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Have you ever accidentally thrown away your keys or your retainer or something else of value? When you do, it’s a terrible feeling. You know you have to dig through the trash to find the object that you need. In other words, you have to go dumpster diving. No matter how long it takes, how gross the trash is, and how long it takes, you have to dig out the object of value.
- Does anyone have a story of a time when you had to go dumpster diving to find something you had accidentally thrown away?
When you go dumpster diving for something you've lost, no one observing can understand why someone would want to dig through the trash. That’s because only the person doing the dumpster diving knows just how valuable the thing in the dumpster really is.
And sometimes, people go dumpster diving not just because they lost something but for other reasons. While most of us look at a dumpster and see a place to put trash, some people look at a dumpster and see it as a place to find treasure. These people are dumpster divers - adventurers who believe they can find things of great value in the most unexpected places.
Throughout the Bible, we find stories of people who stumbled onto God in unexpected places. In this series, we’re going to use the picture of dumpster diving to help us learn to find God in unexpected places - times when we are stopped at a dead end, when we are stressed by a pressure point, and when we are isolated in solitary confinement. As we dive into these stories of excavation, we will learn more about how we can find God in our own lives. So get out a pole, gloves, and some hand sanitizer - it’s time to go dumpster diving.
Activity: Treasure in the trash
Group up and Briefly answer the following question
- If your life were a dumpster right now, what would it look like? Smell like?
Someone read Genesis 22:1-18.
- What did God ask Abraham to do? How do you think Abraham felt? How would you have responded to this command?
- How did Abraham respond? Why do you think Abraham responded this way?
- What did Abraham trust God to provide? What did God provide?
- What is something you think Abraham learned about God in this unexpected place?
Someone read the following
This must have been heart-wrenching for Abraham. Isaac was the son for whom he waited so long and the son whom he loved so much. And now Abraham was about to kill him. We don’t understand why God asked Abraham to do such a thing, but we know this – Abraham was prepared to obey God.
At the last moment, though, God called out to stop Abraham. Abraham had obeyed God, and in doing so had demonstrated his respect for and faith in God. And as a result, Abraham found God in this moment. Abraham had trusted that “God himself will provide” (v. 8), and God did. There was a ram in the thicket that could be sacrificed instead of Isaac. So Abraham and Isaac sacrificed the ram, and Abraham named the mountain “The LORD will provide.”
Abraham found God in this unexpected place, not just as God provided, but also as God extended the covenant He had made. God promised to bless Abraham’s descendants both in number and in prosperity. He promised that Abraham’s family would take possession of the cities of their enemies, and He promised that Abraham’s family would bless all nations on earth. Abraham found much more than he was looking for when he found God in this situation.
Abraham’s story shows us that we can, in the places of life where others reject Him, know God is near and start to expect Him. And looking for God in unexpected places is worth it. While the dumpster diving process can be difficult and even heart-wrenching, in the end an encounter with God is worth everything we put into it.
Take a look at the following similarities to the story of Jesus and answer the questions below
You can look up some of the verses below if you want to, or if you are familiar with the similarities you can skip to the questions below:
- Only begotten Son Genesis 22:2 John 3:16
- Offered on a mountain, hill Genesis 22:2 Matt. 21:10
- Took donkey to place of sacrifice Genesis 22:3 Matt. 21:2-11 - Two men went with him. Genesis 22:3 Mark 15:27;
- Three day journey/in the grave Genesis 22:4 Luke 24:13-21 - Carrying wood on his back up hill Genesis 22:6 John 19:17
- God provides for Himself the lamb Genesis 22:8 John 1:29 - Son was offered on the wood Genesis 22:9 Luke 23:33
- Ram in thicket of thorns Genesis 22:13 John 19:2
- The seed will be multiplied Genesis 22:17 John 1:12
- in Jesus' day, all Jewish people had memorized this story as children. What do you think it meant to them when they realized the similarities?
- How much do you think it would have helped Abraham to see these similarities?
- Think about the dumpster you described in your groups. Is it easy to see the treasure in it right now? In the future looking back, will it be easier to see the treasure?
