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Archive for the ‘God’s Promises’ Category

(www.thecove.org)

 

Have you visited the Billy Graham Training Center outside Asheville, North Carolina? You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place for retreat, relaxation, and renewal.

Ruth and Billy chose the location well, tucked as it is onto a peaceful Appalachian mountainside.

My husband and I visited years ago and reveled in five days of morning-and-evening teaching sessions under Warren Wiersbe. The afternoons were unscheduled—for the relaxation part.

One day we decided to tackle a long trail-hike and walk off some of the scrumptious food (and nightly, all-you-can-eat soft-serve ice cream!) we’d been consuming.

A staff member promised the mountain view from the lookout point at the end would be well worth the effort.

But in no time the hike became rough going. The miles we were accustomed to walking back home in the flatland of Florida hadn’t prepared us for the unrelenting incline of this trail.

 

 

I started to grunt and groan. My leg muscles begged for mercy until we had to stop and rest—several times.

For the entire distance trees surrounded us—lovely to be sure, but not once did we catch even a glimpse of the vista to come.

Finally we approached the rail of the platform lookout, and my grunts and groans turned to oohing and wowing.

 

 

Row upon row of gentle peaks stood sentry before us, stretching immeasurable miles to the horizon. Cumulous clouds above produced large patches of shade below—a jigsaw of light and shadow.

The staffer had been right. To see such a grand panorama of God’s handiwork was indeed worth the struggle.

 

 

“God has made everything beautiful in his time,” King Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

“Everything beautiful” certainly includes the splendorous moments on that platform, especially in contrast to the arduous process to get there.

But equally wondrous, God knows how to create beauty out of difficult life-circumstances—circumstances like:

  • A disturbing diagnosis
  • Ongoing frustration at work
  • A hurtful relationship
  • Financial struggles

How can that be? Because those are the times that push us toward maturity (James 1:2-4)—and maturity is indeed a beautiful thing.

 

 

Our problem is, we crave a smooth pathway through life—level, broad, and full of pleasure. But God knows what spoiled, useless creatures we’d become on such a course.

So he allows uphill climbs as the training ground for developing patience, perseverance, persistence, and self-discipline—important facets of maturity.

All the while we can rest assured the day will come when we finally understand how our ugly struggles fit into God’s great and beautiful plan—“a plan so overwhelming, magnificent, and joyful, we will laugh with wonder and delight”—Arthur Christopher Bacon (1).

And how do we know that’s true?

Consider God’s attributes, including his

  • Love and faithfulness (Psalm 117:2)
  • Wisdom (Romans 11:33)
  • Rghteousness (Psalm 145:17)
  • Justice and fairness (Deuteronomy 32:4)

 

 

Such a God does not allow useless distress; there is always purpose.

And note the verse says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

 

Every detail of your life

is fitting together to create

a tapestry of praise.

–Jane L. Fryar (2)

 

Sometimes we do see the details of our lives fitting together in beautiful, praise-evoking ways.

Our stories of struggle-turned-into-beauty can:

  • Inspire someone to start their own journey with Jesus
  • Offer comfort to another who’s struggling on the same stretch of pathway
  • Provide guidance for a wanderer
  • Encourage a hiker-believer to keep climbing to the heights

 

 

But I have a feeling God is saving the best and most beautiful revelations until we’ve reached the lookout of heaven.

For now we can cling to this:

All things are from him—for a purpose (Romans 11:33-36), and we will behold the beauty—when the time is right.

 

Notes:

  1. From Streams in the Desert, edited by Jim Reimann, Zondervan, 1997, p. 72.
  2. Be Blessed, CTA, Inc., 2009, p. 60.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.thecove.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.bible.com; http://www.canva.com;  http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net.

 

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Pretend you’re a crew member on a cargo ship, and the captain has just announced rough seas ahead. That means just walking will be a challenge. Things on tabletops and floors will tumble and roll if not secured, and sleeping will require wedging yourself into position to keep from being tossed back and forth.

But the captain reminds you, there is good news. A full load of heavy freight in the hold will provide stability and safety against the waves. The rocking will be greatly curtailed.

All of us at some time or other face storms in life, and the same principle applies: certain kinds of cargo provide stability–not the lightweight freight of feel-good pep talks, relaxation techniques, or plain avoidance.

Cargo of substance is required, such as:

 

 

Joy

“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Simply affirming all the ways God demonstrates his love to us will quickly fill a large compartment with delight.   Last week’s post, Be Glad, included many reasons to rejoice in God.

