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Posts Tagged ‘God’s promises’

This is a Christian–one who dares to act as if God tells the truth.”  –Pastor Mark Bates

Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.

His life reads like a Hollywood movie–the culmination of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, forced to seek refuge in a distant land, and then offering his life in place of the soldiers who pierced his hands and feet…suffering for the sins of those who pressed a crown of thorns on his head…pronouncing words of forgiveness to a discarded, frightened man bearing the shame of Golgotha.

But, this is not a child’s fairy tale or a superstitious myth dreamed up to explain the unexplainable.  This is Biblical truth; the great love story of God rescuing His people from that great enemy, Sin. The beautiful giving of His life for those willing to risk belief.

Yet the world threatens to overcome…to overwhelm…to overpower belief.

A young man just beginning to live takes his own life–desperate for relief from consuming depression, a child’s small bones ache from arthritis, a next-door neighbor submits to another round of chemo and hopes she’ll have enough energy to play with her children tomorrow.

But there is a story much bigger than our smaller stories–these lives of struggle and prayer, tears and hope.  It is His story–one recorded for us–that tells of the Lion and the Lamb…the Beginning and the End….the Resurrection and the Life.

And while the world threatens, He promises to give abundant life (John 10:10)

…to provide freedom (John 8:36)

…and to love us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).

I dare to believe–to act as if what God says is true. Won’t you? Let us encourage one another to hold to our faith, dear Friend, even when we doubt.

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“Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.”.png

One of the most painful seasons of my life was ushered in the day my husband boarded the flight to a training school on the east coast. A military wife, I’d expected challenges. I’d managed years of work-ups, cross-country moves, and deployments. But this time, it seemed as if the one person I’d relied on for strength and direction was stripped from my life when I most needed him.

 Our two young teens were in full-out rebellion and another little child suffered for months as doctors and other experts struggled to determine a diagnosis. Parenting alone through unknown territory, I desperately needed assurance.

Have you been there–in the middle of hurt, heartache, or hopelessness?

While your circumstances are probably different, my guess is that you carry personal scars from your own story. Perhaps some remain open wounds–festering and seeping at the slightest provocation.

I don’t want to suggest there are simple spiritual answers. Some wounds take years to heal–but, He is able. Like the men who inhabited the land God gave the Israelites, your wound may be a giant–large enough to cast a shadow over your faith. Sometimes you might even doubt God is willing–or able–to move you from a place of pain to one of joy. From feelings of desert wandering to the relief of righteous restoration. From self-conceived-condemnation to the comfort of Abba’s eternal approval.

Those doubts? I used to entertain them.

I believed the Word. But, just in case He didn’t come through…on the off-chance His promises weren’t meant for me? I prepared for disappointment.  I lived my faith as if God were only god and the giant loomed larger than the One by whose stripes I had already been healed.

Despite my trust-you-today-but-maybe-not-tomorrow attitude, our merciful Father did the amazing. He slew my giants.

He was able.

The behemoths in my life? They are no larger than those in yours and I am convinced the Healer wants you to cross the Jordan into the land where your Goliath lives. Let’s move ahead in faith, Friends, trusting Him to conquer those places where we’ve been spirit-bruised-and-battered.

He is able.

This is our time to move through the water toward to the shore. Grab my hand–I’m coming with you.

Scripture for Reflection

“We went to the land where you sent us. It really is a land flowing with milk and honey. Here’s some of its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large. We even saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev. The Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountain region. And the Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and all along the Jordan River.”

30 Caleb told the people to be quiet and listen to Moses. Caleb said, “Let’s go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it.”

31 But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people! They’re too strong for us!” 32 So they began to spread lies among the Israelites about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored is one that devours those who live there. All the people we saw there are very tall. 33 We saw Nephilim there. (The descendants of Anak are Nephilim.) We felt as small as grasshoppers, and that’s how we must have looked to them.” Numbers 13:27-33

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The dark moments in the past have a strange way of remaining alive and, while I’d thought moving ahead meant leaving them behind—discarded in the emotional trash heap–I’ve discovered the unexpected. God can use all of it.

In His hands, anything—and anyone—becomes new…restored…redeemed. Whatever the sin. No matter the regret.

Beauty!

Sometimes, though, I’m captured by the enemy’s lies. Instead of receiving God’s promises—I live as if the lies are true. Who do you think you are to tell people about Jesus? If they knew the truth about you…well, no one would listen.

 And a mental recording plays over and over—untruths spilling into my heart.  Unworthy. Unchangeable. Unloved.

