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Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Good Friday & Holy Saturday - Between Two Theives

Everybody Has Trash
            I had the privileged of visiting many unique places--Guatemala, El Salvador, and even Israel. When you travel, you usually want to visit the most interesting, notable places in a region--the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, etc. Nobody I know makes a point to visit the cities landfill. And yet, every place in the world--and this is true for people from all places and times--have a place where people take their trash. Even archaeologists studying pre-historic people often find the villages trash pile (which can be quite a find, with significant historic value). It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, we all have trash we just want to get rid of.
            And it is in just such a place that the religious leaders of Jesus' day, with the help of the Romans, took Jesus, the Son of God, the savior of the world, the Lord of lords and king of kings, to be crucified--discarded as unwanted, useless junk. They just wanted to get rid of him. And this was the ultimate insult. It was as if they said, you are no more to us than useless waste, trash to be thrown away on the garbage heap. And he was crucified between 2 criminals.

Luke 23:32-43
32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”

40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


Joseph, the Old Testament Connection
            There is another story from way back in Genesis that has some striking parallels to the crucifixion of Christ. The whole story is in Genesis 40.  Let me summarize it.  There was a Hebrew man named Jacob who had twelve sons.  His favorite was named Joseph and his favoritism made all his other sons extremely jealous.  When he gave his son a very nice, multi-colored coat, it was the last straw for Joseph's brothers.  When they got the chance, they beat him up, stole his coat, and sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt.  Joseph became a slave in a man named Potiphar's house.  And since Joseph was a bright young man and had the favor of God, Joseph did well in Potiphar's house and soon earned his trust and a high position in the household.  But Potiphar's wife was very attracted to Joseph.  She kept hitting on him, even though Joseph--because of his integrity--never gave into her advances.  One day, frustrated yet again by Joseph's refusing to sleep with her, Potiphar's wife accused Joseph of trying to rape her.  Potiphar was livid and had Joseph thrown in the dungeon.
            In prison, Joseph lived with two criminals.  One was Pharaoh's former cupbearer.  The other was Pharaoh's former chief baker.  The baker and the cupbearer was very disturbed one morning because they'd both had weird dreams.  Since Joseph had the gift of God to interpret dreams he listened and then explained what they meant.  To the cupbearer he said, "In three days, you will be brought before Pharaoh and he will forgive you and restore you to your former position."  To the baker he said, "You will also be brought before Pharaoh on the third day, but he will condemn and execute you."  And it happened just as Joseph predicted.
            Is there some connection here between the bread and the wine of holy communion (Jesus body and blood) and these two figures from the Joseph story in Genesis chapter 40?  A cup bearer carries a cup of wine and the chief Baker makes bread?
            There are many similarities between these two stories.  Joseph lived in prison with these two criminals. Jesus hung on a cross between two criminals.  Joseph was to become the savior of Egypt saving them from a devastating famine.  Jesus was the Savior of the world. saving us from sin and death for eternal life.  Joseph is famous for his fabulous coat of many colors.  Jesus also had a famous robe that had no seams, but was one continues piece of fabric.  It was so precious, the soldiers didn't want to cut it in pieces, so they gambled to see who would win the whole thing in one piece.  Perhaps most striking:  both the cup bearer and the chief baker found out their fates on the third day.  Jesus also rose from the grave on the third day.            One of the criminals on the cross beside Jesus mocks him.  We never sense any remorse for his crimes.  On the contrary, he wants to make a bargain to manipulate the Son of God (if that is indeed what Jesus is) to get him out of facing the consequences of his sins.  Presumably, this unrepentant criminal reaped the eternal punishment he deserved--similar to the fate of the chief baker in Joseph's story.  The other criminal on a cross beside Jesus was remorseful.  He didn't try to get out of his fate--as terrible and painful as it was.  Instead, he simply said to Jesus in verse 42, “...remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  And Jesus replied (in verse 43), “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 

