Monday, February 22, 2010

Knowing God: Abraham, pt 1

When you think about your high school days, do you think about them as a time you wish you could go back to? Or a time where you say, "Whew! I'm glad I'm done with that phase of life!" Maybe a mix? When I was in high school, I had a very interesting class. By the time I graduated, about 25% of my class was no longer in school. Some of them were in jail or put away for drug abuse or bringing guns to school. I remember one friend who was a great football player, who was a friend of mine. One day I was saying hi to him, hanging out with him, and the next day he was being escorted out of school with the drug dogs for possession and having a hand gun. I never saw that one coming. A couple of girls had to drop out due to pregnancy.

That's the setting for an important lesson I learned. One day in a teacher's class, she was trying to get our attention, and we were arguing and goofing around, not paying attention at all. When I think of people who teach high school, I think of this scenario, and I pray for them. In fact, a teacher who teaches at any level in our church has my prayers. My mother is a teacher, and I hear a lot of stuff and I pray for you guys. This teacher finally had an idea.

She took us into the hallway, paired us up, had us stand in our pairs, and handed us one blindfold per pair. The one person had to guide their blindfolded partner one lap around the school hallways. The first pair to do it successfully without injuring his partner and leaving the blindfold on would be the winner. At first it was fun to make your partner bump into walls and stub their toe, but then it became serious when we realized we were losing the race. At the end, I don't know who won the race, and I don't think it was my pair. We learned an important lesson about teamwork and depending on each other.

This teacher decided to bring us together and give us this gift of teamwork that we hadn't yet developed. This teacher's class was never the same after that. We all felt a little different about this teacher after that and respected her more. It may be discouraging to the teacher to hear that I can't remember what she taught us in class (though since I know certain things I must have learned something from her), but I remember this way that she decided to invest in us and teach us about life.

In a similar way, God came to someone who had no order, a pagan person in need of God, and brought this benefit and blessing to a man named Abram. In a place called Ur of the Chaldeans, God began to bless Abram. The Chaldeans were also called the Babylonians, and that region is modern day Iraq. The Bible says the Lord had said to Abram. They were in Haran, coming from Ur when God spoke, so it is possible that God had begun working on Abram when in Ur.

When we read Genesis 12, it says "The Lord had said to Abram," meaning God spoke to him before chapter 12. Terah, in chapter 11, had this plan to take his family from Ur to Haran. When they arrived in Haran, Terah died. God had spoken to Abraham either before that time, or here when they were at Haran.
We read this frequently, but do we think about the setting? Think about how Abram didn't know this God who came to him. He had no reason to believe this God. Now he hears and obeys God. If you're taking notes, the first thing to write down is:
1) It's never too late to get to know God. Abraham was 75 years old when God came to him. He was 20 years past the point of getting senior's discounts. God said, "Leave your country, your people, and your father's household, and go to the land I will show you." Verse 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. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse. And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Imagine God speaking to you like that. We know God. If He spoke to us like this we would be amazed. How much more amazing for God to speak like this to a man who did not know Him. Most of the commentators say Abraham was a pagan man worshipping someone or something else, probably the local gods of Ur. For 75 years of his life he had done this! Now he changes.
The unknown God comes to him and he listens. Is it any wonder the Bible continually talks about Abraham's faith?
I was reading a biography of Billy Graham, written by Jerry Jenkins, and at the beginning Jenkins describes how he was talking with Billy Graham one day and the secretary came in and said to Billy, "It's for you; it's the President." Jenkins' first reaction was, "Yeah right, it's the President." After Billy Graham got off the phone, he confirmed that it was in fact the President of the U.S. who had called for Billy Graham.
Imagine Abraham's position, that there was a God who came to him and said, "I'm going to give you all these things." It'd be like getting a letter from Donald Trump saying, "Hey, you, I want you to come to this city in Florida, I'll meet you there, I'll have a lot of money waiting for you, I'll have real estate for you that you can invest in, and I'll give you all these things." You would say, "What's the catch?"
Abraham was going to be blessed. Since the beginning of Genesis, this was the first time God came to an individual to begin blessing the earth through a singular family. What does this mean for us? God has a purpose for the Godly people and the ungodly people. Abraham was ungodly, until God showed him His purpose for him.
God came to Abraham like if you were summoned to the White House and given money, position, and welcomed by the President. Abraham had to check his pacemaker.
They took all the people and their possessions and set out to Canaan, as far as the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. There Abraham built an altar to God, Who had appeared to him.