 But when I heed those messages then I discount everything Jesus did for me—trading His perfection for my failures. Heavenly hope for my humanness. Sacred separation for my Divine acceptance.

Have you, too, grabbed hold of the adversary’s lies? Believed God is unable to do His work in you? Found that you’re stuck in unbelief and losing spiritual momentum? Remember, dear Friend, if you are in Christ then you were called for a purpose…on purpose. It’s time for us to throw off those hindrances and follow after Him—each step taking us deeper and further into those places that are less about our hang-ups and habits and more about Jesus.

This is the day to believe truth.

 

 Scripture for Reflection

Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him.

(MSG 2 Cor. 5:17-19)

PatriciaHolbrook_RW_button3A-e1485727161169  LIVEFREETHURSDAY

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Anzac DayPhotos flashed across the large, mounted screen as people slid somberly into their seats. A copper-headed toddler pretending to fish…a lanky teen posing for a Kodak moment with his family…a soldier with his young wife and newborn child.

A brave, broken-hearted father stepped up to the podium to share stories from the young man’s life. And between tears and laughter, he spoke of the moments that made his son. Casting a line into the icy waters of a shimmering, Colorado river. Sharing the gift of laughter with family and friends. Contending with the relentless enemy–Depression.

The father’s pain—palpable and raw—struck at my core as I considered the struggles my own dear ones have battled. The what if’s invaded my thoughts and I shuddered in understanding. Two weeks later, the reality haunts me and I pray God will protect those in His care from the pain of the dark.

Depression is real. Depression steals. Depression debilitates.

If you’ve lived in its shadow—you know. If you’ve seen a loved one experience the dark—you know.

But, there is always hope in Jesus. Consider these words, Friend.

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand. (Isaiah 42:3-6)

Rest in this truth…find freedom from the emotions…rely on His promise. He will hold your hand every step of the way.

livefreethursday-smFriday Link Up

 

 

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The path to the land of abundance lay ahead–easily navigated and under the protection of the King.  Yet, the people chose to wander aimlessly–the brown of the desert soiling their feet just as their complaints marred that day’s praises to the God of Israel.  And like a low-hanging curtain of smog restricting the full scope of a city’s skyline, the limitless sand, rock, and mountain seemed to repress the beauty and hope of God’s promise to his people.  You remember the one, don’t one? God had seen the oppression and enslavement.  God heard the groaning and crying.  And God promised to deliver the Suffering Ones to a new land…a new home…a new hope.

But, the blistering heat of the sun penetrated flesh and bone.  Parched lips yearned for the feel of sleek relief rolling across mouth and tongue while complaints poured from them as easily as a flash flood racing through the wasteland.

The people had forgotten–or, at least failed to remember–they were free!  No longer slaves…cowering in fear of the coming day, uncertain of survival, constrained by unbidden circumstances.

Free!  Free to worship…to dance…to dream.

Wouldn’t it seem that with a promise like the one God pronounced, the people would have continued to rejoice?  Celebrate?  Hope?  Didn’t the God of heaven pronounce that he would “bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey”?

Still, God’s own children grumbled in their newfound freedom.  Unhappy in their current circumstances, men and women turned away from the hope of a soon-to-be-tomorrow to a here-and-now reality.  They gave up their leader for a party, the true God for a Guernsey,  and a quick trip to the “land of milk and honey” for forty years of meaningless meandering.

If I’m honest, I recognize myself in the story.  Maybe you, too, see yourself there–feet burning as you tread across the barren land.  If only we had stayed behind!  Egypt wasn’t wonderful, but we would enjoy a draught of water from the well and a bed of reeds to lie upon.

My story is a bit different, of course.  This walk…this journey as a Christian is harder than I’d hoped.  Sometimes, living like the world–like Egypt of old–appeals.  Surrounded by the pollution of worldly living, it’s easy to bend low for a sip–just once.

Enjoying one last drink.  Flirting with the boss.  Watching barely concealed porn in the form of a newly released movie as reflection of social norms.  Intentionally allowing harmful words to wound another.  And the list continues for each of us…our Egypt.

We’ve all succumbed to Egypt…to ourselves.  But God’s promise is still as true for us as it was for His chosen people.  Stay the course, dear Friend,  whether you are on the desert road or in an abundant land.  We have been freed to look forward to an internal inheritance!  We have received Jesus Christ himself for both here-and-now and our soon-to-be Forever.

Scripture for Reflection

…we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  (Ephesians 1:11-14)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us[a] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:11-13)

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“The great battle of our spiritual lives is ‘Will you believe?’  It is not, ‘Will you try harder?’ or ‘Can you make yourself Worthy?’  It is squarely a matter of believing that God will do what only he can do.”