Will Jesus Really Remember?
            It is this last exchange that really caught my attention the most.  “Jesus, remember me…”  That’s exactly what Joseph said to the cup bearer when he was released from prison:  “Please remember me and mention me to Pharaoh…”  You will remember that the cupbearer in Joseph's story forgot all about Joseph.  For two years, he forgot about Joseph until Pharaoh had a strange dream and needed someone to interpret it.            Well, these are all fascinating connections, but I'm a pastor and I love studying God's Word. You can call me a Bible nerd or a church nerd.  Of course I love these neat little tidbits.  But do they make any difference at all to you, to your life? Is there any significance for practical life? Yes! I think there's quite a bit of significance.  You see, we are very much like the criminals on the cross!
            Some among us want to make a bargain with Jesus.   If he is who he really says he is, why doesn’t he do something? I mean there are things in this life that just plain suck. Please forgive my language.  There is suffering and death.  People get depressed and kill themselves (or they go crazy and shoot up some school full of kids).
            A good friend of mine, only 56, a United Methodist pastor, Gene Sheffield, got cancer four years ago.  He died last Sunday.  He leaves behind a wife, a daughter, a son, a mother, and many friends and people like me who loved him.  What's worse, I can't be at his funeral because it's at the exact same time as my church's Easter Egg hunt (of which I'm in charge).  And it's not that I don't want to be at the Easter Egg hunt; I do.  I love seeing all the kids have fun and learn about Jesus.  And I love that it's one of the big outreach events we do for our community.  But I'd also like to be at Gene's memorial service--to remember and honor him and be there for his family and my other friends who knew and loved Gene.  But I can't be in two places at once.  So I had to choose.  And I chose the Easter Egg hunt.  And I wish I didn't have to choose.  Really, I wish friends and fathers and husbands didn't have to die too early because of cancer.  But that's the messed up world we live in.
            In a figurative way, we're all hanging on a cross suffering.  And sometimes I want to look over at Jesus cry out, "So you're the Son of God right? You have the power to save us and yourself. Why don't you do something?"             Or maybe, with God's help, we realize it's not his fault.  All this mess is our fault.   Jesus is innocent.  It's not God's fault this mess we're in.  God created the world perfect and us in it.  And in the Garden of Eden, Genesis tells us we walked and talked with God in perfect harmony.  And God gave us only one rule to prove our love was true--don't eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  And Adam and Eve ate it.  And we are all guilty.  For if we're honest, we've all done things we should not do or we have not done things we should.  That is sin.  And that is what makes our world broken.  We’re the ones who sinned and Jesus is innocent.  And maybe, with God's help, were able to say, “Your innocent and we're guilty and just getting what we deserve…”  And maybe, with God's help, we fall on her knees before God and say, “Lord forgive me! Jesus please remember me when you come into your Kingdom!”            This is what the remorseful criminal did as he cried out to Jesus from his cross. “Jesus remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  It wasn't long after that that Jesus died.   It doesn't tell us how much longer the thieves lived, but we know they lived on after Jesus died because the story says the soldiers cam to break the condemned legs so they would die faster.  They found Jesus was already dead.  They drove a spear in his side to make sure.  They found he was dead and they didn't need to break his legs.  But then they broke the other criminal's legs because they were still alive.  Breaking their legs prevented them from being able to push up on their nail pierced feet so as to pull more air into their lungs.  And so they would suffocate from the weight of their bodies hanging on the cross faster.  Death (mercifully, I suppose) would come faster.
            This is the situation we find ourselves in, most of us, if we believe in Jesus Christ. He promised he would remember us before his father, but we're still here hanging on a cross waiting… (OK, maybe that's a little dramatic, but do you see the figurative connection?)
            And we sometimes wonder, is Jesus like the cupbearer from Joseph's story?  Will he forget us when he comes into his Kingdom
 
