Abraham’s Faith Crisis!

-Caution: God At Work!

If you follow Jesus by faith & trust Him for your eternal salvation, than “sanctification” is the work God is presently doing in your life. We all want to be “SANCTIFIED”; but, rarely do we enjoy the process God uses to get us there. On a number of levels, Abraham presents us with a picture of a sanctified life. In Genesis ch. 11, v.30 it reads:  “…Sarah was unable to conceive; she did not have a child...” So, Abraham loved a woman that could not conceive a child! That presented Abraham with a crisis of faith because God had promised to make of Abraham a great nation, through his offspring, with Sarah!

-God Uses Life’s Hardships!

After reading the entire account, we come away with this—God uses the hardships in our life to sanctify us! This crisis of faith would provide God the perfect opportunity to stretch Abraham’s faith & trust in Him; and, it’s in the stretching, of our faith, that we grow! Jesus taught His disciples:  “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” John 16:33. Jesus already overcame all the suffering that this world had to dish out! And, He conquered it! Notice, “…you will have suffering in this world,” Jesus said, “in part, so we find peace in Him!”

-Let Go Of Your Stuff!

God uses pain, trouble & suffering to loosen our grip on the stuff in this world! That’s part of our sanctification—part of the spiritual growth process! We only grab hold of our future “GLORIFICATION” as we let go of this life! Let go of your dreams & aspirations! Let go of your attempts to control your circumstances & your environment! And, give it all over to Jesus! That’s NOT what the world tells you! The world tells you to live out your dreams! To do whatever you want! To go after it with gusto & determination! Jesus says, “If you hold onto your life you’ll lose it! But, if you lose your life for my sake & the Gospel you will find it” Matthew 10:39.  We grow, in our sanctification, as we desire to live out God’s “dreams” & “plans” for our life; and, relinquish our own! The sanctified life grabs hold of Paul’s words:  “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.  He doesn’t promise to make all things good! He promises to work them together for our good—for our sanctification!

-Trusting A God Who’s Not In A Hurry!

Abraham is a picture of the sanctified life because he trusted a God who does not hurry! God wasn’t in a hurry to fulfill His promise to Abraham about moving to Canaan land. He wasn’t in a hurry to follow through on His promise of a son, to Abraham, through Sarah. Abraham waited 25 years for Isaac—the son of promise! In His perfect time, God came through! Because God is never in a hurry, we can become impatient with Him & try to provide our own fulfillment to His promises. Abraham tried to make Ishmael acceptable to God—the product of his liaison with Sarah’s handmaid; but, God refused him. Abraham would learn to trust in a God who was never in a hurry! Ask God to make you willing to wait on Him!

 

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Abraham Believed God!

-In The Midst Of A Faith Crisis!

When God makes an entrance into Abraham’s life, He calls him to leave his home & go to a new land where He promised to make him into a great nation. That presented a problem, because, Sarah—his wife—had been unable to conceive (see Genesis 12). The rest of Abraham’s “story” is just one crisis of belief after another—but, this is what God uses to grow him spiritually! Abraham presents us with a Biblical picture of a sanctified life; and, how God achieves it. This is how God works in the life of everyone who comes to Him by faith!

-Justified By Faith!

The scripture tells us that Abraham was “justified” by his faith.  “Abraham believed God,” His story, in Genesis, says, “and, God CREDITED it to him as RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Genesis 15:6).  And, the rest of his life presents a study, in SANCTIFICATION, as he is progressively set free from the power of sin. Isn’t that the hardest part of the Christian life? Growing in our “sanctification”? I mean JUSTIFICATION is really quite painless. It’s just applying the truth of the Gospel and accepting God’s pardon for sin, right? And, GLORIFICATION? I mean, yea, you have to DIE to get it! But, the actual process of BEING GLORIFIED, like Jesus, sounds awesome! But, SANCTIFICATION? That can be quite painful as God turns up the heat, on our lives, in order to bring our sins to the surface where they can be dealt with by His Spirit!

-A Picture Of A Sanctified Life!

So, let’s talk about how Abraham is a picture of the sanctified life.  Genesis ch. 12 begins with these words: “The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” But, Abraham never saw that promise, of God, fulfilled in his lifetime! The writer of Hebrews says: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise” (Heb.11:8,9). That phrase, “…he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise…” reminds us that this world is not ours to claim! We’re “aliens” here (1 Peter 2:11).

