Ever feel like you are working hard and getting nowhere? Like all of your work is for not? Your not getting the credit you deserve for your continued dedication, so really what’s the point?!
Serving God is no easy task, and people often look at Christians and expect us to be perfect. But the truth is we get tired, stressed and frustrated just like everyone else! We are even guilty of making some bad decisions because we forget that we don’t have to do it on our own. Isaac did that too. I’ve been reading through Genesis and was encouraged by Isaac. Even though he was not perfect and would panic from time to time making some bad judgments just like his dad.
(She’s not my wife she’s just my sister! 26:7) God still blesses him for his faithfulness. God knows that Isaac isn’t perfect but he worked hard when no one else would.
Genesis 26:19-25 shows us how Isaac spent time building and reopening wells that were closed up during a time of famine just to have the herdsman come and take it away claiming it as their own!!! The nerve of those guys! But Isaac says ok, I will move and build my well somewhere else and they come and do it again and again. After digging the third well he praises God for giving him room. He wasn’t disgruntled, but thank full, counted it as a blessing, built an alter and worshiped God!!
Remember that every trial small or large is a way for us to be servants of God and show he is working in us. God chose to bless Isaac because he humbled himself in serving God. Abimelech saw that God was with Isaac because he was clearly blessed. So Abemelech wanted to make peace with him.
Serving God humbly no matter how many wells we have to dig up will breed fruitfulness. Either in us or others. Some one who is misguided, unsaved or completely against you could see the work God is doing in your life and decide they want it too, and to see the Holy Spirit work in that way is truly a blessing to us.
Breaking down the typical process of dating and falling in love into 5 phases.
This week we are looking at the steps we take naturally/subconsciously to find that “one” person that is made for us. First we notice a person that is physically attractive to us and we try to see if there is a connection. If there is we then move on to phase 2; emotionally connecting to that person. (Infatuation; commonly confused with failing in love. More about this in chapter 4) the next phase is social. Where now family and friends are being introduced. After a couple has had some time to soak in each other and learn each others habits and routines in life they enter the psychological phase. This phase gets more serious. A couple starts to talk about their future together. Also, this is where one or both of the person’s involved might start to get stressed, or find flaws or “fall out of love”. Lastly there is spiritual .The couple who is ready and has naturally gone through the first 4 steps and wants to commit and declare their love for each other. This is the order that the Hollywood formula takes. This all sounds pretty normal. I’ve been there, you’ve probably been there, and if you ask anyone how they go about dating they can probably relate.
So what’s wrong here, and how do we go about change as Christians? First, notice that so far (even in the Spiritual Phase) there is no mention of God! God, the creator , and the Father! As Christians who recognize that the way the word has naturally trained us in how to find love lets remember Romans 12:2 . Do not conform any longer to the ways of this world. Let’s now be transformed as we open up our mind and discover God’s prescription for Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships. Take the same phases and look at them in reverse and reflect on how God would redefine these 4 phases. When we do this; we start to get an idea for what God’s prescription looks like. However we have to understand the difference between infatuation and true love, as well as consult God and His word on these 4 phases on His prescription for Love Sex and Lasting Relationships. Take sometime now to reflect on these ideas and talk to God about his approach on loving others. We will pick up from here next time.
I have forgotten your majesty and everything you have done for me. I confess that I have made life about myself and not you. I have dishonored your name by my thoughts, words and actions, and made idols of earthly things. Forgive me father for living in these meaningless ways and give me transformation by your Holy Spirit; so that I may gain greater understanding of your glory and hunger and thirst for you every day. I thank you for your son Jesus Christ who died because of my sins and it is because of that salvation that I pray to you now. In Jesus’ name. Amen
Let me start with a commonly known story for the search of living happily ever after.
Sarah is 25 she is smart and has a degree, and a good job. She has worked hard to get where she is., but Sarah desires love. She is single and has been hurt in the past but she has faith that there is someone out there that is perfect for her. With so many people in the world there must be at least ONE! Sarah has her eyes on a gentleman that works in her office. He’s handsome, hardworking; they get along well, and seem to have a good connection. Sarah talks to her friends about him, blushes when he’s around and dresses up just for him to notice her. One day he does, and they start dating. Shortly after dating they are sleeping together and staying at each other’s place overnight. They are both happy. They fall in love and everything seems to be perfect in Sarah’s life. Sarah can see a future with him although he it’s sure he wants to be married or have kids. Sarah puts everything into this relationship. She does everything she can to keep his attention on her, so that he won’t want to leave and will eventually see her as his bride. Sarah notices one day that there seems to be distance between her and her boyfriend. The distance between them grows and after a couple of weeks he breaks up with her. Sarah is devastated. A year later Sarah has labeled that relationship as” it wasn’t meant to be” and goes in search of the “right man”.
