The Amigo of Grace – again!

Grace delivers us from bondage to laws

and frees us to enjoy God in an enriching

and satisfying relationship

 

In order to grasp the reality of God’s grace we must first understand the reality of our own sinfulness. If we are convinced that in spite of the little vices which we all have, we are basically good people deserving of God’s favor, then we shall see no need for His grace. If we believe that God is obligated to let us enter Heaven because we have tried to keep His laws and done the best we can, then grace is totally unnecessary. The whole concept will appear absurd. But if we accept God’s assessment of our lives—that we are unrighteous, deceitful, desperately wicked, guilty, condemned sinners, incapable of measuring up to God’s standard and unworthy of His acceptance—then a deep appreciation for His grace will begin to dawn on our sin-dulled minds. We will get to know the God of all grace.

We learn a valuable lesson about grace from observing God’s gracious actions toward us in salvation. Just as the root meaning of the New Testament word involves joy and pleasantness, so we notice that God’s grace has an uncanny way of transforming the unpleasant into the pleasant. He takes an unbeliever, chained to his wretchedness and sin and bound for the bitterness of an eternal hell, freely gives him the lovely garments of Christ’s righteousness, then assures him of Heaven’s glory and beauty. What a transformation! That is God’s grace for salvation.

Then He continues to act toward us in grace. Not only does He bring delight to our drab existence by giving us the gift of eternal life, but He keeps on giving us good things to meet our needs and brighten our lives. For example, He gives us the resources to build us up and set us apart more fully to Himself, progressively replacing the ugliness of our daily sin with the attractiveness of holy living. That was Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders:

 

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which

is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those

who are sanctified – Acts 20:32 NASB

 

That is grace for sanctification.

Sanctification is not slavishly submitting in the energy of the flesh to somebody’s man-made list of do’s and don’ts in order to enhance our own reputation or earn points with God. It is laying hold of God’s gracious plan to become more like Christ for His glory and praise. Grace delivers us from bondage to laws and frees us to enjoy God in an enriching and satisfying relationship. We will be motivated to please Him from within rather than pressured from without. We delight in pleasing someone who never stops giving good things to us.

God also provides grace for Christian service. We have a tendency to get carried away with our own abilities, and we begin to think that God is rather fortunate to have us on His team to do His work. We may feel that He is obligated to prosper us when we do serve Him. Those attitudes often lead to failure. The Apostle Paul admitted without shame that he was unworthy to serve Christ: “I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power” (Ephesians 3:7; cf. also 2 Corinthians 8:1-2).

We do not deserve to have the pleasure of serving the eternal God, but He has bestowed that privilege on us by His grace. We serve Him not to obtain His favor, but because we already have it. Any success we may enjoy will be the gift of His grace. He freely gives us the abilities and strength we need to serve Him. He transforms our feeble, bungling, embarrassing, unpleasant efforts into an effective, satisfying, and rewarding ministry that brings glory to Him. It is all part of His gracious actions toward us.

Go!

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God calls us to exercise faith in Christ’s sacrifice of the cross.

 

Do you like leaving home in the middle of a moonless, starless night? I don’t. But I did exactly that when I was in Boot Camp aboard MCRD Parris Island, SC. I was in Individual Combat Training at an old airfield aboard Parris Island. This was to simulate a night movement when in combat. It was also meant to develop trust between us as recruits and in our leaders, the Drill Instructors.

We were roused from our sleep by one of our Drill Instructors. We had to break camp, pack our backpacks and form up along a road all in the pitch black darkness of night. It was so dark I could not see more than six inches in front of me. It was dark! I was able to tell where we needed to go by holding onto a strap on the pack of the recruit in front of me. It was this way for everyone. We had no idea where we were going but we had to go and we had to believe the one leading us knew exactly where he was going.

