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Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

My mind went again – only somewhat unwillingly – to all that I’ve lost (in full or in part) over recent years and things that I miss since my health has been on this continual, gradual decline of a roller coaster. How long has it been since I’ve mimed? Or danced? Or even signed? How long since my last tea attended? Even longer since my last tea hosted… I can’t remember the last time I worked on my book. My weeks to teach have been more miss than hit. I rarely go out, rarely socialize and have missed too many Sundays at church to count…

But a new train of thought stopped me in my tracks:

“What a minute. What about all those times you read scripture, sang songs or prayed prayers of sacrifice and surrendering? How many times have you told God He could have it all? Did you mean those?”

“Of course I meant those! Every time I spoke or sang those words. I’ve been paying attention for years now to what I sing and pray. I didn’t do it blindly. I meant it.”

“But?”

“But I thought the mime thing… and then the tea thing… and some of these other things were things God gave to me. Things God wanted me to do! Directions God wanted me to go! Why would He put a passion or a dream or a goal or a direction into my heart and mind and then take it away? Or ask me to sacrifice or surrender it?

“You mean like God fulfilled a promise [and really the seed of a future promise] to Abraham by giving him Isaac and then asked him to give Isaac up?” 

“Um…. yeah.”

That hit me. Hard.

And the thing is, I don’t think I should count on a ram in the bush. I don’t think I should surrender or sacrifice these things expecting to get them back. For that would only be a nominal surrender, not a true sacrifice.

I don’t think the scripture story is meant to satiate us that if we sacrifice to God what He gave to us, then we’ll always get it back or get it back just as it was. Though I’ve heard folks talk that way.

It’s also really popular to bring up how Abraham tells his servants that he and Isaac will go up the mountain and sacrifice and then “we” will come back to you.

We point to that to show his faith in God.

And Abraham really did have faith in God. His words and actions show his trust and obedience to the One who was his God and Lord.

The problem is that we know the story. It’s easy for us to read into it that Abraham trusted God to somehow save or bring back Isaac – his exact 12-year-old Isaac.

But Abraham didn’t know the story.

And he didn’t know about the plagues on Egypt that displayed God’s mighty power. He didn’t know about the parting of the waters, food in the wilderness, water from rocks, cloud by day, fire by night, sun standing still, crashing Jericho walls, axeheads floating, oil and fishes and loaves multiplying, blind seeing, deaf hearing, lame walking, lepers being cleansed and the dead being raised…

That would all happen generations and centuries after this faith-father was long gone.

As far as I can tell, the only thing Abraham knew and had experienced was God’s faithfulness thus far.

In keeping him safe.
In bringing him to a land that wasn’t even his yet.
In fulfilling the promise of a son.

He had tasted God’s faithfulness.
Even when he was faulty.

And now he was asked to obey.

He had a choice.

He could choose to sacrifice or to refuse and hold tightly.

His display of faith shows us that he chose obedience.
And that he fully trusted God.

Abraham trusted that God was faithful and would somehow keep and fulfill His promise even if Abraham’s obedience to God ended the life of his promised son.

Abraham didn’t know the end of his story.

I don’t know the end of my story.

It would be presumptuous of me to assume that my stated willingness to surrender what God has given to me is somehow a magical key to unlock the door, removing all obstacles and bringing that idea, dream or passion to completion.

And it would be half-hearted, half-faced of me to say I will sacrifice what has been asked of me while actually believing I don’t actually need to relinquish it because I’m fully expecting to get it back.

I have seen the faithfulness of God.

In the history of Israel.
In the life and death of Jesus.
In the lives of countless believers who’ve come before me.
In the lives of those around me.
In my own life.

I can trust the Faithful One.

And I want to obey.

Whole-heartedly.

Even when asked to “Let it go.”

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I didn’t get very far into reading this morning’s section of 1 John when a thought struck me.  Seemingly coming out of nowhere and hitting me upside the head, once it was there I couldn’t believe I had never thought of it before!

It would have been easy to overlook…

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Yeah, of course, I thought, Jesus died for us and sacrificed himself and we need to do the same.  Easy peasy (mostly because I seriously doubt I’ll ever have an opportunity to physically give up my life for someone else).

But it shouldn’t be that easy, another voice entered into my head.  Is merely thinking that you’d be willing to die for someone really what this is verse is saying?

Um… no?

I looked at the verse again and thought about it some more.  What does laying down one’s life mean?  Does it only refer to physical death?

Jesus physically laid down his life for us.  He took our sins and the punishment for those sins so that we could have a relationship with God.

But it didn’t start there.  Paul tells us in Philippians that Jesus “emptied himself.”  Long before Jesus actually died for our sins, he laid aside his heavenly home, the glory due him, his will (as he submitted to his Father)… Before the nails pierced his hands he arrived on earth as a baby, he walked with us and talked with us and experienced life with us.  He taught and healed and loved.

So maybe when the Bible speaks about us loving others by laying down our lives, it means more than just physically dying for someone else.  Maybe we, too, have to start earlier.

Maybe I need to lay down my wants and desires.

My time schedule and plans.

My selfishness.

Maybe laying down one’s life refers to much more than physical life.

Maybe it begins with simply putting others before ourselves.

Which is where Paul began in his letter to Philippians before he tells of Jesus’ example of both emptying himself and dying on the cross:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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Follow Me

(My devotions this morning were from John 21:15-25 which you can read here.)

“Follow me.”

It was one of the first things Jesus had said to Peter and it was one of that last.  It is both an invitation and a command.

In the beginning the response would have been out of simple obedience, perhaps a curiosity and not really knowing what all the invitation would mean…

But that was before.  Before three years of dusty roads, hard teachings, people healed, demons scattering.  Before spending day in and day out with God in the flesh.  Now Peter had seen his mother-in-law healed, had been a leader among followers, had walked on water, had gotten rebuked, had seen & confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the very Son of God and had denied this Son, his friend and master… for now was after Jesus had been arrested, beaten, crucified, buried and resurrected.

Things were different now. “Do you really love me?” Jesus had asked him moments before.  “Others will lead you where you don’t want to go…” Jesus had spoken, hinting at the martyrdom Peter would face.

Now the road was known. The truth of God’s redemption plan. The commitment to be made.  The sacrifice required. The hope attained.

And Jesus said, “Follow Me.”

And Peter did.

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