“Promises, Promises”

(Psalm 119:147-148) 147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. 148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

When the weight of life begins to fall
On the name of Jesus I will call
For I know my God is in control
And His purpose is unshakeable
Doesn’t matter what I feel
Doesn’t matter what I see
My hope will always be
Your promises to me.
– “Your Promises” by Elevation Worship

Because of humanity, because we are a mess, because of SIN…life is a guaranteed trial.  I don’t care what you say, who you are, or what you do…your life will not always be easy.  It just won’t!  We’ve been given many promises by God, and no, that’s not one of them…it’s just a consequence that we must endure for a time.  Into our lives, sin brings chaos and hurt, and there’s no stopping it sometimes, but as children of God we have been given all of the wisdom, power and authority needed to rise above. 

In every situation we have hope, but the thing about hope is that you have to take ownership of it and once it is claimed you then have to decide where to place it.  You can place it in other people, you can place it in your career, you can place it in your church and all of the “good” things that you do to support it, but none of the above will ever hold out for long.  People fail us, jobs and careers can be lost, and yes even churches fall apart.  Do as you wish, but there is only one placement for your hope that is sure to stand above the waters and that is God’s word. 

As a believer you lay claim on His word, by your faith, that it is true.  So…when you read it and meditate on it, you are ingesting THE TRUTH.  God’s word is filled with many things, all of which benefit our walks through life in some way, and every word is perfect and established.  Therefore, we have what we need in order to pilot our way through this expedition.  Through His word we have our history (which gives us His plan), we are given our commission (which is our purpose), and we have access to the countless promises from God (which give us HOPE). 

Without hope, purpose and plan fall apart.  2 Peter 1: 3-4 tells us, “3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” When we are able to place our hope in the promises, the “very great and precious promises” of God, we are empowered to fulfill the purpose and the plan set before us from the beginning. 

Gaining access to these promises does, however, require something from you.  It requires discipline.  You will have to read, you will have to meditate, you will have to actually CONVERSE with God, and you will have to make time for these things.  Yes, it is all easily accessible, but acquiring strength in spirit is a lot like building physical strength…you have to put in work.  It is a commitment, and what we all eventually learn about commitment is that sometimes it just doesn’t matter how you are feeling at the moment, or how things look through your natural eyes, because the foundation of a covenant is the promises that were made.  When the anxieties, hurts, and disturbances of life make you feel things that are contrary to the truth, if you will go back to the Word…to His promises…you will find that your Heavenly Father is deeply committed to loving you, blessing you, and ensuring that you fulfill your purpose. 

(Jeremiah 29: 11-14) 11 “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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the hope that is found in Your word.  Help me to remember it when my feelings take charge and my sight is skewed, so that I do not hinder my role in Your purpose and plan.  Give me strength to be more disciplined in my pursuit of You and my commitment to Your will.  Amen.

“Even When It Hurts”

(Job 5: 17-18)  17 “But consider the joy of those corrected by God!  Do not despise the discipline of the Almighty when you sin.  18 For though he wounds, he also bandages.  He strikes, but his hands also heal.

Years ago, one of my cousins was in a terrible mountain-biking accident when he was a young(er) man.  He was awfully disfigured and underwent numerous surgeries in order to regain a normal appearance…meaning — an appearance that wouldn’t cause people to wince and/or ask questions everywhere he went.  The doctors called it reconstructive surgery.  Throughout the process of these procedures, which took years to complete, my cousin had to endure a lot of pain both physically and emotionally.  The surgeries were painful.  He had bone removed from his skull and placed into his gums, so that he could have dental implants to replace the teeth he’d lost.  He had skin grafts and pins, and everything else that goes into reconstructing a crushed face.  I am sure there came a point for him when just the thought of going to the doctor was enough to send him into hiding, but he had to continue on through the pain to get the desired results…reconstruction.  He had to trust the surgeon completely.  He had to remember that the surgeon’s intention was not to harm him, but to make him whole again.  Sure, the surgeon’s hands wounded him, so to speak, but over those cuts and sutures were gently and carefully placed bandages. 

Our lives sometimes bring us into places where we are wounded beyond recognition.  Our choices lead us into situations, though at times out of our control, that disfigure our spirits…and we have to be lifted into safety and undergo some tough reconstruction.  We have to trust God in that pain.  We have to understand that His hands sometimes have to wound us in order to correct us.  Like the locked jaw that has to be broken, then wired shut for a time, before it is mended and corrected.  It’s not fun, and it hurts, but we have to trust that the process is worth the outcome. 

10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.  (Hebrews 12: 10-11)

When I was little, I was the kid that needed some (okay…a LOT of) spankings and discipline.  I constantly had to be reminded (because of my impulsiveness, impatience and quick temper) that I was making poor choices.  My parents had to, at times, strike me (usually on the butt), but were always quick with a loving hug and healing words of grace and encouragement.  Well, I’m 37 years old and I still need those reminders…only now they almost exclusively come from my Heavenly Father.  He sometimes has to lovingly reach down and (figuratively so) slap some sense into me!  And I desperately need those reminders.  Maybe it comes in the form of embarrassment, or internal conviction…sometimes it’s having hurt feelings…or causing them.  However it may come to pass, I recognize my Father’s discipline for what it is, and though I don’t enjoy it (not by any means), I am able to reflect back on it and be thankful that He loves me enough to help me learn from and correct my mistakes. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I thank you for your eye of concern that is always fixed on little ole me.  Help me to love the process, even when it hurts.  Amen.

