Monday, October 19, 2015

When God Calls

My Sunday School lesson for October 18, 2015 ...

FIRST THOUGHTS

One of my favorite childhood movies is "The Goonies."

The premise is that a subdivision is set to be demolished to make way for an expansion of a country club. A group of boys and girls end up on an adventure to find pirate treasure to save their families' homes and keep from moving away.

My favorite moment is when the kids find out they're under the wishing well in town, and many want to end their quest for One-Eyed Willie's ship and go home.

Sean Astin, even before he was the Lord of the Rings hero, stops them with a speech: "Don't you realize? The next time you see sky, it'll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it'll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what's right for them. Because it's their time. Their time! Up there! Down here, it's our time. It's our time down here. That's all over the second we ride up Troy's bucket.”

When God calls us to move, we can't rely on a bag full of jewels to show us the way. We have to confront change and an unknown future.

UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT

Genesis 11:10–14:24

*** This week we begin our look at Abram, or “Father Abraham.” He took a major leap of faith to follow God to a land far far away that he knew nothing about.

--- Hebrews 11:8 features him in the Roll Call of the Faithful: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going."

--- We'll spend the next several weeks studying how he became the father of the nation of Israel.

*** Abram's family came from the cuty of Ur in Mesopotamia on the Euphrates River (about 200 miles southeast of modern Baghdad), then moved to Haran in northwest Mesopotamia.

*** Abram married Sarai (Sarah), heeded God's call to go to Canaan, and his story of faith takes off from there.

--- Acts 7:2 says that God actually spoke first to Abram while he was living in Ur, way before these verses: "To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran."

GOD CALLS (Gen. 12:1-3)

1 The Lord said to Abram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

*** Stepping out in faith.

--- God didn't just tell Abram to feed the homeless or volunteer for parking lot duty at FBC.

God told Abram to:

A. Leave the land he'd known for his whole life;
B. Leave his dad's house and relatives behind, and;
C. Move to a land that isn't even specified here.

This is going to take a lot of faith on Abram's part!

(Think of it this way. If God didn't tell Abram where to go, then God would have to travel with him for the trip. That's comforting.)

--- God's looking for people who are will follow Him even if they have to leave their comfort zones.

(Abram was part of a rich family. Leaving could mean taking a hit in his finances. His contacts list would be useless. Also, he wouldn't be sure how he would feed his family and animals.)

--- Question - How scary can it be when God wants us to do something we don't think we're prepared to do?

*** In return for Abram's obedience, God provided seven big time promises, broken down into three categories given as an act of God's grace and purpose (as Bro. Joseph shared on Facebook):

Vision:

1. God promises to make Abram into “a great nation.” (Remember, at this time Abram was elderly and had no children.)
2. God promises to “bless” Abram.

Envision the future:

3. God will “make” Abram’s “name great.” (Today, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam each trace their roots to Abram.)
4. Abram will be a “blessing” to others.

Provision God has given:

5. God will “bless those who bless” Abram.
6. God will “curse those who treat” Abram "with contempt."
7. “All the peoples on earth will be blessed through” Abram. (The call of Abram was part of God’s plan to send Jesus into the world. Jesus is God’s true blessing. All who place their faith in Jesus have been truly blessed through Abram.)

*** QUESTION - What are some examples of difficult things God may call us to do today?

ABRAM GOES (Gen. 12:4-9)

4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people he had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the site of Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your offspring.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.

*** God said "Jump": and Abram said "How high?"

--- In 12:1 God told Abram to "go," and in verse 4 we see that Abram "went." (Even at 75 years old!)

--- When God calls, you have to respond. You either obey in faith, or you rebel and disobey. Abram obeyed and went to Canaan.

--- Let’s think about how Abram, Lot and Sarai felt about this. We know Abram took everything and went. How do you think his nephew Lot (his brother from another mother), or his wife Sarai thought about all of this? How is their faith?

(They didn’t even get the word from God, they are going on Abram’s word. Imagine if a husband told his spouse, "Hey, I know we're wealthy and comfortable here, but God called and we're driving west to move everything but I won't know where until we get there.")

(Like in "Peter Pan" and quoted in "Star Trek 6," God says, "Go toward the second star to the right and straight on 'til morning.")

*** Question - In what ways might it be easier to follow the Lord as you get older? In what ways might it be more difficult?

*** Abram’s altars.

--- Wherever he camped, Abram built an altar out of stone and dirt to sacrifice and worship the Lord. ((((Abram was a thankful man!)))

--- Worship is one way of demonstrating obedience.

*** Question - What are some ways we can show obedience and worship today?

TAKE-AWAY POINTS

Luke chapter 7 tells the story of the centurion who had a sick servant, so he went to Jesus to ask that the servant be healed. Jesus was about to head to the house to do so, but the centurion sent word saying" Lord ... I am not worthy to have you under my roof ... say the word, and let my servant be healed."

Jesus wasn't surprised often, but at least acted surprised here because the Scripture says he "marveled" and told the crowd, "not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

The centurion - a gentile, not a Jew - didn't need a wonder, or a vision, or angels swirling around holding a giant sign. He simply believed Jesus would do it.

"Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and receives the impossible." (Adrian Rogers)

Or, as Hebrews 11:1 said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

One way our group is showing faith out of our comfort zone is those who are leaving us to start the new young adult class. It’s not easy, probably a little scary and they won’t see as many familiar faces, but the rewards are great as well. More people can get involved in Bible study, new relationships can be formed, and there’s a sense of personal spiritual growth. And it’s all just down the hall and not 500 miles away, so we’ll all still be in the same place!

*** Abraham was 75 years old when God called him to leave the familiar and set off on a new adventure. None of us are too old to start something new.

*** What is God asking you to do that will stretch your faith in Him? What’s keeping you from obedience? Ask God to give you strength to step out in faith.

*** Share with someone how you have been blessed by God not because you deserve it but because of His goodness!

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