A Call and a Choice

Before I jump into this post, can I ask a favor? Please read the story of Abraham in Genesis 12-25. It will provide the backdrop for what I am writing today.

Today, let’s zoom in on one chapter today. This has to be one of my favorite (yet humbling) passages of scripture. To describe it seems pointless. Just read it. In fact, I am going to copy in this post with some additional thoughts or questions. Anything I add will be underlined and the rest is the text from Genesis 22: 1-19 from the New International Version.

Ready? I hope so because God wants to speak to you and I through his word.

Genesis 22: 1-14

1Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied. When God calls your name, what is your response?

2Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

3Early, (Abrahams didn’t wait. He obeyed.) the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. Why wait? Start obeying today. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.

4On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.

5He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham believed that they would come back. What is your attitude in the middle of a test?

6Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. (Take what you can. What you don’t have, God will provide) As the two of them went on together,

7Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

8Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

9When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. (Who or what is your Isaac? Is there anything that competes with God for first place in your life?)

10Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

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13Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a rama caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

14So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (Success! Now, who gets the glory?)


Abraham had a choice. God had called Abraham. God had also promised Abraham (in previous chapters). Isaac was the key to those promises. So Abraham had a choice.

You and I also have a choice.

I listed six practical applications that I found from the text. May God give you the strength and courage to make the right choice in your life. God bless you!

Keep Listening vs. 1

Act Promptly vs. 3

Adjust Attitude vs. 5

Prepare Accordingly vs. 6

Follow Through vs. 9-10

Give Glory vs. 14

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Are you building a wall?

A number of years ago, my wife and I built a fence around our back yard. I can still see my wife and her parents wrestling with the post hole digger while I sat in the air-conditioned house. There was a torn meniscus in my left knee so I was excused from that type of labor.

And boy was I bummed. =-) (Please note the sarcasm)

But that was not really the point. We built this fence. It was quite an undertaking. And the reason we needed to have the fence was to keep my two year old daughter from escaping! She is eight now and has learned not to run away at any given chance! =-)

People build fences, wall, barriers, etc. to keep things out (or sometimes in!). Do you recognize some of these?

The Great Wall of Chinagreatwall-of-china

The Western Wall

 

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The Berlin Wall

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Not pictured are Hadrian’s Wall and the Atlantic Wall. These are the famous ones that come to my mind. What walls do you think about?


 

In the apostle Paul’s day, there was another wall or barrier. It was in the temple and it seperated the court of the Gentiles from the temple proper. It even had an inscription on it saying that no foreigner can enter. Death will be the result.

Walls are meant for separation. To divide someone or something, you simply put up a wall.

What about the walls that do not consist of brick and mortar? These walls can’t been seen on the internet because they are in our hearts. We build these walls to protect ourselves from harm. There are people and situations that can do damage and so we build walls.

The ultimate wall is sin. This barrier is too big and strong for us to break down.

So I ask you again, what walls are in your heart?

Paul wrote to the Ephesians some words about a wall,

14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

Three words, “destroyed the barrier”.

There is a literal and spiritual meaning here.

  • The wall in the temple has been destroyed. Christianity is an international fellowship. Any person can come to Christ. Jesus not only brings peace, he is peace.
  • The wall of sin in our hearts has been destroyed. We have the access that sin once prevented. Need peace? Read Three Ps in a Pod. part 3

 

Christ already did the work. So put down the bricks with which you are trying to build a wall.

Let God reign in you. Only He can keep those walls from coming back up. He is good!

 

 

 

 

Three Ps in a Pod. part 4

I hope you have been enjoying this Three Ps in a Pod series. It has been very fulfilling for me to write it! =-)

Olive Garden breadsticks. Can you smell them? As you know, (if you have read About me) I wait tables at the Olive Garden. Hopefully, you have eaten at an OG and enjoyed your experience. There is something about the breadsticks that I want to share. Insider information, if you will.

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Breadsticks are served with every meal. You don’t even need to ask. They just appear. Here is the rule: the first time breadsticks are served, the number of sticks needs to equal the number of guests plus one. So, if you and your friend come in for lunch, I would bring 3 breadsticks to the table. If you ask for more, I only need to bring two.

That rule has always befuddled me. Why bring that extra breadstick? What is the reasoning behind it? People usually just fight over it anyway. Why the number of guests plus one? I don’t get it.

What is the purpose?

Have you guessed the last P in the series?

Pardon.

Peace.

Purpose.

As always, let’s go back to 2 Corinthians 5. Here are verses 18-20,

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sin against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,…”

We are ambassadors. And therein lies our purpose.

Our purpose is the reconcile the world back to God. Does that seem overwhelming? Are you strong enough to handle such a great task? Can I complete this mission on my own? NO! That is why we are ambassadors.