There is Hope on Good Friday

            When you feel like you're in prison, alone and forgotten, remember:  Jesus hasn't forgotten!  When your sin makes you feel like you’re hanging on a cross and everyone’s mocking you, remember:  Jesus hasn't forgotten!  He is before the throne of God, pleading your case!  When you feel like all that’s left for you is a grave, remember: Jesus hasen't forgotten you.  Jesus rose on the Third Day, the first fruit of the resurrection.  He's the first fruit.  That means there's a second and a third and a fourth...  And we are the fruits yet to spring forth!
            Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Son of God, and he died on the cross for youHe’s not like the cup bearer who forgot Joseph in the Old Testament.  Jesus would never forget you.  He’s in his Kingdom right now, thinking of you, telling His father how much He loves you and forgives you.  

            Good Friday is for all of us who are still hanging on the cross dying and wondering if Jesus will indeed remember us. It's a test of our faith as we wait for Easter Sunday.  What situation, what problem, what agony are you suffering right now?  You've begged Jesus to remember you and you're trusting that he will, but in the meantime you still have to hang out here and wait. Will Easter Sunday indeed come? Will the tomb really open? Will you come up out of it into glory as Christ promised?
What do you think?

Yes. You. Will!
Yes!  It’s dark right now.  Yes! The light is fading.Yes!  We blow out the Christ candle at the end of our Good Friday service.
But that’s where faith kicks in! 
That’s where we begin to walk by faith and not by sight!
That’s where we find God’s strength is sufficient in our weakness!
That’s why we call this Friday “Good”!  Because Death cannot conquer our Savior!
“Where, O Death, is your victory?  Where, O Death, is your sting?”
Jesus is going into the grave this Friday, but He’s coming out on Sunday.

 
You’ll go into “graves” in this life too,
      you might hang on some crosses,
             you might even get locked in some prisons                    BUT LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING:
                        This very day, Jesus remembers you in His Kingdom!

And when the Day of the Lord comes,
        Just like Jesus,
                Your’re gonna get up out of that grave!
                       You’re gonna come down off of your cross!
                               You’re gonna walk right out of that prison!
                                        And you’re gonna be with the Lord in Paradise!
 
Amen?  Amen!


 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

Jesus Appears to His Disciples
            Sunday was the second Sunday of Easter.  Most people know Easter marks the day Jesus rose from the grave.  But not everyone knows there is a whole season of Easter that continues for several weeks after Easter Sunday.  Jesus appeared to his disciples on Easter, but he also appeared many times in bodily form over the next few weeks.  So for the next few weeks, we will study some of those stories.  And the main idea I want us to consider is does Christ still appear to people today?  Have you ever seen Jesus?  Have you ever  touched his scars and how? 
            I want to read a story from John 20:19-29, which details two separate times Jesus appeared to his disciples.  I will make some comments as we read through the passage.

John 20:19-20
19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord!
 
            First of all, I want you to notice Jesus came in peace.  Maybe you would be afraid to see Jesus.  I mean, if he really were alive and going to pay us a visit, we might be ashamed because of something we weren't doing right in life.  Or maybe we would be afraid he would be angry with us or would want to punish us.  The disciples were afraid.  They locked the doors to the upper room because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders.  But they might also have wondered if Jesus would be angry with them for the ways they had failed him.  Would he come to scold them or punish them? 
            But Jesus reassures the disciples saying , "I come in peace."  And Jesus' visit was a good thing. It filled the disciples with joy when they saw the risen Lord.  He was glad to see them and they were glad he came.  We don't have to be afraid to see Jesus either.  If he were to come pay a visit, he would come in peace.  He loves you and wants to reassure you.  It would be a good thing and would fill you with joy.  So don't be afraid to look for the risen Lord.
 
