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Being in God’s Will Like Paul Was August 27, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Apostle Paul, Body of Christ, Cross of Christ, Glory of Christ, Prayer, Will of God.
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BEING IN GOD’S WILL
Acts 28

As we come to the close of Paul’s career as recorded in the book of Acts, there are a couple of things that we need to recognize.

1. Paul still had several years of ministry ahead of him, yet he had already fulfilled God’s specific will in his life. God had said that Paul “is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). Paul had already done all this. If he had never made it to Rome, Paul would have fulfilled God’s will in His life.

2. We also need to recognize that God’s will for Paul’s life and for your life is pretty much one and the same. God expects the same things from you that He expected from Paul. God expects all of us to be committed to the cross of Christ, to the body of Christ, to the glory of Christ in our life. So if you want to be in God’s will you have to commit yourself to telling others the gospel of Christ; you have to integrate yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, temporally, financially with some portion of the body of Christ, that is, the church. You also have to commit yourself to the glory of Christ. Why do we live righteous lives? So that He might be glorified through them. You may choose the wrong career, you may choose the wrong wife, you may choose to attend the wrong church but if you are invested in the cross of Christ, the body of Christ, and the glory of Christ, you are in God’s will.

A. Being in God’s will is a place of safety in the midst of danger; therefore, we can have peace (verses 1-10). I would refer you to today’s bulletin insert on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He made a choice that put him in great danger because he was confident of God’s will. Yet he did not escape the wrath of the Nazis. Yet he died with peace that his death would be the beginning of life.

The story of Paul being bitten by a poisonous snake is a fascinating story. I have never been bitten by a snake but I can image the horror they all must have felt as Paul got bit. Once as a teenager I was entering the house we lived in. I opened the screen door and a little snake which had crawled up to the top of the door fell on to my wrist and began to wrap itself around my wrist. You have never heard such hollering or seen such dancing as I performed at that moment. I slung my arm so hard that the snake flew ten to twenty yards out in the air and landed in the grass. That snake never had a chance to bite me.

Notice, however, that the snake fastened his fangs onto Paul’s hand. I am sure Paul did not just calmly flick the snake into the fire. He felt the pain of the fangs entering into his hand. Whatever he did with his hand was certainly a reaction of pain, surprise, perhaps even fear. Paul, however, did not die. He did not even get sick. There were the marks in his hand but he did not die. I can imagine Paul wincing at the pain in his hand from the bite but the poison had no effect. Why? God was not through with Paul yet.

Later Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8, 13-14, 16, “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that He would grant you…to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man…”

Are there dangers? Of all kinds! When, however, we are in Christ and we are committed to His cross, His church, and His glory, we can have peace.

B. Being in God’s will is a place of success in the midst of difficulties; therefore, we can take courage (verses 11-15). Bonhoeffer during his imprisonment at Tegel prison wrote about success, “We must be determined not to be outraged critics [of success] or mere opportunists. We must take our full share of responsibility for the moulding of history, whether it be as visitors or vanquished…To talk about going down fighting like heroes in face of certain defeat is not really heroic at all, but a failure to face up to the future. The ultimate question the man of responsibility asks is not, How can I extricate myself heroically from the affair? but, How is the coming generation to live? …The rising generation will always instinctively discern [whether] we are acting upon [concrete responsibility] for it is their future which is at stake” (Prisoner For God, p. 17-18).

The brethren Paul met as he approached Rome were probably strangers to him. It is likely that Paul had no idea how he would be received. Yet a small group came, thrilled to see him and Paul took courage that God had paved the way for his arrival with brethren who cared for him. This small group was a confirmation of God answering Paul’s prayer recorded in Romans 15:30-33, “Now I beg you, brethren…that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me…that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you…” Paul had thought he would just be passing through on his way to Spain but God had other plans and God prepared Paul’s way before him. That is why Paul took courage when he arrived at Rome.

C. Being in God’s will is a place of significance in the midst of obscurity; therefore, we can bold to preach the gospel (verses 16-31). Do you want to be significant? Then your message better have eternal value both in this life and the life to come. Do you want to be significant among the men and women of history? Then you better stand with the family that will rule the universe, the church of the living God. Do you want to glorify God? Then you must glory in His cross and in His people and live accordingly.

As our missions conference comes closer, we need to understand that our significance is found in proclaiming the gospel to this world.

1. Some of our hearers will turn away. These people had interest in Paul’s message. They listened to Paul’s message. They even understood intellectually Paul’s message. They still walked away because they did not believe the message and were not transformed by it.

2. Some of our hearers will be healed and transformed (verse 20). These people had the same background. They had the same interest in Paul’s message. They listened to the same teaching that the rejecters listened to. They had the same intellectual understanding that the rejecters had. They, however, believed the message and were saved by it.

“A TV news camera crew was on assignment in southern Florida filming the widespread destruction of Hurricane Andrew. In one scene, amid the devastation and debris stood one house on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up the yard when a reporter approached him. ‘Sir, why is your house the only one still standing? …’ ‘I built this house myself,’ the man replied. ‘I also built it according to the Florida state building code. When the code called for 2×6 roof trusses, I used 2×6 roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did, and it did. I suppose no one else around here followed the code’” (David R. Culver, Leadership, Winter 1993).

