Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween? Not so Fast, It's "All Hallows' Eve"

Today is Oct. 31st and therefore in the U.S. it's Halloween.  There will be trick or treating, and people dressed up in weird constumes...kids are cute... so what's the big deal?

The word Halloween is derived from the words "all hallows' eve" - which for centuries was the night preceding Nov. 1st and the celebration of "All Saints Day".  
For centuries the church celebrated Nov. 1 as a day to honor the historical "saints" of the church. 

Now, as a Christian, we're all "Saints".  Scripture says so:
  • Romans 1:7  To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 
  • 1 Corinthians 1:2  To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 
  • Ephesians 1:1  Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:
Look at Paul's greetings in most of his letters and he continues to say that the members of the church in each place he wrote to were "saints".
"Saints" comes from the Greek word, "hagios", which means "holy ones"..."set apart ones"...
It simply is the acknowledgement that God calls us holy and we are set apart for God's purposes, for the fulfillment of  his Kingdom.

The fact that Halloween emerged as a celebration of darkness, death and Satan's forces demonstrates how far we've drifted from the original purpose of "All Hallows' Eve" and "All Saints Day" tomorrow.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ this day as significance in history.  It was on Oct. 31, 1517, that a Parish Priest and University lecturer - Martin Luther - nailed a series of disputations - debatable propositions - on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  He posted these "95 Theses" to protest the sale of indulgences and the authority of the Pope to authorize the sale of these indulgences for the purposes of raising funds.

Leading up to this event was a series of incidents which appalled Luther, and as a result of his study of the Psalms and Romans he saw the sale of these indulgences as counter-biblical, which led to his "Protest" against the hierarchy of the Church.  The sale of Indulgences involved payments made by members of the church to the Pope in false belief that their loved ones would get out purgatory earlier because of the payment of this "merit money".   Indulgences were simply the culmination of several centuries of drifting from the message of grace to create a system of merits - works that increased the right of salvation.

Martin Luther was a Parish Priest and Lecturer at the University of Wittenberg when he wrote the 95 Theses as a series of disputations to challenge the correctness of the Church's practice in light of the theology of the scripture.  His own journey had evolved from believing in the wrath of God personally against himself to the point where he began to study and lecture from the Psalms and Romans.

In the Psalms Luther could not understand why God would do to his Son what the Psalmist declares in Psalm 22:1,
 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 


Luther could not comprehend God without thinking of wrath and judgement - his own life had been shaped by the belief that he would never be able to earn salvation.  Then he began to lecture from the book of Romans and everything changed as he discovered Romans 3:21-25 
21  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 
22  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins
.   


In Luther, the light went on and the Spirit of God etched in his mind and heart that Salvation was not earned, it was a gift - a gift of Grace from God through the redemption that Jesus accomplished on the cross. 

In Luther, the idea of "merits" to earn salvation were not only incorrect - they were an insult to God.  God sent his Son into the world to accomplish what could not be accomplished through any actions on our own part - no matter how right, or correct, or good, they seem to be.  

It is Jesus that "saves" us.  
It is Jesus that "calls us holy".
It is Jesus that "separates us and declares us His saints".

We are Saints...drink that in.  
We are Christ's and He is Ours.

Happy "All Hallow's Eve" Day my fellow Saints.



Peace

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Faith Gets Tested

Yesterday I posted the first part of this teaching I recently did at New Life.  It's part of this Fall series entitled "The Journey of Faith".  Our lives are a journey and we can live them in various ways.  To choose to live by faith is to orient our lives in such a way that our faith in God becomes the basis for our decision making in all things.  
I think it's fair to think of Faith as a compass.  
A compass always points north.  
So, faith always directs us back to God, his word, and our trust in him.

Faith does not sit in a quiet background, it lives in the tensions of life.  Faith is tested in every day life.  Here's where we continue with the story of Abraham and God's - seemingly impossible - command to him concerning his son of promise, Isaac.

