Been reading this book recently. Read this bit last week. Thought it was cool, its pretty self-explanatory.
Despite the honour accorded him as the father of this new race, however, Abraham emerges as as the Bible’s first example of a person severely disappointed with God. Miracles, he had. Abraham entertained angels in his home and dreamed mystical visions of smoking pot fires. But there was one nagging problem: after the promise, after a blaze of revelation, came silence – long years of bewildering silence.
“Go, claim the land I have for you,” God said. But Abraham found Canaan dry as a bone, its inhabitants dying of famine. To stay alive he fled to Egypt.
“You’ll have descendants as countless as the stars in the sky,” God said. No promise could have made Abraham happier. At age seventy-five he still anticipated a tent filled with the sounds of children at play. At eighty-five he worked out a backup plan with a female servant. At ninety-nine the promise seemed downright ludicrous, and when God showed up to confirm it, Abraham laughed in his face. A father at ninety-nine? Sarah in maternity clothes at ninety? They both cackled at the thought.
A laugh of ridicule but also of pain. God had dangled a bright dream of fertility before a barren couple and then sat on his hands and watched as they advanced towards tottery old age. What kind of game was he playing? Whatever did he want?
God wanted faith, the bible says, and that is the lesson Abraham finally learned. He learned to believe when there was no reason left to believe. And although he did not live to see the Hebrews fill the land as stars fill the sky, Abraham did live to see Sarah bear one child – just one – a boy, who forever preserved the memory of absurd faith, for his name Issac meant “laughter
And the pattern continued: Issac married a barren woman, as did his son Jacob. The esteemed matriarchs of the convenant – Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel – all spent their best child-bearing years slender and in despair. They too experienced the the blaze of revelation, followed by dark and lonely of waiting that nothing but faith would fill.
A gambler would say God stacked the odds against himself. A cynic would say God taunted the creatures he was supposed to love. The bible simply uses the cryptic phrase “by faith” was what God valued, and it soon became clear that faith was the best way for humans to express a love for God.
Philip Yancey – Disappointment with God (p70/71)
I love the notion of sacrifice in theory, but in practice I instinctively opt for side-stepping it at virtually every opportunity. I respect it so much when I see it in others, and deep down dream of being a man of sacrifice big time… but when the moment arrives to follow through, I almost always bail out, put off by the cost and inconvenience.
Sacrifice is exactly what the Christian life calls us to though. If we’re serious about following Jesus, we’re required (demanded?) to make our peace with it. Biblically there’s no getting around it. Following Gods every instruction will cost us. Sacrifice by definition requires there be a cost, if there wasn’t one, it would cease to be a sacrifice. I’m stupid to think otherwise.
A few paragraphs of a book I read a few weeks ago left me feeling pretty challenged…
“We are groomed to become someone, not to empty ourselves for others. But in order to follow Jesus Christ with any degree of tenacity, we inevitably will be prompted to take demonstrations. We will be asked to relinquish what is “rightfully” ours. We will inconvenience ourselves to the point of sacrifice, even when others call us fools. And we will do it for two simple reasons: first, we understand that the kingdom of God never advances without sacrifice; and second, because every serious-minded Christian I know wants to receive a heartfelt “well done!” in heaven someday.
In fact, almost every time you hear a prompting from God, something safe or predictable most likely has to go but you persevere knowing that when you take the risks he as asking you to take – as you conform to his mission in yet one more way – the kingdom moves forward.
This is what it looks like to live a life fully surrendered to God. Its rarely a walk in the park. Obeying the Spirit instead of your own self-centered whims will lead you to places you’ve never been, challenge you in ways you have never been challenged and invite levels of sacrifice you never dreamed you could make. This is the power and the promise of full-throttle faith, of living a life fuelled solely by God.”
Bill Hybels – The Power of a Whisper (p252/253)
Now for the application…
For years i’ve activly sought to learn the secret as Paul talked about of being content in every circumstance. I’ve made it one of my most consistent prayers knowning it to be the only place where my soul will find true rest. I’m regularly frustrated at my inability to let go of the idols i’ve carved out for myself to worship. I hate and fear them but at the same time love and cherish them.
