Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Power of Decision

 A number of years ago there was a sports show on television called “The Wide World of Sports.”  The show began with a montage of sports action with a voice over that said these words:  “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”  The video footage showing during the words, “the agony of defeat,” was of a ski jumper by the name of Vinko Bogotaj, who crashes while racing toward the bottom of the jump.  In the crash he falls off the side of the jump structure.  It’s a brutal crash.  He could have been killed.

Few people know, though, that Bogotaj intentionally ended the jump before he could fly.  He was jumping at the end of the day and cooling temperatures had caused the snow to become icy. He realized that he was gaining too mush speed; that he would land beyond the landing slope and could potentially be killed.  He was forced to make a decision that, even through it was a great risk, he would have to try to stop himself.

We are often faced with the same kind of decisions, where we have to weigh out what is the greater danger.  When ewe make a decision with great risk we need to put all of our energy in to seeing the decision we make be successful.

I’ve heard Pastor Mitchell, make the statement, “man has a sovereign will (what we call free will), and God will not violate that.”  In other words, he’s saying that we make our own choices.  God doesn’t make decision for us.  He may set up circumstances by which a decision must be made, but ultimately it’s up to us.  We are the ones who decide what we’ll do with those circumstances. 

We make many decisions over the course of our lifetimes.  One of the decisions that we make is whether or not we’ll step into the will of God for our lives.  Will we accept our salvation?  Often this is a simple decision, like the one the skier had to make?  Sin is killing me; quit or not?  Once that decision is made it leads to a much more difficult decision.  What am I willing to do to stay in the will of God?  This is the real decision, because many times what happens to us is that we get saved and we make some changes in our lives.  We step out of the overt sin.  Most Christians aren’t drug addicts any more, but is that all the will of God entails? 

There are decisions that we make that are less clear and more uncertain.  If we have a sovereign will and God will not violate that then, ultimately being in the will of God comes down to a decision that we make.  Today, I wan to post on the power of decision, from this passage of scripture:

Esther 4:6-17 (NKJV)
4:6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the city square that was in front of the king's gate. 7 And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries to destroy the Jews. 8 He also gave him a copy of the written decree for their destruction, which was given at Shushan, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her, and that he might command her to go in to the king to make supplication to him and plead before him for her people. 9 So Hathach returned and told Esther the words of Mordecai. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: 11 "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days." 12 So they told Mordecai Esther's words. 13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" 17 So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him.

The Circumstances of Decision

We are all familiar with this portion of scripture,  the Jews are living under the king of Persia, who has given power to a man who despises them, and has determined to have them killed.  He has taken a decree to the king that calls for the annihilation of the Jews, and that order has been granted and has gone out.  This is in place; it’s going to happen.  On a certain day the people will rise up and kill all the Jews. 

So, this is a time of desperation.  There is a great need for deliverance.  If you think about it for a moment, it’s also a picture of us in the bondage of sin.  There is impending death:  the wages of sin is death.  There is the jealous and angry hater of the Jews:  Satan despises us, too.  There is a sense of desperation that the people will survive.

How many of you reading this were desperate at the moment when you made the decision to get saved?  Many of us had come to the end of our rope and there was nowhere else to go.  Maybe you were in prison.  Maybe you were facing death.  Many of  you had destroyed your life in another way.  There was a desperate quality to our lives.  Change or die.  So we came to a place where decision became necessary.  The circumstances were against us, we had come to the place of decision, like Vinko Bogotaj,  A decision had to be made, “Do I continue down the jump or do I throw myself off the ramp?”

In our text there is certain annihilation of the Jews by their enemies. There is something that can be done to bring deliverance, but that thing is done at great risk.  The time for a decision has come. 

Think of wjhat must have gone through Bogotaj’s mind as he hurtled down the ramp.  He knew by the speed that he was traveling that he was in grave danger if he continued.  But there must also be the question is his mind, “What will happen if I throw myself down on the ramp?”  he would no longer be in control and a fall from the ramp at high speed was also very risky.  This is a crisis point requiring a decision.  A decision must be made. 