We went through the woods, up hills, down hills, around bends, and finally arrived at a resting place. But it wasn’t just some old resting place, it was Elliot’s Beach. What’s there? Gas Chambers. We had to enter a gas chamber, experience being blinded by that gas, and then trust the instructors to get us out of the gas to safety. That was a lot of fun. We then continued to march to our final destination. Throughout this ordeal, we would march at a near run (it was called a force march) clutching tightly to the strap on the recruit on front of us. We simply had to go where we were led. We had faith that the leaders would lead us where we needed to be. In essence, we were led by the grace of the leaders where we needed to go.

We had to exercise faith to get where we needed to go. We had to make a choice. God’s Radial Grace is a lot like this experience.

God’s grace leads us where we need to be. You can bet that if God has shown you His Radical Grace and bestowed it on you, He will take you where you need to be. Do you need an example? Would that help? Lets turn to Genesis 12 for what I believe is a wonderful example of just how God’s Radical Grace is guaranteed to take us where we need to be.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” – Geneis 12:1-3 NASB

In this passage we see the beginning of God’s plan to bring salvation by grace through faith into the world. While this passage pertains specifically to Abram, there is application to us today. Let’s unpack this and see what God wants us to learn about His Radical Grace this week.

 

It begins with a command

Verse one begins with a simple command that must have been difficult to hear: You go! God told Abram to leave the only place he knew as home, leave his family, his surroundings – Abram was told to leave.Basically God told Abram to leave all that he knew. Leave it all behind. That is no easy task. But surely God had something good in mind and would share that with Abram. Well, not really. Continuing with the passage, God chooses not to tell Abram where he is going at the moment. There is only a promise that God would lead Him to that place and reveal it to him at some later date. My journey in darkness in boot camp was a  lot like this. “Just follow me” God tells Abram. But this wasn’t all that was happening.

God made some specific promises to Abram if he did indeed leave and go where God was graciously calling him. God promised to make Abram into a great nation, God would bless Abram, God would make Abram’s name great, and Abram would be a blessing. Now those are some really good promises. Surely Abram had to do something to earn those things. Well sort of. But it isn’t what you are probably thinking.

 

The syntax here in Genesis 12 is interesting. There is what is termed an indirect volitive chain. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that this chain is a way of guaranteeing the outcome for an obedient heart. These syntactical devices begin with an imperative, followed by a series of other verbs.  This combination demonstrates that whenever the action that was commanded is performed, then the promises made in the following verses of the chain are guaranteed to pass.

So what was God doing? And what does this have to do with God’s Radical Grace?

God was implementing His plan to bring salvation into the world. Remember that salvation is by grace through faith. In a very real way, God’s Radical Grace gets its first publicity here. God is proclaiming His intention to save by grace by extending a gracious call to Abram. 

Look at what is promised to Abram. a great nation, a great blessing given, fame, and Abram would be a blessing. But how is all this somehow gracious of God?

Abram was descendant of Noah’s son Shem. He was polytheistic so he obviously didn’t share the same faith as Noah. He was just another one of many who believed there were many gods who controlled everything. But God chose to intervene in this one polytheists life and change the course of history forever. God graciously interrupted Abram’s road to nowhere, placed him on the road to heaven, and in the passing of time brought salvation to the world. Through the journey that Abram took once he left his homeland until he died, God graciously provide for his needs. Does this sound familiar?

God calls us to exercise faith in Christ’s sacrifice of the cross.

God further states that if we exercise faith, our destination is secure and waiting for us – eternity with Him in heaven. All we need to do is obey that call. There is no promise that the road we will walk is going to be easy. There is no promise that we will not experience sadness or challenges. God promises that our destination – heaven – is sure. God promises to show us that place one day. Until that day we need to hang on to God as He graciously leads us to Him.

God chose to bring us to Him. God chose to bring salvation to the world even though the world rejects Him. God chose to love us in spite of our being unlovable. Just like Abram, we were on the road to nowhere good and God intervened and interrupted our lives to offer us a way out. A way to spend eternity with Him as His friend.

