From the early morning fog, a jogger and two dogs emerge at a lope, rapidly eating up the sidewalk on which two middle-aged women are walking.
The women exchange concerned glances. Neither cares for dogs, and these are monsters. While they are on leashes, it appears they will come within inches of the pair.
Mouths gaping, the dogs are almost upon them when their owner sharply pulls on the leashes, bringing them to an abrupt halt. They walk sedately by the women before resuming their jog.
It is then that the women notice the dogs’ collars – stainless steel chains that appear to have barbs pointing into the animals’ necks.
“No wonder they minded,” whispers the first woman behind her hand. “Such cruelty! That man should be horse whipped!”
The man is too far away to hear, but he would have been amazed to hear such comments. In fact, the training collars his dogs wear are quite humane.
If you’ve ever watched dogs at play, you will notice that once a dog latches its teeth gently on the throat of another, that dog has won. Its “victim” lies still, wags its tail and surrenders. Then they are off playing again.
The pronged collar – sometimes called a Christian collar because of its gentle but effective nature – distributes pressure in much the same way to a dog’s neck.
The dog, feeling the pinch, surrenders its will to that of its master, without pain. In fact, the dog will bring the leash and collar to its master when it is time for their next walk.
I think about the dogs on Sunday, when missionaries are speaking at a local church about the blessings of reaching out to the poor.
It quickly becomes clear that the man, who has a fulltime job, and the woman, who home-schools her children, spend many hours each week serving God.
A few rows back, two men exchange concerned glances. One whispers, “They must be so burned out! Surely God wouldn’t demand that kind of sacrifice from His children!”
But what appears at first glance to be a cruelty -- like the prongs on the collar -- the missionaries wear with pride. They are blessed to be serving their master.
God is very serious about obedience. In the name of obedience, God wanted Abraham to be willing to give up his son Isaac as a burnt offering. (Genesis 22:1-14 NIV)
When Abraham laid his son on the altar, he was accepting without question God’s collar. He could feel the prongs biting gently into his neck. Yet he surrendered his control to accept God’s gentle yoke, because that is man’s ultimate nature. To do otherwise results in confusion, stress and frustration.
God responded not only by allowing Isaac to live, but by providing the needed sacrifice in the form of a ram tangled in the nearby brush. So Abraham need never have worried about either the process of doing the Lord’s work or the outcome.
In serving Christ, we are asked to lay down our own agendas every day. That is what it means to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. God, like a dog’s loving master, provides everything we need to accomplish His will.
“So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." (Genesis 22:14)
So the next time we want to walk more closely with our Lord, we need to remember to bring the leash – and leave control to Him.
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