Genesis 22:1-2
1  After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
2  He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Abraham had waited 25 years for God’s promise to occur, and since Isaac is now a young child, it’s been several years of family life since.
Then, God makes this command to him.
“Offer Him” – Sacrifice him.
Abraham had been tested several times before, and some he passed and some he failed.
  • ·       He past the first test to leave his country, his family and journey to the land.
  • ·        He failed the next test when the famine hit and he went to Egypt and lied about who Sarah was to him.
  • ·        He passed the next test in giving Lot the choice of the best land.
  • ·        He passed the test of rescuing Lot and refusing to take the spoils of war, instead giving them as an offering to God.
  • ·        He failed the test in trying to make God’s promises come to pass by taking Hagar and having Ishmael. 
  • ·        He passed the last one in believing God was going to give him a Son through Sarah…

And it finally happened.  BUT, now a test comes along that seems beyond the scope of anyone's imagination; and in many ways it is far more difficult than any other test he had ever had. 
None of us want "tests"...times when we go "Why this?"... "God, where are you?"...  "Why is this happening now?"

One principle of being tested:  1 Corinthians 10:13
13  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

Not every test in our lives is from God.  Jesus taught us to pray that we would be “delivered from the evil one”.  Some of the tests we receive aren't from God, but from the enemy of God who wants to destroy our faith.

But sometimes God tests…Why? He tests our obedience, our loyalty to his word, and are willingness to follow him no matter what.  Our tests often involve sacrifice.  In a story from the Gospels, Jesus asks a question of his disciples and then dashes their hopes for what they think this will mean

Luke 9:18-24
18  Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?"
19  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."
20  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God."
21  Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.
22  And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

That’s not what they expected after hearing that Jesus was the Christ…the Messiah.  To them that meant he was the deliverer, the conqueror, the one who was going to make everything that was wrong, right.
That’s the problem with Tests of Sacrifice, they often appear difficult because they are not things we want.
BUT, there’s another reason for this that we need to hear.  Jesus continued immediately in the conversation to say to them…

23  Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
24  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

Expect Tests from God…
What do we do when they occur?

Faith Means We Focus on the Promises of God, not Explanations

Genesis 22:2
2  He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

Make no mistake, a burnt offering is not a symbolic child’s dedication.  It was an act of sacrificing his Son that God asked him to do.
Moriah was a mountain top…in what will someday be Jerusalem.  
Eventually, on this mountain top, David will build the altar that the Temple’s Holy of Holies will be built upon.  This is where the burnt offerings were later offered, and the blood taken behind the veil of the Holy of Holies and spilled on the mercy seat.

You can’t help but read this and think, it seems so unreasonable for God to ask him to do this?
·        
    Isaac was Abraham's only son, and he had waited in hope for him for years.
·        Isaac was a miracle child, the gift of God to Abraham and Sarah in by faith.
·        And I can imagine they loved him as only a parent could love.
So, God is testing Abraham's faith, hope, and love.  That is the nature of our tests:  It is about who our Faith is in, Who our Hope is in, and Who We Love.

James 1:2-4
2  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3  because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What God is after in testing is not suffering, but maturity…a process of learning about ourselves, as well as God.

Which is the point in this section.  What we're after in many times of testing is "Explanations".  What we get frustrated by is not knowing "why".  But I think it's a mistake to seek explanations when they won't come; and instead I think it's much better to focus on God's promises instead.  As a Pastor, I never try to give people explanations for WHY things happen.  I don’t know God’s purposes and how he works out his will in our lives.  I don't know, and can't pretend to know.  But I do know what God promises, and those are the things that do matter.  We trust because trusting by Faith when we Focus on God’s promises, and not the explanations, we will always give us the Hope through Faith that we often need.
One more thing to add to this...

Faith Means We Depend Upon God and His Provisions

Abraham trusts God and does what he is asked to do.

Genesis 22:3-5
3  So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
4  On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.
5  Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

The significance of the act is amazingly prophetic.  Look at the details in the passage...can you see the symbolic portrayal of Jesus in this?
·        
    Isaac was Abraham’s ONLY child.
·        The mountain top is where the Temple would sit, and the Holy of Holies would be. 
·        It took them 3 days to get there.

Then:  Genesis 22:6-8
6  And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.
7  And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8  Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

The Father and the Son on the mountain top are alone.
The Father and the Son are acting together on this…and Abraham is positive God will provide the sacrifice needed.

Genesis 22:9-13
9  When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
10  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
11  But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”
12  He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
13  And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

This is the story of the cross.
God provided a substitute…but in his case, it wasn’t another animal, it was His son, Jesus.

Remember how Isaiah prophesies the death of Jesus and says, Isaiah 53:4-6
4  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
5  But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.
6  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Abraham is acting out the future of God’s sacrificial offering of His one and only Son.  Why?  This is the story of Faith and God’s Sacrifice….