God did all this, just like He did with Abram, by His grace.

God’s grace. It is radical!

 

 

 

The Look

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But what does grace look like? Would you or I recognize grace each time it happens?

In recent articles I have discussed what grace is and our need for grace. But what does grace look like? Would you or I recognize grace each time it happens? My first reaction was an unqualified *Yes*. But as I thought about this more my first reaction seemed to be incorrect. Sometimes grace doesn’t look like what we expect. For the next few articles we will be looking for grace in all the right places. I think you may be surprised by where we find grace.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him – Genesis 2:18-20 NASB

In Genesis 2 we see a more detailed view of creation as described in chapter 1. I want to focus on God and his created man. Notice a few things about this passage. First, notice that God acted graciously in finding a helper for him. He created all the beasts of the field and birds of the sky for his created man. All these creatures were made to help out man. However, not one of them was suitable for him. How can this be?

A big clue to this is the meaning of the word translated helper here. The Hebrew word here is the word kenegdo. The literal meaning of this word is according to the opposite to him. This puts a different spin on the term helper doesn’t it. The search was for a companion for the man but none of the animals brought to the man are suitable for him. Not one of them meets the need that the man has. So what does God do in response to this? Does He say “Oh well dude. Better get accustomed to being disappointed. Life will be hard, deal with it.” No, God showed his man grace.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”  – Genesis 2:21-23 NASB

God graciously provided exactly what Adam needed.

From the man God took a rib. God performed the first surgery in history as an act of grace. That’s pretty cool. Anyway, God took a rib and formed it into a suitable helper for the man. Remember that the term helper means one who corresponds to him. God is making someone who will complement and complete him. How gracious is that!

God chose to make a companion for him. God didn’t start from scratch either. God took from Adam’s side and fashioned it into a companion. The woman reflected Adam well. She was a perfect compliment to Adam. All that Adam needed in a companion, the woman had. God graciously provided exactly – EXACTLY – what Adam needed. How gracious is that!

God has been gracious to man throughout history. He makes provision for our needs and He does this out of His grace, not our desire. This is how grace looks. This is God’s grace to man. But it doesn’t end here. In the coming articles we explore other acts of God’s grace to give us a fuller picture of it. Some of the examples I’ll use may not seem too gracious but rest assured they are.

He makes provision for our needs and He does this out of His grace, not our desire. This is how grace looks.

Look for God’s grace in your life. You won’t have to look too far or too long to discover it. When you do discover it, thank God for it. His grace abounds in your life and  mine. Let’s rejoice in that grace! Let’s celebrate that grace! Let’s experience that grace, all to the glory of God.

Comfort for the Afflicted

‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure;

Lately I have been reading quite a few messages, emails, and stories about the trials and tribulations of life. Some are quite sad. Some make me want to run out and fix something or someone. Mix in with this the silly season of politics and we have plenty of reasons to fret. We hear accusations and counter accusations from the candidates. We see bullying that I thought was left on the playground in 5th grade. And the language. Oh, the language. All this can lead to despair. Life these days can be trying.

The issues in life today can seem out of control. We feel helpless. We feel afflicted. We despair.

Are you afflicted with physical pain?

There are times – almost all the time – that my back hurts.  My knees ache, I have bone chips in my left ankle. I hurt continually somewhere. But hey, I’m 52 years old and did stupid stuff when I was younger. I should feel some pain now. But sometimes the pain gets the best of me. The pain make me want to have a pity party and say to myself (and others) “woe is me! I’m in such pain.” But you know what? I shouldn’t do that. I have good reason not to focus on my physical pain.

I have good reason not to despair. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with chronic illness?

I have diabetes. I also have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I have high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, an arrhythmic heartbeat, and an immune dysfunction that cause my immune system to attack my own body from time-to-time. I’m a wreck! If I was a car, I’d be recalled for being a lemon.  I have these chronic illnesses. I won’t get rid in this life of them unless God intervenes and performs a miracle. I take nine pills each day. Nine pills just so I have a chance at a slightly less abnormal life. In looking at these many chronic problems I have, I could despair. I could give up knowing that I have no realistic hope that I’ll ever be rid of them, the pills or the pain they cause me on a daily basis.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to focus on my chronic illnesses. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with depression?

