Monday, August 31, 2009

Only As Good As.....

There's an expression in the movie business that goes, 'you're only as good as your last picture'. Some have adopted the phrase and applied it to their own experiences. Athletes have learned, you're only as good as your last game. Models know, you're only as good as your last hairstyle. Writers are only as good as their last piece, and friends are only as good as their last piece of advice.

It is a reality of life. Humans are "now" people. We live moment to moment and poll to poll. We care little about adventure and cling to whats comfortable and popular. We are a society of microwaves, drive-thru windows, and 10 items or less(even if we have 11). We want what we want, and we want it now. It makes no difference if we've been friends since the fourth grade. So what that you helped pay my rent, put gas in my car, and bailed me out of jail 3 times. It doesn't even matter that we have the same momma. How are you helping me now and what are you bringing to my table? If you don't agree, count the friends you have, that are poorer than you. Friends with jet skis, time-shares, swimming pools, and four wheelers are on back order.

I like a good chase movie. It is especially funny to watch the ones involving a boat or plane. Almost always, is there a scene where the bad guy isn't going fast enough. He immediately begins dumping cargo, and sometimes people, to lighten the load. He needs to get somewhere fast, and he doesn't care who or what gets tossed out. Everything but the gold, will be thrown into the ocean, or sky, and he won't feel bad that you left without a parachute.

Have you ever felt so heavy with life, that you "lost" a few folks along the way? Have you ever wanted something so bad, it didn't matter who you had to throw overboard to get it? We have all had times in our life where the pressure of "the moment" has made us do things we wouldn't have normally done. Some of us have relatives we haven't spoken to in YEARS because of something stupid they said at Thanksgiving dinner 12 years ago. To us, it doesn't matter that they are a good person. Maybe they apologized, maybe they didn't. We forgot about their history, or what's really true about them. We made a quick decision and it has affected the course of the relationship. We wanted us to be right, and them to be wrong so bad, that when the opportunity presented itself, it was man overboard! I've already thrown them from the boat. To circle back now, would waste too much time.

I have heard many Christians say, "I'm mad at God." When I first heard those words, I was surprised to see them in church the following Sunday. Not because I wasn't expecting them to show up, but because I wasn't expecting them to be breathing. I thought for sure, God was gonna show them who's boss. I was afraid that IF I saw them, they would be in a hospital gown eating through a straw. I quickly learned that God isn't provoked like I am, nor does he need to prove himself. God does what He does, and says what He says. And He's not gonna get embarrassed because His kids are pitching fits in the toy aisle of the Wal-Mart. God doesn't have to prove he exists. God says that all of creation know and are without excuse. Everyone believes in God, but not everyone acknowledges Him. Early on, I believed I could manipulate my father, just like Michael and Anna can manipulate their father. Much to my chagrin, God isn't co-dependent.

Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side! Exodus 14:21-22
When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived. Exodus 14:26-28
When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses. Exodus 14:31

After one month, the Israelites heard Janet Jackson on the radio, and cried out to God, What have you done for me lately?! For you Oh God, are only as good as our last steak dinner, and we can't remember when that was.

If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death. Exodus 16:3

How quickly do we forget the greatness of God. The Israelites had just finished walking across a dry sea bed. Before their very eyes, God creates the worlds first aquarium, and then collapses it, killing the entire Egyptian army. And when they entered the wilderness, they complained that God delivered them just to make them starve in the desert.

For most of us, God is only as good as his last miracle. We are so consumed with our lack and limitation that we forgot that we were as good as dead before he found us in the first place. We never give God the benefit of the doubt. We throw Him and His kids under the bus because of stupid stuff. People have left churches because they thought the music was too loud, their name was misspelled in the bulletin, or because the Pastor didn't visit their mother in the hospital. We assume the worst, and take offenses based solely on our emotions.

Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:3

Could it be that our deserts are where God chooses to humble us and purge our whacked-out thinking? The Jews were willing to go BACK to making bricks and being slaves because Pharaoh fed them well. They were willing to suffer the oppression of Egypt and ignore their cuts and callouses, just so they could have the free jumbo shrimp at the casino. God took them out of Egypt, but used the wilderness to take Egypt out of them. You can never go into your promise carrying around your hopelessness. God won't allow you to enter into your new house carrying the curtains from your old. They won't match, so don't bother. You can't go into the level of abundance until you shed the level of just enough. God miraculously provided them food, but what they gathered every morning, only lasted for that day. If they tried to store it for later, it would rot. Sound familiar?

Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. Psalms 37:25

Have you had extra money, just to see it fly away with a car or home repair? I have lived all my life in the promise of God providing for all of my needs. God has always been faithful and provided on time. But that gets old pretty quick, especially when your desire is to have extra to give or invest. Abundance is ONLY a product of the Kingdom. It was God alone that brought the Israelites out of Egypt. It was His fault they were in the desert, and they were His responsibility. God, recognizing that fact, decided to feed them everyday. They didn't have to pray and obey God to get 3 hots and a cot. God was faithful to His kids in spite of their unbelief. God made sure they were warm and fed. God made sure they had just enough to survive the day. There was nothing extra for movie tickets, barbecues, or mission trips. It was in the desert, that the "fundraiser" was born. In the desert, churches "raise" money. In the Kingdom, churches "lower" it.

For I will bring them into the land I swore to give their ancestors—a land flowing with milk and honey. There they will become prosperous, eat all the food they want, and become fat. Deuteronomy 31:20

Where the desert was full service, the promised land was self service. It was a land of abundance, but it was also a land that had to be plundered. For a long time, I sat in church and sang along with Janet Jackson - "What has God done for me lately?" I was always looking for God's next trick, miracle, or rescue. But the fact is, I was in the desert. There's no such thing as leftover mana, only enough to make the bills and only enough to get by. How did I bust out of the desert? That answer is too long for this post, but here is the first step. I stopped complaining. I stopped doubting God. I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I stopped wishing I would have majored in business after high school. I stopped thinking about what could have been. I stopped making God smaller, because I felt I deserved better. I stopped telling God what I needed, as if He didn't already know. God isn't moved by need. If that were true, India would be the most blessed country in the world. Need doesn't move God, faith does.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Monday, August 24, 2009

Delay of Game

In sports, there are some plays that seem to defy our natural eyes: a 100 yard kickoff return from the goal line, a buzzer beater from downtown, or an out of the park hit with all bases loaded. We love to see them, but we also know their rarity. Neither do we expect blowouts in every game. In fact, the really great games are the ones that have the closest margins. As the saying goes, the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.

Being in relationship with Christ doesn't guarantee an untouched walk into the end zone. We may get them, but those are rare occurrences. Most of our plays end with us buried under a pile of sweaty enemies. Sometimes we gain a few yards, sometimes not. Satan, the opposing coach, and his host of teammates, will never allow you move the ball without a fight. That's the only play in his book. He can't affect the outcome of the game. He already knows he lost. His strategy is to keep you from advancing, and he will defend every inch. He does this mainly by deception and intimidation. He wants you off the field. He doesn't care if your on the bench, on injured reserve, or in the church stands wearing your team colors. Waving our #1 foam hand singing "Shout to the Lord" doesn't make him nervous. But strapping on your "cup" and taking the field will cause all hell to break loose.

I have never seen a linebacker fight his way into the nose bleed section just to steal some one's hotdog. Similarly, the Jews never had to fear that their enemies would come into the desert and take their abundant resources.(sarcasm) Satan isn't after your pew. He's after your potential. His desire is not that you miss church. He wants you to miss life. He wants you out of combat and out of commission. And if he can intimidate you with hi-definition pummels, sideline microphones, and pastors being carried off the field in stretchers, he'll gladly subsidize the peanuts.

I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. Romans 1:13

Have you ever planned on doing something, and it never happened? Maybe you planned on going to college. Perhaps you planned on finally cleaning out that garage or taking that vacation. You may have planned on starting your own business, getting out of debt, or losing a few pounds. We've all felt that great since of expectation and euphoria during the first week of January. But it doesn't take long before we slowly move from the field, to the bench, to the stands, and then before long, we just stay home and watch it on television.

