Just Give Me A Sign!!!!

In the past few weeks I’ve been working through a decision. Not a little decision like which socks, but one that felt big and important. Big like…is someone documenting this, because this is going down in the history books…oh…documenting my life and thoughts is my job.

People would talk about feeling peace or gaining clarity, but I never felt out of peace or particularly foggy. Close to the end a friend voiced what I’d been thinking the whole time, that really, either way I went, it really would be ok, that it wasn’t about right or wrong, but A or B. But with the process, there was this wait, and in the wait I found myself wondering, “How will I know when it’s time to decide? Will there be fireworks or what?”

I’ve been there before. It’s a natural human experience, to search for signs and wonders to direct your steps, looking outside of yourself to address your inner monologue. Even in the “follow your heart” crowd, if you watch, they interpret events, moments, conversations, chance encounters and apply them to the craving of their spirit and direct their path, good or bad, and move. It bears this note, that the casual observer can also tell if the outside influence of the action is a good or bad influence.

This isn’t a current trend, that everyone does it because everyone famous is doing it, but something that has been in our nature from the beginning. I listened to in incredible sermon a few weeks ago where Moses’s calling was outlined. It’s a familiar story, Moses is out and about doing the shepard thing and woah! There is a burning bush! And from the bush comes a voice which directs Moses to go back and get His people and free them from Egypt. Well, Moses doesn’t just take the burning bush at its word, for one thing, who even was this talking to him? And why would the bush choose him? And how exactly was this going to work, because he just was not the best guy for the job?

We find that story in Exodus 3, and there in verse 12, God has already anticipated that what Moses is looking for beyond answers to the questions, is something real and tangible that he can look to to drive home that this was real and this was trustworthy. We read, “And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

We know the story that follows, Moses gets on board, goes and talks to Pharoah, Let my people go, plagues, blood, bugs, more bugs and death, freedom, Pharoah say “oh shoot, what’d I do?” chase scene, staff raised and parted sea, Isreal races forward, makes it in the nick of time and the Egyptians drown. These are some pretty impressive things there. But God did not say, “This will be a sign to you, there will be locusts, like, EVERYWHERE, and I mean EVERYWHERE.” He didn’t say a word about the blood, about the frogs, about the walls of water, nothing. It wasn’t any of the powerful or miraculous things God would do through for and through Moses. But those are the things we look for. I wanted fireworks. I wanted sky writing.

What God gives as a sign is that Moses will worship, that Moses will find himself in adoration of Him. What would show him that I am sent him out is that he would find himself facing God in wonder.

So, thinking on this, I decided to stop deciding. Stop pros and cons, stop weighing out the options, stop playing out imaginary what ifs in my head. I was just going to sing, to worship God. When the thoughts about the decision came back into my head, I sang louder. I sang in the car. I sang at home. I sang doing yard work. I sang at my desk. I sang when no one was with me and I sang when others were around.

Soon enough, I could hear another voice, a voice from my childhood singing a sweet old song, “Blessed Assurance,” and there in the chorus rang out, “This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.” I love a good story and I love a good song, but there in those lyrics I found my answer.

The direction I should go should be the one that creates within me a response
to praise my Savior all the day long. 

When I filled my heart, my mind and my mouth with song it became so simple to see which way lead to more worship, which way pointed me towards singing and story telling the lyrics and lines I want written about me, penned by Him.

If today you are searching for fireworks or parted seas, may I direct you instead to song. Sing, sing loud, sing off key, just sing, until you hear Him singing with you, delighting in your delight of Him.

The Faith Of My Child

Right before they leaned him back, his lips turned up into a smile, his eyes closed gently and he took a little breath. If I had known that his face would have shown the sincerity of his heart, I might have rethought my idea to leave my phone back on my chair so that I wouldn’t be tempted to take pictures and not just experience the moment. I will hold fast to the peace and pleasure written on his face for years to come.

In second grade, the kids watched a video of a friend being baptized. There were questions that followed and I answered them as carefully as I could. I know that as a parent I have the power to convince my children of most anything, and with something as sacred as their faith, I do not want them to turn around one day and say “I only went to church, I only prayed that prayer, I only sang those church songs to make Mom and Dad happy.”

