Sermons – Ordinary Faith

Sermons – Ordinary Faith
By Micheal Maynard
About this podcast
Ordinary Faith explores practically applying a Christian Faith to an every day life.
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Dec. 10, 2017
Lesson 6 of 13 in the “Dear God” Series. ordinaryfaith.net Everyone has problems. Some are bigger than others. Some are bigger than we know. Some are so large everyone around can see that they are a problem. And, some are BIG to us, while others dismiss them. Today we are going to put those problems into perspective by contrasting them with a much larger solution.  GOD. Exodus 33:12-13 (NLT) One day Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Take these people up to the Promised Land.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. You have told me, ‘I know you by name, and I look favorably on you.’ 13 If it is true that you look favorably on me, let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor. And remember that this nation is your very own people.” Moses had a problem. He had witnessed God’s power in the Exodus, but now he had to lead a nation.  Moses realized that when faced with a really big problem he needed an even bigger answer. His solution was to get to know God better. So let’s answer a few “God” questions. Exodus 34:6-7 (NLT) 6 The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. 7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.” Who Created God? God is Eternal (“Yahweh! The Lord!) He doesn’t need… anything. He is completely INDEPENDENT.  Here is how the Reformation Study Bible states it.  “He is eternal. He always was or is. He has, within Himself, the power of being. He requires no assistance from outside sources to continue to exist. This is what is meant by the idea of self-existent. Granted, it is a lofty and awesome concept.” An Eternal God is Bigger Than My Circumstances… Because He is eternal, He is EVER present in my circumstances, He sees them coming and already exists in them. Because He is unchanging, I know that He will remain dependable in them.  People may change but not my God.  And, all of my troubles have an expiration date while my Heavenly Father does not! But… Isn’t God Angry? God is Just (I do not excuse the guilty.) He is Holy, Righteous, and Good.  He will never overlook a wrong.  It is not possible to comprehend the Love of God until FIRST coming to terms with the Justice of God. Yes, there really is a place of eternal condemnation, Jesus taught about it often. And the gift of Salvation is not a problem free life, it is escape from God’s wrath upon sin. A Just God is Bigger than My Offenses against Him… “How does this help me? How does a BIG Just God do anything other than terrify me?” A Just God is BIGGER than my sin and mistakes.  Even though He will never unjustly acquit me nor hide my sin. He can be trusted to deal with my sin properly and permanently so that in the end I will have nothing to fear. So if God is just… Does God Love Me? God is Love (I lavish unfailing love) God’s love is the foundation for His Justice and even His Wrath upon wickedness. It is because God Loves you so much than He is so scary at times.  Imagine a parent whose child is threatened by a stranger or by disease.  God’s Love is the only explanation for the great things He accomplished in order to save us. Consider that His plan to save us included becoming one of us, becoming righteousness, and becoming sin. A Loving God is Bigger than My Sin!!! There is no sin in your life that is Bigger than God’s forgiveness. In order to experience that forgiveness all that is needed is a change of heart. Psalms 51:17 (NLT) The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Such a change leaves the sin and mistakes in the hands of God, while turning to Jesus Christ. Powerful habits and consequences of past mistakes may hold you, but you will tear free as you pursue real freedom in God’s Son, Jesus. Is God REALLY in Charge? Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. God is Sovereign – He knows everything, He is everywhere and in every moment, He is all powerful and He works everything according to the counsel of His own will. (Eph 1:11) Which means according to His Character and Attributes. Therefore God’s accomplishments in spite of our decisions will be Loving, Just, Holy, and will Fulfill all of His promises. A Sovereign God is Bigger than My Fear! God has got this. This is foundational to Trusting Jesus. The belief that God is in control. That this -whatever “this” is- will pass and God will be vindicated. Discussion: Review Exodus 33:12-34:8. Discuss Moses’ situation. Why do you think He wanted to “see” God after all that he had already experienced? (The exodus) How could a larger understanding of God help us with our problems? Discuss the name of God, Yahweh. Look up it’s meaning. What does self existent mean? Discuss Love and Anger. How does Love cause Anger? Does it makes sense for God to be Angry about some things? Why or Why Not? Read Psalms 51:17. Discuss the word “repentance”. What is it? Why does God require it? Since God is sovereign, what causes so much anxiety in life? How might the sovereignty of God help us experience more peace in difficult times? Discuss Romans 8:28. This lesson discusses God as Eternal, Just, Loving, and Sovereign. Which is the hardest for you to embrace? Why? Review Psalms 90:14. How might these attributes of God inspire us to worship and joy? Did anything stand out in your reading today that you could share with someone else? Write a personal action step based on this conversation. (What will you do about it?)