 

 

Quietness and Trust

“In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

If you haven’t already done so, make space in the hold of your heart for frequent quiet times with God, perhaps by going to bed earlier and rising earlier.

Very soon time spent in his presence and in his Word will become one of your favorite times of day.   You’ll find it transformative also, creating strong bonds of trust with your Heavenly Father. Just ask anyone who has established the habit.

 

 

Promises

“He has given us great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4).

But they can offer no stability if we’ve not stored them in the hold our hearts.

“Grasp them by faith,” Charles Spurgeon wrote long ago.   “Plead them by prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them by gratitude.”

Not that a compartment full of promises will protect us from all harm. But our attitude toward the storms of life will be very different as fear is replaced by faith.

 

 

God’s Grace

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9b).

And what is grace?  I like the old standby definition, an easy-to-remember acronym:  God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

This compartment is worth checking often, to examine the wealth of substantial contents stored there.

Several years ago I surveyed scripture for that wealth and discovered forty-seven gifts tucked behind the door of grace.*

Thomas a Kempis was right:

 

 

So if you don’t feel quite strong enough to face the challenges of 2020, add more weight in the cargo hold of your heart:

  • More joy in who your God is and more delight in what he does
  • Frequent quiet times alone with God, for meditation on his Word, talking with him and listening to him
  • A collection of promises, especially those that apply to your situation
  • Attention to the many facets of God’s grace and how each one impacts your life

Of course, if these blessings could be placed in the cargo hold of a ship, a record would be kept of each compartment’s contents.

The same is true of the cargo holds of our hearts, though for different reason. We can enhance our joy, strengthen our faith, increase our wisdom, encourage our spirits, and augment our worship of God—all as we keep record in a journal or notebook.

 

 

“The deepest satisfaction of writing

is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us

of which we were not aware before we started to write.”

–Henri Nouwen

 

M-m-m. More space for more compartments to add more cargo.

 

What would you put into one of them?

 

*(You can compare your list of God’s graces to mine at Undeserved Goodness Part 1 and Part 2.)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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“Be careful what you think,

because your thoughts run your life.”

–Proverbs 4:23, NCV

 

“Your thoughts run your life.” That would explain why worrisome thoughts can turn into paralyzing fear, pessimism into debilitating discouragement, and sadness into utter hopelessness.

No one wants to dwell in such misery.

But if a person is facing difficult circumstances, and she allows her thoughts to run amok on auto-pilot, she’s likely to slide downward into hyper negativity.  Climbing out is difficult.

“Snap out of it!” someone will say. Not very helpful.

“Look for the silver lining,” advises another. Easier said than done when tragedy strikes–and lingers.

 

 

“Spend some time in reflection.” That’s what one web site recommends, offering sixteen questions for a person to consider. Most of us don’t have time for that much introspection–nor the inclination–when we’re hurting.

So, how can we climb out of a miserable pit of despair?

By replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, especially scripture.

You see, our brains cannot focus on two things at once. Prove it to yourself by counting to twenty and reciting the ABCs at the same time. You’ll find you’re either counting or reciting, not both simultaneously.

We can apply the same strategy to negative thinking. At the first moment we realize our thoughts are headed in the wrong direction, we can confess it and ask God to help us renew our minds:

“Lord, I don’t want to think about this anymore; it’s accomplishing nothing. Help me to refocus on what is noble and right, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).”

 

                           

Then we start singing a favorite praise song, or quoting an uplifting scripture, or listing all the reasons we can trust God in this situation.

For a start, the bulleted quotes below highlight some common threads of negative thinking.  Following each is a positive scripture as rebuttal:

 

“There is no way this situation is going to work out.”

Oh? “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, italics added).

 

“I can’t stand another day of this.”

Oh, yes, I can stand. I can put on the full armor of God, so that in this day of trouble, I may be able to stand my ground” (Ephesians 6:13).  Restoration will come.

 

 

“I am never going to succeed.”

 Not true.  God says [he] will accomplish all [his] purposes (Isaiah 46:10b, italics added).  What greater success could there be than to accomplish the purpose of Almighty God?

 

“I have no idea how to proceed; maybe I should just quit. This is just too hard.”

I can pray as the author of Hebrews did: “May the God of peace…equip me with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in me what is pleasing to him” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

 

“Sometimes I can’t seem to do anything right. How can God use me?”

It is God who made me the way I am, with specific plans and purpose in mind:  to do good works according to the gifts and talents he’s given.

