Unbelievable Sacrifice

The first liturgical reading for the 1st Sunday in Lent is challenging in light of the events of this past week. In Genesis 12:1-3 and 15:1-6 God had given great promises to Abram [name changed to Abraham in Gen. 17] about having a son, even in advanced age for himself and his wife Sarai.

After this son, Isaac, is born (Gen. 21), God asks him to do the unthinkable. Note specifically how God addresses Abraham:  “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love…” Abraham follows through with God’s instruction. But God stops him before the sacrifice of his son is done. God addresses him in the same way as v. 2: “you did not refuse to give me your son, your only son” (v. 12). God provides a ram instead for the sacrifice.

What God did not allow Abraham to complete, God eventually does. He offers His Son as the perfect sacrifice.

10 Yet, it was the LORD’s will to crush him with suffering. When the LORD has made his life a sacrifice for our wrongdoings, he will see his descendants for many days. The will of the LORD will succeed through him. 11 He will see and be satisfied because of his suffering. My righteous servant will acquit many people because of what he has learned ⌝through suffering⌟. He will carry their sins as a burden. (Isaiah 53:10-11)

The Gospel reading for Feb. 4 (Transfiguration, Mark 9:2-9) occurs in the middle of Jesus’ earthly ministry, emphasizes this sonship (and love) of Jesus again.

Then a cloud overshadowed them. A voice came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Note the prelude to that sacrifice in Mark 1:9-15 when Jesus is baptized (Gospel reading for this Sunday).  “You are my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with you” (v. 11).

And then the final piece of the sacrifice comes in Mark 15:34.

At three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

The beloved Son is now the rejected Son, abandoned even by His very own Father in heaven. By doing so, Jesus carried the sins, not just sticks of wood to the mountain (i.e. Isaac), but with His own suffering and death. After His resurrection from the dead, God’s approval and love is complete—Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s plan of saving sinners.

This is true because Christ suffered for our sins once. He was an innocent person, but he suffered for guilty people so that he could bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:18)

When we believe Jesus is our Savior, then God has some wonderful words for us to hear and remember.

Before the Passover festival, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go back to the Father. Jesus loved his own who were in the world, and he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

Don’t love money. Be happy with what you have because God has said, “I will never abandon you or leave you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

God our Father loved us and by his kindness [grace] gave us everlasting encouragement and good hope. (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

Especially pertinent in light of the agony and affliction many have experienced recently, Paul writes about the significance of God’s love.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (Romans 8:35 NAS)

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 NAS)

May this love be yours in Jesus Christ. May you live in light of that love, hope, and encouragement.

An unbelievable sacrifice through Jesus becomes the believable sacrifice for us, for salvation from sin, for new life, for cleansed conscience, and the promise of eternal life, with no pain, sorrow, loss, death, or tears.


Genesis 22:1–18 (GW)

1 Later God tested Abraham and called to him, “Abraham!”
“Yes, here I am!” he answered.
2 God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.”

3 Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut the wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place that God had told him about.  4 Two days later Abraham saw the place in the distance.  5 Then Abraham said to his servants, “You stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go over there. We’ll worship. After that we’ll come back to you.”

6 Then Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to his son Isaac. Abraham carried the burning coals and the knife. The two of them went on together.
Isaac spoke up and said, “Father?”
“Yes, Son?” Abraham answered.
Isaac asked, “We have the burning coals and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God will provide a lamb for the burnt offering, Son.”

The two of them went on together.
9 When they came to the place that God had told him about, Abraham built the altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied up his son Isaac and laid him on top of the wood on the altar. 10 Next, Abraham picked up the knife and took it in his hand to sacrifice his son.

11 But the Messenger of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes?” he answered.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you did not refuse to give me your son, your only son.”

13 When Abraham looked around, he saw a ram behind him caught by its horns in a bush. So Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named that place The LORD Will Provide. It is still said today, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

15 Then the Messenger of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I am taking an oath on my own name, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not refused to give me your son, your only son, 17 I will certainly bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of their enemies’ cities. 18 Through your descendant all the nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”


Abortion, Life, and Care

With all the protests vs. Planned Parenthood, I wonder whether the President, Congress, and judges are paying attention. Thanks to Mollie Ziegler Hemingway for keeping us apprised of protests around the country.

Also, how many more babies have been killed since the protests began today? My heart aches for this national tragedy, and even more so for the women who have had abortions. Ministering to them takes love, compassion, patience, and time. Let’s be a part of that movement as well.

Yes, I have been ministering to women for 28 years. The key is not letting themselves or others define who they are by having had an abortion. They are sinners, just like me. They deal with grief, shame, guilt, etc. They are no different than many of us who sit silently and shake our heads about how bad it is, and then we go back to the latest Twitter or FB or Instagram attention-getting topic. Rather, God defines them by sins-forgiven, made-pure-in-Christ. Let that be our foremost message.

Life is under attack at the other end of life, too. Euthanasia (“good death”?) is a convenience for someone else, but does not value the life of the person being put to death. We can cover it with all kinds of sentimental thoughts “She would have wanted this to end”; “Now he is no longer in pain.” Yes, there are times that happens. But realistically, look at what happens in the Netherlands, and it is far past assisted suicide. And notice how this creeps into mainstream US media to justify taking life: Dying Dutch: Euthanasia Spreads Across Europe.

But this isn’t about just pointing fingers at others. We confess our sins because we realize we have failed in so many ways: our thoughts, our words, our deeds, our silence…

Some thoughts from Scripture:

Psalm 139:13-16 (GW)

You alone created my inner being. You knitted me together inside my mother. I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this. My bones were not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, when I was being skillfully woven in an underground workshop. Your eyes saw me when I was only a fetus. Every day ˻of my life˼ was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place.

Mark 2:17 (NAS)

And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

1 John 1:8-9 (NAS)

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 8:1 (NAS)

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NAS)

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

So, now what?

To those who are struggling with issues of life, death, value of a person’s life, give some time reflecting on something more than media headlines. Maybe even help another family who is living through this. Care for them, and realize that suffering is part of life and cannot be ignored or dispensed with a needle or ended with a putting someone to death.

This has been a heavy post to write about. It reflects some of my concerns expressed among family and friends for 40 years, many years of ministering to suffering people. The thoughts here are a little disjointed from the agony of my heart.

Even as my heart aches with all that is happening, I think God’s heart is breaking, too. He not only desires life for us now, but also life eternal. That is, life here is temporary, and filled with joy, sadness, hope, joy, and suffering and death. But it is not the final answer. We wait for life in its fullness.

Romans 8:23, 26-27 (GW)

However, not only creation groans. We, who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts, also groan inwardly. We groan as we eagerly wait for our adoption, the freeing of our bodies ˻from sin˼.

At the same time the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we don’t know how to pray for what we need. But the Spirit intercedes along with our groans that cannot be expressed in words. The one who searches our hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind. The Spirit intercedes for God’s people the way God wants him to.

And so we pray


Hope for all who call on the name of Jesus

Our hope is in the God who creates life, who sustains life, and who desires us to have life with him forever.