Friday, September 28, 2012

Promises - Grace

The promise of a boundless supply of life-giving grace:  forgiveness, joy and thankfulness for the goodness of God captures our hearts today.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:8

God assures us there is no lack in our ability to live a life of faith when we draw on His grace.  What a nourishing promise for our souls!  Before we look at this indescribable gift, stop to ask God where you need to let more of His grace flow.  Who or what in your life needs the joy that comes with God’s transforming touch?

In Psalm 51, David’s eloquent plea for cleansing, he cried out to God seeking the restoration of joy in his heart.  David recognized that the forgiveness of God is our life source of joy and thankfulness.  Joy in the Lord is our strength for living with faith in the goodness of God.  Grace brings salvation to sinful man!  Crying out in true sorrow over our sinful choices opens the windows of our heart to receive the bounty of heaven.  Joy and thankfulness overflows hearts that humbly agree with God’s judgment of sin.

The generous grace of God flooding a human heart spills into the lives of others.  Allowing our hearts to receive undeserved forgiveness enables us to give the same to others.  His grace provides us with strength to live trusting His goodness to work in every circumstance.  When we are tempted to trust in ourselves, to fight for our rights and have our own way, the over-abundance of the grace of God needs to be received—and dispensed.  Receiving grace allows us to ‘abound’ in work that testifies to the glory of God!

The Westminster Catechism beautifully states our life purpose:  ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’  When we enjoy God, we do glorify Him.  Ephesians (Paul) tells us we are created for good work—for work that has eternal value.  In the infinite grace and wisdom of the Creator, He understood that human weakness would best display the beauty of His grace.  Like Paul, we glorify God best when we rejoice in our desperate need for Him.  Covering our weaknesses robs the world of glimpses of Grace.  Embracing our failures in the light of His forgiveness floods our soul with joy and strength.  Claim the promise of grace and let His glory transform your world!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Promises - Presence of God

As parents, we embrace the concept of linking privileges with responsibility.  As children of God, the idea is not nearly as appealing—but it is a truth.  The promises of God are an immense privilege given to us by our good and generous God.  While some of the promises are unconditional—all the weight resting on God—others come with personal responsibility. 

Today’s promise to focus on is one we all often claim.  Jesus spoke these words we love to remember, “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  The presence of God is a promise with power, peace and purpose.  Thankfully, it has some aspects of an unconditional promise—for He is the life we breathe, and He is always present.  In another sense, it is conditional—for we cannot enjoy His presence unless our hearts are right.  We have a responsibility to recognize our desperate situation and His holiness.  He still bears all the weight in carrying out the promise, but we cannot be passive in the process.

In response to the question, ‘Who may stand in the holy place?’ the Psalmist replied, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Psalms 24:4).  Clean hands and a pure heart are significant responsibilities for all of us who bear the sin nature.   The very Christ who promises to be with us is our only hope for those clean hands and pure hearts.  His holy righteousness is ours simply by admitting we fall short and need His cleansing; repentance is the key to allowing God to fulfill His promise and surround us with His presence.

Just as the mountains surrounding Jerusalem offer protection and comfort, the presence of God surrounding submitted hearts guarantees power for life and peace for our hearts.  It is a glorious promise to embrace.  The One who spoke the world into being surrounds us: ahead, beside and behind us!  Such a thought is truly inconceivable.  His holiness is beyond our complete comprehension but worthy of all our effort to glimpse.  In Revelation when John—the one who had walked with Jesus on earth and humbly embraced His love—sees Jesus, he collapsed at his feet.  Truly seeing the Lord in His holiness humbles our prideful human hearts—and opens the door to truly embracing the promise of His presence.   Rejoice in His goodness and holiness!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Promises - Power

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

Psalms 34:6-7

Today’s promise reminds me that eternal reality exists today – as well as tomorrow.  Too often we act is if the Power that promises life after death is too puny to help us today.  As we walk through this life, the LORD surrounds believers with His holy angels.  Salvation is for eternity, but it is also for today.  Deliverance of our souls is the goal of our faith; but God delivers us in our present reality as well.

When our hearts reverently look to the LORD, we need not fear earthly troubles.  When we seek to face our present troubles on our own, they loom to enormous sizes.  Looking at the challenges we face blinds us to the presence and power of God.  Like Elisha’s prayer for his servant, we must ask God to open our eyes to the angels surrounding us.    Fixing our eyes upon the LORD—and His provisions--reminds us of His power and promises to deliver us.  It does not mean problems miraculously disappear; instead, the problems present opportunities for the glory of the Lord to be seen.  The right perspective of our problems, our resources and the guaranteed victory grants us courage and purpose.

