Archive for October, 2011

ABRAHAM, FRIEND OF GOD(Pt. 4)

“And the LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has spoken to him'”(Genesis 18:17-18 NKJV).

THE PROPHET, ABRAHAM

Abraham moved God as his friend not only because of his faith and obedience to follow Him, not knowing where he was going, but also by his prayers. If the Law of first mention in the Bible applies, then Abraham is the first man called by God “a prophet who will pray for you and you will live”(Genesis 20:7a). Abraham’s prayers brought healing and life to king Abimilech’s household.   Now his prayers will be the means by which Lot (and any other ” righteous” trapped in Sodom) is delivered.

Prayer is an identifying mark of those God counts His friends. God loves to share inside information with friends. Not merely because they can keep a secret, but because they will avail themselves of the privilege of approaching His throne of grace and mercy to shape the course of human History. Prayer is one of the most awesome weapons in the believer’s arsenal, and yet the least used to defeat the plans of the enemies of God. Abraham, armed with the knowledge of Sodom and Gomorrah’s pending destruction, begins to entreat and petition God. “Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?… Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?”(Genesis 18:22-23,25 NKJV).

Abraham’s confidence and faith was based on the friendship he’d developed and the knowledge of the unchanging character of the LORD God.  God is both a Just God but also Merciful to those whose hearts are towards Him. When you know what the character of God is like, you are very bold to approach His throne. His throne is not only one of judgment, but at His throne “Mercy and truth…have kissed each other”(Ps. 85:10).

ABRAHAM, THE FATHER OF MANY NATIONS

God had so placed the seed of His heart and life in Abraham, which he, like His heavenly Father, could think and act like Him. Already the Nations had been scattered upon the face of the earth (See Genesis 11), but the LORD God was not willing to give them up. He had found a man in Abraham who would share His burden for a world groping it’s way toward eternity, who would participate in His plan of Redemption. “In thy seed shall all the Nations of the earth be blessed”(Genesis 12:2-3).

The writer to the Hebrew believers explains the faith of Abraham, ’’Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude–innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore”(Hebrews 11:12 NKJV).  Is this not the real and critical issue above all else in the daily tension in the Middle East?  God,from the beginning, has wanted a people for Himself in His “forever family” for all eternity?  John is given such a view from heaven, “And when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints, and they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open it’s seal; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood, out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”(Rev. 5:8-9 NKJV).

THE BANQUETING TABLE

Abraham’s friendship was not dependent on what he could do for God, but what he believed God would do both for him and in him. And so it is true for all who reach out to the God of Abraham today, by faith they are brought into Abraham’s bosom and declared his children. “Just as Abraham ‘believed God, it was counted to him as righteousness’. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham. And the scriptures foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed’. So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham”(Galatians 3:6-9 NKJV).

One day those who have believed will be privileged  to sit and feast with Abraham,as Jesus foretold.  “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 8:11 NKJV).  This banquet celebration will be one that beats any banquet ever known on earth.

What a day of rejoicing that will be!

Copyright(c) 2011, Walter Fletcher Jr., All rights are reserved.  This article may be copied free of charge provided that it is not altered in any way from its original content.  Send any correspondence to:Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

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ABRAHAM, FRIEND OF GOD(Pt. 3)

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he received him in a figurative sense”. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

ABRAHAM, THE WORSHIPPER

The call of God may take on many forms but none more important for the believer than the one the apostle Paul makes known. “You were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”(1 Co 1:9b). Is this what Jesus had in mind when He said, ” Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56)?

It had been twenty five years of walking both in fellowship and witnessing the faithfulness of God. But now Abraham was about to go on the steepest (And no doubt the longest) journey with God that a friend could require. “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham…and said to him…Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mariah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on the mountains of which I shall tell you”(Genesis 22:1-2).

Abraham had faced many tests along the way. Some required him to retrace his steps where he had to return and call on the Name of the LORD presumably to restore his fellowship with God. But even in his mishaps and adventures God did not forsake or break His friendship with Abraham. This no doubt only further strengthened their friendship. It further strengthened Abraham’s faith in the God who he could not see but had come to find trustworthy.

THE TENT AND THE ALTAR

Two things that marked Abraham’s life of friendship with God were the “tent” and the “altar”. Each of these represents his pilgrimage of faith. He had learned to travel light in his land of sojourn as Paul likened our pilgrimage here on earth with the ultimate knowledge that our true “citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”(Philippians 3:20). Be careful of holding onto earthly things (even relationships) too tightly. A friendship with God requires that we learn the lesson of our father Abraham…Hold everything loosely so God won’t have to pry it from our hands. If He requires it, it is only because He has something better in mind for us. As Jim Elliot observed, “He is no fool who loses what he cannot gain to gain what he cannot lose”.