Dec. 3, 2017
Lesson 5 of 13 in our series Dear God Is there one God or are there Three? Orthodox Christian Churches typically hold to a Doctrine referred to as the Trinity. It is the reason we often talk about having only ONE God, but then talking about Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That can be confusing and often when we encounter something that requires a bit of reflection, we are tempted to just shelve it. The danger in such an attitude is that it doesn’t care to know God. And, it could be argued that a person who doesn’t care to know God, likely doesn’t.  So today we ask the question… What is the Trinity? Here are seven simple statements meant to state the belief. (1) There is only one God. (2) The Father is God. (3) The Son is God. (4) The Holy Spirit is God. (5) The Father is not the Son. (6) The Son is the not the Holy Spirit. (7) The Holy Spirit is not the Father. These simple statements are profound in that they may seem contradictory.  The challenge is that they describe a reality about God for which no natural reference exists. God is three distinct and equal persons that exist in such communion that they are one.  This belief rejects a number of lesser ideas about God. God is not three Gods. God does not merely use the Spirit and the Son as impersonal arms to interact with our world. The Father, Son and Spirit are not just different names for the same God acting in different roles. And, most importantly, The Father is FULLY God, Jesus Christ is FULLY God, and the Holy Spirit is FULLY God. Our God is ONE God, in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It should not be confusing, but it should evoke wonder. Is the Trinity in the Bible? NO… Not the Word, “Trinity”.  “Trinity” is just a word constructed to describe something for which there is no reference.  There have been many attempts to describe God without the idea of the “Trinity”. And, they make some sense and even may sound more logical. But in order to make sense they make God less by reducing the Son and the Spirit to mere manifestations of God, roles of God, or impersonal attributes of God. Making God less in an effort to understand Him is not a good idea.  What is the problem? What were they trying to describe? Consider these Scriptures. Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Matthew 28:19 (NLT) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. There are so many scriptures like this in the Bible.  These verses present God as One AND as a Father, as a Son, and as a Spirit. This understanding of God should help us connect with Him much more deeply. We are more able to mentally comprehend God our Father. We have the joy of an emotional connection with God the Son. And, of course we share a deeply spiritual union with God the Holy Spirit.  So when our need for relationship with the Divine is considered, the critical nature of this belief comes into focus. But is that all? So we must ask… Why Does it Matter? Genesis 1:1-3 (NLT) In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth. 2 …And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said… John 1:1-3 (NLT) In the beginning the Word already existed. The Trinity matters for creation. To Write God’s Story, there was no outside influence. God the Father, Son and Spirit decided to create. They did not do it because they needed to, or were lonely, or were bored. They created because it was righteous to create, because it was LOVE to create and God IS Love. 1 Peter 1:2 (NLT) God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ… The Trinity matters for the Good News. The Gospel is Distinctly Triune or Trinitarian. Why is it important? Christianity, with its understanding of God as three in one, is THE only faith that allows for diversity AND unity. Only Jesus is able to redeem a people without the destruction of their culture. Missionary efforts that have done so in the past, fell short of what was possible. The Trinity matters for relationships. Community is more than a buzzword, it is an expression of God IN us. God lives in perfect communion. God lives in us. It is a Trinitarian faith that founds miraculous relationships even to the extent of loving one’s enemies. Ephesians 3:14-15 (NLT) When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. The Trinity matters for Worship. “Father” isn’t a term we invented to describe God’s relationship to us. God IS Father. We come to the Father through the Son because He is the one mediator between us and God. (1 Timothy 2:5) We come to the Father in the Spirit because the Spirit draws our hearts to Christ, to the Father, and to one another (1 Cor. 12:3; Gal. 4:6; Eph. 2:22). These are foundations for real worship. We have discussed the Trinity today. It may appear boring to some, but to discuss Trinity is to discuss LOVE, communion, relationship, and the Gospel. And, these are the greatest things to learn and enjoy! Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost! Discussion: What are your initial thoughts regarding the Trinity? What illustrations have you heard in the past to describe it? How do those illustrations help? How do they fall short? Discuss the seven statements regarding the Trinity made in this guide. Do they help? Are they confusing? How would you explain it to someone else?   Review Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; John 1:1-2; 14:15-17; 15:26. Discuss the different relationships we are able to have with each person of the Trinity. (Emotional, Spiritual, Etc) God created the World. What questions does that raise for you? God IS Love 1 John 4:8. Discuss Love IN the Trinity before Creation. Does LOVE answer those questions? Discuss the challenges to the competing values of Unity and Diversity. How does God as Three Persons answer those challenges? Discuss God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in regard to Worship. How do these different persons of God contribute to your worship? Did anything stand out in your reading today that you could share with someone else?
