Monthly Archives: October 2016

Let There Be No Strife Between Us

Text:  Genesis 13:8-9, NLT

8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.” Genesis 13:8-9 (NLT)

Introduction

During his 10-year prison stay, Craig wrote to his family members on many occasions, declaring his repentance and asking for forgiveness – but no one answered. Because he was a minister and a leader in his community, his highly publicized trial had left a bitter taste in the mouth of his family. Upon his release, he continued to write, but no one in his family would communicate with him, even though he had been out of prison for more than two years.

 

Move 1

Abraham had taken Lot his nephew with him to the land that God had shown him.  Lot had been with Abram through famine and prosperity.  As relatives, they had endured much together.  Both of them had been prospered by God and all between the family seemed well.

Nonetheless, because of their prosperity both of them could not live on the same piece of property.  Abraham and Lot loved each other and got along well, but their employees were engaged in continuous conflicts over use of land, water, and resources.  This tension caused Abraham and Lot as close relatives to begin to withdraw from each other.  This conflict interfered with the special relationship they had always enjoyed.  Lord, have mercy!

Now let me add here that these conflicts had become so contentious they had become violent and Abraham knew that the situation had to change.  I’m so glad that somebody in the family, especially the one who has God on their side knows when to act.  Abraham did not sit idly by and watch the devil destroy his relationship with Lot and the rest of his family.  Abraham acted and moved to resolve the issue.

Abraham said again, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen.  After all, we’re close relatives!”  I wonder if there’s anybody here among this assembly of family and friends who have allowed strife to come between you and your relatives to the point that you no longer fellowship one with the other.  I wonder if there’s anyone here who no longer attends the family reunion or no longer goes to visit a relative because of strife.  Well, if you’re in the building I stop by to tell you, God says, “Let no strife come between you because God is able to bless each of you.”  Hallelujah!

Abraham makes the first move; Abraham decides to give Lot the option to choose whatever land he wants as long as they continue to remain close as relatives.  Lot reveals his heart when he chose “the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar.”  He made his decision because “the whole area was well watered.”  Water was like gold in the world economy today.  The one who controls the water controls the economy.  And it’s just like the situation in Israel and Palestine today; the one who controls the water controls the land.  Lord, have mercy!

Israel and Palestine have been feuding for generations because Israel insists on controlling the major water routes.  I wonder if there is anyone here this afternoon who is controlling things in your family and because of your control others in your family have been held back, held up, and kicked back.  I wonder is there anybody here who knows somebody in your family that won’t share the blessings God has given your family because they control that blessing.  I wonder if there is anyone here this afternoon who believes that you can stop your family member’s blessings because mother or father left you in charge of the property and the money.  Lord, have mercy!

I stop by to tell you this afternoon, you better be a blessing, because when you become a blessing to your family, God will do exceedingly abundantly above all things.  Can I get a witness here?  Anybody here every had the bless you in spite of…..in spite of what your relatives did to you…..in spite of what they said about you…..can I get a witness here?  Hallelujah!

 

Move 2

Well, let me move on.  I got to tell you three things about this text that demonstrates how friends and family should relate to one another.  Hallelujah!

First, families and friends should stick together.  You have heard it said, “Blood runs thicker than water.”  That means that when you are related to somebody you’re family.  You will not allow anyone or anything to come between you and family.  God called Abram out from his Father and Mother’s house.  God did not call Lot; but since Lot was Abraham’s nephew and Lot wanted to go with Uncle Abram, Abram allowed him to go with him.  Abram became responsible for Lot’s welfare and ensured that Lot had the same opportunities to be blessed that Abram had.  Lord, have mercy!

Abram did not try to keep Lot from the blessings that God blessed him with.  Abram shared all that God had blessed him with, with his nephew Lot.  And Lot became a wealthy and mighty man.  Hallelujah!  Abram knew that families should stick together and bless one another.  Can I get a witness here?

Not only should families stick together but families should settle any differences that come between them.  Notice carefully that it was the older family member that made the first gesture to settle the dispute.  Abram went to his nephew and made an offer of compromise so that the family could remain stable.

Somebody here this afternoon knows that you have been entrusted by your fore parents to watch over the family and to take care of your younger siblings, but you are acting stubborn and stuck up.  I stop by to tell you that as a child of God, you ought to make the first move.  You ought to give that younger person in the family the opportunity to blessed even if it looks like you might lose something.  Lord, have mercy!

