Posts Tagged ‘Honesty’

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

The Prison Within. © By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

Psalm 3:1 – HOW CAN I EXPERIENCE PEACE IN TIMES OF PRESSURE? Part 1

The door looked like a safe door and we were told to leave it locked all the time we were in our rented unit in Kiev. We don’t have to do that in Australia.

When we were visited by a man from the Ukrainian Mafia and his henchmen dressed as police we should not have opened the door. I admit that I felt a little afraid, but he was not really interested in us. He was the son of the person from whom we had rented and fortunately he was more intent on retrieving a jacket he had left in the house.

A friend once told us of the walls, barbed wire and alarms they had installed around their house in South Africa to remain safe. Even then they kept a gun under the pillow.

I don’t wake up thinking about my enemies. I don’t fear the intrusion of insurgent soldiers bashing down the door and firing their weapons indiscriminately at my family. I don’t know the horror of bombs and terrorism.

Christians can openly worship in Australia without fear of being ridiculed or persecuted. The pressures I face in life have not involved fighting for my life. I have no experience of the kind David faces in this Psalm. I don’t pretend to know how he feels. I hope never to experience such things and I pray for protection for those who do.

Nevertheless, I have a healthy reverence for God and a knowledge that I am in His hands. He is my faithful friend, and what I lack in experience of facing enemies, David has faced head on and can certainly answer the question better than most of us, “How do I continue to have peace in times of pressure?”

It is obvious that the Lord is also a friend to whom David can come when he feels the pressure of those around him who want him defeated and dethroned. Psalm 3 invites us with David to …

  1. BE HONEST WITH GOD ABOUT THE PRESSURES AND THE CHALLENGES YOU ARE FACING

“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” Interlude” (Psalm 3:1-2 NLT).

He doesn’t ask “Why, Lord?” He just lays out the facts. It’s good to verbalize what is happening in our lives to God.

Sometimes I meet someone who sees themselves as an atheist, those who don’t believe in God yet when I ask if I can pray for them after my visits they say, “Yes, please do.” I encourage those who feel they have no faith to simply keep the communication lines open with God.

Psalm 3 is mirrored in the New Testament in Hebrews 4:15-16 (NLT) which says that Christ understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. He, of all people, knows what it means to face the enemy, even to the point of death. It says “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” David told God about his situation and was honest with God. I encourage you to do the same.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31: 36 – 55 – AN EXIT INTERVIEW WITH STYLE

Exit Interview. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Exit Interview. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

He could have said so much more. I wanted him to say something like “You’re a backstabbing, condescending, conniving, manipulative bully! You’re a pushy, controlling, judgmental, nit-picking, fault-finding, blame-shifting, double-crossing, hypocritical, egotistical, self-centred, self-righteous, irrational, unreasonable … employer!” but Jacob is not into name-calling.

  1. AVOID NAME CALLING

Name-calling is the last resort of insecure people trying to acquire a psychological advantage. Jacob, however, is assertive without being offensive. Quite an art.

Normally an exit interview tries to get to the bottom of why you are leaving your job, your concerns, your suggestions, how you feel, your frustrations about how you were managed, your expectations, and addresses examples of discrimination or harassment. But how do you confront a bully like Laban at an exit interview if name-calling isn’t an option? I am amazed at Jacob’s control.

  1. BE HONEST AND ASSERTIVE

Although Jacob becomes very angry, he keeps it under control and he challenges Laban. He wants all those with Laban to see this bully for who he is. “What’s my crime?” he demands. “What have I done wrong to make you chase after me as though I were a criminal?” (Genesis 31:36 NLT). Jacob lays it on the line. Laban has accused him of kidnapping his daughters and stealing his household gods with absolutely no proof. He has attacked his integrity and Jacob refuses to be walked over.

No-one can make you feel inferior without your approval. An Exit Interview is an opportunity to be assertive. Assertive people express their thoughts and feelings and questions. They keep their anger under control and express honestly how they feel. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT, NIV and MSG) says “In your anger, do not sin … don’t sin by letting anger control you … don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry … Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

  1. HAVE WITNESSES

“You have rummaged through everything I own. Now show me what you found that belongs to you! Set it out here in front of us, BEFORE OUR RELATIVES, FOR ALL TO SEE. Let them judge between us!” (Genesis 31:37 NLT)

That’s the beauty of an Exit Interview. Before witnesses you can express objectively what has influenced your decision to leave. When we remain silent, we forego the chance for the organisation to evaluate their position and bear witness to what has happened.

