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Posts Tagged ‘promises of god’

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man [servant] will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir. Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”Abram agreed to what Sarai said. [Genesis 15:4, 16:1-2, NIV]

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him [Jesus] and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! [Luke 10:40, NIV]

Both of these women were movers and shakers: let’s git er’ done.

These are not intrinsically negative traits, without the energy and determination of many women, things would come to a halt. In my own case, I think of my mother who was resolved to emigrate from Germany after the war. She asked all the questions, she made all the connections, she filled out all of the paperwork, she made it happen.

The difference may lie in the Promise. Both Sarah and Martha were impatient and unable to embrace the paradox of the Promise. God told Abraham that he would have an heir, but Sarah could only see the reality around her. She could not manage the possibility against the odds. She considered herself a pragmatist; she was a control freak. Martha could not leg to of what “had to done” in the face of resting. Who has time to rest, we ask, there are places to go, things to do, people to see. They were both on a human clock while God was in a timeless space.

I don’t have a personal promise from God, not in so many words. But I do have the same scriptures that everyone has about God’s blessings, God’s care, and God’s love. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” [Jeremiah 29:11, NIV]

Sarah and Martha are in me, I know. They are part of my DNA too. It is time to give them a break and give myself a break. My life is good, my God is Present, and I can choose to be content, giving thanks for what is today.

Thanks be to God.

 

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promises of GodJust a quick look in Google yields a number of websites people have created to lay out a full list of the promises of Christ, primarily based on things Jesus said, such as John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” [Of course, that verse seems to be a combination verse, a promise and a consequence. Or are they the same?]

Near the end of the book of Joshua, it is written,The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. [Joshua 21:44-45, NIV] Most of these promises dealt with the land and conquering the pagan peoples who lived in those lands. All was fulfilled in that time. But we know how the story goes; not long afterward, the people jettisoned the plan and the covenant once Joshua passed and the last of the generation that saw God’s miracle-working power from Egypt to the promised land.

We are no different.

The words are still out there for us to embrace. The promises are still real and concrete. But we hedge our way, like the story of Eve and serpent, we hear these words instead, “Did God really say . . . ?” [Genesis 3:1b] Really? Did God promise this or that? Did Jesus really mean . . . isn’t it more likely that . . . ” And on and on and on we go, further afield of the simplicity of the gospel, either making it too complicated or too simplistic and in both cases, opening a door for doubt and confusion.

Today, I read on Facebook of a woman who was struggling with someone who questioned the “race” of Jesus. Was he white? Was he black? And so on. Is this a worthwhile discussion? Does it do anything for our faith? Or, is it just a surface issue that bypasses the central truth? Also today, I attended a funeral of a 19 year old daughter of a family friend and my own adult daughter was surprised how the young woman in the coffin did not really resemble the girl she knew. I had to remind Lily, the body is but a shell and it is the Spirit that gives the human body dynamics and life. Hannah was no longer there.

Painting by Jonas Gerard

Painting by Jonas Gerard

So it is with all things of God. The promises of God may appear to be about outer things, land and so on, but in reality, they are about the inner truth, the inner person, the relationship between my “self” and the God who lives in us through Christ. God’s promises are about eternity and living outside and beyond the body, the truly promised land. The enemies we face are the challenges of 3-D life: sin and selfishness, distrust and fear, evil from without determined to destroy the good within.

If only we . . . well, I can’t speak for you . . . if only I could engage fully in the truth of the fulfilled promise. It’s all done, completed from the day of Joshua to the day of Jesus, also a Joshua, who fought for my salvation and won. It is finished.

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We are living within patterns and cycles. Nature teaches about the seasons; each year the same and yet each year different, affected by a combination of forces, some human-made, some divine.

harvestLove and faithfulness meet together;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest. [Psalm 85:10-12, NIV]

Here’s how I imagine this verse playing out: love and faithfulness are the human response. Out of the meeting of love (unconditional love, that is), faithfulness springs forth. What is faithfulness but trust and dependability and truth. Love is the ground from which these are born. Righteousness is the yardstick that emanates from God. It is only in God that righteousness and peace can dwell and prosper together. But here is the promise in this verse: as our love and faithfulness grow here in this three-dimensional world, God sees and we are blessed.

But what then is the harvest that God is blessing? I remember an old friend was adamant that a believer “bearing fruit” meant bringing more and more people to the Christ. I always felt like he was notching his spiritual guns. But today, I find myself leaning to a different understanding.

The harvest is the result of seeds planted, tended, and reproducing themselves. Wheat makes more wheat. Apple seeds make more apples. I am not a single seed but many. All humans are a composite. We see some of our reproduction capabilities in our families. If we are bitter, we bear more bitterness. If we are selfish, we teach the same (most often by example). But, if I love, then love is born in others. If I am faithful, a synergy is created like an unstoppable wave. Love and faithfulness are the strongest and most powerful forces and yet, the least appreciated. Instead, we have cheapened love to mean sex and heaped faithfulness with a list of exit clauses and “what ifs.”

These are the ones to practice and nurture: love and faithfulness and then righteousness and peace will pour down like rain.

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listeningWhat does it mean to listen to God?