Esther is also weighing out the risks in the decision she has to make.   This is a crisis decision.  Do I allow the Jews to be annihilated?  Do I step in and risk the king’s wrath?  She made her decision, she struggled through the process and said, “Okay, I’m in the best position to influence the king, and I understand the risk of going to him, and she made her choice.

William James, the philosopher once said, “When you have to make a choice and don’t do it, that is a choice, in itself.

God has a will; there is a will of God and we know what that is. It is the salvation and deliverance of all of mankind.

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
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.

We’re the ones who have to decide.  God can’t force us to love Him and repent, but many times what He does is lay out the consequences and let’s us make the decision.

Deuteronomy 30:14-19 (NKJV)
30:14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. 15 "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. 19 I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;

This is a call to a decision to be in the will of God.  God doesn’t force it on us; He lays out the consequences and says, “Now, what are you going to do with it?”  He will not violate our will.  He didn’t with Adam, He just laid out the consequences of violating the command, “You will surely die.”  He didn’t violate Esther’s will, either.  Mordecai just told her what would happen if she didn’t intervene on the Jew’ behalf.

Esther 4:13-14 (NKJV)
4:13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

Mordecai lays out the consequences, “You and your father’s house will perish,” and he calls her to a decision.  ‘Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”  “You decide, Esther, whether or not you will be used by God.  I won’t interfere with your decision.”  God didn’t interfere with their will and He won’t with our either.  We have a sovereign will.  So then it has to be that God moves through the decisions of men.  The Jews are delivered through Esther’s decision to risk it all. 

That’s why when I pray for people I pray that people will make decisions that will bring them deeper into the will of God.  I pray that they make decisions that bring about deliverance; that bring about a desire to obey God; that bring about a stronger relationship with God.  These types of decisions are decisions that can bring about a move of God. 

Do you want God to move in your circumstances?  If you do, then you have to make a decision that allows God to move.  I’m going to walk away from this temptation; that’s a deliverance decision that God can move in.  I’m going to do those things that will bring me closer to God.  God can move in that, but when you make decisions to distance yourself from the people of God or the Word of God you stifle God’s ability to move in your life.

Look at Psalm 119:106

Psalms 119:106 (NKJV)
119:106 I have sworn and confirmed That I will keep Your righteous judgments.

What’s the psalmist doing here?  He’s proclaiming a decision that he has made to love out the will of God.  He’s made a decision that gives God room to move in his life.  It’s the same with us.  I preach what God gives me to to preach and it’s up to you to decide what you will do with it.  You can make a decision to ignore what’s preached or you can latch onto it and apply it to your life.  Which decision is a decision that allows God to move?

There is a Commitment to Decision

President Andrew Jackson said, “Take time to ponder but when the time comes for action stop thinking and go!”

This is where the rubber meets the road.  Once you decide to be used by God you have to follow through.  That’s usually the hardest part.

Esther 4:16 (NKJV)
4:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"

I’m sure esther examined the choices available to her.  She understood that the king could have her killed for coming when she wasn’t called to come before him.  She knew the risk of the decision but she allowed it to play out.  “If I perish, I perish.”

This was life and death.  There were real consequences to this decision and she was going   to have to trust God.  Have you ever had to face life and death surgery?  When I was a baby I had a heart condition thatwas life threatening.  The only resolution for this problem was surgery, but the problem was that this surgery had never been performed on a six-month old child.  If I didn’t have the surgery the probability was that I would die.  If I did have the surgery the chances are that I wouldn’t survive the surgery.  So, if I didn’t have surgery I would likely die.  If I did have the surgery I could die, but not definitely die.  How would you like to make that decision?

There is a huge commitment inherent in that decision.  The doctors had to be committed to doing their very best to create the best possible outcome.  My parents had to be committed to accept the outcome whatever it might be, but ultimately there was nothing they could do.  It was in the doctors’ hands.  They had to trust them.

