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Graduation Sunday Sermon May 21, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Bethel, Blessing, Commitment, Genesis, Jacob, Laban, Responsibility.
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Genesis 30:25-31:55

This is the time of year when there are many new beginnings. We have celebrated one of our high school graduate’s new beginning with a small gift and a dedicatory prayer today. There are also a number of young couples throughout this nation who will be starting a new life together, truly a new beginning. With most new beginnings, however, there is also an ending. This is what we see in Jacob’s life. He has spent twenty years working for his uncle Laban and it is now time to go, to close out an old chapter of his life and to undertake a new beginning. In this sermon I would like for us to use Jacob as an example of some things that we should do no matter where in life we find ourselves but especially when we undertake a new beginning.

A. When we start out on a new beginning there are some actions we should plan on taking and on making these actions a daily part of our lives.

1. We need to take responsibility for our own actions (30:25-30). Jacob knew that he needed to commit himself to independence from his uncle.

Jacob had the right desire but he ended up waiting six more years. His commitment to his family was strong. It wasn’t enough, however to bring him to the place where he would start out on a new beginning.

2. We need to return to our commitment to God (31:10-13). Jacob had committed himself to submit to the Lord in worship specifically through his tithes. Now that he had some wealth it was time to go back to Bethel and pay that vow. Whether you realized it or not, when you put your faith in Christ you committed yourself to his service. This commitment to Christ is revealed through specific actions.

Rick Warren tells how “[in] 1943, 100,000 young people in brown shirts filled the Olympic stadium in…Germany, the largest stadium in the world at that time. They formed with their bodies a sign for a fanatical man standing behind the podium. The message read, ‘Hitler, we are yours.’ [Such] commitment allowed them to conquer Europe”

Commit yourself to daily fellowship with believers. That means going beyond church attendance. You should attend a Sunday service but you should also find a Christian group on campus or near campus and commit yourself to them. You also need to find a Christian friend or two with whom you can pray daily, perhaps even study the word together.

Commit yourself to expanding yourself in God’s Word. Go beyond the “Daily Bread” and immerse yourself in God’s Word. Start with those things that interest you, that concern you, that trouble you and proceed from there.

Commit yourself to giving. College students don’t have much money but they do have time and strength and passion. Commit those things to God.

B. When we start out new there are some things we must know.

1. In such times we need to recognize the Lord’s blessing (31:36-42).Where we are now is because of the Lord and where we will be later is because of the Lord.

“The Masai tribe in West Africa [has] an unusual way of saying thank you. Translators tell us that when the Masai express thanks, they bow, put their forehead on the ground, and say, ‘My head is in the dirt.’
When members of another African tribe want to express gratitude, they sit for a long time in front of the hut of the person who did the favor and literally say, ‘I sit on the ground before you.’
These Africans understand well what thanksgiving is and why it’s difficult for us: at its core, thanksgiving is an act of humility” (from Joel Gregory in Leadership, Winter 1993).

2. In such times we need to recognize the Lord is watching us (31:43-50).

“[Jacob] and Laban had to put up a boundary marker called ‘Mizpah’ (which means ‘watchtower’) and swear that neither would cross it and attack the other. ‘The LORD will watch between us,’ they said, which means, ‘God sees what you’re doing, so be careful!’” (Warren Wiersbe in Life Sentences, 2007).

There are high visibility sins and low visibility sins. Everyone sees our high visibility sins. We may or may not be aware of them but they are there for everyone else to notice. God sees the low visibility sins we commit. He sees the secret thoughts of pride, fantasy, envy, lust, jealousy, wild ambition, the desire for money and power, and the resentments that float in and out of our minds. A family had a rule that their daughter could not go to PG-13 movies until she was thirteen. All her friends could go at an earlier age. Every weekend she would ask her parents if she could go to some PG-13 movie. Our minds are like that but we need to resist (adapted from Patrick Morley’s The Man in the Mirror).

We need to set up a watchtower. Part of that is the setting up of a daily commitment to God in the areas of relationships with believers, time in God’s Word and prayer, and giving whatever it is that we have to him.

