love: Primary meaning :Love, affection, appetite
Heart: the inner man in contrast with the outer man (flesh), comprehending mind, affections and will
Soul: Living being, life, self, person, desire, appetite, emotion, and passion
Strength: Force

3.  His Word must be in your thoughts 
Vs. 6  "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
Psalm 1: 1-2  Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.

4.  You must teach your children God’s Word
Vs. 7  "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up
Do you see what comes before teaching them to your children? 
They have to first be real in your life
 "You shall teach them diligently to your children, You as the leader of your home have the primary responsibility to teach your children

5.  His Word must be a part of your everyday conversation in your home
 and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (They need to be a part of your everyday life that you TALK about to your children.  Why are you making the decisions that your making.  In what way is the Word of God impacting your life?

6.  God’s Word rules what you do
Vs. 8  "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand,…
(you act on what you really believe, not what you say you believe. If you don’t really believe it, and show it by your actions, why should they) Calling in sick when your not sick.  Your standard is not what the rest of the world does.

7.  God’s Word rules what you look at and what you think 
… and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
What do you look at and what are you thinking?  What you think will eventually become action

8.  God’s Word is the standard in your home 
Vs. 9  "You shall write them on the doorposts of your house
You do not have to be harsh but you do have to set what is acceptable in your home.

9.  God’s Word is the standard any place that you have influence
…and on your gates.

1.  He must be Lord
2.  Love Him completely with nothing held back. 
3.  His Word must be in your thoughts
4.  You must teach your children God’s Word
5.  His Word must be a part of your everyday conversation in your home
6.  God’s Word rules what you do
7.  God’s Word rules what you look at and what you think 
8.  God’s Word is the standard in your home 
9.  God’s Word is the standard any place that you have influence

Joshua 24:15 ¶ "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

Today make the choice

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Going Together


Revelation 12:11  And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

This scripture is a glimpse of the end times and serves notice to all who read that in the last days, though satan strengthens his attempts to destroy the Church of the Living God in the earth; though this world imagines the Born-Again crowd is on the decline; though persecutions arise and troubles come … nonetheless the Family of God will stand victorious over sin, sickness, poverty, and defeat … we win!

What makes the Family of God able to stand under such direct attack? How do they overcome the forces of evil sent out to destroy them in the last days? Where does this Family of God get its overcoming strength?

1.  The Blood of the Lamb
a.   This speaks directly to the fact they are saved.
b.   There is power in the Blood
                                         i.    Power to save
                                        ii.    Power to set free
                                      iii.    Power to keep
c.   There is a supernatural power in salvation … a Power which only the Redeemed can claim.
d.   A group or gathering of people might try all sorts of things to succeed, from compromise to pastorize to homogenize, but the one thing which will guarantee victory over the devil and this world’s attack - is the Power that is in the Blood of Jesus!
e.   Neither life nor death nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor height nor depth nor circumstances nor situations nor the past nor the future nor financial problems nor political problems nor health problems nor slander nor prison nor ex spouses nor mean spirited neighbors nor satan nor any other creature shall separate a Born-Again Believer from the love of God or the power of the Blood of the Lamb. (Reference: Romans 8:38ff)

Isaiah 51:11  Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

A second leg of this overcoming Family of God in the last days is:
2.  The Word of their Testimony 
a.   They have tried the Word and found out it works
b.   Oh to know you can stand on the world when all the world around us is shifting sand.
c.   For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
d.   This is why:

Psalms 119:105 Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Rest assured there is power to overcome in the life of every Born-Again Believer because of the Blood of Jesus which saved and is covering your soul.

Also know that you can trust the Word of God. Our God who framed the world by His Word; who sent His Word and delivered us from our destructions; who has magnified His Word above all His name declares that if we continue in His Word we will know the Truth and the Truth shall set us free.

The third element described in this “last days” victory for the Family of God is their commitment … call it an attitude or a mind-set if you like. The fact that:
3.  They did not love their lives to the death.
a.   Now there’s a commitment for us all to take note of
b.   They considered no other option than to stand for Christ, on His Word, covered by the Blood of the Lamb.
c.   That’s the posture of victory.
d.   Having done all to stand … stand!!!

Today Brenda and I celebrate our 41st Anniversary. People who meet us these days cannot imagine where we came from or what we have gone through to make it here. Every relationship has its challenges and ours has been no different. The devil has offered us ample opportunity to be discouraged and call it quits. On top of that we have each contributed to more than our share of the problems we have faced together.

By no means have we done everything right nor do we stand before you perfect today. However, it would behoove you to listen and follow the basic guidelines we and others have found and proven through the years.

What does it take to make a marriage and family work these days? The same thing it takes for God’s Family to overcome and succeed.