Nov. 26, 2017
This is Lesson 4 in our 13 part series Dear God Romans 7:18 (NLT)  …I want to do what is right, but I can’t. The question is often asked, “Is Mankind Inherently Good or Evil?”. Debate.org scores the debate as appr. 48%  saying we are inherently Good and 52% saying we are Bad. (link) The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) asks this question, “Did God create man thus wicked and perverse?” Then answers with, “No, but God created man good, and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness; that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.” Of course the next question and answer in the catechism is, Whence then comes this depraved nature of man? From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise, whereby our nature became so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin. I Do What I Want! Don’t I? We seldom realize the extent to which the heart of mankind has been ruined by Adam’s decision.  Most of us are quick to declare the control we believe we have over our own destinies.  Yet, we are not so quick to admit that each choice we make has a consequence. Or, to put it another way, we are often unwilling to accept that our current choices are often limited by our past choices. Nor are we willing to discuss the reality that often our choices are limited by the choices of others.  And, the simple truth is that Adam made a decision that limited everyone. In effect, It was Adam’s decision which ruined our hearts.  This is why God makes this statement regarding the heart of mankind… Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT) “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? God’s answer for this conundrum is extreme.  We need to see that our inherent condition is too far gone to be reformed or reeducated. So God took another course… Romans 6:6 (NLT) We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. God brought an end to things that are natural to us upon the Cross. In the Cross we clearly see God’s opinion regarding our natural state of ruin brought on by sin.  The Cross of Jesus is the judgment and punishment for our mistakes. This is how God ended our ruin, by death and resurrection. Ephesians 2:5 (NLT) that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Why is the right thing the hardest thing? We now find ourselves in a truly awkward situation as believers. We are no longer under the POWER of Sin! But we don’t know anything else. So, we are kind of lost. We are free from the only life we know and empowered to live a new life that we don’t understand. Awkward! (Gal 5:17) Consider the Nation of Israel, ten minutes after the whole Red Sea thing, they were probably ecstatic! “Whoopee, We are free!!! No more bricks, no more mud, straw, and slave masters!” “What do we do now?”  Their nation had been slaves for four hundred years. They had no idea how to be anything but a slave. They did not know how to be free. This perfectly illustrates our situation. We need to get rid of what we know.  We need to learn to see the things that come so naturally to us as harmful to our true, resurrected selves. Colossians 3:5,8 (NLT) So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you… now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. What Hope Is There For Me? We must begin by getting rid of the junk in our hearts and habits, but the idea that we can simply eliminate the negative is incomplete. It’s time to learn what has been done for us and who we are now. It’s time to start believing what is TRUE about us. It’s time to live behaviors that agree with those truths. New Life in Jesus Christ is designed to give NEW Life.  And, the Holy Spirit empowers that life. We are not left on our own. Additional willpower is not required. God starts doing something amazing in our lives the moment we turn away from our sins and mistakes to trust Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NLT) And I am certain that God, Who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Discussion: Discuss the question, “Is mankind inherently good or evil?” Discuss the question, “Do people have a free will?” Add Romans 6:16 to the discussion. Add John 8:34-36 to the discussion. How do these verses change the conversation? Discuss Jeremiah 17:9. How extreme is the corruption or ruin of mankind? How does the discussion regarding the ruin of mankind connect to Jesus’ Death on the Cross?  Does the Cross seem extreme in light of the ruin of mankind? Why or why not? Discuss Ephesians 2:5. What does it mean that people are dead in sin? What thoughts come to you regarding your own spiritual condition? Discuss the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). How does it illustrate a new start in life? Discuss Colossians 3:5-17. How do we “strip off” the old? How do we “put on” the new? Discuss 2 Corinthians 3:8,18. What does ‘More God’ look like in your life? Did anything stand out in your reading today that you could share with someone else? Write a personal action step based on this conversation. (What will you do about it?)
