The 10 Scariest Scriptures, part IV

Preparing

Genesis 22:9-11

My son recently got a car, well, vehicle. His first one – a Ford Expedition. A big, solid, gas-guzzling SUV-type truck. We considered a fuel-efficient model but preferred something bigger and safer. Even though we had been talking about this Expedition for a week and a half, we still surprised him when we dropped it off at his work. He loved it! And even after I told him that he had to pay for gas, pitch in for insurance and make payments, he still loved it! And so begins this chapter.

I was thinking about that, this new chapter, the next day while I was putting a road-side kit together for him. This is a journey for him. As I was walking out of the store with a toolkit, jumper cables, flashlight, medicine kit and gloves, I began wondering if I’ve prepared him for this journey. Just as I knew that his roadside kit was incomplete (he needs a blanket, coat and water), I realized that these are things he’ll have to add himself. I can’t give him everything – I can just hope that I’ve taught him well enough.

Life is like that, too. When I first started reading the bible, I wondered if Abraham had thought the same of Isaac before heading into the wilderness. Had he done enough to prepare him for life? Could he have taught him more? Was he given opportunities to learn from mistakes in a safe way? You see, Isaac was beginning his journey, too. And then God called Abraham to test him:

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” (NLT)

Now I know how the story works out; know that Abraham walked in faith; know that he’d been chosen and had walked with God many years. But when I read this for the first time, I thought, ‘Oh Lord, no!’ I struggle with this even today. Parents are supposed to sacrifice for their children, right? Supposed to do anything, everything to keep them safe. The thought of harm coming to my kids hurts. I don’t want to think about it. But Abraham was obedient, even up to the last moment. His was a faith that knew some how, some way God would provide. And He did. He still does. Reading this scripture terrifies me. But then I understand – I have a greater appreciation, a greater love for the Father who would offer His Son – for me.

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The 10 Scariest Scriptures, part III

Hands

Ezekiel 24:15-18

I had a problem with this scripture. Sometimes, it still trips me up. I know to read it in the context of Ezekiel’s ministry, but when I first began to study him, I didn’t know what to expect. This verse terrified me.

“Then this message came to me from the Lord: ‘Son of man, with one blow I will take away your dearest treasure. Yet you must not show any sorrow at her death. Do not weep; let there be no tears. Groan silently, but let there be no wailing at her grave. Do not uncover your head or take off your sandals. Do not perform the usual rituals of mourning or accept any food brought to you by consoling friends.’ So I proclaimed this to the people the next morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did everything I had been told to do.” (NLT)

I’ve known my wife since we were kids in high school. She’s been my best friend since. And as I look back through the years, I realize there’s always been a feeling that we were meant for each other. She is my soul-mate, the love of my life and a beautiful mother to our boys. This scripture makes me cry. Writing about it makes me wince. I know God was using Ezekiel to speak a message of judgment against His people. Despite the cost, Ezekiel remained obedient. And it reminds me of another story, the time Jesus prayed and cried in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew all too well the cost but trusted God. He was obedient. In these difficult circumstances it’s easy to focus on the pain, the cost, and lose sight of the love that is behind it all. God used Ezekiel to speak and act out prophetic messages. By this time in his ministry, he knew it was going to be a rough road for the people. He probably knew, too, that he wouldn’t be exempt from those difficulties. The bible doesn’t tell this part of the story, but I like to think that God gave Ezekiel a ‘heads-up.’ Through this message, He gave him time to spend with his wife, to talk and laugh and love. Maybe it was during this time that they had a chance to be at peace with each other and with what was happening in their world. Considering that their world was falling apart, that is definitely a blessing. And I can’t help but see the love in such a thing. Sometimes, the greatest gift that we can give, or receive, is time to be at peace in our hearts. And while I feel for Ezekiel’s loss, I am ever mindful of the time I have to live with my love.

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The 10 Scariest Scriptures, part II

Matthew 10:37

My dad had cancer. My spiritual journey brought me across this verse during that time in my life, in his life. My faith was growing and I was learning to have a relationship with Him when my dad was diagnosed. I remember thinking at the time, ‘Lord, you’re in this; it’s going to be alright.’ Ironically, prior to my dad’s cancer, our relationship was stale. He and I didn’t quite see eye to eye on some things. As his cancer progressed through treatment to surgery, though, I think we began to see what was important. We were letting go of some of the stuff, whatever it was, that had been pushing us apart. We were growing closer and stronger, thank God, and to a son who so wanted to have his dad’s affection and approval, this was truly a blessing. And then I came across this verse while reading the bible:

“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.” (NLT)

It scared me. As a growing Christ-follower, I was learning to be obedient, learning to be faithful. But this scripture really hit me hard. ‘Lord, am I suppose to choose? My dad is struggling with cancer and I’m supposed to turn my back on him?’ Those were the questions running through my mind. Now, of course I know that God didn’t want me to bail out on my dad. But at the time, I just didn’t understand. What I eventually learned, though, is that sometimes it’s enough to just have faith. I came to see that God wanted all of me. And seeing how my family was an important part of my life, well, that meant that He wanted that part of me, too.

My dad did find healing – he now sits with my Lord. And the thing that I will always remember about that time in our lives are the blessings: the last words my dad ever spoke to me were, ‘I love you.’

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