Third, and finally, families should sacrifice for one another.  Abram had to sacrifice so that Lot could be blessed and move on with his life.  But the mnute Abram acted like his Father in Heaven, his Father in Heaven showed up to bless his socks off.  Lord, have mercy!

God said to Abram, “14 After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction—north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants[a] as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17 Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.”

The devil told Abram he was stupid; the devil told Abram you crazy; the devil told Abram if I were you I wouldn’t give Lot anything.  You the one with the blessing on your life; just run Lot away and keep what God has given you.  God never promised Lot anything anyway.

But I’m so glad that Abram looked at the devil and told the devil, “You just don’t know who you’re dealing with.  For I serve a God who is able to take care of me.  I’m the head of this household; I’m in charge of my father’s brother’s son.  And because he’s family, I’m going to resolve this issue.”  Devil, get thee behind me.  I will let no strife come between Lot and me.  Devil, my family is more important than my pride; my family is more important than houses and lands; my family is more important than silver and gold.  Hallelujah!

 

Move 3 (Conclusion)

You remember Craig; let me finish the story about Craig and his family.  Just after his release from prison, Craig returned to his community and formed a ministry that provided homes for the community’s homeless. Now, Craig was in the news again. Two years had gone by, and Craig had served faithfully without receiving any pay.

One night, as Albert watched the evening news, he saw a newscaster at a ceremony where, to his amazement, his brother Craig was being awarded the key to the city for the good work his ministry was doing in the community. Suddenly, Albert felt convicted, and he saw his brother’s life in a different light. He decided that he would pay his brother a visit.

Craig looked thinner than Albert remembered. He looked tired and withdrawn – no doubt the effects of a 10-year prison term. Albert stood in the busy storefront office and embraced his brother awkwardly. Then he said, “Craig, I apologize for not seeking you out sooner. I’m sorry I let your past mistakes keep me away. I wanted to be the first one in the family to welcome you back. We all got together, and we want to bless your ministry with a $1,000 contribution.”

Both men let their tears run freely. After Albert made that first move, love was victorious. A wave of reconciliation swept through their family.  Lord, have mercy!

Well,  because you and I were walking along the road of life when all of a sudden we came to a deep cavern in the road.  The engineers had left on a thin, spider web that stretched from one side of the cavern to the other.  The spider web was the only way over to the other side.  You and I had a spider web’s chance of making it over the cavern to the other side.  Lord, have mercy!

The cavern was the sin and iniquity that Adam bequeathed to us as human beings.  The spider web was our attempts to love one another and to do good in the earth.  We found ourselves unable to do good because whenever we tried to do good, evil was always present.  Lord, have mercy!  Can I get a witness here!

Many times that spider web had been broken by strife and offense between brother and sister, father and mother, relatives and friends.  Many times we had been walking across the cavern on the spider web only to get suspended over the cavern and find ourselves falling into the ravine.  We had no way to ensure the spider web would hold.  We were without hope and without God in the world.  Lord, have mercy!

But I hear a voice crying down through the ages, “Prepare me a body, Lo I come in the volume of the book it is written of me to do thy will, O God.”  And I heard the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest peace on earth good will toward men.  For unto you is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord!”  yes, he did.

He came not as an overseer or a judge; but he came as our kinsman redeemer and our Elder brother.  He came to settle the strife between us and God.  He came to sacrifice his life for our death.  For we were doomed to die and spend eternity in hell.  But Jesus came that we might have life and that more abundantly.  Yes, he came to make sure that you and me could make into the promised land.  Anybody here glad about what Jesus came to do.  Anybody here can bear witness that Jesus paid it all.  Anybody here knows that if it had not been the Lord on your side, you never would have made it.

I’m so glad that Jesus came.  I’m so glad that my elder brother made a way for me.  Are you glad this afternoon about what God did through Jesus Christ.  Well if you show enough glad, you ought to commit this afternoon to let no strife come between you and your family and friends.

You ought to tell the devil, because God is able, I’m able.  I’m going to forgive and bless my friends and I’m going to bless my family.  I’ll let nothing separate me from the responsibility to to love my friends and family.  I’m going to settle the issue today; I’m going to let go and let God right now!  Hallelujah!

Paul said it like this “All we like sheep have gone astray, each unto his own way;  and God has laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all.”  Lord, have mercy!  Beloved, God reconciles people and all things to Himself through the sacrificial blood of Jesus. God’s plan to reconcile us to Himself reminds us that reconciliation requires that someone make the first move.

