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His Sacrifice

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:15

Gracious God this morning I rose thinking of the Son you sent to save us.  I remembered the pain He endured to show His everlasting and deep love for us.  You created this plan and He completed it.  In remembrance of that day I sit in awe and wonder at your glorious ways.  Amen

Over the course of 30 years a survey was undertaken asking high school and college students if they would first try to save their dog or a stranger.  I’m disturbed to report that 2/3 have always voted against saving the person.  In newer studies, adults now vote similarly.  How would you vote if asked the same question?

This study was posted online awhile back and I went to the comments section to see what people had to say.  I shouldn’t have.  It was more disturbing.  People condemning others for being “evil,” “cruel,” and “vile.”  Strangely enough, they didn’t put themselves in those categories!  The folks that would pick an animal over a human (now certainly there would be instances we all might do the same.  Say a person has just attacked you and your dog) fail to see their decision makes them complicit in devaluing human life.

What the surveyors have surmised is the lack of Judeo-Christian values in a person’s life or the watering down of those teachings increases making moral decisions based on our feelings.  In addition, a belief in God elevates human worth over that of animals.  Without that, we see the image of God brought down to having no more value than a squid.

“9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

Throughout the Bible we are reminded that humans were God’s special creation.  So special that He gave us dominion over the earth.  The earth serves us, not the other way around as some would say.  When this understanding of the world’s creation is thrown out the window it’s no wonder the people of this world have turned everything upside down!

A number of my Christians friends have struggled with the fact that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son.  We either secretly or out loud say we hope God never asks us to do something so difficult.  Yet every day parents see their children in the military risk their lives for us.  Police officers, firefighters, lifeguards and others put their lives on the line for strangers.  Because they believe we are worth saving.

The Bible is one of the most tested and proved documents in all history.  And God’s work is all around us to see proof of His ways.  There is little to no dispute that Jesus walked this earth.  Or even that He died a horrible death on the cross.  And whether or not a person believes He rose and ascended into heaven everyone should understand that He went to the cross that day for us.  He spoke over and over about the plan ahead for Him.  He didn’t die because He wanted fame.  He didn’t die to save the whales.  He didn’t die because of some terrible crime He committed.  The Father sent His Son to die to save us.  Because, thank God, He believes we are valuable. And just as our first verse reminds us, we aren’t saved just to be saved, but to spread the Word so that yes, even strangers are saved.

Friend, God in His glorious ways made us special.  I love my dog, Tucker, but he won’t seek justice for me and he won’t take up arms to protect me.  God made us in such a way that we can even ponder these moral thoughts.  He made us so when faced with difficult decisions we can decide on A, B or even A and B.  It depends on if you love God’s creation as much as He does.

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The Unexpected Warrior

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Matthew 3:21

During my senior year of high school, I decided to try and live out my dream of becoming an astronaut.  I met with an Air Force recruiter and was excited to take off on this new adventure.  And then I told my parents.  It was my father that said to me, “You are a lot like your mom and your mom couldn’t handle the military. She dropped out after about a week.  You two don’t like to be told what to do.  So, it’d be best to drop this idea.”

From the outside I exuded confidence.  But on the inside, I was terrified about what people thought about me. I always obeyed my parents out of fear of the repercussions.  And so, I gave up my dream.  I assumed everything my father said was correct.

Imagine if Jesus had so little courage.

His own family thought him a little wacky.  I mean if you announced to your family that you were the Messiah…. But unlike me, He knew where His identity resided – in God.  

So often when we think about courage and courageous people we think of military and political warriors.  And while we can be eternally grateful for people that go off to war to fight for our freedoms and people like Martin Luther King who make big waves in Washington DC, if we stop there we might be inclined to not step up to the plate when it’s our turn.

Jesus wasn’t a military warrior.  He didn’t fight to change laws.  He didn’t work hard to get elected to lead a nation.  But what He did do, from the first day He declared Himself the Messiah, was choose to lay aside any and all standing with man to serve God.  He knew from that day it would be soon to die on the cross.