  1. An ambassador for Christ is a citizen of heaven. Even though we live, eat, breath, work, and play on this earth, our homeland is in heaven.
  2. An ambassador for Christ speaks on Christ’s behalf. Everything we say and everything we do should reflect the one who sent us.
  3. An ambassador for Christ has authority because of Christ. You and I may be surrounded by enemies. We may be in the direct line of fire from the evil one. Attacks could be (and are presently) coming from all sides. But we speak with the authority of one who has nailed the powers of this world to the cross!

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There you have it. Purpose. God did a great work in us so we could go out and do a great work for him.

It all started because He loved us.

So if you have been reconciled to God, consider yourself an ambassador for Christ.

And don’t worry, he has your back. You are are covered in the blood.

Go with confidence and let God do the rest.

Three Ps in a Pod. part 3

Pardon. Have you been enjoying the freedom that comes with being pardoned?

Have you ever felt guilty about something? That feeling of having made a mistake is stuck with you. Maybe after some time the feeling fades. But you still know that the guilt is there.

But God changed all that. Last week, we were able to see how “one died for all.” God gave Jesus as a sacrifice for us. If you ever wonder why Jesus had to die on the cross, read Leviticus. Perhaps the most dull book in the Bible, Levitcus explains and details all of the sacrifices, festivals, and rituals that the Israelites were supposed to follow.sacrifice-priests

 

What a bloody mess! Literally everyday, animals were being cut open; their blood being poured out and sprinkled on the furniture in the tabernacle. Some of the animals were eaten by the priests while others were completely consumed on the Altar of Burnt Offerings. Leviticus 17 mentions “the life of every creature is in the blood.” The blood was important.

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The blood of Jesus bought our pardon.

And because we are pardoned, we can have peace.

First the pardon and then the peace. Never the other way around.

Here are verses 17 and 18 from 2 Corinthians 5, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ,”

Verse 17 gives us the Pardon. Verse 18 contains the Peace.

We need to define reconciliation. Reconciliation is the result of Christ precisely exchanging His righteousness (his blood) for our guilt.

If someone is in Christ, that exchange has taken place.

That means that you and I stand before God completely free of guilt because our sins have been covered by the blood!

Can I end with a math equation?

math-beauty-equation

Actually, I was thinking of something considerably more simple.

Being guilt free = peace.

Three Ps in a Pod, part 2

You are pardoned. You are forgiven. And that is the first P! You already knew that though, if you read last week’s post, Three Ps in a Pod, part 1.

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Even as I type, this biblical truth baffles me. It does not seem like it should be. Why can you or I be pardoned? My feelings tell me that I don’t deserve it. My actions certainly don’t warrant it either. I am not worthy. At all.

But am I going to let my feelings dictate my actions?

Am I going to let my circumstances guide my behavior?

Am I going to let the devil’s lies provoke me?

In short, am I giving permission to believe anything other than God’s holy, unwavering, encouraging, inspired, and truthful Word?

If we go back to 2 Corinthians 5, specifically verse 14, we can see why we can answer “No” to the previous question.

Here is the second part of verse 14, “…because we are convinced that one died for all,” 

Convinced…are you convinced? Or do you just have an opinion? Is what you believe just that or is it a deep conviction that motivates you to act accordingly? More on this later…

The first P in the Pod is Pardon. You and I can have a full pardon from sin. WHY?

Because ‘one died for all’.

Listen, this is the bottom line. You want the meaning of life? Jesus died for you. Why are we put on this earth? Jesus died so we can live.

There are so many scriptures that point us to the cross on which Jesus died. The Easter season is coming up soon. People will go to church for the first and perhaps, the only time this year. The point is that life (and everything else we seek answers for) is found in the cross.

I don’t fully understand how God loved me enough to let His son die for me. But I will accept the pardon. Anyone can.

I was originally planning on explaining some of the Old Testament sacrifices that God required. All the blood! Then, in Hebrews, Jesus is described as better than those sacrifices. He used His own blood! Maybe a series on the Blood?

Know that His death and shed blood obliterated sin. The penalty of sin is gone. Remember two posts back? A new creation? Yes, that is you and I. We have been forgiven.

Pardon (noun)-that action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error or offense.

Our sin was an offense to God. We were cut off from Him. He wanted to love us and wrap His arms as a father hugs his child. But the bars of sin prevented such expression.

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Hey, no problem. Here is the key to open those bars:

God’s son will be born as a baby.

Jesus will live as a human.

He will be sentenced, beaten, broken, and finally crucified.

He will die on that cross.

They will bury his body in a borrowed tomb.

But then he will rise. He will ascend to heaven.

And then he will sit down because his work of salvation is complete.


Now we are free to be hugged by God because the bars of sin are no longer between us.

We have been pardoned.

Let God hug you right now. He is waiting.