1.  You must be Born Again.
a.   There is no power like the Power in the Blood of Jesus.
b.   Every spouse, every parent, every child, every business partner and every person is subject to overcome when they are covered by the Blood. Have you been covered by His blood?
2.  You must Stand on the Word of God.
a.   In good days and in difficult times, the Word will be your guide.
b.   There is no wisdom greater than the Word of God.
c.   The questions may change through life but the answer never does. The Bible contains your answer - finding it is up to you.
3.  You Must Lay your life down for Jesus.
a.   He laid His life down for you.
b.   The life He gives you is the only hope you have …
c.   “No man is a fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he can never lose.”

There have been two places Brenda and I have gone for help with our marriage and our family: (1) The Bible; (2) Our knees. Things really began to work for us when we started going there together.

This Week’s Family Challenge
1.   Family Bible Reading
2.   Family Prayer

Now, let’s bathe our families in prayer once again. BTW – R U Born Again?

Saturday, January 11, 2014



Psalms 89:34  My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.

About 34/3500 years ago Moses died and Joshua was chosen by God to lead the Children of Israel into the Promise Land. God commanded them to wage war against the cities of Canaan, destroy their strongholds, plunder their wealth, kill the inhabitants and make no treaty with any of its people.

Following the battle of the fortified city of Jericho and its utter defeat, all of the remaining kings of the land joined their armies together in efforts to protect themselves against these Israelites who’s God marched with them in victory. The Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite agreed together to fight against Joshua and Israel with one accord. They imagined this was their best strategy for survival.

However, one of the groups of people in Canaan, called Gibeonites, who lived in 4 cities nearby Jericho, adopted a different strategy. The people of Gibeon were a bit wiser and understood deeper truths concerning the character of the God of Israel and the overriding power of promises made by Him and those promises made by His children in His sight. Although underhanded, sneaky and without integrity, the Gibeonites banked on the fact that if they could trick Joshua into making a promise to not hurt them, no matter what they did to exact that promise, the promise would stand.

Like many underhanded, self-serving people you may encounter in this world, the Gibeonites banked on the fact that God’s children are better, more giving, more forgiving and more trusting than they were. Good people are often taken advantage of because others know they are good and know they will give and forgive more. Nonetheless, I had still rather be an Israelite than a Gibeonite. The Gibeonites were crafty the Bible says …

No man can take advantage of you if you will give them the advantage first. Just because someone is nice and dependably good and full of grace does not mean they are stupid. Don’t take advantage of other’s … especially those who are filled with God’s grace … He may not like it!

Joshua 9  NKJV
3  But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai,
4  they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors. And they took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended,
5  old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy.
6  And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us."
7  Then the men of Israel said to the Hivites, "Perhaps you dwell among us; so how can we make a covenant with you?"
8  But they said to Joshua, "We are your servants." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you, and where do you come from?"
9  So they said to him: "From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the LORD your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt,
10  "and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan — to Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who was at Ashtaroth.
11  "Therefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spoke to us, saying, ’Take provisions with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say to them, "We are your servants; now therefore, make a covenant with us."’
12  "This bread of ours we took hot for our provision from our houses on the day we departed to come to you. But now look, it is dry and moldy.
13  "And these wineskins which we filled were new, and see, they are torn; and these our garments and our sandals have become old because of the very long journey."
14  Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the LORD.
15 ¶  So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.
16  And it happened at the end of three days, after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbors who dwelt near them.
17  Then the children of Israel journeyed and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath Jearim.
18  But the children of Israel did not attack them, because the rulers of the congregation had sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation complained against the rulers.
19  Then all the rulers said to all the congregation, "We have sworn to them by the LORD God of Israel; now therefore, we may not touch them.
20  "This we will do to them: We will let them live, lest wrath be upon us because of the oath which we swore to them."
21  And the rulers said to them, "Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers for all the congregation, as the rulers had promised them."
22 ¶  Then Joshua called for them, and he spoke to them, saying, "Why have you deceived us, saying, ’We are very far from you,’ when you dwell near us?
23  "Now therefore, you are cursed, and none of you shall be freed from being slaves — woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God."
24  So they answered Joshua and said, "Because your servants were clearly told that the LORD your God commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; therefore we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing.
25  "And now, here we are, in your hands; do with us as it seems good and right to do to us."
26  So he did to them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, so that they did not kill them.
27  And that day Joshua made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, in the place which He would choose, even to this day.

Wow! What a story … but the story does not end there. Over 400 years later along comes the first King of Israel, King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. In King Saul’s zeal for the Children of Israel and for Judah, he publicly broke the covenant which had been made centuries earlier and Saul slaughtered the Gibeonites. God took notice and although He didn’t do anything immediately … He didn’t forget it either.