  1. STICK TO THE FACTS

He states his case and says in effect. “I’ve been a virtual slave for you for 20 years. You demanded obedience in return for advancement and success but you only kept your promises if it was to your advantage, changing my wages 10 times.” Laban’s self-serving manipulative tactics are out in the open. No more white lies, sneaky moves for Jacob. Finally he is learning the power of honesty. As he relates the facts he lays a foundation for the possibility of change in Laban’s business dealings.

The facts become like a declaration to the devil and in effect Jacob is saying, “You have interfered in my life for long enough! The long meaningless hours of meticulous labour without any recognition are over! You can no longer dictate your unrealistic terms! You can no longer decide my future because your tyranny is now a part of my past! I have sacrificed enough! My ambitions to fulfil God’s purposes for my life will no longer be squashed! I am no longer a part of your empire building efforts!” (Genesis 31:39-41).

  1. CUT YOUR TIES

Making a particular choice means rejecting other possible choices. The truth for Jacob was that a choice towards God meant a choice to escape from Laban.

“In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why He appeared to you last night and rebuked you!” (Genesis 31:42 NLT). He blurts it all out. I have a new boss! Good on you Jacob! He cuts his ties with Laban and declares his allegiance to God. Cutting Laban out of his life is not so much showing disrespect to Laban but it is an expression of respect for God. He’s made a good choice.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) says “… For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?””   

Being honest and assertive, having witnesses, sticking to the facts, and cutting your ties helps greatly. But wrapping up the interview is perhaps the most delicate conversation of all. 

  1. SEEK TO MAKE AN AGREEMENT

Jacob and his family are leaving and Laban knows that God will not allow him to harm them. He replies to Jacob with a true and false test, “These women are my daughters, (True) these children are my grandchildren (True), and these flocks are my flocks (False!) — in fact, everything you see is mine (False!). But what can I do now about my daughters and their children? (True!).

The arrogance of his nature defines him. He has felt superior to Jacob all these years and now he barely saves face as he stumbles over his words with a frantic attempt to maintain his power.

Laban still doesn’t admit that Jacob has a right to anything. He believes his own lies and refuses to admit that he is wrong. He remains territorial, seeking to protect what he still considers to be his. If God had not spoken to him, he would probably have harmed them and taken Jacob’s flocks from him. He admits he can do nothing. His hands are tied (Genesis 31:43). He says “So come, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and it will be a witness to our commitment” (Genesis 31:44 NLT). 

Be careful Jacob; before you shake hands with this charlatan, make sure you know what you are doing. Before you sit down and share the covenant meal, make sure it won’t be your last one. Before you set up a monument and collect boundary markers, make sure your livestock are on your side. In fact start counting your livestock to see if they are still there! There’s a sacrifice in making any kind of agreement with someone like Laban.

You can’t make a deal with the devil, but in this case, since God has already bound Laban’s ability to bring harm to Jacob, the covenant is a declaration of grace to Laban. Psalms 34:14 (NLT) says “Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”  

Laban wants to protect himself. He doesn’t want Jacob returning to Haran with an army to levy revenge. “See this pile of stones,” Laban continues, “and see this monument I have set between us. They stand between us as witnesses of our vows. I will never pass this pile of stones to harm you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me” (Genesis 31:51-52). 

  1. REFUSE TO TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

Laban can’t help himself. Laban adds a clause to the Exit Agreement that insinuates that Jacob is the reason that such a covenant must be made, not him. He says

“If you mistreat my daughters or if you marry other wives, God will see it even if no one else does. He is a witness to this covenant between us … I call on the God of our ancestors—the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of my grandfather Nahor—to serve as a judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath before the fearsome God of his father, Isaac, to respect the boundary line” (Genesis 31:50-53 NLT).

Subtly, Laban implies that Jacob cannot be trusted to keep the peace between them and that he cannot be trusted to treat his wives well; that he could abandon them for other wives. As if Jacob needed boundaries on the way he treated his wives! It was Laban who sold them like slaves to Jacob without any dowry! Jacob initially only wanted to marry Rachel!

But it’s not worth getting defensive over these subtle slurs on Jacob’s character. In the end they are inconsequential details which will have no effect on the future. Don Miguel Ruis says “There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you refuse to take things personally.”

Laban doesn’t have his household gods anymore so this forces him to call on the God of Abraham. Hedging his bets, Laban says, “May the Lord keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this covenant when we are out of each other’s sight” (Genesis 31:49 NLT).

Laban implies that Jacob needs to be watched. The “Mizpah Benediction” is Laban at his hypocritical best and not a form of blessing so much as a standoff designed to protect him. But he is right; God is the lookout from the watchtower, guarding the dividing line, the boundary, with a border protection policy that guarantees Jacob’s destiny.

