He grew in faith

Abraham’s great unwavering faith did not happen overnight. He grew in faith.

Romans 4:16-25
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone,but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

We are told by Paul in Romans 4 that Abraham did not “weaken in faith” or “waver” at the promise, yet when you read Genesis you see a lot of wavering. But what we must see is what Paul pointed out about Abraham’s faith here in Romans 4. It grew! He grew in faith! Abraham became fully convinced over time. Abram (“father”) turned into Abraham (“father of a multitude”). As Abraham grew in his faith and continued to give glory to God, he became fully convinced that God was able to do whatever He promised.

You will see below the times Abraham and Sarah wavered as they “grew in faith.”

Genesis 12 – Abraham lied to project himself. There was no need to lie. If God had promised Abraham and Sarah that they would conceive and bear a child, nobody would have the power to kill Abraham.

Genesis 15 – Abraham asked God, “Where is the son you promised me?” God promised Abraham again, and he believed. Genesis 15:6 is often quoted in the New Testament. But notice what happens in the next chapter of Genesis.

Genesis 16 – Abraham and Sarah came up with an alternate plan to bring the promised son into the world. Sarah convinced Abraham to go into her servant girl, Hagar, and have a son. Ishmael was born.

Genesis 17 – Abraham fell on his face and laughed at God’s promise of him and Sarah having a son. He also begged God that Ishmael might be considered the promised son.

Genesis 18 – Sarah also laughed at God’s promise.

Genesis 20 – Abraham lied again to protect himself. See Genesis 12. It was unnecessary to lie. God’s promise of a “multitude of nations” through Abraham showed that Abraham was not going to be killed at that point.

Now, consider what happened after Isaac was born. God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to Him. Look at where Abraham’s faith had come. He did not lie. He did not waver. He did not try to form an alternate plan. He did not fall on his face and laugh and ask for another way. Abraham just did what God said.

But what gave Abraham such strength to offer up Isaac? His strong faith. Look at what Hebrews says about what Abraham’s faith did for him.

Hebrews 11:17-19
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

By this point, Abraham had such trust in God’s promises that he concluded by faith that if Isaac was killed on that altar, then God would raise him from the dead. That’s incredible faith!

But remember that Abraham did not get to that faith overnight. He grew in faith. Just like you and me. Growth is a process.

I would encourage you to go back over those chapters and take note of all of the great moments of Abraham’s faith. We can list out our failings or moments of weakness in faith, but can we also look back at the times we stood strong in faith? Abraham left everything to go to a strange land (Gen. 12). He showed great humility and generosity to his nephew Lot (Gen. 13). Abraham fought for and rescued Lot (Genesis 14). He trusted in God’s promises (Gen. 15). He obeyed God and was circumcised at 99 years old (Gen. 17)! Abraham showed generosity toward strangers which turned out to be angels (Gen. 18). He prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18), and he also prayed for Lot (Genesis 19). As you think about Abraham, think about your own faith. You are growing. Don’t just focus on the failings, focus on the victories!

And They Laughed at Him

 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district (Matthew 9:23-26).

They laughed at Jesus. The crowd is surrounding this family and the little twelve year old girl that just passed, and they are crying, playing flutes and wailing. That, I believe, was a normal part of how things went when a loved one passed. In comes Jesus and says she is not dead, just sleeping. Can you imagine how you would react if Jesus came into a room with your departed loved one and declare to you that she isn’t really dead?

How would you and I react? We might have had the same reaction. We’d like to think differently that we wouldn’t laugh at Jesus, but I think a lot of us would probably have had the same instantaneous response. You’re nuts, Jesus, that girl is plainly dead. Of course she was dead, and Jesus knew that, but Jesus also knew what he was about to do.

This wasn’t the first time people laughed at something God said. Remember Sarah? When God told Abraham that ninety-year old Sarah would have a baby, she laughed in her tent (see Genesis 18:9-15). God was pretty merciful to her, because then she proceeded to lie that she didn’t laugh! But again, put yourself in Sarah’s sandals, her body was effectively “dead” when it came to childbearing (Romans 4:19), so laughing would be a natural reaction to God’s promise of her bearing a child. Don’t forget that Abraham also laughed at the same promise (Genesis 17:17).

Interesting that God named Abraham and Sarah’s child, “Isaac,” which means laughter.

Here we have two examples in Scripture where God came into a hopeless situation and promised the impossible, and the reaction was the same. The people laughed. God then continued to work the impossible and their sadness and hopelessness led to true rejoicing and a faith that was strengthened.

Maybe we are facing situations in our own lives that we might consider “dead” or “impossible,” but remember that God can bring to life what we consider dead, and he can make possible what we see as impossible. Let’s finish with a question that God asked of Abraham and Sarah after Sarah laughed.

Genesis 18:13-14 – The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Is anything too hard for the Lord?

Just like God said

And the LORD visited Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
(Genesis 21:1-2)

Today is a reminder for us that God keeps His promises.