 

Faith to Forgive

Text:  Luke 17:5-6

5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  6He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Introduction

The disciples when confronted with the necessity to forgive in a way that would transform their lives, said to Jesus, “Lord, Increase our faith.”  When God challenges us to do a new thing we often find ourselves believing that the faith we have is incapable of achieving the goals God has set for us.  Nonetheless, God continuously challenges us to reach higher, dig deeper, and go further than we think we can.  It would be unfair of God to ask, if God did not know that we could achieve what God calls us to do. [Let me interject right here that when God asks you to accomplish a goal, he has already calculated his involvement in its completion.]  Lord, have mercy!

Mustard seeds are the small round seeds of various mustard plants. The seeds are typically about 1 or 2 mm in diameter, larger than many plants such as poppy, columbine, potulaca and dandelion while relatively small compared to many others such as pumpkin, watermelon, apples, pine-cone or coconuts. Mustard seeds may be colored from yellowish white to black.

Mulberry trees are famous fruit treats tracing back to ancient civilizations.     The most impressive aspect of the mulberry tree is that is can grow up to ten feet each year.   White mulberries can reach 80 feet, and can also be pyramidal or weeping in form. Red mulberry trees may reach up to 70 feet. The black mulberry is much shorter, reaching only 30 feet, and unless trained tends to grow as a multi-stemmed shrub. The three species differ greatly in longevity.  It is unusual for a red mulberry tree to survive more than 75 years, while a black mulberry may produce fruit for hundreds of years.  In other words, a mulberry tree has deep roots and is not easily moved by humans or destroyed by disaster.

When outwardly compared to a mustard seed, the mulberry tree is much more formidable and awe inspiring.  The mulberry tree relies on its vast network of roots for survival whereas the mustard seed relies on God’s grace to grow.  One is not germinated while the other is fully grown and producing fruit.

Jesus insists that “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  What an awesome depiction of faith.  If you start where you are, doing the will of God, before you know it, the faith you have will develop in such a way that you will be able to do things you thought impossible.  Jesus says develop your faith by using your faith.  You don’t get more faith by asking; you get more faith by doing.  Lord, have mercy!

 

Move 1

One day the great Michelangelo attracted a crowd of spectators as he worked. One child in particular was fascinated by the sight of chips flying and the sound of mallet on chisel. The master was shaping a large block of white marble. Unable to contain her curiosity, the little girl inquired, “What are you making?” He replied, “There is an angel in there and I must set it free.”
Every Christian begins his/her relationship with Christ with a measure of faith.  This passage introduces us to a clear path to setting this measure of faith free. The faith God put in you is enough for you to enjoy all that God has in store for your life.  Faith does not move your mountains, the God behind your faith moves the mountains.  Faith does not set you free; the God behind your faith sets you free!

 

Move 2

Jesus outlined three simple ways to release your faith. Three small steps to develop your faith.

First, forgiving those who repent.  Christians live knowing that people will offend us.  It is inevitable that somebody is going to offend you.  Saints, you do not prepare to retaliate, Jesus says you prepare to forgive.  Only through forgiveness can those who offend us receive God’s grace.  Jesus says in Luke 17:3-4, “3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.  4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”

 

Dr. F.B. Meyer tells of a meeting of a church which was seeking a revival. During the meeting an elder got up and said to the minister, “I don’t think there is going to be a revival here as long as Brother Jones and I don’t speak to each other.” He went across to Jones and said, “Brother, you and I haven’t spoken to each other in five years. Let’s bury the hatchet. Here’s my hand.” Shortly afterwards another elder got up and said, “Minister, I think there will be no revival here while I say nice things about you to your face and am disloyal to you behind your back. I want you to forgive me.” Soon others were on their feet settling old scores. Then says Meyer, God began to visit them. The meeting was crowded and a revival broke out that swept over the whole district.  There was time for confession and an offer of forgiveness and healing. There could be no forgiveness without repentance and confession; no healing without recognizing the disease.

 

Second, believing God can change those who repent.  Faith is acting on what we believe about God.  Jesus does not ask us to look to our faith to forgive others.  Jesus reminds us that how big or small our faith is does not determine the outcome.  God is able to take those whose offense was huge and transform that person into a servant of his.  God has a way of turning people around when you do what he commands you to do.  In other words, God develops your faith as you exercise your faith.

