Somehow our great God came through and provided a way for us to fly to India to share the good news of Jesus. Today we are leaving for Vishakapatnam, India. It feels very surreal that we are actually getting on a plane to go when two weeks ago we were so convinced that we would not be going. I’m not sure what to do about all of this, but here we are nonetheless. God came through and provided a way for us to get on the plane. We are still short about two thousand dollars, but we believe that this money will also be delivered to us. We’re thankful and nervous at the same time.
This morning I’m reading through Genesis 22 where Abraham sacrifices Isaac. This is an interesting passage. It clearly states that God tested Abraham in his sacrifice of Isaac. When the prophesy of Isaac came, there was a long season of testing Abraham in his faithfulness. Now, God asks him to sacrifice the only heir to his legacy, the promise of God’s provision for the legacy. Is God contradicting himself? Even though Abraham faltered, his faith is now deeply rooted. He knows that the Lord has provided his son Isaac as the offspring that will start the legacy of Abraham being the father of many nations. There is wavering no longer. When the word of the Lord comes, he gets up early in the morning. He saddles his donkey, cuts the wood, grabs two of his men and Isaac, and off they go.
I’m trying to imagine the scene. I’m trying to imagine the time frame. I’m trying to imagine what sort of thoughts are going through Abraham’s mind as he is riding with Isaac. Is he worried? Is he still confident that he’s hearing God’s voice? Is anxiety and fear welling up inside of him? Is he being tormented? This passage doesn’t say. All we know is that on the third day, he sees Moriah from afar. He ditches the two men he brought with him, and immediately Isaac starts putting the puzzle pieces together. Abraham attempts to calm the young boy’s concerns and again states his faith in the Lord’s provision of a sacrifice. Abraham builds the altar. He lays the wood down. He begins to bind the young boy. I’m trying to picture what this looks like: a youth, (maybe 10–15 years old) probably of greater strength than Abraham (who is over 100 years old at this point), is struggling with his dad as his dad attempts to strap him down to what is clearly an altar of sacrifice. “No, father! NO!!!” He takes the knife to slaughter Isaac. He reaches up to kill his heir, and, “ABRAHAM! ABRAHAM!” beckons the voice from heaven. He stops.
Three days of intense obedience. He could have turned back at any point during those three days of travel. He could have allow his son to “escape”, but there is no questioning whatsoever in Abraham’s heart that the Lord will provide. Surely, the Lord would have questioned his motive if there was any lack of faith in him, but God was patient. Maybe there was some doubt and fear in Abraham, but he knew at the end of the day his call was to be faithful. The Lord saw the cry in his heart to be faithful regardless of the cost. He kept riding his donkey. There was a resolve in him. This resolve was forged in the furnace of trusting the Lord to provide Isaac in the first place. This resolve allowed him to keep going.
Will I be found faithful to the Father? Will I hear his voice from heaven as I’m about to sacrifice what I hold dear? Will I even sacrifice? I pray that I would. I want to be found faithful to all that he has for me. When I stand before him, I do not want to have a long list of “would haves” from heaven. May grace abound as I journey toward faithfulness in the eyes of my God and King, Jesus.
Karla and I have been in Kansas City for just over two months. In that time, we’re still asking the question, “We’re here! Now what?”. It’s a difficult mindset to be in: you’ve heard from the Lord, but he hasn’t fulfilled the future that he has planned for you. What do you do when the Father has spoken about career change, move to a different city, starting a family, or beginning a new ministry? If you’re like me, you want to jump in and immediately begin. Not often does the Lord work this way. More often than not, He is speaking those words into your life from a several years in the future. It’s as if he’s standing on the timeline of history calling you into something deeper even though you stand in today. He’s very much aware that you are not qualified, adequate, or trained…yet. But he aims to get you there. The very fact that you haven’t gotten there means that you’ll survive everything in between. Simple. No need to fret and worry about today; he’s already taken care of it, and tomorrow, and the day after. He’s for you. He has your best interest in mind and has not abandoned you.
