Abraham and Isaac

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death. Hebrews 11:17-19

When you first read the story of God coming to Abraham and telling to offer up his son as a sacrifice, you're puzzled by it. For one thing, why would God do ask such a thing? and Why would Abraham attempt to do such a thing? But of course we've read the entire story and can see what God was doing. Even as I read it a dozen times, I'll always pause when he lifts the knife to slay his son. How difficult that must have been for him to do that. What kind of faith did it take to do that? It's something we hope we're never faced with.

We Abraham and Isaac as a "type." Fast forward many many years and we see another Father offering to sacrifice his son for an ungrateful people. It boggles the mind why the Father would do that to His Son and why the Son just took it. Quite frankly, at any moment during Jesus' time on earth, He could have called a host of angels (and several additional hosts on standby) to come and sweep Him away. This time, though, the Father allowed His Son to be bloodied and killed.

And for what?

Yeah, for you and me.

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Just Passing Through

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-17

This world is not my home I'm just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven's open door
and I can't feel at home in this world anymore   Albert E. Brumley

How "at home" do we feel down here? Are we longing for something better, something more satisfying? Are you okay with being an alien or a stranger? Are we homesick for our heavenly home?

I've said it a dozen times in this space and I'll say it a dozen more: as the world increases in its hatred towards truth and vibrant moral values, those who have the truth will be persecuted. Or, as we disagree more with what is displayed as truth, people will become hostile towards us. I don't want that necessarily, but we shouldn't be disappointed in the least if we are.

We in the West have been sheltered against the persecution that exists in the world. As an example, Muslim acts against Christians and Jews go unreported by a biased media. However, anything committed against Muslims gets broadcast in headlines. Of course it's not fair. No one said it would be.

So, again I ask the questions: How "at home" do you feel down here? Are you longing for something better, something more satisfying? Are you okay with being an alien or a stranger? Are you homesick for your heavenly home?

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Abraham and Sarah

By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11:11-12

It would be very easy for me to pass right over these verses and justify it by saying that not a lot of people are actually reading these devotions. You see, these scriptures are painful to read because my wife and I aren't able to have children and raise them here on earth. They're even more painful when others have quoted the verses back to us as evidence that our faith is lacking or any number of comments made by well-meaning people. As I'm learning, not every promise given to men and women in the Bible is for me or you (for instance, God told Abraham he'd be the father of many nations, not any of us). But I've chosen to go through the Hall of Faith, and this particular miracle deserves a word or two.

We all know the story. Both Abram and Sarai were in their 80s. God told Abram his heirs would outnumber the stars in the sky. Sarah convinced Abram to sleep with her maid, and Ishmael was the result. When Abram and Sarai were in their 90s, God again told Abram (now Abraham) that he would be the father of many nations and that Sarai (now Sarah) would be the mother to bear that child. Sarai overheard it and laughed. Isaac was the resulting child.

If you've ever uttered the words, "okay, but I'm not sure how you're going to do it" then you understand faith a little. It wasn't Abraham or Sarah's "problem" to circumvent the laws of biology to produce Isaac. That was God's "problem." It was Abraham and Sarah's responsibility to care for the child when he was born. After doubting a little (through their laugh), they believed.

The takeaway for this passage is this: "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness" Hebrews 15:6. It's the fundamental truth of our faith.

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Welcome Home!

For he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:10

After my first extended visit overseas, I remember flying into San Francisco, my port of entry. I was 23 and had been on my own in England, and was now on my way back to Alaska. I was giddy as we came in to land. The air hostess said this immediately upon touching down, "If this is your first time in America, Welcome to the United States of America. If you are returning, welcome home!"

That's it, Welcome Home! It brought tears. Those are wonderful words to hear when you've been away for a while, whether it's across the world or across the state.

Welcome Home.

Home is familiar. At home you get to sleep in your own bed with your own pillow and sheets when you want and for how long you want. You relax at home. You don't need to worry about putting on a show for others. You're at home.

As Christians we have another home: heaven. Have you thought about heaven lately? Have you considered what it will be like living in a city designed and built by God himself? What will it look like? Who will we know there? What does absolute perfection look like? Streets of gold. Gates of pearl. No mourning or crying or tears or sorrow. Oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself, as that is the New Jerusalem that the book of Revelations talks about, another home we can look forward to. Or perhaps they're one in the same.

Think about Heaven today. Think about seeing the Lamb who took away the sin of the world. Think about thousands upon thousands of angels worshiping God.

Think about…Heaven.

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Strangers

By faith he [Abraham] made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. Hebrews 11:9

God clearly told Abraham to go to a foreign land. Everything about this new land was different for Abraham and his family. It took a long time to understand the culture and the ways of the people living there. When he was new to the land, everything was peculiar. Not bad necessarily, but different.

