Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17

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Sacrificing Isaac

Today I laid my Isaac on the altar.

If you’ve spent any time in Sunday School or church, you know the story of Abraham, formerly Abram, and his wife Sarah, formerly Sarai.  In fact, you don’t have to be a Christian to know the story of these two and their surrounding cast of characters – Sarah’s slave, Hagar; Hagar’s son by Abraham, Ishmael and the promised son of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac.

Whoever thinks the Bible is boring need read just this one of many fascinating stories from the pages of Scripture.  It rivals any romance novel, rag newspaper or reality television show.

The difference?  This story is found in the Scriptures.  The Bible.  The infallible Word of God.  It is, as Timothy teaches (2 Timothy 3:16), God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

I can attest to the usefulness of this story for teaching and correcting.  I read it just this morning.  For the gazillionth time.  But it spoke afresh to me.  I recommend you take time to read the full story of Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis; together, let’s look at Genesis 22:1-17a (ESV):

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you…”

Did you get it?  In short, God asked Abraham to take his son – his only son, his son that he had waited about 100 years to have, his son that God had wrapped many promises around, including that through him Abraham would have many descendants, in fact, too many to number – yes, that son, take him and sacrifice him on an altar.  Yes, that means kill him.  Let me insert here that if Abraham had waited long for Isaac, so had his wife, Sarah.

To say that Isaac was a much-wanted child is a major understatement. To say that Abraham is in a conundrum is trivializing this situation.  To say that God is asking a lot of Abraham is a minimization.  As far as Abraham is concerned, I am sure he is feeling that God is asking for everything – give Me your son then go home and face Sarah (who, by the way, didn’t know about this conversation between God and Abraham).

That’s God.  He asks for all.  Everything.  Our Isaacs.  We all have one.  That thing (or that person) that we love – perhaps (if we are truthful) more than God.  Perhaps, that we have made into a god. We learn in Exodus (20:5, 34:14) and Deuteronomy (4:23-24, 5:9, 6:15) that God is jealous.  He loves us and will have us love no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3).

While as far as we know this was not the case with Abraham; he had not made Isaac a god, but the lesson is there for us.  God tested Abraham because He had plans for Abraham.  He was to be the Father of Nations.  God tests us, too.   When God calls us to take that thing or that person, our Isaac, and lay it on the altar, it is in doing so that we pass the test.  It is in doing so that we truly humble ourselves to be used by God.

What is your Isaac?



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Beat Average

Health and wellness retailer GNC Holdings recently launched a new national brand campaign called “Beat Average.” The campaign is designed to open a conversation with health and wellness consumers about their daily personal wellness goals and how GNC can be their ongoing partner and ally in beating average.

The Free Dictionary details numerous definitions for average including “The usual or ordinary kind or quality.”   Hmm.  Not so good.

Jesus calls us to “beat average.”  He calls us to greatness.  He calls us to service. Mark 10:43 (MSG) says, “Whoever wants to be great must become a servant.” But how do we serve?      1 Peter 4:11 (NASB) says, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Too often we are afraid to serve God.  He might call us to the wilds of Africa, the streets of some remote area in Thailand, the jungles of Brazil or, Heaven forbid, some un-air-conditioned place with outside plumbing. And He might call us to have to walk miles in the scorching sun, miss a few showers and eat some unidentifiable food.  Or He might have us trade in household treasures, luxury vehicles and fancy clothes for a mud hut, a pair of walking shoes and only 2 or 3 changes of clothing.  Well, guess what; He might!  Sometimes those are just the kinds of places and kinds of situations He calls us to.

But rarely.

Most often He calls us to small acts of service right in our homes, our churches, our neighborhoods and our work places.  To love a child.  To lend a hand to a struggling mother.  To encourage a jobless father.  To share a kind word with a stranger.  To speak appreciatively to service workers such as policemen and postal workers.  To demonstrate patience with an overworked waitress.  To help your neighbor carry groceries in from the car.

Every act of service demonstrates the love of Christ.  Every act of service is an act of greatness.

Will you beat average this week?  Will you be great?  Will you serve? (Please post a comment sharing your service experiences.)

And don’t forget – serve the Lord with gladness! (Psalm 100:2 NASB)