Sacrifice of Thanks

The Israelites lived a life of rituals. It was their lot in life. Mainly because God had commanded a life of physical and spiritual purity. There were many laws and customs that the Israelites were required to follow. Some were for keeping physically clean, most likely for health reasons. Other laws were for spiritual purposes. After all, the Promised Messiah had not been delivered to the earth, so they had no Savior. Their sins were forgiven by offering animal sacrifices.

And sometimes, it was easy to sin and just offer a sacrifice without being truly sorry for the wrong that was committed. Just kill a cow and your sin will be forgiven. That was the thought in some people’s minds. But God saw their hearts. He knew they weren’t truly sorry. And he called them out on it.

He reminded them that he owns all the cattle on a thousand hills. He owns every bird on the mountains. So he doesn’t really need their sacrifices. He doesn’t let them know when he’s hungry, because he’s not human. He doesn’t need food to sustain himself. He needs their obedience and allegiance. He wants their sacrifice to be thankfulness. Their thankfulness emphasizes what God has done for them, not what they’ve done for God.

I have no complaint about your sacrifices or the burnt offerings you constantly offer. But I do not need the bulls from your barns or the goats from your pens. For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. Do I eat the meat of bulls? Do I drink the blood of goats? If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it. Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High. Psalms 50:8-14


And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2


Oh. How that still stings today. God sees our hearts. He knows our bent toward sinning. He sees the rituals that we cling to so we can call ourselves Christian. Sure. We go to church. We give our tithe. We volunteer to serve in church ministries.

But the question is. Are we offering our “rituals” with a pure heart? When we walk through the church doors on Sunday, are we there out of love and thankfulness? Are we there to worship God and stand in His presence? Are we there to fellowship with other believers? Or is it just a habit that we haven’t yet broken? Is it only a social gathering? When we tithe, is it because the bill is set to autopay without a second thought? Or do we give sacrificially because of our desire to help spread the gospel? Are we giving a gift of thanksgiving for God’s provision? When was the last time we asked ourselves if we were giving cheerfully or just out of duty? When we accept the cup and bread of communion, is it an act of reverence and honoring of Jesus’ broken body? Or is it a ritual we’ve come to expect on Sunday? Is it an impersonal act we perform without considering the sacrifice of God’s only Son on the cross for our sins? Do we perjure ourselves by presenting our unclean selves as holy before a God who knows our hearts?

If we’ve lost the joy of being a Christian, how can we turn our hearts around? How can we fall in love with giving our tithe and not feel like it’s a drain on our finances? How can we reclaim the deep burning desire to be in church worshipping with fellow believers every Sunday? What will it take to get excited about serving God in the church again? How do we reclaim the joy and thankfulness we experienced as new believers?

Perhaps it time to stop and renew our relationship with God. Perhaps our fire has burned out, because we’re not putting God first. If God cares so much about the animals, he cares much more about we who are made in his image. God does not need anything from us. He accepts our offerings. And our service. And our worship. He commands we honor him. But rituals won’t satisfy him. He wants our hearts. He wants our confession. He wants our obedience. Our allegiance. Our trust. He wants our full surrender to his will. He wants our sacrifice of thanksgiving.

Does he have it?

Therefore, change your hearts and stop being stubborn. Deuteronomy 10:16

Put to the Test

He had waited years for an heir. God had told him multiple times that he would be the father of many nations. And at age one hundred, the promise was fulfilled. His son was born. Isaac. Born of Sarah, who was ninety. This son held great promise for the future. There was hope, because the family name would be carried on. Oh. How proud Abraham must have been.

And several years later, God put Abraham’s faith to the test. He instructed Abraham to sacrifice this son as a burnt offering. What?! And Abraham did exactly as he was told.

You can read the full story about Abraham’s obedience in Genesis 22.

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. Hebrews 11:17-19

How many of us have seen the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promise? Regardless of what was promised, the wait was excruciating. We thought the wait would never end. But we knew we had a clear promise from God. He led us down this path. Now he would fulfill his promise. Wouldn’t he? Wouldn’t he?

And then one day the promised event actually came to pass. Our hearts were filled with happiness and wonder. Relief. Confirmed trust in our Maker. We got the job. A baby was born. The lab results were negative. The debt was fully paid. The bank account was overflowing. Life was good.

