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Saturday, January 15, 2011

More Faith

It is a story that seems to raise as many questions as it does answers. In Genesis 22 we see that God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac - this boy Abraham had waited 20 years of marriage to be born, the focal point of the promises of God - up to a mountain and offer him as a sacrifice.

The command of God is strange because, although the offering of live human sacrifice was a common practice of some religions of the time, it is clearly condemned in the Bible and something God hates (see Deuteronomy 12:31 and Leviticus 18:21). So why does God tell Abraham to do it?

God was testing the faith of Abraham, we are told in the first verse, and oh what a test it was! In Genesis 21:12 God makes it clear to Abraham that through Isaac God will fulfill his promise that Abraham will be the father of many nations and his descendents will be as numerous as the stars. And yet, here we see a radical command to trust God given to Abraham.

As you read the story, there is a sense of complete trust and calm by Abraham. In what would seem to be a horrible and agonizing decision, Abraham keeps his focus on two things: trusting in the character and promises of God and an unwavering obedience to God. And that is what faith is - trusting and obeying.
Abraham is held up in scripture as the father of faith. But it wasn't because of what he believed. It was because of what he did. Faith is shown is what we do, not in what we say we believe. (James 2:18-26)
It is REALLY EASY to say we believe in God or that we trust God. But, as I tell my kids - it's not your words that count, your actions tell me everything I need to know. What I mean is this - if we say we trust God but we live our lives clearly only trusting in ourselves and our abilities, we really don't have much faith in God. Likewise, as a church, if we say we are a church of faith but the only things that happen are easily explained by human means, we really aren't a church that has much faith.

Abraham, because of his trust and obedience, was put in a place of desperation where he absolutely needed God to come through. And you know what? God did. God provided the sacrifice. God protected Isaac. God proved faithful to Abraham. God protected his character. God was big enough to meet the challenge of faith. But the only way Abraham and Isaac experienced that was by taking the risk to trust God.

Being a follower of Christ is an invitation to faith, to trust and obey. When we do that, we will experience faith. Not through what we say, through what we do.

How about you? What is God asking you to do that requires risk, that requires you to trust and obey him? When are you going to stop making excuses and take the step, live the life, offer the sacrifice? It's going to be hard but God is big enough to meet the challenge.

And remember, the One who asked Abraham to sacrifice his son? He later gave His son as a sacrifice. Jesus willingly laid down his life so that you could have faith and you could be saved. If you are looking for faith, start by having faith in Jesus - believe in him in your heart and confess him with your mouth. He makes it possible to have a faith that will change your life.
What are you waiting for?

Peace and grace,

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Hunger for More

The scene is stark.  Two long rows of wooden tables in a dark, dingy, high ceilinged stone hall that just looks cold and miserable.  High on the wall at the end of the hall in very large black letters is written “God is Love.”  At each of the rows of tables, orphan boys sit with their single bowl from which they eat the watery gruel that serves as their main staple, providing little nutrition and no satisfaction to their hunger.
It is the scene the author Charles Dickens paints with his classic tale, “Oliver Twist” that was published in 1838 and then made into a feature musical film back in 1969.  In the scene described above, Oliver, the main character in the story, has the audacity to come forward and ask for more to eat.  The overseer of the workhouse incredulously cries out, “What?!  MORE?!”
            Oliver runs about the room but is eventually caught and is held by his ear as the overseer sings the following words:
Oliver, Oliver, Never before has a boy wanted more
Oliver, Oliver, won’t ask for more when he knows what’s in store
There’s a long, thin, winding stairway without any banister
Which we’ll throw him down
And feed him cockroaches served in a canister
Oliver, Oliver, what will he do when he’s turned black and blue
Cheery, huh?!  What a contrast from the words on the wall – “God is Love” – to a simple request for “more.”  Oliver was acting on what he was feeling, he was hungry and he wanted more.  But the response was anything but loving (read the words to that song again!)
I am hungry and I hope you are too.  But do you dare ask for more?  The hunger I have is not a physical hunger, it is a spiritual hunger that makes my soul rumble for more of God and his life in mine.
These next few weeks I am going to be challenging us to think about what we hunger for and I hope that I will stir up some appetites in you.  We are going to use 2 Corinthians 8:7 as our guide:
But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness and in our love for you – see that you excel in this act of grace also.

            Unlike the overseer in the movie Oliver, God is not stingy.  No dungeons and cockroaches in canisters for those who come to God looking to be filled.  Do you believe that?
            Each week I am going to ask you to right down one specific thing you want more of in this coming year.  Together over the next year we are going to see just how good God is!  I hope you are hungry!

Peace and grace,