Are you in God’s will? If you are you will be saved. Are you inviting others into God’s will? That is the only way to guarantee they will be saved.

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How to Know God’s Will? June 11, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Bible, Body of Christ, Holy Spirit, Paul's Life, Will of God.
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KNOWING GOD’S WILL
Acts 21:1-14

There is a story told of a successful retiring from a company being questioned by a young, up-and-coming employee. The young man asked the one about to retire, “What does it take to be successful?” The older man said, “Good decisions.” “But how do I learn to make good decisions?” the young man asked. The older man replied, “Bad decisions” (adapted from The Good Book of Leadership by Borek, Lovett, Towns, 2005).

This helps us to understand that the question implied in the sermon title is the wrong question. Haddon Robinson in Decision-Making by the Book (1991) frames a better question for us to ask, “How do we develop the skills necessary to make wise and prudent choices?” Paul exemplifies for us in his life three skills we need to develop in knowing God’s will.

A. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the Holy Spirit (verses 4, 10-11). I am starting with what seems to be the hardest, guidance from the Holy Spirit.

1. The Holy Spirit never leads us astray. How do you try the spirits to know that it is the Holy Spirit speaking? First, you check it by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit breathed the Word of God into holy men of God. He will not contradict what he has already said. Second, if we think the Holy Spirit is guiding us, we had better be sure that it was the voice of God. Haddon Robinson tells about “Edgar Cayce, Cayce…known to his followers as the sleeping prophet,’ began as a Sunday school teacher. But over the years, his spiritist ‘readings’ on the truth of God began to seriously disagree with God’s revelation at all major points…the sleeping prophet had doubts about the heretical teachings that began to pop up in the readings, but his mother reassured him, saying, ‘The devil cannot speak through a righteous man’ ” (taken by Robinson from The Story of Edgar Cayce: There Is a River by Thomas Sugre, 1967).

2. The Holy Spirit does not always give us clear instructions. That is why we need not to ask, “How can I know the will of God in this decision?” but rather “How can I make a wise decision that honors God?” (adapted again from Haddon Robinson).

3. The Holy Spirit generally only leads those who will do all He demands. Are you willing to take responsibility for depending on the Holy Spirit in order to know what God wants? Prayerlessness is a characteristic of someone who does not want to know and do God’s will.

B. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the body of Christ. Now there is a danger here. “Christians who have already made up their minds about their lifestyle seek out churches and pastors who approve of it” (Haddon Robinson). Yet it is clear that Paul listened at times to other believers (Cf. vs. 4, 12-14 with 17:10-15) and recommended even to a church like that in Corinth to exercise their own spiritual judgment in settling issues between other members.

1. In some situations the church has authority. There are many issues where we do not have authority and should not attempt to force our views on others but there are some areas where a congregation has authority. It is interesting that God commanded the church in Antioch to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries. It is the church that made doctrinal clarifications in Acts 13 concerning circumcision. It is the church that makes decisions about who is a member and who is not, that is church discipline.

2. In other situations the church has no authority but it may have wisdom (see Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). Henry and Richard Blackaby report (in Spiritual Leadership, 2001) tell about Warren Bennis’s suggestion “that the downfall of President Richard Nixon came after he surrounded himself with clones of himself. Observes Bennis, ‘They couldn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know and so were useless to him.’ The key to effective counselors is not that they agree with their leaders and always support their decisions but that they tell their leaders things they would not know or recognize otherwise.”

C. In order to know God’s desire we should understand His Word, the Bible (Cf. 20:25 with 14:21-23). How important is it to know God’s Word? It helps us to know where we are going in life. If you know that, you have won most of the battle.

Alice, while in Wonderland, comes to a crossroads and is trying to make a decision about which road to take. The Cheshire Cat asked, “Well, where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know!” “Well, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will do very nicely.”
Young person, if you know and believe your Bible, the decision to marry a believer and not an unbeliever is already made for you. Which believer to marry, you need to figure out for yourself. The best decision I have ever made in my life was which girl to marry, yet I must admit her good looks spoke to me a whole lot more than the Holy Spirit did. How did I keep from making a mistake (and I have made more than enough of those), by knowing the Word of God and following it to the best of my ability.

Richard and Henry Blackaby in 2001 wrote in Spiritual Leadership, Harry Truman has been called a great leader because he had the ability to decide. But more than that, he was willing to accept the consequences of his decisions. Truman’s famous dictum, ‘The buck stops here,’ encapsulated his belief that leaders cannot shirk their responsibility to make decisions or bear the consequences of their decisions. Truman repeatedly modeled this philosophy during his presidency.”

Next week: Leaving the Children Home (Acts 21:5)

Dorcas or Tabitha October 28, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Prayer, Religion, Sermons, Will of God, Witnessing.
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SERVANTS IN ACTS: DORCAS – A PART OF GOD’S GREAT PUZZLE

Acts 9:31, 36-43

We have a Bugs Bunny Puzzle. Some of the pieces of the puzzle are fairly large. Other pieces are considerably smaller. Then there are some pieces that are really small. Even though they are not all of one size, they all interlock together to create a complete puzzle.

