PROMISES, PROMISES

Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.  I Kings 8:56

 

It’s happened again.  The chapel sermon provoked my thinking about where I’m going in this Christian journey.  Our bishop shared a book she’s reading about a professor who told his students at opening session that every one of them would get an “A” in the course.  This was a grand experiment, but through the weeks, the professor reminded everyone what “A” students did:  They came to class; they participated; they worked hard.  Each week was a reminder, and the experiment worked.  As the students lived into the promise, they and their academic achievements flourished.

By now, you can see where I’m going… We live with access to a rich, inviolable document, the Bible that is full of astonishing promises given by a Person of impeccable integrity and unfailing resources.  There are so many promises—some sources count 3573 while others suggest 5467—that every human condition is covered.  The word promise is written 221 times.  If one single promise changed the lives and performance of a classroom of university students, just imagine how only a handful of promises could change our lives as we live into them.

Take, for example, God’s promise that he would never leave or forsake us (Deut. 31:8, Heb. 13:5, Matt. 28:20).  If we really believed that, would we ever be lonely or feel abandoned?  Would we ever sense that there was no one to help with important decisions or are we just left to our own devices?  When relationships fracture or when circumstances move us from our comfort zones, isn’t it comforting to know we’re not ever going to be alone?

Another promise that should fortify us is God’s promise in Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  This beautiful word has the modifier “all.”  I think “all” means “all.”  Not “some” or “sometimes.”  God will supply ________________ (fill in the blank) according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Have you ever asked God to meet a financial need, a family need, an emotional need, a professional need?  Did you trust and then watch to see what he would do?  And then did you stand in awe at his faithfulness?

How about this one:  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).  Grace, God’s free and unmerited favor, will sustain us when all our resources are depleted and when we are weakest.  Perhaps that’s why grace is so amazing.

One of my personal favorites is, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Once again, I love the word “all.”  All things work together for good to them that love God…  God doesn’t say that everything looks good at first blush, but he promises that eventually all things will work together and result in good.  We just have to be patient.

I could go on and on.  There are promises about deliverance in temptation, victory over death, forgiveness of sin, eternal life, family, God’s love, and hundreds more—possibly up to 5467.  It shouldn’t be all that difficult.  We are just to believe what God says and live into the promise.  Obedience is our part; fulfillment is God’s.

Not one word has failed of all his good promises…

 

Promise-making and promise-keeping God, help us to trust you as we live into your good Word and your good promises.  May you be pleased as you see us becoming more and more like you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

Advertisements

KEEP WALKING…AND WAITING

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

 

 

 

I don’t know anyone who has flown like an eagle, but in times of euphoria, I almost think I could.  Note that this type of flight is for those who wait and depend on the Lord.  That almost sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it – wait in order to soar?  But God, the Creator, is the one who empowers, and he’s the one who renews for soaring, running, and walking.

I have a friend who dreamed for years and then trained for months and months to run in the Greek marathon, all 26.2 miles of it, much of it uphill. And another friend worked an incredibly long time with a trainer to run in the Boston marathon.  According to the reports of my friends, the excitement of just being part of those famous events was energizing, but the last parts of the races were absolutely grueling.  Sounds a lot like the races we are called to run.

I have observed, quite frankly, that most of our days are characterized by walking rather than flying and running.  Just putting one foot in front of the other.  Sometimes as we plod, the path becomes more restrictive and the way more treacherous while even the light seems to darken.  God brings us to those places, too, those dark nights of the soul.  He allows the plodding, but it’s only for a season, and he sustains us during those times.

That’s when waiting is essential.  Waiting for renewal.  Waiting for rest and peace.  Waiting for God to make himself known.  Waiting as he makes crooked places straight and rough places plain.  Strength comes in waiting, and when it’s time to move on, God gives the signal.  The light brightens the path, and sometimes, yes, sometimes, we even mount up with wings like eagles.

Just now, however, I’m waiting.

 

 

Father, knowing you and your Word brings rest during weary times.  You promise strength and every other thing we need on this journey.  We trust you, and we wait. Thank you.  AMEN.

IN MEMORIAM

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38, 39.

 

 

Have you ever been connected to someone you’ve never met?  Or felt you knew someone you’ve never seen?  I feel that way about the Young Royals, and I was especially close to Princess Diana.  I knew about her favorite causes, her tastes in fashion, her love for her children, and lots of other trivia.  I even had a long conversation about her with one of the attendants at Windsor Palace during a visit and was confirmed in my sense of her depth of compassion.