 

In Luke 17:5-6 the disciples look at their limitations rather than God’s abilities.  It reads, “5And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.  6And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”

 

We have to believe in God’s ability to respond to the faith he has given us and act on that faith.  Years ago, two young men with a long history of delinquency and crime robbed a YMCA on the lower east side of Manhattan. On their way out of the building, they saw a young man at a telephone switchboard. They were frightened and assumed that he was calling the police. They seized him and beat him savagely with brass knuckles and a black jack. Thinking him to be dead, they hid him behind a radiator near the swimming pool and escaped.

 

Later that evening Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, was walking by the pool. She slipped in the young man’s blood, screamed and then found Donald Tippet’s body. He was rushed to the hospital where he lingered for days between life and death. Eventually he lived but one eye was so badly damaged it could not be saved.

 

Meanwhile the two young men were apprehended and brought to trial. Their past records assured that they would both get long sentences. However Donald Tippet did an amazing thing. He requested that the judge allow the two young men to be paroled to his charge. He wanted to give the boys a chance to change.

 

One of the boys blew his opportunity. He committed another crime, was caught and sent to jail. The other boy, however, was responsive to Tippet’s kindness. He went to college and eventually to medical school. He became one of our nation’s leading surgeons – an eye surgeon.

When Everett Palmer wrote of Donald Tippet’s amazing story of forgiveness and this surgeon’s accomplishments, he added, “I wonder if he ever performed one of those delicate eye operations without thinking of that night in the YMCA.”

 

Third and finally, Seeing forgiveness as our Christian duty.  Listen to verses 7-10 again.  “7But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?  8And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?  9Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.  10So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

 

This parable gives us two types of responses to offense. The first one appears when the disciples come to Jesus and ask him to increase their faith. They give evidence of a church that believes it is their faith that makes the difference in someone’s life. They value church membership and fellowship more than evangelism and outreach.  This church is a little bit like the tavern called “Cheers” where everybody’s knows your name, and everybody’s glad you came, and everyone’s problems are all the same.

 

And this church likes it that way! There is a sense of community, a sense of belonging and caring, and we value it deeply. The prayer in this church is “God, give us greater faith, and greater blessings, and greater fellowship with our friends.”  But God don’t ask us to forgive others as you have forgiven us!  Don’t move us out of our comfort zone.  If you want us to do this, God you have to provide us something that we don’t have because we’re not prepared to do this.  Lord, have mercy!

 

The second response is dutiful forgiveness.  What Jesus tells the disciples is that forgiveness is hard work.  He uses the imagery of a slave serving his master. The servant has no right to demand anything of the master nor to expect to do anything but serve the master.

 

It’s not a comfortable image for Christian people, and perhaps that’s why this is not one of our most loved parables. We don’t like to think of ourselves as “worthless slaves;” we prefer to see ourselves as “special lambs.” But we cannot ignore the obvious expectation of Jesus in this parable; Jesus calls Christians to pack a lunch pail, put on a hardhat, and spend themselves by serving others.

 

Not just exhaust themselves in service, but do so without any recognition.  It is amazing that in the church today, people have to be recognized in order to serve the Lord.  Either pay me, applaud me, give me an award, or make me important.  Servant leadership has taken a back seat to selfless service.

 

Jesus admonishes us not to look for better treatment from those we forgive, nor to look for God to shout our names from his throne.  Jesus admonishes us to consider the act of forgiveness routine and to do so habitually simply because of what God has done for us.  How many do you know that want forgive someone unless that person caters to their every whim or demand?  How many people do you know that put requirements on their forgiveness?

 

Conclusion

I’m glad that God says if you forgive, I can use you to move mountains in people’s lives.  People want somebody to forgive them and to understand them.  People want someone who will offer them the unconditional love of God.  People have made so many mistakes, done so many wrong things in their lives, that when they come to church, they need somebody who will forgive them and offer them God’s grace and mercy to start again.

 

God wants somebody who will forgive the person who offends them.  God wants somebody who will allow him to change that person, and God wants somebody who will do so without any thought to compensation or reward.  Forgiveness given in this fashion can be the one avenue that God can use to transform a sinner’s life.  Forgiveness offered as a pardon for sins and offenses paves the way for “the goodness of God to cause a sinner to repent.

 

If you are here this morning and you stand in need of forgiveness, be bid you come.  If you have offense against someone and would like to repent before God, we bid you come.  If you want God to forgive you and to allow you his grace to begin again, we bid you come.  Jesus died for your sins and he stands ready to forgive you!  Will you come today?