As the Father has been teaching me these things, I’ve certainly shaken my fist at the sky. I haven’t been happy about the being in the “waiting room”. I think it’s fair to say that all of us are perfectly content with the waiting room if it’s a routine surgery or a small filling at the dentist. Not all of us are content with the waiting room when we don’t know how things will turn out. Regardless of how qualified the doctor is, regardless of all the reassurance he gives us, regardless of how many friends and family members we have at our side, somehow it _still_ doesn’t feel completely comforting. They aren’t going through the non-routine surgery. They aren’t waiting and wondering if they’ll come out alive. They never will be able to fully understand until they are in your position. So you wait. Then wait. Some. More. Somewhere along the way, you hit the point of no return, and you’re shaking hands with the anesthesiologist, and trust yourself to the one that has the power to get you through this non-routine procedure. Moments later, you’re awake and everything is fine. Smiles and hugs abound as you come to and realize that everything is going to be ok. There’s still healing and recovery time ahead, but you are at least able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I like to think that this is how the Father looks at our struggles. He always has been and always will be making things right in the end. It’s of no concern to him whether it’s “routine” procedure or whether it’s painful. He’s more concerned with the growth and progress that you are coming into your true identity as his son or daughter. He’s standing one month or ten years or somewhere in between calling your name and drawing you closer to who you really are. In the process you get closer to his heart for you when he knit you together in the womb. This idea is fascinating. It’s worth dwelling on and recalling the words that he has spoken over your life and the dreams you’ve had since a child. He’s good, and he’s pulling you through. It’s the very reason that Jesus came: to restore all things, to recreate you as you were meant to be before sin came and jacked things up. Good thing there’s a remedy for your mistakes along the way. It’s by him and to him and through him that all things will be restored.
Karla and I had Christmas with my family in Arlington this year. Last year we did Christmas at hers, so we swapped this time. We had a delightful time hanging out with my family. It even snowed on Christmas Day! We had such a rushed December that Christmas seemed to be a little distant, but it almost seemed like we were fasting because the time spent with my family seemed to be different this year. When you fast, the time spent with The Lord is more impactful than it would normally be, not because you earned, but because you purposely place yourself in a humble and weak position to hear from The Lord. It felt a bit like this during Christmas. We were weak and humbled by all of the tasks required to move our stuff to Kansas City, so the time with family was more impactful.
OneThing & Hong Kong
The conference itself I’m sure had a great impact on some people, but I just had a hard time connecting with The Lord. I was expecting huge revelation, but instead I was met with a very dry and disconnected time. This went on for days even after we left the country to travel to Hong Kong. The purpose of the trip was undetermined, but as The Lord normally does, he told us once we got there. We were supposed to go to Shenzhen to meet with my friends across the border. We were pretty nonplussed with the first week in Hong Kong, but the second week in Shenzhen was much more life giving. We were able to spend time with believers and even meet some that had heard of IHOP. It was a huge sigh of relief that the time spent was not in vane.
We’re Here! Now what?
So, now our time in Kansas City officially begins. We arrived from Hong Kong on January 17th. We’ve been here almost two weeks and the time has already been very saturated with the presence of God. We’re extremely excited to have a few weeks to just sit and rest. Personally, I can feel the itch to produce something. It just doesn’t seem right to be able to sit before The Lord, inquire in his temple, and do nothing. From God’s perspective, I’m doing the only thing in the world that really matters: worshiping him. However, the world has brainwashed me. I see my life as valuable and important by what I can produce. I do; therefore, I am. When I’m challenged to not do, it feels weird. Vacation? That’s for the birds. I don’t get it. I really don’t know how to rest and just turn my brain off and let God do the thinking for me. God’s economy is much different, though. It’s not a quid pro quo economy. You don’t do to get in. It’s a one way street. He provides because he’s a provider. He loves because he’s a lover. He doesn’t ask us to earn it. In fact, he’s angry when we do. It mocks his Son. He used to, though. That was Plan A, to show us how much better Plan B really is. Plan A was the Old Testament Law. Plan A was to earn righteousness. Plan B was to receive it from Someone Else. Plan B is to believe and receive Jesus. It’s to receive the production—the good works—and righteousness of Another. The whole game changed when Christ came. I don’t produce so that God will love me. Now, I produce because I am loved. So often, though, I’m caught up in Plan A. It’s so difficult as a man wired by God for cultivation, to rest and receive his provision of works for me. I keep wanting to earn it. I feel like a chunk of our time here will be unravelling that lie that has been woven so deeply into my mind. Christ died so that I don’t have to find my identity in what I produce. If it was really left up to me to earn righteousness, I don’t think I’d do a very good job anyway. I have an amazingly patient wife who can attest to this, and a good heavenly Father that made a way that covers my failures.