Afterwards we talked about it, what baptism was, what you had to decide before you did that. Before that video, I knew they knew that Frank was baptized as a baby, and Molly was dedicated, but we hadn’t really touched the subject beyond that. In that discussion I told Frank that he had been baptized, but that if he decided that he ever wanted to be baptized again as a way to show people that he’d decided to invite Jesus into his heart, that was ok by me. It was clear that while Frank thought about God and thought about spiritual things, he had not made that choice for himself…which that was no big deal, because he was just barely 8. I told him that he would decide whenever he was ready, but he shouldn’t decide anything because his friend had and he shouldn’t say anything because he’d thought it’d please me, because it actually wouldn’t make me happy if he only said something to make me happy about God, that it should only be about him. He nodded and looked like he was thinking, but that was sort of the end of that conversation.

A few months later, he sat and watched another friend be baptized. I glanced at him to see what I could see from his face and his eyes were a little damp and his expression was of close examination. I asked him what he’d thought about it and he said something to the effect of “Good,” and no more, but it was pretty clear the idea of being in front of all those people in a wooden tub was extremely strange to him.

The summer continued and the school year began, and we didn’t discuss it anymore. Our conversations centered around my trips to Richmond to help my parents, situations at school and how they made the kids feel, what they’d been learning or whatever they were interested in at the moment. My parents both had intense health concerns and we prayed for them pretty much every night, but I could see something different about the way Frank was praying. It was not recitation of familiar verses or listing thanks and wants, but it was this honest appeal to the one he believed could heal his grandparents whom he loves so dearly.

I had encouraged those prayers and agreed Amen and Amen with him, but I became discouraged about my parents health situation. Then as I was sure God was not going to bring the healing I so desperately wanted for them, I was afraid I’d set Frank up for incredible hurt and anger that he would direct towards God. Maybe I should have said something about how He should pray “thy will be done” or “not what I want, but what You want.” But no, I had told him to ask, ask honestly what he wanted from the God who was listening and who loved Him and whom he could trust to do big miraculous things. I was sure that not only would I soon have to walk him through incredible loss, but I would have to walk him through incredible anger. I turned to God, struggling to form good sounding paragraphs that would express my willingness to submit to suffering, petitioning for healing and help with my child. It was mostly just short statements and questions. “What are you doing? I can’t handle this. What have I done?”

On and on Frank continued to pray, and miraculously my parents both received words like “recovery” and “remission.” These words I never thought possible, but Frank prayed earnestly for. How that taught me about the faith like a child. How that taught me about how He cares about us. How humbled was I that my son had stayed trusting praying “Help them”  while I gasped for enough air to croak out “Help me.” My cousin, who has worked tending to the care of patients who went through what my dad went through and personal experience with her family facing the same battle my mom has faced took the time out to call me and make clear that what my parents went through and their coming through the other side was nothing short of a miracle. It was medically ridiculous, but it was truly miraculous.

We continued on, Frank would pray for their continued strength and now he had other things to pray about, and his prayers were filled more thanksgivings than nearly anyone’s I’d ever heard. He started every prayer with all of the things he’d appreciated about the day and credited them to God, thanking Him for allowing those good things. He’d say “Thank you God for this great day. Let tomorrow be even better than this one!” And the following evening he thanked God again for the day, just as sincerely showing that he believed that God had indeed made the day better. Even on days I knew he’d had rough days, he thanked God for the day and found things that were good about it. That positivity and remembrance to give credit where it was due spoke so much to this mother again.

One night Frank was climbing the ladder to his loft and turned around and said “Mom, I want to be re-babatized.” I was a little taken aback. I asked him why and he explained that I’d said before that if he decided he wanted to do that, he could. Well, sure, I’d said that, but I’d sort of expected it to be something he did when he was maybe 17, you know, the same age I was when I decided to make my faith my own. I asked Kermit about it, was he too young to decide this? Kermit said “Well, 9 is young, but if the Spirit tells him it’s time to do it, then it’s time to do it.” Man. Look at everyone in my family being more right on than me.

Frank waited patiently for the baptism date to arrive and read his baptism booklet. There on the back was a spot for his testimony. He stopped on that. He asked if we could come back to it. Sure. But when we came back to it, he didn’t get it. I tried to explain what a testimony was, but he kept answering “Why do I want to get baptized?” instead of “Why did I ask Jesus into my heart?” I told him probably ten convoluted examples of what a testimony was and he looked over my shoulder and made silly faces. Finally I said here is a pencil, take this to your room, turn off the tv, sit down and write why you decided to ask Jesus into your heart.

