Tag Archives: influence

Judges 19-21; Acts 2

Recently a friend and I sat in somber reflection at the power of influence. Influence can be an unintentional bump, a gentle nudge, or a fierce force sending one in a direction or on a path, for better or worse. And when influence gathers a following, it is its own entity.

There’s a sense of foreboding when a couple rests at the town square.

18 “We have been in Bethlehem in Judah,” the man replied. “We are on our way to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim, which is my home. I traveled to Bethlehem, and now I’m returning home. But no one has taken us in for the night, 19 even though we have everything we need. We have straw and feed for our donkeys and plenty of bread and wine for ourselves.”

20 “You are welcome to stay with me,” the old man said. “I will give you anything you might need. But whatever you do, don’t spend the night in the square.” (Judges 19:18-20, NLT)

While they were dining as guests in the old man’s house …

22 While they were enjoying themselves, a crowd of troublemakers from the town surrounded the house. They began beating at the door and shouting to the old man, “Bring out the man who is staying with you so we can have sex with him.” (Judges 19:22, NLT)

I pause at this crowd. Would one man have acted this way on his own? To be so bold as to make demands and intimidate? Would two men have done this? But one’s idea catches fire to a crowd, and they arrive at this place and collectively terrorize a victim–the concubine.

27 When her husband opened the door to leave, there lay his concubine with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said, “Get up! Let’s go!” But there was no answer. So he put her body on his donkey and took her home.

29 When he got home, he took a knife and cut his concubine’s body into twelve pieces. Then he sent one piece to each tribe throughout all the territory of Israel.

30 Everyone who saw it said, “Such a horrible crime has not been committed in all the time since Israel left Egypt. Think about it! What are we going to do? Who’s going to speak up?” (Judges 19:27-30, NLT)

Not succumbing to poor influences is a starting point, and it may keep one out of the mix. But this seizes me: everyone who saw it (admitted it was a horrible crime, recognized it for the abuse it was, was aware of the oppressive force) … who’s going to speak up?

I can take those words and apply them today to any number of things: from bullying, domestic issues, and social ostracizing to violence, injustice, or oppression.

I contrast this with the fire of the Holy Spirit that comes upon the group in Acts 2. A group is witness to the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, and still, they write it off to something they can understand instead of seeing it for divine truth in action.

13 But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, “They’re just drunk, that’s all!” (Acts 2:13, NLT)

Another crowd. Ridicule. But there are some who see the truth, and their hearts are pierced.

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” (Acts 2:37-40, NLT)

Father God, the Holy Spirit is a gift, a promise. Help me to heed your counsel. Whether one-to-one or in a group, please give me wisdom and courage to do what is right and honor you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Samuel 20; 2 Corinthians 13; Ezekiel 27; Psalm 75, 76

This year I’ve worked really hard to examine my actions and my values. Did the one give support and evidence to the other? What guiding principles would help me to support those values? It’s not always so clear. It’s even harder, especially in storms under stress, if you don’t have a plan of action.

Sheba was a known troublemaker. He didn’t work for peace or unity. He passionately moved others to follow his example.

There happened to be a troublemaker there named Sheba son of Bicri, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. Sheba blew a ram’s horn and began to chant:

“Down with the dynasty of David!
    We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Come on, you men of Israel,
    back to your homes!”

So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed with their king and escorted him from the Jordan River to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 20:1-2, NLT)

Do I follow the crowd? Do the people in my feeds and in my life lead me closer to the values I want to stand for, or do they lead me away? How do these influencers affect my heart and my choices?

If I’m clear on my values, my purpose, my goal, then perhaps I can save myself collateral damage from passions or impulses.

16 But a wise woman in the town called out to Joab, “Listen to me, Joab. Come over here so I can talk to you.” 17 As he approached, the woman asked, “Are you Joab?”

“I am,” he replied.

So she said, “Listen carefully to your servant.”

“I’m listening,” he said.

18 Then she continued, “There used to be a saying, ‘If you want to settle an argument, ask advice at the town of Abel.’ 19 I am one who is peace loving and faithful in Israel. But you are destroying an important town in Israel. Why do you want to devour what belongs to the Lord?”