Near 40 years later, Saul had been long dead and David had been King over all Israel for decades, there was a famine that lasted for 3 years. This was no ordinary famine. It was evident to King David that God was trying to get Israel’s attention. So, David inquired of the Lord.  

2 Samuel 21  NKJV
1   Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, "It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites."
2  So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah.
3  Therefore David said to the Gibeonites, "What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?"
4  And the Gibeonites said to him, "We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us." So he said, "Whatever you say, I will do for you."
5  Then they answered the king, "As for the man who consumed us and plotted against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the territories of Israel,
6  "let seven men of his descendants be delivered to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD chose." And the king said, "I will give them."
7  But the king spared Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the LORD’S oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.

A covenant made before God, here called “The Lord’s Oath”, brings curses one and yields blessings to another of the same family. Covenant is both a powerful and a protected oath which is accepted and respected in heaven.

1 Samuel 18
1  Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
3  Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

When Jonathan was killed in battle, fighting beside his father, King Saul, who was also killed, David visited the battlefield and wrote a song called “The Song of the Bow”. I have visited that sight many times on Mount Gilboa – perhaps you can go there with me in November this year. One of the things David said about Jonathan is found in:

2 Samuel 1:26  I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women.

Speaking here about the death of a covenant friend, David describes how deep he feels, deeper than any emotion which mere erotic or simple brotherly love could produce. Covenant surpasses carnal experiences.

Ruth understood this type of commitment … Ruth made a covenant with her mother-in-law, Naomi … not because she had to but because she wanted to … because it was right and responsible … not for her own personal gain but rather because of her character … covenant can cost!

Ruth 1
16  But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.
17  Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me."

One of the most well known covenants we recognize today is the covenant of marriage. Jesus spoke to that covenant and said what I think is true about all covenants – especially those of the family sort:

Mark 10:9  "Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."

Are you committed to the covenants God has given you? Adam called Eve, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. He was describing covenant …
Additional Notes:

Someone might say – “Well, God didn’t join us … I made this covenant myself … so it’s not really a covenant I have to keep.” That’s not how God sees it. God did not choose the covenant between Joshua and the Gibeonites however, once made before God, God required it to be kept. Just because Joshua and the Elders didn’t check in with God before they made their vow didn’t release them from the consequences of breaking it.

We cannot say, “Since I missed God and married the wrong person. I didn’t pray about it but did it on my own so it is not really a marriage made in heaven.” Wrong thought … If we make a covenant before God we in effect enjoin God to that covenant and only God can annul it. And … God can annul anything He wants but that’s not for us to decide.

Covenant means, “Your good at my expense.” At some point, expect covenant to cost you. And as well – just because we do not make some spiritual declaration does not mean that we are not in covenant with someone else. We are born into some covenants. As well, when we become parents we are automatically in covenant whether we accept that responsibility or not. Family is a God recognized covenant.

Every person is born into a family covenant and every Believer is born again into a second family covenant. We are to honor our parents without respect as to whether or not we agree with them … this is due to the covenant joining God has decided upon. God decides which family each person is born into and why. He sets the solitary in families …

As well, the condition of our birth decides many other commitments we must recognize as a God decision. Some things are up for change and some aren’t.

Other covenants in life are choice based commitments. The best advice and counsel I can give is to always check in with God and get His guidance before making any commitment or entering into any life-long relationship. However, once made or enacted, trust God for the grace and guidance to fulfill the covenant. God understands … after all He is a covenant God!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Exercising Influence


Luke 22:42  Jesus said, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."

There are two facts of life which we cannot change. These two facts of life often present us with great challenges and at times even greater hardships. However, since these two facts cannot be changed, we must find our place of service and learn to live with the influence God gives us.

What are the Two Facts of Life which we cannot change?

1.   God’s sovereign will
2.   Man’s God-given right to choose which master he will serve

These two facts are forever settled in heaven. It is possible to thwart the hope of God and to force a person to act contrary to their own desires, however these things do not change God’s will nor man’s heart. Just because God allows change does not mean He has changed His will.

I offer for example the account of Balaam from Numbers 22ff. At heart, Balaam served the god of money and was willing to compromise his righteousness a little here and there to gain increase.
·        At first God told Balaam to not go with the messengers
·        Balaam kept asking God because the situation kept looking better and better for him financially … Balaam’s god kept enticing him
·        Finally God said to Balaam, “Go ahead and go …” (Go ahead and do what you want but know this, ‘My will has not changed’ … verse 22)
·        Balaam was so happy to begin his new adventure until he met the angel of the Lord standing in the way planning to kill him.
·        Balaam, like Jonah, was willing to change his mind but not his heart
·        God allowed Balaam to go against God’s will, and while technically Balaam kept God’s will on some levels, he transgressed God’s will on so many other levels and made himself money and a name but in the end, many years later, it cost Balaam everything, including his life.
·        Just because God changes His mind does not automatically mean He has changed His will. To be right we need embrace His will.

