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He Walks with Us – Abraham – Sunday Notes

We’re current going through the He Walks with Us series. Last week we talked about Adam and Eve.  They walked with God in the cool of the day but decided that they would rather be like God instead of walking with God.  They were more concerned about their plan rather than God and this drastically changed their lives.

This week we looked that Abrahams story.  Abraham was called by God and promised that God would bless the entire planet through Abraham’s offspring.

 Abrahams entire story is in Genesis 12-25

Let’s look at Abraham’s calling and His faith:

Genesis 12:1–9 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

It’s 2000 BC. Abram is 75 years old and God is asking him to leave everything. But he has given him quite a promise – I am for you and will bless the entire planet through you!

Notice also that Abram takes Lot and his family goes because he, Abram, is Lot’s surrogate father since Lot’s father had already died.  God send Lot goes as his child but ultimately we know that Lot chooses a much harder path later.

Also notice that Abram honors God for his blessings. (vs. 7,8)  He honored God for the blessing that he knew that he would receive and not necessarily the blessing that he had already received.  Do you honor God for future blessings?

It was over 500 miles from Haran to Canaan. That’s the distance in a series of more-or-less straight lines on a map. Of course mountain and desert paths are not straight lines. Imagine walking that distance at perhaps 10-20 miles a day, which would be really moving, so it probably was less each day and would have taken a really long time.(think walking to California)

What we see recorded is a long journey through mountains and deserts. Put yourself in Abrams shoes. Think about the long nights and the hot, humid days walking!

This journey took time, patience and faith – completely blind and trusting faith. Abram was walking into the unknown wasn’t he?

Abram’s journey lasted his entire life. It not only involved picking up and moving across the desert it also involved waiting on God to fulfill his promises.

 Abraham Wasn’t Perfect

If you look at Abraham’s life you will see that every time that he takes up the reigns in his own life that disaster occurs:

Think about the real mess that his family was in when he and Sarah rush to have a child through Hagar. Strife between the women. Abraham has to finally send his son away.

 But He Did Get it Right Sometimes

Look at Abraham’s life when he is patient and obedient to God’s plan. He believed so much that God was for him that it enable extraordinary faith

God tells Abraham sacrifice his son, Isaac, the promised son.   Most of us would definitely balk at this. We probably would doubt if it was from God. We would make every argument not to listen to God. It seems insane doesn’t it?

Genesis 22:1–3 (ESV) — 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.” 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.

Genesis 22:7–14 (ESV) — 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. 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. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

The LORD WILL Provide – what a completely trusting statement. That is the key to Abraham’s faith. He knew and believed that beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would provide.

So let’s go back to the key verse of this series.

Micah 6:8 (ESV) — 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

To walk humbly with God we can see great examples in the life of Abraham.

  1. He went where God said go.
  2. He trusted God with the unknown!
  3. He honored God regularly for his for his faithfulness and for providing what he needed.
  4. He trusted when things seemed impossible.
  5. He trusted when God didn’t make sense

How can we Practically begin:

  1. Staying in His Word – SOAP
  2. Getting out of your comfort zone.
    1. Older needs to mentor the younger. (Titus 2:3-8)
      • Older ladies – look around at the younger women and girls. Younger ones look at the older ones.
        Older men – look around at the younger men and boys. Younger ones look at the older ones
      • Each of you needs to pick someone in our church and have him or her to your house once or twice a month. The older folks need to mentor and share their stories with the younger ones.
  3. Pick a local charity or organization in town – give them some money – but more importantly give them some time.

The Take-Away

These are our travels through the desert that will get us to somewhere new. They will grow us in ways that we can’t even imagine. The will make us into people who walk with God because we’ll need to trust him with our fears and our questions.

 

 

 

 

Finding Our Way

The Areopagus as seen from the Acropolis – modern day

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;* as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’*

(Acts 17:25–27 ESV)

Oh wow.  There is so much in this verse.  Paul is on the Aeropagus in Athens which was the main hangout for the religious and ruling class of Athens.  He had an opportunity to speak to a highly influential group so his words had to have meaning and power.