 

 

_________________________

 

If the bulleted comments in bold print are our focus, our lives will surely head in a downward direction toward discouragement and hopelessness.

If, on the other hand, we focus on the promises and positive affirmations of scripture, we head in an upward direction toward wholeness, productivity, and joy.

“He enables [us] to go on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19)–above the doubts and uncertainties.

“Outlook determines outcome” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, p. 22).

 

(https://quotefancy.com/quote/931807/Warren-W-Wiersbe-Outlook-determines-outcome)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *     *

 

What scripture promise or affirmation lifts you up when circumstances try to pull you down?  Add your favorites in the comments section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.heartlight.org; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefancy.com.

 

(Revised and reblogged from April 16, 2015, “Focus Determines Direction.”)

 

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It happened again. I was reading a familiar Bible passage when a new question presented itself.

Here’s the scripture:

 

 

The first two reasons made perfect sense. Pushing through difficulty does produce endurance, and endurance results in the formation of character–traits like responsibility, self-discipline, and patience.

If Paul had concluded by saying character produced maturity, I’d have heartily agreed and read on. But he says character fosters hope, which led to my question: Why hope?

To begin, we need a clear understanding of what hope means. Which of these definitions do you find most insightful?

Hope is: a) looking forward with confidence and expectation (Beth Moore), b) the reality that is being constructed but is not yet visible (Eugene Peterson), or c) happy certainty (J. B. Phillips).

 

 

Actually, instead of choosing, let’s weave them together: Hope is the attitude of looking forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to the reality being constructed though not yet visible.

Author Katherine Paterson would also have us understand: “Hope… is not a feeling. Hope is something we do”–such as:

  • Affirming God’s omnipotent power—power that can accomplish anything (Matthew 19:26).

 

 

When we are facing the impossible,

we can count upon the God of the impossible.

–Amy Carmichael

 

  • Remembering God’s promises of the Bible—promises that never fail (Psalm 145:13b).

 

 

Quit studying the problems

and start studying the promises.

–Ruth Graham

 

  • Practicing God’s presence—presence that instills comfort, encouragement, and strength (Psalm 94:19; Isaiah 41:10; Joshua 1:9).

 

 

Few delights can equal the mere presence

of one whom we trust utterly.

–George MacDonald

 

In the 1980s, retired millionaire Eugene Lang was asked to speak to the graduating six graders of his East Harlem alma mater. He planned to share his story and encourage them that effort and perseverance do produce success.

But when he took the podium, Lang changed his mind.

“Stay in school,” he charged them. “In fact, it is so important, I’m going to make you a promise. You stay in school, and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.”

 

 

No doubt some of the students thought, “Yeah, right.”

Most of these kids had already experienced a lifetime-worth of disappointment. Why should they believe this old guy?

Yet even the most cynical among them had to admit: Mr. Lang did have the financial power to keep such a promise—a promise announced in front of numerous witnesses.

Soon Mr. Lang founded the I Have a Dream Foundation and convinced others to add their support. He exercised his own financial power to hire a project coordinator, finance field trips, and provide mentors and tutors for each student.

 

 

Mr. Lang made his presence known by taking students to restaurants and museums. He personally counseled them through crises, and intervened with school officials on their behalf.

The kids responded. They began to work toward the goal of a college education, learning self-discipline, perseverance, and responsibility along the way. As those character traits and more developed within them, their hope grew that Mr. Lang’s promise would manifest itself in reality.

Six years after that impromptu offer, nearly ninety percent of the students graduated from high school, and close to half were enrolled for college in the fall. Character did indeed lead to hope—hope that looked forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to a reality under construction.*

 

 

Mr. Lang typified what God does for us, developing our character so we might grow in hope—a hope for every tomorrow based on his power, promises, and presence, and a hope that can see heaven through the thickest clouds (Thomas Brooks).

 

Addendum: As of 2017, approximately two hundred I Have a Dream programs were in operation in the United States and in New Zealand, assisting more than 16,000 students.*

 

* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/nyregion/eugene-lang-dead-harlem-college.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.jbsa.mil; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nps.gov; http://www.vaguard.dodlive.mil.

 

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God, Our Promise Maker

 

 

Tucked here and there throughout scripture are more than 2,300 promises that God has made to his people. And he is committed to keeping them all (Psalm 145:13b)—how and when he deems best.