And then another day came. And God asked for that promised thing or that promised person to be laid on the altar. He asked us to give the promised gift back to him. For his use. He asked us to sacrifice the gift that was so long awaited. And now we’re being asked to return it? What? To hand it over, as if it’s no longer ours?

But that gift was an answer to a long-prayed prayer.

God asks for our simple obedience. All the time. In every situation. Sometimes, obedience may feel complex rather than simple. But it’s either a Yes or No that God is looking for. That’s the simple part. It gets all complex and uncomfortable when we have to put that Yes into motion. Because that takes the control out of our hands. And we don’t know what God has in store for us when we give Him control.


And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:6


Oh. God wasn’t planning to kill Isaac. He wanted to make sure Abraham was not making an idol out of Isaac, this long-awaited son. God tested Abraham’s faith. God may ask the impossible of us. What will we say? Will we surrender our most prized possession? Will we turn our long-awaited treasure back to God to use as he sees fit?

Or do we take that treasure and hide it? Do we hoard our treasured gift?

There are those who run from hard times. They take the easy road. Or they just ignore the request to make a sacrifice. But Abraham walked right into the face of obedience. Perhaps it was the hardest thing he had ever done. He loved his son. But he never looked back.

He took his son on a journey to worship God. A sacrifice was required. And his son knew it. But no lamb was taken on the trip for the offering. Isaac asked about it. Abraham replied that God would provide. And later when Abraham tied his son with rope and laid him on the altar, I wonder what Isaac was thinking.

I wonder the thoughts swirling through Abraham’s mind as he drew the knife to slay his son. Oh. He was willing to offer his promised heir if that’s what God required of him. But God stepped in and told Abraham not to harm his son. God saw that Abraham was willing to give up his beloved son, if that was what God asked. And in the distance, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. The sacrifice was provided by God. Isaac, the long awaited son, was saved.

Abraham responded to God in faith. Not knowing the outcome, he moved in step with God’s heartbeat. He was ready to sacrifice what was dearest to him in a courageous show of loyalty to God. I have to ask. Would I be willing to do the same? Would I be willing to hand over the thing or the person most dearest to me in an act of selfless love for my Savior?

We don’t know what we may be called to sacrifice. It may be financial security. Or a close relationship. It may be a fulfilling career. Or our dream home. A prized possession. Our freedom. Our health. Are we willing to sacrifice for obedience to God? Because if God isn’t first in our lives, is he in our lives?

What Brings Me to Tears

There are certain events and experiences that bring me to tears.  Events that make me proud.  Actions that show respect to power and authority.  Experiences that are personal and meaningful.

I think of a bride.  Walking down the aisle on her father’s arm.  See the white dress.  The bouquet.  The veil.  The vows.  The kiss.  The anticipation of a life together.   The respect of the sanctity of marriage.  My eyes well up with tears.

I hear the national anthem.  The Star Spangled Banner.  I see the flag rise above the crowd.  People stand.  Right hand over their heart.  Pride in our country.  Thankful for freedom.  Respect for the courage of battles fought.   My eyes well up with tears.

I have served on jury duty.  I have been a juror.  People in the court room stand each time the jurors enter and exit the court room.  All conversations and activities cease.  All eyes are on the jury.  The group of twelve who will decide someone’s fate.   They know the power of this group.  They respect the sacrifice the jury is making to perform their civic duty.  The weight of the decision is in their hands.  My eyes well up with tears.

I have driven in a funeral procession.  Loss of a loved one.  Near and dear to my heart. People standing along the street.  They stop and pay respect.  Remove their hats.  Stop mowing their lawn.  Stand still for someone they’ve never met.  Traffic stops and lets the stream of cars interrupt their busy day.  They respect the loss of a loved one.  My eyes well up with tears.

I think of the man who died on the cross.  For me.  For you.  I think of his sacrifice.  He died willingly.  To save every sin everyone born on this earth has ever committed.  So we can enter heaven’s gates. So we can see Him face to face.  His mercy is new every day.  His love and compassion are never ending.  His sacrifice is our eternity.  My eyes well up with tears.

In Christ Alone.