Promises Kept

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In 1969, 7 -year old Niki was in the hospital having some tumors removed from her throat. While in the hospital she met Charita, another girl her age, who had a rare form of cancer. Niki found out that because of the cancer Charita would never be able to have children of her own. The two girls formed a friendship, and one night while the two of them were alone in their hospital room, Charita was crying. Niki came over to Charita’s bedside to comfort her. She told her not to cry and that when she got married and had her own baby she would let her mentor her baby and if it was a girl would even name it after her. 

After their stint in the hospital Niki and Charita kept in touch until 6 months later when Charita’s family moved from Los Angeles to New Mexico. In 1983 Niki married and in 1987 had a daughter whom she named Charita. Niki then went on the Unsolved Mysteries show looking for her childhood friend Charita so she could help mentor little Charita. In 1990 Niki and Charita were happily reunited. 

In a world where people will make empty promises just to get whatever they want, 7-year old Niki  stayed true to her promise even  as an adult, and became married and with a child. While it’s true that our promises are like ropes of sand and we can only trust God’s promises (2 Peter 1:4) It is also true that by God’s grace we too, like Jesus and 7-year old Niki , can stay true to our word. After all, even while the Bible teaches us not to put trust in ourselves or anyone else, the Bible also speaks of those who  “keep their promises even when it hurts.” Psalm 15:4 NLT 

This week millions are studying the promises God made to Abraham. One of the ways we reflect the image of God is by being men and women of our word. Sure, we make mistakes and have made broken promises. This is one reason why I am careful about making promises. Instead of promising to help a friend, I tell them I will try, but make it clear I am not making a promise.

God’s promises are the only promises we can rely on. Still, by God’s grace, we can be men and women of our word. By God’s grace, we can be faithful to our promises even if it hurts.

Can you share a time when someone showed you God’s love by staying true to their promise? 

8: The Promise-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School class, Sabbath, May 21, 2022.

Maine Theme: From generation to generation God kept His promise to provide a Savior.

Read Together: Genesis 22:1-12, and Hebrews 11:17. Define the main idea of these passages.

Study: What was the meaning of this test? What spiritual lessons come from this amazing event?

Apply: What does the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah say to you personally about your faith and how you manifest it?

Share: Your friend tells you that it sounds like God is contradicting his own law in forbidding human sacrifices. How do you make sense of this apparent contradiction? Hint: See the note at the end of this page.

Read Together: Genesis 22:13-14 and Romans 5:6-8. Define the main idea of these passages.

Study: How do these verses help us understand what happened at the Cross, which is prefigured in the sacrifice here on Mount Moriah?

Apply: How does what happened here help us better understand what happened at the cross and what God has suffered in our behalf? What should our response be to what has been done for us?

Share: Your friend comments, “My pastor preaches that when we become Christians God makes us highly favored and prosperous. Instead of calling us to sacrifice, God calls us to prosperity.” How do you answer your friend, particularly in light of Genesis 22?

Read Together: Genesis 24. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: Why is Abraham so concerned that his son not marry a woman from the Canaanites?

Apply: Why is it so comforting to know that while not all things are God’s will, He is still in charge? How do prophecies like Daniel 2, for instance, prove this point to us?

Share: Your friend says that God’s providence in the story of Isaac and Rebekah prove that our entire lives and predestined and predetermined. How do you respond to your friend, especially in light of Genesis 24:58?

Read Together: Genesis 24:67-25:8. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is the meaning of these final events in the life of Abraham?

Apply: In the end, God kept His promise to Abraham. How does God’s faithfulness to Abraham encourage you?

Share: Your friend asks, “What is the greatest promise anyone ever made to you and actually kept?” How does that faithful friend help you appreciate the promises God has made to us?

