Tag Archives: sacrifice

Reaping In Joy

One of my favorite quotes is, “I don’t measure my day by the harvest I bring in, but by the seeds that I plant. For in planting seeds, I ensure a future harvest.” So many people measure their success by what they bring in each day, but their future is not guaranteed. Only by planting seeds can we make sure we will receive something in the future. In order to have seeds to plant, we have to save seeds from our current harvest. We can’t use everything we have now if we are going to be able to reap later.

Psalm 126:5-6 really stands out to me when I think about this principle. It says, “They who sow in tears shall reap in joy and singing. He who goes forth bearing seed and weeping [at needing his precious supply of grain for sowing] shall doubtless come again with rejoicing , bringing his sheaves with him” (AMP). It’s a verse we’ve heard all our lives, but in this version it really hits home. They’re weeping because they’re having to go hungry now in order to be able to eat later.

It reminds me of when the Pilgrims first arrived. Their corn ration was a few kernels a day. They needed to plant the rest so they could survive later. They sacrificed in the now in order to have abundance later. This concept is so opposite of our world today. We want abundance without the sacrifice. We want to reap when we haven’t planted, and that’s not the system God set up for us. I like how Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later.”

I believe many of us don’t see the harvest we expect because we don’t sacrifice in the sowing. Abundance will cost you. If you aren’t willing to give up your current desires for your future successes, there’s no guarantee you’ll be bringing in sheaves. God has always asked us to sacrifice now for a future blessing. The more you are willing to sacrifice, the more of God’s blessing you can count on in the future. The choice is yours, but you have to act today for tomorrow’s gain.  

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One of my favorite games to play is chess. I learned to play it as a young child on my dad’s chess board. I learned what moves each piece can make. I learned how to strategize and to have patience. The lessons I learned playing it have drifted over into how I live my life. I look at decisions, weigh out the consequences and make the best choice based on what I think will happen in the future as a result of it. What works in chess and life though, doesn’t always translate well to the spiritual.

If you’re unfamiliar with chess, the entire front row is comprised of pawns. There are many of them, they can only move one space at a time and have to stay on their line. I am more than willing to sacrifice them and to put them out there to try to draw out my opponent’s key players. On the other hand, I see my queen as the most valuable player. She can move in any direction and as many spaces as she likes. I do everything I can to protect her.

In life, there are many things I’m willing to sacrifice like my pawns in chess. It’s no sacrifice really. I have plenty of whatever it is and I don’t see it as a loss when I lose them. It’s the key things in my life that I try to protect. I’m not willing to sacrifice them and give them to God. When I look at Abraham, he was willing to sacrifice Isaac. He put what was most precious to him out there to be taken. It doesn’t make sense in life or in chess, but He was rewarded for being willing to.

I look at my life and wonder if I’m being too careful with things that I think matter. Am I too willing to sacrifice the things that don’t matter to me and not willing enough to sacrifice the things that do? Jesus was in the habit of asking people to sacrifice what was most important to them. He asked the disciples to give up their sources of income to follow Him. He asked the rich young ruler to give up all the possessions he held so tightly to. He honored the widow who gave all she had in the offering.

If we really want to follow Christ, it means we are going to have to put ourselves in position to face checkmate. We are going to have to make the hard sacrifices, the ones we haven’t been willing to make. In return, He promises to give us more than we could ever ask or think. It’s time each of us stopped “sacrificing” things that don’t matter and started really sacrificing what does. Only then will we get a full revelation of who He is.


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The Other Side of Obedience

Years ago, I made a lot of mistakes. I’m not saying I still don’t make them, but the ones I’m talking about were life altering mistakes. I’m still paying for them a decade later. I knew I was still paying for them physically, mentally and emotionally, but I hadn’t really understood how I was paying for them spiritually. Once I sought God’s forgiveness for those mistakes, that aspect was taken care of, but there was more to it than my need for forgiveness. There have been barriers that I’ve built up because of it that have caused me to limit God’s ability to bless me.

I feel like I’m a pretty blessed person as it is, but over the last few weeks, I’m realizing that God desires to bless me more than He has been. Recently, my wife and I have been working together to tear down a wall that was built years ago from those mistakes. As we pull it down brick by brick, it’s been like cracks in a dam. Blessings have been gushing out at us. We look at each other in amazement after each incident and wonder, “Could we have experienced this years ago had we tried to tear it down then?” I think the answer is yes.