Paul wanted to go to Rome on many occasions. It wasn't because he had a time share. He wanted to go because he wanted to minister to the church. He wasn't going because he heard Bono was touring. He was doing God's work. Have you ever wanted to do something FOR GOD, and it never happened? We're not surprised when our trip to Las Vegas is suddenly ripped from under us. But c'mon God, I was saving for a missions trip to Nicaragua to feed hungry children. You could have at least let me get the time off from work. (God seriously needs to hire a public relations team.) Traveling for God doesn't get you the extra seat in first class. It might not even get you a seat. So what prevented Paul? Was it gas prices? Was it the recession?

Dear brothers and sisters, after we were separated from you for a little while (though our hearts never left you), we tried very hard to come back because of our intense longing to see you again. We wanted very much to come to you, and I, Paul, tried again and again, but Satan prevented us. 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

If Paul was a member of most churches, he would have been laughed out of the sanctuary and given the book, "A Devil Under Every Rock". God's man! God's pen, that recorded most of the New Testament, is blaming Satan for delaying his ministry. Paul wasn't prevented, because he lacked discipline or time management skills. He wasn't stopped at the border because of an expired passport. He was stopped because of an active enemy. The same enemy that wants to prevent us from being used of God. It would have been nice if Jesus sprayed me with mosquito repellent and put a garlic necklace around my neck. But that's not what happened when He found me. At the moment of salvation, I became a target. Not because of what I've done, but because of what I can do. In Christ I have unlimited potential. My destination is heaven, but my destiny is taking back ground. The game may be over for Satan, but it doesn't mean he has to like it. We'd be a fool to think he's gonna let us skip up and down the field shouting "Na-Na-Na-Boo-Boo You can't catch me".

Very few churches, teach about real spiritual enemies who fight and discourage God's kids. They'll blame Murphy's Law and assume bad luck before blaming a lying stealing devil. They'll recommend a book, before they'll agree with you in prayer. It's as if they're ignorant he exists. In the meantime, there's a battle for souls going on right under our own nose.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

It doesn't say that we sometimes fight. It doesn't even say that we mostly fight. It says we fight. Yes, there are times when we lose out because of our own lazy and defiant self. But we already know it wasn't the devil that lifted the spoon of Blue Bell to our mouth. But there was an unseen salesman over your shoulder selling it to you at the store. It was the same guy that sold you the guilt when you finished it off in 10 minutes. Who is to blame when we lose our job? Is it the economy, the unfair boss, or office politics? When we lose our marriage, do we blame everything but us, including the dog?

Satan can't keep you from heaven, but he can keep you busy at every crime scene of your life dusting for prints. He will make you crazy and suspicious of everybody and everything just to keep you in the cheap seats and as far away from God's will as he possibly can. He knows your going to heaven, but he's asking that you slip in through the back door and don't wake the neighbors. If he can keep you busy nursing offenses with your mother-in-law, he is free to steal everything in your life that isn't nailed down in Christ. Jesus gave us power over the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, but He didn't give us power over each other.

When you forgive this man, I forgive him, too. And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

Paul is warning us that one of Satan's schemes is to have us too busy fighting each other to be an effective force against evil. If he can get churches, couples, and communities splitting over trivial issues, he need not be concerned with your effectiveness on the battlefield of souls. When we're too busy defending our opinions, we have no energy to advance on our real enemy. The moment we start fighting personalities instead of principalities, we have been outsmarted. We have forfeited our position on the field for box seats and a half-time show.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:8-9

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Joshua Fast

In scripture, the act of fasting is as common as prayer. To understand fasting, one must first understand food. In God's original creation, everything was made perfect. Before the fall, Adam was a vegetarian. Judaism teaches that, prior to the original sin, there was no excretion because food had nothing negative to which the body couldn't use. Rabbis teach that this convenience resumed during the days of the Exodus. Because mana "came from heaven", it was also perfect, and thus potty breaks were not necessary.

I don't know if this is true, for these teachings are from extra-Biblical sources. But it does make sense, especially when considering the layout. The camp in the wilderness was very large, more than ten miles across. A trip to the bathroom would have been painful, since Jewish scholars agree that those "trips" had to be done outside the camp.

So what is food? We understand it as "fuel" for our body. But we get a better picture by understanding what happens when we stop eating. After a few days, we start to become weak and faint. If we continue long enough without food, our soul separates from our body. We call this death. We now understand that food is what is used to connect the soul to the body. It connects our minds with our flesh, the spiritual with the natural. It is no coincidence that God describes the sacrifices as "food".