God’s will is a reflection of His purpose and the unfolding plan He has chosen to accomplish that purpose. It is said: “God’s Word is His Will and His Will is His Word.” This is absolutely true in every respect. Peter rightly explains the will of God for us in:

2 Peter 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.

Recognizing the fact that God has a will and that every man has a right to choose the god he will serve – what then is our place in this world?

Our duty on earth is to influence both God and man to fulfill the Will.

Two great questions arise from this truth:
1.   How can I influence God to fulfill His own will in the earth?
2.   How can I influence others to fulfill God’s will for their life?

Allow me to set the stage for what we are about to read from Numbers 14. By this time the Children of Israel had been delivered from Egypt and were camped in a wilderness at the edge of the Promise Land. They had all heard the Word of God from Moses but as yet most of them had not committed themselves to the Will of God. Perhaps this is where many people, maybe even some of your family members are today. They have heard the Word but are not committed to the Will.

God clearly wanted the Children of Israel to receive their promised inheritance in the Land of Canaan. This was God’s will and in order for God’s plan to work the Children of Israel would have to trust God, move forward and stand up against their enemies. Some of the leaders who were not fully committed to God’s Will influenced their families to disregard God’s instructions through Moses. Instead of following the leaders that brought them out they were influenced to choose new leaders who could never take them in. It is amazing what a little influence can do … At any rate, even with all His patience, God was angry and about to act -

Numbers 14
4  So they said to one another, "Let us select a leader and return to Egypt."
5  Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
6  But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes.

I have a question: Who were Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb trying to influence? The answer: God. They were not trying to influence or impress the people. Oh no … these actions were the actions revealing the heart of someone who cares. Even though these 4 men had been rejected as leaders and indicted in front of the whole congregation, they still had a heart for God’s Will and they wanted God to please fulfill His Word in the lives of the people and not forsake and remove them from His Will.

When you have lost influence with others, you may still have influence with God.

Numbers 14
10  And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.
11  Then the LORD said to Moses: "How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?
12  "I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they."
13  And Moses said to the LORD: "Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them,
14  "and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.
15  "Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying,
16  ’Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’
17  "And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying,
18  ’The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’
19  "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now."
20  Then the LORD said: "I have pardoned, according to your word.”

If we were to continue to read the account we would find that even though God changed His mind He did not change His Will. God was determined to have a people in the earth who would trust and follow Him so that He could fulfill the promises He made to Abraham and the purposes to which He first created man.

Nonetheless Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb influenced God through earnest prayer to fulfill His Will. We too have influence with God by those same means. When we earnestly pray, God hears and is moved to work His Will in the earth. Even God likes to be encouraged.

What about the people? How can we influence our families, friends and even our enemies to fulfill the Will of God for their lives? Much the same way as we influence God … with our earnest, faith-filled words …

The reason these families of Israel were influenced to rebel was because of their family leaders and the words they used to discourage them against God and His Will for their lives. How did the leaders of these 10 tribes exercise such influence … it was because they truly believed what they were saying.

When we repeat those things we sincerely believe, we become very convincing. And, most likely you are already exercising influence in and over the lives of your family members because you truly do believe the things you are thinking and saying both publicly and in your own private time. Trouble is – you may not be believing and repeating the Will of God over your family but rather believing and repeating what you see and how you feel. If so, this needs to change!

We must begin to see, pray and declare the Word and the overriding Will of God over our families both in private and in public, speaking that which is good to build our family members up and not tear them down in their own eyes, in the eyes of others and especially in the eyes of God.

We cannot and should not try to change the will of God or take away someone’s God-given right to choose … however, we should attempt to influence both God and others to fulfill the Word and the Will.

God has a Will and He has a plan to accomplish that will. God’s plan includes you!

May His Kingdom come and His Will be done in the earth as it is in Heaven. Amen!

Here is what we will do to exercise our God-given influence and be a blessing to both God and to our family:
1.   Pray the Word and the Will of God over our family.
2.   Speak the Word of God over our own mind and opinions.
a.   Begin to change our mind about God’s Will for others
b.   See people as God sees them
c.   Remember, nothing is impossible with God
d.   We cannot take away other’s right to choose but we can influence them to choose God
e.   It is the goodness of God that leads people to change
3.   Declare God’s good will over our family and their future.
a.   Despite what we have experienced in the past
b.   Despite what we fear concerning the future
c.   Despite what we think they deserve
d.   Speak that which is good and Godly over their lives
                                     i.    with a calm peace
                                    ii.    and an encouraging tone

Just like Jesus said: “It’s not about what I want God but rather it’s all about what you want … not My will but Yours be done.” This must have encouraged God to go forward with His plan despite the hardship required.