Some of the pieces are easy to pick out. If you look through the pieces, the ones with Bugs Bunny’s eyes are immediately noticeable. Others you look at and you wonder what could that possibly be. You cannot even tell by looking whether it is right side up or not. Eventually, though, as you continue to work through the puzzle, you come to a point where it is obvious where the piece belongs.

There are corner pieces and side pieces and inside pieces to the puzzle. Which ones do you think are the most important? You are right. Every piece has its place. Without every piece the puzzle cannot be completed.

We have another puzzle of a castle in Germany called Neuschwanstein. This puzzle has several hundred pieces. We have put it together several times and every time that we put it together we remember, there is a piece missing. We have had that puzzle for years and every time we fail to complete it, to finish it because there is one piece missing.

CHRIST’S PUZZLE

Jesus Christ has plan that appears to us as a puzzle. There are big pieces and little pieces. It is clear where some of the pieces belong and other pieces only Christ Himself knows how they fit in. There are corner pieces and there are side pieces and there are inside pieces but there is never a pieces missing.

The Bible makes it clear that from all eternity God had a plan. His plan and His purposes do not always make sense to us but every piece will fit exactly in the puzzle where He plans on it to fit and will result in His glory. We find in the book of Acts in the story of Dorcas a picture of how each individual believer fits into the plan of God.

THIS IS WHAT ACTS IS ALL ABOUT. 

Christ is accomplishing His purposes (verse 31). This is the theme of the book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, Jesus stated His plan and His purpose for the believers. In Acts 9:31, Luke, the author of the book of Acts, takes a short breath to point out that His plan is being accomplished. For the first time we find the word “churches” in the Bible. On Pentecost, the 3000 believers were called those who believed. In Acts 4:32, the believers in Jerusalem are called the multitude who believed. In Acts 5:11, they are first named the church but they are all still in Jerusalem. In Acts 6:2 they are called the multitude of the disciples. Then in Acts 8:1 the church, thanks to Saul, is scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. They cannot come together in Jerusalem anymore. What do they do? According to verse 4 those who are scattered are preaching the gospel everywhere.

Saul does not stop in Jerusalem though. He is hunting down the believers wherever he can. On his way to Damascus to find the Jewish believers there, he is struck with blindness by Christ and becomes himself a disciple of Christ. A time of peace comes and we find that there is no more a church in Jerusalem but that there are churches in all Judea, Samaria, and Galilee and at least scattered believers in other parts of the world as far away as Damascus and Ethiopia. In all this Christ is accomplishing His purposes, He is putting together His puzzle. The gospel is being preached, believers are being baptized, and they are gathering together for the purpose of encouragement and teaching and serving and all those other things that Christ commands us to do. Christ’s church is expanding as He promised.

OUR LIVES ARE THE PIECES. 

In the passage we are looking at, Christ uses the lives of people in accomplishing His purposes, in putting together His puzzle (verse 36-43). How then does He do this?

He uses our church relationships (verses 37-38). We do not know a lot about the church in Joppa but we do know that this was a church that cared for each other. There are three indications in this passage that these people truly cared for each other.

HOW DO WE KNOW THEY CARED?

They cared for each other as evidenced by the two messengers sent to get Peter. This woman was important to the church. She did not preach, prophesy, perform miracles, teach, give huge sums of money, or manage important ministries but the church cared for her just the same and went to find Peter for the purpose of having her raised from the dead. They obviously cared for this woman very much.

They cared for each other as evidenced by the ministry of Dorcas to the widows in the church. Widows played a very prominent part in the New Testament church. We find that the first great dispute in the Jerusalem church had to deal with taking care of widows. Paul wrote extensively on the subject. James deals with the subject. Caring for others in tangible ways is of importance in God’s Word.

They cared for each other as evidenced by the fact that Simon the tanner was counted among their number. From the very beginning, although it took a while for the believers to understand it, Christ’s body has included male and female, free man and slave, Jew and Gentile. Simon the tanner worked in an occupation which was considered unclean because he had to handle dead bodies of animals, an occupation which was considered outside of the realm of the holiness of God. This church by including this man and Peter by staying with this man showed that he himself was not outside of the realm of the holiness of God. That is after all, why Christ died, that those who are sinful might be made holy in Christ Jesus.

GOD USES NOT JUST OUR OUTWARD RELATIONSHIPS BUT ALSO OUR INWARD RELATIONSHIP. 

Not only does God use our church relationships but He also uses our character (verses 36 & 39). Notice I did not say talents or gifts although that is also important but what God really uses in our lives is our character. Now God can use you even if you do not have a good character but it will be in a limited way. The limit, however, is not that God is limited or that you have limited God but that you have limited yourself and your availability to be used of God.

He produces in our lives good works. Romans 2:5-7 tells us that good works are the proof that one is continuing in the faith. 2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us that God blesses us and enables us for the purpose of showing good works. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we were created for the purpose of doing good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the reason for the Scriptures is to prepare us for good works. In this passage we see a woman who was full of good works and God uses these good works.