Give these instructions to the people of Israel: The offerings you present as special gifts are a pleasing aroma to me; they are my food. Numbers 28:2

God was connected with man before the fall. God and Adam walked together. It wasn't until Adam broke that connection that the sacrifices began. Adam needed an umbilical cord back to God, or he would be forever disconnected.

But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die. Genesis 2:16-17

Here's the good news. At the moment of sin, the connection between Adam's soul and God's spirit was broken, and a new connection (knowledge) of the world was born. Animal sacrifice was God's answer to a broken chain between himself and mankind - a feeding tube if you will. This continued until the ultimate sacrifice was made by Jesus Christ. Christ connected us back to God, removing the feeding tube and making the sacrifices of NO effect.

But here's the bad news. Jesus restored our connection with God, but we are still born into a sinful world. At the moment of birth, we are connected to sin. At the moment of salvation, we are connected to God. Paul talks about these two simultaneous connections when he wrote.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. Romans 7 21-25

The purpose of the fasting isn't to remove the connection from my body to my soul. The purpose is to "weaken" it. If we can weaken the connection, we can weaken the influence. It is during this time that the flesh begins to take a protective stance instead of a destructive stance. Paul said that when he wants to do good, his FLESH wants to do the opposite. We already understand this problem. Everyone can relate to the reference of a good angel and a bad angel on our shoulders. Fasting is a way to prevent the bad angel from showing up because he is too busy looking for a sandwich.

While the flesh is screaming bloody murder, the connection to God through our "spirit" can flow uninterrupted. It is that continuous flow from God to our spirit that grows and begins to take majority share in our hearts and minds. Only when the "current" from God is stronger than our flesh, will we be able to run and NOT grow weary. Too often we focus on the lack of food or activity, but doing that misses the point. The goal of fasting isn't just to weaken the body, but to strengthen the spirit.

When Joshua was preparing for the battle at Jericho, he ordered a fast. But this wasn't a food fast. This was a speaking fast.

Now Joshua had commanded the people, saying, “You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout.” So he had the ark of the LORD circle the city, going around it once. Then they came into the camp and lodged in the camp. Joshua 6:10-11

For seven days Joshua commanded the army not to speak a word. Joshua knew that nothing kills opportunity and victory more than negativity. To march around a city with instruments that you can't play must have looked foolish. Joshua needed murmurers and complainers like he needed a hole in his head. Joshua didn't want his people to be defeated because of someone complaining it was too hot and how crazy they were for allowing God to embarrass them.

Sometimes in life, we just need to disconnect. Disconnect from the TV and it's blues. Disconnect from our "friends" and their half empty negative outlook on everything. Disconnect from family who only remember the wrong choices you've made. God's vision for your life needs to be protected and nurtured. There's always someone in line to steal it.

God told me to do something as embarrassing and stupid as walking around a city. So I went on a Joshua fast and decided not to talk about it. "Throwing it out there", when God already said it, will only invite the naysayers. When God says it, no need for a second opinion. Needless to say it worked. No one could talk me out of it. They didn't know.

A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on (mocked), and the birds ate it (digested in negativity and fear). Luke 8:5

When God tells you to go plant, don't tell the birds. It's hard enough that you know.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Harvest Crime!

Regardless of how strong and long Al Gore preaches global warming, God has already decided that the Earth will go through seasons and cycles. And there is nothing we can do to change it.

While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease. Gen 8:22

No one is arguing that it isn't warmer than it was 230 years ago. No one has crossed the frozen Delaware since George Washington. And the last Mexican who died of hypothermia trying to reach San Antonio, was on his way to The Alamo with Santa Anna. But It's nothing like it was during the 10th century. The Vikings didn't give Greenland THAT name to be sarcastic. The Earth has cycled through temperature variations for thousands of years. Politicians see a tax revenue and call it global warming. Humans feel warmer and call it weather. God creates "cold and heat" and calls it "good".