Note: “They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.” 1 Peter 1:12 NLT

“The sacrifice required of Abraham was not alone for his own good, nor solely for the benefit of succeeding generations; but it was also for the instruction of the sinless intelligences of heaven and of other worlds. The field of the controversy between Christ and Satan–the field on which the plan of redemption is wrought out–is the lesson book of the universe. Because Abraham had shown a lack of faith in God’s promises, Satan had accused him before the angels and before God of having failed to comply with the conditions of the covenant, and as unworthy of its blessings. God desired to prove the loyalty of His servant before all heaven, to demonstrate that nothing less than perfect obedience can be accepted, and to open more fully before them the plan of salvation.
Heavenly beings were witnesses of the scene as the faith of Abraham and the submission of Isaac were tested. The trial was far more severe than that which had been brought upon Adam. Compliance with the prohibition laid upon our first parents involved no suffering, but the command to Abraham demanded the most agonizing sacrifice. All heaven beheld with wonder and admiration Abraham’s unfaltering obedience. All heaven applauded his fidelity. Satan’s accusations were shown to be false. God declared to His servant, “Now I know that thou fearest God [notwithstanding Satan’s charges], seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me.” God’s covenant, confirmed to Abraham by an oath before the intelligences of other worlds, testified that obedience will be rewarded.
It had been difficult even for the angels to grasp the mystery of redemption–to comprehend that the Commander of heaven, the Son of God, must die for guilty man. When the command was given to Abraham to offer up his son, the interest of all heavenly beings was enlisted. With intense earnestness they watched each step in the fulfillment of this command. When to Isaac’s question, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham made answer, “God will provide Himself a lamb;” and when the father’s hand was stayed as he was about to slay his son, and the ram which God had provided was offered in the place of Isaac–then light was shed upon the mystery of redemption, and even the angels understood more clearly the wonderful provision that God had made for man’s salvation. 1 Peter 1:12.” -Patriarchs and Prophets, Pages 154-155.

God’s Promises to Abraham are God’s Promises to you

I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. Genesis 17:7 NLT

When God made His covenant with Abraham He was making it with all of us. All of the promises that were given to Abraham were given to us.

A member of a church in which I had recently spoken asked me to come to her home. She was very upset because a neighbor claimed to be a witch and put a curse on her home and family. The lady church member believed in God but was afraid of what this curse might mean. When I got to her home I shared this passage with her. It is a promise God made to Abraham.

The 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.” Genesis 2:1-3 NLT

The Lord promised to bless those who blessed Abraham and to treat those who cursed him with contempt. I actually think the KJV is a little more powerful on this point when it says, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.” Right after this promise was given, Abraham went into Egypt, and instead of trusting God to care for him, he trusted a lie he invented that Sara was only his sister, not his wife. Not only are lies deceitful, they show we are not trusting God. When we trust God we have no reason to make up lies. Pharaoh took Sara to himself, not knowing she was married. Even though Abraham was less than perfect in this situation the Lord still kept his promise like He always does.

But the Lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. Genesis 12:17 NLT

Even when Abraham was less than perfect and even had trust issues, the Lord kept his promise to curse those who cursed him. I reminded the lady I was visiting, that Balaam tried to curse Israel but could only bless them! See Numbers 23:11-12. The Lord’s blessing continued for the great nation of Israel the Lord had promised to Abraham. The lady I was visiting thought that was all wonderful for Abraham but what did that have to do with her and the curse that was placed upon her? I asked her if she belonged to Christ and of course she said she did. I told her I had good news for her.

And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. Galatians 3:29 NLT

I shared with her that the promise to bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you belonged to her just as much it did to Abraham. She claimed this promise and when I spoke to her again many months later, the neighbor was gone and there were no signs of any curses.

Once there was an elder in my area who was being slandered by some of the other church leaders. Thank God the church body could see through the other leaders’ lies and stood up for him. When the truth came out and the elder was exonerated ,one of his enemies, who was also a leader was too proud to recant his lies and accusations. Not long after, the leader who made the false accusations retired to a new area. Soon he had to move far away from the area he retired in, because of accusations that were made against him which were much more serious than the one he made against the local elder. Some called it karma, some called it what goes around comes around. I can’t help but think of God’s promise, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” I hope too that this situation led the slandering leader to repentance and salvation.

Now before we start acting all high and mighty when God works in our favor, it’s important to remember that God blessed Abraham because of His own faithfulness, not the faithfulness of Abraham. Even though God cursed Pharaoh so to speak, Abraham still had his own lesson to learn about honesty and trusting God instead of lies. I would imagine even when God curses those who curse us that we too still need to humbly learn some lessons as well. The promise in Genesis 12:3 goes on to say that all families of the earth will be blessed as God wants to bless and save all of us friends and foes, just as he saved faulty Abraham.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Is Male Circumcision Significant to the Gospel or Just Sexual Mutilation?

