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Faithlife

Controlled By Fear (and other things)

Abraham  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Notes & Transcripts
If you are in Christ, you are called by God. That’s the overarching message of this series on Abraham: Abraham was called out of his homeland, away from his family, away from his comfortable social circle, and out into a strange new world. As we look at Abraham’s calling, we will look at our own.
One of the reasons why it’s hard for us to hear God’s call (or maybe hear God’s call but ignore it) is that we want to accept God on our terms. We want to make God in our own image.
what does a calling do? makes us accept God on his terms, not ours
Years ago when I lived in Montgomery County I was seeing a doctor in Bethesda - I was living in Rockville, so rather than fight traffic and find a garage, I took the Metro. I would get off at the Bethesda station, and I noticed a small Yoga place right outside the station. They had brochures sitting out so I took one - there was a coupon for a free session. I really stepped outside of myself one day and I walked into the building where they were having sessions. I didn’t do the session: I didn’t have the proper clothes on (that was my excuse) plus it looked awkward. But I listened. I remember something the instructor said to the class as she talked to the class about meditation: Focus on god, a higher power, or however you want to understand the supernatural.
That made me think as I was riding the Metro home that afternoon: do we really want to know God as he is, or would we prefer to know god who fits our worldview, who meets our particular needs, who is there when we need him.
A call from God forces us to meet God on His terms, not ours. A call forces challenges to follow God’s plan, not ours. If we follow God’s call, we will grow to know God as he really is, not who we want him to be.
Last week Abraham received his call. He’s asked to leave his family, his homeland, his security.
haven’t heard a calling? Listen! Pray!
Last week Abraham received his call. He’s asked to leave his family, his homeland, his security. God calls him out of his homeland, but Abraham still has to make decisions along the way. In today’s lesson, Abraham is in the land God has promised him, although the land really isn’t his yet, because there are people living there. And then there is another problem: famine.
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Speaking of Famine, this week a group of youth and adults participated in a program called 30 Hour Famine - they fasted from 9am Thursday, and broke the fast yesterday with communion at 3pm (or close to it) Fasting is a ancient Christian discipline. It’s not a holy weight loss program, it’s not just doing without something, but fasting is about denying physical cravings to focus on God. But the other purpose of the 30 Hour Famine is to get a small glimpse of what true hunger is like - that so many people experience every day.
In our story today there is a famine in the land. Lack of rain, hail, insects, even war could bring on famine. The food wouldn’t grow - that’s scary for an agrarian society that lives off the land. So Abraham has to make some decisions: do I stay here and try to stick it out, or do I relocate my family until the famine ends.
Today’s sermon is a focus on the decisions Abraham makes in this story. God calls us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make decisions along the way; Abraham, which is obvious from the story, makes a terrible decision to put it mildly. Abraham allows his wife to be taken into a king’s harem is a precaution.He’s not always the man of faith that we know him to be.
God calls us, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make decisions; ever pray about something that is out of your hands? (kids at school) I can only control so much of what happens. But some things I can control. (ex?) God, why do you allow this to happen? Answer: I’m asking you the same thing!
What makes it possible for Abraham to make such a bad decision? While I look at this, let’s ask the same question of ourselves - what guides our decision making?
The first thing we see in the story is that Abraham is vulnerable.
Abraham makes a bad decision: summary - our calling takes us to places where faith is difficult;
Sermon
Environment not always conducive to faith: (reasons for bad decision)
God’s barriers - famine in the land; God promised the land - first the land is occupied, then there is a famine which makes the land uninhabitable (disappointing vacation home - looked good in the brochure, reality is something different) ; poverty, hunger are Abraham’s barriers; how big are our barriers?
Genesis 12:10 NIV
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.
Genesis 20:10 NIV
And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
environment not conducive to faith
Genesis 12:10 NIV
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.
Genesis 12:10
vulnerability - survival, being an outsider, subject to someone else’s control
I’m going to use the word vulnerable, to describe how our lives can be affected by things that our out of our hands.
