I Promise

You stood together at the front of the church and promised to “love, honor and cherish till death do us part.” Yet, here you are alone and hurting. My child promised to come home on time, and two hours later I’m fuming as I hear his key finally turn in the door. They promised advances and promotions when you were hired, but you’re still stuck at entry-level. What happened? Promises were made and then broken. You’ve been on the receiving end, I’m sure. If you’re honest, you may have been on the giving end as well.

Part of our human sinful condition is that we are selfish and self-centered and that often means we will fail to keep our word. We make promises to get our way. We make promises we know we won’t keep. Of course, sometimes we make a promise and something unexpected causes us to break our promise. Whatever the reason someone usually gets hurt. Someone is placed at a disadvantage. Is it any wonder that we find it hard to trust others? Even God.

One thing of which I am certain is that God is faithful to His promises. His Word is as sure as His character, and His character is flawless. He doesn’t make promises based on feelings, so we never have to worry that His feelings will change and His promises will fail. He does not need to make promises to gain an advantage. He always has the advantage. He doesn’t make promises He cannot keep. He is almighty, all-powerful, and able to do everything He says He will do. He never makes a promise He doesn’t intend to keep. God wouldn’t be God if He did not or could not keep His promises.

What has God promised you? If you are in Christ He has promised you salvation and eternal life. He has promised you hope and peace and joy. He has promised His presence, His power, and His protection. He has promised to provide, comfort and care for you. He has promised you victory over sin and death and this world. Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (Luke 1:45). Blessed are you, Beloved, when you take God at His Word.

Stop Telling God What To Do

See the source image

Reading in Genesis where God had declared His promise and covenant with Abraham to make him the father of a great nation. You know the story: Sarai grew impatient and nagged Abram into fathering a child by her maid Hagar. Several years passed and God came to Abraham and confirmed His promise – Sarah would still bear him a son. Abraham laughed to himself and questioned God’s promise: “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old bear a child? (Genesis 17:17). Then Abraham said, “Oh, that Ishmael [his son with Hagar] might live before you!”

God had made His promise known to Abraham, but in the waiting, Abraham and Sarah decided God could not be trusted and they would go to “plan B.” Even in the presence of God with the promise still ringing in his ears, Abraham pitched another idea out – as if God’s plan was not sufficient. “You know Lord, that’s quite a stretch – that two old people would have a baby. We’ve got Ishmael already – why don’t you just do your thing with him instead.”‘

I am so much like them. “God I’ve got this situation, I need Your help. I need You to work on my behalf. You are the only one who can fix this.” Then – “Oh, and here’s my plan for what you can do.” Sound familiar? Why do we think we need to give God our advice? I’m speaking this to me as loudly as I am to you – God doesn’t need our input. He doesn’t need my solutions. He can take care of things without your human wisdom. What He wants is our trust. He wants us to give the thing to Him and let Him decide the best course of action. He wants us to believe that what He promised He will also accomplish – without our “help.”

Beloved, let’s commit right now to stop trying to tell God what to do. Let’s give Him free rein (and reign) with our lives and how to work in them. You know, I bet He will come up with a solution that will be “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Money-back Guarantee

moneyback

“Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22).

I work in the floral department of a grocery store and we have one particular arrangement that is guaranteed to stay fresh for 7 days, or your money back.  In the retail industry a money-back guarantee is common.  In fact, our store offers a money-back guarantee on anything you purchase.  If you’re not happy with it, we will cheerfully refund the full purchase price.  That’s okay for flowers or cheese or a can of beans, but sometimes the stakes are quite a bit higher.  If the auto repair shop guarantees your new brakes or your money back, you may not be alive to collect on it should they fail.

God offers a perfect guarantee.  He makes incredible promises and backs them up – not with a financial incentive, but with Himself.  More than a thousand times in Scripture God says, “I will” and it comes with the assurance of His name and His character.  He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He promises to lead us, care for us, carry us, watch over us, protect us, provide for us, comfort us, and bless us.  And most importantly, He promises to save us from our sins and give us eternal life.  What is our guarantee for His promises?  “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22).  Jesus Christ is all the guarantee you need.  And if that we’re enough for us He also gives us His Holy Spirit “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14).  The Holy Spirit marks you as a child and heir of the God of the universe.  Our Heavenly Father doesn’t have to offer a “money-back guarantee” because His promises will never fail.