In this place where there were statues of gods and other deities that the city worshipped Paul saw something which told him exactly where these people where.  The wanted to cover all of the religious bases.  They wanted to find something, like all of us, on which to base their lives.

Paul understood this.  So he explained his God in the most simple way.

1. God made everything : “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth”

2. He is in control of everyones life : “having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”

3. He goal is to point people to himself : “that they should seek God”

4. He desires for everyone to seek him : “in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him”

5. He is waiting and ready for your to find him : “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us”

Isn’t that simple and clear?  He followed these words up with a very clear definition of being a true follower of God, ‘In him we live and move and have our being’

So at this most amazing opportunity to share his God with a huge influential group in a huge influential location he said these words and then gave the simplest definition.  Because of who the true God is, because of what he has done, and because he is waiting for us to seek him by living, moving and having our being in him!

I Can’t Focu….

I have noticed recently, when I am reading, that I almost can’t make it through two pages without having to go back and read it again because my mind is jumping elsewhere.

Keeping focus on what you are doing can be difficult for something as simple as reading a book or as complex as your entire life.   There are more distractions than ever available to us.

I belive that we have reached a point where the old saying is true – sometimes more isn’t better it’s just more!

The other night I rode with my wife to pick up a friend from the airport.  On the way home, I let them ride up front to talk and I actually laid down in the back seat.  Yeah – just like when I was a kid.  I had that hum of the road and the voices in the front seat that I remembered hearing as a kid.  Somehow in that moment I was a kid again transferred back to a simpler time and simpler needs. All that I needed to do in that moment was lay there and listen.  It was one of the most relaxing hours that I have had in a while.

We need practical steps to relax and calm our brains, here are a few that I am trying:

  1. Read one book at a time.
  2. Find a place away once a day.  Take your chair outside sit in the middle of the yard, if you must, but take 20 minutes outside, out of the ordinary or out of your comfort zone.
  3. For gosh sakes go to bed.  You’ve read this before, heard it a thousand times, and said “I need to get more rest”.  Do it dumb-dumb!  It may be the biggest return on the easiest step that you have taken.
  4. Act like a kid. Lay on your bed, hang your head off of it and just breath.  Remember doing that as a kid.  Make that weird noise that you used to make as kid or fill the bathtub up with water and put your feet in it for 20 minutes for no other reason than the feeling of it.  Be a kid!

What are your ideas?  Put them in the comments!

I ran across this video the other day and wanted to share it.  I would love to hear your thoughts!

What is Your EndGame?

A major question we should consider is “What is our endgame?”.  In other words, where do we want the choices that we are currently making to take us in the future ?

Stephen Covey put it brilliantly in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – “Begin with the end in mind”.  In other words, if I could re-do what I am about to do how would I do it?

If we developed the ability to look ahead and make our choices not based on what we see right in front of us but instead make our choices based on how we want the choices to play out in the future then we could begin to possibly see results in our lives that work toward something greater.  It is the realization of consequences.

Our ability to make choices is God given.  The ability to choose is what makes us unique among God’s creation above the animals.  So it stands to reason that the blessing of choice should be looked at as a critical part of renewing our sin affected lives.  I’m not talking about the struggle to not sin but the potential of the decisions that we choose to make.

An important key to this is the ability to know ourselves.  Thank God that we can look at ourselves without fear because God looks at us without condemnation.   Followers of Jesus know God looks at us based on forgiveness and his desire for our peace and his glory.

Knowing ourselves gives us the ability to accept who we are and then begin to look at who God wants us to be.  It’s about giving up on what we see and making choices that will lead to chosen destinations.  For example, I know that when I am 75 I want my children to look at their father and say that he lived wisely and made good financial choices.  (I, of course, want them to see me having done more than that but for our example lets go with finances!)  If I spend the next 20 years never saving or managing my money then how will financial success possibly unless by accident.    I don’t want to rely on chance and hoping for the best!  I have to decide now long before then to look at where I am financially, to make decisions not based on what money I need right now but instead to make decisions based on what money I will need for the next 20 years.

