- Ishaq or Ismail: The Muslim Dilemma
- Recognizing the Beast System: Analyzing World Trends and Events Through the Lens of Bible Prophecy
- Charlotte Gordon
Calling Heaven isn't cheap, you know. His last stop was in Columbus, Ohio. Upon arrival at the office of Coach Jim Tressel, he found the coach talking intently on, of all things, a golden telephone. The boy just had to use that phone, so he said, "Coach, I really need to use that golden telephone so I can call God and ask him which college I should choose.
So how much will it cost me to call Heaven from here in Columbus? See, it's a local call. Our passage of scripture says nothing about a golden telephone, but Abraham apparently had a fairly open channel with God. And he hears God tell him to take his beloved son Isaac to a mountain about a 3-days journey north, a distance of perhaps 50 miles, and offer him as a burnt offering in the manner in which animal sacrifices were commonly made in those days. It is helpful to remember that this is the child for whom Abraham and Sarah had waited forever. In their old age, very old age, Isaac was born.
They were long past their child-bearing days. Abraham was years old and Sarah was 90 at the time. He was something of a miracle child and now God was asking Abraham to sacrifice him? It is passages like this that cause some of us embarrassment, cause us to want to write off at least some of the Old Testament portions of the Bible.
Yet, if we look closely and listen carefully, we just might find a word from God in this perplexing and difficult story. In her little book, Traveling Mercies, Ann Lamott refers to this story about Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. An agnostic when she went off to college, Lamott talks about this story, of all things, as being instrumental in bringing her to faith. In one of her college classes the professor had her students reading a variety of authors and works, often out loud in class.
In the book Kierkegaaard retells the story of Abraham, hearing God tell him to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. And since this side of the grave you could never know for sure if there was a God, you had to make a leap of faith, if you could, leaping across the abyss of doubt with fear and trembling. Abraham answered that God would provide the lamb. They walked together up the mountain, Abraham grievous but trusting in his God. When they arrived, Abraham got his knife but finally an angel called to him from Heaven and told him that he had successfully shown his devotion to God.
Ishaq or Ismail: The Muslim Dilemma
And the Lord had indeed provided a lamb, which was trapped in a thicket nearby. I left class believing—accepting— that there was a God. I did not understand how this could have happened. It made no sense. It made no sense that what brought me to this conviction was the story of a God who would ask his beloved Abraham to sacrifice the child he loved more than life itself.
It made no sense that he was willing to do the one thing in the world he could not do, just because God told him to. God told him to obey and to believe that he was a loving God and could be trusted. So Abraham did obey. I wonder if the powerful truth of this story is not to be found in the dialog between Abraham and Isaac. After a 3-day journey, they have come close to their destination. They leave behind the servants and the donkey, taking the coals for the fire and the firewood and the knife. Together, just the two of them, they head further up the mountain to their destination.
Yet, in the maddening maze of things, And tossed by storm and flood, To one fixed trust my spirit clings I know that God is good! For the people of Israel Abraham was their great patriarch. The genealogists among them traced their physical lineage to him. More than a physical descendent, he was an outstanding example of faith for them. He was the one whom God had called to pick up stakes and leave the familiar land that he had called home for many years and move to a new land, which God had promised. He was the one who, even though childless, was promised a child through whom a great nation would come into being and the world be blest.
Given freely through grace. Any religion that says you make any contribution to your salvation is a false gospel, and anybody who preaches it, Galatians 1 says, should be damned. Let him be anathema. And the only way it can possibly happen is as a gift. And a gift is used — the word is used to distinguish from something you earn.
It is a gift of grace. And what is grace? Undeserved favor, unearned kindness. How does He do that? By granting to us His own righteousness. This is a stunning reality; this is the distinctiveness of the Christian gospel. Any equivocation on this and you have cut the heart out of Christianity.
Recognizing the Beast System: Analyzing World Trends and Events Through the Lens of Bible Prophecy
And it is done as a gift by His grace. We are given righteousness without a cause in ourselves, without a reason in ourselves. Purely by His grace. While this salvation, this righteousness with God is apart from the Law, built on revelation, acquired by faith, provided for all, given freely through grace. It required a great, great price.
But somebody pays. Somebody buys the gift. I get so many gifts. I mean I get all kinds of gifts. Just this morning I was given a handful of gifts, which is a typical Sunday for me. I received a beautiful badge that could — that I could iron on clothes — a jacket or something.
That is the insignia of the military forces that operate Guantanamo Bay, as one of the men was in our service this morning and listens all the time to me preach through his computer — whatever — and he wanted to thank me by giving me this badge. Seventy million years old? And so I added it to my tusk collection. I have tusks from mastodons dug up at the north part of Russia in the tundra against the Arctic Circle.
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And when they dig up the mastodons there, they open them up, and in their stomach are tropical plants. Because that was a tropical paradise like the rest of the world before the flood. And they drowned in the flood, and in the frozen tundra, up by the Arctic Circle, what was in their stomach is still there. By the way, a man up there wanted me to have it, and he carved the tusk into the form of a mastodon. I get a lot of really cool gifts. I get a lot of really useless gifts as well. Somebody pays for these.
The friend who gave me the tusk got it from a guy in a hut by the Arctic Circle. I know somebody pays a price for the gift. Now, we can understand that — right? But the story of how it got to me sometimes is far more interesting than the gift itself.
Far more intriguing. Sometimes the price is very high. I mean a really big stick, and a really heavy one. Just as thick and heavy as a big baseball bat about eight feet tall. And it was carved all the way down, all the way around, everywhere, all kinds of carved Bible verses and my name and carving and carving and carving.
An unbelievable amount of work as an expression of love. Now the compelling question is what do I do with this big stick? I could walk softly and carry it. But you understand. And here we find what that price is.