John 3:16
16  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 

Jesus, the Son was born to Die for the world.
Jesus, the Son bore the burden of our Sin.
Jesus, the Son was raised from the dead because his sacrifice was sufficient for the sins of the whole world.

Let's be clear, we are tested for the sake of our maturity, learning about ourselves and God and not for the sake of judgment.  
There is an afterwards for all of the Tests we experience..  1 Peter 5:10
10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Remember how Abraham had told the others that he and Isaac would go up the mountain themselves to WORSHIP.
That’s why we live out that sacrifice in Faith…knowing God has much more in mind than we can imagine.

Romans 8:31-32
31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
32  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Faith means we don’t have to live without hope…but instead, we lean back into the Grace of God, even when we’re in the midst of the pain, suffering and difficulties.  And, Faith means we get to practice this every day.

Romans 12:1
1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.


 Peace my friends,

Monday, October 27, 2014

When Faith Gets Tested

I've been doing a series of teachings I’ve entitled, “The Journey of Faith”.  They all come from Hebrews 11, and the subsequent stories in Genesis (and later Exodus).

Faith is the most basic aspect of our relationship with God.  While we use the word frequently, it's crucial that we understand what it means to "journey" through life by Faith.

The most important thing to learn about how Faith intersects with our lives is by first realizing that Faith is an everyday thing - because it's a relationship with Someone, God, and not a religious something.  That is crucial, but the second thing is equally important:  We should realize how much God enjoys our actions based on Faith.

Hebrews 11:6
6  …without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

I mentioned this last week…God blesses, and rewards Faith…
When we put our Faith in an active way, it is an exercise of choice, and it's like a Spiritual Muscle, the more it's exercised, the stronger it gets…

BUT, our acting in Faith also provokes a response in terms of Spiritual Warfare.  In other words, there is an enemy that fights our Faith.  Since Faith is an everyday thing, we can expect that our Faith gets put under Pressure in everyday things:  stress, disappointment, annoying things, circumstances…

What we need to realize is that Faith gets tested…that’s where we are today in Hebrews.

Hebrews 11:17-19
17  By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,
18  of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”
19  He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
Faith is Tested in our Waiting

God had given Abraham a promise…

Genesis 12:1-3
1  The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.
2  "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Abram comes to the land when he is 75 years old.  God’s promise to him is that he will get LAND, CHILDREN, BLESSING.
Abram is settled in the land, but years pass.  In fact, - 10 years pass.
In those first 10 years, There were ups and downs. 
·        >  Abram goes to Egypt and gets caught in lies
·        >  He rescues Lot and God speaks of His promise to him.
·        >  He waits, and waits, and waits, and finally gets tired of waiting, and so he forces the issue.    He tries to force the promise by his own fleshly way and has a son he names Ishmael…not the child of God's promise, but one produced by his own will.

Genesis 16:15-16
15  And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.
16  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

The problem is not Ishmael, nor is it Hagar…they are merely caught up in Abram’s loss of faith in waiting for God to come through.  But "Ishmaels" happen in any life that decides waiting on God isn't working.  We all - at times - are prone to have them, and we live with them.  What do we do with Ishmaels?  We take responsibility before God and we do what we need to do to be faithful in a bad situation.  Ishmael’s happen in relationships, in finances, in business, in all sorts of places.

The reason they occur...we get tired of waiting.
Faith is always TESTED IN WAITING.

I confess, I hate waiting.
Most of my waiting has been nothing more than annoyances.  I admit that is petty stuff compared to people who are waiting for more significant things:  
·        >  A Single Person Waiting for the Right Person to Come along because they want to get married.
·        >  A Married couple waiting for a pregnancy to happen
·        >  A person waiting for the diagnosis, and then waiting for the results of their treatments
·        >  A couple waiting for a decision on financing to get a new business started.
We all wait at times, and it can be frustrating…and it certainly tests our Faith in God. 
SO…what should we do when we find ourselves in this spot of waiting?  I learned many years ago:
Be faithful where you’re at, and pray. 
Hebrews 11 reminds us that “God rewards those who seek him” and Proverbs tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart…don’t lean on your own understanding”.
Have confidence in God’s timing.  

Finally, after 25 years of waiting, God comes to Abram.  

