Waiting for Isaac

I don’t suppose the act of waiting is easy for anyone.  When we want something badly, hoping it will happen soon, we can hardly stand it!  We’re like children in August longing for Christmas in December.  It seems it will never get here!  Sometimes we barely believe that what we wait for will really happen.  Such was the case with Abraham and Sarah.

Their story is told in the Old Testament.  They were both advanced in years, way beyond what would be biologically possible to conceive a child.  Sarah must have longed for a baby throughout her marriage, because in Bible times, for a married woman to be barren was a shame and great embarrassment.  Imagine what she must have felt when God announced that she and Abraham would have a son.  Such was her unbelief that she actually laughed about it, but she greatly wanted it to happen.  Abraham believed but the wait turned into years.

One day Sarah devised a plan to make the promise come true.  She was “helping God out.”  Have you every done that very thing?  Finagling events to make something happen the way you want and when you want it?  She talked Abraham into sleeping with her handmaid whose name was Hagar.  Abraham agreed.  Hagar had a son and named him Ismael.

God then comes on the scene and announces to Sarah and Abraham that His promise for them to have a son was about to happen.  It did and Isaac was born.  Abraham asked God to please bless his son Ishmael as well as Isaac.  God did not have to do that because His promise was always for the son of Abraham and Sarah.  Even so, in His mercy and grace, He blessed Ishmael, but take note of the blessing.  This is important.  In Genesis 21:13, God tells Abraham that a great nation will come through Ishmael.  However, previously in Genesis 18:18, God tells Abraham that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through Isaac.

If Abraham had satisfied himself with Ishmael, conceived by his own plan, there would have been blessing by God’s grace and love, but it would not have been nearly so great as waiting for God’s intended purpose.  Ishmael was blessed with a nation but Isaac with all the nations of the earth.

There are times in our lives when we get tired of waiting for what God has promised.  Like Sarah, we devise a plan to “help God out.”  We finagle to our own purposes.  We satisfy ourselves with Ishmael; forgetting entirely — Isaac is coming.

 

“Puddle water is the best,” says Jack.

Those of you who follow my blog will know about our dog, Jack.  What a fun character he is, and how we love having him.  He brings great joy to our lives.  We love taking care of him.  His blankets are regularly washed, his nails are kept cut, his teeth and hair brushed.  If he needs the vet, there is no hesitation to take him.  Everyday he gets wholesome food and fresh water.  Why then, I ponder, does he seem to love puddle water the best?

He runs through the fields or walks around the neighbourhood, never missing a few slurps from a puddle along a muddy path or filled up in a pothole in the road!  “Jack,” I say, knowing he understands my every word, “you have fresh water at home.”  He goes on slurping in every puddle along the way.

Dogs will be dogs, and people will be people.  You and I do the exact same thing, don’t we, in our spiritual worlds?  Paul tells us in Romans 8:32 that our Heavenly Father who “spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us, will freely give us all things.”  What does this mean exactly?  Remember, this is written, not about a physical concept, but about a spiritual one.  So what does our Father give us in our spiritual worlds?  To name a few: peace that passes all human understanding, his strength when we are weak, comfort when we grieve, sense of safety in His arms when we are afraid, courage, joy, guidance…the list is long.

Since He gives us all these wonderful things, why do we so often succumb to drinking from dirty puddles this world offers us?  Nothing in this world can give peace like our Father gives, or guidance like the Holy Spirit can, or joy that seems impossible in the midst of the greatest grief.  Even so, we see a puddle, are tempted by what it seems to offer, and we drink.

Oh, how I thank Father for His grace — undeserved but always given when I open my heart before Him, declare my actions of dirty puddle slurping, and ask His forgiveness once again.  He knows my heart.  He knows I don’t really enjoy puddles like I delight in His Words.  His words make me like, as it says in Psalm 1, “a tree planted by rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in due season; the leaves never withering, prospering (spiritually) in all I do.”