-Where Do You Claim Citizenship?

The Apostle Paul wrote the Church of Philippi—“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).  Like Abraham, we need to confess that we’re “…foreigners and temporary residents on earth” (Heb. 11:13). We can’t hold onto this life too tightly if we hope to grow spiritually! Jesus told us to let go of this life; and, to die to self every day as we wait for the promise of our GLORIFICATION—to be completed in the “Land of Promise.”  It’s interesting that Abraham purchased some of the land—God promised him—for his burial (Gen. 25). It was his act of faith that he believed God would come through on His promise! Let us follow his great example!

Church Community Encourages Growth!

-Celebrate The Differences!

During our nearly 35 years of marriage & ministry together, my wife and I have had several opportunities to minister to some married couples who were struggling with their relationship.  And, more often than not, they were fighting over the very things they originally found attractive about each other—their differences! Oh yes, indeed, opposites do attract! And, if you don’t celebrate the differences from the start of the marriage, you’ll begin to see them as irritants after while.

-Diversity Is God’s Blessing!

Those differences were obvious early on; and, they were seen as complimentary because each one filled in some deficiency in the other person. That’s also true in the faith community that makes up every local church.  Have you noticed how different each individual member is in your church? We all have different backgrounds & upbringings; and, that diversity adds strength to the faith community! But—like marriage—those differences can become problematic to our fellowship if we’re not careful. We can look at how different we are & conclude that we just can’t fellowship with those people! When we “go there” we make the same mistake as the troubled married couple!

-Differences Give Us Perspective!

The differences that my wife & I brought into the marriage gave us perspective; and, stretched us because they exposed our individual weaknesses & our need to make some changes in our lives. I believe we are each a better person because we’ve grown, in those areas, to actually be more like the other person. God uses His church to accomplish the same thing in our lives—our differences make us stronger! God often exposes our weaknesses & our sinful tendencies through the strengths of others.

-No Traction Without Friction!

In fact, our interaction, within the faith community, is one of the MOST significant ways that God grows us spiritually! It’s the friction that we encounter, in our church family, that gives the Holy Spirit the necessary traction to grow us! So, don’t ever look condescendingly at anyone! In Romans 15:1-6 the Apostle Paul points out the fact that there are individuals—within the church—who are strong spiritually; and, others who are weak! And, that can be said of every local church!

-Spiritual Infants Need Your Help!

In every faith community there are some who are spiritually weak in their faith. Perhaps they’re a spiritual “infant” because they’ve never been discipled. Their greatest need is for someone spiritually mature, in the faith, to come alongside them & show them how to grow.  There are others who are weak because they’ve been wounded or hurt—could be spiritual, emotional, or physical pain that they’re dealing with! Again, they just need someone to love them enough to come alongside them & take the time to listen; and, to help! God intends for the Church of Christ to do the work of Christ! That’s why He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell every believer so that we could reconcile people to God!

 

Daniel: Giving Up Your Life For Others

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

-The Greatest Commandment!

One of the key lessons the Prophet Daniel shows us is how to give up our life for others. When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus responded, “The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and, with all your might.” Then He said, “And, the 2nd is like unto it—Love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). In other words, the 2nd is only surpassed, in importance, by the 1st. Or, understood, in context, the 2nd comes out of obedience to the 1st. Jesus was saying that when we truly grow in love for God, we can’t help but grow in love for our fellow man!

-Help Others Reconcile With God!

We can give up our life for others because our God has given up His life for us! That’s how we help others become reconciled with God—we LOVE them! We deny self! We even die to self! Daniel lived that kind of life! Even when facing the prospect of death, he persistently shared the truth & incarnated that truth in the way he lived. I’m fairly confident that Daniel never would have scripted his life the way God did—to be torn away from your family & your homeland; and, exiled to a foreign land to serve the very King that ruined your happy home life! But, his yieldedness to a Sovereign God made for quite an exciting life & gave him ample opportunities to offer praise to God!

-Why Are We So Whiny?

