Sunday, April 24, 2005

Blocking The Promises

Intro: I wish people could always get along.

  1. No more wars

  2. No more

  3. No more bickering kids

  4. No more husbands and wives hurting each other

  5. You know, we hear of wars and fighting around the world

  6. But I think that the greatest pain occurs when we experience that discomfort in our own families.

  7. As we read Genesis 13 today, we will again look at Abraham's family

Read Genesis 13:1-18
Tran. The importance of Abraham to the history of our faith can be seen in how he is mentioned throughout the scriptures.

  1. 188 verses in OT

  2. 76 verses in NT

  3. 264 verses in the entire Bible

  4. Abraham's name occurs 302 times in the whole Bible

We cannot ignore the role that Abraham plays in helping us understand our faith. Last week we looked at some initial details about Abraham and his wife. Today the connections are between Abraham and his nephew Lot.

T.S. The chapter we look at today can be divided into three parts:

  1. The problem

  2. Their positions

  3. The Promise

  1. The Problem

    1. I think Abram originally allowed Lot to accompany him because he wanted family nearby.

    2. But eventually Lot became a thorn.

    3. The events recorded in Genesis 13 represent the first signs of trouble between Abram and Lot

    4. Even with all the troubles Abram had in Egypt, Abraham had continued to gather considerable wealth – in livestock and in silver and gold. But so had Lot.

    5. Up till now, Abram and Lot had traveled together. But something was changing.

    6. With both Abram and Lot having large herds, there would not be room for both to graze their animals. There was the additional problem in that the original inhabitants of the land, the Canannites and the Perizzites, also had animals to graze.

    7. The conflict probably did not start with Abram and Lot, but with their hired hands. But eventually Abram and Lot had to deal with the problem themselves.

(Appl.) There is something about conflict that is confusing. We have learned, and we have taught our children, “Get along with everyone. Avoid conflict.” Yet conflict, whether it be a mere difference of opinion or something more demanding of us, is part of life. If I am going to stand for what is right, if I am going to recognize the role of God in my life, there will be conflict. As adults we need to learn, as parents we need to teach, that to the extent possible it is good to avoid conflict – but there are times when we will find ourselves in conflict with others. We also have to teach our children, and we have to learn ourselves, to respond to that conflict in the most positive way possible. Let me suggest four steps in handling conflict:

  1. Acknowledge the conflict

  2. Pray

  3. Offer a solution

  4. Be willing to compromise on a solution,
    but not on principles

    1. Abram and Lot had to find a solution to their conflict.

  1. Their Positions

    1. I expect this conflict was not pleasant. Abraham called it “quarreling”. So Abraham begins by offering a solution.

(Ill.) There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “In conflict, be fair and generous.” And, though I doubt that Abraham knew the proverb, this is exactly what he is doing.”

    1. Standing on the western hills looking to the East, Abraham has some very wise words. Read Genesis 13:8-9.

(Ill.) Picture this – Abram and Lot are standing looking East toward the Jordan valley. Abram is suggest (as he says left and right) that one go to the North and the other to the South – effectively dividing the land in two.

    1. Now look at what Lot actually does – he looks over the Jordan valley. He sees the lush greenery along the Jordan river, he sees the opportunity for plenty of water for the animals. And Lot makes his decision. He'll take it. Rather than creating a dividing line between the North and the South, Lot makes a choice that keeps the most fertile, the most irrigated land for himself. He is also choosing the land in which the most wicked, the most evil people known at the time.

(Appl.) And there is only one word to describe Lot's choice - “Greed”.

    1. Abram will take the the drier hills to the west of the Jordan valley.

  1. The Promise

    1. I suppose that if we stopped right there, we would feel that Abram got the raw end of the deal.

    2. But God still has something to say.

    3. It was when Abram had first passed through Palestine that God had made the promise, and now it happens again.

    4. Lot has left, Abram is left with the poorer choice.

    5. And God still took Abram and had him look – North, South, East, and West – and everything that Abram saw would be his.

(Appl.) There is a lesson here for us – when God makes a promise, he keeps it. Abram may have delayed the fulfillment of the promise when he allowed Lot to take the best land available. But he could not defeat the purpose of God.

Scripture is full of promises. And through our sin, through our disbelief, through our neglect – we may slow down their fulfillment but God remains faithful – Somebody has counted that there are 1260 promises in the Bible and though they may not all see their completion today, the fact that God gives them, should be sufficient evidence that they are still true.

Conclusion: Let me conclude by reminding you that Abram is a man.

  1. Not really so different than you or me.

  2. He, like us, is a broken man.

  3. A man who makes mistakes

  4. A man who sins

    Yet God chose to bless him.  As broken people who choose to place our lives in the hands of God, we too will experience God's blessing.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

God Loves Me No Matter What

Intro: One of the exercises that we do with the Girl Scouts as part of the God and Country Award is called “God Loves Me No Matter What!”