Does this story sound like something you have heard before? Maybe you are going through this right now. Maybe you have been the consoling friend rehashing why it didn’t work out over a cup of coffee. Or maybe you have watched women in your family search for love in the same manner. In this first chapter we are going to discuss the 4 steps of the Hollywood formula according to Chip Ingram. 1. Find the right person. 2. Fall in love 3. Fill your hopes and dreams on this person for your future fulfillment 4. If failure occurs repeat steps 1, 2, and 3. We don’t realize how much Hollywood, media, and fairy tales have influenced our thinking and trained us that this is the proper way to carry out a relationship. This week we will discuss what went wrong. Next week we will discuss how God wants us to make it right.
Verses for reflection
Song of Songs 2:1-7
Ephesians 1:4, 5:22-33
It is so easy to feel like you have failed. To feel depressed, and clueless to God’s plan for your life. To think “I’m being a good Christian. I pray and worship the Lord. I am thankful for what I have and where I’ve been. But God still won’t give me direction. I just feel lost and don’t know what I’m meant to do or where I’m meant to go! I tried to do one thing and it didn’t work out so I tried another and still I’m getting nowhere, and now I have more problems. I’m stuck in a mess and just confused and wish God would clue me in.”
Have you ever felt this way?
Abram probably felt this way too at some point. God sent him and his family on journey from Ur to Haran and into Egypt. Over 560 miles on foot with his family. (That’s like walking from NYC to Toronto, CA) But God did not point to a map and say to Abram “I need you to go here, here, and here, and I need you to do this so you will understand my power and the favor I have in you. And also,so you can understand the fullness of the blessing I will bestow on you when you are 100 years old.” But God did make him a promise to protect him and bless him for his obedience and faith. In Genesis 12:1-2 God calls out to Abram saying;
“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you: I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the people on earth will be blessed through you.”
Even with God speaking so clearly several times in the same manner as the verse above Abram still got stuck in a limited human mindset of what God had in store for him and just how God wanted him to get there. There are several times in Genesis where Abram fears what to do in his life, and tries to take matters into his own hands. He was confused about what God wanted him to do, and how he and his family would survive. Gen 12:10-20 is just the first of these examples. There was famine and Abram makes a decision based in his own fear that not only leads him into sin but puts his wife and the figurehead of a nation (Pharaoh) into sin as well. All because of misjudgment and fear.
However, God goes on to protect them from that sin and blesses them in spite of Abram’s misjudgment. Proving to Abram that God is in control and has a plan for him.
God has given us blessings and a promise too. Though Jesus Christ. The promise of salvation has been given to all who believe that Christ died to give us redemption from sin. Jesus has already completed that promise. So if God is willing to send his son to earth and die on our behalf don’t you think he is going to continue to look out for us, provide for us and love us? All it takes is having trust and faith in the face of what seems to be impossible and hopeless. Abram though he failed at times was faithful to God, and it wasn’t until the age of 100 that God gave him a son that he desired. It was all in God’s timeline. This is something that we all struggle with. We are limited in our understanding, and sometimes in our faith; but we can rest assured that so long as we seek out God’s glory no mater how trying the situation he will protect us and provide us with everything we need.
Sarah and Abram : It seemed like a good idea at the time!
Last week we discussed obedience and submission to God using the life of Sarah and Abram. We learned that fear cause them to sin against God but God still protected them and found favor in them .Today we will continue with that mindset and continue with Genesis 15:1-6.
Here God is making a promise to protect and provide an heir for Abram and Sarah. Abram discusses his future with the Lord and God tells him that his heir will not be from a servant maid (this was acceptable in society) but an heir will be born from him. Abram believes him and the covenant is made.
In chapter 16 Sarah does what she thinks is best and gives her maidservant to Abram so an heir can be born. She was old and this was probably a painful things to do. However, this action that was acceptable in their world was not acceptable to God. Abram does not take the lead in this situation and tell his wife that this is wrong, but we learn that he let her call the shots and went along with her plan forgetting what the Lord had said to him in Chapter 15:4. Abram sleeps with Hagar the maidservant and she becomes pregnant. Hagar becomes resentful and despises Sarah for this, and fights erupt in the marriage between Abram and Sarah. (16:5-7) Abram gives over control to Sarah completely and the result is Hagar getting mistreated and she runs away.
Hagar running away causes God to come down and speak to her as an angel. He comforts her and let her know that he seems what is going on and that she is hurting but also reassure her that he will protect her and her future son Ishmael. This is the first time we read of an angel talking to a woman and now doubt we all would have been awestruck. She was filled with the Spirit and returned to Sarah and Abram as God had said.
13 years later chapter 17. Where God once again comes to Abram and tells him that soon Sarah will have a son. And in light of this he changes Abram’s name to Abraham (100 y/o) and Sari’s to Sarah(89 y/o). As a sign of maturity and a sign of the promise that is about to come true. They will become the parents of a many nations.
Lastly, in chapter 20 we see God testing them once again in the same way that they were tested 25 years previous. But God stops, and protects them from their sin, and blesses them with land before the birth of Isaac. Which leads us into our next session…
Sarah; a woman like us. Part 1
1Peter 3:3-6 Genesis 11:27-12:9, 12:10-13:2
We may not have husbands and we may not even have a living example of what a Holy husband looks like; but we do have the example of Abraham and Sarah. Though they were not perfect beings as we will discover in the coming weeks they were blessed by God or their faithfulness and obedience.