Just as sure as God's cycle of "hot and cold" is His cycle of cycle of "seedtime and harvest." Night is different than day, but they are related. Cold is different than heat, but both are needed to help define the other. Seedtime and harvest are related in the same way. You can't have harvest without seedtime. In fact, the definition of harvest relies on it. The dictionary defines harvest as "the result or consequence of an act, process, or event" You can't harvest corn unless it's been sown. You can't harvest grapes unless they've been planted.

There is nothing spiritual or supernatural about sowing and reaping. The Bible teaches that man sows and man reaps, but it's God who gives the increase. Jesus didn't say he would provide the mustard seed and plant it for you. He said if WE supplied the mustard seed and sowed it, we could harvest a product that would move mountains. But planting the seed and watching God increase it doesn't guarantee we'll get it.

So it was, whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. Then they would encamp against them and destroy the harvest as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter the land to destroy it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD. Judges 6:3-6

Thieves never come during planting season. They come during harvest time. Thieves don't care about seed, they want the finished product. A thief, by definition, throws away his own seed and takes the fruit of yours. Thieves will kill their own potential and wait patiently for yours to blossom. They will gladly watch Oprah and text on their cell phones as you water the ground and shoo the crows. Your seedtime will be a season of peace and you will feel close to God as He directs you to sow faith-filled seeds of blessing into your life. And then, right on schedule, they will arrive hungry, needy, and violent.

How many of us have spent hours, days, and years believing God for something and just when it was close enough to smell, it was gone forever? I know Christians who attend church every Sunday, give of their time, talents, and money, and never see a harvest. It's as if, out of nowhere, it was erased from their destiny. A pink slip, a divorce, a death, a deal gone bad, whatever it was, it had enough poison to disarm and dishearten. Wounded, we retreat, allow the enemy to plunder, and give the Christian response. "I guess it wasn't God's will." That wasn't the attitude of David's mighty men. When the entire Israelite army retreated, Shammah defended a lentil patch against an entire Philistine army. (2Samuel 23:11-12)

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. John 10:10

Because the thief takes what he wants, and destroys the leftovers, we learn to sow sparingly. Why bother planting all summer when everything is stolen? Why give, pray, and offer up mustard seeds of faith when most of the time we get nothing? This is the strategy of the thief. If the thief can steal your harvest enough times, soon you'll stop planting so much.

I recently spoke with a Christian woman who was deeply discouraged. She complained that everyone around her was taking, taking, and taking from her. She is chronically depressed, and has nothing more to give. Everything she plants in the kingdom is stolen. This has caused her to be without hope, and she has become indifferent towards her church. Satan has stolen so much of her harvest, that she believes everyday of her life is a waste of time. "Why doesn't God just take me home?"

We must recognize that things of value always attract thieves. Your marriage, romance, family, and potential are always targeted. Jesus never promised us immunity from being targeted, but he did give us power over the thief.

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1John 4:4

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you James 4:7

We don't deserve what we don't pursue. God freely gave us Christ, and He will freely give us all things. But that has nothing to do with thieves. Everything God gives us is valuable, so you can expect every promise of God to be a target. If we don't prepare for it, we will be left with nothing. It does us no good to call the intercessors, listen to Hillsongs, and speak faith, if we just stand paralyzed during harvest time.

Seedtime and harvest are not automatic. We have to plow, fertilize, and plant. But the thief doesn't care about your seedtime. He's after your harvest. Trusting God is NOT walking away and believing God will harvest and serve it up to you for supper. Trusting God is walking away and believing He will bring the increase. It is during that time you walk away and put on your armor. Because you can be sure, your not the only one waiting for it.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Birth Canal

If God is "God", then why doesn't He know everything?

"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." Genesis 22:12

The omnipotent, omnipresent, and the sort of omniscient God we serve, has just acknowledged that He needed to test Abraham because He didn't know if Abraham really meant business. For all you scoffers who believe the Bible is just a fairy tale, you are dismissed. I don't want to bore you with hope, redemption, and purpose. Just memorize this verse and use it against those dumb Christians when they bother you with their mythology. We'll address God's lack of infinite knowledge later, but for now, a little context.

