Monday, January 26, 2009

Faith of Our Fathers


When I was 16 my father and I climbed a mountain. We were in Yosemite National Park. We used to live just a few hours from there and to this day it is my favorite place on earth. In the past we had hiked up in Tuolumne Meadows to various mountain lakes. But on this occasion we were headed towards Half Dome. We were not planning on going to the summit, but at least to some of the falls along the way. I knew what we were doing and why we were doing it. I knew I was going enjoy sharing the day with my dad.

Isaac once climbed a mountain with his father, Abraham. It was not a recreational journey, they were going to worship (Gen. 22:5). Still, as a teenage boy, you can imagine that Isaac anticipated the moments he was going to spend with his father. Isaac carried the wood and Abraham carried the fire and the knife. As they ascended Mount Moriah, Isaac began to wonder why they did not have an animal with them for the sacrifice.

Abraham explained to his son that God was going to provide it. What Isaac did not know is that God already had. Isaac was to be the offering. Yes, Isaac, God's gift to Abraham and Sarah. So when they had come to place of sacrifice, Abraham build an altar, laid the wood on it, and tied Isaac up on top of it and stretched out his knife to slay his son (Gen. 22:10).

It brings into one's mind to consider what Isaac was thinking. When his father began to tie him up, was he afraid? Did he ask his father why? Did he fight any? The Bible does not say. What is revealed is that Abraham drew the knife back. He was going to do it. He was going to obey God no matter what.

The rest of the story is well known to the Bible reader. God stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, and indeed a ram was provided instead. But that still leaves us with the question - What did Isaac learn?

I have climbed some mountains with my father, and I imagine you have climbed a few with yours. Some mountains are not located on maps, and cannot be scaled on foot. But life brings us tests and struggles. Our will is challenged. Our obedience is demanded. Our faith is proven. It is in the faith that we display on these mountains that we learn the greatest lessons in life.

I am certain that Isaac never forgot that trip with his father. I am certain that he learned about faithful and willing obedience. I am certain that he learned to fear God. In fact, later in Genesis, God is literally called "the Fear of Isaac" (Gen. 22:42, 53). Faith from a father was thus given to a son forever.

If you have had a father that respected and feared God, be thankful. The faith of our fathers is living still.

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whenever we hear that glorious Word!

Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

~ Frederick Faber and James G. Walton

Monday, January 19, 2009

Planning Ahead

The following story was told by K. Hughes in a book about Christian Ministry:

Some years ago a young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. "That depends," replied the foreman. "Let's see you fell this tree." The young man stepped forward and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, "Start Monday!" Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by, and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, "You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today."

Startled, he replied, "I thought you paid on Friday."

"Normally we do," answered the foreman, "but we're letting you go today because you've fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you've dropped from first place on Monday to last on Wednesday."

"But I'm a hard worker," the young man objected. "I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!"

The foreman, sensing the boy's integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, "Have you been sharpening your ax?" The young man replied, "I've been working too hard to take the time."

Sometimes we are so busy going about our day that we fail to maximize our potential. Our life needs sharpening, focus, and we need to have a plan. Try the following steps every day for a week and see if they change your life:

Before you leave home for work...

1. Read a short passage from God's Word.

2. Pray

3. Take a small notepad and plan your entire day and do your very best to stick to the plan.

If we do not plan ahead our lives will never amount to much. Noah built the ark before any rain had fallen. Our only hope for salvation includes preparation, faith, and the grace of God.

"Develop your business first before building your house." ~ Proverbs 24:27

"Responsibility is the price of greatness" ~ Winston Churchill

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

HOPE

Someone has has that there are no hopeless situations, only people who have grown hopeless about them.

It is illustrated in a true story about a town in a valley that was to be flooded due to the construction of a new dam. Halford Luccock explains - "In the months before it was to be flooded, all improvements and repairs in the whole town were stopped. What was the use of painting a house if it were to be covered with water in six months? Why repair anything when the whole village was to be wiped out? So, week by week, the whole town became more and more bedraggled, more gone to seed, more woebegone. Then he added by way of explanation: 'Where there is no faith in the future, there is no power in the present.'"

Each one of us is looking for contentment and happiness in this life. Sometimes unfulfilled dreams lead us to desolate places where hope is lost. Things don't turn out the way we had planned. Time to do the things we hoped to do runs out. Our health, our opportunity, and our ability to change our circumstances can be lost as the days pass us by.

But perhaps hope is not what we have made it out to be. Perhaps hope is only hope when things seem hopeless. Perhaps hope is merely flattery if it cannot change the future. Perhaps hope is only real when it exists in the face of nothingness.

The greatness of Abraham and his faith is explained in that he, "contrary to hope, in hope believed" (Rom. 4:18). Another version says, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed." Hope is confident and joyful expectation in the promises of God.

In 1882, Priscilla Owens rightly penned these words with regard to hope: "We have an anchor that keeps the soul;Steadfast and sure while the billows roll; Fastened to the Rock which cannot move; Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love." Christians have so much for which to hope. Hope is our consolation. Hope is our refuge. Hope is our soon to be fulfilled salvation (Heb. 6:18).

Therefore, hope! Because there are no hopeless situations. Nothing is impossible with God!

"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." ~ Romans 15:13

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sowing All Over Again


January is usually a rainy season in the south. The fields are wet and muddy. The water table is recovering. The hope of spring is still several freezes away. But it is not too early to start getting ready for new growth.

A new year sparks evaluations and resolutions. Many assess the past year and consider their ways. People usually don't go into the year saying, "I am hoping to have the worst year I have ever had." They think about opportunities and challenges and they dream that everything is going to be great. They want success, and happiness, and peace. But how can they help it happen?

Our lives are like fields. They primarily contain weeds. We do not just come up producing strawberries. Sometimes we try to mow the weeds, cutting our problems down on the surface. But if we really want to bear fruit we must go deeper. We need to get under the soil. We must plow the field and sow all over again.

This year, you will bear fruit if you...

1. Plow up the weeds of anger and resentment you have and remove them from your life. Did someone hurt you? Did you get a raw deal at work? Are you unhappy about some circumstance? Are you holding something in your heart? Such weeds will dominate your field and leave little room for growth. Forgiveness is one of the main ingredients to success in life. It is an attribute of God (Psalm 86:5).

2. Plow up the rocks of idleness. Most people bear no fruit because they sow no seed. Christians are supposed to be living stones built upon the foundation of Christ (1 Pet. 2:5). But many are just cold hard rocks taking up space. Jesus explained that people cannot belong to Him of they do not bear fruit for God - "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:8). We cannot bear fruit alone. We need Christ (John 15:4).

3. Plow up the old, dead ground. You have to cultivate the soil. You have to add nutrients to your field. The best additive to your field comes from above. The farmer knows that nothing is better than good seed and the rain from heaven to water it. The Word of God is the seed (Luke 8:11). The rain that we need will come from God if we patiently and confidently wait (James 5:7).

"Father in heaven, thank you for today. Thank you for a new year. Thank you for hope. Be with us and help us. Help us to grow closer to you. Help us to sow all over again. Help us to glorify your name. In Jesus name, Amen."

"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." ~ 2 Corinthians 9:6