Today, if you’re tempted by a puddle, walk on by.  Drink from the Living Water instead.  It’s out of this world, fresh, and never runs dry.

Crossroads

Many of us over the years have found comfort in the verse Isaiah 40:31, “Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  This verse doesn’t mean a literal waiting for the Lord to do something.  The word has a connotation of hope or trust.

We’ve all had crossroad moments in our lives.   A decision must be made.  Which way do we go?  Indecision can drain us as we weigh the pros and cons.  In what direction should we proceed?

I read an anecdote recently.  A young man was in his car.  He saw an older man sitting on a bench.  He pulls over and asks, “Do you know the way to the stadium?”  The older man answered that he was sorry but didn’t know the way. “That’s ok,” said the younger man.  “Can you tell me how to get to Stone Road?”  The older man answered again that he was sorry but didn’t know that either.  The younger man, rather sarcastically said, “You don’t know much, do you?”  The older man smiled and replied “I may not know a lot, but I’m not lost.”

In our spiritual worlds, we may not know on which path to go.  We may feel discombobulated, but in Christ we are not lost, because He always knows the paths we are to travel.  My father used to say, “If you don’t know what the Lord wants you to do, just sit before Him.  Let your hope and trust be in Him, knowing that in just the right time, He will say to you the words of Isaiah 30:21, “This is the way, now walk in it.”

You may feel lost and overwhelmed at times, but your Heavenly Father knows right where you are and what you are doing.  Choose to keep your eyes on Him.  He will reveal the way and then He will walk with you as you go.

Tick, Tick, Tick

I decided the drawers in my desk needed sorting out; things to keep, things to throw away, things to put somewhere else.  As I was taking items out I saw a familiar plastic bag with three special things inside.  There was my Dad’s billfold, a set of Scripture memory cards he always had in his shirt pocket, and his wristwatch.  He had these items on his person the morning he left earth for heaven.  My mother had taken them and put them away for safe keeping; a keepsake memory.  Upon her move to live with me here in the UK, this plastic bag came, too, ending up in my desk drawer.

I took the things from the bag to look at them.  There were a few photos of his grandchildren in the billfold.  The Scripture memory cards were worn from much use.  His wristwatch?  What a surprise!  The second hand was still ticking by and I saw the minute hand move.  Nearly eight years later and the watch is still working.  I could hardly believe it.  I held the watch, my eyes steady on the second hand — tick, tick, tick, still going.

Time is eternal.  My father’s earthly life came to an end, but spiritually, he lives on and on and will continue living for eternity. The clock of eternity will never stop.  The question for each person is:  where will each one spend eternity where time never ends? It’s a choice for each one of us to make.  God will honor the choice.  Once we exhale our last breath on earth, there is no changing of minds as to where eternity will be spent.  Look at what Jesus said to His listeners in John 6:50-51: “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the Living Bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever.”  The prospect of not living with Him is dismal: darkness and torment — for eternity.

We all choose.  I hope each one reading will choose light and peace.  Jesus also said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man comes to the Father except through me.”

The seconds are ticking.  Just ask Him in.  He will come.  He will forgive.  He will make new.  It will be for eternity.

Choosing Frogs

I was reading this week the story of Moses seeking to free the children of Israel from the Pharaoh.  The Pharaoh refused. It’s recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible.  Many of you will recall what happens next.  Ten plagues are sent upon Egypt, meant to convince the Pharaoh that resisting God and His plan is futile.  The only purpose of these plagues was to free the Jewish nation.  The plagues were severe.  There were plagues of  blood, frogs, gnats, disease in livestock, festering boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and death.

I read about the first plague of blood.  The River Nile was changed to blood.  Water that had been stored in pots and bowls all turned to blood.  There was no water to drink.  Still the Pharaoh refused to let the Jewish people go.  The second plague was frogs.  They were everywhere.  They filled the river, the streets, were in the houses, crawling in the beds, found in the kitchen and in all the food bowls, and crawled inside clothing.  How awful must that have been!