This same principle can be applied to every part our lives. We must look at our lives and ask the question “Based on my choices will I ever become the person that God desires me to become?”  What would you do if you could redo your next choice?

So here’s the verse:

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

(Philippians 3:13–15 ESV)

Being Weak

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I’ve always felt like less.  For a long time I struggled with this and about 9 years ago God changed me!  He showed me through the love of those around me (especially Stacy) that there is healing and forgiveness in God’s plan for us.  I was drastically changed.

For as much as the last 9 years life has been different than before, I have still struggled with self doubt and sometimes a real feeling of worthlessness.    It’s been difficult to hide this and it has continued to affect every aspect of my life.  But God continues to show me that he is a God of healing.

The question for me has become “Isn’t there a point where we can or should say – “God can take all of those feelings and I can let him because in my weakness God will make me stronger.”  After all, for a lot of us, our feelings are about the past but they hold us captive in the present.   Maybe exchanging our hurt feelings with trusting God with our self worth is the only way we can deal with the past in order to see God’s plans for us in the present.

That’s not at all easy but God’s desire is for our dependance on him.  We’ve got to stop looking for strength or pain in what people say or seem to feel about us.  Then we’ve got to allow ourselves to be weak enough to draw close to God.

With events of the past few months I have had that old struggle again.  It’s so easy to blame others or justify feelings of anger or hurt.  It’s also easy to slip into the role of victim.  But God’s grace and his allowing of these struggles to come is rewarded with the realization of growing peace and healing.

When Joseph was sold into slavery by his very own brothers who simply wanted to rule over him, I’m sure he felt very much the victim.  When he was wrongly accused by Potifer’s wife, he must have asked “why me?”. But after years of prison and pain he saw God’s reasons in the end.  Joseph felt compassion on his brothers when they came to Egypt during the famine:

20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20

I’m thankful for the path of my life and discovering God’s healing not once but twice in my life! Being weak can become the source of an incredible life which allows us to release the burdens of the past.

Let’s Walk Together

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. ”

(Philippians 2:14–17 ESV)

I really like this verse.   It is an incredibly hard verse for me – a type A, often argumentative, quick to speak – slow to listen sort of guy.  But this verse helps me.

It reminds me our purpose as disciples of Jesus is to follow his lead.  We should be known by our love (all people) and for our love for one another (other disciples). (John 13:34-35)

It’s hard to do this if we are grumbling or disputing with each other.  I like the idea  Jesus put it in our hands to love one another.  He even went so far as to say  we would be known by our love for each other.  That means people will look at us and wither say ” They love each other so well – I like that”  or “They can’t seem to get along – yuck”.

So what should we do to make sure we’re following Jesus’ lead.

  1. We must trust other believers.
  2. We must talk clearly, honestly and with love.
  3. We must walk together hand in hand and walk towards the world to make disciples(followers of Jesus).
  4. We must speak kind words to each other.
  5. We must forgive because we are forgive.
  6. We must hold close to God’s word – not just read it.
  7. We must be willing to not abandon each other when we struggle.

I have a long, long way to go on these. Lord, please change me!

Soli Deo gloria

The End of a Dream

local_12_1_temp-1324023393-4eeafe61-620x348Often life has unexpected turns which can occur from out of, what seems like, nowhere.  A parent gets sick, a spouse gives surprising news or a job suddenly ends.   Its in these times of change we are forced to face ourselves in some way and possibly re-discover who we really are.   When the direction of your life is affected you can find yourself questioning things that you thought you had a pretty good idea about.