He uses her good works to produce charitable deeds. The word we use is benevolence. We do not have a benevolence fund to find an inroad into people’s lives. Sometimes it looks like we are wasting our time helping people. They have no spiritual interest. Sometimes they are not thankful for the help they receive but Christ can use those funds to expand His kingdom, to further His purposes, to put a piece in the puzzle. We have seen that here in this church.

This is why we are making special appeals for the benevolence fund and why we participate in benevolent projects like Operation Christmas Child. We want our good works which come from our faith in Christ to produce charitable deeds. This is money that does not go into this church. Benevolence is not an investment in missions but God does use benevolence for His purposes. Not always in the way that you and I might expect but He does use it.

GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS AND PUTS A PIECE IN THE PUZZLE. 

In addition, He uses our prayers (verse 40). Even those prayers for the sick have a higher purpose than getting people well. The point of this passage is not that God answers prayer or that He answers prayer for the sick or that He sometimes answers in miraculous ways. The point of the passage is God’s plan and purposes are advanced through His answer to prayer. Let me make a bold statement. God never answers a prayer that does not further His purposes. Could Christ have raised this woman from the dead without Peter’s prayers? Absolutely, but Christ accomplishes His purposes through His people and one of the ways that He uses us is through our prayers.

We do a lot of praying for sick people here. On Wednesday night at least half of our requests are dealing with physical needs, often of people who we do not know. It is easy for us to discount those requests and not pray for them because we do not know the people (as if that had anything to do with whether God is going to answer our prayers or not). God does not answer my prayers based on whether I am feeling right about my prayers. God answers my prayers because I am His child and He is my God. If I pray to Him, He works in the situation effectually. The main passage of teaching on healing in James 5 uses the example of Elijah as a man of such passions as we are but he prayed and God answered his prayers. James then goes on to say that the effectual prayer of a righteous man makes a big, a BIG difference.

GOD CAN USE BOTH PETS AND POLITICIANS 

Recently, we had a discussion on Wednesday night about children praying for pets and how we should handle that situation. I was reminded this week of what G. Campbell Morgan said when someone said that they did not pray about the little things. The British preacher said that in the sight of God, all our requests are little. Rather than teaching our children to only pray for big and important things, we need to teach them that everything, from sick people to sick pets can be used of God to bring others to them. That is how we should pray? Lord, use this thing in my life to put another piece in the puzzle.

This is clearly how God wants us to pray. When Paul taught Timothy about praying for the government in his first epistle, he made it clear that the purpose of our praying for the government is that we might more effectively reach others with the gospel. If Mike Huckabee will make us better witnesses, Lord, give us Mike Huckabee. If Hillary or Rudy or Kucinich or McClain or whoever it might be, Lord, give us a president that will result in God using us to put the pieces in the puzzle. Forget the Supreme Court and forget the balanced budget and the Iraq War and abortion and all the other issues, God give us a government that will enable us to please you, whether through persecution or peace to be better witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS OR MISTAKES WITH GOD. 

He uses our church, our character, or prayers but, finally, He uses our circumstances (verses 37-42). The circumstances here are not good. This woman is dead. This is a tragedy. She has suffered great pain going through sickness and death but Christ uses these horrible circumstances in combination with a caring church, her good character, and a praying apostle to bring about a situation where more people would come to Jesus Christ as Savior.

Not every tragic situation is used so obviously by God but He does use our circumstances to accomplish His purposes. Think of the circumstances of your life. There are those here who came to Christ because they wanted premarital counseling. Others have come to Christ because they wanted their children to get some religious training. Others were in circumstances where there was no tragedy but God opened their eyes through some sermon or statement or in at least on situation that I am aware of through a rock opera. Some of us were reared in Christian families and God has used that. Others were raised in non-Christian families and God used those specific circumstances to bring us to Him. Circumstances vary as much as people but in every circumstance God’s hand was and is at work.

 THE PIECES

Who was most important? Peter? Dorcas? The men who came and got Peter? The widows that Dorcas helped? The church that cared for each other? Everyone of them was essential in Christ’s plan, to make the puzzle complete.

Whatever He is using in our life, it is a part of the puzzle of Christ’s purpose for the universe (verse 42). We are a vital part in Christ’s plan. Why? Because Christ desires it.

LOOK AT YOUR LIFE! 

What did Christ do to bring you to this service this morning? You might say, well I decided for myself to come this morning and that is no doubt true but God could have kept you away. Christ has given you an opportunity this morning. What are you going to do with it?

There is no guarantee that you will have another opportunity to take what you have heard this morning and apply it to your life. Do you need to trust Christ as Savior? The same power that raised Dorcas from life and that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will give you eternal life if you will trust Christ as Savior. Take that opportunity today!

Believer, God is working in your life. Are you working with Him? Some of you need to be involved in this church so that God can work more effectively in your life. Others of you need to begin serving others rather than yourselves. Prayer needs to become a greater part in many of your lives. Whatever your situation, you need to be depending on Christ to use the circumstances in your life for His purposes. God wants you!