Does it matter? I think so. Soon Jacob would find himself wrestling with God and being renamed Israel because he wrestled with God and with man and won. Jacob was by no means a spiritual giant but he made some important choices about his actions and his thoughts, choices which God honored by blessing him repeatedly. Jacob received the earlier blessings because of the faith of his fathers. His participation in those blessings would be dependent on his on faith and the God in whom that faith was put.

Next Week: Wrestling with God (Genesis 32-33)

Mother’s Day Sermon 2012 – Two Wives, Four Mothers, Twelve Sons May 14, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Genesis, God's Goodness, Jacob, Laban, Leah, Mother's Day, Providence, Rachel, Religion, Sermons.
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Genesis 29:1-30:24

Erwin Lutzer once “asked a woman about the tattoo on her arm, she explained, ‘My former boyfriend did it-he was an abusive alcoholic.’ …every day she was reminded of the pain in her past. She would have preferred to remove that tattoo, but it was burned into her skin” (from Putting Your Past Behind You by Erwin Lutzer).

A. Many of us come from less than ideal situations, less than ideal families. For many Mother’s Day is a wonderful holiday but for others it brings sad memories and unfulfilled dreams. I doubt that they celebrated Mother’s Day in Jacob’s house, especially before Joseph was born. There were two wives, two concubines, and four mothers in this household. One wife was unloved; the other was for many years childless. The expectations of both women remained for years unfulfilled.

1. Our expectations are not always fulfilled (29:31-30:8).
i. It may be that certain things that we expected in life to happen never came to pass. That is what we have in this passage, especially in the life of Rachel, who wanted a son with all of her heart.
ii. It is also possible that things we expected to be fulfilling left us wanting. Leah had six sons, a mother’s dream in that day, but the pride of having children left her dissatisfied.
iii. It also may be that we had no expectations in life and life gave us exactly what we expected, nothing. Jacob’s handmaids, slave girls fall into this category. They became pawns in the hands of Jacob and his wives and at least in one case, in the hands of Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben (Genesis 35:22).

2. We sometimes try to manipulate the situation (29:15-30; 30:14-16). There are different types of manipulation. Perhaps Rachel tried to use guilt on Jacob to manipulate him to take her handmaid, although in this case he pointed out that the situation was beyond his control (30:1-6). Only God can give children.

3. We must depend on God for solutions (30:17, 22-23). We learn of God’s faithfulness and provision in his Word but the clearest way to depend on God is to flee to him in prayer. “In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, a young woman and her children are seen knocking on the Wicket Gate. In a moment a ferocious dog begins to bark, making the woman and children afraid. They face a dilemma: If they continue to knock, they must fear the dog; if they turn away, the gatekeeper will be offended and they will not be admitted. They continue to knock ever so fervently. Finally, they hear the voice of the gatekeeper asking, ‘Who is there?’ and instantly the dog ceases barking.” Erwin Lutzer comments, “The moment we are serious about prayer, a thousand dogs begin to bark. If we listen to them we will turn away. If we continue to know, we will hear the voice of our Master and we will be encouraged to press on.”

B. God’s plan is not limited by our dysfunction (32:9-12). There is a story of a “beautiful piece of cloth on which some ink had accidentally been spilled[.] Though the ink could not be removed, an artist painted a picture on it and used the blotch as part of the scenery” (adapted from Erwin Lutzer).

1. His expectations are always fulfilled (32:27-28). That is why we should pray according to God’s will, desirous that God’s will be done. “When we pray for a promotion, or that a child will be healed, or that God will give us a marriage partner, the question of the will of God always emerges as a part of the picture. In instances like these we must end our prayer with ‘If it be Thy will.’ On the other hand, there are some requests we can make with absolute certainty that we are praying in His will” (Lutzer).

2. He always controls the situation (45:3-8). “When Edmund Gravely died at the controls of his small plane, his wife kept the plan aloft for two hours. She radioed for help and her distress signal was picked up, but communication was impossible because she kept changing channels. Eventually she made a rough landing, but it would have been so much easier if she had stayed tuned to the right frequency” (Lutzer). God is in control, there is no doubt about that. Are you listening to him?

3. His solutions always good (Joshua 24:1- 13). How long did this take? From the time of Abraham to the time of Joshua was well over five hundred years but God’s solution was good. It was another thousand years before Jesus came but God’s solution was good. It had been two thousand years since Jesus promised that he would return but his solution remains good.