I first want to establish one thing about husbands and why women should submit to them. As single (unmarried) Christian women living and working in fast paced York it is important for us to have a high standard of the men we chose to date, marry, and have a family with. We need to establish a standard of men looking/submitting to God for answers and direction in his life. Not looking to you, himself or the world. When we are married to a man who trusts God, then we can trust God to work through our husband to accomplish what is best.
Sarah was a smart, strong, beautiful and obedient woman. It was because of her trust and faith that God was guiding her husband that she humbly submitted to him. God found favor in them because of that faith. Sarah at age 65 left Ur with her husband as God instructed. In Gen 11:30 we learn that Sarah was barren. Then in 12:7 the Lord promises Abraham that his offspring, his child would inherit the land. From there they continue to travel to Egypt. It is here that we start to see a lack of faith from Abraham, but Sarah stays submitted to him and does what he says. Even in Abram’s failure to fully rely on God to provide and protect them, God still does. God still blesses them and brings them through Egypt not only unharmed but blessed with gifts from the Pharaoh.
In this study we will focus on what Sarah and her husband were going through in their lives. How they submitted to God and sinned against God. We will address how we can identify with Sarah as women of strong will, and beauty in God’s eyes, and how we can learn from her failures, and be encouraged by the blessings that she received.
Week of June 24th 2012
As we close our study of Romans 12 we should have a transformed sense of who we are as Christians. Now is when the real work begins. My prayer for all of you is that you would offer your whole self to our Father as a surrendered living sacrifice. Remember his promise for you and set yourself apart when this world and this city seek to pull you into its ways. Be humble and know that God has given you a purpose, and made you special with skills and opportunities to serve him by lovingly serving others. Remember brothers and sisters that we are called to show the same grace, kindness and love that Christ has shown us. Even when you are hurting, do not seek revenge but forgive and bless those who hurt you. Keep in constant prayer and know that God is stronger than any evil. He loves you, he wants you and he will never leave you.
Father in heaven, Thank you for your grace over our lives when we don’t deserve it. Thank you for speaking to us and for the blessings we receive in the Spirit. We surrender ourselves to your almighty arms Lord and ask that your Spirit lead us to always live surrendered and set apart. Living with sober minds, serving others and supernaturally responding to evil. So that the world will see a love in us and know it came from you. All of these things we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
1 Corinthians 1:26
Brothers, think of what you were where you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (v.29-30) So that no one my boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom of God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Many of us have had to get to a deep dark place of pain, confusion, and loss of control in our lives before we dedicated our life to Christ. We are full of ego’s, false securities, and wisdom of the world. I myself thought I had life figured out. I was doing ok on my own. Though, I was never popular, influential or considered wise by anyone, but I thought I was wise enough by my own standards. Until I realized I had the wrong friends, was in the wrong kind of relationship and it all fell apart.
When I re-dedicated my life to Christ I began to change and I have grown everyday as I read, meditate and practice the word of God. It took foolish, weak things of the world that don’t matter to God to break me down to a weak and humble servant. It is because of those things that I found true love , wisdom, and redemption in Christ. I was not wise then. I didn’t even know what wisdom looked like or where it could be found, but I know now that wisdom is found in the word of God. I pray every day to be lead with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and to never lean on my own understanding.
Father God,I thank you for showing me just how mighty and wise you are. Guide me Lord to always be a vessel for your Spirit; so that I may only boast in you. In Christ’s name, Amen
When we look most like Jesus…
“You are never more like Jesus than when you treat people in a way they do not deserve.”
What does blessing look like beyond forgiving? We are given 3 commands for our action of blessing our persecutors. We have to rejoice and mourn with them. It is certainly easy to rejoice with a friend or someone you love when something good happens in their life. In the same way we naturally respond with empathy and sadness when someone we love has been hurt in some way. We don’t rejoice and mourn with those we love because we are called to, rather we rejoice and mourn because we naturally respond in authentic love towards them. However, it’s not so easy when it comes to someone who has caused us pain. That is what Paul is calling us to do here. Rejoice and mourn with those who have hurt us. Imagine how you would feel if someone you hurt came up to you and showed you grace by giving support during a rough time in your life. Wouldn’t that be a blessing in your life?
The third thing to focus on when blessing our persecutors is living in harmony with each other. Chip Ingram brings up a very good point in this chapter. Living in harmony means being of the “same mind”. Not being proud of ourselves or thinking more highly than we ought. We are not perfect and we should not act as if we have superiority. Sometimes we are quick to excuse our faults but forget to do the same for others.
Blessing your persecutors starts with forgiving them with the same grace you have been given, and are shown in your actions of being happy or sad with them, and remembering that no one is better or worse than the other. We are all the same in God’s eyes. When we remember and do those things we will indeed look like Jesus.