“His was the courage of the mind, the heroism of the heart.  It was a sober and reasoned thing.  He deliberately counted the cost and paid it.”

Charles Jefferson, The Character of Jesus

In other words, He knew without a doubt who He served and who had His back. Every single decision He made, the words He spoke were for the glory of God.  He knew people would hate him.  He knew people would misunderstand Him.  And He knew He still needed to speak.

In my BSGs study on Revelation we recently looked at chapter 11 in which two witnesses are assigned by God to give some final admonishment to the people.  A final plea to turn to God.  Throughout their 3 years on earth the world attempts to destroy these witnesses through any means possible – they are true “warriors for God.”  And until God said it was time to go, they were protected.  We were asked that week who are powerful witnesses in our present generation?  Who would you name?

Although I don’t know him personally, I do believe one such powerful witness is of the famed Duck Dynasty clan, Phil Robertson.  This rough looking, old man has been much maligned by our media and culture.  But to hear his salvation story can only show God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness. 

You see, Mr. Robertson was a child of the 60s.  When he went off to college in 1964, he had a wife and child at home.  The message proliferated at college was of the “sex, drugs and rock n roll” variety.  No rules, no obligations.  He took to that message like a duck to water and was frequently drunk, doing drugs, and cheating on his wife.  When he graduated and got a job this lifestyle continued.  He also felt his family was holding him down.  And so, they left him one day.  For two weeks he partied until the cows came home.  Then he realized he was miserable.  He had not only lost his job as a teacher but also a bar he owned.

He begged his wife to take him back.  She would, if he cleaned up his act.  God softened his heart and Mr. Robertson sought out a Christian mentor.  With the strength of God behind him he pulled himself from his old life and began a one reborn.  

“And so, I devoted my waking hours to studying the Bible.  I pored over the onion-skin pages and began to mark them up.  I consumed the Word of God as if it were food and drank deeply from its waters of wisdom.”

Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul

When I read this, what came to mind were the Navy SEALs that train not far from my house.  To be a SEAL, an elite member of the US military, you need to eat, sleep and devote every waking minute to training.  Their goal is to be the best soldier possible.  But what about us average Christians?  What is our goal?  Will we be like Phil Robertson and wholly commit ourselves to the cause of God?

Fast forward in Mr. Robinson’s life and we land in the middle of the show Duck Dynasty.  It was a reality show following around his family – a family of backwoods hunters and fishermen from Louisiana who own a duck call business.   During this show the family became warriors for God.  While their producers would almost demand they do or say things outside the morals of their faith, they would stand strong.  They were willing to lose all the money offered them.  They prayed and spoke of their faith throughout the show.  And they garnered millions of fans.  And enemies.  They were called backward, stupid, far-right crazy, mostly because of their commitment to their faith.  

“It’s been 43 years since my encounter with God and I can tell you, I’m not running from anyone or anything; I’m not enslaved to the ‘isms’ of the world.”

Phil Robertson, The Theft of America’s Soul

We can make excuses for why we won’t stand our ground and stand up for God – I might lose my job, I might lose my friends/family, I might be called any manner of names.  Doesn’t that all come from a fear of man rather than a trust in God?  Phil Robertson wasn’t famous and then got a TV show.  He was a man making duck calls who became famous for being funny, principled, a family leader, and God-fearing.  

Many of us probably aren’t ready to be a full time warrior for God.  We must practice the first two steps so they become a natural part of us.  When we can naturally say a prayer for those who would hurt us, when we anticipate and readily step forward to fill a need that Jesus places before us, only then are we certainly more prepared for this step.

I follow a Christian pastor on Instagram.  He has a series of YouTube talks where he delves into our culture’s most pressing topics.  After reading how he lovingly and with wisdom responds to some of the vitriol he receives I realized, I’m not quite ready yet for the bigger battlefield.  I need to chew and gnaw some more on God’s Word.  God has been testing me along the way with mini quizzes.  Small opportunities to stand for Him.  My training to be a Warrior for God continues.