Blood in the water was awful, but to deal with moving frogs, jumping and crawling everywhere must have been a fearful thing.  People had to have been running and screaming, trying to get away.  I know I would have been running as fast as I could.  It was this frog incident that made my mouth drop when I read the short conversation Pharaoh had with Moses concerning this plague. No doubt, Pharaoh’s household and servants, as well as the nation, must have been begging and shouting for something to be done.  That’s not surprising.  What I found incredulous was the response of Pharaoh.  He calls for Moses and requests that Moses please ask God to stop the frogs.  Moses asks Pharaoh when he would like this to be done.  I thought that question would have an obvious answer, until I read Pharaoh’s response.  I’ve read this account in my life many times, but I never noticed Pharaoh’s answer until this week.  Moses asks when shall he talk to God about getting rid of the frogs.  Pharaoh answers — “tomorrow.”  Tomorrow?  What in the world?

I sat there staring at the response in Exodus 8:10.  “‘Do it tomorrow,’ Pharaoh says.”  Really?  I can’t fathom why Pharaoh decided to wait.  He knew God alone had the power to remove the frogs.  Pharaoh and all his household and country wanted to be rid of the frogs.  They were causing havoc and panic.  Why wait until tomorrow when it can be done today?

As I contemplated, a sobering truth crept over me.  I actually felt a slight shiver crawl over my skin.  You and I do this too often in our walks with God.  There we are, basking in God’s love, enjoying His blessings in our lives, living with His guidance and wisdom and strength, but one day, we open the door of our mind or heart to something not right in God’s eyes.  We let frogs in.  It’s just a few at first, but they multiply. Unconfessed sin will manifest itself in growing depression, fear, anger, and diminished joy.  It is overall most unpleasant.  We are then reminded, in our inner spirit where the Holy Spirit resides, of an important truth of God found in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  We know this to be true. We know that with confession comes joy and peace, but incredibly, like Pharaoh, we often say to God — “Tomorrow, I’ll confess tomorrow.”

Wow!  Why do we choose to jump around in fear from infiltrating frogs of unrighteousness, to lay and sit in frog excrement which will surely be there, instead of simply and joyfully coming to God, confessing what we have done, truly repenting with that desire to do it no more, and receiving joy unspeakable?  Why do we delay?

Our carnal and spiritual natures war with each other.  One brings frogs of despair while the other brings cleanliness of heart and mind.  Either is ours for the asking or enduring.  Endure frogs or ask forgiveness.  We are free to make our choice.  I hope we all choose to get rid of the frogs — today.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.

An Enemy Within

Coughing, sneezing, sniffing, snorting.  It’s a seemingly endless onslaught upon the senses. Syrups, tablets, and vitamin C are the losing defence.  Sleepless nights, waking moments a struggle.  Physical strength drained, inner resolve gone.  It is the attack of — the common cold.  Logically we know it will end; emotionally we plan our demise.  What hymns shall we choose for the funeral?

Such has been my state of body and mind this week, that I awoke this morning with the initial realisation — it’s Saturday!  Oh no, I totally forgot my Friday blog, but how can one remember such a thing when that one is too busy dying?

I lay there but for a moment before reaching for a ready tissue.  My blog.  What shall I write about today, the question lay like lead in my brain.  Another sniff and unsightly blowing of the nose and the thought came, in heaven there will be no sniffing, coughing, and snorting.  I actually smiled.  I could truly feel, in the midst of my misery, the corners of my mouth stretch into that upward position of joy.  Then came the following passage from Revelation 21:1-4, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared.  And the sea was also gone.  And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  I heard a loud shout  from the throne, saying, ‘Look! God’s home is now among His people! God Himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever.'”