I came back to check on him maybe 10 minutes later and he was watching tv. I asked him what happened and he said he’d finished and given it to Daddy. He’d written…

“I was sitting in church thinking of God and decided to follow Him so I could understand him better. I chose him in my life because one, no two people. My mom and dad. My family believes in him so much I couldn’t resist but to get baptized. I know he did some risky miracles, but nothing he does ever goes wrong.”

     My heart, right!!! I told him it was perfect, and inside it made me feel so much better that he’d gone and written it alone so that I didn’t wonder if I’d influenced it. The last bit made me chuckle thinking through Jesus’s miracles and which would have been the risky ones. Probably walking on water. At bedtime I asked him “Which of Jesus’s miracles was the riskiest?” Frank answered, “In my life?” I was a little surprised, because I expected a bible story, but I said “Ok, sure, in your life.” He talked about how God had healed his grandfather, and how He’d helped Grandfather start living a healthier lifestyle, but in order to do it God used a big scary health problem.

And I saw it, the path that Frank had traveled in the past year, from the times where he watched his friends being baptized and knowing that about baptism the way he knew about anything else “bibley.” He’d been taught about it, he’d read about it, he’d heard about it. But faith is not faith that is on paper or words floating from a speaker to your ears. Faith is found in experiencing God and His might and majesty and finding no other alternative worth choosing.

Today Frank was baptized, something he’s waited and wanted to do for a few months. That smile as he slipped beneath the surface and came up, it came from deep inside. We have many more years ahead of us as parents, to guide him, to direct him, to speak truth to him and to encourage him to continue to choose this faith as his own…on his own. But what a gift we have in this day, to remember that our boy has a heart for the Lord and is tucked so sweetly in the arms of our Savior that he can whisper his prayers right into His ear.

Happy Baptism Day, Frankie!

 

Pentecost and the Trinity

    Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise God above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

     Growing up I sang the Doxology and had enough Sunday school to get the basic idea of the trinity. Three in one….all each individual and yet not separate. There was a children’s moment where the children’s pastor used a banana to illustrate the trinity, showing that if you press your finger into the top off a banana it will separate into three parts, all three fully banana, but individual sections. It stuck, that banana example.

But it was still a bit of a mystery. Because, God the Father I could understand. He made everything and made me and my family.  God the Son I could understand. He was Jesus who died on the cross and took our sins. God the Spirit? God the Holy Ghost? What was that? Was it like a transparent Jesus? Or like God with a Charlie Brown holey ghost sheet on? And what was with the tongues of fire? It was almost like I was looking at the banana, and the first two pieces were banana and the third piece was like, I don’t know, kiwi in a banana shape? Just confusing.

In the early years of my adult life, I understood that those urges, the pulls on your heart which give directions to your steps, separate from whims and desires had something to do with the Spirit. But I probably also attributed that like nice feeling you get when you’re singing at church or like the feeling of the wind on your face when you sit outside at a retreat as the Spirit. I was aware that there were people who talked about the Spirit provoking certain responses in them that I wanted no part of and I saw stories on tv about snakes that just made the idea of being too involved with the Spirit sound kind of dangerous and weird.

So I lived the first decade and a half of my adult faith like
FATHER, SON, and the other guy.

     I saw some unhealthy things attributed to the Holy Spirit and I saw some intriguing things attributed to the Spirit, but nothing ever interested me enough to stop and say, “What exactly are you all talking about?” I would read about and think on the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit, but the Spirit still remained distant. It wasn’t until my 30s that I sat in churches where I heard good scripture on who the Spirit is and about the daily impact of the Spirit on a person’s life and our world, not fantastical promises of supernatural worked up frenzies expressed through sensational emotional highs. I heard about surrender. I heard about releasing control. And these things peaked my interest.

By the time Pentecost rolled around last year, I was excited about this. A day to remember when the Spirit came and the church was born. The day was almost upon us when I realized something.

In the Old Testament, God was introduced as “the God who sees me.” He was watching. He was observing. He was manipulating the outcomes of human affairs, but He was separated behind a veil.

     Then came Jesus, and at Christmas we meet Emmanuel, “God with us.” God stepped out from behind the veil and drew closer to humanity, willing to step into our dirt and mess and clean us.

