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Abraham: Lessons in the Desert  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Series Introduction

Most families have their matriarchs and patriarchs. My grandfather was the Patriarch of the Sharpe family. He was our root. We all traced our ancestry back to him. He held a significant place of leadership - when he spoke we respectfully listened (doesn’t mean he always said the right thing) No one opened the presents without him. Abraham is the patriarch of the family of God. All Christians can trace their ancestry - their spiritual ancestry back to him. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - God would say when revealing himself to people in the Old Testament. This series is about Abraham, the father of our faith. He is an excellent example of faith - not an unwavering faith, but an enduring faith (repeat).

Sermon Introduction

This morning we’re going to look at Abraham. If you are new or unfamiliar with the United Methodist Church, you might be surprised to learn about the appointment system (described)…we are called, but we aren’t given all of the details;
we all are under the appointment system - if you are a baptized believer, God has called you. called you to ministry; called you to a certain place, to certain people, sometimes for a season, sometimes for the long term; it’s not wrong to buy a home, plan your life, and say “I want to retire here.” But so many Christians have heard the same call Abraham heard - Go from your country! You might hear it too.
We’re going to look at Abraham’s call this morning, and I want you all to be thinking about God’s call on your life. Some of you have experienced (or are experiencing this). Some of you have not. Abraham’s call helps us understand God’s call on our lives.

This Call lacks clarity, but not assurance.

Genesis 12:1 NIV
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
Genesis 12:1–2 NIV
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
This Call is Unexplainable - why does this happen in the first place? Adam. Noah. Babel.
Why Abraham was even call at all makes no sense. There is no obvious reason why Abraham, who lived in a pagan nation with too many gods to count, was called. He didn’t say, “Abraham, here are the spiritual gifts and talents that would make you the right person for this job.” You might think, “Abraham had the gift of faith, (and didn’t Jesus say something about faith that could move mountains?) so that’s why God chose him.” Stick around for the rest of the sermon series: his faith isn’t always that strong. Not only does the choice of Abraham make no sense...
The destination is not clear. I don’t like vague driving directions. My college roommate worked his way through college by delivering pizza’s - before the GPS days when you just relied on the people ordering the pizza. “My house is by the high school.” It’s dark outside and there are a dozen houses by the high school (which was by the middle school.) Just head down Route 206 and when you hit the main drag you’ll know it. Street names that had been changed. Signs that did not exist. Campus buildings without the names on them. Traveling with vague directions was an expected part of the job. Abraham has been given vague directions. Just pack up, and we’ll talk about your destination on the way.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel comfortable agreeing to something without some details. But our calling doesn’t always work that way. Abraham obeyed God’s vague directions, but God gave him enough assurance to give Abraham the faith to get him out of his seat and go where God was sending him. God doesn’t always give us clarity, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t being called. Abraham doesn’t wait for clarity, because God has given him assurance. Go from your country, and I will show you. You will be a blessing. How do you know you are answering God’s call? Are you blessing those around you? Is your life about you or those around you?
Well just head down this road, there’s some trees on the right hand side and just a little beyond that you’ll see my house. You can’t miss it. and I don’t like it when my GPS
But he had just enough faith to get him out of his seat and going where God was sending him.

The Call is assuring

If you think you know why God has shown his grace to you, then you don’t understand grace at all. Grace is underserved. If it was deserved we would call it something else. We sing the song Amazing Grace, because grace is amazing - its unexplainable.
Genesis 12:2 NIV
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
Genesis 12:2

The Call is costly, but not impossible.

Genesis 12:4–5 NIV
So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
Genesis 12:
It’s important for us to set life goals. I want to have this number of children, save enough for them to attend college, (you can type this data on the internet and get an exact amount that you want to save) and then retire and vacation alot. When I think of being 75 years old, I think of being geographically settled. Hopefully close to family and close friends. Which sounds like a more ideal retirement: settle down near the grandchildren, vacation, take the grandchildren on vacation. OR: Uproot my household and move away from family and never see them ago.
God says to Abraham, leave your people and your father’s household. That’s a huge cost. Family ties are valuable. Important. In the ancient world family ties brought financial stability. When God calls you to ministry, it comes with a cost. It will cost you your time. Your comfort. Your leisure time. In another words, God’s call is a call to generosity.
The call is costly (and this is enough to discourage people), but not impossible.

The Call leads to barriers, but not boundaries.

The Call leads to barriers, but not boundaries.