Do you have clinical depression? I do. Having it is a beast. Feelings of worthlessness, overwhelming powerlessness come up over and over. I have even contemplated suicide. My past won’t leave me alone and at times my future – at least the one I thought I was going to have – eludes me. I get bummed. I start to focus on the issues that surround me and not where I should focus. Then I think I’ll never climb out of this pit. I’ll never have a day where I genuinely feel good.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to focus on my depression. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with unfulfilled dreams?

I love to preach. I love sharing God’s word and encouraging those listening to do something with what they learn. The greatest compliment i ever received was when someone told me they acted on an issue because of what I said from the pulpit. But, sadly for me, I feel my preaching days are over. I’ve taken some hits – some stinging criticisms.  The person(s) who feel this way haven’t talked to me about their perception of me, but they have talked to others.  I have become a stumbling block to that person (or persons) learning when I preach. So I would rather not preach than to cause someone to stumble. And that fact – that I am a stumbling block – saddens me. My love for preaching goes unfulfilled now.  Perhaps you have yet to find your place in the Body of Christ. Maybe you’re looking for a job – any job – and can’ seem to find one. Maybe you’ve been laid off or fired and your heart aches. Maybe, like me, you focus on your loss and you begin to despair.

But I have reason not to despair. And so do you.

Are you afflicted with financial struggle?

I have a wonderful wife and seven – soon to be eight – children living under one roof. My house can be loud, messy, and dirty. It can also be a madhouse. But it is my house – the house God has given to me.

My wife is the most wonderful woman in the world. She manages everything so well, home schools our children and gets more beautiful by the day. She is wonderful. More than wonderful. I don’t have a word for her she is so wonderful. She is my heartbeat, she is my life.   My children are great as well. They are growing so fast. My oldest is nearly 13(!) and my youngest is about to be born in May or June. They are generally loud, running, jumping, active kids. And I love each one of them more and more each day.

But we struggle financially. We are a single income family. That is a choice my wife and I made before we got married. You may have made a different choice and that is OK. Maybe you struggle too. There are some months we don’t have two nickles to rub together. Other months we are better. But whether we have plenty or not, we have each other. Sometimes though I wonder. I wonder about the future, our paltry savings. I see the economy in the US faltering and wonder when I’ll be out of a job. I worry. I start to despair. You probably do too.

But I have good reason not to despair, not to worry about our finances or future. And so do you.

The Reason?

My Good Reason is simple: God is sovereign. Period.

 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.       Psalm 115:3 NASB

God does what God pleases to do. Since God is holy and makes no mistakes, I should take comfort in that fact. And so should you.

In Isaiah 46:10 God says

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;

You see God will accomplish all He plans to accomplish. I take comfort in that. And so should you.

I mess up every day. I sin. I fight against God. I struggle through His grace. Then I get frustrated that I’m not as holy as I’d like to be and should be. I wonder sometimes if I have crossed some line in the sand that causes God to have had enough of me. Then I read John 10, Jesus says

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-20 NASB

Jesus claims to be God here. He claims sovereignty over my life. If you are a Christian he claims sovereignty over your life too. You can’t be lost once you are found. And neither can I. I take comfort in that. And so should you.

Finally, in Romans, Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:28-30 NASB

There is plenty in these few verses but I want you to focus in the first one. Everything in life is worked together for good by God for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means you Christian. Whether you are afflicted by physical pain, emotional strain or financial stress,

God is working it out for good in your life.   And we – WE – should take comfort in that.   No, we MUST take comfort in that.