Then came the Holy Spirit. And He was now the God withIN us. The Spirit was the final piece in God moving as intimately into our lives as He possibly could, to go from being behind a veil, to being present next to us, to being inside of our hearts.

     It was a beautiful thought, one that I treasured over the past year. That God would want to be so close to me and that the Bible told this story from start to finish of growing intimacy with Him. There was this terrible separation at the beginning of the book when Adam and Eve were send out of the garden, but God had a plan to restore that relationship, to bring back the closeness where man could stroll in the garden with God and feel no shame. It is like this embrace that gets tighter and sweeter as the story concludes.

Last weekend I was visiting with my mom and she was telling me about a book she was reading and some conversations she’d had with one of my cousins and she presented this to me. God in the Old Testament was the God who was invisible to us. Then Jesus came and made God able to be seen by man. And then the Spirit came and enabled us to make God seen by others.

Oh, how that pleased me! In the spring, my life group (see: small group, bible study, cell group, etc.) read Forgotten God by Francis Chan and discussed the Holy Spirit, His person and His impact. The thing that I was surprised to find was that the first effect a person displayed after an experience of the Spirit was almost always a vocal one. To worship, to speak a foreign language, to pray, praise, sing or to tell people about the gospel. When we can’t find the words, in Romans 8 we read that the Spirit speaks for us. The very obvious job of the Spirit is to make God known to as many people as possible.

That embrace that drew me closer and closer into His presence reversed.

In the same story about the sweetest intimacy we can experience is the story of the greatest extension available. As His arms gather us in each alone to Himself, He offers to place His Spirit inside us so that we may in turn, turn and embrace others. Through the Spirit God offers us each the experience of making Him known to us as our whole world, as well as the privilege of making our whole world know Him.

       Like breathing in and breathing out, the blessing of the Trinity and Pentecost is the inhalation of intimacy and the exhalation of love. There is a song that came out a few years ago that says it like this…

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only.

Praise Father.
Praise Son.
Praise Holy Ghost.

Amen.

Invisible: Part 1

Invisible.
 
Invisible boys. Invisible girls. Invisible women. Invisible men. Invisible people.

        They’re all around you whether you know it or not. You may even be one yourself. These are people that don’t want to be seen and go to great lengths to hide themselves away, to go undetected, to blend in and be grey. These are people who do whatever they can do to be noticed for one aspect of their life to distract from another. These are people who no matter how many times they reach out for help, they fall through the cracks until they learn not to reach out anymore.

       No matter if you want to be invisible or if invisibility is thrust upon you, I promise you this. There is one who sees you. He is the one who knows you at your core and who longs to comfort you. He is the one who will follow you wherever you go and will sit and stay with you wherever you hide. He sees you. He will come and find you and offer you healing and help beyond your wildest dreams.

         But there are others who walk alongside the invisible people. They are the unseeing. This is for both those who cannot be seen and those who do not notice. Read and find healing. Or read and find vision.

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   It was Hagar who introduced me to El Roi. I have for many years marveled in her story, her experiences and her bravery. She is a bit of a mystery woman who isn’t given as much text as some other people in the Bible, but what is there is so rich and full, I have gone back over and over to the content and gained from it for years.

    We first meet Hagar in Genesis 16 where the writer introduces her as Sarai’s Egyptian slave, who is the solution in Sarai’s eyes to the no children problem that has been in front of Abram and Sarai for years. If you have a copy of the Bible handy, feel free to open it up and read this powerful chapter in the life of Abraham’s family history and then click “Read With Me” and let’s read together!

                                                           Read With Me – CLICK ME!

    The first thing I want you to see about Hagar is that she is unseen by Abraham and Sarai. Certainly she is favorable enough that Sarai figures she can utilize her to get the ball rolling on producing an heir, but when we look at how Sarai and Abram speak about her it is always, my slave, your slave, her or she. She is valuable as an object, but not as an individual.

    What Sarai suggests is socially acceptable and perfectly legal at that time, when a woman could not bear children to her husband, she could give her slave to her husband and then the child would be hers. But this very act depends on one useful item, a producing womb housed in someone who can’t say no. As we meet Hagar, we are introduced to a woman who is without power over her life, her circumstance, and most basically, no power over her own body.