“Nothing Compares to You”

(Psalm 71: 19-21, NLT)

19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the highest heavens.

    You have done such wonderful things.

    Who can compare with you, O God?

20 You have allowed me to suffer much hardship,

    but you will restore me to life again

    and lift me up from the depths of the earth.

21 You will restore me to even greater honor

    and comfort me once again.

One of the biggest reasons that people question God, and sometimes turn from Him,  is that they simply cannot accept the fact that a God who created us and loves us would also allow us to suffer. 

Well, I can only speak from my own experience, but when I was a kid, I required a lot more discipline than most other kids.  I was always into something, I had very low impulse control, and I was curious.  Add to that the fact that I was rebellious too, and you had a kid that kept her parents on their toes at all times.  As I got older, I talked back and I don’t think I ever made curfew one time.  I simply did not use any wisdom at all.  My parents, being the loving and determined parents that they were, tried every type of discipline they knew to try.  I got spankings, I got grounded, I got sent to my room to sit on my bed and “think about it” for several minutes, I got pinched at church when I talked (every Sunday, mind you), I got lectured (a lot), I was taken on many a guilt trip, and my parents even tried reverse psychology by removing my curfew and restrictions for a while (which, believe it or not, actually worked some). 

So many times during those formative years of my life, I would lament and wallow in my “suffering” at the hands of my parents.  I would think, “How can they do this to me if they love me??  It’s not FAIR!”  Actually, I probably yelled it out loud a few times as well.  In my immaturity, and because of the sinful state of my heart, I correlated their use of discipline with a lack of love.  My parents didn’t make me feel unloved — my actions and decisions led me to a place of bitterness.  And like most everyone who is at fault, I was looking for somewhere, besides myself, to place the blame. 

When I finally got myself together…sorta…my heart was softened toward my parents.  I began to see things through the lens of God’s truth.  I finally understood the importance and meaning of loving discipline.  When I opened my heart to this truth, my whole world changed.  I was in right relationship with my parents for the first time in so many, many years, and I began to enjoy my time with them — appreciating them for who they were as people, rather than resenting them for being my parents (and good ones at that)!  Let me tell you…that was SO liberating for me!  I realized, there is no one who can compare to or replace a loving parent.  No one.

So know this very important thing today…accept it, and bury it into your heart:  GOD LOVES YOU!  And when He allows hardship to come your way (and yes, He absolutely does allow bad things to happen to “good” people), there is a reason for it — which is most likely…yep…discipline.  Not one of us is exempt from God’s correction and guidance.  We are all subject to it, because we are all His children.  He wants to see us grow, develop, and flourish — in every part of our lives.  So when we are in the wrong, He corrects us — when we are standing still, He nudges us — and when we fall down, He lifts us up…even higher than we were before.  He truly is a goodgood Father to us.  Perfect, in ALL of His ways…discipline and all!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I know that sometimes I need Your discipline in order to grow in spirit.  When I am dealing with the grief and misfortunes that You have allowed into my life, give me eyes to see Your purpose in it all.  Guard my heart from bitterness and ignorance, so that I may always move forward…past the hurt and anger…into Your favor and grace.  Amen.

Go Ahead! Take Your Best Shot!

(Psalm 141:5 ESV) 5 Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it. 

Let me just tell ya… If someone smacks me in the face my natural response is going to be to smack back! I don’t know very many people who would give someone permission to hit them!

I played on the basketball team at the Bible college I attended in California. I could shoot pretty accurately, move fairly quickly, jump high enough that someone could slip a piece of paper under my tennis shoe, rebound well… I wasn’t terrible, but I had a major flaw that prevented me from being all I could be. I was skinny. No, really! SIZE 28 WAIST SKINNY! And, because I was skinny, I got pushed around a lot. I spent a fair amount of time on the floor.

The coach used to yell at me and tell me “You could be so good if you could just stay on your feet!” “Square you shoulders son… plant your feet… toughen up… hit someone… ANYONE!” I did the best I could, but my body was not made for contact!

One day, the coach decided to toughen me up. He told me it was for my own good. He may have lied a little… His strategy to toughen me up was to have MY TEAMMATES hit me, shove me, hold me, pull me, trip me…. They spent a whole practice slapping me, pulling my shorts, putting their fingers in my ears… you get the picture…. His message to me was clear, “If you’re going to reach your full potential, you have to learn to get hit and stay on your feet!”

Dr. Gene Rice frequently says, “You can make it if you can take it!”

You know what? It worked! The next game I received a technical foul for being too aggressive! Over the next few games, I learned how to balance my aggression with wisdom and became a better and more effective player.

We will miss the point of this lesson if we only read this scripture from a human point of view. David is NOT inviting his enemies to attack him. Instead, he is opening his soul to inspection by those who have his best interest at heart. He believed that when a righteous man “struck” him with godly wisdom, it was like receiving a kindness. Further, if a righteous man “rebuked” him, he saw it as having healing balm applied to his fevered brow. In other words, there is power in submitting ourselves to brothers and sisters in the Lord for the purpose of personal development.

David closed this verse by speaking to himself. He wrote, “Let my head not refuse it.” Like David, I don’t want to be guilty of missing an opportunity to grow in maturity; even if it causes temporary pain.

PRAYER: Lord, search me and see if there are any issues that I need to develop. Send friends and family members who can speak wisdom in a timely manner so that I can become everything you want me to be. Amen.

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