He keeps His promises on His time table. It took 25 years after God’s promise, but Abraham and Sarah had their son. They had times when they wondered and even tried to go about fulfilling their own way, but in the end, God came through. I can get impatient, and it is good for me to remember that God’s timing is not mine. Another of God’s promises to Abraham took 2,000 years to fulfill, that being the promise of Jesus.

He keeps His promises just like He promised. What He promised, in detail, He delivered. Men keep promises and then adapt them later because the original promise cannot or won’t be kept. God is not like that. There is no “bait and switch” with God.

in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,
(Titus 1:2)

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” 
(Numbers 23:19)

“And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
(1 Samuel 15:29)

H-O-P-E

How much of a difference would I make if I demonstrated “hopeful living” in my home?  There are a lot of things I can do as a dad to help my kids but there are a lot of things I can do to hurt them too.

I wonder sometimes…am I hurting them more than helping them?  I say that because sometimes I am led by selfishness…and in that the mistakes or bad choices and emotions associated with them can feel like a burden…and unfortunately my kids might be getting that message.

Or sometimes I am afraid…and that fear comes out in anger…and so my kids think that I am mad at them when really I am just scared of something bad happening to them.

Neither of these are positive and they certainly don’t represent the kind of person I want them to become…selfish or afraid.  So what do I do?

What I should do is live with hope…which is the favorable and confident expectation…having to do with the unseen and the future.  Vine’s defines it as a verb meaning “to trust”.

Hope describes a happy anticipation of good.

God tells us we can live “in hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2)  But what is that hope based on?

Christ in you the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).  Jesus is the object upon which our “hope” is fixed…“the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1).

Isn’t this kind of hope the best of things?  And if this kind of hope is the best of things, perhaps hopelessness is the worst of things…“having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

With God..in Jesus…there is hope and we are not alone.  In that, we have to take the focus off ourselves and put it on God.  We have to trust that He will not forsake us and will be there for those who search after Him…that means He is there fore our kids too so we don’t have to be afraid but have a hopeful outlook for them in Christ Jesus.

Live with hope and it will make a difference in your life and the lives of your kids.

Take this little memory aid with you…live with hope…and make a difference for Jesus in your home.

HOPE:  Helping – Others – Prepare for – Eternity

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 2

We began last Friday a consideration of whether Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was a “new” teaching. Were concepts like turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your neighbor uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses? No.

Let’s look into this further.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to lust as long as you didn’t commit adultery? (Matthew 5:27-30)

The 10th commandment says otherwise (Exodus 20:17). “Do not covet.” Just replace that word with lust. Do not covet (lust for) your neighbor’s wife.

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?
(Proverbs 6:23-28)

Job 31:1 – Job made a covenant with his eyes. He honored his marriage vows even with his eyes.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to play semantics with your promises in order to weasel out of keeping your word? (Matthew 5:33-37)

The 9th commandment says otherwise (Exodus 20:16). Don’t bear false witness.

The 3rd commandment also says otherwise (Exodus 20:3). Do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Don’t invoke God’s name, including when making a commitment, unless you are dead serious about honoring His name by keeping that oath.

Ecclesiastes 5:1-6 – Don’t be hasty to utter promises…God is in heaven and you are on earth, let your words be few. If you are going to make a commitment, keep it!

As you can see from the Old Testament passages, God (Jesus) expected the Jew to keep from lust and to keep his word. Jesus was not introducing a new standard of conduct that He did not always expect from His people.

More to come later..

How Can I Keep from Singing?

The point I am considering today and invite you to consider is that of contentment and joyful living and how that makes a huge difference in the lives of those we come in contact with each day.

One of the Shepherds at South Macomb Church of Christ once said to me… “God didn’t promise a smooth flight…He promised a safe landing.” The comment was made in reference to fact this world is tough, our lives will be tough, difficult circumstances will present themselves…BUT…if we cling to our God and Father through our Elder Brother and Savior Jesus Christ…we will one day make it home to be with God forever. That home has no tears, no fears, no sin, no death, no confusion and the list goes on. It is a perfect rest in the place God always intended for us to be…in His presence, in His family, forever.

Though we are not home yet…God is all around us! His glory and power are screaming at us…but we don’t always see it because of all the noise and confusion and suffering in the world. But He is there and if we look, and we consider Him and His promises…how can we not be filled with joy and peace? And if we are filled with this how can we not love and live in such a way that is different and makes those around us take notice? And how powerful is that opportunity when someone asks “How can you be so at peace or so joyful or so loving and so hopeful in a time or place like this?”? That is when the power and love of God that fills us pours out and makes a difference in the world.

Fill yourself up with Him to the point it overflows and others will notice and opportunity will arise for the Gospel. We sow the seed…the increase belongs to God. Go about your day singing and you will be different and you will have opportunity for Christ and in that God will be glorified.

I love you all and appreciate the work you do for the sake of Christ in your homes, in the Church, in the workplace and throughout your everyday experiences. May a song of Jesus fill your heart today and the spill over into the lives of others.