I’ve recently been flicking through “The pursuit of God” by A.W Tozer again. I’d definitly recommend reading it (its pretty short too – less than 100 pages!). Here’s a snippet which talks about the blessedness of possessing nothing. Its incredibly insightful and carries much truth, challenging the idols we allow to go unchecked but speaks also of the liberation and freedom we find in worshipping God alone.
Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first perpared for him a world of useful and pleasant things for his sustenance and delight. In Genisis account of the creation these are called simply ‘things’. They were made for man’s use, but they were meant always to be external to man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy tome come. Within him was God; without a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him.
But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul.
Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and things were allowed to enter. Within the human heart things have taken over. Man have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there is in the moral dusk subborn and agressive upsurpers fight among themselves for the first place on the throne.
This is not mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough, fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets things with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns my and mine look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symtoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstorous substitution.
I don’t think we should think too narrowly on what constitutes “things” – seems to be basically anything we hold onto too tightly. Many things compete for “first place on the throne” or our hearts. It may be our material possession, our reputations, a desire for vocational success, our friendships and relationships. What ever our “things” are, whatever idols we struggle with letting go of, God’s desire for us, rooted in love, is that they be exposed and that we be free of them :).
I’ve just finished it this week. Its pretty short, a very easy read written simply for those striving for a lasting, loving marriage, whether for the present or in preemptive preparation.
It reads quite like a long sermon as he ambles purposely through the betrothal and marriage of Issac and Rebekah. It doesn’t go into huge depth but offers a very much God-centered, biblical view of the subject.
Very much worth a read especially as it won’t take you long.
There were a few things which really stood out for me…
Will and emotion (p30)
He suggests that we’re prone to exaggerating the separation between the emotion and the will, when infact we should be looking to preserve the grand union between them. Theres a great line on page 30:
“Without the will, marriage is a mockery; without emotion, it is a drudgery. You need both.”
My heart goes along with that. They’ve been a source of confusion in the past, able only to see them as opposing viewpoints, with most people seeming to have bias towards one over the other.
There was a part which shed some useful insight into temptation based around Matthew 4:1-11 which details how Jesus was tempted. The devil makes temptation appear as a natural desire, but when he tempted Him with “the kingdoms of this world” its important to notice that what he was offering was neither his nor his to give, instead he was offering an “enchantment of the eye”… “to go for the shell of existence while loosing the essence of one’s being”.
Ready for marriage? (p97-105)
This was a very much practical section where he makes 3 main points:
- Do you truly have the maturity to sacrifice your selfishness for the responsibility that lies ahead?
- Get the best pre-marital counseling possible.
- Preparation and commitment to conflict resolution.
He also says on p97 that when he was married, he remembers pondering whether he really loved the girl he was marrying.
Don’t rush (p111)
Just the simple idea that if marriage is as grand as the bible intended it to be, then its worth it to wait until you are ready for that right moment… for the right one.
Importance of prayer (p120)
He suggests that the individuals prayer life is the key to discerning his or her character, going on to say that
“It is self-evident truth that a person who truly prays and seeks God’s wisdom in life recognizes the sovereignty of God and is committed to seeking God’s wisdom in life’s important choices. It is important to to understand that it is a prayer life that build character that honors God”
Memorizing scripture (p128)
He talks about the importance of studying God’s word, its greatest single purpose being to make us “wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15 KJV). He suggests that learning studying and memorizing scripture “make an inscription in the very soul”, and when God needs to speak to us it gives him a context within which to reach us.
Family life and being a man (p145)
He observes that there are fewer and fewer examples of godly men for young men to follow going on to say that and there is little doubt that men have led the way in the dereliction of duty to the family.
“mothers raise boys; fathers raise men” (Dr James Dobson)
Us men need to stand up and be counted…