Genesis 12:6 NIV
Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
Colleague: 1st Sunday of a new appointment he hears voices coming from downstairs. He notices that his wife and kids are still upstairs, so goes down to check it out. He’s in his bathrobe, and comes down to see a group of church members in his living room setting up chairs and plugging in a coffee maker. “Our Sunday School class has been meeting here for years.” “We’ve always done it this way.” He was told the parsonage was his home, but not in the full sense of the word. One of his first executive decisions was to kick some church members out of his home.
Abraham is promised land, and he gets there and it’s occupied. The Canaanites were in the land. This is a significant barrier, but I’m going to make a distinction between a barrier and a boundary. A boundary is a God imposed limitation. A boundary is like the “do not cross” police tape. You don’t just get annoyed and push them aside and keep moving. God gives us boundaries for our own good.
Boundaries are important in ministry. A group of teenagers (okay, I was one of them) were concerned about a youth who had drifted away the church and gotten involved in some pretty bad stuff. That’s good. We gathered in front of his house, prayed, and then “sign” his house - putting several signs in his yard inviting him back to church. That was a well intended ministry that crossed a boundary, especially since his dad turned out to be a police officer.
And then there are barriers when it comes to God’s call. God does not call us to ministry without barriers. On the mission field (foreign, national) there are language and cultural barriers. Stepping outside of our building and doing a new ministry (participating with one of our ministry partners, going outside your usual circle of friends to share the Gospel, you can expect barriers. Let’s not forget the barriers Jesus encountered - take up your cross and follow me, he said. That sounds like a ministry with barriers.
A group of teenagers (okay, I was one of them) thought it would be a great idea to reach out to a youth who had drifted away from the life of the church. That’s good.
One way we resist God’s call is to start naming barriers. We can’t do that, we don’t have time, I’ve never done that before. That’s too expensive. I’ve never done that before. That’s impossible. Those are barriers, but they are not boundaries. Instead of naming barriers when God calls us, we should start with naming blessings.

Our response is quiet, but public.

Our response is quiet, but public.

Genesis 12:8 NIV
From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.
Genesis 12:
what did Abraham do when he pitched his tent? put down some roots (they were shallow ones) he worshipped. think about this - he is not quietly doing his devotional, or gathering his family to be with a body of believers on a Sunday morning; he has no spiritual family - he’s it; he’s surrounded by people who don’t share his faith at all, and he sets up a place of worship in a society of strangers; this is an act of public witness; he just does what he’s supposed to do;
settled into a pattern of worship (Daniel?)
What is public witness today? Throughout American history Christian protesting has been seen as an act of public witness: Christians have organized themselves to protest slavery; women’s voting rights; Civil Rights; War, Abortion, Sexuality, health care or just angry Christians who aren’t quite sure why they’re there.
I’ve never been apart of a protest, but I remember the most bizarre Christian protest I’ve ever seen. Back when I was a student at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell made a controversial decision: He invited a homosexual, Episcopal priest to preach at his services. He realized that the rhetoric was becoming so heated that it lost all form of Christian witness.
There were 3 protests going on outside: 1) Christians who wanted greater inclusivity in the church. 2) Christians calling the nation back to traditional family values. 3) The fanatical Westboro Baptist Church who just hated. The 3 groups were situated in 3 different places, all within earshot of one another.
Notice there are no examples of organized protests in the Bible. Not because they are necessarily wrong. But in the ancient world that got you killed; same in other countries; America’s free speech allows that, but does it convince a polarized public? Public protesting can be a form of witness, but the greatest witness is a life of disciplined prayer, Scripture and righteous deeds, and verbally sharing the message of Jesus Christ.
in the ancient world that got you killed; same in other countries; America’s free speech allows that, but does it convince a polarized public? Public protesting can be a form of witness, but the greatest witness is a life of disciplined prayer, Scripture and righteous deeds.
I’m not saying that Christians should never participate in an organized protest, but I am saying that when they do, they should ask, “Is a good Christian witness?”
Jim: lunch; the gift of evangelism, had a knack for initiating conversations with strangers about anything; so often he would share the Gospel in words (use words if necessary? they are necessary!) (We don’t talk about Jesus, we just act like him. If you want to act like Jesus, don’t forget to use words!) Jim was known for that, but he was also (and more importantly) known for coming in to restaurants in the morning for coffee and a devotional; coming to the local restaurants and praying with friends over a meal; offering encouragement and comfort, all which paved the way for verbally sharing the message of Jesus Christ.
Like I said at the beginning, we are all under the appointment system. God has not called us to settle - that’s where we get Jesus wrong, we become too settled. This summer I want you all to start thinking about God’s calling on your life: It’s not always clear at first, but God assures us. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. We will encounter barriers. But all of this is so we can bless the world with out public witness.
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