John 20:21-23
21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
 
            In Luke and Acts, the Holy Spirit does not come until the Day of Pentecost.  The Gospel of John seem to indicate the Holy Spirit was given in when Jesus met with the Disciples and Thomas (although some have said it this was just a symbolic act from Jesus to show the Holy Spirit would be given).  Whether the Holy Spirit came at this time or at another time or at multiple times, the main point of this passage is the Holy Spirit will always be with us.  That will be an important idea we will address again in a moment.  But first, let's go on with the passage.
 
John 20:24-25
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

            This was the first appearance of Jesus.  It happened on the first Easter Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the grave.  But the disciple Thomas was not with them.  We don't know where he was, but he wasn't there. (Maybe he was off having the oil changed in his camel.  We don't know...) 

John 20:26
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them.

            Here we have a second appearance of the risen Christ.  This one was one week later.  Again, it was on a Sunday.  So, notice, that both of these appearances happened on a Sunday.  Sunday is a special day.  It is known as "the Lord's Day."  Technically, Saturday is the Sabbath (the seventh day) because that is the day God rested after 6 days of creation work.  But here we see that right after Jesus rose, the Disciples are meeting together on Sundays.  And it became the custom for Christians to meet for worship on Sundays, which they called "The Lord's Day" because he rose on a Sunday.  Sunday is a special day.  Every Sunday is a little Easter.  And it would seem Sundays are a day when we can encounter the risen Christ in a special way when we gather in the church with other believers.  If you want to see the risen Christ, I recommend you start by going to church on Sunday.
 
John 20:26-27
The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
 
            Again, we see that Jesus comes in peace.  He is not angry or upset with Thomas or the other disciples.  Some have looked down on Thomas for needing proof.  The other disciples told him Jesus was alive and they had seen him, but Thomas said he wouldn't believe unless he saw it with his own eyes.  But there's no need to look down on Thomas.  He wasn't asking for anything the other Disciples hadn't already received.  And Jesus is not upset with him.  He wanted Thomas to believe, so he gave Thomas what he needed.  He wanted Thomas' faith to be secure.  And Thomas was convinced.  He said,
 
John 20:28-29
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.

29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”

            Right here at the end of the passage, we see that Jesus has made a distinction between the Disciples (who saw Jesus and believed) and us (who have not seen Jesus and yet still believe).  And Jesus said we are more blessed because we believe without seeing.

            The Disciples—including Thomas—were able to witness for Christ in an exceptional way because they saw the resurrected Christ.  In 1 John 1:1, the beloved disciple said, "We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life."  They had seen Jesus while he was alive.  They had seen him on the cross.  They saw him in the grave.  They saw him, heard him, and touched him after he rose from the grave.  Thus, they were absolutely convinced Jesus was alive and that he was their Lord and God (as Thomas put it).
            It had to be that way for the very first disciples.  There had to be a firm foundation.  I believe that is why the resurrected Christ appeared in bodily form to the 11 disciples and so many of the first Christians in the days immediately following Easter.  Jesus wanted to absolutely convince them so they could build a firm foundation for the church.  We needed them to see Jesus so we can be assured our faith is built on something solid.  And yet, Jesus also said we are more blessed because we have not seen. 

