Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sarah Day 2: Trusting and Obeying

The first step toward forgiveness is to understand why we tell lies. Mark (Meadows, a sociology professor at San Diego's Union Institute,) says, "People lie for two reasons: to protect themselves or to protect others."....Abraham was afraid, but that didn't excuse his moral failure. It made it harder for Sarah to trust and obey him in the future.

We've seen that Abraham and Sarah were partners in their pilgrimage as well as in the promises of God. For the Lord to fulfill His covenant with Abraham to make him a great nation and bless his seed, Sarah had to be included in the deal. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.

Heading in an unexpected direction caused Abraham to fear--and we know that fear is the opposite of faith. His lapse in faith put Sarah in a compromising situation. Sarah even agreed to a lie. Scripture is silent concerning how Sarah felt about the lie, but we know that God protected her while she was staying with Pharaoh.

But God can turn failures into bright futures. Remember,"God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them" (Romans 8:28).

Today's scripture reading comes from Genesis 12:10-20.

1. Describe what happened "now."

A famine came upon the land where Abram and Sarai were living, so they journeyed to Egypt, where they could find food.

2. a. Explain what Abraham feared and how he handled it.

He was afraid that he would be harmed if they knew that beautiful Sarah was his wife. So he asked her to lie and claim to be his sister. That way, he wasn't harmed, and Pharaoh took Sarah into his home.

b. What does this teach you about him?

He didn't fully trust God to take care of them in Egypt. He put his own concerns about his safety over the desire to tell the truth, and therefore was not forthcoming to Pharoah, and therefore not forthcoming with God.

3. a. Recount what happened to Sarah.

Sarah was taken to Pharoah and lived with him in his household.

b. How might this have made her feel?

She might have felt that Abraham was more concerned with saving his own skin than taking care of her, even though she was supposed to be his beloved, and supposed to be one with him.

4. Contrast the lives of Abraham and Pharaoh during this season.

Pharaoh was rich and lived in splendor. Abraham was living on the road in a tent, in a caravan with smelly animals. Pharaoh had others at his beck and call. When Abraham entered Egypt, he only had Sarah and Lot, and those who they had acquired earlier. Though Abraham was married to Sarah, Pharaoh was the one who got to enjoy her beauty while in Egypt. Abraham was fearful for his life, but ended up faring well during this time. Pharaoh thought he had nothing to fear, but because of Sarah, ended up losing much within his household.

5.a. Who rectified the situation?

The Lord did through Pharaoh, when he cursed his household, which led Pharaoh to tell Abraham to take Sarah and leave the country.

b. What lesson can you learn for your life?

Things might seem to work out by telling lies and not trusting the Lord, but they would work out easier, and possibly quicker, with His plan and His help.

6. Put yourself in Sarah's place, and describe how you think this final outcome might have made her feel.

Sarah had to have mixed emotions. She had to have been fearful while with Pharaoh, but at the same time, may have felt betrayed by Abraham. She would be relieved to be back in his arms and happy that he had prospered while in Egypt, but may have been sorry to leave the splendor that she enjoyed while in Egypt.

7. True faith begins where human resources end. When food ran out, so did Abraham's faith. Journal about a time when one of your necessities dried up and how it affected your faith. What did God teach you, and how did you grow from the experience?

It has just now occurred to me how like Abraham's situation--and how I showed faith like Abraham--or the lack thereof to be honest, I was in the summer before I met Chris. I was employed, but the county I was working for did not pay over 12 months. They expected us to keep back enough paycheck to make it through the summer. Guess who didn't do that?? Yep, that would be me! Call me an inexperienced 20 something if you wish, but I still think that it was a ridiculous thing to propose to your employees! Nevertheless, that was the situation. Now add to this that I was being required to take classes toward becoming certified to teach a specific educational population, and that this county was offering me NOTHING in the way of assistance. Again, with my inexperience, that was probably part of the reason I didn't have anything saved for the summer, what with the cost of graduate level classes and books!

So I came upon summer with NO income, no place to stay in Charlottesville while taking classes, and no real way to pay for it. I did do one thing that the Lord prompted and applied for a loan through The United Methodist Church. But there is where my sense stopped. If I had trusted the Lord and paid UVA immediately what I owed them, I feel sure that the Lord would have better provided. But instead, I took matters into my own hands and used the money that had been loaned to me to pay such necessities as rent and food instead of for the classes. Then I had no money to pay for classes!

The situation worsened. I got hired in another county and had to go another month without a pay check. I just got deeper in debt, and didn't fully pay off what I owed to UVA. It took me several years to rectify the situation. If I had only trusted God, I'm sure it would have gone much better!

8. Fear and faith cannot coexist. One ultimately consumes the other. "Fear not" is a repetitive scriptural command. Place a check in the appropriate box th indicate the things that make you afraid.

YES Loneliness: "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed" (Isaiah 41:10).

YES Weakness: "Fear not...I will help you" (Isaiah 41:14).

NO Insignificance: "Fear not...I have called you by your name" (Isaiah 43:1).

NO Enemies: "Be not fear nor be afraid of them" (Deuteronomy 31:6).

YES Embarrassment: "Fear not; for thou shall not be ashamed" (Isaiah 54:4).

NO Death: "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" (Matthew 10:28).

Journal a prayer asking God to give you faith to overcome your fear. Tell Him that you will walk in faith despite your feelings.

How strange, Lord, that I fear things such as being lonely or embarrassed, when I know you are with me at all times! Give me strength to face these fears, and give me your peace while I face them and more. Remind me that you are with me ALWAYS, even in these things that I fear!

9.a. We reaffirmed that "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1 NIV). List some of the ways you are choosing to walk by faith and not by sight.
Asking about my new job, and then asking for money to help pay for it
Applying for school
Asking about this job, and taking it, though it means some unknowns
Devoting time each day to exercise and do Bible study even when I may not feel like it
Devoting 2 hours a week to pray for strangers that are connected to me through Twitter only

b. What scriptural promises are you holding on to, waiting to see their fulfillment?

Honestly, none, because I see their fulfillment in my life each day! God has lead me through many rough times, and though on days like today when I am fighting pain and frustration, I know that He has not brought this upon me. He is giving me a way to seek Him through the pain, and to witness of His love and kindness through it all. He is laying before me EXACTLY what I need, and granting me what I need before I even have the words or forethought to ask! He is wonderful and mighty, all-knowing, and He is KING!

Too late Abraham learned that it's impossible to run from your problems, because oftentimes YOU turn out to be the problem. In Canaan he was afraid of famine. In Egypt he feared foul play. One bad choice led to another--fleeing opened the way to fibbing.

Today's lesson ends with a powerful quote from George Muller:
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith; and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.