    Sarai most likely obtained Hagar while they were in Egypt and Sarai was given to Pharaoh by Abram who was afraid the Egyptians would kill him in order to have her because of her beauty. This is a woman who had limited control in her own life. And certainly having decades of struggles with infertility, when culturally that was as a woman your greatest area of contribution, Sarai must have struggled with her own sense of lack power over her body.

     Sarai exercises the small amount of power she has over Hagar and brings her to Abram who sleeps with her. When Hagar conceives what a blow that must have been for Sarai as it served as confirmation that the blame lay with her and not Abram. Abram could produce children, it was her who couldn’t.

      We read, when Hagar conceived she despised her mistress. I have to wonder what the future looked like in Hagar’s eyes, now connected to this old man who couldn’t be bothered to speak her name. I have to wonder just exactly how sullen or prideful or fowl tempered Hagar would have had to have been to break Sarai and send her to Abram for permission to respond.

      Sarai approaching Abram speaks in itself to another shift in the balance of power as Sarai had been able to bring Hagar to Abram, had been able to cook up this scheme and set it into play of her own accord, but she has to seek out permission to deal with the slave girl now. Granted permission to deal with Hagar as she deems fit, she “mistreats her.” What that means, physical abuse, withholding supplies and care, we don’t know.

      It is enough to drive Hagar to the desert, to send her away from food, shelter, water, a mat to lay on, the few comforts afforded to her in her station to set out into the wilderness, risking death every step of the journey and return to her homeland a pregnant single woman of uncertain past and uncertain future.

    One might think that invisibility existed since the garden, hiding from God in shame, and in some respects it does, but never before has one person been so utterly alone, without a partner, without a past or a future, without any power or value. Eve had Adam. Noah had his family and all of his pets. From father to son, husband and wife the Bible accounts humanity to the arrival of the slave girl.

 This is Hagar, the first invisible girl in the Bible.

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Reflect

 1. Can you identify with Hagar? Are there areas of your life that you feel utterly powerless to control? Perhaps a boss with unreasonable expectations or a power struggle within your family?

2. Can you identify with Sarai? Are there areas of your life that you feel you exercise power in not the healthiest ways? Perhaps with work teammates or over your children?

3. In 5 words, describe Hagar at this point in her story.

4. In 5 words, describe Sarai at this point in her story.

The Next Task…

    Driving from Grottoes to Richmond and back again with God riding shotgun, I revisited the accounts of the week. I was given the opportunity to share with some people about the idea of waiting on the Lord in regards to their call on their life. I’d asked directly for someone to speak into what they saw for me, but they didn’t have an answer. When the conversation between me and God lulled, I selected a sermon from my church in Ohio and listened to Pastor Bruce speak in his old familiar tone, but the message was anything but habitual. He spoke about revival and about the new church in Acts. He spoke about his hope for that church to be a church that raises up leaders and sends them to the ends of the Earth to make disciples. I felt pleased to hear it. Surely that is just what my family has been, raised up in that church and sent out.  

     In January, when I first began this time of reflecting on what God is calling me to and ultimately how He will use me to His glory, I ask God to task me. And He did, very specifically, over and over. That season lasted about 8 months of steady intensity where each task was clearly laid out and had defined edges. Stuff Easter eggs. Sit at the front desk. Schedule volunteers. Paint a set.

    As the season came to a close, my heart ached for the approaching change. My mother used to sing “In The Garden” and the final verse reads

I’d stay in the garden with Him,
Tho’ the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go, thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.”

     It was a very recognizable sensation, like I had spent months in sweet fellowship and now I was being bid farewell and called out of the garden, but as both the song and scripture assures me, He will walk with me.

       I stepped into this new position and have been sweetly blessed by going just where I knew He was taking me, but it has left me wondering what happened to my tasks.  While I do this new work He’s brought me to, how do I continue to walk towards where He is leading me? Of course, by remaining in conversation, and by staying in the Word, doing all I can to fall not into step with Him, but to tuck myself into His shadow, placing my foot inside his steps. To strive to take hold of Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” The closer I can wrap myself in that safety, the more certainly I can trust each move.

      Pastor Bruce continued to preach and the message he felt he’d been given to deliver that day was, “There’s more.” My mind drifted to a passage, Isaiah 55:9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” What He has planned for me, for my calling, is so much higher, so much more than I can imagine. Not so much more for me. So much more for Him.

