Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Counted Faithful?

            I’m always amazed when I read the words of Hebrews 11:11, which say: By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.” I’m amazed, because when we read the account of Sarah and the birth of Isaac in Genesis, it seems less than trusting.
            In Genesis 16 we see how, after waiting ten years, Sarah decided that God was preventing her from bearing children.  And for this reason, she encouraged Abraham to marry her servant, that they might build a family through her.  Hagar did conceive and bear a son by Abraham.  However, God made it clear that this was not the child of promise.
            Then, in Genesis 18, we see how God came to Abraham.  And God promised him that, by the next year, he and Sarah would have a son.  Sarah overheard this conversation, and her response was laughter.  She said to herself: “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”
            Yet, even though this is true of her, even though she did struggle with her doubts, we find in Hebrews that God counted her faithful.  We find that, by faith, Sarah received the power to conceive.  And this wasn’t merely the power to conceive as most women.  It was miraculous because she was past the age of childbearing.
            I find this comforting because, as I consider Sarah, I find that my faith resembles hers more than I care to admit.  Even though I too have received a great promise of God, it’s sometimes difficult to believe.  It’s difficult to believe because it seems beyond reason.  It’s difficult to believe because of the circumstances in which I find myself.
            At times, I find it hard to comprehend the fact that God would want to save someone like me.  I find it hard to comprehend that he’d want me to spend eternity in his presence.  Because of my failures, it seems unreasonable.
            I also find it hard to believe because of the circumstances in which I find myself.  I’m a sinner, with no power to escape my condition.  I live in a world of sin, with evil all around me.  I’m tempted and lured by the evil one, who seeks my destruction.  And considering these circumstances, my situation seems hopeless.  I can only be saved by the miraculous power of God.
            Even though I generally believe, there are times when faith is a struggle.  There are times when it seems easier to pursue a blessing by my own means rather than trusting in God.  There have been times when his promise has brought me to laughter. 
            Yet, in spite of my human response, and in spite of my doubts, God also counts me as faithful.  In spite of my sin, my faith is counted to me as righteousness.  And, for this reason, I am enabled to receive the blessings of God.


Monday, February 23, 2015

This past Wednesday, I started a series that Pastor Nate and I will share.  We're looking again at the Passion history.  This message was titled Jesus Anointed.

On Sunday, I continued our look at major Bible stories.  We again looked at the circumstances surrounding the birth of Isaac.  We looked specifically at Hagar & Ishmael.

To stream or download the audio files, click on the links.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Children of Abraham

            I remember, as a child, singing the song “Father Abraham” at Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and church camps.  We always loved it because it was goofy and enabled us to get up and wiggle around.  However, this song contains a truth that we find in Scripture.  It tells us that we are the children of Abraham.
            When the name of Abram was changed to Abraham, God said that he would be the father of many nations.  Now, this is true in a physical sense.  Through Isaac came the people of Israel, who eventually split into two nations.  Abraham’s son through Hagar, Ishmael, also became a great people.  Isaac’s son, Esau, eventually became the nation of Edom.  However, when we read Romans 4, we see that God’s promise referred to more than only the physical nations that descended from him.
            In Romans 4, starting in verse 13, Paul says: For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.  For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 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.”
            If it were through the law, if it were through our obedience and good deeds, that we were counted righteous in the eyes of God, his promise would be empty.  It would be void because the law brings wrath.  Because we’re sinful, the law brings to us the condemnation that we deserve.  It does nothing to guarantee the promise God has given.
            In order for God’s promise to be guaranteed, it had to rest on faith.  Because it’s a free gift, given to us by God, we can be assured of the hope it gives us.  We can be assured because it doesn’t rest upon our ability to measure up to God’s standards, which is impossible for us to attain.  It rests instead upon the faithfulness of God.
            Because it’s given by faith, God’s promise can be guaranteed to all of Abraham’s offspring.  It can be given not only to the physical descendants of Abraham, to those who live under the law.  It can be given also to us, to those who share the faith of Abraham.
            Paul says that, in this way, Abraham is the father of us all.  He then points us back to the promise God gave to Abraham, that he would be the father of many nations.  So he’s the father not only of those who’ve physically descended from him, but of those who share his faith.
            As believers, then, we are all the children of Abraham.  We’re not less than those who were born of him in the physical sense.  We are inheritors of the promise that God gave to him so long ago. 
            Knowing this, that Abraham is our father, may we then continue in the faith he displayed.  May we trust in God’s promise knowing that, in this way, we too will be counted righteous in his sight.  And may we seek to share this promise with others, that the Lord might draw them to faith, and that they too might become the children of Abraham, inheritors of the promise of God.