One of the things that made Abraham a favorite friend of God was that he had learned the secret of “offering up to God”. He left his land of origin; he was separated from his natural family (Later parting ways with Lot); He offered up his relationship with Ishmael, although God promised to make Ishmael a great nation. All along the way he learned the lesson of self-denial. And all along the way he was learning “the secret of the LORD is with them who fear Him…He makes known His covenant”. He who has God has ultimately the only lasting friendship that will last for all eternity. David discovered this secret, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart….Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My heart and my flesh fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”(Psalm 25:1,25-26). He is not saying that other relationships don’t matter. He is contrasting friendships that cannot last due to the human condition; through separation by distance or loss, however it occurs. God is the only constant and permanent friendship in the life of the believer. He is the only One who can say with certainty, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”…”I will be with you even to the end of time”.

MT. MORIAH

The friendship of God over twenty five years had produced a strong faith in Abraham. His trust was such in the unseen One that he knew that “no good thing would He withhold to him whose walk was upright”. Therefore when the LORD tested his friendship by asking for  Isaac, his only son whom he loved, he trusted in the fact that God would do no less than reciprocate His request. He was confident in His God, he said in faith to his servants, “Wait here while I and the lad go up there to worship. We will return to you”(Gen.22).

Like Abraham, we too must learn that true trust and faith in the One Whom we worship IS the sacrifice acceptable to Him. For YAH-YIREH, “Sees for what He sees and in the Mount of the LORD it is provided”! Even as Abraham found the ram stuck in the thicket on the mount and realized that it was a suitable sacrifice in place of Isaac, be assured that our “Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world”(Rev. 13:8). Thus, Abraham’s friendship and  trust in the LORD God was rewarded with the revelation of the Good News, “In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice”(Genesis 22:18).

The writer James declared, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God”(James 2:23NKJV).

Copyright(c) 2011, Walter Fletcher Jr., All rights are reserved.  This article may be copied free of charge provided that it is not altered in any way from its original content.  Send any correspondence to:Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

ABRAHAM,FRIEND OF GOD(Pt. 2)

“Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’. And there he built an altar to the LORD, who appeared to him.”(Genesis 12:7).

Friendships are based on trust as well as sacrifice. What really makes true friendships go the distance is the time and conscious effort put into them.  Abram would discover this soon enough. But he was willing to follow God in spite of the difficulties that would arise or be put in his way.

FAITHFULNESS LEADS TO FRUITFULNESS

Because Abram continued to trust God to take the lead in his life he was rewarded for his trust. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly….No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations”(Genesis 17:1-2,5).

Abram had done nothing meriting God’s honor other than to be faithful to his call to walk with Him. Faithfulness is a character quality that can only be measured over time. It is, as I believe Eugene Peterson put it “A long obedience in the same direction”. When our Lord Jesus is looking for (and will ultimately reward) His friends it will not be because they started off fast or strong but “He that endures to the end” will be the measure.

Again, the gold standard for heaven’s reward is not “Well done and successful”, but rather “Well done good and faithful servant”. If we can be trusted with a little in His kingdom He will place us over many things.

THE NAME CHANGE

The friendship factor resulted in a name change for Abram. God changed his name in anticipation of what he would become. God loves calling those things that are not what they should be. He does not reward on appearances but on the basis of the hidden man of the heart. Although Abram’s name change came late in life…it did come. Notice that he went from Abram to Abr-AH-am. Abram as it were had invested the rest of his life in this new relationship, and so too was God investing Himself (YAH or JAH) into his friend’s name. No longer did his name mean “Abram-A father” but “Abraham-A father of a multitude, a father of many nations”. This tells us that whenever God involves Himself in our life we cannot help but expand. “When I called him he was but one…And I blessed him and multiplied him”(Isaiah 51:2) is the principle.

ALL FRIENDSHIPS WILL BE TESTED

As Abraham is journeying along with God he faces his first big test. Lot, his nephew who wanted to tag along with his uncle Abraham, brings along with him (and all his stuff), a spirit of strife. Abraham discerns that not only was this creating problems among the herdsmen, but it was not a good witness to the people around about that they were not able to get along. Abraham gives Lot the younger the opportunity to both separate as family and friends and to choose which direction he would go. When they had separated, God appears to Abraham once again to confirm that He had blessed him with the Land and would bless his descendants as well.

