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Tag: obey

The Joy of the Lord

We’re going to pick up our story today in Genesis chapter 21 – hopping over chapters 19 & 20 – but I would certainly encourage you to go back and read those chapters sometime this week – that will help you fill in the blanks of the story yourself.

Now while you’re turning to Genesis 21 in your Bibles, let me give you just a really quick summary of the story so far.

As I’ve pointed out before, the key issue in the whole story of Abraham is the issue of descendants. Namely that Abraham had none. One of the first bits of information that we read about Abraham was that his wife Sarah, had been unable to become pregnant. And of course, this is a big deal for any family, but it was particularly an issue for Abraham’s family because God had specifically promised to Abraham that his descendants would grow to become a great nation and they would inherit the land of Canaan or as we often call it “the Promised Land”. God was going to bless all of Abraham’s descendants and they in turn would be a blessing to every family on the earth.

However, through most of our story, Abraham has been childless. Several times God has appeared and reaffirmed his promise to Abraham – but by the time Abraham was 85, he still had no child on the horizon. So Abraham and Sarah decided to be proactive and help God out a little bit. They decided that Abraham should have a child with Sarah’s servant, Hagar. This was culturally acceptable – but was certainly not what God had in mind. The problems and the discord that this caused in the family became evident almost immediately. As soon as Hagar was pregnant, Hagar treated Sarah with contempt and Sarah treated Hagar so harshly that she ran away even before the child was born. Thankfully, God intervened and Hagar returned to Sarah and Abraham – and in due time, Hagar had her baby – little Ishmael.

Well, for many years, Abraham raised Ishmael as his dearly loved, one and only son – the son that he presumed was God’s promised child. But when Ishmael was 13 years old God appeared to Abraham and again reaffirmed his promise that Abraham would have a son – and that son would be born from Sarah – even though she was now 90 years old. God further clarified that Sarah’s son, Isaac, would be the one whom God would bless and would cause his descendants to grow to be a great nation – they would inherit the promised land, and they would be a blessing to every family on earth.

Of course, this was exactly what God had promised 24 years earlier – God’s plans had not changed even though Abraham and Sarah had not been careful to follow his plan. Despite their lack of faith, God remained faithful and today, we finally get to the part of the story where God finally does exactly what he said he would do for Abraham & Sarah. So in Genesis chapter 21, verse 1 we read:

The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. 2 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. Genesis 1:1-2

I love how this chapter starts: The Lord kept his word. He did exactly what he had promised. Despite the impossibility of it all – (considering that Abraham and Sarah were well past the age of having children – Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90) – despite the impossibility of them having children, God kept his Word.

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Christians and Politics – A Biblical Look at the Relationship between Church & Government

Well, I have preached probably a few hundred sermons over the last ten years, but I’ve never spoken on this particular topic that I am going to speak about this morning. In fact, this topic had never even appeared on my radar until the latter part of this past year.

And not that the Bible is silent on this issue. As I’ve been preparing for this, it’s actually been surprising for me to see just how much the Bible has to say about it. So over the last several months, God has been helping me wrap my head around about all this – and I believe He is leading me to share some of what I’ve been learning with you. And so this morning I’m going to wade into the issue of church and politics.

Let me start by saying that pastoring this church has been very stretching for me. It has taken me way out of my comfort zone and has caused me to think about and to address issues that I never imagined that I would have to deal with. And of course, politics has been one of those issues. Part of that comes from the particular make-up of those in our church, part of that has to do with the relationship that we’ve developed with our town as we’ve tried to share the love of Christ with our community, and part of that has to do simply with the times in which we live.

And maybe this is just my experience, but I’ve found that more and more I’ve needed to wrestle with the question of: What are our responsibilities as a church, what are our responsibilities as individuals – as followers of Jesus Christ when it comes to the issue of politics and government?

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Representing Christ

Today will be our second last message in our series on the book of Colossians. We’ve been looking at Paul’s Christianity in a Nutshell – or at least, that’s what we’ve subtitled it. But it seems to be a fitting title. As we’ve been looking at this letter to the church in Colossae, we’ve answered many of the questions of what Christianity is all about. Who is Jesus? Why did He die on the cross and rise again from the grave? What difference does it make to us? What does it actually mean to be a Christian? How do we live in close relationship with God on a continuing basis? How do we have victory over the sin that so easily gets us off track?

Paul has addressed all of these questions and more in this short little letter to the church in Colossae. So I hope that over these past few weeks, you’ve really been encouraged and spurred on in your own walk with Christ and that you’ve been able to apply some of these principles that we’ve been learning. I know that I sure have.

Now these last couple of weeks, our focus has been on our new nature. That is, the new desires of our heart that we get when Christ comes to dwell within us. It’s our desire to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and to please God – instead of following our old sinful nature which just wants to please ourselves.

We read two weeks ago how Paul says to “strip off our old sinful nature”, and to “put on“ or “cloth ourselves” with our new nature. And we do that by keeping our focus on Jesus – by setting our sights on the realities of heaven – not getting caught up in the things of this world.

Then last week we dug into that a little deeper and we identified some practical ways to do that. We talked about following the leading of the Holy Spirit every moment of every day – and how, by filling our minds with God’s Word, by teaching and counseling each other with the wisdom God gives, and by worshipping God with a thankful heart – we can actually hear what the Holy Spirit is saying so we can follow Him and walk in our new nature, close to God continuously.

And it’s this idea of continuously walking in our new nature that springboards us into our passage this morning.

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