But there’s someone else I have known and never met.  She was an amazing star in the galaxy of young equestriennes and was featured in countless newspaper articles, even in National Geographic, because of her prodigious skills as a rider.  Not only that, but I read an article that said her doting father had gifted her with a stable and eighteen or twenty show horses as an expression of his love.

When she’d tired of winning trophies for riding, she went on to excel in competitive ice skating.  And then there was swimming.  Essentially, Libby had and did it all.  Additionally, every photograph I’ve seen (and there have been many) shows her to have been a stunning beauty—classic features, golden blonde hair, beautiful figure.

There are major gaps in the story that I don’t know.  After all, she was only in my life a few years.  But not many days ago Libby left this world.  I am sad at her leaving and sad that I never got to meet her.   There are so many things I would like to have talked about with her.  I would like to know how such a young person could excel at so many things.  What was her motivation?  I want to know about her travels and adventures with her dashing husband.  And, of course, I want to know about her faith in Jesus.  Yes, I have lots of questions.

And yet, with all her larger-than-life accomplishments, to my thinking Libby’s greatest contribution was that little girl she and charming Bill brought into the world.  The one who would dazzle us with her love, compassion, outreach, boundless energy, and, yes, record achievements.  The one who would grow up to marry my son and be the mother of two of my precious grandchildren.  All that was good of Libby and her remarkable gifts will live on through them.

Libby, I really wish I’d known you, but I can’t thank you enough.  May God rest your soul.

 

AMEN.

DON’T FALL BACK

There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.  Luke 21:25

 

 

Really, I’m not a sensationalist, but when one of our staff directors walked into my office to share Luke 21:25 with me, I was amazed.  Not only at what the verse said but at the numbers of the verses themselves.  August 21 was the total solar eclipse of the sun, and Hurricane Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas, on August 25.  Coincidence?  Thought provoking?  “…signs in the sun, moon and starts…anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.”

But what else have we seen?  We’ve watched as strangers launched their private boats, as neighbors went from door to door, as vehicles loaded with food and water and supplies all converged to touch those affected by Harvey.  Did you see the caravan of university eighteen-wheelers headed to the coast filled with goods for evacuees?  Did you see the line of buses that our schools sent to help relocate people?  Our churches sent numbers of supplies and volunteers to help.  In fact, there have been so many material donations that we’ve had to ask people to stop for the time being.  We’ve run out of room to store all the gifts that have sent.

Crisis can sometimes be a wonderful thing when it brings out the good in us.  And it should always bring out good in us if we’ve been practicing loving our neighbors long before the crisis occurred.  Now we have Irma battering Florida and possibly the east coast.  And there’s talk of Jose and others…  There will be many opportunities for all of us to reach out—to go and help, to write a check, to pray.  We’re hearing that it won’t be a sprint; we’re dealing with a marathon.

Will our citizens stick around for the long haul?  More importantly, will we as Christians be around to help our neighbors until the healing is done?  It’s easy to respond when the hype confronts us in every news broadcast and Tweet.  But the long run will distinguish us in our commitment to loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

So far, we’ve all been proud of the way Texans have responded to the crisis on the coast.  How long will it last?  How long will we pray and give and volunteer?  We’ve started out well.  My mom had a hand-penned notice on her kitchen bulletin board that was a constant reminder from Watchman Nee, that wonderful Chinese saint, preacher, and Bible teacher:  “Don’t fall to a lower level.”  God has begun to stir our hearts to get out of ourselves.  Let’s not get tired but keep at it and not fall back.

 

 

Father, we pray for all those affected at home and abroad by natural disasters.  Help us  to use the resources you’ve given us to minister to the healing of those who have lost so much.  Thank you for this opportunity to bless the hurting.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

ARMORED UP

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  Ephesians 6:11

 

 

This morning in chapel the Bishop gave a whole new twist to the analogy of God’s armor.  Remember, there’s the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, and the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word.

The helmet of salvation guards our thoughts and protects the mind so that it processes and applies God’s truth.  We typically wear belts around the middle parts of our bodies for aesthetic and practical reasons.  Truth is both beautiful and holds all our theology together.  A breastplate, righteousness, protects our hearts from all the things that can spoil and destroy the life of Christ within.  We walk in peace as God’s children, and God’s Word, the sword, is two-edged—both protecting and reprimanding us.