In Esther’s case, she was going to die if she didn’t talk to the king, but there wass also the possibility that she could die if she did.  Once she made up her mind it was all or nothing.  This kind of decision required a commitment to follow through.  She had to trust God.  Our decision to follow Christ must be an all out commitment to follow him:  All or nothing.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)
7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Thius is spoken to the church, isn’t it?  We have all done these things in His name.  These are the signs that follow them that believe.  Something has happened, though, these that have the signs that follow them that believe have been turned away at the door.  Entering in requires a commitment to the will of God.  It’s not a halfway thing; it’s all or nothing. 

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “One’s philiosophy is not best expressed in words.  It is expressed in the choices one makes.  In the long run we shape our lives and we shape ourselves.  The process never ends until we die.  The choices we make our ultimatly our responsibility.”

In other words, what we believe is expressed in our actions, in our decisions and in the way we live out those decisions.  In a pioneer church setting we often ask people, “Will you come to church, Sunday morning?”  “Will you be here, tonight?”  “Will you be at Bible Study on Wednesday?”  People often answer, “I’ll try.”  Do you know what “I’ll try” means?  It means no!  Successful people are not successful because they try.  They’re successful because they do whatever is necessary to make success happen.

People who enter into Heaven enter in because they lived out their decision to be in the will of God.  Remember the verse from Psalms?

Psalms 119:106 (NKJV)
119:106 I have sworn and confirmed That I will keep Your righteous judgments.

I’m not sure who the psalmist was, but we will see him in Heaven; he is committed to entering in.

What about you?  What do your actions speak about your commitment to serve God?  Are you serving God or are you trying?  Do you have both feet planted in the will of God or are you straddling the line?  A halfway commitment is no commitment at all.

Making the Decision Count

Someone once said, “The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to build and which bridge to burn.”

This quote speaks of wisdom.  It takes wisdom to weigh out certain circumstances ans all the ramifications of the decision at hand, and then make the wisest choice.  Moses found himself at this very place:

Hebrews 11:24-28 (NKJV)
11:24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

This is a pretty major decision that Moses made, right here.  He was the adopted grandson of Pharaoh.  He was in line to be king, and yet he turned away from the passing pleasures of sin and joined himself to the people of God.   This was an all or nothing decision on his part.

It required commitment, but according to the scripture there was something else; it required priority.  He gave priority to the things of God.  Esther did, as well, she gave priority to the people of God; to God’s will for them and for herself.

Esther 4:16 (NKJV)
4:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"

As she’s preparing herself to live out this decision, she gives priority to fasting and prayer.  I believe this is what gives her the faith to take the risk to go in before the king.  She’s able to trust God to deliver her and the Jews.

The more priority that we give to the things of God in our lives the stronger our faith will become.   We’ll be more likely to make a decision that God can move through.  Sometimes we feel so far away from God.  We feel like God isn’t moving in our circumstances, but we haven’t given him any priority or way in our lives.  We haven’t made any decision that allow Him to move.

We need to be like Esther and go all the way, no matter how it looks; no matter the risk.  How you prioritize your life will speak to what God can do in you.   All it really comes down to is a decision like Esther’s or Moses’.  You resolve within yourself what you want from God.  How much of God do you want in your life?  How much do you need God to move there?  Then you commit your time, your resources and yourself to that decision: All out Petal to the medal.  This is what I need and I’m going all the way to see it happen.  Make the things of God a priority in your life and you have opened up a door for God to move in your life.  You want to preach?  Make it happen.  You want ministry?  You know what it takes to have it.  You need God to move?  Give Him the ability to do it.  Don’t try – Just do it!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Guarding the Fruit

Editor's Note:  The theme for our church this year is that this is "2015 is the Year of Fruitfulness."  We have a desire to see the church built in Taoyuan City and spreading to the rest of Taiwan.  This sermon was preached on a way to impart the vision to bear fruit, that will be lasting and remain until Christ's return.  I fruit is borne then it is important that we guard the fruit so that it cannot be stolen or slip away.

I used to work with a woman that had a saying when you asked in she was busy.  She would say, “I’m busier than a one-eyed fox watching two hen-houses.”  She had a lot of other colorful phrases but I wouldn't use most of them.  What she was saying is that it was difficult to do a good job at any one thing because there were so many other things to do. 