To be honest, sometimes his methods and timing don’t make sense to me. I have to remind myself that finite minds can’t expect to understand the all-knowing, far-reaching work of a righteous God (Romans 11:33-36, 2 Samuel 22:31). He also works outside the limitations of time, in the realm of eternity.  That means some of God’s promises may not be realized in my lifetime.

However, I can be confident of this: He has the future perfectly planned out, to accomplish the highest good (Proverbs 16:4a). There is no stopping the perfectly wise, precisely timed will of God. And his promises are the guarantee of those flawless, plans.

 

 

Consider:

  • God never lies or even changes his mind (Numbers 23:19). Every scripture promise is founded on truth.
  • He is all-powerful (Jeremiah 32:17). No promise is beyond his capability to keep.
  • God is all-wise (Romans 11:33). He does not make foolish promises for things that would be to our detriment.
  • God is gracious and compassionate, loving and good to his people (Psalm 103:8, 86:5). Out of such benevolence, he will keep his word.

Just by reviewing such attributes of our Heavenly Father, we can fuel of our faith. And the more we know him, the more we will trust him and his promises.

 

 

We, the Promise-Takers

Our part is to take God’s promises to heart.

 

“The sacred promises, though in themselves most sure and precious,

are of no avail for the comfort and sustenance of the soul

unless you grasp them by faith, plead them by prayer,

expect them by hope, and receive them by gratitude.”

—Charles Spurgeon

 

In light of Dr. Spurgeon’s wise advice, Promise-Takers take these specific steps, as they wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled:

  • “Fight uncertainty with certainty” (Selwyn Hughes)—frequently.

 

I know you have this situation well in hand, O God.

You WILL provide what I need;

Nothing is impossible for you.

(2 Corinthians 9:8, Matthew 19:26)

 

 

  • Express gratitude for the answer that will come in God’s good time.

 

My hope is in you—

because of who you are

and what I’ve seen you do in the past.

I will praise you now for the God-glorifying outcome

that is to come!

(Psalm 42:5, Hebrews 13:15)

 

  • Quote appropriate promises often; include them in your prayers.  For example:

 

I know you WILL instruct me and teach me

in the way I should go.

You WILL counsel me and watch over me.

(Psalm 32:8)

 

  • Be mindful of any instruction that accompanies the promise.

 

I will turn away from worry

And focus my attention on you.

Then your unfailing love will surround me

Because I am trusting in you.

(Psalm 32:10b)

 

 

Promise-Takers stand on the flawless word of our Promise-Maker (Psalm 12:6a), even when we see no sign of fulfillment–yet.

With King David we aim to stay confident:

 

 

And we wait—patiently and expectantly—knowing that:

 

 

Is there a particular promise that you are taking to heart for 2019?  Please share in the comments below!

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.canva.com (3); http://www.pexels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com.)

 

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It was almost time for Mom and Dad to say good-bye and leave five-year old me—by myself—to spend the night at the hospital.

Yes, there was a pretty, friendly nurse who promised careful attention. But, of course, a strange bed in strange surroundings with strangers in charge, left me feeling very uncomfortable—in addition to the tonsillectomy-induced sore throat.

The thought occurred to me, I should have brought my special blanket. Its soft, pink familiarity would surely make me feel better.

When I expressed my wish out loud, Dad said he’d go home and get it.  (It wasn’t far.)  Mom stayed until he returned.

Dad’s response surprised me. I thought he’d say, “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine without it.”

But Dad understood this was hard for me, and did what he could to ease my discomfort.

Nonetheless, it took a long time to fall asleep that night. But holding my security blanket close and rubbing my fingers against the satin trim did provide sweet comfort.

 

 

Perhaps as a child, you too owned a special blanket or stuffed animal that provided a sense of calm well-being at bedtime. However, part of the maturing process is letting go of such things, right?

No, in actuality, it’s just the source of security that changes as we grow up. Everyone seeks comfort in something, perhaps:

  • A settled career that provides a comfortable income
  • Meaningful and stable relationships
  • Good health, enhanced by careful eating habits and exercise
  • Physical safety, procured through security systems, guard dogs, etc.

 

 

But all of these examples offer only external security. And no matter how protected a person might feel today, we all know how quickly circumstances can change. Ask the one whose company downsized during the recession, the one whose spouse suddenly wanted “space,” the one who received life-altering news from his doctor, or the one whose computer files were hacked.

What we need is internal security. And that can only be found in God.

At the first sign of distress we can call out to him, asking him to draw especially close (Psalm 145:18).