We Are More Blessed
            Jesus walked on the earth in bodily form after his resurrection for 40 days.  Then he ascended into heaven.  We recall this essential element of our faith every time we recite the Apostles' Creed.  We say, “…He rose from the grave, He ascended into heaven…”  Perhaps we do not experience the resurrected Christ now in the same way the disciples did in the first 40 days after his resurrection, because Jesus has ascended.  We can still see Christ.  He is not dead; he is alive!  But we may see him in a different way because he has ascended, whereas he appeared to the disciples in bodily form.
            Most Christians overlook how important it is that Jesus ascended to heaven.  Because Jesus ascended, we now have the Holy Spirit.  And through the Holy Spirit, Jesus can be present everywhere at once.  You see, a body can only be in one place at a time--it is limited by time and space.  That is why Thomas missed out of Jesus' appearance that first Sunday.  Remember, he wasn't in the room with the other.  He was off getting the oil changed in his camel or something.  Why didn't Jesus appear to the 10 disciples in the upper room and to Thomas at the same time down at the camel service station?  Jesus couldn't, because he was a body and not a spirit.
            But we are more blessed because now Jesus is present in the Holy Spirit and is not limited by time and space.  So Jesus can be present right here with me as I type the words of this blog and he can be present with you wherever you are reading them.  As the Holy Spirit, Jesus can be everywhere at once.
            We are also more blessed because we believe Jesus rose based on faith.  Faith is very powerful.  Faith helps us see Jesus in more ways than the Disciples did at first.  They could only believe if they saw his nail scarred hands.  But we can believe and see Jesus when we gather together to serve in God's name.  If we believe, we can see Jesus there in that moment.  If we believe, we can see Jesus when a mother loves her child sacrificially.  Through faith, we can see Jesus in her actions.  Through faith, we can see Jesus when a father forgives his son.  Through faith, we can see the risen Christ is with us when we take our own father to the hospital for a critical surgery.  Because we believe, we know we are not alone.  We can see Jesus through our Christian friends who support us and pray for us and help us when we need it most.  Faith helps us see Jesus is more than just a man's body walking around with nail scars on his hands and a wounded side.
            Increasing faith is the mark of mature Christians.  Think of those Disciples in this story; think of Thomas.  They were only baby Christians--just born really.  And They needed to see Jesus.  When we see a child, maybe two-years-old, that child might cling to its mother's leg.  It might not ever want to let go.  And if Mama leaves the room, the child's whole world falls apart and it is afraid and may even cry uncontrollably until Mama comes back into the room.  That's normal for a two-year-old.  But eventually, the child grows up and matures and becomes a college student and may even move away to another town to attend school.  You wouldn't want that child to still be clinging to its mother's leg all the time.  No.  The child is grown up now and has faith that their mother is still there.  She is still alive.  She still loves them.  They will still see each other again.  And so it is with more mature Christians.  We don't need to see Jesus in bodily form all the time with us.  Through faith we trust he is there. 
            The Disciples would eventually mature in this way too.  At the beginning, like babies, they needed to see Jesus with them.  But they would eventually grow up and spread out to do amazing things because their faith matured.  Thomas' faith led him to travel all the way to India.  To this day, there is a community of Christians in India that trace the founding to the Disciple Thomas who brought the story of the risen Jesus to their community.  Faith is a powerful thing.

We Must See Jesus
            Jesus is alive.  He is not dead.  And we can see the risen Christ, through faith.  He still appears to us today.  He may not appear in bodily form as he did for the disciples and Thomas in our scripture reading, but he shows up in other ways.  Do you have faith to see him?
            It is not enough to just know Christ intellectually.  It is not enough to read and memorize the things he said or to know historical facts about him.  We must actually see him, in some sense, so we know he is alive and real and participating in our lives.  It is not enough to be a Christian because your parents or grandparents were.  It is not enough to be a religious person who follows the religious program of Jesus and his Church.  It is not enough to mumble an empty prayer into the air, not believing there is a living Savior listening.  No. You must see that Jesus is alive and he is here and he is listening to your prayer and will answer according to his great wisdom, power, and love.  We will probably see Jesus is different ways than the Disciples, but we can still see him.  We need to see him, through faith. 
            Jesus showed the Disciples and Thomas his scars to prove it was really him.  You see, he wanted them to believe.  He wanted Thomas to believe.  That's why he came back a second time when Thomas was there.  Thomas said he wouldn't believe in less he saw Jesus and his scars for himself.  So Jesus came, because Jesus wants all his followers to believe.  And if that's what it took for Thomas, that's what Jesus was willing to do.
            Which proof do you need in order to believe?  Jesus wants you to believe.  He is willing to help you.  Maybe you don't need to see the scars like Thomas, but you might need something.  What is it?  Why don't you ask Jesus to show you?  He wants you to be secure in your faith.  So why not ask him to help?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Genesis, Part 2 - Abraham