Thursday and Friday, the youth experienced hunger -not starvation, but hunger. Hunger has physical effects, but it also affects in other ways. Think of a time when your blood sugar drops because you missed lunch. You get irritable. Tempted (segregated at Farming 4 Hunger). Buy more at the grocery store.
Other examples: hospital visit where someone is waiting for a diagnosis (or received a bad one). The anxiety over losing a job. You’re vulnerable.
Abraham is vulnerable. He’s moved his family to a hostile land. He’s living among Egyptians (not anti-Egyptian). As a foreigner he is viewed with suspicion by his neighbors. The laws that protect citizens do not apply to foreigners.
After her dad loses his job during the Great Depression, Hannah’s family moves to rural Minnesota, where she is the only Jewish child in her class. When her teacher tries to arrange carpools for a Saturday class picnic, Hannah is upset. Her Jewish family is observant, and she knows she cannot ride on the Sabbath. What will she do? A lovely story of friendship and community.
survival, being an outsider, subject to someone else’s control
survival, being an outsider,
subject to someone else’s control
Genesis 12:12 NIV
When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.
Genesis 12:12
He has a pretty wife, with a king that has the right to take her (and kill the husband). Fear is a strong motivator. Abraham has every right to be afraid.
During the bombing raids of World War II, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, "Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow."
Fear is a powerful force.
Dennis Linn;Sheila Fabricant Linn;Matthew Linn. Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life (Kindle Locations 23-24). Kindle Edition.
What makes you afraid? Does fear affect your relationship wth God? Are you controlled by fear? Fear of financial instability (inhibits our giving). Fear of rejection (resist sharing the Gospel, doing what we can to please others and blend in).
“helping” God
Dennis Linn;Sheila Fabricant Linn;Matthew Linn. Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life (Kindle Locations 21-23). Kindle Edition.
Genesis 12:13 NIV
Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
God has made it clear to Abraham that he has a plan for him. God tells Abraham that he’s goi
We don’t trust God, or we don’t think God is moving fast enough. Or we haven’t taken the time to discern - discernment takes time. Hearing from God takes time.
When do we act and when do we wait for God to act?
3 sources of discernment: unhurried prayer, dwelling in Scripture (guide you morally), Godly counsel. If we don’t have these things, it will be hard to properly discern what God is telling us. If we don’t know what God is telling us, it’s hard to trust God.
God has
2 flaws:
a half truth - deception
Lack of concern for Sarai’s vulnerability
What was his “end” game? How can he inherit the land while stuck in Egypt, unless he planned to leave his wife. He has lost sight of the call.
Genesis 12:17 NIV
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.
Genesis 12:16 NIV
He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
There is no such thing as personal morality or personal behavior. (example: co-worker at Sears Parts Department; smell, got up the nerve to say something - in anger “mind your business.” It became our business.
Our actions always affect someone else. We are reckless with our health, someone else might end up taking care of us. We become bitter towards God or someone else, it affects our relationships.
Sometimes our actions will not always directly affect us - just other people.
Abraham’s actions - as a result of his half truth he gets “blessed” as a result of his deception and trafficking his wife.
What was his “end” game? How can he inherit the land while stuck in Egypt, unless he planned to leave his wife. He has lost sight of the call.
Genesis 12:17 NIV
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.
Pharoah was hardly innocent - I think we can all agree that harems are particularly bad. He is punished because of Abraham’s deception.
pharoah
Genesis 12:15 NIV
And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.
This is pretty serious. Sarah was affected most deeply. She became part of Pharaoh’s harem, she was placed in service to the king of Egypt. The phrase “taken into his palace” in the ancient world strongly implied sexual activity.
Sarai
I think what can bother us the most about this story is that things are looking good for Abraham in terms of wealth, it is his wife that pays the consequences.
Genesis 12:20 NIV
Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
Genesis 12:29
So far it is pretty clear that God has called Abraham to bless the world. It is also pretty clear that Abraham has lost sight of the call
He has a pretty wife, with a king that has the right to take her (and kill the husband).
ever pray about something that is out of your hands? (kids at school) I can only control so much of what happens. But some things I can control. (ex?) God, why do you allow this to happen? Answer: I’m asking you the same thing!
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