Monday, February 16, 2015

As we're continuing our look at major Bible stories, we came this week to the Birth of Isaac.  We saw how, when Abraham was once again promised a child, he laughed.  He found it unbelievable that a child would be born to Sarah and himself in their old age.  In the same way, as we receive the promise of God, we're called to believe the unbelievable.  To stream or download the audio file, click on the link.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

            Abraham is a key figure in the Old Testament.  He is counted as the father of Israel because of the great promise God made to him, and because their nation descended from him. And his example of faith is meaningful for us, even today.
            As we read through the Biblical account, it seems to us that Abraham had a faith that far surpasses our own.  When called, he left his home and family and journeyed to a land he knew nothing about.  He trusted God’s promise, that he would become a great nation, even though his wife was barren.  And after God miraculously gave them a child, he obeyed God’s command to offer him as a sacrifice to the Lord (although God stopped him before he actually killed his son). 
            However, even though these acts were a great demonstration of his faith, it’s equally clear that Abraham was a sinner.  We see how he lied about his wife, allowing her to be taken by another man, to protect himself.  We see how, before the birth of Isaac, he struggled with God’s promise.  We see how he went along with Sarah, trying to fulfill God’s promise in their way, when she remained childless. 
            Yet, in spite of his shortcomings, the Lord counted Abraham as righteous.  And why?  It wasn’t because of anything he did.  It was because of his faith.
            In Genesis 15, we see that God came to him, and once again reassured him of his blessing.  But he answered the Lord, in verse 2, saying: “O LORD GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And, in verse 3, he went on to say: “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”
            Abraham had left his home and family trusting God’s promise.  And here he was, a long time after, without any children.  God had yet to bless them with a son. 
            At this point, God spoke to him again.  He assured Abraham that his very own son would be his heir.  He then took him outside and had him look at the stars.  He told Abram to number the stars, if he was able.  God then said: “So shall your offspring be.”
            It’s here that we see the statement I want to consider.  We’re told that Abraham believed the Lord.  And we’re told that the Lord counted it to him as righteousness.
            He was counted righteous not because of anything he’d done.  He was counted righteous because of his faith.  He was saved, not by his obedience, but by the grace of God that he received through faith.
            Paul talks about this in Romans 4.  Starting in verse 1, he says: What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.  For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…”
            This is a great encouragement to us.  When we look at ourselves in light of God’s Word, we see our sin.  When we compare ourselves to the great men of faith in Scripture, or even those around us today, our shortcomings glare right back at us.  And we tend to think that we don’t measure up in the eyes of God. 
            It’s true that we don’t measure up to God’s standards.  Scripture tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But this isn’t what determines our standing before God.  We aren’t declared righteous based on our good works.
            Like Abraham, it’s by faith that God counts us righteous.  Righteousness is not something we earn.  It’s a gift, given to us by God, and received by faith.

            So, even as we see our guilt, we can be comforted by the fact that, by faith, we are counted righteous in the eyes of God.  As we trust in his promise, given to us in his Word, we’re reckoned as upright and blameless before him.

Monday, February 09, 2015

This week, in our series looking at major Bible stories, we come to The Call of Abram in Genesis 12. We see how he was called to leave behind his home and family to go to an unknown land that that Lord would show him.  In the same way, as believers, we've been called to leave behind all that we value most in this life that we might follow the Lord.  But, like Abram, will we make the sacrifice? You can stream or download the audio file by clicking on the link.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015


            As I come to the story of Noah, I’m always amazed by the description of man that’s given to us.  And we find that this is the reason for the judgment of God that fell upon the world of that day.  We see this description in the fifth verse of Genesis 6, which says: The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
            Think about this description for a minute, especially the last part.  It tells us that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  Each phrase in this statement is exhaustive.  It rules out any other possibility.  And what we find is that there was nothing at all good in man.
            Every intention of the heart of man was evil.  Not only were some of them evil.  All of them were evil.
            His intentions were only evil.  Again, there were no good intentions present at all.  His sole intent was to commit acts of wickedness.
            And this was the case continually.  It wasn’t true only some of the time.  It was true all of the time. 
            After this statement is made, we’re told that God regretted that he’d made man on earth and his heart was filled with pain.  This too is an intense statement.  When we consider the greatness of God’s love for man, it’s hard to reconcile the fact that he regretted making us.
            Just as a point of comparison, I can’t imagine having these feelings about my children.  Yes, kids can make bad decisions.  In fact, they can do things that cause their parents to grieve.  But it’s hard to fathom getting to the point where you regret having them.
            So, again, this says something to us about the greatness of man’s sin.  It was so great that God regretted making man.  It was something that caused him great pain.
            There are many other statements about the sinful nature of man that we find throughout Scripture.  For example, in Jeremiah 17:9, we read this: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
            The heart is deceitful above all things.  In other words, it’s more deceitful than everything else in creation.  It’s desperately sick.  It’s in a dreadful condition and in need of immediate help.  It’s in such a condition that we can’t understand it.
            In Romans 3, starting in verse 10, we find the following description of man.  And this isn’t a new statement Paul is making.  Each phrase is a direct quotation from the Old Testament.  He says: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
            Once again, this is not a pretty statement.  And it’s also exhaustive.  There are no exceptions to the statements that are made.
            When we consider the truth regarding man and his sinfulness, it becomes clear that God’s judgment is just.  It was just in the days of Noah, when God sent the flood on the earth.  And it will be just at the return of Christ, when the present age comes to an end.

            However, it also highlights the greatness of the grace of God.  It does so because, in spite of our condition, God loves us.  In spite of our sin, he desires our salvation.  And he’s done everything necessary, to the point of sacrificing his only Son, that we might have mercy.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Yesterday, we continued our series, looking at major Bible stories.  And the focus of our time was the story of Noah.  We looked specifically into God's reason for the flood.  Many people struggle with God's judgment.  They struggle with the thought of him destroying all of mankind.  However, as we look at the text, we see that he was right in doing so.  To stream or download the audio file, click on the link.