Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Choosing God over His Promises

Well, so much for getting back to posting several times a week! I miss it so much though. And there are so many things I want to write. And today I realized that we are three days from the next action and there are things I want to write about before that happens. I don’t know if I’ll get to say all the things I’ve been wanting to say in the next few days. The fact is that my to do list before we go to my parents’ house for Christmas is very long and I don’t know where I’m going to find the time. But know that this is where I want to be. And I’ll be here when I can!

I have things I want to write about before the next steps because I know that whatever happens on Thursday is going to affect my perspective. And I want to be clear that I am saying that whatever happens on Thursday, I’m trusting God with this. If it was worth doing or if it wasn’t. If something happens that I can’t or haven’t yet imagined. If anything, in every scenario, I’m trusting God with this.

And this is why: Because I don’t have the answers, but he does. Because my ways are not his ways, but his ways are higher than mine. And because, at the end of the day, I want to know God and give him the glory more than I want anything–and I’m willing to give him the child that I hope for and that I desire. Because if God doesn’t want me to be a parent, I’m sure it’s because that is best for me. BEST. Not an acceptable outcome or something I’ll learn to deal with, but absolutely God’s best, his most excellent for me. Because I trust that he is working all things for my good. And because only he knows what is coming up and where we’re going.

So, God, I’m saying to you right now: Take it. Take all of it. I will not withhold from you even the dream of a child. I don’t have a living child to offer to you, but I give you the dream.

There’s this story in the Bible–a completely heart-wrenching, heart-aching, heart-breaking story in the Bible. God decides to test Abraham. The test he gives Abraham–the exact test–is not replicated in the Bible except by God himself. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. The only other time in scripture that God requires a father to sacrifice his son, God is the Father.

It’s in Genesis 22:1-19. God comes to Abraham and tells him to take Isaac to a place he will show Abraham and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. A few chapters earlier, when God told Abraham that he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham interceded for the towns, asking God to spare them if there were as few as 10 righteous people present. And God agreed to do that. He didn’t show any displeasure with Abraham for asking. But here, when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham doesn’t argue. He doesn’t beg. He doesn’t ask for a reprieve. He just does it.

He wakes early the next morning and takes all that he needs for the sacrifice, including the wood, the boy, and two servants and a donkey to carry his provisions. There are parallels throughout this account to the sacrifice Jesus makes on the cross. I was especially struck by the fact that the Genesis account is largely shown through Abraham’s perspective–giving us a sense, perhaps, for how God himself suffered to see his own son hung on a cross. The parallel of Jesus at Gethsemane and to the crucifixion is more from Jesus’ perspective. I encourage you, if you’re interested, read the scriptures and pay attention to the parallels.*

And Abraham comes so very close to sacrificing his son. He has Isaac on the proper mountain, bound and laying on the wood. As he holds the knife and extends his hand over Isaac to finish the task, he is interrupted by God. The Lord speaks to him and stays his hand. Isaac is, symbolically, resurrected, and God alerts Abraham to a ram trapped in a nearby bush. The ram is sacrificed in Isaac’s place.

Here’s the thing: God promised Abraham he would have Isaac. He promised Abraham that Isaac would have many offspring, and that through Isaac, Abraham would have so many descendants they couldn’t be counted. In other words, without Isaac, there was no promise. There was no heritage. There could not be more descendants than stars in the sky or more descendants than sand on the seashore. To sacrifice Isaac was to say to God, thanks for the promises you offer, but if I need to choose between you or your glory and the promises, I choose YOU.

I think it’s amazing that Abraham takes the test and he doesn’t seem to resent it when it’s over. And I was touched at the idea that God is using this test of Abraham both to refine and strengthen Abraham and to share with him something about himself. Abraham dies long before Jesus’ is born on this earth, of course, but it is as if God is reaching down and including Abraham in this story and giving him a glimpse of the sorrow, the struggle. But as Abraham shows God that he truly does love God more than anything–and that he would choose to have God even if it meant losing the promises God had made him–God showed us through Christ’s sacrifice that he loves us more than anything. He loves us so much that he did not withhold even his son, his only son, from us, but instead gave him as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.

And it is because he loves us so much, and because he is who he is, that we can trust him with this.

In truth, there is no choosing between God and God’s promises. For when we are faithless, God is faithful, for he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13). It goes against his character for God to break a promise. It cannot happen. But what do you choose?