Genesis 17:1
1  When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,

This is when Abraham gets his new name:  Genesis 17:5
5  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.
·        
     Now,  Abram = Exalted Father; and Abraham = The Father of a Multitude; 
but remember, at this time, Abraham is no father at all.  
God had promised him that he was going to be a Father of many nations…so he names him this because this what God knew would occur.

Faith is calling into existence that which has not yet happened.

God speaks about us as forgiven, as righteous, as holy, as his children…when we know that we don’t act forgiven, righteous, holy or as His children.  Yet this is how he sees us, and this is what he knows is happeing in and to us.  Faith is always calling us to see things that are not yet true but someday will. 

Romans 4:13
13  For the promise to Abraham [came] through the righteousness of faith.
Romans 4:17
17  as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who … calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Abraham is 99 years old, and God is re-stating to him the promise.  Not just a son will be born, but a multitude of children will occur.

Whatever you think of yourself, and whatever you might think of others when you hear their name…it might be completely different than what God feels about them.
Remember Faith means that God calls into existence things that are not yet occurring.
The same is with people.  
Abraham and Sarah are not yet who they are going to be.  But it soon begins to occur:

Genesis 21:1-7 
1  The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised.
2  And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.
3  Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac…
5  Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6  And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.”
7  And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

ISAAC = LAUGHTER.  I think Abraham and Sarah had a deep belly laugh at what happened.

Ecclesiastes 3:4
4  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

It was a time to laugh…a time to dance.
If your are a parent, do you remember seeing your children born?  It’s an amazing thing to be there and it is a great time of fulfillment.
Abraham and Sarah had waited for 25 years to see what God had promised to them come true.

This is the nature of Faith… 
We wait, 
we hope, 
we believe, 
we trust, and 
we work, 
we sweat, 
we pay the bills, and stick with it…
and it leads to something very fulfilling.  
BUT, there is more tests to occur yet.  That we will get to next time.

Peace


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Journey of Faith - Hope That Lives On, Part 2

I began this on Monday with hopes to finish it yesterday, but alas, "stuff happens".  The theme of this teaching is that "Faith is the assurance of things 'hoped' for, the evidence of it is not seen".  No one more epitomized this than Abraham, who left his country and family to go to the place of God's promise.  When he got there, he found a constant need for adjustments - that's the nature of our own faith.  We have to learn to adjust to the changing circumstances and at the same time learn to be true to God by faith.
While we do that we live in the "hope of God's goodness to us"...that is the Faith we're trying to learn how to walk in...

Here's part 2 of this teaching: 
Faith Means – Our Hope Doesn’t Presume, It Waits For God

The story of Abram and Sarah takes a DETOUR in their Faith Journey.
Genesis 16:1-4
1  Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar;
2  so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
3  So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.
4  He slept with Hagar, and she conceived…

Ten Years has passed…think about it.
Where were you 10 years ago?  How old were you?  Your Kids?  Think about all that has transpired.

Ten Years before Abram had “believed” the LORD when he said, “I will give you descendants and nation will come from them.”  God had declared his faith as righteousness...all is well and headed in the right direction as Abraham and Sarah wait for God.

BUT, now 10 years later, there’s nothing. And Abram and Sarah take a detour in their Faith Journey.  How should we describe this scene?  IT’S THE DETERIORATION OF FAITH because of the loss of the hope of fulfillment.

·        Abram and Sarah WAIT for those 10 years (he’s 85 years old now)...        THEN, Abram and Sarah SCHEME…they come up with the plan to have Abram conceive a child through their maid servant, Hagar.
Why?  They have lost hope in God’s promise.  When nothing is changed, they come to believe that God has forgotten what he said, and it’s up to them to figure it out.  Sarah is the one who initiates this…but Abraham consents.
In Sarah’s case, she blames God, and she’s angry with him, so her scheme is meant to say I’ll do this on my own…I don’t need you.
·        The third result – FIGHTING - Genesis 16:4-5
4  And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.
5  And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!”

Sound familiar?  This is your fault, no this is your fault… and on and on it goes.  Hagar is caught in the anger intersection of Sarah and Abram's lack of trust in waiting for God… Genesis 16:6 
6  But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.