Nov. 19, 2017
Lesson 3 of 13 in the Dear God Series  We’ve all heard it numerous times: “Why does God allow bad things happen to good people?” This is one of the most difficult questions in all of theology. God is eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Why should human beings (not eternal, infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent) expect to be able to fully understand God’s plan? Many in the church today seem to see their sin as not very bad. Most Christians would say they are good people and don’t deserve the things that are happening to them in life. “God is the source off all being, and being is good in itself, and no goodness exists outside of God.” Rejecting God therefore creates a hole in the human soul, and whatever fills that emptiness is the residue of corrupted being.” How it was supposed to be. God is the Creator: Simple enough for the youngest child to understand and yet sufficiently profound to inspire the greatest thinkers to ponder its ramifications, Genesis 1:1 is certainly one of the most beloved and consequential sentences ever written. We often pass over this text quickly, so accustomed are we to the fundamental idea of the Christian worldview — that God is the Creator and we are His creatures. Yet we must pause to consider this verse lest we miss its enormous implications. Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Man was Made in His Image: “We are created in the image of God” says something awesome about God in His creative purposes. It also says something wonderful about the uniqueness of humans in God’s grand design. But what does it mean? The theological challenge in Imago Dei is the fact that the Bible does not define explicitly what it means that humanity is made in the image of God. Man was Made for Perfect Fellowship: Man was designed to walk and talk and fellowship daily with God, to have personal interaction with God to learn and grow with Him. Everything was Good: God created this world good – perfectly good. The scripture tells us “and the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” The world was so safe and so perfect that humanity could live naked and unashamed. How did we get Here? Man Fell into Sin: Adam and Eve fell for the serpent’s lies. They doubted the goodness of God and determined to pursue knowledge of evil. They committed the very first sin by eating the forbidden fruit. It was a simple act, but one that represented the greatest tyranny. Genesis 3:6-7 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Man’s Relationship From God Was Severed: Isaiah 59:2 shows that sin creates division between God and us because of the breach of trust. Sin is a breaking of the terms of the covenant agreed on by both God and us. Man and the Earth Now Lived Under a Curse: The earth did not escape the judgment of the Fall. The original condition of nature, which was perfect, began to degenerate after the Fall. Thorns and thistles will now come from the ground that was formerly good. The Bible says that the thorn, like the serpent, is the natural enemy of humanity. How do we get out of this? God sent Jesus as our Representative: For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.    Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace Jesus Died and Rose from Death: That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day. We are Redeemed Through Christ’s Birth, Death and Resurrection: God was grieved with man, but He was not done with man. God did not give up on humanity. Before God had even created the world, He had already had a plan to bring humanity back to a relationship with Him. Discussion If God knew we were going to sin why did He create humans? Are we really created in the image of God? How? In what ways do we share His Image? How is God good?  How has He acted in your Life that you considered to be “good”? Has He acted in ways that you didn’t realize were “good” until later? How am I good?  Discuss the goodness in the creation of Man? Discuss the fall of man in Genesis 3:6-7.  What happened? How did man’s relationship with God change? How did man’s relationship with man change? Discuss how that goodness is recovered when a person is redeemed by Christ. Review Ephesians 1:7. Have I been Redeemed by Christ? Share your defining moment with someone. Or, share a redeeming experience from your own story. Did anything stand out in your reading today that you could share with someone else? Write a personal action step based on this conversation. (What will you do about it?)
Nov. 12, 2017
Lesson 2 of 13 in the Dear God Series  No other book in the history of mankind comes anywhere close to the Bible.  The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by more than 40 authors over a period of 1600 years. It has been revered and protected from many attempts at its destruction throughout its existence. Yet it remains the most plentiful and available of any other ancient book by far. Even though it is the most unique of all books considered “holy”, the Bible out distances them all in age, authorship, and reliability.  In today’s discussion, we determine if the Bible is worthy of becoming the Moral Authority for our lives? Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT) For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable. How Am I Supposed to Trust the Bible? How Do I Trust the Bible Scientifically? Isn’t there a major conflict between the Bible and Science? There are actually at least four ways that the Bible and Science work together. Those interactions are Conflict, Dialogue, Integration, and Independence. Often we only hear of the conflicts without realizing that the Bible has been ahead of science in the past.  For example, the Bible declared that the earth is suspended upon nothing (Job 26:7), that the earth is round (Isa 40:22), that water is part of a hydrologic cycle (Jer 10:13), that the stars are beyond number (Jer 33:22), and the Bible described biogenesis long before science discovered these realities. How Do I Trust the Bible Historically? After all isn’t the Bible just a book of legends fabricated by religious tyrants to impose their ideas upon others? If so they did a lousy job. The Bible is so problematic for the religious elite that it was outlawed from the general public in the 1230’s. The records of the New Testament are filled with a dependence upon named eyewitnesses. And, the Old Testament has been largely verified by archaeology at present. In fact, the Bible has become a source book for some in the Archeological fields. The Historical veracity of Scripture is the easiest to prove. How Do I Trust it Culturally? When we read the Bible we encounter a world that at first glance approves of slavery and represses women.  