Introduction
            This is the second in a series of blogs about Genesis, the first book of the Bible.  Last time, we examined the story of creation. God created humanity in Adam and Eve. Everything was perfect in the beginning, but they sinned and brought on the corruption of all creation—leading to evil and suffering. Yet God had a plan to restore people (and all creation) to a right relationship with God. God’s plan began with a man named Abram (later God changed his name to Abraham). God’s the plan of salvation—from the beginning—was based upon faith and we see that faith exemplified in Abraham.  Note:  Abraham was originally called Abram, but God changed his name to Abraham.  Thus, Abram and Abraham refer to the same man in scripture and this blog.

Genesis 12:1-6
1The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.

So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.

The Chaldean Empire
Why Leave?
            In hind sight, it’s easy for us to say, God blessed Abraham.  Three of the world’s major religions call Abraham their father—over half of the world’s current population.  For Christians, Abraham is a hero, and his story is an essential part of our faith.  It is easy for us to admire him, because we know how his story turned out and the huge influence he had on the world.  However, we mustn’t forget Abraham’s did not know what we know. He did not know how things would turn out, but he did know what he was leaving behind.
            Abraham was born and lived in Ur of the Chaldeans[i].  The Chaldean empire was a wealthy, safe, and advanced civilization. They were a world power.  You can thank the Chaldeans the next time you drive a car; they invented the wheel.  Do you like looking out a window?  The Chaldeans discovered how to make glass.  They developed astronomy and were some of the first people to use a writing system and a yearly calendar with 12 months.  They invented the sundial[ii] and developed an advanced form of mathematics.  How many seconds are in a minute? You can thank the Chaldeans for that too.[iii] 
            I grew up thinking Abraham and Sarai were nomads who had always lived in tents and tended goats.  However, Abraham and his wife Sarai (later renamed Sarah) were city folk.  They grew up and lived in what was in their time the equivalent of New York City.  And God told them to leave the comforts of Ur to go off on a trek to some unknown land, all the while living in tents—far from everything they knew: the comforts of city life, their hometown, their family, friends, business relations, etc.
            So we look at the story and think, “Sure. It makes sense for Abraham to go when God calls.” But that’s not what people in Abraham’s day would have thought. Imaging the questions they would've asked: 
 
Chaldeans:  "Where are you going Abraham? How long will the journey take?"
Abraham:  "I don’t know. God will show me when I get there."
Chaldeans:  "Who is this God? Where is his temple? Where is his statue?"  (The Chaldeans gods all had an idol and a temple.)
Abraham:  "My God doesn’t have a temple or a statue. My God is invisible."
Chaldeans:  "What are you going to eat?"
Abraham:  "The Lord will provide."
Chaldeans:  "How will you get to this ‘Promised Land’?"
Abraham:  "My invisible God will show me the way."
Chaldeans:  "How can this ‘Promised Land’ your 'invisible god' is taking you to possibly be better than our incredible city?"
Abraham: I don’t know, but if God says it is better, it must be far better than anything we could imagine."