We American Christians, unfortunately, have a reputation for being kind of whiny about things! God help us see trouble & pain as opportunities for God to do miraculous things so He can receive the praise He so richly deserves! When God stepped in & miraculously delivered Daniel from the lions den, King Darius rejoiced and said: “I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion, people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel: For He is the living God, & He endures forever;  His kingdom will never be destroyed, & His dominion has no end.  He rescues & delivers; He performs signs & wonders in the heavens & on the earth, for He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” (Daniel 6:26-28) Daniel could be used, by God, because he willingly gave up his life for others.  He served people!

-What A Legacy!

How would you like to be the one who led an Adolph Hitler or a Saddam Hussein to become a follower of Jesus? Sound impossible? That’s probably the equivalent of Daniel influencing Nebuchadnezzar & Darius to the faith! These were bad guys! History records that the kings of Babylon & the Medo-Persian empires were some of the most ruthless ever to walk the earth! But, it seems pretty clear, from Scripture, they’ll both be gathered around the throne of God—with the rest of us—worshipping & praising God for all eternity! Because Daniel saw God’s “big picture” & submitted to God’s plan for his life, he became a disciple maker of Kings! What a legacy Daniel has left us! In one of the most spiritually hostile environments in the history of the world, Daniel survived & thrived in his faith! Will you, like Daniel, trust God with all of your life?

 

Daniel’s Story Is About Exile

-And, God Wrote Daniel’s Story!

(NOTE: This Continues A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

The Book of Daniel begins with these haunting words:  “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it.  The Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God” Daniel 1:1-2.  And, v.6 states that Daniel, among others, was exiled from his home, in Israel, to the land of Babylon. This would be God’s story about Daniel; and, hopefully, you find comfort in knowing that God is also writing your story! Just like Daniel’s story, there is purpose to the story of your life! There is NOTHING random about it! God is in the details!

-And, God Is Writing Our Story!

Just like any great writer takes you through all kinds of twists & unexpected turns until the end, when he ties up all the loose ends & it all makes sense, God does the same thing as He writes our stories. We can have faith, like Daniel, that God is writing all the twists & the turns, the heartaches & the disappointments, into the stories of our lives & at the end He’ll bring closure to it all & make sense of it! We may not know how He’s going to make it work; but, trust Him, He will.

-God’s Word Sustained Daniel

It was the truth of God’s Word that sustained Daniel because his story was birthed in pain, suffering and separation. Daniel’s story is about EXILE—that’s where chapter 1 begins.  Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, was not a very nice man. History records him as one of the most brutal, powerful and ambitious kings the world has ever known! He was arrogant and egotistical! Babylon has such an ungodly reputation, in the Bible, that it seems to be used as a metaphor—in the Book of Revelation—for the evil world system that anti-Christ will control, in the last days, before Jesus returns. This is who God writes into Daniel’s story.  They “laid siege” to Jerusalem—that’s a military term describing an operation employed, by an army, to capture a fortified place by surrounding it; by, cutting off all communications & supplies; and, by deploying weapons against it! Why would God allow this?

-God Choreographed All Of It

Why would God actually write this into Israel’s & Daniel’s story? The siege, against Jerusalem, was the result of God’s judgment for disobedience. When God gave Israel the land of Canaan, as an inheritance, He warned them that they were being used by God to drive out the wickedness in the land; and, that He would also drive them out of the land if they behaved like the nations they dispossessed! And, despite multiple warnings, they disobeyed & worshiped idols! They dishonored God’s Sabbath! Though there were times of revival & a brief return to God, the gradualism of sin & wickedness overtook every level of the nation from kings to priests to citizens. They preferred darkness over light; so, God judged them. He didn’t just ALLOW it, “…the LORD HANDED Jehoiakim, King of Judah, over to him…” God WROTE it into the story!

 

Daniel: Designated Survivor!

Who Can Resist Reading Daniel’s Story?

(NOTE: This Is The 1st In A Series Of Posts On Daniel’s Life)

I love action movies! That’s where I browse when I’m looking for something to watch on Netflix—action movies, thrillers & drama!  I love reading those kind of books too—the Joel Rosenberg political & prophetic thrillers; and, almost anything Ted Dekker! I quickly became a “fan” of Daniel, the Old Testament Bible character, after I became a follower of Jesus in Junior High. Who can resist the stories of Daniel in the “lion’s den”; and, his three friends being thrown into the “fiery furnace”? I remember sitting by the record player—do you remember those?—and, listening over & over to a recording of the action highlights, of the book of Daniel, being dramatized! I loved it! I couldn’t imagine a more action-packed story!

