“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.

I Will…

(Psalm 145: 1-7, NLT)

I will exalt you, my God and King,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
I will praise you every day;
    yes, I will praise you forever.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
    No one can measure his greatness.

Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
    let them proclaim your power.
I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
    and your wonderful miracles.
Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
    I will proclaim your greatness.
Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;
    they will sing with joy about your righteousness.

There is great power in the words that we speak to ourselves.  As silly as it can seem, there is a lot of effectiveness in taking time to speak affirmations to yourself and being intentional in your thoughts.  How you talk to yourself can affect your entire day, and furthermore…your entire life.  This is why we have to be purposeful with our thoughts.

As many of you know, I am an educator, and a big part of our lesson framework is using what we call “I will” statements to preface each lesson.  We used to use “I can” statements, but this year we modified it to “I will.”  It doesn’t seem like a very significant change really, but even just that one word changes the entire feel of the lesson.  The children used to end each lesson with an “I can” and that wasn’t always the case with each child.  Some of them couldn’t.  So now, they begin with a mindful, intentional statement that begins with “I will.”  It’s almost like a promise to oneself.

You may be wondering where I’m going here.  How does this pertain to our spiritual lives at all?

Most of the time, we know our own capabilities…or at least we think we do.  We know what we can do, and that’s how we operate in our daily lives…pushing all of the things that we know we can do until later.  Essentially, we are spiritual procrastinators!  We are busy, we are distracted, and though we may be taking time out each day to love on God a little, are we being intentional in how we approach our relationships with Him?

We need to change the way that we think and talk to ourselves.  Instead of “I can” exalt the Lord, “I can” praise Him every day, “I can” meditate on His splendor, or “I can” proclaim His greatness – we should be following David’s example of a purpose-driven life of prayer and thanksgiving by saying I will, I will, I will, I will…and then doing it…right now…because we really aren’t promised a later!

Such a seemingly simple change to make, but it can alter your prayer life and your relationship with God in a mighty way.  We should be ever growing and always changing for the better as we walk with the Lord, becoming more passionate and driven as the years go by.  However, sometimes we get bogged down, that inner fire diminishes to nothing more than a tiny glowing ember, and we are simply moving from moment to moment – grace to grace.  It happens.  That’s just what life does to us sometimes, because of sin and imperfection, but this is the exact point in our lives when we have to decide to make a change and rekindle the flame.

So say to yourself today, and every day:

 I will exalt you, my God and King,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
I will praise you every day;
    yes, I will praise you forever.

 I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
    and your wonderful miracles.

 I will proclaim your greatness.

Make these promises, and keep them.  Be forward thinking and intentional.  When you say to God, I will, I think you’ll find that a great sense of commitment will set in, and you will become more engaged with our Heavenly Father than ever before.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I love You so much, but sometimes my actions do not always show that to You.  I pray that You will help me to be more committed and mindful in my prayer life, so that I am always maturing and growing closer to You.  Instead of thinking about what I can do, help me to proclaim what I will do.  Amen.

It Ain’t Over Until God Says So…

(1 Samuel 23:9-14 ESV) 9 David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.” 13 Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. 14 And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.

The historical account we read today describes a low-point in David’s life. He was aware of his destiny, but for whatever reasons, he had not yet arrived at the place of transition from being a young shepherd boy to being the king he was meant to be. If things weren’t bad enough, he was surrounded by men who were in pretty dire straights as well. Scripture says, “And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.” (1 Samuel 22:2 ESV)

David needed trustworthy information so he called for Abiathar the priest to bring the ephod and inquire of the Lord. David asked God two very important questions. (1) Will Saul come to Keilah to destroy the city because of me? (2) Will the men of Keilah betray me into the hands of Saul to prevent their destruction? The answer to both questions was straightforward. “He will.” “They will.”

Let me just say that this was not the answer David was hoping for. When we call out to God during difficult seasons, we want to hear a more encouraging word; an answer more in line with our hopes and desires. But, God did not gloss over the challenges that lay ahead for David. He wanted him to be alert. His mind had to be sharp as he faced Saul’s relentless pursuit. He could not afford to let down his guard.

I read and reread this passage searching for a comforting word to David. You know what? It’s not there. God did not add the obligatory, “Don’t worry, I’ll fight the battle for you.” Scripture simply follows up with, “Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go.”

How could David confidently advance knowing that Saul and his men would pursue him so aggressively? It’s because God had promised David that he would be king; that he would succeed Saul in leading Israel. Since that was not yet a reality, David knew it was coming in the future. So, he just kept believing!

And here’s the good news…  “Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.” God’s promise to David became evident each day; at the end of every day David was able to declare God’s faithfulness. He experienced new mercy each day even while being pursued by the most powerful and unreasonable man in Israel.

The same is true for you! Satan, the enemy of your soul is out to steal from you, to kill you, and destroy you. He wants to prevent you from achieving your destiny in Christ. Stay sharp! Continue to advance! And, when you look back over your shoulder, you will see the hand of God as He directed your steps throughout life’s journey.

PRAYER: Father, I will trust You even when it appears that my enemy is advancing. Your promises are true regardless of the pursuit of the enemy. In the end, I will overcome because You will keep me safe in Your hand. Amen.

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