            All Abraham had was his faith in God. And his faith was the key to God’s blessing.  You might protest, “But Abraham was a holy man.”  No, not really. He was a sinner—just like you and me.  Abraham did some very questionable things: he lied multiple times, he killed, he became frustrated with God, he had sexual relations with multiple women other than his wife...  The Bible says Abraham was a righteous man, but it also says he was righteous because of his faith.  It was not good deeds that made him righteous.
            “But Abraham spoke to God.” Yes, but we can all speak to God through prayer.  And God speaks to all of us as well (through the Bible and other ways).  We just have to cultivate sensitive ears—through practice and (most importantly) through faith and obedience.
We are all called by God.  But who really answers the call? 
           I saw a post on Facebook this week that said, “Do y’all ever wish God would just walk into your room and sit on your bed and say, ‘OK, so this is what you should do…’”
            This is a common feeling. The problem is our attitude. God knows your heart. And God knows that—for most of us—if He did indeed come into our room and sit down on the bed and say, “OK, so this is what you should do…” Most of us would be like, “Yeah but…”
            We are a lot less like Abraham than we should be. We do not have the faith of Abraham. We want to argue with God. We want to explain ourselves or our situation (as if God doesn’t already know everything about you and your life and hasn’t already considered everything at a deeper level than you will ever be capable of…).
            And we always have written Word of God’s in the Holy Bible.  In these pages are already written so many of the answers to our questions if only we would read and obey.  We say “But I don’t understand the Bible…” That’s not necessarily true. There may be some parts you do not understand (maybe even a good bit you do not understand). But there are also many parts of the Bible that are very plain and easy to understand, and yet we still struggle to obey them:
  • “Do not worship any God accept the Lord.” “Do not steal.” “Do not bear false witness.” “Do not covet.” (Exodus 20)
  • “Don’t be greedy…” (Colossians 3:5)
  • The Bible is plain that we should engage in “…quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.” (2 Corinthians 12:20)
We all struggle with these things, though they are easy to understand.  God speaks plainly to us about them, but we still don’t listen.
            But you say, “It’s still not the same. Writing is one thing, but if only God would speak to me, I would listen.”  Really?  If writing is not as valuable as speaking, why do we have the expression, “I gonna need to see that in writing”?  When you buy a house or a car, you sign a written contract. Everything is spelled out in writing. And you better obey the contract (even the fine print) or you will be in trouble!  Wouldn’t you comply if your boss wrote you an email or sent you a memo directing you to complete some task? Yes you would (or you would be in trouble). In many cases, it is preferred to have the request in writing so you can be very clear what is expected and you can refer to it again and again for clarification.  For those who are in sales: Don’t you often receive written purchase orders? Some purchases must be in writing to be valid.  
            So why is it so important to us that God speak to us in person rather than through the writing of His Bible?  It all comes down to faith. We want God to speak to us so we have some proof He is real. And yet, even that would not be enough.
            Jesus was real.  Jesus was flesh and blood.  Jesus spoke to people, healed people, taught people, fed people, and walked with people.  In case that were not enough, Jesus died on a cross for people. Then on the third day, Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to over 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6).  And yet many people still did not believe or obey him.  The problem is not God or the methods He chooses to speak to us. The problem is our lack of faith and unwillingness to obey. 

Children of Abraham 
            Galatians 3:7 – “The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.”  If you are to be a child of God, you must trust in Him more than anything else.  Do not trust in your money.  Do not put your hopes in your marriage.  Do not let your family be the most important thing in your life.  Do not cling to your heritage or your hometown or your traditional way of life.  If you feel too at home in this world, watch out! You are in danger of missing out on the promise of God.  Why would you leave all these things behind when God calls if you trust or love them more than God? And if you don’t answer the call of God, you are—of all people—to be pitied.  What good does it do a man to gain the whole world and loose his own soul?
            God Calls us all, but who is willing to answer? Who is really a child of God, a spiritual ancestor of Abraham?

How is God calling you today?
  • Calling you to receive Christ - to turn away from your own selfish ambitions and to choose to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior
  • Calling you to join a church
  • Calling you to be baptized as a sign of your faith
  • Calling you to be a minister - we are all ministers, but some are called to be pastors who work in a church
  • Calling you to serve in another way besides as a pastor
  • Will you trust and obey?
[i] http://www.chaldeanfoundation.org/about/the-chaldean-community/a-rich-history/
[ii] https://chaldea.wikispaces.com/Writing+and+Inventions
[iii] https://www.reference.com/history/did-babylonians-invent-a76f38a049b91fbf