NOW, what happens next involves God’s intervention…Hagar is wandering in the desert, abandoned as a pregnant woman who is kicked out the family.  But God knows she's not the problem:
Genesis 16:7, 11
7  The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur… 
11  And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael…

Ishmael means “God hears”  because God knew Hagar was not the problem.  The angel tells her to return to Sarai and submit to her, and she does.  The narrative moves on quickly to nine months later.
Genesis 16:15-16
15  And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.
16  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

There are times when we as people who think we trust God, will come to a conclusion that God is not coming through, so we need to take upon ourselves to do what we think we need, or should do to make it happen, and the fruit of that isn’t the fulfilling Hope we need.  What happens when we don’t trust in God’s promise and take it upon ourselves is birth a new problem instead of solving an old one...
These are our ISHMAEL’s… 

Ishmael’s are the detours…those times when we have setbacks and failures because of the flesh.  We wait, get frustrated waiting, scheme, and do our own thing...sometimes even asking God to bless our own work.
What we often experience is fighting, anger, frustration.  It is our own fault, not God's.
Notice, God didn’t blame, but he didn’t bless either –  Hebrews 11:6 speaks of God rewarding those who seek him.  GOD’s  REWARD…IS IN TRUST, WAITING, HOPEFUL ANTICIPATION IN GOD’S GOODNESS, PRAYER.

Detours in our faith journey happen.  The key behind any detour is to get back on the right route as soon as you can.  And that is crucial.
Someone rightly said:  “The Faith-filled Hope of Life in Christ is a series of New Beginnings”.

Faith Means – God is Faithful 

Genesis 17:1
1  When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,

Abraham is now 99…25 years has passed since God first spoke to him; and 12 years has passed since Hagar had Ishmael.  You notice God did not come to Abram and say, "OK, you're now old enough to show you I can do this, so let's get started..."  No, he declares his Name, and he declares Abram's need.  "Walk with me"...the journey of faith in our lives is an active walking with God.  "Be Blameless"...God is not scolding, or finger pointing, he's reminding Abram that he never forgot what he was going to do.
The promise is re-stated.

Genesis 17:3-8
3  Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him,
4  “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
5  No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
6  I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.
7  And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
8  And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” 

Later in the narrative...Genesis 17:15-19
15  And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.
16  I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
17  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
18  And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”
19  God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

It's obvious Abraham is still struggling to understand God's plan.  I didn't put the narrative in that occurs in between this and what later it comes to pass: 

Genesis 21:1-3
1  The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised.
2  And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him.
3  Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.

ISAAC = LAUGHTER.  BECAUSE EVERYTIME THEY LOOKED AT HIM GOD REMINDED THEM OF WHAT THEY THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT GOD WAS GOING TO DO.

NOW, CAN WE UNDERSTAND WHY FAITH AS HOPE IN GOD’S PROMISES TO US, HIS GOODNESS ANTICIPATED, IS SO ESSENTIAL?

FAITH – HOPE IN GOD’S PROMISE COMES TO PASS… IS ESSENTIAL, BECAUSE IT REMINDS US THAT GOD IS MORE THAN ABLE TO DO ABOVE AND BEYOND WHAT ANYONE OF US CAN IMAGINE.

Romans 4:16-17
16  That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
17  as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.  18  In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

FAITH FILLED HOPE IS GOD CALLING INTO EXISTENCE THAT WHICH DOESN’T EXIST.
THINK ABOUT THAT…
GOD’S DESIRE WAS THAT ABRAHAM WOULD BECOME WHAT GOD HAD SAID HE WAS TO BE.
GOD’S DESIRE IS THAT YOU AND I WOULD BECOME WHAT HE SAID.  SAY THAT OVER AGAIN TO YOURSELF...MAYBE SEVERAL TIMES.

YOUR HOPE IS THE BASIS FOR YOUR LEGACY.  WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?
I PRAY FOR A FAMILY OF 1000’S…  WE STARTED WITH FOUR CHILDREN THAT WE WANTED TO KNOW GOD.  ONE OF THE FOUR ISN’T MARRIED YET, BUT WE HAVE 8 GRANDCHILDREN, AND IF THOSE 8 GET MARRIED AND HAVE 4 KIDS ALSO, WE’D HAVE 32 GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN…AND I HAVE A DREAM OF THOSE 32 BECOMING 100’S AND THEN GENERATIONS LATER, 1000’S…ALL BIRTHED INTO CHRIST’S KINGDOM.  IT’S HOPE BASED ON FAITH…THAT GOD CAN DO THE IMPOSSIBLE. 