Remember My Words

“I did tell you, but you did not believe.” John 10:25
Do you remember that annoying kid in school, the expert on every subject who delighted in telling you everything she knew? Do you remember how irritating it was when it turned out she was right? Didn’t you just hate to hear her chortle, “Told you so!” Yes, I remember that kid. Truth is, I was that kid. And I would like to apologize to my brothers and my classmates for being such a brat. But let me just remind you – I was right.
The point of this, and there is a point, is how we often fail to recall what we hear, and specifically what God has said to us. This is the first step in the long fall of doubt, and our enemy is the chief manipulator in twisting our thoughts and raising uncertainty about God’s words.
Let’s look at an account in Scripture with Jesus and His disciples. Please stop and read Mark 4:35-40. This is the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm that threatened their company on the boat in the middle of the sea. The disciples are fighting against the wind and the waves and where is Jesus? Asleep in the boat! How can He sleep when there is a “furious squall, and waves [breaking] over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped” (v. 37)?
The fearful disciples awaken Jesus, and “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (v. 38-39). Now listen as Jesus chastens His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40). Recently a friend asked me about this passage, wondering what Jesus saw in His disciples that caused Him to rebuke their lack of faith. As I meditated on these words, this is what the Lord brought to my mind and heart. Jesus is not chastising the disciples because they doubted His ability to deal with the storm, the issue wasn’t that they were scared. But go back to verse 35. Jesus told them “Let us go over to the other side.” This wasn’t a mere suggestion, but Jesus was giving them an emphatic direction, and He was assuring them that He was with them – notice the words “let us”. And because He was present, their journey was assured. When the storm came up, their fear caused them to doubt that they would survive. But in truth they were expressing a deeper doubt that Jesus could accomplish what He said they would all do, which is “go over to the other side.” They allowed the storm to drown out Jesus’ words, and all they knew is that the wind and waves meant certain death.
This is Satan’s favorite tool, to cause us to doubt and question God’s Word, His promises, His commands and His authority. We can see this clearly in two snippets of Scripture:
Genesis 3:1 – “Did God really say…?” and  Matthew 4:3 & 6 – “If you are…?   In these two brief lines, Satan is casting doubt on what God has said, first to Eve, and in the Matthew passages to Jesus. Satan was causing Eve to question God’s command in the Garden, and cast doubt on the goodness of God’s heart toward them. Notice that when the serpent questioned Eve about God’s command, she began to get confused and twisted the words of God, “God did say ‘You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Gen. 3:3, emphasis added). God had commanded they not eat from this tree, but, in her answer to the serpent, Eve added a little bit of her own thoughts, and the doubt was sown. Have you ever wondered “Did God really tell me this, or am I hearing my own voice and my own words?” This was the beginning of the slippery slope of doubt for Eve – Satan knew it, just as he knows it when we have the same doubts – and he uses it to his advantage. He also tried to cause Jesus to doubt His identity and who God had declared Him to be at His baptism – “You are my Son…” (Mark 1:11). Satan succeeded in leading Eve astray, but Jesus knew without a doubt what God had said, and who He was. Matthew notes how Jesus repeatedly refuted the devil by saying “It is written…” for He knew exactly what God’s Words said – He was their Author.
Now, let’s look at one more – John 11:40 – “Did I not tell you…?” This passage comes from the resurrection of Lazarus. Remember that Jesus had told Martha, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life…whoever believe in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25). He even asked her, “Do you believe this?” Now, when Jesus commands that the stone be rolled away from the grave, Martha questioned Him. That is when Jesus said “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). “Do you remember what I promised you Martha? I am going to fulfill it right before your eyes!” Isn’t it amazing how quickly the warmth of His words cooled in her heart; from the time of Jesus’ speaking until they came to the tomb, Martha had begun to doubt.
God has spoken great and precious promises in His Word, promises for this life and for the life everlasting. He has spoken through the pages of the Bible and He speaks through His Holy Spirit that dwells in every believer. He speaks to give you and me assurance and promise and hope and peace and comfort. He speaks to guide and direct us, leading us into the  “Promised Land” He has ordained for His beloved children. Perhaps God has, at some point, told you that He is going to do something in and through you; and time, circumstances and the enemy are casting doubt on that word. Just as the disciples and Martha forgot what Jesus had said He would do, I wonder if Jesus stands before you and asks “Did I not tell you…?” Perhaps His word to you is right at the cusp of fulfillment. Child of God, will you continue to trust that God will do what He has told you?
Holy Father, when You speak, Your word is fulfilled. Lord, When my mind wanders, when the storms blow, when the enemy tries to cause me to doubt; please help me to hold fast to what You have promised, and to trust You to bring everything You have said to completion. Amen.

The Hope of Advent

“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Advent is a time of preparation, as we prepare our homes, our menus, our gift-lists, and calendars for Christmas.  More importantly, it is a season to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.  Advent traditionally follows four weekly themes: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.  Additionally, the tradition is to light a series of candles in observance of these special themes.  With all the “hustle and bustle,” shopping, cooking, visiting, and cleaning, it is easy to lose sight of the true reason for the Christmas season.  I would like to invite you to join me every day at “Deeper Roots” for a short devotional during the Advent season, which I hope, will help your keep your focus on the greatest Gift of all.

Our key verse is likely familiar as a standard during the Christmas season, for it foretells the hope of the Jewish people – and of all mankind, and it prophecies the coming of the Messiah on whom all hope rests.  In the season of Advent, the first Sunday of Advent is traditionally focused on Hope and the prophetic promises of God.

For hundreds of years the Jews had waited and watched for the birth of this special child, as Isaiah had prophesied: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign.  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel” (Is. 7:14).  The Jewish people had God’s promise, and their hope was founded on God’s faithfulness to keep His promises.

When hope was born, the Redemption of the world lay in a manger, surrounded by hay and the lowing of cattle.  This Child, the fulfillment of God’s greatest promise, was the Hope, not just of the Jewish people, but of the whole world.

There is no greater reason for hope than to hope in the promises of the Lord.  Why? “For no matter how many promises God has made they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

The nation of Israel looked forward in hope to a Messiah who they believed would free them from the rule of their enemies.  Mankind today looks in hope for an end to poverty and disease and hatred.  But the true enemy of all humanity is evil – evil wrought by Satan, the enemy of God and His creation.  The Jewish people expected a military savior, and our world today looks for a political savior, but God sent to us exactly what we needed – a holy and perfect Savior who would save us from our sins, from death and from the wrath of God.

The Lord promised us Hope and Peace and Joy and Love – and He fulfilled every promise in His Son, Jesus Christ.  The hope of all mankind came, not as a military conqueror, nor as a great political leader, but as a tiny and helpless baby – Jesus, the Child of Hope and Promise.

I hope you will join me every day during the Advent season as we  prepare for the coming of the Christ Child.   This first week of Advent will focus on the HOPE we have in the promises of God.

Holy Father, my hope is in You, in Your Word and Your promises, You are forever faithful.  Thank you for this Christmas season, please prepare my heart for this special Gift of Hope.  Amen.