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Tag: trust

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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Trusting a Person – Not a Plan

Last week Jesse and Greg gave us a fine demonstration of a three-legged race. With a little duct tape to ensure they were perfectly in sync, they made their way across the stage – and believe it or not, they did it without disaster. I guess they’ve known each other long enough and worked with one another often enough to successfully journey together and travel in sync without tripping each other up.

And all of this was an illustration for us of what our walk with God sometimes looks like.

Now of course, we don’t have duct tape to keep us perfectly in sync with God as we attempt to walk with Him in our day to day lives – but that’s the goal. To walk in sync with God – to follow his lead, to do as He does, and to stay close by His side as we journey through life together with Him.

But without that duct tape, it seems we often get out of sync with God. We drift away, we do our own thing – and as often happens in a three-legged race – before we know it, we find our selves flat on our faces.

But the good news is that we can learn to walk with God with minimal faceplants. And the key word there is “learn”. It doesn’t come automatically. It takes time and practice to learn to consistently walk with God. Thankfully, God is incredibly patient with us – and He leads us gently, always encouraging us to get up once again and have another go at it – just to take it one step at a time.

And fortunately for us, God has also given us some great teachers too. We can look to the pages of Scripture to find many examples of men & women who – over a lifetime – learned to walk with God and so we can learn from their examples. One of those great examples, as I mentioned last week, was Abram.

Now Abram was a guy who didn’t start learning to walk wth God until he was about 75 years old – which seems really late in life, but considering that he lived to be 175, he still had about 100 years to practice and learn how to walk with God. So I think Abram’s 100 years of experience can offer us a lot to learn from. And so for the next several weeks, we want to take a look at Abram’s life – leaning from his example as he learned to walk with God.

Now last week, we saw Abram’s very first steps of faith. While he was still living with his father, Terah, God appeared to Abram and told him to leave his homeland and his father’s family, and to go to the place that God would show him.

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Thy Kingdom Come

Last week we began exploring the differences between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. And they are very different.

We noted that Jesus frequently told parables about the kingdom of God to help us understand what it’s like because it is so different from the kingdom of this world. In fact, from what Jesus says, it almost seems backwards and upside down. For example, Jesus says in the kingdom of God, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first. He says that if you want to be great, you must become the least – if you want to save your life, you’ve got to give it up – if you want true riches, give away what you have”. It seems like the kingdom of God operates exactly opposite to what we’re used to. 

Actually, let me show you a verse from Matthew chapter 5 – verse 11. I didn’t read this verse last week, but I think it illustrates how backwards the kingdom of God seems to be.

11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.” Matthew 5:11-12

Usually, you might say God has blessed you when you have a nice house, a healthy family, wonderful friends, a good job, and life is going swimmingly. We see all that and we say, “Yup, God sure has blessed me.”

But Jesus says that when people are mocking us, persecuting us, lying about us, and saying all sorts of evil things about us because we are His followers – that’s when we know we are blessed. I don’t know if that sort of stuff has ever happened to you, but if and when it does, that’s when you can say “Yup, God sure has blessed me.”

And that just seems backwards! It’s clear that the kingdom of God is very different from the kingdom of this world.

And that creates a huge challenge for us because Jesus says that those who follow Him – those who are a part of the kingdom of God – those people are in this world, but we’re not of this world.

We live here in our communities in this time and place and in this society – but we belong to a totally different kingdom with totally different values and a totally different culture. Paul tells us that we used to be part of that kingdom, but upon receiving Christ as our Saviour and King, we’ve since been transferred into a whole new kingdom. He says in Colossians 1:13…

13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son. Colossians 1:13

When choose to follow Christ, we are transferred from one kingdom to the other – from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, from the kingdom of this world to the kingdom of God. 

And so it is a huge challenge for us to live according to the values and the culture of kingdom of God while still living in the midst of the kingdom of this world. 

But believe it or not, that’s exactly God’s plan and purpose for those in his kingdom. That was God’s plan and purpose for Israel – and that’s still the plan and purpose for church.

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Samson Finally Finding Faith

Today we’re going to wrap up our series on the Unlikely Heroes in the book of Judges. And it’s certainly been an interesting journey. We’ve looked at Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Jael, Gideon, and for the past several weeks now, we’ve been looking at Samson.

And of all the unlikely heroes that we’ve looked at, I think Samson started with the most potential – and has so far proven to be the most disappointing. Instead of being the leader that he could have been, Samson has shown himself to be selfish and arrogant. And as a result, he’s destroyed his marriage, his foolishness has cost the life of his wife and her family, and his own countrymen (the ones that he was suppose to rescue) don’t want to have anything to do with him.

And yet, despite Samson’s flawed character, God has still used him to begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines – just has He promised even before Samson was born. And while Samson certainly hasn’t pushed the Philistines out of Israelite territory, he has dealt them some serious blows. To this point in our story, he has severely crippled their economy by burning down all their crops, their vineyards, and their olive groves. As well, he has personally wiped out huge groups of Philistine soldiers.

So Samson is certainly public enemy #1 for the Philistines – but they can’t touch him. He’s got this incredible God-given strength and after their last attempt to capture Samson (which ended with Samson killing 1000 of them) no one dares to attack him. And so that kinda sets the stage for our final chapter today.

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