Scripture tells us our inheritance as believers rests secure in heaven.  That which we entrust to the Lord produces eternal results but it also produces earthly results.  Those truths flow from another truth:  the inheritance already received by those who accept Christ.  The Spirit of God condescends to dwell in the humble heart of believers.  Living upon that inheritance is the key to eternal rewards! The very power that raised Jesus from the grave lives with us today producing deliverance for those who believe.

Facing our troubles secure in the Lord’s provision and power releases His Spirit to work in the world around us.  Nothing we do in this world on our own produces eternal fruit.  Facing our struggles independently is foolish.  It produces only fear and failure.  The world needs to see Jesus.  Our struggles are an opportunity for them to do so.  Running to Jesus, allowing His angels to surround us, and His power to fill us, gives others a glimpse of His glory.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Promises - Peace

“…in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  Jesus

Four hundred verses in scripture speak of peace in one aspect or another.  The concept of well-being and peace, Shalom, weaves throughout God’s Word.  The common greeting in the Hebrew world was “Shalom.”  Similar to the modern, ‘How are you? The question was closer to, ‘Do you have peace? ‘Harmony of heart and relationships embodies the biblical understanding of peace.  It is much more than the absence of conflict; it is confidence, security and assurance for body and soul.  It is the province of God alone--as the Psalmist said, “…for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

In the Centuries before the birth of the Savior, Isaiah prophesied the Deliverer would be called the Prince of Peace.  Angelic announcements of Christ’s birth proclaimed ‘Peace on earth. ‘Shockingly, during his brief earthly ministry, Jesus told his followers that he did not come to bring peace but a sword.  The passage of scripture that follows teaches us that peace is the result of right priorities.  Peace flows only when souls connect to the Father.  Unity with the Father was the sole focus of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The sword Christ brought is to free us from the bonds of sin and rebellion that separate us from the Father.  Christ won that victory and led captivity captive!  The Prince of Peace left a legacy of peace.  It is ours to receive!

Too often, we strive for peace--trying to create it with our own agendas.  Scripture commands us to pursue peace not produce peace.  In failing to use the sword Christ brought to put our selfish desires to death, we forfeit the legacy of Christ.  Our sword is the Word; loving and obeying it will lead us into the Way, into Peace, into Christ.  Our Peace is present; receive Him; enjoy His victory today.  Trust in His power, love and ability to guide you into the next step.  As the gospel hymn says, ‘The Great I am, still is.’    

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Promises - Well of Living Water

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  John 7:38

Did you know that 97.5% of the water on the earth is not life giving?  The salt water of the oceans comprise the bulk of this planet‘s water.  Those lost at sea who drink of the salt water die excruciating deaths.  There is a spiritual parallel.  We live in a dry and thirsty land; there is a lot of poison water in the world. Our lives are to be a source of living water for others.  Life-giving water only flows from hearts that confidently trust in the Savior. 

The word ’believe’ is far more than mental assent to the truths of Christ’s existence.  It is choosing to live with total confidence in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It is loving Him--and His ways--about what we ‘know’ and love in our day-to-day.   It is accepting even the hard things of life as gifts from the hand of a loving Father.  It is struggling to see the heart of God in painful realities.  It is believing in His goodness even when the external evidence screams otherwise.  It is choosing to act on the promises of God with solid confidence in His faithfulness to do what He says.  That is the sort of belief that gives life to those around us.

Our natural lives are like the ocean-water…beautiful, powerful and with the illusion of life.  On occasion, we glimpse the death within.  A cancer diagnosis, a heart attack or other deadly disease rears up and reminds us of our physical mortality.  Spiritually, death slithers around our relationships striking out in harsh condemnation, gossip and self-centered loveless-ness.  These appearances serve to remind us seek life.  God is the giver of life--He loves life.  Like the nerves in our body that warn us of danger, the stings of death drive us to the Source of life.  The ocean is part of the water cycle that sustains this planet.  It has purpose in God’s design; its purpose is not drinking of it as it sits.  The purpose of our natural lives is to allow the Living water to enter in and overflow in this world.

If we lived in a village with two wells--one with fresh, delicious water and another with dank, disease-ridden water, we would direct all we spoke with to the good well.  As we walk through this world, we have opportunity not only to tell people about the Living Water--we carry it with us.  That is a promise, a responsibility, and a joy that fills my heart with praise for the Giver of Life.  Who do you know needing a drink today?