After that moment of reminiscing about what heaven will be like, I grabbed my Bible from the beside table and opened to the next chapter in Revelation and read the following from 22:1-5, “Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  It flowed down the center of the Main Street.  On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month.  The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.  No longer will there be a curse upon anything.  For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and His servants will  worship Him.  And they will see His face, and His name will be written on their foreheads.  And there will be no night there — no need for lamps or sun — for the Lord God will shine on them.  And they will reign forever and ever.”

What a magnificent promise we have to all who personally know Jesus.  It’s a dream that will come true.

Until then, we fight with colds and other lurgies, with a suffering physical world damaged in its ecology, with a troubled humanity looking for peace and joy in all the wrong places. Until then we wake up each morning and say, “Here I am, Lord.  Help, me,” and He always does that very thing.  He provides His inner peace for the larger calamities of life and also cares and comforts us in the aggravating things — like the common cold.

The Bird That Landed On My Head

It had rained in the night.  Our dog, Jack, and I were taking our first walk of the day.  It was still dark; a time of day appreciated for its quietness, our footsteps led by the pale light of nearby lampposts.  Thoughts of the usual anticipated cup of coffee swirled among my many thoughts.

I zipped up my jacket to cover my neck as a gust of wind blew around me.  It was then I felt it.  Unbelievable!  I kid you not!  A bird had landed on my head!  I froze for a second. The bird did not move from its perch.  Was it a seagull or a magpie?  It felt a good size.  Slowly I lifted my hand to the top of my head.  Nothing!  What?  I hadn’t felt it take off.  It was then, with a giggle, I realised my error in thinking.  It was not a bird but the hood of my jacket which the wind had sent flying to the top of my head and then let it fall back again to hang down my back.  I had been so sure, so absolutely certain that a bird had landed on my head.

As I laughed at myself on our return home, thoughts came as to how we all do the same thing in our spiritual worlds.  For example, have you ever gone through a difficult time and wondered where was God?  Why wasn’t He helping you?  At such a hard moment in life had He abandoned you?  The Enemy, Satan, whispers plausible lies.  God has bigger things to care about. You’re not that important to Him after all, etc.   The lies take root and you find yourself believing it.

You know it to be true because — you felt it — alone, uncared for, forgotten.  It all feels so real it has to be true.  You know what you feel; just like me with the bird on my head. I just knew it was a bird.  I felt it.  However, no matter what I believed in the moment, it was’t true at all.

Never forget that what you feel and what it true can so often be completely opposite things.  You may feel alone but what is the fact?  The fact is always the truth of God’s Word which is without fault and never changes. God’s Word tells us in Hebrews 13:5b, “I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.”  That is but one example.  There are many.

The next time you feel certain that what you are feeling is absolutely true, take a look into God’s mirror of truth.  If your feelings are contrary to God’s Word, then choose to concentrate on truth rather than an imaginary bird you think landed on your head.

 

Another Day, Another Year

Generally I awake early.  It’s still dark outside.  It’s quiet.  The only sound bursting on the scene is the bubbling of the kettle boiling.  The coffee is made.  I sip and breathe in the comforting aroma.  It’s a peaceful start to my day; one I look forward to every morning.

Soon the whole town will be awake.  The quiet will be shattered.  Sounds of cars will grind and rev up engines in the rush to work.  People will hustle about.  Schedules will be met or delayed. Time will be something watched and waited for until the rush back home can be made.  The town will sleep and then do it all again tomorrow.

That’s the physical world where plans are made. There are hopes for success.  There will be triumphs and there will be failures.  Such is life.  Every new year brings the same, but it needn’t be mundane.  We do not know our future but we know who holds tomorrow.  When we invite the spiritual to invade our physical, that is where the greatest hope abounds.  As Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”  Our own wisdom is limited.  God’s wisdom is without end.  It is without error.  It is pure and holy.  It is the essence of goodness and greatness.

The Lord has given us a mind with the ability to reason, but let us not reason in our own wisdom alone.  It is imperfect.  Let us always come together and reason with the Holy One who always has our best interests in His heart.