Take turns reading the following
Excavation: Diamond in the rough
Have you ever heard the phrase “a diamond in the rough”? This phrase points to something that has a lot of potential but is buried and therefore unable to live up to that potential at the present moment. Often, when a Hollywood talent scout discovers a budding young actor, or when a pro sports scout finds the next athletic phenomenon, they say they found a diamond in the rough. But the best place to find diamonds in the rough is in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. This is the only diamond-bearing site where visitors are allowed to search for gems and keep what they find. Gary Dunlap was lucky enough to find one of these diamonds in the rough. He found a 2.37 carat white diamond in 2006. It was the fourth-biggest of the 486 diamonds found at the park that year. (Citation: “Man discovers 2.37-carat diamond in park,” Associated Press via aol.com, 1-1-2007)
Connecting the picture: Gary and the other people who found diamonds in the rough in Crater of Diamonds State Park didn’t have these diamonds fall into their laps. Instead, they had to look for them. They had to dig around, sift through the dirt, and try to spot diamonds that others had missed. This wasn’t easy, but the dumpster diving process came with a high reward. The same can be true in our lives. So let’s look at how we can undertake the excavation process in our lives.
God is always present in our lives, but we feel with God in different ways at different times. Sometimes we find God's presence with us in moments of eruption. Something amazing happens, and we have no choice but to give God credit. In these moments, it’s impossible not to notice God’s presence, and there’s no doubt that God is with us. When God manifests Himself through eruption, we naturally celebrate how God has shown up in our lives.
On the other hand, sometimes we find God in moments of erosion. Things start falling apart in our lives, and in our desperation we seek out God’s presence. These moments aren’t nearly as pleasant as the moments of eruption are, but we experience God’s presence just as strongly as (if not more than) in the good times.
Most often, however, we need to learn to find God in moments that are more normal. We need to learn to find God not only in eruption or erosion but in excavation. By digging in and around our lives, we can find God in unexpected places. This Dumpster Diving series is all about excavation as we find God in unexpected places.
Excavation: How to do it
We need to find God in moments of excavation. In the places of life where others reject Him, know God is near and start to expect Him. So how do we do this? The truth that we learn in this Scripture is that we need to excavate expectantly. And we discover that the expectations of excavation cut two ways in our lives.
When we begin the excavation process, we should expect God to show up. No matter how unlikely the place, and no matter how disgusting the dumpster, God is there. We just have to learn to see Him. Just as Abraham trusted God to provide, we can trust God to show up when we are looking for Him.
But just as we expect something from excavation, excavation expects something from us. God expects us to spend our energy and time and resources in excavation. He doesn’t want us to take this process lightly. Instead, He wants us to keep diving into the dumpsters around us, even when it feels like our expectations aren’t being met. He doesn’t want us to give up.
The fact that we can find God in unexpected places doesn’t mean that our times of trouble will be quickly solved. Abraham spent three days moving toward Moriah, believing the whole time that he would have to sacrifice his son. Often, our excavation processes will take even longer. We’ll get stopped at what appears to be a dead end for days, weeks, months, or even longer. We’ll get stressed by the pressures all around us. And we’ll feel isolated and alone in solitude as we look for God. Through the rest of this Dumpster Diving series, we’ll talk about how we can find God in these difficult and demanding places.
But for today, we focus on how we can do excavation in any of these settings. We learn that we can expect to find God in unlikely places if we are willing to take part in an excavation process that asks a lot of us. So in the places of life where others reject Him, know God is near and start to expect Him.
- When have you found God in moments of eruption? When have you found God in moments of erosion?
- How can we find God through the excavation process? What does the excavation process look like?
- What should we expect during the excavation process?
- What does the excavation process require of us?
- How do we know that the excavation process is worth it?
read and answer the following
- But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
- Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
- What do these verses tell us happens when we excavate in search for God?
As we dig in to find God, we need to remember that the excavation process requires something of us.
- Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
- How much of a sacrifice was it for the merchant to give up his lifetime collection of pearls and other possessions?
- In what ways is God a valuable treasure?
- Share something you can give up this week to jump in and dig for treasure?
- What is a treasure you want to take up as you excavate in the unexpected places in your lives this week?
- What is a specific way or tool you will use to excavate for this treasure this week?
Let's close our discussion with a prayer exercise in which we think about what we need to give up and take up. Let's close our eyes for a prayer. First, let's hold our hands open with palms facing up. As we hold this posture of prayer, pray silently about what God is calling them us give up. After a few minutes, ask everyone to close their hands as if they’re picking something up. As we hold this posture of prayer, ask them to pray silently about the treasure God is inviting them to take up and dig for. After a few minutes, close this exercise by closing in prayer.
Go on a 9-month mission trip without taking time off work, leaving your neighborhood, or spending a small fortune. This is a chance to invest time in the lab or learning and start to launch out in love to your neighbors.