I will listen to what God the Lord says;
    he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants [saints]—
    but let them not [re]turn to folly. [Psalm 85:8, NIV, 2010 with words inserted from 1984 version]

When I was in acting school, we used to have a teacher who tried to teach us how to center down into ourselves, to experience “constructive rest,” to align our bodies, to know “neutral” in ourselves. Much of that time was spent on the floor and breathing. At the time, I was simply too immature to appreciate what she was trying to accomplish. One of her exercises required us to listen: to listen to the sounds outside the room, then inside the room, and then inside our bodies. In a way, this is technique that can also be used to settle the mind down in preparation to listen to God. It’s pretty hard to listen to God while being busy doing other things. [Unless anyone has cultivated the habits of Brother Lawrence, and his Practice of the Presence of God.]

But I believe, more than anything else, that the heart must be prepared to hear before listening will occur. It is up to me to establish that environment, like preparing garden soil to be sown. I can help this preparation of the heart along by reading or singing or breathing.

In this process, I should also know the subject matter. In other words, I believe the most productive listening is done when focused on a situation or topic or question. (And I don’t mean a yes or no question, but a more open-ended one, that allows room for God to expand the answer.) But here is the vital key: I must be at my wit’s end, so to speak. If I really want my heart to be open to the voice of God, then I must know that my resources have been expended, my “way” has not worked, my solutions have been exhausted.

surrenderOtherwise, I think my very human tendency, once I “hear” God’s response, is to compare it to all the other answers out there. It’s not the way God works. If I am truly coming to the God of the Universe for help and illumination, then I can’t treat the answer as though God is simply weighing in on the possibilities like another girlfriend at a kaffeeklatsch.

Do not, then, go to God lightly. For in the breadth of this one verse, Psalm 85:8, there is a warning about returning to our folly (our own way). To ask God, the Holy Spirit, to help and then to choose another way, is, indeed foolishness.

In the older 1984 NIV version, the translation reads that God promises peace to his saints. In later years, this term has been replaced with culture friendly phrases like “faithful servants” or “the holy people He loves.” We are adverse to calling ourselves saints and yet I know it’s not a word to be taken lightly, it is the one that speaks of total surrender to the Christ. A saint is totally sold out to God. A saint hears God and listens and then acts upon the information.

Clearly, the opposite of a saint is a fool.

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When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,

My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;

In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.  [Psalm 27:2-5, NAS]

enemy proverbI am to walk in confidence and pray so since the promise is plainly spoken, my enemies will fall before and I will dwell safely. But there is no promise of the timetable. And I must remember this. I may be safe in the stronghold, but the outer keeps and lands around my stronghold may suffer pain or loss or injury. There is no promise of a pain-free life, just a promise that no enemy will prevail.

Who are these enemies anyway?

Are there, literally, people out there who want to specifically do “me” harm? Are there people who would intentionally hurt me? I don’t think so, not really. Of course, if I put myself in dangerous places, if I travel in war-torn areas or walk the streets of brutalized neighborhoods, I might indeed become a representative of everything someone hates: while, middle-class, Christian female. For some, that might be enough. I cannot say or expect that I, as an individual, would be excused from misfortune or injury in that situation.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure my biggest enemy is within, that “old self” who continues to look for footing and place where none should be. It is that untamed part of me that kicks against surrender to the Christ Spirit. That part of me continues to behave like a stubborn step child, unwilling to adapt to change, and unwilling to live under spiritual authority.

The prayer, then, makes sense: to remain in the “house” of the Lord (that inner stronghold). For me, this passage has more depth than simply going to church on Sunday mornings. The words ring truer when I consider the house of God within me, that shelter of the most high, where the Spirit meets me willingly and lovingly. This is the place for I have free access to the God of the Universe, where I can see and feel the light ad beauty of God.

The more familiar I become in this place, the more clearly I can experience true peace, and that clamoring enemy and the traps of the worldly concerns have less and less power. Here is the core of worship.

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Why do we picture God?

Why do we picture God?

He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspringbe.”Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. [Genesis 15:5-6]

You have an attitude about promises? I know I do. Apparently, I’m a classic case, too many promises have been broken along the way. The only good thing that came from that is I don’t make my own promises lightly. It’s serious stuff, this promise-making.

But, I am grateful that I also learned that the promises of God are outside the norm.

God cannot be anthropomorphized, giving God human characteristics. And yet, people do it all the time, as though we need a picture to grab onto God. How many pictures have we seen of God in a long white beard sitting on a throne, much like a high-end Santa in flowing robes or a collective consciousness of what Zeus might look like if he wasn’t just a myth. Ha Ha. Why is that funny? Because people are quick to call the Greeks and Romans foolish in their many gods, and yet, our imagined “God” is OK.

It’s one of the reasons the ten commandments include a warning (number four), “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” [Exodus 20:4-6] We are not supposed to make God like us. God is not “like” anything we know. “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” [John 4:24]

God promises are birthed in Spirit and manifest in our world in a way that cannot be judged by time and space.

And yet, I keep trying to put God in my time box. I keep wanting the promises to either be fulfilled (in a way I recognize) or in a time frame that suits (maybe within my lifetime might be good). And here’s the point of Abraham. He believed without being given the specifics or the time. This wholesale faith in the promises of God makes all the difference.

So, two things I want to carry with me today: One: the image of God that we have been given, one with skin and recognizable human was Jesus, the anointed Christ, the promised Messiah. How long did that take? And two, well, I’m thinking. It’s about the promises. I need to do some extra work on that idea, a series, I guess. What is my life promise, like Abraham’s? Perhaps I have been too scattered all these years. I will be asking for that revelation, that promise revealed.

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