Follow-up on sign seeking September 11, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Faith, Religion, Signs and Wonders, Will of God.
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Yesterday received this comment,

“Whilst waiting for an answer to prayer, is asking God for a sign as encouragement) in the meantime, a form of unbelief? Will God give the sign or He will regard it as not trusting Him?”

I gave a short answer yesterday in the comments here.

Question:  Is it unbelief to ask for a sign while waiting for an answer to prayer?

Answer:  It certainly could be. When we pray in God’s will, we assume that He will do what is best but there are a number of situations that can drive one to doubt God on some level and ask for a sign.

  1. Impatience.
  2. Desperation for an answer.
  3. Lack of confidence in His Word.
  4. Lack of faith that He will answer our prayer exactly as it should be answered.

Certainly we are not commanded as Ahaz was to seek a sign. Ahaz, by the way, refused to seek the sign and he was known for not having faith. So the fact that someone seeks or refuses to seek a sign tells us little about their spiritual condition.

Most often God gave signs without them being sought for. Many signs were not believed anyway. What is the attitude that causes you to seek a sign? If God refused to give you the sign, would you walk away from Him? Many do.

This brings us to the second question. Will God give the sign or will He refuse in regard to our unbelief? I don’t think I should presume to speak for God. It is possible that He sometimes gives signs. He can do what He wants but He has already given us His Word and proclaimed it sufficient. If He gives a sign, it would not be because we need it but because He had a reason to give one. But if I have the Word of God, why would I desire a sign? In other words, we do not need signs but rather God’s Word and God’s church both of which were given to us for encouragement and guidance.

Can we try the spirits by seeking a sign? August 2, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Links, Signs and Wonders, Will of God.
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Asking God for a sign (great photo included)

http://wabcmsal.org/pastorblog/?p=489

The Last Sermon in the Series on Abraham (Isaac Gets A Wife) June 24, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Genesis, Isaac, Prayer, Sermons, Spiritual Disciplines, Will of God, Worship.
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DO YOU WORSHIP WHEN GOD ANSWERS YOUR PRAYERS?

Genesis 24 

Sometimes the best way to understand a person’s heart is through their reactions. The world of acting understands this very well. Think of those characters in movies and plays and TV shows who are supposed to not show emotion or are very constrained in their emotions. When Spock raises an eyebrow, it is enough to tell us that there is a deep emotion present. When Columbo stares at someone walking away from a conversation it is enough to tell us that he smells a rat.  This is true in real life also and especially in our understanding of God. Genesis 24 gives us a wonderful example of how the reactions of one man show the depth of understanding He has of God. 

As we begin this chapter we find that Abraham is old. He has walked with God for many years. His wife, Sarah, has died. He can look back on his life and see that God has always been actively involved. He has been blessed of God. This is clear from verse 1. Why did God bless Abraham? The answer we find in verse 27. God’s blessing in Abraham’s life was based on His mercy and His truth, i.e. His promises.      

GOD DOES NOT HELP THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES?

God works in our lives in much the same way He worked in Abraham’s life. His blessing and working in our lives is based on His mercy and His truth, i.e. His promises.

We know nothing about Abraham’s life before God called him out of Ur of the Chaldees. We assume he feared God, that he lived a life of righteousness. That is, however, a big assumption. We make this same assumption about other characters in the Bible also. For example, in Genesis 6 God says I am going to wipe out the whole earth because of their wickedness. In verse 8, when Noah is introduced to the story, the Bible does not say, “Behold, there was one good man on the earth!” rather it says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Noah and his family deserved to die in the flood with the rest of the wicked world.

It concerns me when we get up and say God has blessed America because of its Christian influence or because we are good to Israel or because we have had compassion on the weak or because we have the Ten Commandments hanging in the Supreme Court. As if God is impressed with us! God has mercy on whom He will have mercy is the way He expressed it when giving the Ten Commandments. Even when we are obedient, it is still of God’s mercy that we are not consumed.

MERCY AND…TRUTH

God’s work is not based solely on His mercy (verses 2-9). This misunderstanding of God is what causes many to turn from Him when bad things start happening. They feel betrayed by God. They do not want a God who allows bad things to happen. They want a God who makes them feel good. They want a God who winks at what they do and lets them get away with evil and then blesses them in spite of their evil. That is not the way God operates. His ways are mercy AND truth. When God called Abraham, He gave to him the way of truth. He said Abraham, “I am going to bless you. I am going to make from your seed a great nation. I am going to bless the world through your seed.” That was the way of truth for Abraham. What did Abraham do? He walked in the way of truth. He left Ur. He left his family in Haran. He went to a country that God would show him. He believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness when God told him that he would have a son. He believed God, when he was told that this son would come through his aged wife, Sarah. He believed God, when he was tested and commanded to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. Abraham did many commendable things and he did them because he walked in the way of God’s dependable, faithful truth. In other words, Abraham believed God’s promises. The promises of God are what guided His life.