You may listen to a podcast presentation of this topic here.

 Tuesday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson, asks what is the spiritual significance of circumcision. Some have wondered why in the world God wanted the penis involved in a sign of loyalty. Some atheists have made fun of Christianity and the Bible over this topic.

What we need to understand is, the penis was the part of the body Abraham was trusting instead of God’s promise. Confidence in the flesh had to be cut out so all Abraham believed in was God’s promise. In the New Testament Jesus went to the cross and crucified all of our flesh, so that we could live by faith in His promises and not in our self confidence.

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 NKJV

In baptism we crucify all of our flesh with Christ. Romans 6:3-7. Like circumcision of old, baptism is a sign casting away the confidence of the flesh and trusting God’s promises to make us a new creation, God’s own recreation.

The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. Galatians 4:22-24 NLT

God had made a covenant with Abraham and promised him a son. All God needed Abraham to do was believe the promise. Abraham saw that his wife was old and not even menstruating any more, so instead of trusting in God’s promise, he took Sarah’s much younger handmaid, Hagar, and worked things out on his own. Together they had a son. This represents the old covenant, which is man keeping the commandments in his own power, instead of trusting God to write them on  our hearts. The old covenant is legalism, or the works of the flesh. It’s a me-plus-Christ mentality instead of “Not I But Christ” (See Galatians 2:20), the motif Paul shared as the crux of the gospel.

So God gave Abraham circumcision as a reminder to trust Him, rather than trying to solve His own problems.

Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14 NLT

Abraham’s part in the covenant was to keep himself from doing those things God had promised. Because Abraham trusted in his flesh to work things out, God had Abraham circumcise the part of his flesh that he was trusting, so he would realize that he could do nothing to fulfill His promises. He had to leave it all to God.

For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort… Philippians 3:3 NLT

… like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 98

Now, instead of circumcision, we have baptism as a sign that we are casting away self-confidence, as we go under the water, symbolically dying to self, we rise up to a new life, not trusting in self, but trusting in Jesus.

Satan works hard to make us miss the whole point of this lesson by coming up with his own rituals, and then making male circumcision appear to be another cultural ritual similar to female circumcision, which has no Scriptural significance but is still widely practiced, even though it is harmful to women.

It is worth noting that there is evidence to suggest that certain male health issuesare less prevalent in communities where circumcision is widely practiced, and circumcision also appears to have benefits for the wives. Others suggest that the same benefits may be experienced by proper hygiene. Thus everyone considering circumcision needs to prayerfully consider the reasons for and against the practice today.

Finally, some men who were circumcised as babies, and learning that circumcision is no longer morally necessary, have become quite bitter towards their parents for “mutilating” them. To those I would suggest, first of all, you have not endured anything that Jesus Himself has not endured. Jesus was circumcised too. See Luke 2:21. No matter how awkward or embarrassing an area of your life may be, Jesus has been there and experienced it for you. He understands everything! Second,  most parents were simply doing the best they could with the information they had at the time. All parents have to make decisions about the treatment of their babies on a range of issues and most make those decisions with the best information available.

Satan likes to make the Gospel look foolish and even crazy in human eyes, and because circumcision is a sensitive issue it is an easy target. I pray my brief attempt has helped you to see the gospel where before all you could see was a Jewish ritual.

7: The Covenant With Abraham-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath School class, Sabbath May 14, 2022.

Main Theme: The promises given to Abraham are for all believers. “And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” Galatians 3:29 NLT

Read Together: Genesis 15:1-6. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How did Abraham reveal what it means to live by faith?

Apply: What does it mean if we start counting up or relying on our good works?

Share: Your friend says that if we are counted righteous because we believe then there is no reason to obey. How do you respond to your friend? See Genesis 26:5 and James 2:23-24.

Read Together: Genesis 17:1-12. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is the spiritual and prophetic significance of the circumcision rite?

Apply: How do you keep believing even when we struggle with belief?

Share: Your friend says that circumcision is nothing more than barbaric sexual mutilation. How do you respond to your friend? See Why Circumcision.

Read Together: Genesis 18:1-8 and Romans 9:9. Define the main idea of these passages.

Study: What lessons of hospitality do we learn from Abraham’s reception of his visitors? How do you explain God’s response to Abraham’s hospitality?

