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Archive for the tag “Abraham’s faith”

The Altar

Instead of making resolutions for a new year, I like to concentrate on one word. This year the word seems to be surrender. I hoped for a different word. But this is the one that keeps popping up over and over. Every first Sunday of the New Year, my church has a special service to consecrate ourselves to the Lord for the coming year. This year, we received white flags to remind us to surrender. The word didn’t come to me in that moment. It happened while I was reading from AW Tozer’s “Pursuit of God.” It became clear this is my word for the year.

In the second chapter, Tozer writes about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. The story is familiar – I have heard it most of my life. Isaac was Abraham’s greatest possession. God asked Abraham to lay Isaac on the altar of surrender. It was a test of Abraham’s total surrender of his heart. “Things” are not meant to take the rightful place of God. Possessions should not possess us. Tozer points out that in the beginning, God gave Adam things to rule over. “Before the Lord God made man upon the earth, He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight.” These things were for use, not possession. Sin introduced us to possession. Possession forced God out of the center of our hearts; His rightful place; the place He designed in us for Him alone.

The central message of this chapter was this: “The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing.” In the words of Jesus, Matthew 5:3 states: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” According to Tozer, “it’s an inward state of paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem – this is the word ‘poor’ used by Jesus.” Abraham found this ‘poor spirit’ through the sacrifice of Isaac. Although he was rich outwardly, he possessed nothing internally.

At some point in our walk with Jesus, we will be asked to remove that thing that possesses us. We all face this testing, like Abraham, and this maybe the year we might have to lay something on the altar which is dear to us. Something will need to be sacrificed. Tozer wrote there won’t be a dozen choices, but just one and an alternative. “Our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.”

Christine Caine spoke at the Passion Conference this year. In her talk, she stated the highest honor is to be the servant of the Lord. In the Bible, there are only four who are given this “title” Abraham, Moses, Joshua and David. These men knew what it meant to lay everything down for the sake of the Kingdom. Each man had a time of testing. They were given assignments, but they first they had a season of preparation. Abraham left everything behind to go to the land God promised as an inheritance; not to mention the wait for the promised child. Moses tended flocks in the desert for forty years. Joshua was Moses’ aide for forty years before he took the possession God promised Abraham. David had many years of being a warrior before he became a king. These men possessed nothing, but the promises they were given.

Jesus is our greatest treasure. This is the one thing that we are to possess for eternity. John Piper said to the crowd at the Passion Conference, “we need to live and die showing Jesus is more precious than life.” We have a wonderful inheritance stored for us in heaven. Whatever we give up in this life is nothing in comparison to what we will receive one day. Abraham left it all on the altar. We can do the same and be called one of God’s faithful servants. What an honor!

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give them to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Matthew 19:20-22

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Right Now

Last Saturday, my friend and I sat chatting about our current job situations. She made this comment: you need to be content where you are before the next thing will come. My friend had gone through a layoff situation and gained new understanding about contentment. Enjoy the moment; relax even while facing the fear of the unknown. I had my own desert season to gain understanding. As I was contemplating these things, I realized I haven’t relaxed and enjoyed the moments. I get frustrated more times than not when I contemplate the future. My financial picture is not matching my future spending habits. And I don’t know how things are going to come together – God’s plan and my future well-being. I realized I am not as content as I thought I was.

Beth Moore recently spoke on “Wednesdays in the Word” (Life Today.org) about the “God who sees.” Beth spoke about Hagar and two questions God asked of her. “Where have you come from?” and “Where are you going?” We are usually caught in the “right now” between these two questions. I tend to get frustrated in the right now because I want to know the answer of the where I’m going. I want the vision that God has for me. I want to know that the right now moments will come together even when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I want to know that I am not stuck in the right now – there’s a plan to move me to the future “going.” I would like to rush ahead to the fulfillment of the plan without going through the prep work.

God gave Abraham a promise that took years to fulfill. The promise was not given with the timeline. However, when things didn’t come together on Abraham’s time schedule, Sarah and Abraham made other arrangements. The couple decided Sarah was too old. They thought since the child didn’t happen right away, then God must have left out a few instructions so they needed to improvise to help God out. Note to self: our plans are not the best plans.

The promise must have included another party, and Hagar (Sarah’s maidservant) seemed to be the obvious choice. Hagar had Abraham’s son Ishmael. Jealousy arose in Abraham’s camp and words were said. Hagar took off to parts unknown. Hagar wasn’t privy to the promise God made to Abraham. God promised Abraham He would make Abraham into many nations and kings will come through his line of descendants. Sarah’s son, Isaac, was the blessing of the promise (covenant). But Ishmael would also receive a blessing – “he would be fruitful and will greatly increase his number. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation” (Genesis 17:20). God always fulfills His promises. But it is always done His way and not ours.

After a disagreement with Sarah, Hagar took her son and left the camp. God found Hagar in distress. She was in the midst of her right now moment when the future looked very bleak. God came to Hagar and revealed part of the plan. God instructed Hagar to go back to where you came from and wait. Wait for the fulfillment of the plan.

Drats. We’re supposed to wait for God’s timing and not ours. We have to surrender and wait. Be content in the right now. There’s always a reason in the wait time – the moments in between. God has to do the preparation in us and in His ultimate plan. The landscape needs to be arranged for the fulfillment to move God’s plan forward.

Hagar encountered the God who sees. Hagar was sent back to receive the blessing. The blessing is in the “right now” moment. God opened Hagar’s eyes a second time when she came to another desert place. God gave her a well to quench her thirst and reminded her of the promise to make her son into a great nation.

We all have a dry, desert place in our lives where the promises seem to be a long way off. God always sees where we are and knows where we are going. He knows we grow impatient in the waiting time. But if we surrender, be content while we wait; we will see God’s provision at His appointed time. Contentment truly is the way to the richer blessings of tomorrow even if we don’t see how it will come right now. Abraham is our example of God’s faithfulness. Right now, God is in the preparation phase and He is faithful to complete the work He started. It’s a guarantee!

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11:11-12

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