In generosity and faith Jacob offers a sacrifice and they have a covenant feast. Talk about preparing a table in the presence of his enemies (Genesis 31:54). 

The next morning, Laban gets up early and he kisses his grandchildren and his daughters and blesses them. Then he leaves and returns home (Genesis 31:55) and Laban finally becomes a figure in Jacob’s past.

This Exit Interview goes well; no name calling or defensive pettiness on Jacob’s part, just assertive, honest disclosure for all to see.

Jesus invites us to make a covenant with Him after the Exit Interview from Satan’s kingdom. He offers forgiveness and peace with God by believing in Him. Our destiny is found in the promises of God in the Gospel of Peace. 

Hebrews 9:12-22 (NLT) says “… Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why He is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed … Then He said, “This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you” … For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”  

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT) says “Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, … ratified an eternal covenant with His blood — may He equip you with all you need for doing His will …” 

Pastor Ross

Part 4 – Genesis 21:22-34 – WHAT WOULD IT LOOK LIKE IF…

WHAT DO YOU SEE?

I was talking with a Jewish friend at work the other day. She said “I don’t like evangelicals!” I said that it was unfortunate because I was one, and that she was working for an evangelical organisation. She said “I don’t like people trying to convert me!” I said that as I share with people about Christ in my life and live out my genuine faith in Christ that I hoped that those around me will see in me something they will also want to have in their lives. She accepted that explanation of being an evangelical. She just didn’t want to be FORCED. I can understand that. I hope she understands that I want my influence to have eternal value.

What would it look like if I were to LIVE MY LIFE in such a way that people could see the PRESENCE OF GOD IN ME? Abraham lived his life like this. At one point a king called Abimelech comes to him and says, “God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do.” (Genesis 21:22 NLT)

2 Corinthians 8:21 (NLT) says “We are careful to be honourable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to SEE that we are honourable.” What is it that people see in me that indicates the PRESENCE OF GOD?

If you had asked Abimelech about his INITIAL IMPRESSIONS of Abraham were when he first met him, he would say that he was a LIAR and lacked integrity, untrustworthy and a believer who didn’t seem to have much trust in God, someone willing to put everyone in danger to save his own neck. Proverbs 12:19-20 (NLT) says “TRUTHFUL WORDS stand the test of time, but LIES are soon exposed. DECEIT fills hearts that are plotting evil; JOY fills hearts that are planning peace!” Proverbs 11:11 (NLT) says “Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper, ..”

1. I want people to SEE GOD IN ME as they see how committed I am to living a life of INTEGRITY.

I really like the way there’s an HONEST EXCHANGE here. Abimelech is so HONEST with Abraham. He comes right out and says, “Swear to me in God’s name that you will NEVER DECEIVE ME, my children, or any of my descendants. I have been loyal to you, so now swear that you will be loyal to me and to this country where you are living as a foreigner.” (Genesis 21:23 NLT) Abimelech has already been on the other end of Abraham’s deception. He wants some ASSURANCE OF ENDURANCE. He doesn’t want to be under God’s death sentence again. He also sees the benefit of connection with Abraham, a rich and powerful man. Abraham replies, “Yes, I swear to it!” (Genesis 21:24 NLT) What else could you say? This is a great way to MAKE AMENDS for being such a jerk.

2. I also hope that people see that I serve and honour God by the way I am willing to DEAL WITH CONFLICT head on. Let’s get things OUT IN THE OPEN before they cause a rift in my relationships. Abraham does this. He complains “to Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had taken by force from Abraham’s servants.” (Genesis 21:25 NLT) Abimelech can then do something about it.

3. I also want people to see God in me through my GENEROSITY. They make a covenant, a peace treaty, a business deal, but Abraham’s generosity goes beyond just making a legal agreement (Genesis 21:27). He gives a special gift to establish their relationship even more firmly. Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) says, “The GENEROUS will prosper; those who REFRESH OTHERS will themselves be refreshed.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NLT) says “Teach those who are rich in this world … to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” 

4. Abraham plants a tamarisk tree “and there he worshiped the Lord, the Eternal God.” (Genesis 21:33 NLT). God is eternal and connecting with Him has eternal consequences. John 3:36 (NLT) says “…anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.”  

I want people to see God in me by the way I WORSHIP HIM. I don’t need to go around planting tamarisk trees but I do need to leave a LEGACY OF WORSHIP and look back on the times and places where God has met with me. Jesus used wine and bread once with His discipes to say, “Remember me”.

God bless you Church as people see your integrity, your willingness to deal with conflict, your generosity and mostly how you acknowledge and worship our eternal God. May people know through your words and actions that God offers eternal life through Christ. Make a difference that counts for eternity today.  

Pastor Ross