Slavery present in world of the Bible was very different from the European and African slavery known to our history. It more resembled modern employment than the ownership of an entire person. We need to be cautious that we do not allow a few points of perceived disagreement or error caused by misinterpretation to convince us to reject the entire Bible. What is the Deal with the Bible? – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work. The Bible provides a way to relate to God. A real relationship with God requires conversation and mutual understanding. This is one of the reasons the Bible creates inner conflicts. As we come to know what God is like and the way He thinks, we have to come to terms with Him. All relationships work this way and we shouldn’t expect a relationship with God to be any different in that regard. The Bible teaches us the Truth. Since God defines Truth by His very nature, everything about Him is Truth.  His Truth shared with us sets us free. As we realize His goodness, His redemption, and ultimately His victory, we are freed from the chains of our own misconceptions. The Bible demonstrates and empowers “RIGHT”! Someone needs to do the RIGHT thing in the world. Someone has to stand up to the giants, the atrocities, and even the evil in our society.  Throughout History many Christian people have been empowered to identify and challenge the wrongs of society. This “RIGHT-ness” is a product of knowing God correctly as the Bible reveals. What is your Moral Authority? Everyone has a “bible”. It’s their “go to” resource for what is best for them.  Make sure yours is the real Bible and you will actually know what is true. Discussion Questions: Have you ever investigated the Bible itself? What were your findings? What conclusions do you come to regarding it? Review 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12-13. Discuss these Scriptures. What in them gives you courage? What do these scriptures compel you to do? Have you ever resolved a scientific, historical, or cultural difficulty with the Bible that you would be willing to share with the group? Discuss the importance of a Moral Authority.  What “moral authorities” do people depend upon? Discuss your confidence in the Bible as your Moral Authority. Review John 8:32. How does the Truth set us free? How does the Bible set us free? How does the Bible give us Truth? Did anything stand out in your reading today that you could share with someone else? Write a personal action step based on this conversation. (What will you do about it?) http://bible.com/events/305497
Nov. 5, 2017
Lesson 1 of 13 of the Dear God Series Doubts are necessary to a healthy Faith. It’s important that we be able to articulate our faith questions and then deal with them. But, how should we deal with our questions? When we pose questions regarding God, we are in effect seeking Theological Answers. The word “Theology” comes from the two ancient words for “God” and “Word”. So Theology is merely what we think or say about God.  And since everyone has some kind of opinion about God, we are all in a sense Theologians. Is It Possible To KNOW That God Is Real? – Romans 1:19 How did we ever get to the point as a society that such a question could be so common?  Is it because so many claim to believe in God but live so differently than He prescribed? Is it because we have not found supportive communities in which to ask difficult questions? Is it that we are so busy in life that the need for such answers is not apparent until it is too late? Or, is it that God is so foreign to us that we don’t know how to process the things we learn? Regardless of the reason, God makes this statement in Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome. Romans 1:19 (NLT) They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. This scripture leads us to a different question, and corrects us for asking the wrong question.  The question should not be “Is there a God?” But rather, “Why do we reject the God that WE KNOW is real?” What is it about God that troubles us? And… Is It Possible To KNOW God? – John 17:3 John 17:3 (NLT) And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. God WANTS to be known. He is not hiding from us. It is the eternal longing of God to be discovered and enjoyed.  It is also our deepest desire to know Him. The simple truth is that we were created to KNOW and BE KNOWN. So what is the problem? Even though God’s nature can be known, our comprehension of His nature is another matter.  God knows everything. God is all powerful. God answers to no one. And, God does not change. We do not know how to relate to such a being, so we end up with questions.   A search to discover God must then be filled with doubts and questions.  But questions regarding God and the life of Faith are healthy.  Many fear that God will not be able to withstand the scrutiny of honest questions, but the great news is that God can!  It is not only okay to have questions, it is necessary for a vibrant Faith.  So if questions are good, then… How Will I Get My Questions Answered? – Romans 1:20 Romans 1:20 (NLT) For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. There are at least two fields of investigation. The first is available to everyone. The second only to those who take their first step of Faith by Trusting Jesus. The Natural sources of investigation are nature, music, art, beauty, and the goodness present in our world.  Surely you can see so much good in our world. How do you suppose that it got here? So many use the evil in our world to argue against the existence of God while overlooking all of the goodness in our world. These natural resources present regular evidence to the existence and loving character of God. Then there are the Supernatural resources available to those who believe, namely the Bible and the Holy Spirit. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. In the Bible we will find accurate descriptions of God’s character.  These descriptions will correct our assumptions about God. And, correct assumptions are critical to discovering the good questions necessary to our journey of Faith. 1 John 2:27 (NLT) But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know… The Holy Spirit will accompany us on our journey. He will help us understand the ways of God in our circumstances and in time resolve our many conflicts with God’s nature. So don’t be afraid of your questions.  It is good to have them. Challenge them to ensure they are based upon healthy assumptions.  Talk to God about them and search the Bible for clues. Soon you will possess a faith that is stable and certain, regardless of the chaos of the times. Discussion: Discuss the general opinion of theology and doctrine in your small group or with a friend. How has the hypocrisy of other believers affected your Faith Journey? Share something you have learned from the Bible, a teacher, or life that has significantly impacted your faith. Compare life before you knew this truth and life after. Review Romans 1:18-19.  What does Paul say is the real cause of Atheism? How does the Scripture’s answer affect your own doubts? If God wants to be known, Why do we struggle to know Him? Discuss Question #4 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism? Which of God’s attributes gives you the most difficulty? Why? Discuss 1 Peter 5:5-6.  How do Pride and Humility factor into our understanding of God? Did anything stand out in your reading today that you could share with someone else? Write a personal action step based on this conversation. (What will you do about it?)