Recently I have faced such a situation – the death of a dream.  The road seemed clear and the direction seemed right but an unexpected turn came and I found myself wondering if I had been on the wrong road.  During this I have felt an unraveling of who I am.  I have had to lead my family from a place of comfort through a place of pain, questioning and their own lose of identity.  We still are going through it and I think have a ways to go before we see the other side.

I now am trying to understand myself without the same responsibilities and a lose of trust in others that inevitably comes with some unexpected turns.   But I am already sensing the closeness of God and his promise of strength when there are few landmarks left in view.  I heard it described this past week as a leveling.  In my mind it has been a realignment of my faith and my relationship with a Heavenly Father that is never surprised and shaken by anything.  His peace has come in scripture, in tears, in quite moments, in sitting with my family and talking, in tense prayer, and surprisingly in throwing up my hands because they were suddenly empty.

The most difficult thing is not just seeing my dream die but realizing that there were still people with us that had the dream that was Hub Church.   They still had the vision of loving the 8 Houses around them, of staying and growing together to understand our faults and our strengths together, and of living the incredible idea of the great commands of loving God and loving others.  This dream had spread to them. They had seen God doing something but now they are also trying to understand this unexpected turn.

Through this I am learning if God is God on the good days he is still God on the bad days.   I go back to Romans 8 more so than ever because the reality that we have to embrace when we unravel is the true reality that is found in the love (grace) that God has for us:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  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?  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-32,35,37-39

For me I think one day I will see this dream was not a wrong road but that it came to an intersection.  It’s time to open my hands and let God lead on this new road.  Its time to also let him draw me close to him as he builds the next dream.

Nothing worth doing comes without some pain and nothing without God is worth the pain.

Learning

I love being a pastor.  It is one of the most rewarding things to simply give yourself to God’s plans and then just hang on.  It’s also requires you look at yourself and cull through your emotions, your pride and your desire for success.  Being a pastor has challenged me to look at my own faith and plans to question them over and over.

This week saw the release of a letter Mark Driscoll shared with his congregation and has been shared in a lot of places since then.  I don’t mind sharing the link here. I have to say that it is one of the most honest letters that I have seen in a while.  It also came at a time when I needed it most.

If you’re a pastor you probably struggle with the battle in your own life to start or grow a church and at the same time keep close to your Heavenly Father because one without the other doesn’t work.   Even if you’re not a pastor, being a person of Faith is the same.  You want to live your life with joy and success but you also want to hold to your faith without compromise.   It take a lot of repentance (changing directions).  I think that is what Mark’s letter is about – changing directions.

I have begun to make some changes in my own life and ministry.  Our Elder Board at Hub is helping me and supporting me as I learn to be a better pastor and friend to our church body.  I have decided being a pastor means I need to love people and not try to fix people (Stacy has showed me that better than anyone).  I also know God has put us in Goose Creek to love the people here in any way we can so as a simple step in that direction I have become a T-Ball coach for one of the teams so I can simply get to know people in our city. Also Stacy and I have agreed that I need to spend time with people not as a pastor, or as a project, but as a person who deeply does desire to see people know Jesus.

So I’m learning.  I have always been convinced that planting a church or doing anything God called my family to do required us be changed and  our faith to grow because of it. As hard as it is to be changed by God and his Kingdom I know  it is his desire to begin in me so I am more open to that than ever before.

 

 

 

Love – it’s not as easy as it sounds!

At Hub, we’re in the middle of an 8 part series called Christian.  We’re exploring the idea of what the term Christian means.  We’ve learned that while the term Christian is only used 3 times in the Bible and not at all defined in the New Testament that the term disciple is defined and used almost exclusively for followers of Jesus. Being a disciple is well defined and in a lot of ways scary because the Bible is so specific about the meaning.

I have come to realize the most powerful and most specific description of a follower of Jesus com-s from the very direct command he gave in John 13:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34 ESV)

If you just look at it you might say, “Yeah love.  I get it.  Sounds good.”  But if you really think about it and understand the ramifications of this command it will change your life.