  1. You probably remember it. The girls and their mentors contribute items that might influence God's love.

    1. I love my brother

    2. I feed the dog

    3. I kick the dog

    4. I kick my brother

    It is an exercise that any of us can do when we need to be reminded of God's love.

  2. God may love us – no matter what

  3. But he does not always love what we do

    1. I expect he did not like it when I kicked my dog

    2. I expect he did not like it when I kicked my sister

  4. But it is true of not only us – but true of many of those whose lives are recorded in scripture.

Read Genesis 12:10-20


Tran. There were two major families in Genesis 1-11 that we have not looked at:

  1. Adam and Eve and their immediate family

  2. There was Noah and his family

  3. Then there was the incident at the Tower of Babel

All of these would be worth spending some time on – they set the stage for the men and women that form the basis of the remainder of Genesis. But for now, our attention is focused on Abraham and Sarah – who have just been introduced to the Palestine – but they move on to Egypt because of the famine.

T.S. The passage that we are looking at today can be thought of as a three act play.

  1. Act I: Abraham and Sarah

    1. You would think it might be a wonderful day for Abraham. After all, God had him look around and promised him everything he could see.

    2. God had made it clear that Abraham was special – he was God's man in God's time. Here was a man that knows God's love in a special way.

    3. But apparently, he didn't get it. He continues traveling south into the desert and, not surprisingly, he finds a desert. And he has to respond to the famine that he found there.

(Ill.) Unless we lived through the depression, most of us have no concept of what the lack of food might feel like. But those who knew their heritage, understood what famine was about. Scripture records 13 different famines – during the 2000 years from the time of Abraham to the time of Jesus Christ.

(Appl.) But there are times when we go through spiritual famines. Times when God seems so far away, so distant that it seems like we are forgotten. It leaves us hungering and thirsting for some good word from God.
* God's word seems dry and tasteless
* Church becomes meaningless
* We find being with other Christians difficult
I don't know if you are experiencing a spiritual famine today – but the time will most likely come when you do have to face it.

(Ill.) But Abraham's famine is not primarily a spiritual famine – it is the first of the 13 famines mentioned in scripture.

    1. Whether it is real famine or a spiritual famine, we need to focus our attention on God. Abraham forgot to do so.

  1. Act #2: Abraham and the Egyptians

    1. I am not bothered by the fact that Abraham and his wife gave thought to telling a lie to the Egyptians. After all Jesus was tempted – temptation is not a sin.

    2. But when the ran from God's promised land to Egypt because of the famine and began to tell this lie they had cooked up, I am truly bothered.

    3. But it is not just the lie that bothers me. In telling this lie Abraham has really offended three key people in his life:

  • First, Abraham is disrespectful of God – God has just shown him the promised land. Yet Abraham does not have enough faith to know that God will see him through the current crisis.

  • Second, Abraham is disrespectful of his wife – I Peter 3:7 reads, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate your wives and treat them with respect.” You have heard of the three “R”s. But someone has said that respect to a woman is summed up in the three “T”s: Time, Talk, and Touch. When Abraham told his lie, he essentially gave up the right to offer all three to his wife.

  • Finally, Abraham is disrespectful of himself – I am sure that when he first concocted this lie, Abraham never thought we would be sitting her discussing his choices 4000 years later. But we are. The founder of the Jewish race never expected that the small choices he made in his life reflect his character. But yet it is part of the picture we have of Abraham.

  1. Act #3: Abraham and Pharoah

    1. Abraham's wife was beautiful. Abraham was about 75 years old at this point and his wife was 65 – and scripture tells us that she was beautiful.

(Ill.) I thought that was neat – scripture calling a 65 year old woman beautiful. At least until I found that the same word is used to describe David in I Samuel. Well, okay, maybe that was okay – there is some connection between a man being handsome and a beautiful woman. But then I read a bit further and Genesis uses the same word to describe a cow.

Beauty is not something that is merely on the outside – it is something that goes beyond what we see. Sarah's “dignity, bearing, and countenance” as well as her appearance all contributed to her beauty.

    1. And of course her beauty did attract Pharoah's attention. Too much attention.

    2. But in spite of Abraham's lie, God was still at work.

    3. God was, of course watching Abraham – his wealth and possessions increased.

(Ill.) Someone once said, “Nothing exists from whose nature some effect does not follow.”i

    1. And such was the case here. I wonder if Abraham ever used that modern argument - “Its okay as long as no body is hurt.” But there are times when we cross the line, convinced that nobody will be hurt, but somebody gets hurt. It happened in Egypt. There were consequences for Abraham's sin – not to Abraham, but to the world in which he found himself.

Conclusion: And in the middle of all of this, Abraham continued to experience and enjoy God's love.

  1. God's love is not dependent on our behavior.

  2. God's love is not dependent on anything

  3. He loves us.

  4. Our task is to live close to him

  5. Our task is allow his spirit to fill us

iMerriam-Webster, I. (1992). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Quotations. Electronic Edition. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Beginning the Journey

Intro: Sermons get their start at different places.