Apply: What is our responsibility to the poor and hungry? How do we help those in need? What stipulations would you put on helping someone who is in need?

Share: Your friend asks, what it was that made Abraham so generous? What do you tell your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 18:22-Genesis 19:13. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: How does Abraham’s prophetic ministry affect his responsibility toward Lot?

Apply: How do you respond to someone who says that God does not punish the lost, that it is against His love?

Share: How can we help the sinner realize their need of a Savior without making them feel like the scum of the earth?

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. John 3:17 NKJV

Leaving Home

My home town, Tulsa Oklahoma.

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. Genesis 12:1 NKJV

Some people can’t wait to get away from home. As soon as they turn 18 they marry or join the army and get stationed on the other side of the world. After being so far from home, some return as soon as they can. Others stay away forever-by choice. 

Some people never leave home. I have friends who I grew up with in Tulsa, Oklahoma who never left Tulsa. I am glad they are still there for me to visit when I return home to see dad. I meet them at our favorite restaurants that are still standing from the previous century. They watched me move off to Texas and then Florida, all the while staying in Tulsa. I am proud of my native Tulsa, and am always glad to visit, but I can’t imagine myself living all my life in one place. Then again, the Tulsa I visit now is not the Tulsa I grew up in. Dad doesn’t live in the house I grew up in. The stores we go to weren’t around when I was kid. I visit my childhood church, but its like going home to strangers. The people there now never knew me, which is fine, I love meeting new people, but you know what they say, you can never go home again

So I wonder about Abraham. Was he happy to leave home and go on an adventure, or was he afraid to leave home? Did he miss his family and friends? Did he miss the old places where he would hang out? 

I grew up in Tulsa always dreaming of living in Dallas. When we went to the baseball and football games there I was always impressed with the modern architecture. It just seemed like the place to be. Tulsa had the minor league baseball team for the Texas Rangers major league team at the time. So when the Tulsa players got good they went to Dallas. I knew people in the Oklahoma Adventist conference who went on to the Union conference in Burleson, close to Dallas. Somehow I had it my mind that once you “arrived‘ you ‘arrived” in Dallas. So you can understand how happy I was when I had the opportunity to be a Bible Worker in Fort Worth, which is Dallas’ neighbor. 

I remember when I left home, mom cried. I did not realize at the time how cool it was having my own apartment in Tulsa, but having my parents right there in town to see at church and meet for dinner and even run into at the store by chance encounters. At the time I could not appreciate all of that and was just excited to begin my new adventure. It wasn’t until years later when I stood at my mother’s coffin that I finally understood and appreciated her tears that day I moved away. 

So I “arrived‘ In Dallas. Actually it wasn’t Dallas, it was Fort Worth. And fact is, I never “arrived.” I just thought I had. My new church district fell in love with me right away and I thought I was doing great! I was living the dream in the Dallas area. The people loved me so much I thought I must be a legendary Bible Worker. It took a few years for me to grow up and realize I was no legend. I was not even one of the better Bible Workers. I had all kinds of weaknesses and faults. Finally one day I woke up and realized these people don’t love me because I am good. They love me because they are loving people. I realized they were not encouraging me because I was good. They were enduring my follies, and  patiently encouraging me because they saw my potential for good, if I ever grew up. Living in the Dallas area was good for me. Not because I had arrived like the sports stars who moved from Tulsa to Dallas, or the local Oklahoma conference officials who got called up to the union office. Living in Dallas was good for me because it got me away from home so I could grow up. I thought I had grown up and left home, but actually God had me leave home so I would grow up. 

I wonder, did Abraham grow up before or after he left home? How did his ordeal in Egypt help him grow up? His actions in Egypt showed he had not arrived yet. 

After more than ten years in the Dallas-Fort Worth area it had become home. I pictured myself living all my days in Texas. God had other plans. He let me live ten years where I had always dreamed of living but now He was calling me to another land. An opportunity came to serve as a Bible Worker in the Tampa Bay area. I had no interest. I did not know anyone there. Before I moved a friend assured me, “you will get to Tampa and make friends and start doing things with them there and that will become your home. You won’t miss Texas anymore.” Well I knew my friend was right, and that was what scared me! While my feet were still on Texas soil, the thought of feeling at home in another place terrified me. 