When we are children, we love to play dress-up.  My granddaughters have all enjoyed taking various pieces of clothing from my closet and dressers to play grown-up.  They imitate me and their mothers.  Play is a child’s work to help in developing character traits and personality.  When our children and grandchildren wear our clothing, they are processing through play what they will become.

So here we get to the armor.  The whole object of our Christian journey is to glorify God and to become like Jesus.  How better to do that than to dress like him?  Jesus IS our salvation, our truth, our righteousness, our peace and has taught us to use that sword in growing into his likeness.  The more we wear the armor, the more it becomes like a second skin, and the more we become like Jesus.

The armor of the Lord not only helps us to stand against the wicked intentions of the devil, but it assists us in being transformed more and more into the image of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.  If you’re not wearing it, stop everything, and go put it on right now.

 

 

Father, show us the joy that awaits us as we are changed into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.

 

CHRISTMAS IS COMING

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.  And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.  Matthew 25:1, 2

 

Yes, Christmas IS coming.  A number of years ago I discovered that Christmas ALWAYS comes on December 25.  Not the 20th or the 27th and always in December.  In fact, as early as 273 A.D. the 25th was noted for the celebration of Christ’s birthday in conjunction with the “birth of the unconquered sun” (Christian History, August 2008).

I wonder why it took me so long to record this recurring celebration of Christ’s birth and all the joyous events surrounding it?  Once I was mindful of this fact, I began preparing in the fall by making lists and purchasing gifts for loved ones.  I began sketching out our family Christmas pageant and the ensuing dinner menu.  I was able to choose a convenient date for my annual parties.  Essentially, with all the preparations made beforehand, I could worship and enjoy the deeper significance of Christ’s coming.

You may be mildly surprised to learn that there are still thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen and women who will be startled this December to learn that Christmas is only days away.  They will stress and fret at all the things that need to be done and the little time left in which to accomplish those tasks.  Christmas comes at such a busy time of the year.

The onslaught of Hurricane Harvey is reminding me of our lack of preparation for life’s events.  I’ve heard from family and friends that lines at grocery stores have been long and uncomfortable, and some items have been missing from the shelves.  It seems that many people haven’t thought about keeping a few non-perishable items in their pantries.  But the saddest thing is the expression of anxiety and fear among those who should otherwise recognize God’s peace and presence even in the middle of crisis.

Matthew records the parable about the virgins who were all confronted with the same event.  The Bridegroom was coming, and they needed oil.  Half were ready; half weren’t.  Half had been focused on consistent growth in Christ, of following him daily; half weren’t.  Half were allowing his Spirit to fill and transform them; half weren’t.  Half were being changed into his image; half weren’t.  When the crisis occurred (the Bridegroom’s arrival), half were prepared, half weren’t.

When the various storms come to our lives—and so many arrive unannounced—what have we been laying up in our spiritual stores?  Remember another of Jesus’ parables, the one about the two houses—one built on sand and the other on the rock (Matt. 7:24-27)?  Jesus said the story reflected someone who heard and did his word and someone who didn’t.  Crises are not one-time events, but when they arrive, we sometimes behave like students cramming for the final exam.  Trust isn’t an instant commodity that can be purchased at the corner store.  It’s an ongoing, daily exercise, a lifestyle relationship with Jesus.

Do you remember what happened with the two men in the two houses?  The one that was built on the rock STOOD.  And those same life storms come at us regularly.  We stand or fall based on what we’ve been doing beforehand.  Let’s get ready.  The storm is coming.

AND so is Christmas—December 25.  Mark your calendars.

 

Father, thank you for your mercy in all our trials.  Continue your faithful ministry in us by your Spirit so that we stand ready to glorify you in every event.  And be with all those touched by Harvey—comfort and meet every need.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

A PRAYER

God is our shelter and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken
    and mountains fall into the ocean depths;
even if the seas roar and rage,
    and the hills are shaken by the violence.


The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our refuge.

(from Psalm 46)

Merciful Father, who has taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men:  Look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom our prayers are offered.  Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Prayer

 

Thank you, Father, that we have the promise you will never leave us or forsake us.  Be with all who are affected by Hurricane Harvey; strengthen first responders; provide all the resources needed; and minister your peace.  Cause us to come together in mutual support and care that we may demonstrate your love.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.