Since God is sovereign in my life and in your life, we need not fret about those things that so easily distract us and stress us. Whether those things are temporary or chronic; whether they are physical or emotional; whether they are tangible or intangible; we should – we MUST – reject the control they desire over us and rely on on God.

 

We must find comfort in the absolute sovereignty of God for it cannot be found anywhere else.

Built on God’s Provision

The Path Less Traveled Final

When we choose to walk the path of holiness rather than the road of mediocrity, we will have all we need to walk that path.

 

“Just keep going. This will all be worth the effort” I was told as I ran through the hills behind my base. I was in the US Marine Corps at the time and I was running with a friend in what was termed “The Hills” behind my base in California. These hills were steep – both going up and going down – and seemingly took forever to run through.

As we ran I was ready to give up. I yelled to Sgt. Ski “I’m done. I’m done.”

Sgt. Ski told me to keep going. “There is a reward at the end of this” he yelled to me. All through our run he ran with me. He didn’t run ahead of me. He didn’t run behind me. He ran with me.

When we finished our run, I was shown my reward: a job well done. It was strangely satisfying. I had ran with Sgt. Ski and followed the directives of my Commanding Officer to continue to train and be in top physical shape. Though running “The Hills” were difficult, it was well worth it. My CO provided the command. Sgt. Ski ran with me, encouraging me  to continue.

In my final article in this series and in Genesis 22, we see how God provided for Abraham. Let’s take a look and discover the way God provides for us as we walk on the path less traveled.

 

Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”                 – Genesis 22:13-14 NASB

The Unexpected Expectation Met

Remember when Abraham and Isaac were trekking up the mountain? Do you remember Issac asking his father where the lamb for the sacrifice was? Issac saw the wood, saw the fire but didn’t see the lamb needed for the sacrifice. Abraham responded that God Himself would provide the lamb.

Understanding what Abraham was thinking – or at least trying to understand – is not productive. Was he thinking that the sacrifice would be his son Isaac? Did Abraham think God would make a substitute available? We simply don’t know because the text doesn’t go any further on Abraham’s comment. And that is a good thing.

What is interesting is that Abraham’s expectation was for a lamb.

 

The Hebrew word usedseh for lamb, seh, means a young sheep, or young lamb. The picture to the right is a very good representation of what Abraham expected God to provide.

 

 

The Hebrew word used for the ram here is the word ayilWhen you see that word think of one of those big-horned sheep. This wasn’t some little thing this was B-I-G BIG!

 

'ayil

Do you see the difference? The size of the sacrifice that Abraham expected and what God delivered could not be more different. God provided much more than Abraham imagined He would.

 

The Expected Sacrifice Made

So Abraham made the sacrifice he expected to make. The only difference was the subject of the sacrifice. Abraham – by all indications – expected to sacrifice his son but perhaps was hoping for a lamb instead, followed God’s instructions to the letter. God had a different idea. God supplied much more than Abraham needed for the sacrifice that God demanded. God was much more generous to Abraham (and Isaac) than either could have imagined. Hmmm.

 

The Expected Provision Remembered

Abraham made the sacrifice.He killed the ram provided by God. He named that place “The Lord will provide.” Remember that God sent Abraham to the mountain of Moriah. We saw that in v. 2. The word Moriah is a Hebrew participle meaning the place of seeing. The idea that we glean from that in this context is where God sees, God provides. So Abraham named that spot as the place where God saw and provided.

Where are you on this path less traveled? Where are you in the pursuit of holiness? Are you at a point of appointed sacrifice?

The lesson we should learn – the one we better learn – is that God’s provision for us as we follow Him on the path less traveled is often times much more than we can imagine. And that is OK. While we should expect God to provide for us as we follow Him, we should not expect that provision will be small.

When we choose to walk the path less traveled. When we choose to walk the path of holiness rather than the road of mediocrity, we will have all we need to walk that path. Often we will have much more.

Our walk on this path of holiness is built on nothing less than God’s provision. Regardless of what form it take, it is from God and we should expect that it will be more than enough for us to finish the task God has called us to complete.