-Jim Cymbala

I’ve read about Chrissy.  Raised as a pastor’s daughter in a loving home, she deserted her faith and family.  For two years, Chrissy’s parents lived a nightmare–unsure their beloved child was safe or warm–and wondering  if she would ever return home.

One evening, Pastor Cymbala asked his congregation to intercede on Chrissy’s behalf.  And those gathered at church that night lifted their voices to heaven beseeching the heavenly Father to rescue one who had been stolen.  Two days later, the lost daughter knocked on her father’s door.  She was finally home.

This story is an incredible encouragement to me.  It gives me hope for my own prodigal.

While he wasn’t born into a pastor’s family, our prodigal’s story began in a Christian home.  We prayed over our child, dedicated him to the Lord, and read scripture together.  His gentle spirit responded to God’s and this precious blonde haired, blue eyed child invited Jesus to be his savior when he was almost five years old.

Our shy little boy told other children about Jesus…raced to the car in his red AWANA vest eager to go to church…and began growing in his own faith.  Several years later, one life altering moment shattered everything in Benjamin’s life.  Unaware of the his pain, my husband and I were confused by the sudden change in Ben’s personality and choices.

This was the moment that opened the door and allowed the enemy access.  He stole one who rightfully belongs to God.

Since then, I have battled on myknees.  I have begged God to loose the chains…to “replace the heart of stone”…to return our prodigal to us.  Still, the enemy holds fast–reluctant to give up the child we claimed for Christ before he was ever born.  But I am convinced there is more to this story…that God has a better plan for Ben…that one day God will replace the deadness in my boy’s eyes with the light of joy and that words of praise will flow from the lips of the son who now utters words that deny His power.

As my brothers and sisters in Christ, can I be vulnerable with you?  After not having seen Benjamin for several weeks, yesterday we stopped by the apartment where he is staying.  We stood awkwardly in the doorway…invited him to dinner…asked about his plans.

Giving each of us a hug he quietly asked, “Can you please leave?”

Reluctantly walking down the rickety iron steps, I imagined our unspoken conversation.

Why are you here?  Don’t you realize I’ve cut you out of my life?                                                                                                     

Yes, son, but we love you just as God does–without condition.

I feel so alone in this life.  teddy-828506_640                                                                                                                                                           

You don’t need to walk this road alone.  We are here–and there is one whose loving presence is ever-constant. Call out to Him, my son.  He will never leave you or forsake you!  

But the words were never spoken and my son sleeps on the floor of a one room apartment.  What does he eat?  Is he safe?  And I wake during the sleeping hours to pray.

And today I follow Jim Cymbala’s example.  Friends–in all humility can I lay my heartache before you?  Would you please pray for Benjamin?  I believe he is at a critical juncture and I am pleading with God that in his mercy He will do a work in Ben’s life..that he will set the prisoner free…that he will rescue that which has been lost.

If we share in the same journey, would you also gift me with the opportunity to pray for your prodigal?  Let’s pray our prodigals home!

Scripture for Reflection

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear.  (Isaiah 59:1)

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  (Isaiah 40:30-31)

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. (Isaiah 42:3)

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.  (Zephaniah 3:17)

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As a little girl, I longed for a normal family life–a Brady Bunch sort of family life that included trips to the Grand Canyon, sack races in the backyard, and the resolution of any conflict within a thirty minute time frame.  Whatever you say, Mike. My childish longings found fertile ground in the solitude of my imagination where I created a rich landscape of characters who allowed me to foster dreams of what might be…someday.

Someday finally arrived. And from the moment he slipped the ring on my finger,  I knew we would have a “normal” family. Which we did–and do.

Our family is as normal as any other.  Socks never seem to match, the children argue about important matters…“I have he biggest spoon!” Meanwhile, my husband and I marvel at the ridiculous things we say…”Who put underwear on the dog?” These are the small delights and details of an everyday family.

But, along with the regular we’ve experienced the unwelcome–those changes in perception or circumstance that so substantially impact one person that the rest of the family feels the aftershock.  None of us are exempt from these experiences.  While we can’t identify with every situation, we can understand the disappointment, fear, and grief associated with them. Alzheimer’s…infertility…cancer…depression.

This, dear friends, is the normal of people living between the worlds of Today and Forever.  Today’s normal is a beautiful, imperfect challenge.  There are joys and sorrows; hurts and triumphs. If we pause for a moment from our rushing and worrying, we might just catch a glimpse of our Eternal Someday in a child’s belly laugh…an old couple’s tender kiss…a father praying for his family.

Someday…

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