In Genesis 17, we read God telling Abraham that his barren wife Sarah will finally bear him a son, named Isaac. God declares that He will establish an everlasting covenant through Isaac and his descendants. If we fast forward "back" to chapter 22, we can see that one of the symptoms of being God is amnesia. After promising to bless his descendants through Isaac, God tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on a burning alter. Man, this silly God Christians believe in is such a hoot!

Will the real God please stand up? Either you are the God who wants to bless the world through Isaac's children, or you are the God who wants to kill Isaac. Fortunately, Abraham's faith doesn't see the contradiction. The Apostle Paul doesn't either.

'It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again.' Hebrews 11:17-19

It didn't matter to Abraham that God was commanding him to go "ALL IN". Because of Genesis 17, Abraham was already holding pocket aces. Abraham was pot, ahem, 'promise' committed. But God KNEW that. God already knew Abraham was going to go through with it. I don't serve a sorta omniscient God. God didn't pretend He was at "Medieval Times", sit down with some chicken, and wait to see how it was going to turn out. God knew that Abraham was gonna cut Isaac's throat, so why waste time?

The word 'know' is the Hebrew word 'yada'. This word is a lot more than just a collection of facts. Yada is an intimate word. The best way to grasp the meaning of the word is to give you another verse that uses it.

Now Adam knew (yada) Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain. Gen 4:1

Knowledge is connecting with something so intimately, that it produces fruit. None of you would ever question the fact that my wife and I know each other. Some of you have baby sat the evidence. My history with Sarah has gone through many levels. When we were classmates, we knew each other on a certain level and that level had its own fruit. When we dated, that was another level, and that level added new fruit. When we got married and lived together, it seemed as though I jumped 50 levels. Then came the kid level. This level was so high, I sometimes needed oxygen and a tissue to wipe the blood from my nose. Some of you are even past that. You and your spouse are enjoying grand-kids and completing each other's sentences.

God's foresight, knowing that Abraham was going to walk up a mountain, gather firewood, tie his son to an altar, and plunge the knife wasn't 'yada'. What if I told you, that I would give you a million dollars if God gave me 100 million? That could be completely true. I could even sign a contract ensuring it would happen. But that doesn't change anything. Neither of us get to that level until it happens, and me saying it doesn't make you feel better. We've all heard the phrase, "It's the thought that counts", and we all know it's not true.

At the exact moment of surrender, Abraham connected to God and He knew(yada) Abraham's faith. That connection produced a ram "right before his very eyes". The ram wasn't there before. That is why James said faith without works is dead. Because faith without works produces nothing. It's not the thought that counts, it's what you do. Belief always produces action. You can't wish your way into a new level.

I can't even imagine the level Abraham was on. The level that God would ask him to sacrifice something so dear, and be so trusting to actually go through with it. Such thinking is so foreign to us. In fact, we think the complete opposite happens. It's because God knows I trust him, that I'll never have to trust him?? How many times have we told ourselves, "God knows my heart, so I'll never have to go through that!" How many times have you heard someone else say, "God knows my heart, so I think I'll be fine when I die."

Quit saying "God knows my heart." Of course he does, that's why he doesn't slap us upside the head every 2 minutes. It may be my nature to rebel against God and live like hell, but It isn't my heart. I thank God for his mercy and long suffering. He knows me more than I know myself.

You knowing the outcome of what you think you'll do has nothing to do with your graduation. He does know your heart. That is why it's test time. Abraham understood that. He knew the quicker he started the fire, the quicker God would show up with a "new level" pass.

"The tests in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the test to be more than you can stand." 1 Corinthians 10:13

God doesn't give you tests to see which ones you can pass. He gives you tests that he already knows you can pass. Taking the tests allow you to graduate and move on to bigger and deeper levels with him. God is intentional. He's not throwing you around and seeing what sticks. Paul said he thanked Christ for considering him 'trustworthy' and appointing him to serve. Do we respond with gratitude, or do we get mad because it seems like God has a trusting complex?

It took the Jews 40 years to get to the level where they entered the land. Some of them died in the desert. For them, not being in Egypt and doing what was familiar was as far as they wanted to go with God. When I complain and feel sorry for myself, I don't inherit another level. I inherit another day to get it right. Are you as far as you want to be? For me, I'm on this bus until the driver stops. Damn, I shouldn't have said that. I think I see a light, and some forceps.