I HAVE HOPE IN NEW LIFE FELLOWSHIP THAT I HOLD IN MY PRAYERS, AND I HAVE HOPE IN TERMS OF LIFE THAT IS YET TO BE LIVED.  
IN MANY WAYS WE CAN ALL CARRY AROUND IN OUR HEARTS, MIND, AND EVEN IN OUR PRAYERS, THINGS THAT WE HOPE FOR.  ASK GOD TO BREATH LIFE ON THEM…

EVERYONE IN CHRIST, IS HERE ON EARTH FOR MORE THAN A RELIGIOUS THING…TO SIMPLY DO CHURCH…WE’RE HERE FOR A LEGACY OF HOPE. BECAUSE GOD HAS PLANS FOR YOU AND FOR ME…THAT GO WAY BEYOND US. 

HE HAS PLANS FOR THIS AREA AND HIS KINGDOM THAT GO WAY BEYOND THIS AREA.    GOD HAS PLANS THAT INVOLVE YOU IN FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS, IN VOCATIONS, AND ATHLETICS, AND FINANCES...EVERYTHING.

Luke 17:5-6
5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6  And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

MUSTARD SEEDS….THEY ARE TINY NOTHINGS…TINY SEEDS, AND FROM THEM COME HUGE TREES.  

THIS KIND OF FAITH I'M TALKING ABOUT IS NOT ABOUT DOING SOMETHING…IT’S ABOUT PLANTING SOMETHING WITHIN.

WE’RE ALL CALLED TO ABRAHAM’S FAITH THAT IS ROOTED IN HOPE AND WE WAIT, WATCH WHAT GOD WANTS TO DO, OBEY, AND FOLLOW GOD’S LEADING…
BE FAITHFUL WHERE YOU’RE AT… PRAY, HOPE.

THERE ARE NO INSIGNIFICANT PEOPLE IN CHRIST…ONLY PEOPLE WHO GOD HAS A DESIRE TO SEE LIFE AND FRUIT.

I SAID TO YOU LAST WEEK THAT WE SHOULDN’T “SETTLE” FOR GOOD ENOUGH.  GOD IS THE GOD OF ABUNDANCE, NEVER LACKING.  WHEN JESUS TOOK THE LOAVES AND FISH THEY WERE FEW AND AT THE END THEIR WERE 12 BASKETS LEFTOVER.

OUR FAITH FILLED HOPE ISN’T BASED ON “NOT ENOUGH”…THEY ARE BASED ON GOD, WHO IS MORE THAN ABLE TO DO WHAT HE PROMISED.

I WANT TO SPEAK HOPE FILLED FAITH INTO YOU… INTO YOUR MARRIAGE, AND YOUR HOME, YOUR RELATIONSHIPS, YOUR FAMILY, YOUR FRIENDSHIPS, AND COLLEAGUES, AND TEAM, AND JOBS, AND NEIGHBORHOODS…

SO THAT WE CAN SEE THAT GOD HAS US EXACTLY WHERE HIS DESIRE FOR US CAN BE FULFILLED!

PEACE

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Journey of Faith - Faith is Hope That Lives On

This teaching is part of a series I've been doing at New Life Fellowship, where I serve as the Pastor-Teacher.  The series is entitled "The Journey of Faith" which means that our lives are meant to be lived by faith as we journey through it.  

Faith is the most basic aspect of our relationship with God.  While we use the word frequently, it's crucial that we understand what it means to "journey" through life by Faith.


Faith is an everyday thing - because it's a relationship with Someone, and not a religious something.  This teaching is a continuation of the Abraham story and what we see is the way in which HOPE is central to the way Faith works in our lives. 

We are looking at Hebrews 11 and the stories in Genesis that relate to the Hebrews 11 statements.  Last week we looked at Abraham, and this week I continue the Abraham story.

Hebrews 11:8-12
8  It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.
9  And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise...
11  It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.
12  And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.

God had given Abraham a promise…

Genesis 12:1-3
1  The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.
2  "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
3  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

God has something in mind that is focused on the promise to Abraham of those 3 Big Things:  LAND< NATION< BLESSING… 

He’s leading Abraham – God’s Promise for His life is much bigger than he could ever dream.

