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“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 (NLT)

Some of the toughest choices father’s make are in regards to their children. We, especially as men, grow up with dreams. We play games in which we always want to come out the winner. As we grow older, reality sets in. Sometimes it sets in hard. We can’t keep rewinding the game clock until the ball swishes through the basket or goes into the empty net or splits the uprights.

It’s no wonder then, that when our son(s) come along the dreams start over again. No offense against the women of our world. They have accomplished great things, fantastic things. Even so, there’s something special about the bond between a man and his son, just as there is between a woman and her daughter. Gender doesn’t really matter. Parents grow up with the hope that their children will somehow attain all they had hoped to attain when they were kids. But sometimes life deals cruel blows.

It’s always been that way really. Abraham had the tough decision to send Ishmael and his mother into the wilderness. Later he had to lay his son of promise, Isaac, on an altar. Only the last minute call of an angel and rustling of a ram in the thicket saved Isaac from being offered up as a sacrifice.

David had the tough choice of going to war against his son, Absalom. Even though he pled for the safe return of his son, the young rebel was killed in battle.

But perhaps the toughest test of love came from God himself. From the day he decided to create this world we live on he longed for relationship. He created beauty from trees and flowers, majesty from mountains and valleys, power from weather and the seas and the wonder of life from innumerable life forms, both seen and unseen.

All that he created gave him great joy. He looked and saw it was good. But it lacked the one thing he longed for above all else. It lacked relationship. So God created mankind to bring him relationship the relationship he’d always wanted. But mankind failed. There was only one thing Father God could do to restore that relationship. It was the hardest thing any of us parents would be called upon to do. He had to give up his only son.

He looked down through the ages and saw the pain his son would suffer. He saw the guilt that would be placed on his shoulders. He saw the physical and emotional abuse that would be executed on his innocent son so that my sins could be forgiven. He watched him die on a tree so I could live forever.

That’s love. That’s tough love. Tough love says I’ll do whatever it takes. Tough love says I’ll give up whatever I need to get the relationship I want to have with you. That’s what God is saying to each of us. He gave all he had so he could have a relationship with you. All he asks in return is for your love through obedience to his word.

PRAYER: Father God, as a parent I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to give up a son so others could live. Especially when the ones who benefit have nothing to give in return. I have nothing to offer you in thanks for your salvation. Thank you for loving me anyway. Thank you for sending Jesus so I can have a relationship with you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Then Isaac built an altar there and worshiped the Lord. He set up his camp at that place, and his servants dug another well. Genesis 26:25 (NLT)

In the early days of the Old Testament it was common for people to build altars to the Lord. Noah, Abraham, Isaac Jacob and Moses were the ones who most often built altars to the Lord. The altars during this time bore special significance because they involved an action or promise by the God of the Universe and a sacrifice as an act of worship by man because of what God had done for him. Altars spoke to God’s working on behalf of man.

The early patriarchs of the Old Testament weren’t just known for building altars. The land in which they lived was dry and there was a constant need to provide water for the livestock. Out of necessity wells were dug to provide life and refreshment for the animals as well as the families that owned them. On several occasions these wells were dug as special reminders of God’s blessings and promises. As the altars reminded man of God’s forgiveness and awesome power, the wells were a reminder that God is the provider of life and refreshment. Just as all living things need water to live, mankind needs the living water that God grants us for spiritual life.

God instructed the great patriarchs of the Bible to build altars and wells, not cities and houses. The reason for this is that life isn’t about settling in and being content. Life is a journey. It’s a journey that leads us through lush valleys, desert wasteland and mountain top highs. But along the way we pass the altars and the wells and remind ourselves that God is on His throne. He is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful and longing for a relationship with us.

In Jesus Christ we have the ultimate sacrifice so we no longer need to build altars for sacrifice. In Jesus Christ we have living water that satisfies eternally so wells are not necessary. While we no longer build physical altars or dig physical wells where God has met us, it is important for us to note spiritual benchmarks where God has met us in a real and powerful way.