      Then I remembered a task I’d been given a number of months before, one which led me set up my blog. I was standing at the front of our church here in Harrisonburg and Pastor Kerry, then barely knowing me, outside of a handful of awkward conversations where I stumbled through basic social norms, as well as some writings which I’d permitted to be passed to him through someone I trust very much. He walked about 20 feet to the right of me, made eye contact and said “Sarah Kinzer. The writer.” He took a few more steps and then added, “Keep writing.”

     There was my task, which I walked in for a number of months, at the time of that drive to Richmond left untouched for nearly a month. I’d sat down and started a number of posts, but none that have made it to that final button click to share with the world. This was my old task, brought around again, with fresh life to it. This is where the course is and where I will step as He directs, trusting His ways and His thoughts to continue to task me, post to post, letter to letter.

      I hope that you will step with me as I create this bible study, for if a writer places an X on a page and no one reads it, does it make a sound? I would love for people to follow along while I journey through this study, however if this only ever exists between Him and me, then I trust that it is for my edification and His glory, and delight in the opportunity to have spent this time in His word studying and documenting what He has to teach me hidden in His Word.

Why We Hate Holiness

       Holiness. Surely it’s antiquated and weird, something for out of touch snake stomping weirdos who can’t function in today’s society.

A few years ago, back in Ohio, Pastor Bruce shared a sermon series while the book of the month was The Hole In Our Holiness. He began presenting the premise that even among Christians in a holiness church, many take the attitude that holiness is akin to polka music; fine for those people, but not for me.

In those days I listened, quizzically, understanding holiness at the shrug level. Sure,   Pastor Bruce, that’s interesting, and sure I believe God wants us to live a holy life, but this passion you have about it, this excitement and this notion that it is somehow better than what I’ve got now, that’s fine for you, but it’s not for me. At best I was apathetic about the whole holiness thing.

This past Monday I sat in a room enjoying the privilege of hearing more preached about holiness at my church at Sack Supper Saturation. It is an amazing experience each month to go and wonder if Pastor Kerry will ever get to the other end of the binder he brings in with his notes about holiness. Or if he will ever get to Hebrews 12, because that to me is the height and depth and width, the beauty and the breath of holiness, and dagnabit I want to hear a message on it!

This time, Pastor Kerry shared out of Genesis 22, and then put out the pondering statement of (loosely quoted) “You have a Holy God, the Holy Bible, the Holy Spirit, but people don’t want holiness? I don’t understand it!” And I know he grasps the sad concept as to why people shy from it, but there in Genesis 22, I really believe the hard answer stares us in the face.
                                                            We hate holiness. 

Our fallen sinful nature can not stand to be next to it and fights against it tooth and nail.

There are those who turn completely away from anything to do with holiness, but so many of us stand and sing songs about the Holy Spirit, listen to sermons about a Holy God, and then walk out into the world and miss so much. Why?

                                                          Holy God demands holiness.

                                                         It is not God’s way to be ONE OF.
                                                      It is God’s way to be ONE AND ONLY.

The story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, to put him on the altar and offer him as a human sacrifice, and then at the last moment the angel of the Lord stays Abraham’s hand and  God provides a ram in place of Isaac. Abraham names the place “The Lord Will Provide” and the angel of the Lord says “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” When he is at the foot of the mountain Isaac asks where is the lamb and Abraham tells him that God will provide. It’s true, but how surely does Abraham know it?

It’s a powerful story and there is much to be used there about God teaching Abraham that he is not to engage in human sacrifice like other religions of the day and the comparison to the sacrifice of Jesus and God providing the lamb for the ultimate sacrifice. And even though we see that God does not ask Abraham to do something He is unwilling to do himself….this story still carries a bitter taste.       

     Because why did he ask such a cruel thing of Abraham and Isaac? Imagine how scarred Isaac had to walk out of that experience. Imagine the sickness and the terror that Abraham had to push through to put one foot in front of the other. What kind of God would ask that of a person? People do not like this story. How could God do that? It is vile and cruel. It is detestable. I find myself apologizing for God and promising that He is loving and pointing again and again to the fact that He provided the ram. Refocus. Look away from what God demanded of Abraham.

                              But the fact of the matter is that IS what God demands of us. 

