The Moment That Hangs In The Balance

THE MOMENT THAT HANGS IN THE BALANCE

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?”  Genesis 22:7

         Perhaps you’ve gotten a phone call, or several, that started with… “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I have some bad news to tell you.”  You had a physical visceral reaction and your mind was scrambling to prepare for what was coming.

         I remember calling my parents from the Pittsburgh airport to find out the results of my mother’s recent sonogram.  I was thirty at the time.  My sister, Nancy, was kind and soft.  Asked me how my trip was going.  But I knew in my spirit she was giving me time to prepare for the bad news she had to deliver.  My mother had inoperable cancer with a short time to live.  I will never forget that day nor how I felt.

         Can you feel this pivotal moment between Isaac and Abraham?  Isaac knows there’s going to be a sacrifice.  The wood is ready.  But there is no visible sign of a lamb.  Did he even think it possible that he might be the sacrifice?  From the look on his father’s face, mostly likely he knew something cataclysmic was at stake.

         These kinds of pivotal moments are terrifying.  No amount of personal power and self-sufficiency can prepare me to feel like life is under my control.  It isn’t.  My gut knows it and that’s why I grasping for anyone to tell me this is a bad dream and I’ll wake up.  At that moment, I’m a child.

         God knows.  At conversion, God became my new Father.  He offered me a relationship where He would become my personal, sovereign, all-powerful Parent.  I was invited to live as a daughter, a much loved daughter, one who could feel safe to need Him for every breath.  To live childlike with Him, even on good days, especially on good days, is to secure a posture that prepares me for awful moments when I will cry out, “Abba, Daddy!”  It won’t feel awkward on my tongue.  In fact, it will be instinctive when I run home to Him for strength.

         The world says, ‘Maturity is becoming more independent.’  God says, ‘Maturity is becoming more childlike.’  For any of us who feel like our lives hang in the balance, it is an illusion.  Our Father holds us securely.  I need to run home, recall His reassuring words, so that I can feel what ‘is’.  Life may seem like it is unraveling but God holds the threads.

Every day of my life is planned, not only the events but the provisions.  I need nothing more than I need You, Lord.  Amen

Journal Question:  Has there ever been a moment where you felt God didn’t care about you?  Is that moment resolved in your heart?  If not, it will become a spiritual cancer that metastasizes that next time you face a crisis.  Work this past experience out with God in prayer.  Ask Him to show You the truth about it.

Trusting God With My Child

TRUSTING GOD WITH MY CHILD

         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.  Genesis 22:6

         We can watch our children suffer from many causes.  They may get sick just because we live in a fallen world.  They may groan under the consequences of their own choices.  But additionally, if they have heard the call of God on their lives, we will see their faith tested.  Perhaps we’ve walked a similar road and we know how crushing this testing can be.  There will be moments when we cry out, “Lord, it’s all I can do to trust You with my child.  Please strengthen my faith!”

         As I watch my child come to the end of their resources as Jesus did in the desert of His testing, I will do about anything to end their torment.  But the worst part of divine shaping is not the physical pain but spiritual anguish.  To see childlike faith crack into pieces rocks a parent’s heart.  I stay on my knees and ask God to preserve my child’s confidence in His love and promises. 

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How Faith Talks

HOW FAITH TALKS

         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.”  Genesis 22:5-6

         I must know my God well to have the kind of faith necessary in times of testing.  There was at least one thing Abraham knew going into this experience.  His God was against human sacrifice.  That’s a critical piece to this story.  God had no intention of allowing Abraham to go through with this sacrifice of Isaac.  Did Abraham know that?  Down deep, I believe he did.  What he spoke to his young servants confirms it.

         In Hebrew, the language is much stronger than in English.  Here is what he told the servants.  “We are determined to go, we are determined to worship, we are determined to return.”  Abraham predicted the return of, not only himself, but his son as well.

         This is how faith talks.  I know my God.  I know what He has promised to do.  I see my circumstances with eyes of faith and predict an outcome as if it’s already happened.  But most of the time, the language of my prayers doesn’t match the language of my everyday conversations.  I am a dual fountain.

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Take The First Step!

TAKE THE FIRST STEP!

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.  Genesis 22:3

         I am a worrier.  I admit it.  I obsess over things from every angle, especially in the night, and work myself up into a crisis.  So when God is clearly leading me down a path of pain, a path of difficult obedience, my history has been this ~ I have tried to take in the whole journey and everything I will experience along the way, and then I end up declaring that it’s all too much.  I can’t do it.  It’s overwhelming.  Such were the laments of a woman who needed wisdom.

         Abraham knew the ultimate test that awaited him at the top of Mt. Moriah.  Isaac would be sacrificed.  There were many steps before placing his son on the altar, beginning with making preparations for the trip.  He took the first step by saddling his donkey, getting his team together for the trip, cutting the wood, and saying goodbye to Sarah.

         God gives daily manna.  Not enough for the week or the month.  I can’t collect enough wisdom and grace to last the breadth of a journey; only what I need today.  For today’s challenges, the wind of the Spirit will blow across my path and strengthen me.  I will find coping resources outside of myself as God faithfully infuses me with the faith of His Son, Jesus.