There is a spiritual lesson as Abraham faced and passed this test. Lot’s name means, “Veil”. When Lot (Veil) had separated, God confirmed His covenant friendship with Abraham. Perhaps this is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Believers of Corinth, reminding them of how Moses (representing the Law) had to put a veil over his face when returning from being with the LORD. But he also reminds us today that we have a glorious privilege of standing in the presence of God, without a veil! “Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”(2 Cor. 3:16-17).

Abraham was aware that his trials were working for him and in him. So it will be for us as we continue to affirm our pursuit of a friendship with God. Trials don’t ultimately make us…They reveal us. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have it’s perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”(James 1:2-4 NKJV).

Copyright(c) 2011, Walter Fletcher Jr., All rights are reserved.  This article may be copied free of charge provided that it is not altered in any way from its original content.  Send any correspondence to:Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

ABRAHAM,FRIEND OF GOD(Pt. 1)

“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, you who seek the LORD… Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you; for I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him”(Isaiah 51:1a, 2 NKJV).

There are many descriptions of Abraham in the scriptures. For example, he is called “Abram the Hebrew”…”Abraham My servant”…”Abraham father of a multitude”. But the one I like best is given by God to the prophet Isaiah, “Abraham My friend”(Isaiah 41:8b). It is one thing to declare that “God is my friend”, yet quite another to declare that God counts me His friend. Abraham is the only person in the scriptures that has the distinction of being called no less than three times “friend of God”. Who wouldn’t like that to be added to their resume?

One day, while in prayer, I heard the LORD say, “Son, I have lots of children, but very few friends”. I was taken aback by that statement. And it got me to thinking about the significance of Abraham being called by God “My friend”. What made this man so special that the LORD God would single him out for recognition? I believe the prophet Isaiah provides us with insight. “For I called Him alone”(Isaiah 51:2a). Maybe this is the ultimate thing about Abraham…He was willing not only to be singled out by God but to start a journey with God which would mean “aloneness with God”. The truth of the matter is that aloneness is a characteristic mark of those who have pleased God. They understood intuitively that faith to walk with God is given as a gift of aloneness.  But let us make a distinction between loneliness and aloneness. Although Abraham walked alone he was never lonely. He met the God of the universe.  Stephen in his great defense of the Gospel put it this way, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham”(Acts 7:2). From that moment Abraham’s life was never the same and in this he was confident…I am not here by chance or accident, “The LORD is near”. What comfort, what a friendship indeed, to know that God is with you in the midst of life’s challenges, heartaches and adventures.

Abraham, the Wanderer

It is of interest to note that Abraham’s beginning walk with God did not lead him straight to his destination. The writer to the Hebrew Christians comments, “That by faith Abraham went out not knowing where he was going”(Heb. 11:8a).

The first test of a new friendship is developing trust. Abraham obeyed God and began walking with Him without a clear destination in mind. God seems to be indicating that His friends just like being with God, hanging out with Him. Walking with God in true friendship means that we learn that God is not in near as big a hurry as we might be. Recall that it is said that “Enoch walked with God”(Gen. 5:24).  That walk took over 300 years in the earth and then God took him to His house escaping death!  Let us remember that it is not merely the destination but the pilgrimage of trust that is formed between God and His friends.

Jesus also desires friends for the journey. When his first disciples followed him saying, “Rabbi, Where are you staying?” His response was “Come and see”. Unfortunately, most people want to see and understand more informationally as opposed to experientially. We want God as an inference rather than knowing Him as a reality. Religion will always offer us a ‘‘cut rate deal’’ in order to keep us from heartfelt experience. In other words, religion apart from God will always seek to “keep the two lovers apart”.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you”(John 15:13-15 NKJV).

Abraham was not satisfied with more information about God (which did nothing to transform his walk). He wanted what David later described as a never satisfied ongoing passion for God. David declared, “My soul thirsts…My flesh thirsts for the true and living God. To see you as I have seen you in the Sanctuary; to see your power and your glory”(See Psalm 63:1-2).

The furious response to the wooing love of God can’t be contained within “the four walls of religion”. When the cry of the heart is a passionate desire and longing to know the true and living God…You are on your way to becoming one whom God can call “My friend”.

Copyright(c) 2011, Walter Fletcher Jr., All rights are reserved.  This article may be copied free of charge provided that it is not altered in any way from it’s original content.  Send any correspondence to:Walterfletcherjr@gmail.com