Note the second point: 2) Knowing God also means blessing others with what God gives you. In verse 2, God tells Abraham, amongst all the ways God will bless him, that "you will be a blessing." That is a command in Hebrew, to be a blessing. This jumped out at me! God also told Abraham in no uncertain terms that he was to take what God had done and bless others. Abraham himself was supposed to be a blessing. As you read the story of Abraham's descendants, Israel, eventually their name had become like a curse when God judged them. Either you are a blessing or a curse to others. God commanded that they be a blessing. Galatians 3 talks about us in Christ being descendants of Abraham, through our faith in Jesus as Abraham's seed. We too are to be a blessing, as inheritors of the Genesis 12 promise to Abraham.
What do you have that could be a blessing to someone else? Spiritual gifts, promises from God about God providing, Hebrews tells us God will never leave us or forsake us. We see new mercies every morning. I believe that God wants people He blesses to be a blessing to others. If you have received financially from God, are you blessing others with it.
We purchased a 2000 Mitsubishi Mirage in 2001, and the reason that 4 cylinder runs so well is, I believe, because we use it for God. When someone needs a vehicle, we have let many people use this car.
In our church, every week I'm teaching, preaching, leading worship, counseling and encouraging people, managing the church, and using my spiritual gifts. I need you to encourage me in the same way by using your spiritual gifts. God has blessed each of us with spiritual gifts. Are you using yours? Are you using your blessings for God's people?
Another king, Abimelech, said later to Abraham, "God is with you in everything you do." The world is watching us, and looking to see if we are a blessing to others, and if God is working through us in all we do.
If we don't share the blessings God gives us, it's kind of like ordering your food at a restaurant, and you're starving. You're drinking water, eating tortilla chips, and the server comes in with your tray of food that you've been waiting for. You notice his mouth is full, and can't understand what he's trying to say. He lowers the tray and then before leaving he takes another bite of your food, saying, "This is really good stuff!" He licks his fingers, then he takes some chips, saying, "That's really good too!" He tastes the soup, "Wow. I think I'll take the rest of this food!" The server is not supposed to taste the food.
If that were to happen, you'd leave without paying (some would still pay). That is how it is when we horde our spiritual gifts to ourselves in the church. They are not for us, they are given to us for others.
This is also like a man who was in a desert, and found a well. He was parched. The well was an old hand pump well. Next to the hand pump was a jug with a cork in it, and a note attached, which said, "Please use this water to prime the pump, and you'll get fresh water out of the pump." He pops the cork and sees that there is water in the jug. He can take a risk and pour it out, or be safe and drink the water. After deliberating, he decides to go for the fresh water. He pours the jug into the well, and begins to pump. Nothing happens, and he continues pumping (squeak, squeak. Squeak, squeak). He continues pumping, and the spout starts to drip a little, then increases to a slow dribble, and then a smooth flow of water, and then a gushing amount of water flows out. A small stream develops on the sand, and then it grows as he keeps pumping. He has much more water than a jug! He fills the jug, drinks his fill, douses himself, runs the water through his hair, and drinks some more! He fills up the jug one last time, then pulls out a pen (where he got one in the desert, I don't know. Use your imagination!), and scribbles in the paper, "Believe me, it really works!" That's what God wants us to do when He gives us blessings.
The reason for those blessings is not so we can be king or queen of your little world, but so that you can bless others. This is part of the Great Commission, to be a blessing to the world! Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you! Be a blessing! Be with someone's kids, and when someone is grieving, put a hand on their shoulder.
The early church even sold land so others could have money. Be a blessing. I believe God is saying this to Darlington, Lafayette County, to be a blessing here and in the world.
Number 3) Last thing, chapter 15. This is so important, because we start off the Christian life so well sometimes, but then we taper off a little.
Abraham was experiencing in Genesis 15 what Christians still struggle with, that is, "God, You said it, but I don't see it." People say, "God, if You're good, and You promised, and You're with me, then how come I don't see this?"
Some people say, "How come there is evil in the world, if God is good?"
It is very important to understand, that knowing God means having faith, when what we hear is different than what we see.
When God is telling us one thing, but our eyes are seeing something else, that's when faith is tested. God had told Abraham that his offspring would inherit the land, but Abraham had decided that since he was childless Eleazar would inherit everything. God was coming to him, saying, "What are you doing? Did you forget My promise?"
Today, God is asking some of you, "What are you doing there? Did you forget My plan for you? My promises? Why are you going in that direction? Didn't you hear Me? Don't you remember Me?"
Abraham said, "You have given me no children, so a servant from my household will be my heir." Watch what God does with this man who has already stepped out in faith. God does this still today. He not only corrects him, but He goes one step further, by taking him outside and showing him the stars. God takes the time to give Abraham an object lesson, to persuade him, to convince him and assure him. What does Abraham do in response? Verse 6, "Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness." Right there. Knowing God means believing what I hear from God over what I see with my own eyes.
This is the point where many people say, "That's it, God! I'm done! Because I don't see it! God, show me the money! I've been enduring this situation for years, and You promised!"
Abraham was 75 when God made His promise. How old would he be when God fulfilled it? 100 years old. I have prayed for one of my uncles since I was in 7th grade, that he would come to faith in Christ. Not only has he not trusted in Christ, but he might be further away from the Lord than he ever was before. This is without a promise.
Imagine God promising. It will take 25 years before it is fulfilled, but Abraham had faith in God. That is so encouraging, because it means that if God has promised you something and it hasn't happened yet, you can keep trusting, keep praying, and keep having faith in Him. Tomorrow you'll wake up and be tempted to be discouraged. Knowing God means having faith in Him no matter what. Believe what you hear over what you see.
Faith in God through Christ is the only thing God sees as a way for human beings to be righteous.
But maybe you're a person who is saying, "God hasn't done anything, so maybe He needs my help. I'll help God fulfill His promise." No, no, no. Abraham tried that, to speed things up, eventually sleeping with Hagar, his wife's servant, and having a child. But that still was not God's plan. God specifically said through Abraham and Sarah the child would be born. We are tempted to speed up God's plan, because we think God needs a little help.
When Emily and I were living in Dallas, three times we tried to buy a house, but God kept shutting the doors. We couldn't figure it out. We had a chance to speed up the process, by taking a financial risk, but after praying decided not to. Then God moved us here to Darlington. We have friends who are still trying to sell their houses in that part of Dallas and the suburbs. We thank God for saving us from that.
There's an old country song, "I thank God for unanswered prayer." God is always moving. Stay faithful to Him.
Remember, it is never too late to know God; God wants you to be a blessing to others, and Believe in God even when what you hear is not what you see.
If you don't know God like Abraham didn't know Him, He has come for you in Jesus Christ, and made a way for you to know God through Jesus' death on the cross and coming to life from the dead. If you believe in Jesus, you will be saved.

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