FULLY ALIVE!

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


Leave a comment

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?

 

Not My Will (Alvin Slaughter) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cIzBdyVWww

Advertisements


Leave a comment

If It Looks Like a Duck

It’s funny – the things we accept at face value and the things we do not.  Get a piece of paper; it can be a scrap, and see how you do on this little Yes or No test:

  1. I have purchased a dress ___ sizes too small promising myself that I would lose enough weight to wear it. (You fill in the blank.)
  2. I have befriended someone (welcomed them into my home, introduced them to family, scheduled special events with them, etc.) when I knew the relationship would be the equivalent of putting a hot coal inside my shirt.
  3. I have said that I liked something (when I secretly thought, “Yuck!) only to receive that something later as a gift.
  4. I have purchased a shoe in a size other than what I know that I wear thinking I could “make them work” for a special occasion (and because they were cute).
  5. I have dated (or married) a man believing that I could, eventually, change him into the man of my dreams.

Each question is worth 20 points.  I trust you to score your own paper.  You do not have to report your score; I’ll let you “sit with” it.

There seems to be two camps – the one that believes you can always turn a situation around and the one that agrees with the old anonymous proverb that says, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck – it must be a duck.”

Here’s my thinking on that proverb…Wrong!

You may think this season of your life is pretty hopeless.  It might be looking like unemployment, feeling like cancer, sounding like a mean boss, smelling like divorce, feeling like loneliness, tasting like failure…  Looks can be deceiving.  So can feelings and all the other senses.

We’ve been following Joseph through several chapters of Genesis, so let’s keep learning from him

Genesis 37:23 (NIV)  “So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing…” Looks like nakedness.

Genesis 37:24 (NIV)  “…they took him and threw him into the cistern.” Tastes like abandonment.

Genesis 37: 28 (NIV)   “…his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels…” Sounds like slavery.

Genesis 39:6b-7 (NIV)     “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” Smells like a set-up.

Genesis 39:20a (NIV)        “Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. Looks like, smells like and feels like the end!

Wrong, again!

Genesis 39:20b-21a (NIV) tells us, “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him…” And two chapters and two years later, we see Joseph not just leaving prison and not just being restored to his former position, but he is positioned second only to Pharaoh. Genesis 41:39 -41 says, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph…, ‘Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you…I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’” Looks like a test, and looks like Joseph passed with flying colors. Will you?

Max Lucado tells us that God “sees the needs of tomorrow and, accordingly, uses your circumstances to create the tests of today.” He sees your needs, and He sees the needs of others. He uses you and your circumstances to create tests that will bring about His desired results. Sometimes your testing is to bring about a certain result in you. Sometimes it is to bring about a certain result through you, meaning you are the vehicle chosen by God to do a work in someone else’s life. Whichever situation is the case, you want to pass the test. Lucado also reminds us that “some tests end on earth, but all tests will end in heaven.”

So, it might walk like a duck, quack like a duck and even look like a duck, but what it really is is a test! And you want to pass!


Leave a comment

Just Where He Wants You

The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. (Acts 16:22-24 NASB)

Paul and Silas had not been long in Philippi when they met Lydia, a seller of purple fabrics. (Acts 16:14 NASB) The Lord opened her heart and she and her household were baptized. What a great high Paul and Silas must have experienced. Their ministry here was off to a great start. They headed next to a place of prayer, perhaps to thank God for safe travels, for the Holy Spirit leading them past Phrygian, the Galatian region and Bithynia to Macedonia. Along the way they meet a slave girl with a spirit of divination. What a great opportunity to show God’s power and to share His Gospel! Without missing a beat, Paul says to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment. (Acts 16:18 NASB)

How pleasing this must have been to the Lord. His Spirit had led Paul and Silas to this region and they were busy about His work. It seemed they were just where He wanted them to be! How pleased God must have been. How displeased Satan must have been.

But wait a minute. In the very next verse (19) we find Paul and Silas being seized and dragged into the market place before the magistrates. Keep reading and we find them being beaten with rods, thrown into prison and fastened in the stocks. How displeased God must have been.   How pleased Satan must have been. It seems that he now has them just where he wanted them to be.

That’s the thing about looking at situations through earthly eyes.

Lost jobs. Foreclosure. Bankruptcy. Divorce. Death. These all seem like tragic conclusions, ends of the road and final chapters in our eyes. Seems like Satan has us just where he wants us. Confused. Distraught. Alone. Weary. Feeling Forsaken.

“But about midnight,” says the Scriptures, “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundation of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”  And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30 NASB)

Seems like God had them right where He wanted them.

What Satan intended for evil, God used for testing and ultimately for good.

Every day God tests us through people, positions, problems or pain. Our first inclination (and prayer) is to escape the situation or experience. Rather than pray for immediate deliverance, quick relief or escape, determine to understand and do the work that God has for you in the place where He has you.

He knows where you are, and He has you just where He wants you.