20 And Joab replied, “Believe me, I don’t want to devour or destroy your town! 21 That’s not my purpose. All I want is a man named Sheba son of Bicri from the hill country of Ephraim, who has revolted against King David. If you hand over this one man to me, I will leave the town in peace.”

“All right,” the woman replied, “we will throw his head over the wall to you.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off Sheba’s head and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the ram’s horn and called his troops back from the attack. They all returned to their homes, and Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 20:16-22, NLT, emphasis added)

Sheba was a known troublemaker. But this woman of influence is only referenced as wise–and she knows herself as peace loving and faithful. Both she and Sheba have and live by their values, and both will bear fruit (results) by their choices.

But what got me most in today’s readings was the image of Tyre, like a grand and beautiful ship–known, prosperous, elegant, thriving. The reading of it gets better and grander as I follow–with so much going for it, what could go wrong?

26 “But look! Your oarsmen
    have taken you into stormy seas!
A mighty eastern gale
    has wrecked you in the heart of the sea!
27 Everything is lost—
    your riches and wares,
your sailors and pilots,
    your ship builders, merchants, and warriors.
On the day of your ruin,
    everyone on board sinks into the depths of the sea. (Ezekiel 27:26-27, NLT)

Your oarsmen have taken you into stormy seas. It’s important to be aware of what influences me. Is it leading me on a fruitful path or taking me to destruction? Do my friendships really lead me closer to my goals and values? Do my thoughts really support what I value? Do my actions bear good fruit or bad fruit? Are my oarsmen leading me into stormy seas? Be aware.

Paul really wanted to influence the Corinthians for the better. Do I have friends like that–who speak truth, hope, encouragement into my life? If they saw me headed into stormy waters, would stand by and watch me go? Would they be like the oarsmen and hasten my fall? Or would they reason with me because they value the destiny of my heart over their own comfort?

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. As you test yourselves, I hope you will recognize that we have not failed the test of apostolic authority.

We pray to God that you will not do what is wrong by refusing our correction. I hope we won’t need to demonstrate our authority when we arrive. Do the right thing before we come—even if that makes it look like we have failed to demonstrate our authority. For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth. We are glad to seem weak if it helps show that you are actually strong. We pray that you will become mature. (2 Corinthians 13:5-9, NLT)

Lord, you send me a brother in Paul through the pages of your word.

11 Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11, NLT)

Father God, I pray to be discerning in my influences–those people and things that feed my thoughts–because I am an influencer too in my home. Help me to get clear on how to support the things I value.

Courtney (66books365)

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Genesis 46; Mark 16; Job 12; Romans 16

I was sick for a week in January. The next week, I tried to resume my regular running schedule with a new brand of shoes, and I developed shin splints within days. Benched from my run, I used that time to heal and to track down a pair of my discontinued favorite shoes. Then last week, I had two wisdom teeth extracted, and I’ve been waiting for the pain to subside to go back to my run. It’s been a month since I logged any consistent miles.

My daughter and I talked about intentions and discernment. I used the example of running–that I can want to be a runner, but I’m not a runner if I don’t run. Maybe that example lends itself to other areas–to be hospitable, generous, helpful one must offer hospitality, generosity, help–otherwise can he claim to be those things? Isn’t a man what he repeatedly does?

Paul lists the names of people he has remembered for their actions:

Phoebe, she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.

Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

Mary, who has worked so hard for your benefit.

Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. (He mentions dear friends and coworkers for Christ.)

Apelles, a good man whom Christ approves. Tryphena and Tryphosa, the Lord’s workers, and dear Persis, who has worked so hard for the Lord. Rufus, whom the Lord picked out to be his very own; and his dear mother, who has been a mother to me. (Romans 16:1-13, NLT, excerpts for space)

In Genesis, Jacob journeys to Egypt with his entire family. The scriptures list his sons and their children, and I am impressed with the multi-generational potential and impact of actions and attitudes. Jacob is moving his family line for a time to Egypt (where he will die).

Oh, Lord, the power of example is not lost on me, and I’m thankful to know men and women who love you and work hard for you–they inspire me and encourage me. Help me to get honest with my heart about my own thoughts and actions, and where they lead.

Courtney (66books365)

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Song of Solomon 7-8; 1 Kings 12

I think on key themes: influence, leadership, power. But there’s more: fear, insecurity, desperation, intimidation. At the core of all, it’s heart.