May your New Year be filled with the awesome wisdom of the Lord.

Just In Time

Being the Christmas time of year, my thoughts often drift back to yesteryears of my childhood.  I can remember our family decorating our tree.  I loved carefully placing each strand of tinsel; no tossing it on in wild clumps for me.  I reached as high as I could, and then either my mother or father would place them for me, just as carefully as I liked, on the higher branches.

One year my sister and I got out pieces of construction paper, glitter, glue, and crayons.  I could cut my pieces but my sister, much younger than me, needed help using her scissors.  Mom and Dad were there to rescue the project, helping to cut and glue where needed.  We could handle the sprinkling of glitter but I know it left a sparkling mess all over the table and onto the floor.  That was never a problem.  My sister and I cleaned it up the best we could, but Mom came along afterwards and miraculously got up every last dot of glitter which was strewn all over the place.

Of course, there was always the wonder and excitement of preparing Santa’s snack.  We baked cookies, poured milk, and left them on a saucer beneath the tree.  I always felt my sister and I had done everything, but of course, the measuring of the ingredients and setting the oven, was a task for my mother.  Both parents helped us throw lettuce on the lawn for the reindeer.  I felt we should put some on the roof, but I couldn’t throw that high.  Dad came to the rescue.  I remember thinking he must be able to do anything, after watching him effortlessly toss lettuce onto the roof.  How exciting the next morning to see crumbs left on Santa’s plate and only bits of lettuce remained on the lawn.

What a wonderful help when our parents interceded for us; a go-between us and the task at hand.  They always stepped in to help —  just in time.  That’s what Jesus does for us, too.  Just in time, He intercedes.  Just in time, He gives His strength when we are weak.  Just in time, He places his wisdom and guidance into our questioning minds.  Just in time, He breathes in His peace to ease away tensions and stress.

Notice Hebrews 4:16, “Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us — when we need it most.”  In other words, He will always help us — just in time.

How wonderful Jesus came to be born on earth for us, to offer us the best gift ever — just in time.

Merry Christmas everyone.

 

 

Making Choices

Choices — we all have a right to make choices.  God Himself has given each of us that right.  He did not make us robots.  He never forces us to do anything.  He gladly shows us the right way; the perfect way that if followed, promises us peace and joy.  It’s our choice.  We can choose to walk away from Him.  He warns us of the dismay and heartache that comes to all who walk the dark path.  He doesn’t want us to know the chaos found along the road that turns away from His holiness, but it’s our choice to make.  He will not hold us back.

I was reading this week in the Old Testament about Joshua.  He did his best, before God, to warn and encourage the people of Israel, God’s very own people, who had chosen to walk away from Him, to turn back.  Wonderfully, in that moment, they chose to turn their faces once again to the ways of God.  They made the decision to walk on His path.  We read in Joshua 24:21-24, “The people answered Joshua, ‘we will serve the Lord.’ ‘You are witness to your own decision,’ Joshua said. ‘You have chosen to serve the Lord.’  ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘we are witnesses to what we have said.’  ‘All right then,’ said Joshua, ‘destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.’  The people said to Joshua, ‘we will serve the Lord our God.  We will serve Him alone.’”

When we think of idols, we conjure pictures in our minds of graven images, but idols are anything that takes the place of God in our lives.  It can be something material, a person, or an attitude.  Whatever sits upon the throne of your life is your idol.  Whatever rules your thoughts is your idol.  Whatever dictates your actions is your idol.

Max Lucado describes it wonderfully in this excerpt from his book, When God Whispers Your Name.  

“I am a spiritual being…After this body is dead, my spirit will soar.  I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal.  I choose self control.  I will be drunk only by joy.  I will be impassioned only by my faith.  I will be influenced only by God.  I will be taught only by Christ.  I choose self control.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control — to these I commit my day.  If I succeed, I will give thanks.  If I fail, I will seek grace.  And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.”

Choices — we all have a right to make choices.