Oct. 29, 2017
This is lesson 5 of 5 in the Abraham sermonlink series. Find this and other pursueGOD.org sermons on YouTube here. Think about the hardest final you had in school. Before you took this final you probably felt nervous. If you didn’t sufficiently study for it, then chances are the final didn’t go well for you. In Genesis 22, Abraham faces his final exam. This isn’t the end of his life, but it’s the climax of his journey with God. And this story demonstrates just how much you may have to give up to follow God. At the same time, this chapter demonstrates God’s incredible love. Genesis 22:1-2 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called…“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” God Will Test How Much You Trust Him This unusual command from God is actually a test for Abraham. Abraham didn’t know this would be a test, but this helps explain what God is doing in this story. God is testing the quality of Abraham’s faith. God will do the same in your life. He will test your trust by putting you in difficult situations where it is challenging to obey him. But God intends for you to succeed in these tests. He puts these tests in your life for your good. When you pass the test you find out how much you trust him, and your obedience is an act of worship. Genesis 22:3 The next morning Abraham got up early…and set out for the place God had told him about. Abraham had an interesting response to God’s command. He started obeying right away! [Related: Was God Angry in the Old Testament?] God Demands We Give Up What We Love Most God’s command to Abraham was a command to give up what he loved most in the world: Isaac. Isaac was not only his beloved son, but he was the key to all of God’s promises. By killing Isaac, Abraham would be killing God’s covenant. What do you love more than anything else in the world? Most people’s great love comes in the form of possessions, career, personal ambitions, or relationships. If any of these takes the place of God in your life, then they become an idol. This means that if you love good things, but in the wrong way, they will actually harm you. God lovingly calls you to release these things. When God is first, then all of these other things find their proper place and bring joy into your life. [Related: Deny Yourself for Greater Joy] God Gives Us More Than We Could Ever Give Him Abraham obediently followed God’s command. He and Isaac, who is probably a teenager at this point, make their way to the top of the mountain. Abraham binds Isaac, who doesn’t struggle, and places him on the altar. Just before Abraham brings the knife down, God stops him. Genesis 22:12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” Abraham passed the test. As a result, God intensified the blessings that Abraham and his descendants would receive. This story, however, points forward to another Father who would sacrifice his Son. But this Son wouldn’t be spared. He would die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. This Son is Jesus. And just as Abraham was prepared to give up Isaac, the Father gave up Jesus for us. Romans 8:32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? God demands that we be willing to give up everything for him. Yet, you can never out-give God. This is why you can trust him to the fullest. By trusting God, Abraham was used by God in an incredible way. God is still writing his story today. When you trust in him, you too get to play a part in this story. [Related: The Cost of Salvation] Discussion Questions: Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic. What’s the hardest test you have ever taken? What made it so hard? Read Genesis 22:1. How would this story be different if Abraham knew it was a test from the beginning? Why does God test us? How are these tests for our good? Share about a time when your trust in God was put to the test. How can you identify what you love most in your life? How can good things in our lives become idols? Read Genesis 22:7-14. Make a list of the qualities we learn about God from this passage. What does the name “The LORD will provide” teach us about God? Read Romans 8:32. Describe the parallels between the sacrifice of Isaac and Jesus. What can we learn by comparing the two? How does understanding God’s heart toward you help you trust him more? Write a personal action step based on this conversation.