Like many of you reading this, I have lived overseas on occasion. It took some time to get used to how people did things. Then the strange and odd become normal and accepted. When I returned "home" I did little things that people questioned – the exact same things I thought were odd when I was first in the country.

As Christians, we have different values and beliefs than "the world." Often what is wrong is right, and what is right is wrong in many eyes. Up is down and down is up. We scratch our heads that so many people could believe it as such. Over the last decade or two, more and more things have become acceptable in the eyes of the world. Sadly, wanting to fit in and not make waves, many Christians have gradually accepted these values as part of their own.

But all is not lost. Many believers are resisting the allure of sin that has overtaken society. They are taking a stance against grievous evils. Many are sounding the "danger" alarm. As the world becomes more and more hostile towards Christianity, we will need to make some tough life or death choices (mainly our own). I don't mean to sound alarmist but I see what's coming and it isn't pretty.

But God, who is faithful and merciful, will give us the words to say and actions to perform at that time.

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Abraham the Obedient

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8

Abraham had no guarantees. Like many of us, he didn't know where he was going, when he'd get there, or what he would experience along the way (Genesis 12). It was certainly a faith journey, especially because he was 75 at the time, and many others also accompanied him (Genesis 12:5). It might have been easy for him to ignore the calling God had on him by making excuses. At 75 people tend to get set in their ways.

But Abraham (at the time Abram) was faithful. If God told him it would happen, it was the real deal. Not only had God told him to go to a different land, but God also told him he would be the father of many nations even before he even had one child.

God is leading some of you to do great things for God. He is prodding you to take some first steps. He knows your skills, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your passions. He will use you. God will reward your faithfulness to Him.

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Stubborn For Christ

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7

I return to Noah because he's such an intriguing man of God. I was thinking about him today and it dawned on me: Noah was stubborn.

That's it. Yes, he had faith. No one denies that. But he had grit and spunk that few ever had. He preached righteousness for 120 years. How many converts? Today, the church growth experts would shut down and defund his gigantic construction project for lack of "results."

Say what you want about Noah, but he was a stubborn man of God.

I've traveled all over the world and lived in places you only hear about on the news. I don't really consider myself stubborn until I recall what I've had to do just to get there: support raising (and subsequent rejection), prayer letters, visas, passports, shots, belongings placed in two duffle bags, giardia (google it), insults because of my skin color and nationality, pockets picked, regular power and water outages, and a whole host of other events. I was stubborn. I had to be.

And chances are, if you've known God for any length of time, you've had to be stubborn for God too. You've had to make tough decisions that non-believers didn't have to face. Your faith gets regularly ridiculed in the media. At times it's totally unfair and downright nasty. But you press on. Giving up is not an option.

Keep it up. Keep up the faith you knew when you were a baby Christian. Hang in there. You're not alone. You are not alone. Renew that first love you had for Him.

Become stubborn for Christ!

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Noah’s Faith

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7

It has to be the longest construction project ever: 120 years working on a wooden ship.

Noah did it by faith.

Up to that point, it had never rained before, so even the concept of rain was foreign to Noah and those who watched him day after day (Genesis 2:5-6).

I suspect he was harassed and ridiculed. The people probably laughed at the monstrosity Noah was building. His family probably thought he wasn’t altogether with it. He probably continued to warn them that it was going to rain and that they needed to be prepared. But he labored on because he had faith in what God had told him. God was sustaining Noah for all those years.

God had given him specific instructions on how it was to be built and who would go in.

One hundred twenty years he labored.

Then it neared completion so he started gathering the animals. Big. Small. Colorful. Ugly. Beautiful. Creepy, Cute. Then he corralled the people: his wife, three boys and their wives, and himself. They were in the ark for seven days before the rains came (Genesis 7:7). Those last seven days had to test his faith, waiting, just waiting for the water to fall from the sky.

Perhaps God has “told” you something and you have no idea how it could possibly come true, but you know beyond a doubt that it was God. You may have to wait a long time to see it occur before your eyes. There will be doubts and fears. Hang in there.

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By Faith

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

After discussing creation, Cain and Abel, and Enoch as they all relate to faith, the writer of the Book of Hebrews pauses to expound slightly on pleasing God. It's perhaps one of the better known verses in Hebrews. How can we please God?

By faith.

The two words are as complex as they are short. People have faith in a lot of different things: Some strongly believe that there is intelligent life outside this world that will be able to help us. Many truly believe that saving the Earth and its animal inhabitants is our salvation. Atheists have faith that what they believe is true. And many people believe that mankind will be saved when there is absolutely no oppression or financial inequities in the world.

As we continue to work through the Book of Hebrews, pay careful attention to the two characteristics that the people in the Hall of Faith had: (1) believing he exists and (2) earnestly seeking Him. And they were sure of what they hoped for and certain of what they didn't see. These faith warriors will provide us much food for thought as we seek to imitate their faith

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