In verses 2-6 we see how that Abraham’s understanding of the promises of God guided His decision making. First, Abraham decided that Isaac must have a wife. Now to our knowledge God did not command Abraham to get Isaac a wife. Look at verse 7. In Abraham’s command to his servant, he gives the basis for his actions. “God has promised to give my descendants this land.” Up to now, Abraham does not have descendants (plural) to whom this promise applies. He has another son, Ishmael, but God has already made it plain that Ishmael is not of the chosen seed. God has also not promised another son alongside of Isaac. All of God’s promises and Abraham’s hope both earthly and spiritual are tied up in Isaac having descendants. God’s character is riding on the outcome of Isaac’s life. If Isaac does not marry and does not have children, then God’s way is not the way of truth. Therefore, Abraham does not have to wait for God to command him to get a wife. He already knows God’s will based on God’s word, God’s promises.   

 ABRAHAM CONTINUES TO DISCERN GOD’S WILL

Abraham also decided that Isaac’ wife must not be a Canaanite woman. Why? Was Abraham a racist? We find the reasoning behind Abraham’s decision in Genesis 15:16. John Piper writes, “God tells Abraham that his descendants will be oppressed 400 years in Egypt and then says, ‘And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.’ The Amorites here represent all the pagan peoples of Canaan. They are marked out for judgment because of their sin, but God will not drive them out until the history of their sin is so appalling no one will accuse God of injustice when he sweeps through Canaan destroying these nations. Now if God had said that to you about the people surrounding you, would you not hear a warning against forming marriage alliances? Abraham saw a trajectory in God’s Word that probably went something like this: ‘Through your son I will fulfill my covenant to be the God of his descendants and to bless all the nations through him. So take heed lest he marry a woman who worships other gods and could bring him into a snare.’ That’s the way Moses warned Israel hundreds of years later when they were about to enter the Promised Land: ‘You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons. For they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods’ (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4).”

Based on his understanding of God’s promises Abraham made the decision, “You will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites” (24:3). In fact, you will go to my people, to my relatives, to those who know and worship the true and living God.

OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S PROMISES IS BETTER THAN OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S LAW.

Finally, Abraham decided that his son, Isaac, should not go to Nahor, where these relatives lived. There are really two parts to the promise God gives Abraham. I will give you seed and I will give you this land. For Isaac to leave the land was not against God’s law but it was against God’s promises. God promised in chapter 12 and chapter 13 and chapter 15 and chapter 17 that Isaac’s seed would inherit that land of Canaan. There was no reason to leave the Promised Land. In fact, Abraham seems in verse 7 to states this promise not only as the reason why he would not let Isaac go back to Nahor but also as the reason why he was confident that his servant would find success in finding Isaac a wife there. So we see that Abraham’s decision making and his confidence in his decisions was not based on his wisdom but on his knowledge of the promises of God.

GOD’S MERCY AND TRUTH AFFECTS OUR PRAYERS. 

Now if God works in our lives in the same way, then it will affect how we live. One way that it will affect us, is in how we pray. Our prayers will be based on God’s mercy and on God’s promises (verses 12-14).  The servant here is not bargaining with God. He is not asking for proof that God exists. He is basing His prayer on the mercy of God.

We sometimes have the idea that God only answers the prayers of good people. If that were true, God would never answer prayer. I know what some of you are thinking. David wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me.” That is certainly true. God hates sin and one way that God deals with sin is by not answering the prayers of his children who tolerate sin but the answers to prayer come not because we have been good little kids but because he is merciful.

We are in the midst of toilet training our little girl. This has been a new experience for us because our son was relatively easy to toilet train. We have resorted to the “chocolate for poddy” method. We tend to view God that way, do we not? “Lord, come, see! Lord, come, see! Will you not now answer me?”

That is not what the servant is doing here. He says, “Lord, I know if you answer this prayer it will be because of your mercy! If you answer this prayer the way I wish, then I know it will not be because of my faith but because of your mercy.” Not that this was not a prayer of faith. It was but it was not based on the servant mustering up faith in God but on the promises that God has made to Abraham.

His confidence in God’s working, like that of Abraham, was based on God’s Word. How do we know this? When God answered his prayer, the servant’s response was worship.

A WORD ON THE OUTWARD FORM OF WORSHIP 

Now we are primarily interested in the basis of his worship but I do want us to look a bit at form. Since I have known anything about Christianity, which is over thirty-five years now, the American church has been involved in the  “Worship Wars.” Hymns versus praise songs, liturgy versus spontaneity, congregational singing versus special music, the music of the older generation versus that of the younger generation, corporate prayer versus private prayer, a suit and tie versus casual wear, seeker services versus traditional services, three services a week versus one main service and small groups. I could go on and on.

Obviously form interests us very much, so let us look at the form of this servant’s worship. He bowed before God. In verses 26-27 we find he bowed his head before God. In verse 52 we find he bowed to the ground before God. Let me say this about form in worship. The “Worship Wars” are about us. True worship is about God.       

THE BASIS FOR A WORSHIPFUL RESPONSE TO ANSWERED PRAYER

Now what is the basis of a worshipful response to God’s answers to prayer? There is recognition that God has not forsaken His mercy (verse 27). Worship is not making a connection with God. Worship is recognizing that God has made a connection with us and that connection is one of mercy.

