While we no longer live in the Pacific Northwest, we still root for at least one of their sports teams. We have been following the adventures of the Eastlake Little League team from Sammamish, WA, in this week’s Little League World Series. Last night they defeated a team from Urbandale, IA, to reach the U.S. semifinals. Since our house backed up to East Sammamish Park where Eastlake LL played their games, the team essentially played in our backyard. In addition, each of our three children played in Eastlake’s baseball and softball programs over the years. So it gives us added interest in rooting the team on to victory. Go Eastlake!
Monthly Archives: August 2013
We stopped by Russell Orchards in Ipswich with the hope of picking blueberries and raspberries. To our disappointment, that section of the orchard was closed for field maintenance. Instead, we had to be content with watching the farm animals and eating an apple cider donut.
This morning we visited the Lowell National Historical Park, which celebrates the beginning of the industrial revolution in America. We watched a film that gives the history of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the city over the past 200 years. From there we took a tour of the Patucket Canal and listened as a park ranger explained how the canals were built and helped foster the climate of the industrial revolution. It was a fascinating tour.
Sunday afternoon Carol and I ventured into Boston to visit the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Museum of Science. It was fascinating to see biblical history come alive. I found myself thinking through parts of the Old Testament Walk Thru during portions of the presentation. Great afternoon. I was able to take a few pictures. Unfortunately, the most interesting part, the scrolls themselves, is in a section where no photography is allowed.
I found one thing highly ironic–towards the end of the exhibit is a place called, “The Ten Words” (The Ten Commandments). You can push a button (1-10) and that commandment will be displayed on the screen while a voice reads the words. At the same time that the commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is being spoken, one person’s cell phone rings (cell phones were to be silenced at the beginning of the exhibit), the person answered and carried on a conversation in front of the display. Hmmm.
- With my educational odyssey of public school, university, grad school, and continuing education, I have taken more tests than I can count.
- When I turned 50, I underwent a treadmill stress test. The good news was that I had the heart of a 33 year old. The best news was I had the body of a 50 year old.
- Each year I have an annual eye exam to discern if I am keeping my heredity at bay.
Some tests reveal who passed while others expose those who failed. Some tests are designed to weed out the low performers from the high fliers. Still other tests are designed to bring to light the abilities of gifted children.
In Genesis 22:1-19, Abraham faces one more test. This one has only one question on the exam. God wants to know, “Abraham, do you love me more than you love Isaac?” The results of the exam demonstrate that when we worship God completely, we will be rewarded.
Verses 1-2 show that God tests his servants to prove their faith. God asks Abraham to take his son, Isaac, and offer him back to God on Mt. Moriah. In chapter 21, God told Abraham to send Ishmael away because his promises would come through Isaac. Now, God wants Abraham to give up Isaac as well.
As an aside, when we read Genesis 22, we tend to focus on how this chapter parallels with Jesus’ death on the cross. While those parallels are certainly there, that is not the point of the passage. The focus is not on the sacrifice of Isaac. The spotlight is on the faith of Abraham and his response to God’s instructions.
Verses 1-2 reveal that God does not ask us to give what we do not treasure or what we no longer care for or need. God does not ask us to give him our leftovers. He asks us to give him the very best we have.
Verses 3-10 demonstrate that when the test comes, we must obey God’s instructions, even if they seem unreasonable. Abraham makes the three day journey north to Mt. Moriah. He loads the wood on the back of Isaac’s back. He and his son make the solitary journey up the mountain. When Isaac asks the obvious question, “Where is the lamb to be sacrificed?” Abraham answers, “God will provide for himself the lamb.” As difficult and painful as it must have been, Abraham binds Isaac and places him on the altar.
For many of us, our favorite hymn is “I surrender 95 percent.” As we learn from this passage, God does not want a part of our heart. He wants all of us. God does not want our money. He doesn’t ask for our gifts. He does not want our time. He wants our hearts. God asks us to surrender ourselves to him, holding nothing back.
Verses 11-14 point out that when the test comes, we must wait on God to provide what we need. At the last possible moment, an angel intervenes and stops Abraham from killing Isaac. Abraham passed the test and demonstrated he loved God more than even his dearest possession, his son Isaac.
This passage reveals a significant sequence in worship. We commit ourselves to worship God, and then he provides for our needs. Far too often, I get that backwards. If God gives me enough money, then I will tithe. If God gives me enough time, then I will serve. If God answers my prayers, then I will tell others about him. Abraham committed himself to obedience, and then God provided the substitute.
The section closes in verses 15-19 by explaining that rewards await those who pass the test.
God will test each one of us on the question of commitment and devotion. “Do you love me more than you love _____________? Am I most important in your life or have you allowed someone or something to take my rightful place?” When God asks you that question, will you pass the test?
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on August 18, 2013. It is part of a series on the life of Abraham. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.
As are many people in church.
Bored, and also apathetic, passive, testy, lonely, disheartened. We’re wary and weary and cranky and sad.
It’s a long list.
There’s an enormous gap between the life Jesus offered and the life we’re living. We feel it. We see it. We sense that whatever else Jesus came preaching, this can’t be what he had in mind: a roomful of people nodding to old platitudes, nodding off to old lullabies, perking up to Jonah-like rants, jumping up to split hairs or break company at the smallest provocation. He can’t have dreamed a church gorging itself on feeling good and allergic to self-denial. He can’t have hoped for a church that was more concerned with itself than with the world it inhabits. When Jesus announced that the kingdom was at hand, this can’t be what he meant.
When did we start making it our priority to be safe instead of dangerous, nice instead of holy, cautious instead of bold, self-absorbed instead of counting everything loss in order to be found in Christ?
Pastor and author Mark Buchanan has a way of hitting the nail on the thumb. So begins the introduction to his latest book, Your Church is Too Safe: Why following Christ turns the world upside-down. I hope this book is as thought provoking and stimulating as his other books have been. My comfortable life and church need to be disturbed in a good way.