We all have busy lives, don’t we?  We’re all busier than one-eyed foxes, but there are some things we need to focus on.  Jesus has given us a task.  He has placed a burden on us, and that is that we’re to reach our generation.

John 15:15-16 (NKJV)15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

It is appointed to us that we should bear fruit and that our fruit should remain.  In order for fruit our fruit to remain we need to protect it.  Today, I want to write about protecting the fruit that we have been.

1 Kings 20:38-40 (NKJV)20:38 Then the prophet departed and waited for the king by the road, and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 Now as the king passed by, he cried out to the king and said, "Your servant went out into the midst of the battle; and there, a man came over and brought a man to me, and said, 'Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.' 40 While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone." Then the king of Israel said to him, "So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it."
Guard this Man

The context of this is that the King of Syria threatened Israel, and God delivered them over into israel’s hands.  God wanted the King of Syria dead, but Ahab the king of Israel let him go.  He saw an opportunity to make some money, so basically he refused to do what God wanted.  He was disobedient and this prophet let him know what God said.

I think there’s a lesson for us in this warning.  We are called, (The Bible says appointed) to bear fruit and that the fruit we bear should remain.  If that’s the case then we are called to guard the fruit.  To guard the man we are given to guard; to not let the fruit “slip away.”

Let’s look for a moment at the excuse that’s given for the loss of the prisoner, “While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.”  The guard got too busy “here and there” to pay attention to what he was given to do.  Here and there seems to imply that he was busy with many things.  He was jut going about daily life and the man slips away – he’s just gone.  The result is that the guard has to pay with his life for losing the prisoner.

There is a task that is appointed to us:  To bear fruit and that our fruit should remain.  So we have the same task as the guard; to keep the fruit that was given to us.  That fruit should not be allowed to slip away, and that’s the challenge isn't it?  How do we keep people serving God?  How do we inspire people to remain in the will of God?  We are often distracted by our busyness. 

The guard in the text tells the king I was busy here and there, “I had things to do; things that needed my concentration; things that were no doubt important, but that’s why he was lost.  It wasn't me it was all that I had to do that allowed him to slip away.”

That’s what he’s saying, “I had things to do so I couldn't pay enough attention to the man and he escaped while I was busy with all those things.  It’s not my fault…it was my busyness.”  The king called it a decision.

That’s interesting isn't it?  The man decided that the things he was busy with were more important than guarding the man.  You’d think that with his life on the line, making sure the prisoner didn't escape would be his highest priority…but the prisoner was ignored and he got away.  Has that ever happened to you?

Have you ever focused on some trivial task that you ere doing and lost track of the time?  Have you ever been so intent on doing one task that you forgot to do something that was more important?  We've all done that.

The reality of it is that you've made a choice.  You have given priority to the lesser thing.  We often allow the things we’re busy with get in the way of the larger thing, which is obedience to God.  Look at this moment in the lives of Martha and Mary.  They’re friends of Jesus:

Luke 10:38-42 (NKJV)10:38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Martha is busy, she’s trying to serve all of these people who've come to her home.  Her sister Mary has chosen to sit and listen at Jesus’ feet..  Martha was distracted with too much serving.  She was too busy to hear from Jesus.  She was too busy for the word of God.  She was preoccupied with the lesser task.

We are often like this.  I’m too busy for Bible Study.  I have too many other things to do that I can’t go on outreach.  I’m too busy here and there.  I don’t have time to help anyone who is struggling with staying saved.  God should keep them.  Well, He’s given us that job – To guard the fruit.

I think that sometimes we get distracted with all of our church tasks and lose sight of the talks of keeping the fruit.   We’re too busy for new relationships.  One of the concerns in our church is, whether or not people have relationships with people in the church, outside of the church.  Do they spend time with others in the church?  Do they talk to each other?  Do they pray for each other?  Do they have any concern for others in the church and their salvation, or are they too busy here and there?

Am I saying you should put your life on hold to only church things?  Of course not, we all have to work and raise kids, and do what we have to do.  But I believe there’s a balance to do the will of God.  For years, I balanced a full-time job; my family and my church activities, so I know it can all be balanced.