A worshipful response is also based on the fact that God has not forsaken His truth, i.e. promises (verses 26-27). That is why the servant spent so much time retelling his story to Rebekah’s brothers. They needed to know that God was at work here and they recognized that God was at work (verses 48-52).

Now think about this. The brothers’ response was not based on any miracle that they could verify. It was somehow obvious to them though that God was working in the matter. They knew about Abraham. In fact, in verses 59-60 it appears they might have even known about the promises that God had made to him. Perhaps they had heard from traders about what God was doing in Abraham’s life or had even during some of the silent times in Abraham’s story had direct or indirect contact with them. What was obvious though to them and to Abraham’s servant and should be obvious to us is this:  God keeps His promises.

Last week I spoke about finding promises in God’s Word that we can depend on when the times get rough. Did you do that? Did you think on God’s Word, read God’s Word, meditate on God’s Word, memorize God’s Word and internalize a promise from God for your future or did you let it leave you like water on a duck’s back? One possible reason that we do not truly worship in our church services and in our lives may be because we live oblivious of what God has promised us. I understand that not every promise in the book is mine. I understand that God has not promised peace and prosperity to me if I keep the law. But I also understand that God’s Word was written that I might understand God’s working and that when I understand God’s working, I understand God’s promises and when I understand God’s promises I have a foundation in troubled times and guidance for the tough decisions of life. When I understand God’s promises, I have a reason to pray and a reason to worship when God answers my prayers. When I understand God’s promises, I have a motivation to tell others about those promises and how that God fulfills them.

OTHERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GOD’S WORKING IN YOUR LIFE.

Confidence in God’s working is strengthened by the telling of God’s works (verse 66). When the servant got home, he told Isaac not Abraham what had happened. He told Isaac about his prayer. He told Isaac about God’s answer. He told Isaac about Rebekah’s response and her brothers’ response. Why? Isaac needed to know that God was able to work in his life, just as He had worked in Abraham’s wife.

“Where did you get your wife, Isaac? Was she some beautiful slave girl that you took a fancy to? Is she the daughter of some rich Canaanite chieftain with whom you made a deal?”

“No, God in His mercy made a promise and this woman is the part of the fulfillment of this promise in my life.” 

A PROMISE FROM GOD FOR YOU 

God has made a lot of promises in His Word. The most important one has to do with the promise He made to Abraham and to Isaac, “In your seed will the nations of the earth be blessed.” The New Testament explains to us who that seed is and how through Him the nations will be blessed. The seed is Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham, the son of Isaac. God became the seed of Abraham and Isaac and lived blamelessly on this earth and died for your sin according to the Scriptures and was buried and rose again and ascended to heaven. In Him is eternal life. In Him is forgiveness of sin. In Him you can be transformed from death to life. This only applies to you though if you believe God’s promises. Will you believe Him, trust Him today?

Links to Sermons on Abraham Getting Isaac a Wife June 22, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Genesis, Prayer, Sermons, Will of God, Worship.
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John Piper

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/12/354_He_Will_Send_His_Angel_Before_You/

Ray Pritchard

 http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermons/read_sermon.asp?id=519

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/nocomp.txt

Abraham Sacrifices Isaac (A Father’s Day Sermon) June 17, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham, Faith, Father's Day, Genesis, Isaac, Sermons, Will of God, Worship.
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FATHER AND SON – WORSHIPING AND TESTED

Genesis 22

Oftentimes when God evaluates a father, the evaluation shows great shortcomings in the father. I think of Eli, of whom God said in 1 Samuel 2:29, ‘‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’’ This is a sad commentary on a man who should have known better.

(For more on this story see The Father Who Would Not Say No)

How much better it is to be like Abraham. This is what God said of him in Genesis 18:19, “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

In Genesis 22, we see the ultimate example of a father, whose worship of God and testing by God, allowed his son Isaac to practice the righteousness and justice of God in his life.

God tested Abraham by commanding an act of seemingly foolish, submissive worship (Compare Genesis 22:2 with 21:12). Why then would God want to kill Isaac? God did not want Isaac killed but rather wanted to test Abraham.

TWO TYPES OF TESTING

There are at least two types of tests with which God tests believers. There is the test of authenticity. That is the type of test where it is proven that someone really is a believer. That is not the test here. This is a test of quality. God was not testing to see if Abraham’s faith was real or not. That had already been established. God was testing Abraham to show the quality of his faith in God. This is an extreme test. This is not a test where you determine whether you have fool’s gold or real gold, this is a test to determine the purity and the quality of gold that you already know is real. This is a more precise test. This is a more exacting test. This is a test, not whether you have real faith but rather what will your faith withstand.

Perhaps we should look at this test a little closer. This test seemed to be contradictory. God had promised in 21:12 that Isaac’s seed or descendant would be the promised one through which all nations of the world would be blessed. It is hard to see how that could happen if Abraham offered Isaac as a burnt offering.

Secondly, this test was extreme. Isaac was to be offered as a burnt offering. Abraham was to take his son to Mount Moriah, where he was to build an altar and lay wood for burning on the altar. Then he would tie his son up and lay him on the altar. Then he would take a knife and cut his son’s throat. After his son had died, then he was to set the wood on fire and burn up the body of his son.