God has several principles or laws in place that if we were to simply obey, we’d reap the reward on the other side. One of those laws is “give and it shall be given to you.” We’ve mainly heard this applied to the Church, but I believe it applies to anyone. If you give to others, God opens doors to bless you. I’ve heard it said, “If God can get it through you, He’ll get it to you.” I’m finding this to be true in my own life. The more we’re willing to give to others, the more God is willing to give to us. That said, giving in order to get is the wrong motivation.

When we give in order to bless, God sees our hearts and is willing to open up the windows of Heaven to pour out blessings on us. I think those blessings are intended to keep the cycle of blessing others going. If we hoard the blessings that God pours on us, then the cycle stops. We become like the man in the parable who hid his talent. What we have will be taken from us instead of us giving it freely. God trusts us with the ability to bless others, but we fail to trust Him to do His part. We’re afraid to let go because we have too little.

What I’ve found is that even my “little” can be a blessing to someone else. When I released that “little”, God released more to me. When I released that amount, He poured out more. Now we are enjoying the cycle of blessing. Just last night, my wife said, “I’m excited to see how this next blessing will take place.” God gave us a blessing yesterday and now we’re actively looking to see how we can give it away. It’s not because we’re expecting God to turn around and bless us again, but because being a blessing is so much fun. Acting on God’s behalf is the greatest blessing there is.

Our friend Mike always asks, “What has God placed in your hands?” It may not be much in your eyes, but it is a lot to someone else and even more in God’s eyes. Whatever God has given you and told you to release, let me encourage you today to be faithful to God with it. If He asks you to release it, then release it. You will be tearing down a wall that has been holding back blessings just waiting to be released because of your obedience. Look around today and be a blessing to others. You never know what’s on the other side of your obedience.


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Kingdom Thoughts

I read one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s prayers last week and a phrase he wrote is still echoing in my mind. Here was a man who left the comfort of America to go to Nazi Germany to be with his fellow Jews. He was captured and sent to a Nazi prison for two years. Before he was executed in that prison, he wrote many prayers and poems. The last line in the prayer I read was, “Think Thy kingdom thoughts in mine.”

I have been making that my prayer this week. I don’t want to think my thoughts. I want to think God’s thoughts. Better yet, I want Him to think His thoughts in me. To do that, I have to yield my mind to Him. I have to give Him that control. It has to be more than a prayer. It requires action on my part. I know my thoughts and they’re not always kingdom thoughts.

If I truly let Him think His kingdom thoughts in me, how would that affect everything I do? I know it would change my priorities. What I consider important right now, doesn’t line up with what’s important to His kingdom. If I truly thought kingdom thoughts, I would be doing everything I can to get as many people into the kingdom as possible before my time is up. I’d sacrifice all that is secure now for what is eternal.

Knowing what needs to be done and knowing the sacrifice that will take creates a struggle. It creates a discontentment within me for where I am knowing where I need to be. I want to hold on to the things that my earthly mind thinks bring me security. The kingdom mind says, “Those things are temporary. Let them go and find real security.” Real security is found by having faith in what we cannot see over what we can see.

It’s difficult to have that kind of faith. We are raised in a world who’s culture is the opposite of that. Our culture says, “Acquire as much as you can so that you can retire comfortably.” Jesus said, “Sell all you have, give the money to the poor and come follow me.” Many of us hear that statement and are like the rich, young ruler who originally heard it. We walk away sad because our faith, trust and security are in the temporary things.

I wonder what would have become of him if he had done what Jesus said. He clearly loved God and had obeyed all the commandments since he was young. He was a good “Christian” but he asked what he lacked to be great. He wasn’t willing to make the sacrifice required to be truly great in God’s kingdom. In reality, most of us aren’t. We aren’t willing to adopt His kingdom thoughts that would require the sacrifice necessary that leads to greatness.

I’m trying to get there. I have made Bonhoeffer’s prayer my own even after I’ve understood what that means. I’m not content to be a good Christian. God has called me and you to greatness. He leaves the choice up to each one of us though. Are we willing to sacrifice what we think makes us secure in this world so that others can truly live? Are we really willing to make the prayer, “think Thy kingdom thoughts in mine” our own?

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Jehovah Jireh

This week I’m going to do a little something different. I’m going to focus on a few names given to God in the Bible and what they mean to us. Some of them you may have heard of and others you may not have. The first one that I want to look at is the one that is probably the most popular: Jehovah Jireh. Every time I hear that name, my mind starts to play that old song we used to sing in church.