         What has God told you to do?  Like Jonah, are you running because you are considering the breadth of your entire faith pilgrimage?  Dear daughter of God, it is too much.  You cannot carry the load of all your tomorrows. Take the first step.  What is it?  Then, harness your mind against thoughts of the future.  This is the recipe for the way of the cross.

Oh Lord, I breathe deeply of You.  I’m packing my bags for the journey. Amen

Journal QuestionImagine this.  Your child tells you on the first day of school that he can’t handle the final exams next June.  He’s having nightmares about them and wants to quit school.  Write out what your advice would be.  Can you hear God speaking to you about your own faith journey?

Is There Such a Thing As Blind Obedience?

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS BLIND OBEDIENCE?

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.”  Genesis 22:2

         When God calls me to a difficult act of obedience, because there appears to be great risk involved, I label it ‘blind obedience’.  But, is it really?

         There is nothing more difficult than what Abraham was told to do with Isaac.  To obey was agonizing.  Yet, I contend that his obedience wasn’t blind.

  • Blindness is not having any idea where to put your feet.  Abraham walked each step toward Moriah on the foundational stones of God’s character.
  • Blindness is not being able to perceive what is ahead.  When I obey God, I know what’s ahead; the blessing and spiritual prosperity that comes with following God’s instructions.
  • Blindness involves the fear of falling and causing great personal injury.  Abraham knew the God who held him fast and had already experienced His supernatural protection and provision.
  • Blindness involves great risk.  But ‘risky’ usually means foolish.  God is not careless with His children.  There is no risk when I walk in the purposes God has always had planned for me.  Though pain will be part of it, the joy of eternal purposes being fulfilled far outweigh it.  No risk involved.

Obedience is not blind.  With my faith in tact, there are so many things I can count on and see with my spirit-eyes.  In fact, there’s 20/20 vision.  God’s history, recounted in the pages of scripture, show me the outcome of those who remember God and walk in His ways.

         What has God told you to do.  You’re fainting, perhaps.  Frozen in place.  You were told to leave a family business.  Start a new ministry.  Confront a family member.  Stay in a marriage where you are not loved.  Without faith in God’s character, courage will not come to you.  Please know that you can embark on this journey to Moriah with a full backpack.  Love, promises, a solid history of the One you follow, future blessing, and perfect companionship.

Silence the voice of the accuser who reminds me that the stakes are too high.  The only voice I want to hear is Yours, Lord, urging me to follow You and live!  Amen

Journal Question:  Make a chart.  On one side, list all your objections and fears.  On the other, God’s promises and spiritual benefits.  Which side of the list will characterize your life?   What will you risk losing if you play it safe?

Testing ~ The Subject We Avoid

TESTING – THE SUBJECT WE AVOID

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Genesis 22:1

         I’ve spoken with three women, just this week, who believe God is testing them. He’s led each of them into the wilderness and the pain and pressure seem unbearable. Whether I am a new Christian or a seasoned believer, a time of testing challenges my view of God and how He loves His children. How can He say that I am the apple of His eye yet test me with pain? Can it really be that the resulting faith is so valuable to both of us that the testing is really a loving act, not a cruel one?

I’m not going to attempt to answer any of those questions here. Just raise them. I’m about to enter the story of Abraham’s testing period. He’s asked to sacrifice his own son on the altar. It’s inconceivable that God would ask such a thing, isn’t it? So, I’m letting my unrest stand this morning. Questions are good. Though I already know the end of the story, Abraham didn’t. And like him, when testing comes, the pain that comes with it unearths the hidden things of my heart. What can stay conveniently veiled in good times erupts under stress. Lies and accusations abound when I was previously unaware such things existed in my own soul. Perhaps this is one of the ‘gifts’ of testing?

I’m jumping into the deep end of the pool. No shallow answers. I hope you’ll join me for the next week as we lace up Abraham’s sandals and feel the pain of a father’s heart. He is torn by his love for God and his love for his son. They appear to be mutually exclusive.

This morning, let’s feel the tension. If you are in the middle of testing, it’s okay to allow your own questions to surface. God will lead us through the minefields ahead of us.

Lord, I want You to speak to me through this story. Only Your voice, Lord. Reveal Yourself and give me the treasures of the darkness. Amen

 Journal Question: Are you one who distracts yourself from feeling any pain? Maybe you escape into television, gadgets, work, food, Facebook, and even social functions with Christian friends. Will you take a week to fast for 30 minutes a day from distractions in order to seek God on a new level? The devotionals of the next week will be the catalyst and we’ll make this commitment together.

Who’s Talking?

WHO’S TALKING?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.  Eph. 4:29

         Don’t you wish people were consistently encouraging with their words?  I can carry one nasty comment with me for years, but my future can also be shaped for the good by a few words of praise.

         Oftentimes the negative things I hear from others confuse me.  When do I know if I’m hearing the truth about myself?  I need a grid for sifting what goes into my ears before it enters my heart.

         How about some initial questions I can consider before just owning another’s words and setting myself up for a painful detour:

  • Who’s doing the talking?
  • Does this person really care about me?
  • Would this person be happy if I succeeded in life?
  • Does this person have the reputation for being a cheerleader or someone who discourages?
  • Is there anything this person can gain by putting me down, such as power or control?
  • When I see this person coming, do I think, “Oh no, now what will I hear from her, or him?”

        

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