Are you quick to move?

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 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.” 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 22:1-3)

Wow! I can’t imagine a harder test than God asking for one’s child, especially after years of barrenness.

Now God abhors child sacrifice, but at this point the Law had not been given. Furthermore, Abraham had come out of idol worship so he did not know this aspect of God’s character. So when God asked for Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham had no reason to doubt that God would require exactly that – Abraham’s only son on the altar.

Abraham’s response was immediate. Me? I like to dawdle in response to what I deem a hard, or unpleasant, request from God. This passage challenges me in regards to the immediacy of my response.

Sometimes God requires hard things of us, and other times His request appears hard because we simply can’t see how He will provide “the sacrifice” so to speak. This should not slow our steps.

God provided another sacrifice for Abraham to offer in keeping with His character. We can trust in God because we know His character from Scripture and from our ongoing relationship with Him. When you do not understand how God will provide what’s needed for a task, we can still take the first steps in faith. As we act upon His call, He will provide what is needed.

Be quick to walk out what God asks of you, entrusting the details to Him. What is He asking of you that you haven’t taken steps towards? Is it sitting at His feet amidst the busyness of life? Is it starting a fellowship group? Is there a business opportunity He wants you to step into that seems daunting? Has He been challenging you to live generously when you feel poor?

Be quick to respond, leaving the details up to God.

Quick quick quick

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A Painful Question; 1 of 3

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

We can focus on Jesus’ calling Peter to “feed the sheep”. We read in the Gospels and book of Acts how Peter became the leader of the young church and think that he was privileged to receive such a call (as indeed he was). But we can also learn a lot from his response to his call.

We need to consider the question:  Why was Peter grieved? Peter was hurt that Christ had to ask him the question three times. Eventually he answered:

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (John 21:17)

Peter was forced to look deep within his own heart. And what did he find? A consuming love for Christ. Immediately after this, Jesus said to him:

“Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” ( John 21:17-20)

Peter was martyred for his faith. Perhaps, being forced to see his love for Christ was what he needed to endure the later persecutions; he knew his faith was stronger.

Recently, I’ve been counting the cost of God’s call on my life. It’s hard to go away from family and miss out on special events in the lives of one’s friends. It has been difficult to accept that I may not ever own my own home, or even a car. But, through this, I have been forced to come to accept an even scary truth: regardless of what God asks me to sacrifice, I know that I’ll obey. That’s scary! That’s terrifying! Because when you read of what God has asked others to do…

Christians are not called to an easy life, but God gives us the strength we need to endure. He gives us the courage to step bravely out into an unknown future. And He reveals more and more of His character to us through our walk, because the more we see of Him, the more willing we will be to follow Him. When you have fallen in love with Jesus, you are compelled to follow Him.

God demands all of us, but He is worth everything!

I repeat the prayer of Maris Willis and pray that you will, too:

“Father, hear the prayer we offer; not for ease that prayer shall be, but for strength that we may ever, live our lives courageously.”

 

Angry over Prayers being Answered

Tonight I realised that I was angry at God. Is it okay to be angry with God? I hope so because I certainly was tonight. And I’m pretty sure that He is big enough to handle it. More than this, it was when I brought the emotion before Him that He was able to show me the reason for my anger – in this case, it was simply that He was answering my prayers; my prayers to be formed in to the likeness of Christ and to live a life serving Him.

Unfortunately, the moulding process has been a little out of my comfort zone recently. I’ve experienced God as my Healer (both spiritual and physical), my Comforter, my Companion, my Father. I am now learning of Him as a Provider. I am seeing how He has provided for me all of my life, and now I am seeing it more clearly as day by day I rely on Him for provision; not only for myself, but for the work of Redefined Ministries International. It is a blessing to see His hand so clearly, but also challenging as He removes my cultural desire for “financial security” – whatever that means!

It is easy to pray nobly for Him to use us, for Him to increase our obedience to His will, that He will mould us in to His likeness . . . And yet how do we respond when He begins the work?

What I forget in the moment of the prayer is that His ways are not our ways. When He begins to answer my prayers, I rage up against Him because the change does not come in the way that I wanted or expected it to. More often than not, I desire the change to occur through a miracle and forget that God works through a process.

When He begins to work, my spirit begins to get wriggly, and I become focused on me and my wants. I forget that He is God. I forget that He is a good God. I forget that Scripture says we are to rejoice when trials come, for these build character. I forget Him, and focus on myself.  I forget to love others, and focus on myself.

Stretching times are “good for the soul”. They mould us in to the likeness of Christ. They bring us to the point that I arrived at today; the realisation that we cannot bring change in our own strength, and we cannot complete what He asks of us without His help. This brings us to a point of desperation and we cry out for God. This is when we see Him most clearly. This is when we attune our ears to really hear what He had been saying.

I am inherently selfish and I put my needs first. God calls me to turn my eyes first on to Him, and then on to my neighbours. It rankles when He reminded me that it is not all about me, that I am not at the centre of all things, but it has done my perspective a world of good! When I look to Him I forget my growing pains, and my heart is filled with joy and love for the Great King.

Turn your eyes on to Christ when you reach that place of desperation. Remember that isn’t all about you, you can’t continue in your own strength, and that, as hard as the moulding process is, it is for your good that God does it.

Let the Potter mould you

To finish, I think the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi is appropriate (if you’re brave enough to go through the growing pains that God will use to mould you to be such as this):

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Knee Jerk Reactions

Babies are born with natural reflexes. Some of these fade, some of them change, and others can be dominated by will and practise. We can build motor patterns in our brain, which enable some movements to become automatic, and thus faster and more precise. Consider when you write your name: you no longer have to think about it. When you take a mouthful of potato at dinner you do not think: “grasp fork, stab piece of potato, lift arm, close mouth . . .” These are now automated responses.

The same should be true in how we respond to situations arising from daily life. If our earthly nature is the “natural reflex”, then the Christ-like responses will be the “developed motor patterns”. We may not know at the start of the day whether we are about to be yelled at by the boss, hugged by a stranger, laugh with a friend, have an easy run with the lights, and so forth. However, we can root ourselves in the Lord and thus respond in a way pleasing to Him.

Paul wrote:
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:22-25).

Reading Nehemiah this week has made me wonder just how much I turn first to earthly instinct and how much is my response to seek God and what is Christ-like. The more I am in the Word of God, the more my behaviour and responses imitate Christ.

Nehemiah had rooted himself in the Word of God whilst living in exile under the Persian Empire, serving the king as a cup-bearer. To him fell the task of overseeing the rebuilding the Wall of Jerusalem when the Jews were allowed to return to Judah from exile. Whilst rebuilding, he faced persecution in the form of mockery, danger to his people as well as his self, and assassination attempts. How did he act in these circumstances? He fasted, prayed, encouraged the people to trust God, worked with a sword at his side, and continued to completion the work that God had set him.

Nehemiah returned to the king for a short period before receiving a second grant to return to Judah. When he returned he found his own people once again moving away from the Law of the Lord (the reason God sent the Jews into exile in the first place). What did he do? He acted once more in fear of the Lord and fervour for His Law. He cast out of their roles those walking in disobedience and planted God-fearing men in their place. He consistently chose fear of God over fear of man.

How did these responses become second nature to him? How did they become his automated responses? He studied the Law of the Lord, sought after God, prayed constantly, fasted when troubled, and put God’s priorities above his own comfort. Nehemiah lived with his eyes fixed on the Lord in reverent fear.

If we are to be delivered “out of the body of this death” as Paul puts it, then we must follow his example, and that of Nehemiah: Seek after God; Fear Him; Read His Word; Seek after His truths: and Mediate on Christ.