Built on Committment!

The Path Less Traveled Final

 

How do we do with knowing our commitment to God? I know we talk a good game about being committed, but are we really committed?

This  week we will consider only two verses in  Genesis 22. I chose only two verses because of the many important things that occur in these two verses. To appreciate the importance of Genesis 22 as a whole, we must understand the importance of these two small verses. So off we go into the adventure of Genesis 22:11-12.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me. Genesis 22:11-12 NASB

The strong adversative But begins this section. This means there is a contrast to be illustrated in the words following the But. To fully understand the importance of this we must look at what immediately preceded the But here. Remember just prior to this Abraham had journeyed with Isaac, walked up s  mountain, built an altar, and assembled the wood for the sacrifice. He had just bound Isaac and placed him on the wood. And then he took the knife he had and probably placed it to Isaac’s neck. Now think about this for a  moment.

Abraham had not only followed God to the mountain of sacrifice. Not only did Abraham demonstrate his faith by walking with Isaac up the mountain to the place of sacrifice, but so did Isaac when they came to the altar. Isaac, remember, is probably a late teen by this time. He could have resisted at any point and Abraham would have been powerless to stop him.

But Isaac followed his dad and God to the point of death.

That brings us to the But in this week’s passage. And boy it is a big But. Imagine this scene: Isaac is bound and on the altar. Abraham has his knife in hand. Abraham takes the knife, stretches his hand out to place the knife on Isaac’s throat. He is ready to slice Isaac’s throat and burn his body as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Enter God’s But.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me. Genesis 22:11-12 NASB

Before Abraham could do harm to Isaac, the angel of the Lord interrupted him. Whether this angel was the pre-incarnate Christ or not is not important. Because the angel most definitely had the authority of the Lord in order to speak the way he did. If this was merely an angel sent to speak to Abraham and not the Lord Himself, that angel carries the full authority of the Lord. So the words here carry the same weight. So what did this angel say?

Do not…

The angel said not to stretch out his (Abraham’s) hand against Isaac. The angel was calling off the sacrifice. He said “don’t cut the boy’s throat.” That is quite a statement for the angel to make. This angel had to come with the Lord’s authority for only the Lord could say stop. Abraham was now not to do anything to Isaac. Why?

For now I know….

The angel of the Lord said that he knew that Abraham would not withhold the son of promise from God in any way, shape, matter or form. So what about this: did the Lord learn something about Abraham here? Oh boy, this opens a can of theological worms!

Without spending the next few months wading through that subject, let me say that God did not learn anything about Abraham. It was Abraham who learned something about himself. The context of this passage indicates this. It was in v. 1 that God tested Abraham. God decided to test Abraham’s faith. It seems to me that if God was testing Abraham, then God already had the answer but Abraham had not yet discovered this about himself.

So through the test, God was testing Abraham so that Abraham would learn the extent of his faith in God.

Parents do this to their children all the time. We ask our children questions, place them in situations, so they will react. We already know how they’ll react but they have yet to discover this reaction. When they react the way we knew they would react, have we learned anything? Nope. But we may say something like what the angel said to Abraham.

Abraham learned the extent of his faith in God. Abraham learned that he trusted God to the uttermost. He learned that nothing would ever replace his commitment to God, not even family. Abraham learned that he really did belong to God and would follow Him at whatever the cost. that is a good thing to know.

 

How do we do with knowing our commitment to God? I know we talk a good game about being committed, but are we really committed? If God called me – or you – to a place of sacrifice, would we go? You know, we should know that answer already.

God has called us to be living sacrifices. He has called us to take up our cross and follow Him. He has called us to leave all we know to follow Him on the narrow way into heaven.

We are at the place of sacrifice. Have we – you and me – discovered the extent of our faith? Just like Abraham, have we come to lay all on the altar in worship of Him?

 

 

Built on Trust

The Path Less Traveled Final

Are you trusting with your mouth or with your feet?

