Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This week's message: Distraction

Genesis 12:10-20.

Not settled, Abram is still living like a nomad. In verse nine he was meandering his way south, then he encounters a food shortage and decides to go on into Egypt for a while. He is not going there with the intention to stay forever, but there is no indication that he sought God's counsel or that he had no other option. It is likely that the famine was limited to that desert region of the Negev and that returning to the land God had promised would have been as effective as crossing into Egypt.

Abram enters Egypt and even though he wants to partake of Egypt's wealth and provision, he fears Egypt's power. He tells his wife to lie about their relationship so that he will not suffer. This goes too far when Abram does not protest as men come from Pharaoh's house to take Sarai to become one of Pharaoh's wives. He does not protest as they bring him livestock and treasure in return.

Sometimes we encounter tough times while we are waiting for God to fulfill his promise. It is tempting to turn to the world for answers and resources. Admittedly, sometimes the world does have answers and resources. Egypt had food. It was not necessarily wrong for Abram to go in search of food.

The problem arises when we are willing to trade the promise of God for a quick fix. Abram did not have to trade his wife for wealth. That was his choice. He sold her to Pharaoh. All those goods he received were a bride price. I am not sure we understand everything he was trading away, or even that Abram understood all that he was giving up.

God had promised that he would provide Abram with descendants. Those descendants were to come through Sarai, his wife. By trading her away for earthly wealth Abram trades away the source of God’s fulfillment. And then Abram settles in, enjoying his wealth.

Because of earthly wealth, Abram is now prepared to forsake both the promise of children and the promised land. If the story ended there, we would not know who Abram was. Just like if he had not left Haran to go to Canaan. This could have been the end of the promise.

But God is more faithful than we are. His promise to Abram was bigger than Abram having a few children. So God intervened. He sent a signal to Pharaoh that Sarai was really Abram’s wife. Some have speculated as to whether the plague on Pharaoh’s house was a venereal disease or whether Pharaoh had actually taken Sarai to his bed. I am not sure that those details are important. Whatever the nature of the plague, and whether Sarai was Pharaoh’s conjugal wife, what is important is that God was at work. God revealed to Pharaoh that Abram had lied about his relationship with Sarai. And here is one of the most important things in the whole story. Pharaoh sent them away with an escort to make sure they made it to the border safely.

He had every right to have both Abram and Sarai killed for lying to him and getting him involved in this scheme, but God protected them. He provided a way for them to leave Egypt and go back to the land he had promised. Regardless of Abram’s actions, God was faithful. This is not the last time we will see God continuing in his faithfulness in spite of Abram’s choices.

We also fail. We make wrong choices, we give in to temptation, we act out of self-preservation and selfishness when we face difficulties. We may have a promise from God—I will never leave you or forsake you—but we forget in the moment and we fall into sin. You know sin is missing the mark, it is falling short of perfection or stepping over lines we know we should not cross. But here is the most important thing about sin—God has already conquered it. He has dealt with it.

We don’t have to be under condemnation. We don’t have to let shame keep us away from him. We don’t have to let our regrets stand in the way of receiving God’s promise. The solution is repentance, which is simply turning away. We turn away from those wrong choices and that sin and we turn back to God. We choose to put our trust in him again. We choose to allow him to heal the wounds that came out of that sin and to restore us to what he wants us to be.

The one redeeming action on Abram's part is this: when Abram was confronted with his sin, he accepted Pharaoh’s reproach and willingly left Egypt. He didn’t try to justify or argue. Abram knew that what he did was wrong and he accepted it.

Maybe you feel like you have taken the wrong path, traded God’s promises for wealth or safety. Maybe you know that you have fallen short or crossed lines that you don’t think you can ever come back from. God has that covered in Christ. Your penalty has been paid, his blood covers your sin, and all that is left for you to do is turn away from those past wrongs and turn back to him. I encourage you to do that today. Do it everyday or as often as you think of those errors. God’s forgiveness has no limit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Weekly Schedule

Due to snow and ice and wind and cold, no activities at the church this week.
Stay home and keep warm!

Sunday January 16th- Regular Schedule
Sunday School 9:30am
Fellowship time 10:30am
Meeting for Worship 10:45am
Iglesia Evangelica de Amigos 3:00pm

This week's message: God's Impossible Promise

Genesis 12:1-9.
God came to Abram with a promise. Abram was 75 and childless. He had lived his life in Haran and God came to him and told Abram that he would do the impossible. He said first that Abram must leave the home he had known and his family behind and go somewhere else. God did not tell Abram where his destination is, he did not even give a general direction. God just said “Go, and I will tell you when you get there.”