God’s Promises to Abraham don’t negate the need to Learn as he experiences God’s work, his leading.  NOW, remember back in Hebrews 11.

Hebrews 11:6
6  …without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

I mentioned this last week…God blesses, and rewards Faith… BUT,
Faith is also about HOPE… Hebrews 11:1
1  Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Two phrases worth focusing on: 
·        Faith as God’s Reward
·        Faith as Our Hope
So, let’s start there today:
Faith Tests Our Hope

Abram comes to the land when he is 75 years old.  God’s promise to him is that he will get LAND, CHILDREN, BLESSING.

Genesis 15:1
1  Some time later, the LORD spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”

Abram is settled in the land, but years pass.  In fact, 20+ years pass.
He’s heard God’s word, and he has settled where God LED him to, but he hasn’t seen the fulfillment.

Genesis 15:2-5
2  But Abram replied, “O Sovereign LORD, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth.
3  You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”

By this time Abraham has been in the land God promised him for 25 years.
God had promised him the land, and the nation…descendants, but as of it, there were no children.
Abraham expresses his frustration with waiting for God to come through and
God speaks to Abraham to reassure him:  

Genesis 15:4-5
4  And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”
5  And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

God makes this promise…and also is saying, “Abraham, will you trust, believe, and stick with me?”

Genesis 15:6
6  And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

When it says “He believed”… that’s Faith. 
To Believe means “to lean upon”…  Like sitting on a chair, I believe…and can trust in it to hold me.

What did Abraham believe?  He believed the LORD!

When God told Abraham to look up in the sky and see the stars, and promised him that he would have a child and from this child, a nation would come… Abraham said, “Yes Lord, I believe you.”

Abram’s confidence is in the LORD… His faith is in SOMEONE…not the Something that God promised.

It is a great thing to TRUST in GOD when it comes to the unknowns of our lives.  In the New Testament, Paul writes to the Romans about what this means:

Romans 4:16-21
16  So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe.
17  That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
18  Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”
19  And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.
20  Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.
21  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.

That’s the best description of Faith I know… being “fully convinced”, not sort of, maybe, I guess God can… but “Fully convinced God is able to do whatever he promises.”

This is HOPE… the HOPE of Hebrews 11:1
1  Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

This is HOPE… Faith is our response to God’s word, and his promises, but it’s not based on a “I can see…” because whatever you and I can see, we don’t need faith for.

Abraham’s faith made it possible for him to say, “OK, God, I trust you…You alone…and nothing else.”

This is so important, and not just for things like eternal life, salvation, what happens after death…

This is everyday life… sickness, disease, depression, frustrations, jobs, marriage, parenting, parents… 

Faith is an everyday relationship with God trust.  

Mark 9:17-24
17  A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech…
20  So they brought him...
21  Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?" "From childhood," he answered.
22  "…if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
23  "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
24  Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

YOU SEE THE ISSUE?  LAST WEEK I TALKED ABOUT “SETTLING”. 
SETTLING HAPPENS WHEN WE STOP BELIEVING GOD CARES, THAT HE KNOWS, AND THAT HE CAN/WILL DO SOMETHING IN OUR LIVES.

Sometimes what we need to pray is, “Lord I believe, but I’m struggling right now, so please forgive me and help me to trust in you.”

Faith Tests What Our Hope Is In.

HOPE is what happens when we turn our lives to JESUS and ask him to “Breathe His Life” on to it.

HOPE ENTERS INTO EVERYTHING…in Marriage…in Children…in Vocation…in Relationships…In Disease…

HOPE…happens when God breathes His Life upon our prayer desires.

HOPE, Biblically is different from our culture.  In our culture, Hope means “I wish”.  We wish for new jobs, our spouse to change, the Packers to win, I wished I’d catch a fish, I wished our friend would be healed of cancer…but this is HOPE that is human/self-centered.

Hope, Biblically, is The Joyful, Faith-filled anticipation of God’s Good for You.  

It is an atmosphere in which Faith Grows.
Here's a suggestion to ponder...what do you want to have faith in hope?
Take time to create lists of HOPE…  Those places when you say, “Lord, I want to trust in you for ………………”

NOW…be careful…to make sure that we stay focused on God, and not the things we want…OTHERWISE…we’ll not experience Hope, but something else, which is what Abraham experiences next... tomorrow.

Peace