Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Friday, May 18, 2012

When God asks

Our bosses ask us to do a lot don’t they?  They have long hours for us to work.  They ask us to sacrifice for the company.  They have a lot of demands they make on our lives.  Where I used to work the employees couldn’t get more than a half hour away from the office, in case there was an emergency and they had to get back.  They were okay with that.  They couldn’t do things with their families or anything.  It was all about work. 

People don’t really have a problem with working too much.  It’s kind of a bragging right.  “I’m so valuable that I can’t be away from the company for a few hours.”  I think it is interesting what people are willing to do for their jobs.  But the question I want to look at today is this:  What about when God asks?

Let me ask another question, “Why did God save you?”  Did God have a plan and a purpose for your life?  Was His only purpose so that you could get into heaven?  I think it ws something much more powerful than that.  I don’t think God saved you just so you could be blessed.  So, what do you think God intends for you?

Today I want to post about what it means to serve God from this portion of scripture:

Genesis 22:1-13 (NKJV)
22:1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." 2 Then He said, "Take now 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." 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you." 6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" 8 And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together. 9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" So he said, "Here I am." 12 And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." 13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

Living Out the Will of God

Abraham is an interesting character.  He comes out of a pagan city. He grew up in a place where they worshipped the Sumerian moon god.  The zigurrat of Ur was built for that purpose; but when God speaks to him, calls him to follow Him Abraham recognizes God’s voice and responds to the call.

At the time God speaks to Abraham he is in Haran with his father and his family.

Genesis 12:1 (NKJV)
12:1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you.

Leave your father’s house and follow me to a land I will show you.  His father terh had left Ur and traveled as far as Haran.  There are some commentators who belive that Terah was he first one called by God but that Terah had stopped short, so Abraham was called out of his father’s house.

God was looking for someone that would follow Him all the way.  God called Abraham and there was a promise attached to that calling but first he was going to have to sacrifice and leave the comfort of his family. 

I think this is a big difficulty for many people, especially im Taiwan.  Respect for elders and family leaders is a huge part of the culture.  People are afraid to leave traditional family religious beliefs to embrace Jesus.

Salvation is a rare gift.

Matthew 7:14 (NKJV)
7:14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

This tells me there is some difficulty to serving God.  We’re going to have to make some sacrifice to find Eternal Life.  Abraham was called out of his father’s house.  God was calling him to make a break with family in order to follow Him. 

I don’t want you to think that we have to divorce ourselves from our family to be a Christian.  We don’t have to cut them out of our lives.  But we have to face facts that not everyone in our family is going to support our choices.  I still have a relationship with my family.  Not all of them agree with what I’m doing, but I’m doing it anyway.  I’ve left my father’s house to pursue God’s calling on my life.  God’s calling on my life is God’s will for my life.

There is a promise attached to God’s will.  Look at Abraham’s life:  God has promised him something. 

Genesis 12:2-3 (NKJV)
12:2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

God has made him a promise but that promise is conditional on Abraham living out God’s will for his life.  if you want to see God’s promise you have to live out God’s will But what if God asks for something difficult.

Putting it on the Altar

I want to give a little background to our text.  God made this promise to Abraham to build a great nation Through his descendents.  When God made this promise Abraham was 75 yrs old and had no children.  He waited 25 years before Isaac was born.  He wasn’t going to have any more children.  Isaac was it, but then God calls to him to sacrifice this child, the beginning of the fulfillment of promise.  Abraham had to make a hard choice.  He had to be willing to sacrifice his only child and believe God for the promise.  God is asking for the hard things here isn’t He?

Every promise in the Bible is conditional.  Each one of them starts out with if.  IF you ask you will receive.  IF you give I will give back.  IF you believe you will have eternal life.  IF my people will pray I will heal their nation.  If we want the promise, sometime we have to do the things God wants and sometimes, God asks for difficult things. 

Think about Abraham, here.  He waited twenty-five years for Isaac’s birth.  Isaac is the beginning of the promise.
 Genesis 21:12 (NKJV)
21:12 But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called.

Our text gives us some insight into how strongly Abraham felt about Isaac in verse 2.

Genesis 22:2"Take now 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."

This is his only son, whom he loves.  So God is asking the difficult thing here. God will ask you for difficult things as well.  He wants to know whter you will give those difficult things.  That’s what He’s doing with Abraham, in our text.  He’s looking to see if Abraham will sacrifice what he loves most.  Look at what the Angel of the Lord says in verse 12:

Genesis 22:12And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

“Now that I know you fear God since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”   Why would we think that, even though God tested Abraham, He wouldn’t test us?