These are not to be worshipped or held onto tightly. They are simply to be reminders along the journey that Jehovah God has come to us. A personal relationship with Jesus brings forgiveness when we fail and new life for eternity. Each of the most well-known altar and well builders, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses made major moral mistakes in their lives. Still God used them in mighty ways. He longs to do the same for each of us.

Live in such a way that God can reveal Himself to you so that you can build altars and wells that those who come behind you will see and use to find their own way along the journey God has for them. Altars and wells. They aren’t just for you. They aren’t just for today.

PRAYER: Father God. Thank you for the examples of men like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and Moses. Men who failed, yet experienced your love and forgiveness. You know my heart. You know my failings, my anger, and my impatience with others. You know my tendency to be content to rest on yesterday’s victories. Empower me through your Holy Spirit to move forward so that the life I live will be altars and wells that those who come behind me will be able to use as a guide to following your ways. Amen.

So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Genesis 18:12

God’s promise of a son was long overdue. During the time of Abraham and Sarah a man’s wealth was measured by the amount of livestock owned and children fathered. Many a wife was cast aside or socially alienated if children weren’t brought into the mix. Although it sounds harsh in our world today, sons were more highly honored than daughters as well.

It’s really no surprise then that Sarah was little bitter and skeptical when the visitors arrived that day. The Bible refers to the three as ‘the Lord’. Was this an earthly, temporary manifestation of the trinity? We aren’t sure. What we do know is that God was present and he had a special message of hope for Sarah. Finally, at long last, just one year from now she would bring the promised son into the world.

The promise was really a restatement of a promise given long ago without any sign that it would be fulfilled. Since then Sarah offered up her maid-servant to Abraham and a son was born to this couple. Among other things, the birth of this baby caused conflict in the family (a conflict that goes on today) and reminded Sarah once more that she was the problem. After all, if Abraham had no trouble fathering a son with Hagar, he obviously wasn’t the problem, right?

We may tend to look down on Sarah for scoffing at God. We can talk about how she is showing a lack of faith or trust. We can question her patience. But in reality each of us is guilty at times of laughing at God’s promises for us.

God’s promises DON’T ALWAYS FOLLOW NATURAL LOGIC. Sarah was well past childbearing age. It was a biological impossibility for her to bear children. If we believe God to be who we say He is we also must acknowledge that He is not bound to the laws of nature. He controls nature. Nature does not limit or control God. Sarah made the mistake of believing in the order of nature, rather than believing the promise of God.

God’s promises COME IN HIS TIME NOT OURS. We live in a microwave world. Everything is instant from our potatoes to the way we communicate. As Sovereign God our Father knows best the timeframe for the events of our lives to take place. Waiting for God’s timing is difficult now, but much better for the future.

God’s promises DO NOT ALWAYS RELY ON OUR ABILITY TO BELIEVE OR UNDERSTAND. God told Sarah she would have a son in one year. Sarah laughed in disbelief and later lied to try to cover up that laughter. Even so, one year later she was holding her very own son. Imagine the joy she must have felt just three months after the visit when she felt the stirrings of life inside of her. For the next nine months Sarah carried with her the realization that God is truly God and His promises do come true.

God’s promises ARE NOT DEPENDENT ON ANYTHING WE DO. Later in Genesis (Genesis 21:1) the Bible says that God extended Grace to Sarah. She didn’t deserve to have that baby. Imagine. She laughed in the face of almighty God. God’s promises are based on His ability to fulfill them, not on our worthiness to receive them.

Don’t let time and circumstances allow doubt to creep into your mind. God can do great and mighty things in your life! God’s promises are for you and you don’t have to do or be anything to receive His promises! It may take longer than you think or wish, but in time He will accomplish in you all that He desires as you grow in relationship to Him.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I have to admit to you that I am impatient at times with You. It seems like you have promised me things and it takes much longer for those things to come to pass than I’d like. Thank you for the things you have done in my life and for the fact that you will accomplish all you desire for me. Help me to learn to trust you more and wait for you to work as only you can do. Amen.

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