Oct. 22, 2017
This is part 4 of 5 in the Abraham sermonlink series. Find this and other pursueGOD.org sermons on YouTube here. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. That promise required an heir. Abraham and his wife Sarah eventually got tired of waiting for God to act, so they took matters into their own hands. How long will you wait on God to come through for you before turning to your back-up plan? Waiting on God Is No Easy Thing It had been 10 long years since God’s promise, and Abraham and Sarah still had no son. They were worried. Sarah had always been unable to bear children. Now they were also both beyond normal child-bearing age. Something had to be done! So Sarah hatched a clever plan. But it wasn’t God’s plan. [Related: Trusting God Takes a Lifetime] Deciding to Be Your Own Deliverer Is a Dangerous Game In the ancient world, being childless was seen as a curse. Beyond that, God’s grand promise could never be fulfilled without conceiving an heir. You can imagine Sarah’s anxiety, how she must have brooded to come up with a solution to this problem. But her plan depended on others instead of on God. Genesis 16:1-3 Now [Sarah], [Abraham’s] wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So [Sarah] said to [Abraham], “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And [Abraham] agreed with [Sarah‘s] proposal. So [Sarah], [Abraham’s] wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to [Abraham] as a wife. Ancient customs allowed an infertile woman to choose a servant to act as her surrogate. The baby born would be that woman’s rightful heir. But according to Scripture, Abraham was wrong to sleep with a woman who wasn’t his wife. This plan also exposed his lack of leadership, as he passively gave in to Sarah’s scheme. The results were not helpful. [Related: Psalm 56 – Trusting God in Desperate Times] Playing God Often Leads to Broken Relationships We can all rationalize our actions, but when we step outside of our rightful role to try to play God’s role, people get hurt in the process. Genesis 16:4-6 So [Abraham] had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, [Sarah], with contempt. Then [Sarah] said to [Abraham], “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong – you or me!” [Abraham] replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then [Sarah] treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away. Being pregnant with Abraham’s heir – named Ishmael – Hagar flaunted her pregnancy in Sarah’s face. Sarah blamed Abraham for her humiliation, and asked God to discipline him because he agreed to try her plan! Abraham responded without compassion for either woman. He passively punted the problem back to his wife. When we pursue our own Plan B rather than trusting in God’s Plan A, there are consequences. In this case, everyone was in conflict. Relationships were broken. Trusting God Enough to Wait for Him Is Always the Best Option God is worthy of our trust because he always keeps his promises. In his own timing, God came through for Abraham and Sarah. Fast-forward fifteen years, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah, 90. Genesis 21:1-2 The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. The promised child – named Isaac – was finally born. The rest of the Bible describes how God did produce a vast nation from Isaac’s lineage. So God was true to his word. His plan worked! [Related: Kinda Sorta Christian – I Believe in God, but Don’t Trust Him Fully] But Abraham and Sarah’s failed attempt to bring about the promise on their own made things worse. Not only was their family thrust into conflict, but the nations that arose from Ishmael (Arabs) and Isaac (Jews) are still at war with each other today. It’s never good when we get impatient and get ahead of God. Heartache and damage will result. [Related: Sarah – Women of the Old Testament #1]  Daily Readings Day #22 Reading: Genesis 26 Day #23 Reading: Romans 1 Day #24 Reading: Romans 2 Day #25 Reading: Romans 3 Day #26 Reading: Romans 4 Day #27 Reading: Romans 5 Day #28 Reading: Romans 6
Oct. 15, 2017
This is lesson 3 of 5 in the Abraham sermonlink series. Find this and other pursueGOD.org sermons on YouTube here. Abraham trusted God and left everything for a new homeland. But his faith in God was far from perfect. He faltered and doubted along the way. Even though God is perfectly trustworthy, faith takes time to develop – as we continue to trust in him. God’s Story Takes Time to Unfold God’s promises to Abraham didn’t materialize right away. God didn’t tell him just how events would play out. So Abraham’s faith wavered. God promised that he would become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2), but some time later, Abraham didn’t even have children. In response, God gave new assurances. Genesis 15:2-4 Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son?…. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.” Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” The road to God’s purposes will involve delays, obstacles, and tests. It’s easy to doubt what God will do. His plans usually become more clear over time, but along the way, God welcomes honest questions. [Related: What Is the Story of the Old Testament?] God Secures Your Place in His Story Abraham’s relationship with God came at God’s initiative. God sought him first. God started the conversation. Not only that, God also secures his promises. God promised Abraham that his descendants would own the land where Abraham lived as a foreigner. But again, Abraham wasn’t convinced. Genesis 15:8 O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it? In response, God bound himself to his promises through a covenant. Covenants were common in the ancient world. A covenant was like a treaty, ensuring faithfulness between two parties. Both parties pledged to fulfill certain conditions. As God moved from promise to covenant, it was like reinforcing a handshake agreement with a written contract. Genesis 15:18 So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River…” Unlike most covenants, God’s agreement with Abraham was unilateral. God placed no conditions on Abraham. God pledged his faithfulness, but did not ask Abraham to pledge anything in return. In fact, during the ratification ceremony, God put Abraham into a deep sleep (Genesis 15:12). It’s like God signed the contract for both sides. Likewise, God secures our place in his story through his unilateral action toward us in Christ. Jesus established a new covenant between us and God. Like Abraham’s, this was initiated entirely by God. It is based only on what God does