The lyrics say, “Jehovah Jireh. My provider. His grace is sufficient for thee. My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Glory. He will give His angels charge over thee. Jehovah Jireh careth for thee.” The song may be old, but the truth in it is everlasting. God will supply all your needs when we act in obedience to His voice.

The place in the Bible where this name for God comes from is Genesis 22:14. Abraham had been asked by God to sacrifice his son through whom the promise was to come through. I’m sure Abraham wondered about that. I know I would have. My thoughts would have been, “God, didn’t you promise that my descendants would outnumber the stars? Yet, now you are asking me to sacrifice the only way that is possible.”

If Abraham ever thought like that, you wouldn’t know it. He knew that if God could help he and his wife conceive miraculously in their old age, God could do above and beyond anything he could imagine. God had been true to His word so far, so why not trust Him this time? If you’re like me, your memory with God is short term. I forget all the things He has done for me and start to doubt.

Isaac was a little curious too. He asked his dad, “I see we have the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham, in faith, answered, “God will provide.” They kept walking all the way to the mountain that God showed him. He then set out the wood, tied Isaac up and placed him on the altar. As he lifted his knife to kill the son of promise, the angel of The Lord called out and stopped him. He then provided a ram for the sacrifice.

I think it’s interesting to note that Abraham kept walking to the mountain trusting God. Many times we sit and wait for God to provide before we are willing to step out in faith. Abraham traveled several days and had to build the altar before God provided what Abraham was trusting Him for. Our faith and trust in God’s ability to provide shouldn’t be passive. It should be proactive. We should continue to do what He called us to do and not sit still until He answers.

God is looking for obedience from us. He wants to provide for our needs, but we have to be in the place of His provision. The ram was caught by his horns at the top of the mountain, not at the base camp. Go where God has told you to go, do what God has told you to do and speak what God has told you to speak. It is in that place of action, that place of sheer faith and trust in God that He will provide for you. Jehovah Jireh, God will provide.

*Author’s note: I’m well aware of the ongoing discussion of Jehovah versus Yahweh. These posts are not intended to be a discussion ground for that debate, but rather to focus on who God is and what He promised to do.

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Living set apart

As a Christian, I have always wanted to please God with my life. I think that is the goal of most Christians. Just like any goal, it is difficult to accomplish. We cannot seclude ourselves from the world to accomplish this goal because Scripture tells us to be in the world not of it. By being in the world, we get exposed to things that are against what we believe. We get exposed to temptations. We are pressed on every side to change who we are into conforming to the things of this world.

We have to resist that. We are called to be salt and light. We are called to be set apart, but how do we do that? How can we effectively live a life for Christ while being pressured to live otherwise? That is the daily challenge that we face as believers. We have the Spirit of God living in us to empower us to live a life worthy of the call. Do we access that power daily though? For me, it’s a struggle some days.

In Romans 12, Paul gives us some insight into what we can do to live in the world, yet set apart at the same time.

1. Be a living sacrifice

This is one of the hardest things to do. I once heard that the problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps climbing off the altar. God has given us that free choice daily to lay down our lives, wants and desires for His. A living sacrifice means just that. Each day, I give up my agenda for His. I give up my wants for His. I give up what I desire most for what He wants.

Paul said that this living sacrifice should be devoted, consecrated and well pleasing to God. It is a form of spiritual worship that is deeper than singing songs on a Sunday in church. It is true worship when I live a life that is devoted and consecrated to what He wants me to be and do.

2. Don’t conform to this world

Daily we are pushed to conform to what others want. We are asked to go along with the flow, to be tolerant and open minded. We are told that what we believe is archaic and not in step with where the world is now. Christianity is considered outdated and should be changed to reflect our culture. That is not what God intended for us though.

If no one around you can tell that you are a Christian and that your life is different, you may have conformed to this world without even knowing. Scripture is very clear on how we are to live. We are to take up our cross daily for Christ, crucify our fleshly desires and follow after God.

3. Be transformed

We are to be changed by the entire renewal of our mind. It should have a new set of ideals and a new attitude according to Paul. He understood that to make a permanent outward change, it starts with the mind. We cannot live how God intends for us to live without having our minds changed.

We have our minds renewed daily by spending time alone with God and by reading His word. We must take that time daily to renew our mind and our spirit. We get covered with dirt and junk from being in the world day in and day out. We need that daily cleansing to keep our minds fresh for God.

Paul says if we do these three things, we will prove what is the good, perfect and acceptable will of God. We can live for Him in a world that does not know Him if we know how to. Which of these three steps can you start to work on today in order to live the life you were called to?

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