Rehoboam seeks counsel over a situation and is offered two different pieces of advice. He is influenced by his peers, but on a deeper level, there’s more.

12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions! (1 Kings 12:12, NLT, emphasis added)”

It speak of his heart. These scriptures also glimpse the spiritual realm.

15 So the king paid no attention to the people. This turn of events was the will of the Lord, for it fulfilled the Lord’s message to Jeroboam son of Nebat through the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh (1 Kings 12:15, NLT, emphasis added).

And this:

24 ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not fight against your relatives, the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened is my doing!’” So they obeyed the message of the Lord and went home, as the Lord had commanded (1 Kings 12:24, NLT, emphasis added).

Jeroboam battles fear and insecurity in his heart. He feels his safety and very life are on the line.

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. 27 When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.”

In the meanwhile, his actions may temporarily protect his physical body, but his spirit has trespassed into unsafe territory.

28 So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people,“It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt! (1 Kings 12:26-28, NLT, emphasis added)”

When I feel afraid, uncertain, overwhelmed; when I need direction and wisdom; when I feel alone or targeted–I recognize these are moments when my heart is vulnerable. The advice I seek or follow can lead me closer to God or farther away. If I keep my eyes focused on what’s in front of me, I risk reacting from a worldly perspective of here and now–but if I lift my eyes, I see a kingdom and an eternity–and that, indeed, changes everything.

Lord, I pray that I would keep your kingdom my focus. I recognize the things that poke and stoke my heart can be distractions and stumbling blocks. I realize too that these distractions and stumbling blocks provoke a reaction that reveals my heart. Oh that these occasions would provide cleansing and healing, to draw me closer to you and not distance me from you.

Courtney (66books365)

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2 Chronicles 15-16; 1 Kings 16; Philemon

I didn’t see it coming. As Asa’s story unfolded, I felt bolstered by the prophet’s words: “Whenever you seek him, you will find him,” and “be strong and courageous” (2 Chronicles 15). Asa heard and took courage. He removed idols, repaired an altar, and called together the people. There were covenants made and sacrifices offered. Asa’s heart remained faithful throughout his life (2 Chronicles 15:17b, NLT. Note this.).

So I didn’t see it coming, when in 2 Chronicles 16, he would overlook consulting the Lord, a decision that carried crucial consequences. His first thirty-five years of reign were marked by an intentional abiding, but the last years of leadership are an unraveling of sorts–misplaced trust, anger and oppression.

What happened?

***

While disappointing to read, was it a surprise that Israel’s leaders were evil and angered the Lord time after time?

25 But Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 26 He followed the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat in all the sins he had committed and led Israel to commit. The people provoked the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, with their worthless idols. (1 Kings 16:25-26, NLT)

I think long on examples. I consider influences in my lifetime (some influenced me not to follow them!). But how often do I take into consideration my own words and actions and the influence they have on those around me?

***

I’ve spent the past few days working on a baby’s knit hat, and I’ve started it over so many times I’ve lost count. I noticed that sometimes the row was a stitch or two longer than it should have been, or that I dropped a stitch accidentally and there was a big hole in it. These mistakes weren’t made on purpose. They were so very unintentional.

***

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. (Philemon 4-7, NLT)

Paul writes to Philemon, reminding him of his generosity and love–and to take it a step further (to extend grace, forgiveness, or welcome to someone who has wronged him).

17 So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!

20 Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.

21 I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! (Philemon 17-21, NLT)

Paul’s letter to Philemon reads like encouragement and caution.

***

I’m not responsible for the decisions other people make–and lately I’ve been surprised at how someone’s choice can influence my response. I do pause and wonder: should it? Like Philemon, if someone has wronged me, should I be less loving or generous in my own behaviors, or like Paul suggests–to do as much or more than expected? Do I stay true to how God has wired me? If I’m not intentional, abiding in Christ, I could look back at the fabric of the story of my life and see holes and wonder, “What happened?”

Lord, I’m so imperfect, but I know that you are at work in my heart. Help me to be true to who you’ve created me to be, independent of how another behaves. Some days effort seems grossly out of proportion to return. I am humbled and saddened as I wonder over the question of what’s in it for me? I pray that I continue strong, even in seasons of drought, because it pleases you.

Courtney (66books365)

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