First notice he says love one another (twice actually).  Who is he talking to?  The 12 disciples less Judas (he had already left to betray Jesus which was not very loving) specifically and to all his disciples generally.  What is he referring to?  How disciples are to love other disciples.

The second thing to notice and I think the hardest words to understand is “just as I have loved you”!  So how did he love them?  That is a big question with some very obvious answers (that is if you read the New Testament, especially the first 4 books).  He said that he loved them as friends even as brothers.  He shared life with them in some really dramatic ways  – think about all the parties, teaching them about life, healing people, answering their often stupid questions,  and never giving up on them (even after stupid questions).  He even said he would even die for them and he did by the way.

So right before he is about to die here in this room where has gathered his best friends – people he shared three years of his life with and later his very life for – he tells them to love each other like I have loved you – yikes!  I dunno if I want to go as far as he did!  I do want other people love me that way but  it do that myself may be really difficult.

What really is scary to me is what he says next?  And before I share it I need to say it’s not because I fear how other followers of Jesus will act upon it.  It has more to do with how I will act upon it and what people will think of me based on it.

He says other people will know about me and him and God and about “Christians” based on how I love other followers of Jesus.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:35 ESV)

Ok, I want to be very honest and clear here. I stink at this!  I’m not just saying this for shock value or to seem all humble and stuff.  I really stink at this.  I want to treat you based on how you treat me or based on how other people like you or not like you treated me earlier in life.   I want to do the old eye-for-an-eye thing.  If people are going to look at me to see what being a follower is about then I want to go into hiding or stand there and point at the guy beside me. It’s too much to ask.

And I won’t be able to fake it, at least not forever and for the big stuff. My pride just won’t let me. That’s why this is so scary when we read it.  It means I actually am going to have to honestly love people.  People with whom I may disagree how they act and people who may believe differently than I do and people who maybe haven’t read this verse!  Because Jesus made it a command, not a suggestion, and he said it would be our calling card.  When we went out and people looked at us (disciples, followers or whatever we call ourselves) we would be defined by how we treated other disciples, followers or whatever.

He knew we would be changed by this.  With this simple command we would have to evaluate our entire understanding of love, pride and being a Christian! I think must have been the point.  Love, true love, changes us and the people around us. What if people saw Christians acting this way?

If we read in a letter that Paul wrote to a church in Corinth then we know that “love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1Cor 13:4-8)

A Little Kindness Can Go A Long Way

Try-Kindness-Button-0921

12 years ago I had some drastic changes happen in my life.  It started when I connected with a group of people who were part of a new church plant in Greer, SC.  I struggled with a lot of hurt and confusion about life, but they accepted me with all my hangups and issues.  They were patient and gave me time to find healing.  Their kindness changed me and allowed me time to change.  I went from being a bitter, frustrated wanderer into a different person. One who no longer insulted or belittled people. Their kindness showed me about kindness. It gave me a different template to base my actions and reactions on. To be honest, I still make insulting comments and sometimes belittle people.  I still have the same humor about me but I also share the kindness that they gave to me. My friend’s kindnesses went a long way!

It’s funny how life sometimes works.  We seem to have lost the ability to be kind it seems. The most confused around us can’t even see that kindness might win better friendships or relationships.   We cover our own hurt by attempting to hurt others with slicing comments and actions.   We either think that if we have been treat badly that we should treat others badly or we treat others badly to make ourselves feel slightly superior.   It’s like we think that if we inflict pain then our pain will be lessened.  What a lie!

The moment that we begin to open our minds to the power of kindness we can begin to overcome our own hurts.  Take any situation and act in kindness to the other people involved and things will instantly get a little better.  Feel your anger rising? Then be abnormal and let kindness be your response.

Cowards act in anger, turn away their feelings and just bash everything around them.  Revolutionary thinkers know that kindness is one of the most powerful, life changing emotions and actions that we have.

LIVE above the ordinary – let kindness be your answer!