After much fleece setting and protesting on my part I was on my way to Tampa. It was much farther from home. Like I mentioned earlier, you had people moving from Oklahoma to Texas all the time for various reasons. I had connections in Texas from Oklahoma. I was only four and a half hours away from home, which made weekend visits easy. It wasn’t until I moved to Tampa, Florida that I realized how close I was to Tulsa while in Texas. 

When I left Texas people told me how easy it was for me to up and move to a strange new land because I was single. They thought being single made it easy. No, it made it hard. When you have a family and you move to a strange new place at least you have your family. I had no one. Just me all by my lonesome in a strange new place. In Texas I had connections from Oklahoma as well as all the friends I made in over ten years. In Tampa I had no connections and no friends. God knew what He was doing. I had even more growing up to do. Now I have been in the Tampa Bay area over 18 years. I went from being a total stranger all alone, to now not only having friends in my own church, but in most all the neighboring Adventist churches as well. My friend was right. I am comfortable and happy hear now. This is home. When I moved from Texas to Florida I knew exactly how many baptisms I had. Now over 18 years in Florida I have literally lost count. God moved me here because there were people He needed for me to reach.  He also knew I had more growing up to do that would never happen if I stayed so close to home. 

Did Joseph have more growing up to do when He was sold as a slave into Egypt? Did he have even more growing up to do in prison? Did God allow all of those things to happen to Joseph to help him grow up? Is that why God has some of us move around so much? By moving two times God has helped me to grow personally as well as help more people. Meanwhile thanks to Facebook, cell phones and plane tickets home is never far away. I still have my friends in Tulsa and the Dallas area. When I vacation and travel from Tampa to Dallas and then to Tulsa and back to Tampa again I never feel like I am leaving home or going home. Its all home now. I have a home that encompasses Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. I know God is with me wherever I go and He is what makes it home. God is my home. He is everywhere. 

Abram had to leave home so he could grow in faith. Abram had to leave home so he could meet those God wanted him to meet. More importantly Abram had to leave home to go home. Ur was not his real home. Canaan was his real home. 

I understand that while God calls some of us to the other side of the planet that He also calls some, like the demoniac in Mark 5 to go back home. Either way God was calling the demoniac out of his comfort level as it may have been awkward for him to go home after all the embarrassing things he had done. This is for sure, God will call us out of our comfort level to help us grow up and be all we can be for Him. That being said, I would like to ask you a question from Sunday’s section of this week’s lesson

What might God be calling you to leave behind? That is, what part of your life might you have to abandon in order to heed the call of God?

6: The Roots of Abraham-Sabbath School Lesson Teaching Plan

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Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class, Sabbath, May 7, 2022.

Main Theme: God has a plan for His loved ones.

Read Together: Genesis 12:1-9. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: Why did God call Abram to leave his country and family? How did Abram respond?

Apply: What might God be calling you to leave behind? That is, what part of your life might you have to abandon in order to heed the call of God?

Share: Your friend is given an opportunity to serve a couple of years in the mission field far from home. A decent salary and travel and lodging are all provided. Your friend acknowledges that it looks like God is leading in this venture, but your friend does not want to leave a comfortable home, as well as family and friends. What can you share with your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 12:10-20. Discuss the key idea in this passage.

Study: Why did Abram leave the Promised Land to go to Egypt? How did the pharaoh behave in comparison to Abram?

Apply: What should this story teach us about how easy it is, even for faithful Christians, to stray from the correct path? Why is disobedience never a good choice?

Share: Your friend acknowledges that we are saved by faith, but says that a lack of obedience shows a lack of faith. Do you agree with your friend? Why or why not?

Read Together: Genesis 13:1-18. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: What does this story teach us about the importance of character?

Apply: How can we learn to be kind and generous to others, even when they aren’t that way to us?

Share: Your friend asks, “How can we reach wicked cities with the Gospel if we are counselled to live in the country and stay away from such places?” What do you tell your friend?

Read Together: Genesis 14:1-17. Define the main idea of this passage.

Study: What is significant about this war taking place just after the gift of the Promised Land? What does this story teach us about Abram?

Apply: What kind of influence do our actions have on others? What kind of message are we sending about our faith by our actions?

Share: Can you think of a friend who needs to be encouraged by the fact that God has a plan for their life? Can you reach out and encourage your friend this week?

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” Hebrews 11:8 NKJV