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Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

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When my children were small and learning to talk, I delighted in the sound of their voices and each sweetly expressed syllable. Heather spoke with a high-pitched, tinkling voice while the boys—especially Connor—had unusually deep, raspy voices for such young children.

I met each simple request, exclamation, and phrase with keen interest and excitement. I’d lean nearer to hear the words of my precious ones, wondering what amusing little speeches might leave their lips.

In the same way, a believer’s prayers fill God’s heart with joy. Scripture even tells us that “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” (Proverbs 15:8 NIV)

Though written directly to the people of Israel, God extended His promises to those who claim Christ as savior. As Christians, we can look to the truth of Proverbs 15:8 to encourage us in our practice of prayer.

At the time of the Old Testament writings, a sacrifice entailed any number of complicated preparations of meats, grains, or other items presented to God in an attempt to gain God’s favor and direct attention to the needs of His people. Sacrifice required a lot of work!

Prayer? Communing with God? That was—and is—all about relationship. Prayer is a heavenly invitation from the King to meet Him in the throne room where we can marvel at His beauty, find safety in His presence, and express the deepest part of ourselves to a Father who bends close—leaning ever nearer to capture each word in His memory.

Unlike an earthly parent who may listen half-heartedly to her tween’s dramatic relaying of the latest sixth-grade drama in the lunch room and respond with a noncommittal, “Uh huh. Really?” our Abba Father delights in the times we set aside to pray…to thank…to request…to worship.

And during those moments—whether we’re joyful or depressed, content or needy, subdued or expressive—we have the Maker completely to ourselves. Oh, the beauty of being able to pray!

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Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. 2 Cor. 9:7 (MSG)

 

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Against all odds, thousands of nut-colored seeds unfolded beneath ground and thrust their heads bravely through the hard crust of the last Montana snow. Each tiny sprig of green represented survival—a seasons-long battle spent dormant tucked below the inhospitable prairie soil.

They also represented the Farmer’s hard work.

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Before the sun cast its morning glow across the cliffs and beyond the creek, the Farmer sat astride the John Deere tractor with his favorite hat—the one my grandma hated—perched on his head. Nearly every day of every season; year after year, the Farmer worked the land.

In the summer, burnished stalks of wheat swayed in the wind until the heads bent low and heavy from the weight of their burden. By the time the prairie grasses stood bronzed by the sun, crops had been stripped and were left bare but for the craggy stubble alternating with the brown of the earth. Just before the cold held the land firmly in its grasp, the Farmer tilled the soil—turning and breaking the sandstone that ruptured the surface with a hatchet—and then carefully poured seed into neatly made furrows. If the seed was healthy and conditions were right then the Farmer and his wife—the one who taught me to make my first pie—might have something to show for their hard work.

What would have happened, though, if the Farmer failed to buy good seed? Or, if he had only planted every other field? Would the results have been abundant if the Farmer was unmotivated or shrugged his shoulders? God has a plan—I don’t really need to do anything.

The scenario seems foolish, I know. But, don’t we sometimes take the “hands-off” approach to sharing ourselves with others? I do—more often than I’d like to confess. Honestly, it is just hard to share Christ with others! I’ve mentioned before that I am a people pleaser—maybe we all are to an extent. But, I REALLY want others to like me. To respect me. And honestly?   I even want a few people to think I am special. Can anyone out there relate?

But this week, I read Hebrews 13:15-16.

“So let’s go outside, where Jesus is, where the action is—not trying to be privileged insiders, but taking our share in the abuse of Jesus. This “insider world” is not our home. We have our eyes peeled for the City about to come. Let’s take our place outside with Jesus, no longer pouring out the sacrificial blood of animals but pouring out sacrificial praises from our lips to God in Jesus’ name. Make sure you don’t take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others.” MSG

I have a problem—a problem with holing up in my spiritual tower like an old, miserly Scrooge hiding away in his chamber and unwilling to share with others. Instead of coins, though, I have received the abundant and eternal treasure of the one and only Savior! If I fail to share the truth of Christ with a world struggling to survive the seasons and trials of life then I am not doing my work. I will be like a Farmer failing to plant the seed and work the ground.

Friend, my heart aches to take as many people as I can to heaven with me—by God’s grace and the work of the Spirit. Today, then, my prayer is that I would set aside the burden of self for the burden of people who need to hear about Jesus and the hope that He offers. Lord, give me a heart to join you outside—despite the conditions of rejection, derision, or animosity. Teach me to cast off my grudging, reluctant participation for an active,   hands-in-the-dirt approach to sharing holy love and true Life with others. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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A momentary visit to an online population clock revealed this number— 7,386,695,958. On November 9, 2015 at approximately 8:20 p.m. there are more than 7 billion people on earth. Me? Not one in a million…not even one in a billion.

My life is small measured by numbers.

With fewer than 300 Facebook friends, no more than 75 people on my Christmas card list, just three or four people I could turn to in a major crisis, and with a life expectancy of about 80 years how can I expect to make a difference?

My life is small measured by social performance.

I haven’t earned any awards. I am not a Nobel Peace Prize winner or a Rhodes Scholar. I don’t have a Teacher of the Year Award to hang on the wall. I can’t even claim to be the PTA president. How can I expect to make a difference?

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My life is small, but like most of us I long to make an impact…to change lives…to do something bigger and better than I ever imagined possible. But those differences? They aren’t discovered in the spotlight of self-adulation. Changing lives? That doesn’t happen tucked neatly behind the clean lines of a carefully maintained lawn and closed shades.

Impact…changed lives…something bigger than me? It happens in the showing up–in the obvious action of loving someone through their hard and in their hurt. Impact exists in the giving of more than we have and digs deep into the place of faith where Christ enables the more.

If my life—small by every measure—has any value it comes not in living inward. Living is about loving others large! It is the meal prepared after an exhausting week at work for a neighbor bent over in pain from a broken heart and bleeding soul. It is the giving of time to speak with the woman in a Home Depot parking lot—the one holding a sign that says, “Please help”—and you are human to her. It is in the doing and the joining our life with others. We just need to show up…to love outward…to give more of ourselves even until we’re empty.

And in that place? To that person? In that moment? Even one small person among billions makes a difference.

Scripture for Reflection:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

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If stereotypes hold true (which is rarely the case), I might imagine him as a burly, rough-around-the-edges sort of guy.  But because of his willing sacrifice, the entire world now recognizes him as the man who endured the pain of chemical burns in order to pull his co-worker to safety.

Just yesterday, Rob Nuckolos jumped waist-deep into a vat of nitric acid when he saw a co-worker fall 40 feet into the corrosive liquid.  As a an experienced contractor, Mr. Nuckolos had to have known the probable side effects of nitric acid–severe burns, coughing up of blood, low blood pressure, and possible long-term damage to eyesight.  Why, then, did he follow his friend into liquid fire?  Because Mr. Nuckolos acted out of love.  Not love as emotion or love as a feeling, but love as a noun–an action oriented, selfless giving of oneself despite the cost.

It’s an unbelieveable story–repulsive in its horror and beautiful in its sacrifice–that reminds me of the story of another man.  He was a blue-collar worker from Galilee–a town ridiculed for the worthless rabble it produced.  But, because of his willing sacrifice, the world knows him as the One who endured the pain of crucifixion in order to offer us salvation.

As the Creator of all things, Jesus knew what he would endure–temporary loss of glory, poverty, contempt, and abuse to the point of being unrecognizable.  Why, then, did the King of Kings embrace life as a man?  Because he acted out of love–the kind of love meant to bring us safely home.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay his life down for his friends.  John 15:13

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