“Come on buddy” I coaxed my son. “Jump. I’ll catch you”

I was in the pool and my son Daniel was along the edge of it. He was hesitating.

“Dad, I’m scared. What if you don’t catch me?”

“I’ll catch you Daniel. Do you trust me to catch you?”

“Yes” he said.

“Then jump.”

I could see the struggle wanting to trust me yet the fear of the water. Daniel jumped. I caught him. We laughed and splashed in the water. His trust of me was demonstrated when he jumped. Are you ready to jump?

Trust is a funny thing. If I truly trust someone or something, that trust will have an action associated with it. True trust always – ALWAYS – shows itself in actions not just words. Here in Genesis 22 we see a wonderful example of trust in action.

This trust – the kind that leads to action – is the one that we exercise both choosing the path of holiness as well as walking on that path of holiness. Let’s take a look at biblical trust and what we can expect when we wholly trust the right One.

God’s call to Abraham began in verse one. It was a call to obey God that was built on a relationship between Abraham and God. Now that call continues where Abraham’s response to God’s call is built on trust. Do you trust God enough to follow His call on your life?                Are you ready to jump?

 

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” 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 the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Genesis 22:3-8 NASB

After God’s call in v. 1, here in v. 3 Abraham responded to God’s call to sacrifice his sin – the son of promise – on a mountain yet hidden. He got a donkey, loaded it with wood, took a couple of young men in addition to his son Isaac. This group travels for three days and somehow it was revealed to Abraham that they had arrived at the place of sacrifice. Abraham tells his servants to remain while he and his son continued to ascend to the place where they will worship God.

During this journey, one may infer that Isaac was trusting his father Abraham for the past three days to take him to the place they need to be. I can imagine that Isaac had put together that there was going to be a sacrifice when they continued on their journey. Notice what Isaac says

Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?

So Isaac sees everything but the lamb for the burnt offering.  Now I want to make an important point here. Isaac was probably at least 15 or 16 years old. How do I know this? The Hebrew gives it away. I know this is not a child because the word lad in Hebrew is na’ar (pronounced na-ar). This means a young person, a youth or something similar. If Isaac was a child the word would have probably been yeled (pronounced ye-leth). Why is this important?

If Isaac was a youth of 15 or 16 he certainly had the physical strength and will that could prevent anything from happening to him that he did not want to happen to him. Isaac could have simply refused to go on this journey with his dad. He was carrying the wood for the sacrifice. Abraham was carry a coal or some sort of fire that would provide as the starter for the fire to consume the sacrifice. But no lamb.

Abraham responds with assurance that God would provide a lamb for His sacrifice. This is Abraham showing faith in God. Abraham trusted God to 1) either provide a different lamb for the sacrifice or 2) use Isaac as the sacrifice but resurrect him somehow (based on Abraham’s statement to his servants as he and Isaac left). Abraham and Isaac were both trusting God not with the words of their mouths but with the actions of their feet. Are you trusting with your mouth or with your feet?

This passage ends beautifully with the phrase So the two of them walked on together. Here they are, father and son walking together to fulfill God’s will for them both.

 

I wonder how much we are committed to following God. Do we really trust God? Do we trust Him with our very lives? Our family’s life? I’ve used the phrase “Talk is cheap but actions are expensive” before. And it is applicable to this as well. We can talk about trusting God all we want but until we do something with that head knowledge, all the talk is simply cheap talk. Just like my son in the story I shared at the beginning of this article, we must do something with our trust if we do indeed truly have trust in God.

That may or may not include leaving where we are now. It may mean various things. But are you ready to demonstrate your trust of God?

Immediately after God called Abraham to take the son of promise to a mountaintop to sacrifice him, Abraham takes action. Notice what is missing. There are no negotiations and no special pleadings by Abraham.

We can talk all day about trusting God and having a great relationship that is built on trust. But talk is cheap. Actions are expensive.

Do something with your trust. Do it today.