for us, not on what we do. [Related: An Animated Explanation of ‘The Covenants’] [Related: 7 Major Events in the History of God and People] Your Part in the Story Is to Keep Trusting God In his highest moment, Abraham responded to God’s promises with faith. As a result, God considered Abraham to be a righteous man. Genesis 15:6 And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. Abraham’s faith became a model for a relationship with God. Likewise, we also find our place in God’s story by faith in his promises. Galatians 3:7,9 The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God… So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. The blessings of Jesus’s new covenant include forgiveness of our sins, a reconciled relationship with God, membership in God’s family, and more. Like Abraham, we receive these blessings, not by obedience or worthiness, but by trusting in God’s action for us – through Jesus’s death and resurrection. Having entered God’s story by trusting in Jesus, we continue in a growing journey of faith through all the twists and turns of life. In tough times you might be tempted to give up on God. But remember, it can take a lifetime to develop deep faith. As you keep trusting in God’s faithfulness, your faith will continue to grow. [Related: How Abraham’s Covenant Includes Us] [Related: The Last Supper] Discussion Questions: Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic. Think of your birthdays as a child. What is the gift you most dramatically hoped to get? What happened? Tell us about a time when circumstances in your life raised doubts about God. During times like that, have you seen your faith grow, falter, or both? Explain. Read Genesis 15:6. Why do you think God so highly values faith in his people? Read Genesis 15:7-8. What did God promise Abraham? How can you tell the difference between a genuine promise of God versus something you just expect God to do for you? Why does this matter to our faith? Read Genesis 15:18. What is a covenant? What made God’s covenant with Abraham unique? Read Hebrews 9:14-15. What does this say about the new covenant Jesus ratified between God and people? How is Jesus’ new covenant like God’s covenant with Abraham? Read Philippians 1:6. How does this apply to the issues that challenge our faith in God? Write a personal action step based on this conversation. Daily Readings Day #15 Reading: Genesis 20 Day #16 Reading: Genesis 21 Day #17 Reading: Genesis 22 Day #18 Reading: Hebrews 11 Day #19 Reading: Genesis 23 Day #20 Reading: Genesis 24 Day #21 Reading: Genesis 25
Oct. 8, 2017
This is lesson 2 of 5 in the Abraham sermonlink series. Find this and other pursueGOD.org sermons on YouTube here. The Bible does not hide the weaknesses and follies of the people we read about. Abraham has just had a wonderful experience of God’s goodness to him. He was given the promise to become the father of a nation that would bring blessing to the entire world. But then a trial showed up in his life and exposed a weakness. Temptation Often Comes After Triumphs Genesis 12:10-12 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. A famine came upon the land where Abraham lived and he therefore moved to Egypt. When he entered Egypt, Abraham became fearful that his life would be threatened, so he lied. So picture yourself having a great moment with God on Sunday, but then on Monday you have to face a boss after you made a mistake. You’re concerned that if you tell the truth you’ll be fired or face a stiff penalty and so you lie. We all face these moments where we’re tempted to lie or do something else that God’s word prohibits. [Related: Abraham and the American Dream] Lying Demonstrates a Lack of Trust in God Genesis 12:14-15 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. Abraham was fearful for his life.  He’s convinced himself that if the Egyptians discovered that Sarah is his wife that they will kill him.  So he told the Egyptians that she’s his sister.  Sarah was a beautiful woman and when she entered the new country news of her arrival reached the ears of Pharaoh.  Pharaoh was pleased by the sight of Sarah and took her as one of his concubines.  Pharaoh gave Abraham a boatload of goods as a thank you for giving his wife to him.  Sarah is put in a terrible place while Abraham is sitting in the lap of luxury. Abraham was clearly doubting the promise that God had made to him.  He had to go into another country and was fearful for his life.  We can easily fall into the same trap when difficulties come into our lives.  We can feel that God has lost control or that he’s not going to come through on his promise to us.  So we resort to something that God does not want us to do and make the situation worse. [Related: Admitting You’re Wrong as a Parent] [Related: Lying to Others] With God, Failure Is Never Fatal Genesis 12:17 But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. God comes back to Abraham to bring help to a dire situation. This episode of his life  could have been far worse were it not for God coming to his aid.  Abraham had just been caught lying to the most powerful leader of Egypt.  Let’s not forget that Abraham was a man with no rights in a foreign country.  After Pharaoh welcomed Sarah into his palace several diseases were inflicted onto him and his family.  Pharaoh did not appreciate this coming upon him and is able to connect this happened as a result of Abraham’s lie.  He told Abraham to leave Egypt at once lest something worse happen. God provided protection to the man he called to represent him to the world. We will see Abraham’s journey with God go three steps forward and two steps back.  As time goes by Abraham sees the undeserved faithfulness of God and begins to trust Him more.  God acts the same way to his people today like he did with Abraham.  We begin to mature in Christian character as we see God’s goodness and loyal love to us.  God actually turns our failures from being fatal to being transformative. [Related: How to Forgive Yourself] Discussion Questions: Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic. Can anyone think of a famous person who was undone by lying? Read Genesis 12:10-12. Can you relate to Abraham of being tempted after having an encounter with God? Read Genesis 12:14-15. Talk of a time when a trial in your life tempted you to not follow God. Write a personal action step based on this conversation. Daily Readings Day #8 Reading: Galatians 3 Day #9 Reading: Galatians 4 Day #10 Reading: Galatians 5 Day #11 Reading: Galatians 6 Day #12 Reading: Genesis 17 Day #13 Reading: Genesis 18 Day #14 Reading: Genesis 19