I choose God. And his glory. And I don’t know if he’s promised me children, but I’m willing to give them up. I’ll give it all up. Because I want God’s best for me more than I want my best for me. I just don’t trust my own judgment. I trust God’s.

Whatever happens next–whatever outcome–this is in God’s hands. Thanks be to God for whatever he has planned for us. I can’t wait to live out this excellent life for his glory.

*Look, for example, at the length of the journey, carrying wood, a donkey, the substitute, a crown of thorns . . . There are other things that parallel but that is a good start.

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What Promises Are Mine?

What promises does God have for you?

A few questions in my Bible study this week–on chapters 15 and 16 in Genesis–asked me about the promises God has given me. One question asked, “What questions about His promises to you would you like to ask?”

You know my answer? “What are God’s promises specifically for me? What verses in the Bible are meant specifically for my life?”

I know there are so many promises in the Bible that are corporate–for the whole body of believers–and I know that many of them will apply in the next life. But what–if anything–has God promised specifically for me? Is it even reasonable to expect, hope for, desire, or want a promise specific to my life from God?

Chapter 15 opens with a rather distraught Abram (not yet renamed Abraham). God has promised him a “great reward,” to which the already wealthy Abram basically responds, “What’s the use, when a servant of my household is going to be my heir?” You see, Abram is convinced that he will not have any children. This is despite the fact that God told him in the beginning of chapter 12 that he would give the land to which he guides Abram to Abram’s descendants.

Can we really blame Abram in his doubts? The man is 86, after all, and his wife is still barren. But God has promised. And God, in his great mercy, repeats the promise to Abram several more times and with increasing specificity. He speaks to him here, in chapter 15, saying, “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir” (15:4). “And he [God] brought him [Abram] outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be'” (15:5).

What a promise. And now we see that Abram does believe God, “and He [God] counted it to him [Abram] as righteousness” (15:6).

The commentary for this week’s lesson talks about this, saying:

Romans tells us, ‘He [Abram] did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God’ (4:19-20). Abram recognized that, humanly speaking, what he was believing God for was impossible. It would take a miracle. The Scripture says, ‘He did not weaken in faith,’ but it does not say there was no tension, no battle going on as he struggled to hold on to his faith. He was open and honest with God. He asked Him how He was going to solve this. Then ‘the word of the LORD’ came to Abram in a vision.”

At the end of chapter 15, God adds to Abram’s confidence in the promise that his descendants will inherit the land currently occupied by the Canaanites by making a covenant with Abram. Traditionally a covenant is between two parties, both of whom have responsibilities to uphold in keeping their end of the bargain. But the funny thing about this covenant is that God is both parties. God makes and God keeps the covenant. Abram has no responsibility. The promise will be fulfilled on Abram’s behalf with no strings attached. I find this so freeing. You see, the promises God makes to Abram do not depend at all upon Abram’s behavior.

I think that is true of the promises God makes to any of us. He knows we are sinful people, that we falter, and that we are incapable of guaranteeing anything in our own power. So he doesn’t ask us to do that. God’s promises to us–God’s promises to me, whatever they may be–depend on God alone, not on my behavior, not on my actions, not on the amount of trust I have, or how fervently I believe.

If you know you have a promise from God, but it has not yet been fulfilled and you are waiting and wondering if you misheard or missed out, I want to encourage you that you won’t be the first to have doubts. You won’t be the first to try to help God along or take matters into your own hands, either, as we see Abram does in chapter 16, though doing so would be unwise. And I think it’s okay to ask God to clarify and ask God to bolster your faith. Because you know what faith is? It’s a gift from God.

And if you’re like me, wondering whether there are promises in his word for just you, wondering if you can claim as a promise an heir from your (and your spouse’s) very own body, as God promised Abram, or if that’s just too convenient–join me in asking God. He gives Abram clarification when he asks for it. He comforts Abram when he is in doubt and when he is distressed.

Our God is a great God. A God who loves all the people he has made and wants none to perish. A God who does not play tricks on us or deceive us in any way at any time. And a God with a plan and a path for each one of us. Sometimes the path takes us through difficult and dark and confusing places. And maybe we don’t get to know why. But I know where the path ends up and I’m going to follow it to my ultimate reward, with God’s gracious help.

And I’m going to be asking God to reveal to me the promises he has in mind specifically for me. And I pray that I will be content–even joyful–with whatever he reveals, even if it is not what I might have chosen for myself.