We are familiar with this story, so it is easy to forget what a preposterous thing God was asking of Abram. If God came to you and said, “I want you to pack up and go someplace. Sell your house and get a moving van. Get on the highway and I will let you know where you are going when you get there.” I think you would have some questions before you just decided to say yes.

Then God told him that Abram and his descendents will be a great nation. If it were me, I think I would be looking around wondering where these descendents were going to come from. 75 is not an ideal age for fertility. Yes, there was still a chance that he could father a child, it happens, but tough to think that if it had not happened yet that it was going to happen at all.

Not only that, but God told Abram that he would bless him so much that Abram would become a common example of blessing everywhere. In fact people would bless each other by his name. “May you be as blessed as Abram!” “The fortune of Abram to you!” “May you have descendents like Abram!” Can you imagine having your name as a byword for blessing? Instead of being richer than Midas, people might say “As blessed as Billy.” Or instead of as wise as Solomon, “As fortunate as Gary.”

God came to Abram claiming an impossible future for him. And the amazing thing in this story is that Abram went. He packed up and headed out. I wonder if he had a clue where he should go, North, South, East or West; but he ended up in Canaan. He set up camp and God appeared to him somehow and told him that this was it. Abram’s descendants would occupy this land. Abram made an altar there, but he didn’t stick around. He continued in a nomadic pattern, making his way through the land until he was in the Negev, a desert place.

Whenever God appears in scripture giving promises, he often requires a leap of faith. He told Abram to leave and then he would show him where he was to go and then he would make him a great nation and then he would bless him beyond measure. Each step was dependent on the last. God would not reverse the order of events giving Abram the blessings then the descendents then the land and then ask Abram to go. No, Abram had to step out of his comfort zone. He had to step out in faith trusting that however improbable the promise that this was God and he could be relied on to keep his word.

I believe God is calling each of us to follow him in the same way. We don’t initially know what to expect, but God has invited us on an adventure. He says he has a plan for your life and that if you follow him, he will make it clear. Maybe what you think God has shown you for a future looks impossible. Maybe you aren’t sure at all what he has planned. Maybe like Abram he simply whispers to you “I’ll show you when we get there.” Regardless of where he is calling, we must follow if we want to see how the story ends. Sure, we could stay where we are comfortable. The choice is always up to you.

We are going to be following Abram over the next few weeks studying his story and looking at how we pass through similar times of trust and obedience as well as times of panic and disobedience. Through it all I want to invite you to examine the journey you are on with God. Seek his face. Ask him to show you where he wants you to go next on this adventure. Repent of the times, like Abram you choose to go your own way. And commit to follow wherever the Lord takes you, no matter how impossible the destination seems. He is God, after-all, and if he tells you he has a plan you can trust that as you walk in obedience he will bring it all to pass at just the right time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This week's meditation: The Challenge of the Magi

Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi were seekers of Truth, Gentiles, foreigners. None of God's people were seeking as diligently. The Magi said they had seen “His” star and knew he was coming. The star was in the backyard of the greatest Hebrew scholars, and they did not even know it. The Magi were not Jewish, but they were open to finding truth in the God of the Hebrews. The scholars and Priests thought they had it all figured out, and were no longer seeking.

The Magi came a great distance to seek the new king. No scholar in Israel even traveled from Jerusalem. The Magi came in a caravan from somewhere near Iraq. They spent time getting everything together and making the journey. By the time they arrived, Jesus was no longer a baby, but a child. When the Magi came asking about this new king, the scholars all looked to see where the messiah was to be born. They found the answer and passed on the information, but did not take it to heart. Bethlehem is only about 6 miles from Jerusalem. The Magi went, the scholars stayed in Jerusalem.

The Magi went out of their way to protect Jesus. No one challenged Herod’s scheme to kill the newborn king. When warned in a dream, the Magi went home a different way, probably far out of their way, in order to avoid returning to Herod and giving information about Jesus. The scholars, priests, and any others who had searched to find out about the coming messiah, said and did nothing when Herod ordered the murder of children in Bethlehem.

Our Challenge: Are we seeking God’s Truth, or are we content in our own human understanding? Are we willing to follow in obedience when God calls us to step out in faith? Will we inconvenience ourselves, even to great extent in order to be obedient when God calls?