“This is what God told Abraham to do. At that point the man of faith only has two options. Either you obey or you don’t. If you stop to argue, that in itself is a form of disobedience. If you try to talk God out of it, that too is disobedience. If you offer an alternate plan, that is also disobedience.” Ray Pritchard

ABRAHAM TALLIED UP GOD’S ACCOUNT BOOKS. 

Abraham was willing to obey God because he had concluded that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead so that the promises of God might be kept (Hebrews 11:17-19). He believed God’s promise as well as God’s ability (inherent power) to keep that promise. When Abraham believed God, it was accounted to him for righteousness. In other words God tallied up the books and found Abraham righteous. In this situation we see Abraham tallying up God’s books and when he looked over God’s books He found that God had the ability on the books to raise Isaac from the dead. Remember, there had never been a resurrection of any kind before. Abraham had no biblical accounts of a resurrection but He did know a God of great ability and power who was more than capable of bringing Isaac back to life even after being offered as a burnt offering.

This willingness to obey had been shown repeatedly over the past thirty or so years. Abraham had seen God’s blessings in his life. He had seen God visually several times. God had enabled him to win battles. He had seen God’s power in destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. God had opened up the womb of his ninety year old wife and given them a son. He had seen God protect them when they were in the foreign lands of Egypt and Gerar. In all of these things Abraham was willingly obedient to God.

ABRAHAM’S WILLINGNESS REVEALED HIS FAITH.

This willingness was revealed by Abraham’s statement in verse 5. They were going to worship God, i.e. bow down before Him in submission. Abraham was not just going to fulfill the letter of the law. He was going to bow down to the ground in worship before God during this great test. He was going with an attitude of submission to God’s will.

Verse 5 also tells us that Abraham said they both were going to return. God had not said that Isaac would return. We know what Abraham thought God might would do according to Hebrews 11 but God had not promised a resurrection. What God had promised, however, is that through this son there would be a great nation through whom the whole world would be blessed. He based his obedience during the test from God on the promise of God.

We know that Abraham trusted God because of what Abraham did when he was tested (James 2:21-24). By revealing his faith through his works in this test, his faith was made perfect or was completed. His faith was not maintained by works but was brought to its logical end by works.

Abraham began his journey of faith in Genesis 12. God repeatedly confirmed His promise to Abraham. God made an unconditional promise but faith in that promise still demanded works. That is what faith is. It is a belief that demands action. That is why the journey of faith was not completed when Isaac was born but rather when Isaac was rescued from death. Faith and works are inseparable. If you have faith and no works, your faith is dead. You never had true faith to begin with. If you have works and no faith, your works are dead. There is no salvation in works. There is, however, completion of faith in works.

GOD’S RESPONSE 

God provided a ram as Isaac’s substitute and He reconfirmed His covenant with Abraham emphasizing the obedience of Abraham. (Genesis 22:7-14). The word “provided” is literally “sees.” When Abraham named the place of sacrifice, “Jehovah provides”, he was saying, God sees what is going on. He is actively involved in my test. He is actively involved in my obedience. There is no test that God is going to put me through in which he is not active in my response to that test.

WE NEED FATHERS LIKE FATHER ABRAHAM. 

Fathers, those of you who are believers, what do you love? What is it or who is it that is so important to you that you would take off work to give time to that person or thing? What is it that receives the best of your spare time, spare money, and spare strength? If God was to take it from you, what promise would you fall back on?

Let’s slow down. Think about this question. What promise would you fall back on? What has God promised you that commands immediate, unquestioning obedience when the test comes? Do you have such promises?

If not, then you need to get alone with your Bible and with your God and establish some promises that will hold you up when the test comes. Your faith is only as good as the promises you depend on. You need some promises that will produce quality when you are tested. You need some promises that will produce works that will complete your faith.

If you have not put your faith in Christ, the quality of your faith cannot be tested. Whether you even have faith in Christ can be tested, however. What is the test? Are you trusting Christ alone for salvation? Are you trusting His death, burial and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins? Or are you trusting something or someone in addition? Are you, sinner that you are, hoping that you will be good enough to please God? It will never happen. God cannot tolerate sin. If you have sinned once, someone must die. Jesus died for your sin, if you will trust Him and Him alone, but as long as you are trusting your good works, there is no hope for you. Will you trust Him today to save you?

 

 

When prayer comes back to bite ya… June 5, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Prayer, Spiritual Disciplines, Will of God.
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I was having my prayer time this morning, going over certain request when I saw that God had allowed some changes in one of the things that I had prayed about a week ago. My first thought was, “I wish I hadn’t prayed for that. Is this God’s answer to my prayer?”

I don’t know exactly what God is doing in the situation but it was a good reminder that what seems like an absolutely necessary prayer one week can be very scary the next. For that reason, we should never stray far from this attitude, “Lord, Thy will be done, not mine!”

A Review of Bruce Waltke’s “Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion” May 22, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Book Reviews, Will of God.
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Kevin and I were in college together. You might find his review of this book helpful.

http://alumni.tntemple.edu/?Library