Some people say they’re just too busy, but they have time for a lot of other things.  When it comes to new people coming into the church, you don’t have to invite them to come and live with you, but how about a friendly lunch after church, or a phone call once in a while.  Make them feel cared about.  Make a friend.  Find out what you have in common and invite them to do that, that’s how you made the friends you have now.

The best friends that I have in life started out just like that; someone reached out to me when I first came to church.  Helping people to lock into church is vital for their spiritual well-being.  It’s the way we guard the fruit – not letting it slip away.

It’s Part of Being of One Accord

Look with me again at John 15:16:

John 15:16 (NKJV)15:16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

That appointment to bear fruit is attached to a promise: That whatever you ask in my name, He may give you.  Another translation says it like this, “In order that whatever you might ask the father in my name, he may give you.” (Weust Expanded New Testament).  When you say “in order” it means that one thing follows the other.  It’s like saying “If you will bear fruit and that fruit remains, then whatever you may ask of the Father he will give it to you.” 

The context of this statement is telling the disciples, “I no longer call you servants but friends, if you do what I command.”  A friend understands what the master is doing.  With a servant, that’s not necessarily true:  he servant does things because the master ordered them to do it. A friend, on the other hand, does what he does because he’s in agreement.  Your friends don’t do what you tell them to do, just because you told them to, they do what they agree with.  So this context tells us that the disciples are in agreement with Jesus.  When they follow His orders they are of one accord.  They have the same purpose.  They have the same priorities.

What if we’re not in agreement?  What if we’re not of one accord?  Will the people we reach be fruit that remains?  I think if we’re not of one accord then there will be hesitation to make them feel welcome.  People will resist reaching out to others.  People will resist following up on new believers.  Follow-up is essential to having fruit that remains.  They come to church and they expect the pastor to be friendly.  It’s part of his job description – be friendly.  It’s the congregation’s response they’re looking for.  They wan to know what the people in the congregation are like.  Fruit that remains indicates that we are in one accord.

John 17:11 (NKJV)17:11 Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.

That they may be one – in thought and purpose
As we are one – in thought and purpose:

That they will remain united in thought and action as the ones that came before them were united, so that they will all be of one accord.

Now look at this prayer of Jesus:

John 17:20-21 (NKJV)17:20 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Jesus is praying that we as believers will be of one accord so that the world will know that this real:  That this is ordained of God.  I we are all of a different mindset then there’s no real difference between us and the world.

This is often my prayer.  I sometimes wonder why there are things that are visible in people’s lives in our congregation that I wouldn't want in my life.  Why do I feel so strongly about certain spiritual principles and people in the congregation don’t.  If we’re not of one accord it results in confusion for the newcomers, and in confusion that fruit cannot remain.

How to Bear Fruit and Have it Remain

I believe that there are several things that we as a congregation can do to see out church grow.  How many people realize that church growth is more dependent on the congregation than the pastor?  People don’t come to church because the pastor is great.  They come because of the congregation.  They come because of relationships they have or want to have with people in the church. We need to focus on the people we've been given.  We need to include them in our lives, and show them they’re accepted.  There’s a need for us all to come to be of one accord, because we’re not all going in the same direction.  We don’t all participate in the strategy of the church to reach souls.  There is a need for people in the congregation to share in the vision of the church to reach the lost.  People should begin to rise up and take on for themselves a personal vision to reach other people that works together with the church’s vision.

We can’t be afraid to reach out to people who may not be the “type” of people we’re comfortable with.  Those that seem to be the least lovable are often those who most need to be loved.

We can’t be afraid to witness or to share our testimony with people.  We don’t always know what they struggle with in life and your struggle may be the same type of thing they with which they struggle.  The thing that most touched me and brought me to the will of God was a drama about Mexican gangsters, when I had never had any experience at all with them.  The drama touched on an area of struggle in my life, with which other people, regardless of culture or ethnicity, may struggle.

Finally, it is important that we do not neglect those that do come.  Reach out to them.  Make friends with them.  Help them to feel like they are a part of something.  Show them that we care about them, so that they will desire to remain.  This is how we guard the fruit and don’t allow it to slip away.