End Times Prophecy!

Then, when I went off to Bible college, I was introduced to a whole new way of looking at the book of Daniel—END TIMES Prophecy! I remember evangelists coming to chapel & using the book of Daniel to show us where we were on God’s prophetic calendar.   Through my years of study in God’s Word, since Bible college days, I’ve discovered, however, that there’s another story line that weaves through Daniel’s book that was hardly broached by either my Sunday School teachers; or, my Bible college professors—it’s the “back story” to the lion’s den & the fiery furnace.

It’s A Faith Narrative!

It’s the narrative of Daniel’s faith in God; and, how he lived out his faith in one of the most wicked environments the world has ever known! It’s my purpose, over the next few weeks, to introduce you to THAT faith—a faith that was never promised deliverance from hungry lions; or, a fiery furnace! Daniel & friends had no expectations of being rescued—that’s the point of their faith! We tend to miss that point; and, focus on God’s deliverance from danger & persecution “if we just have enough faith.” That’s how we usually teach it, isn’t it? But, we completely miss the point of the text if we teach that Daniel’s faith hinged on God’s deliverance. NO! Daniel & his 3 friends remained faithful even when they fully expected to die.

Daniel’s Story Is Still Relative Today!

Like Daniel, we live in a world that pursues new levels of wickedness & ungodliness—a world that’s becoming more & more intolerant of Christians! Babylon far exceeded the wickedness of our own culture; and, yet, Daniel’s faith survived intact. In fact, we see that he thrived despite his environment—despite the threats against his faith! That’s something we have in common with Daniel. We live in a culture that increasingly opposes our faith in Jesus Christ. Remember, Jesus told His disciples that “…ALL who want to live godly lives WILL suffer persecution.” The question about persecution, for us, is not “if” but “when”! It IS coming! Be ready! Not everyone survives the lion’s den & the fiery furnace! Don’t think we’re insulated—in “Christian” America—from persecution! We’re NOT a Christian nation!

 

 

Does God Get Disappointed With Us?

Can We Hurt God?

I know of a Youth Pastor who handed his students a 3-inch nail & told them to keep it in their pocket. Whenever they had a lustful thought, sassed their parents, or mistreated a classmate, they needed to reach in their pocket & poke that nail into their finger ‘til it hurt. “Draw a little blood,” he told them, “that way you’ll remember the pain those actions are causing God. You’ll know how disappointed He is with you right now!”

Ever Feel Like You Can’t Make God Happy?

Maybe that’s the picture of God that someone painted for you when you were growing up! Maybe you live every day thinking that you’re nothing but a big disappointment to God! Maybe you’ve messed up so badly & so many times that you think you could never make God happy with you! Well, here’s a statement that’ll rock your world— “If Jesus is your Savior, God will never be disappointed with you!

Is It Even Possible To Disappoint God?

Disappointment is comprised of 2 elements: surprise & frustration! People disappoint us when we’re surprised by something unexpected that they did; and, we’re frustrated by it! If Jesus is your Savior, God will never be disappointed with you because He is “omniscient”; or, “all-knowing.” Because He’s omniscient, He’s never surprised or frustrated! He’ll never say, “Wow! I never saw that coming!” The psalmist said, “Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away…You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord” Psalm 139:1-6  God knows everything about us! So, we never surprise Him! Not once is the word translated “disappoint” ever used, in the Bible, in reference to God! An All-Knowing God can never have His hopes or expectations fail!

God’s Theology Of Forgiveness

Ultimately, He’s never disappointed with us because all our sin has already been paid for by Jesus on the cross! It’s been replaced with the “righteousness of Christ”! So, grab hold of God’s forgiveness! God’s forgiveness, through Christ is total! What God offers, through Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross, is a radical, sweeping removal of every sin you’ve already committed & every sin you will ever commit the rest of your life! Review Colossians 2:13-14 and Psalm 103:12—He’s “removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west”! So thorough is God’s forgiveness that we were forgiven before we ever sinned—our names were written in God’s book before the “foundation of the world” Revelation 13:8. He no longer holds our sin against us—“…God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” 2 Cor. 5:19. So, does God get disappointed with us? No! How could He when He no longer holds our sins & our missteps against us? He’s canceled our debt of sin!