         Holiness is living in the very center of one and only. But in order to arrive at the center of one and only, one must climb the mountain with Abraham, leading the child of promise, Isaac and carrying the sacrificing blade. We must arrive at the altar and lay down everything we’ve worked so hard to drag along behind us. We’ve grown attached to what is in the sack and in our hands, but you must unload everything, your marriage, your children, your possessions, your job, your passion, your hopes, your dreams, your plans and your future and prepare for them to be irrevocably cut out of your life. And after all the laying down is complete and the blade is in the air, a Holy God asks you to climb atop the pile, lay down and wait for the blade to fall.

    And there tangled up in the bush is the ram, the provision of God, His best offered to you in the place of your all, your everything.

         But to get there you have to stand at the foot of the mountain and drag all of your life up a mountain, and deep down, if we’re brave enough to admit it, we’re not quite sure that we like a God who asks us to do this. And we don’t know how to explain a world watching and disgusted at the demand and boggled by our agreement to walk into it. Can we convince Isaac to believe that God will provide the sacrifice? Can we convince ourselves?

Holiness is expensive and we have had a whisper in our ear our whole life that God and is enough. God and family. God and work. God and things. Even the best ands, God and our holy passion. God and our calling. God and our promised future. Surely God doesn’t want us to lay down the good things He’s blessed us with and the places He’s called us to. But He does, because if there is one thing He is clear about, He is and only. The only acceptable AND to God is this. God and only God.

The deeper I fall in love with holiness, the greater truth I see in the words I heard from Pastor Bruce years ago….

“Here’s my fear as a pastor… in a holiness church… watching the current Christians in our community… We all jump and shout when we talk about what Christ has saved us from… but we grow deaf and dumb when the conversation shifts to what He saved us to.”

And follow it with the concept presented last month by Pastor Kerry, that in answer to those who argue that we can not experience holiness until we get to heaven, Jesus offers us eternal life…starting today, not in the vague unknown time of when we reach eternity. Certainly this is a beautiful depiction of holiness, to live and enjoy fully grasping the eternal life that Jesus offers.

But how to speak louder than the scream of “It’s not fair?” How to offer the sweet taste of holiness to someone still choking back on the sour taste of the demand? I wish I knew more. In this moment the best I can do, I suppose is run back down the mountain and tell about the ram, and help bear the weight of the load of my brothers and sisters as they ascend. All I can do is tell them over and over, like Abraham, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

Let’s go.

What’s For Breakfast?

At life group tonight we were talking about how things are easier if you spend time throughout the week with God, read the Bible, pray. This thought came out of that.

Of course it’s easier! It’s hard to maintain a marriage if you don’t talk to your spouse every day. But beyond that, it’d be nearly impossible to maintain a marriage if we treated those we love like many people treat God.

Imagine for a moment that you haven’t spoken to your husband or wife except to say “Good morning” and “Good night” for an entire week and then you get up Sunday morning and walk in to the kitchen, look your beloved in the eye and say “What’d you fix me to eat?” They hand over a beautiful omelet made with cage free hormone free local eggs and cheese that they aged themselves, juice fresh squeezed by hand and fruit grown in the garden. You sit down and stare at your phone while you eat and then walk away from the table and leave the dirty dish just sitting there. Someone has called you on the phone and without so much as a thanks for the meal, you’re off to talk to your friend.

Imagine even in the context of friendship, you see a friend on Facebook whom you haven’t spoken to since college. You look them up online and find their address, go and ring their doorbell. They are so excited to see you, to reconnect and they invite you in. You walk directly into their kitchen, open the fridge and say “So, whatcha got that’s good to eat?”

When a person shows up on Sunday, expecting to be fed spiritually, God will provide the meal. He will. But it is up to us to sit down and engage at the table with Him. You will only get out of the dining experience what you’re willing to put into the experience. If you don’t take a bite, you won’t get full. If you don’t take part in the conversation, you won’t feel He’s listening. If you don’t listen, you won’t hear.

If all you want is a Sunday experience, that’s your right to choose that, but there is so much more there to be had! You wouldn’t ignore your spouse who loves you so dearly, so why would you ignore the God of the universe who loves you more than we can fathom? There are meals to be had all over the place, not just in the pew on Sunday morning, and God is supplying the ingredients.

He is calling you to the table.

Sit, eat and enjoy.