God is a God of revival. He takes the broken and renews and restores it. We often don’t think about the struggles and sacrifices Abraham faced throughout his life, but he endured a lot to become the father of the Israelites. He left his homeland and wandered for many years. He entered Egypt because of a severe famine. He and Lot parted ways. He witnessed the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah. And he impregnated Hagar at the urging of his wife Sarah.
Finally Abraham and Sarah had a son of their own, born in their very old age. He was, by all measures, a miracle child–a gift from God. They named him Isaac, which means laughter. God promised Abraham that through Isaac a blessed nation would rise. Then the unthinkable happened. God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Was this a mistake? Was God just messing with Abraham? It’s tough to imagine what was going through Abraham’s mind.
When Abram and Isaac reached the spot, Isaac asked where the lamb was for the burn offering. Abraham responded, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:8 ESV). Abraham trusted God because he had a lifetime of reasons to trust. Abraham didn’t know what God would do, but he knew God would do it.
In the end, God spared Isaac and provided a ram for the sacrifice, because God is a God of revival.
Themes are a great way to walk through the Bible with a different lens and they help us focus in on something that’s really important. I like annual themes because it makes sermon writing have purpose and direction. As I thought about where we are as a congregation and where our culture has shifted over the last few years, it became abundantly clear that God was whispering that people need to be loved so they can see Jesus!
With so many stories about abuse, sexual exploitation, and the dramatic rise in drug overdoses and sex scandals, the church is in the absolute best position to reach out to their neighbors. While some are bent on preaching about the woes of the world, Jesus took a different approach. He lived out the greatest commandments–loving God and loving your neighbor. The command to love is as old as time. Jesus told us that all the law and the prophets are hinged on these two commandments. I’d say that makes them pretty important. . . the most important!
I love how blunt John was when he makes the distinction between children of God and children of the devil: “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).
In 2018 we will commit to practicing righteousness and loving our brothers and sisters. There will be no excuse for not doing so. We will share testimonies of lives that are transformed, and we will let God do his miraculous wonders!