 

 

And when difficult situations linger, we can meditate on God’s wonderful works, as King David did in his psalm of praise, #145. He suggests we:

  • Buoy our faith by remembering God’s miracles (vs. 4-6)
  • Affirm all the benefits and support he’s supplied (vs. 5-6)
  • Keep our minds focused on his glorious attributes (vs, 7-9, 11, 20)
  • Review God’s promises—such as those listed in verses 13-16
  • Remind ourselves that all his actions are absolutely perfect (v. 17)

 

 

Each uplifting thought offers soothing comfort. And strand after strand weaves a virtual security blanket for our souls–a blanket under which we can rest secure.

 

“The Lord’s beloved rests securely on him.

He shields him all day long,

And he rests on his shoulders.”

–Deuteronomy 33:12 CSB

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We praise You, Father, for the comfort, peace, and security you provide. You alone are able to make us dwell in safety and serenity, where no lasting harm can penetrate. Thank you for your abundant goodness to care for us as we trust in you.     

(Psalm 4:8, 91:4; Romans 11:38; Nahum 1:7)

 

 

(Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.dailyverses.net (2); http://www.recreation.gov.)

 

Is there a particular scripture you turn to for comfort?  Please share in the comment section below.

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That’s what we can expect when we choose to live God’s way: supreme blessedness.  Jesus made that clear in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  You’ll remember he began with eight statements of blessing called beatitudes.

One example:

 

 

In other words, profound joy comes to those who humbly depend on God, as they avail themselves of his heavenly kingdom-benefits.

Of course, there are many other attitudes and actions he rewards, in addition to those eight Jesus named.

Below are listed several means to blessedness that have come to my attention over the years. Perhaps you’ve experienced them too:

 

Blessed are the risk-takers, for they shall sail on winds of faith.

 

 

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for” (Grace Murray Hopper).

 

Think of Abraham.

 

“By faith Abraham…obeyed and went,

even though he did not know where he was going.”

–Hebrews 11:8

 

We too have to be willing to travel blind toward undisclosed destinations. Otherwise we’ll never experience the thrill of God’s power taking us to ports we’ve never dreamed of.

The way ahead is always hidden, sometimes causing uncertainty.  But!  We know the One who’s leading. Uncertainty does not have to cancel out confidence.

 

Blessed are those who seek God’s desires, for they shall know delight and fulfillment.

Somehow we think the pursuit of our own desires will bring satisfaction.  But haven’t we seen enough of the rich and powerful crash and burn in despair?  “Everything [is] meaningless; a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).

How much better off we are to pray along with the psalmist:

 

 

It is in the practice of obedience we learn its precious worth.

 

Blessed are the encouragers for they shall be encouraged.

Such an interesting phenomenon: make the effort to lift someone else’s spirit, and you find your own spirit uplifted.  Actually, wise King Solomon recorded this be-attitude long ago:

 

 

Guaranteed double pleasure.  How’s that for supreme blessing?

 

Blessed are the sifters of thoughts, for they enjoy golden contemplations.

If we’re not careful, our minds can easily gravitate toward dross thoughts–the negative, unwholesome, and ugly.  It takes effort to seek out the gold: the honorable, lovely, and commendable. But true contentment awaits those who do.

 

 

Blessed are the focused for they shall not spread themselves too thin.

Our bodies were made for a rhythm of rest—7 to 8 hours out of every 24. Short-changing sleep actually lowers our productivity and endangers our health (1).

That’s why:

 

 

We just can’t do it all, much as we’d like to. Priorities and parameters must be set. That means, saying no to some good things may be the best choice.  We must give others permission to do the same also.

 

Blessed are those who pay attention to the ordinary, for they discover the extraordinary.

For example:

  • Icicle sentries in winter, clinging to the seat of a deck chair

 

 

  • Wildflowers in springtime, cupping tiny pink and yellow stars

 

 

  • Sunbeams on a summer morning, filtering into the glen

 

 

  • God’s artistry (and penchant for color!) splashed on autumn leaves

 

 

Each eye-catching display is a precious love-gift from our Heavenly Father. And around us are countless more, waiting to be discovered, savored, and praised.

 

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;

his greatness no one can fathom.”

–Psalm 145:3

 

And there you have six more beatitudes–examples of God’s supreme blessedness lavished upon us–when we choose to live by his wise and loving ways.

 

 

What be-attitude would you add?  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!

 

Note:

1) https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/tired-at-work#1 and https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20170209/skimp-on-sleep-and-you-just-may-wind-up-sick#1

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.libreshot.com; Nancy Ruegg (3); http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com.)

 

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