Category Archives: Growing in Holiness

Sacrifice of Worship

“When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he bound his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar.” Genesis 22:9

“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

In these days of Prozac, Tivo, and Microwave ovens, sacrifice is not a word we like to use. Convenience is the mantra of our culture, and it is one that is easy for us to adopt. But scripture is full of encouragements for us to “take up our cross,” “beat our bodies into submission,” and “to offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices.” It is easy for us in America to forget – Christianity is not easy or convenient. God has called us to be his body on this earth, and with that comes incredible joy, but it is also accompanied by difficulty, persecution, and yes…sacrifice!

What are we to sacrifice? We aren’t going to go get a ram and offer it on a stone altar, Christ’s death on the cross was the final blood sacrifice! But let’s look at what the ram was. Old Testament sacrifices were generally livestock or portions of harvest. This was their livelihood. With the sacrifice they were saying, “God you are my provider, and I will lay aside conventional wisdom and offer this to you.” Conventional wisdom says, if you give something away you will have less. God says, if you sacrifice to me, you will have abundance! (Mal 3:10)

So with this in mind, what does sacrifice look like here and now? I want to offer four suggestions; together these constitute this week’s homework:

  1. A sacrifice of Forgiveness. Forgiveness is not dependent on our emotion. We do not have to feel like forgiving. We sacrifice our right to be mad. We tell God that we trust that He will vindicate us, and we give the unforgiveness to Him. (Matt 6:14-15) Who do you need to forgive? Pray the simple prayer, “God by an act of my will, I choose to forgive ______ for ______. I give you my anger and cynicism.”
  2. A sacrifice of Tithe. With a tithe we tell God, “I am aware that you, and not my job, are my provider. I am aware that everything I have is from you. I choose to give this first tenth back to you, and trust that you will provide for all my needs.” The question to ask yourself this week is not “Do I tithe,” but rather, “Do I truly trust God to provide for what I need?”
  3. A sacrifice of Time. How important is God’s kingdom? When we give our time to God we tell him that we agree with him about what is important. Giving our time to teach children, feed the poor, clothe the naked, and serve those around us puts our priorities in line with God’s. Ask God this week, “Where do you want me to serve your kingdom?”
  4. A sacrifice of Praise. We all love upbeat songs. Me especially! But a sacrifice of praise is far more than singing. We say to God, “No matter what I feel like, even if I am upset or depressed, I choose to tell you how worthy you are. I choose to acknowledge you with my words and with my songs. Your holiness is not dependent on how I feel, so I will worship you despite my current emotions!”

This week let us identify with Abraham and Christ in their sufferings by sacrificing these things to our Heavenly Father.

Early In The Morning My Song Will Rise

Psalm 92:2-3 “It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praise to your name, Most High, To proclaim your love at daybreak, your faithfulness in the night,”

As I write this, I sit five hundred feet below the surface of “The Caprock” in Texas. I am at One Way Elementary Camp in Ceta Canyon, just a few miles from the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. It is still dark outside, but in just a few minutes the sun will rise; and when it does the canyon walls will explode with vibrant color. In my heart I join with the psalmist and the hymn writer, “Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee!”

Those that know me well, know that generally I am not a morning person; but this week is different. Every day this week I will be up before daybreak. Every year this week helps me understand why the psalmist and the hymn writer use the morning to praise.

First, God’s hand is evident. There is a magical quality to the morning. The sun peeks over the horizon, the flowers unfold, the creatures awaken, and God’s work is displayed. Psalm 92 goes on in verse 5 to say, “For you make me jubilant, LORD, by your deeds; at the works of your hands I shout for joy”

Second, early in the morning, the world is quiet; the earth is still. Once the sun rises, things start to move really fast. Every day this week, when the sun rises, so do three hundred and fifty 4th and 5th graders. And there is no quiet time once they wake up. This week is singly the most exhausting and most refreshing week of my year.

This weeks homework, seek the Lord in the stillness of morning. If you are a night owl like me, it may be a little tough to break through the morning grogginess, but it will be worth it to feel the presence of God in the stillness of the morning. If you are a morning person, then look at the morning with new eyes. Let’s watch the sunrise. Let’s see the world awaken. Let’s sing for joy at the works of His hands!

Still With Me?

Vacations, movies & other forms of entertainment, work, soccer games & dance recitals, TV shows, etc. – we are a busy lot! 25 hours a day 8 days a week, we are moving, cramming as many things into our days as possible. In these times of busyness it is easy to neglect an important gift that God has given us: rest.

Rest is important to God, so much so that he modeled it for us in the first story in the Bible! And on the seventh day He rested. But rest is very often a misunderstood concept. Rest is not the same thing as sleeping. Rest is not “vegging out.” Believe it or not, rest actually takes effort!

Everything in our culture sets itself against rest. We have things to do for the times when we aren’t doing anything! Movies, TV, Music, Video Games, and countless other distractions offer us an escape from silence, but it is often in the silence that God meets with us. I am not suggesting that movies, TV, etc are bad. I myself am a movie fanatic! But I am suggesting that we make a concerted effort to rest; that we make time to be still.

In Psalm 131:2, the psalmist describes the process. “I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”

What an amazing picture. A weaned child, when resting with its mother, is not there for nourishment sake, it’s there simply to be near mother. The psalmist recognized that it was important for him to seek out God’s presence in those times when he didn’t need anything from God. He needed times of quiet and rest with God; times to simply enjoy God’s presence.

But how do we accomplish this stillness? You know as well as I do that the moment we try to be still, a thousand things instantly come to our mind. We remember the tiniest details that need to be taken care of. Stillness evades us, so how do we calm our souls?

That is this week’s homework. Take a few moments; say ten or fifteen minutes, to be still. Sit down in a chair or on the edge of your bed with your feet flat of the floor. Start with a simple prayer like, “God, I love you, and I’ve come to rest and to be still with you.” Then simply sit in silence, relaxing your shoulders and neck, legs and back. Inevitably thoughts will rush into your mind, vying for attention. As they do, continue your prayer, “God, I give (specific thought) to you, I know that you will take care of it. I choose to be still with you.” And continue in the silence.

Honestly, it may be exhausting the first two or three days you try, because we are not accustomed to being in silence. But if you continue, as you become used to simply “being” in the presence of God, you will find rest for your soul. These next two weeks, let’s seek the peace-filled presence of Christ together. Let’s learn to be still.

Scars and Stripes Forever

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-6
Allow me to paraphrase. “But he was impaled because of our sin; he was crushed because of our propensity to sin; he was punished in our place, and because of his punishment, we are given peace; and we are emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally healed by his wounds. Every one of us decided to follow our own crookedness, and God placed on him the crookedness of us all.”

Christ beckons us with his crucifixion, to receive healing and forgiveness from God. It is time to freely acknowledge our weakness before the Almighty who put on weakness for us; it is time to place our fears, worries, aches, pains, sins, emotional wounds, and diseases into the hands of the one whose hands were pierced for us. We come longing for his presence, and receiving his forgiveness.
The beating and crucifixion of Jesus accomplished much more than just our forgiveness; it also secured our healing. Where forgiveness is concerned with our past, healing is concerned with our present and our future.

My prayer for you. is that you would uncover the hidden places where the fears, pains, etc., have been hiding, and expose them to Jesus the Merciful, to the gentle healer himself.