It’s true isn’t it; we don’t think that God would make demands on us.  In fact, how often when we have to make hard choices do we think it’s the devil?  That lying devil, God blesses, he wouldn’t want me to give up a lucrative job to pioneer a church.  He wouldn’t expect me to make sacrifices to do His will.  His promises are unconditional.  Ask Abraham if that’s true.  After this, do you think Abraham thought the promises of God are unconditional?  Even salvation carries conditions.

John 3:16 (NKJV)
3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

IF we believe in Jesus we will have Eternal Life.

Acts 2:37-38 (NKJV)
2:37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" 38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If we want salvation what must we do?  Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.  There are conditions on all of God’s promises and God will see that the conditions are met before the promises will come in.

Another thing that's found in this is that God will require something of you.  God will require a difficult choice on your part.  The point I’m making here is that if you’re serious about serving God, God will require something of you.  God is going to test you.  God is going to see what kind of commitment you have to serving Him.  He’s going to test to see where His will fits into your life. 

Where does His will fit into your life?  Is He your first priority or are you coasting through your salvation?  Well, I’m not doing drugs or cheating on my wife.  I’m not a serial killer.  I go to church, pretty often.  I went to Bible Study a few times.”  All these things are good.  I’m glad you’re not a serial killer. But you know what?  A lot of good Buddhists are living that way, too.

I think I’ve used this illustration before but it’s a good illustration.  Say you’re at dinner in a nice restaurant and the waiter comes up and introduces himself and takes your order.  Then a while later he comes and sits down at the table and says, “I quit drugs so I could sit here with you tonight.”  What’s your reaction going to be?  I’m going to probably say, “Hey that’s great…Where’s my food?”  I want the waiter to serve me.  He’s not serving if all he did was give up drugs.  That’s great, it’s a good thing but it isn’t serving me.

In the beginning I asked, “Why did God save you?”  He didn’t save you so you could come to church, sometimes.  He didn’t save you just so you could go to Heaven.  He didn’t save you just to forgive you of your sin.  All those things happen.  All those things are the promises of salvation, but He didn’t save you so He could give you the promises.  He save you for His purposes, not your.  So think about it for a moment, if you can’t even come to church regularly how well are you going to do when God asks you to sacrifice Isaac?  Whatever Isaac is in your life.  How are you going to answer when God asks whose first in your life? 

Isn’t it amazing that Abraham didn’t even flinch when God said, “Take your son whom you love and sacrifice him.”  Abraham didn’t say, “You lying devil.”  Look at what our text says:

Genesis 22:3So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him

He just went and did it.  He showed God who was first in his life.  he knew what the promise was but he said, “I’ve got to do what God says.”  What would you do in the same circumstance. 

Think about your life, what is that thing that would be hardest to give God.  What would you do if God asked for that?

It Takes Faith to Serve God

"God reserves the very best for those who leave the choice with Him."    Andrew Murray

What is God testing in Abraham?  He’s testing his faith.  It takes faith for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac because he knows te promise centers on Isaac, but he knows that God can deliver on the promise even if he has to resurrect him. 

We see the same thing in other places in the Bible.  Job loses everything but God restores it all.  Abraham goes to sacrifice Isaac but God stops him and gives him a sacrifice in Isaac’s place.  Abraham was prepared to give God what God asked for. 

How’s your faith?  It takes faith to serve God. You have to believe that God will deliver on the promise.  There’s a moment in the Bible that I believe can speak to our faith.  A man comes to Jesus with a son who’s demon possessed.  He took the child to the disciples who couldn’t cast it out.  Jesus immediately rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith but then look what happens:

Mark 9:23-24 (NKJV)
23 Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

That should be every Christian’s prayer. Because we all have faith if we didn’t we wouldn’t be Christians.  We believe, but we struggle when things get difficult.  We need faith when things get hrard.  “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” 

How many of you really want to be in the will of God?  If so, you really need to be willing to make sacrifices like Abraham’s sacrifice.  You need to have faith to follow God wherever He calls.  You need to have faith to give to God what He requires.  Then God will be able to meet the promises he has for you.   before Abraham ever saw the peomise God tested his faith…and He will test yours.

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