  1. My wife would tell you that I began writing this sermon on Saturday morning. She would be wrong.

  2. Vicky knows this – I mean I told her what my sermon would be on Wednesday night when I sent her an e-mail listing this week's sermon and hymns. But she too would be wrong.

  3. I suppose if I brought a cyber forensic specialist, he would open up my computer and look at its files and tell you I started working on this sermon the week before Easter. But he would be wrong.

  4. Now I suppose you might want to contact Wayne Richards. Oh, of course, you have no idea who Wayne Richards is. Wayne is Director of FLAME, FLAME is the continuing education program I have participated in Indiana three of the last four years. You see, Wayne will tell you that last summer I took a course on Genesis. And I would guess he might assume that I started this sermon after taking the class on Genesis. He would be wrong.

  5. You see, this sermon had its start when I was a freshman in college. For the first time in my life, I was teaching a Sunday School class. It was a class of 5th grade boys and the study was on the great men of Genesis. My appreciation for the patriarchs of the Old Testament began at that point.

  6. Over the next few weeks we will look at the life of the men who founded Judaism. The men, their families, and their history will provide a great many lessons for us as we seek to follow God.

Read Genesis 12:1-9


Tran. Abraham's initial contact with God, provides a set of lessons for us make a part of our own lives.

  1. Abraham's Call

    1. Much of Genesis 1-11 sets the stage for the remainder of the lessons of scripture – we are a fallen people, we are broken people, we find that we do need a savior, we find we do need a blessing

    2. And in Abraham, God begins the process of bringing us that blessing.

    3. I don't know how many of you have moved around a lot.

(Ill.) I can document 10 moves in my first 20 years of life. That means (and I never thought of it this way until I was writing this sermon) we moved on average once every two years. With one exception, each move meant a new school, each move meant having to find new friends.

    1. I have some idea of how Abram (God will change his name to Abraham later) felt when God tells him, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”

    2. This is not going to be easy – Leave your country, leave your people, leave your father’s household. Give up all the security that you know. Give up whatever safety that you may feel – and go.

    3. The command to go is accompanied by a series of seven promises:

      1. I will make you into a great nation,”

      2. I will bless you,”

      3. I will make your name great,”

      4. you will be a blessing,”

      5. I will bless those who bless you,”

      6. whoever curses you I will curse,”

      7. all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” i

(Appl.) But before Abram can go, something has to happen. He has to hear God. Too often God does talk to us – through our conscience, through His word, through the circumstances around us – but we either do not hear or refuse to listen.

  1. Abraham's Compliance

    1. But Abram does hear and he does go.

    2. Don't miss the fact that this is going to take a great deal of faith.

    3. He knew what he was giving up – home, family, and familiarity.

    4. He had no idea where he was going.

(Ill.) Pete had become lost in the desert and had been chasing mirages. He thought to himself, I’ll follow this last one. It was a deserted town with a well in the very center. His mouth parched from the intense heat, he ran to the well with his last ounce of energy. He vigorously pumped the handle only to find that no water came forth. Then, he looked up to a note nailed to the post. It instructed its readers to “look behind the rock where a five-gallon container of water will be found” and warned against drinking or using it for anything besides priming the pump. Every ounce was needed, and not even a drop could be spared, the note emphasized. “After pouring the water down the pump, pump the handle vigorously and all the water you desire will come forth,” the note said. One last instruction was to please fill the water can and place it behind the rock for the next weary soul who might happen to come along. How hard it is for people to give up a “sure thing” for something they cannot see at the time. Pete had a sure thing in the bucket of water and yet was instructed to pour it “all” down the pump.ii

    1. Abrah was able to give it all up – for the privilege of following his God.

(Ill.) St. Augustine of Hippo understood where Abram was coming from when he wrote, “Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”iii

(Appl.) Are you willing to give it all up, for the sake of getting all that God wants for you?

  1. Abraham's Commitment

    1. Our obedience deepens our commitment to God

    2. As Abram moves to the Southwest toward Palestine, he stops twice and builds altars as reminders of what God has done.

    3. They represented milestones in Abram's life, points at which he was able to recognize God at work.

(Appl.) Each of us have those points in our lives. Points when we know that God has reached down and touched us in some special way. We will find milestones in our lives where God reached down in the middle of our broken lives and touched us in some special way. At those times we need to build our own altars. They may or may not be physical – but they will be points that we will always remember God's presence in some special way.

    1. In a few moments we will be serving communion. As you approach the altar this morning, I pray that this will be a day that you will meet God i n some special way.

    2. I trust that communion will never become just something we do – but it becomes an opportunity to meet God. I pray that

iSee “Genesis 12:2-3” NIV Study Bible Notes

iiAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

iiiQuoted by Edythe Draper (19920. Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World. (Electronic Edition) Quick Verse 2005.