Friday, October 26, 2012

For our promise today, we are going to a familiar passage, the Beatitudes.  The blessings promised in the face of difficulties throughout this teaching of Christ seem paradoxical.   While my heart rejoices this week over the second promise, the blessing in mourning, I cannot jump over the first.  In fact, as we explore today, the link between the two is unavoidable. 

Christ began this teaching by saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  
Matthew 5:3

Impoverished spirits receive the blessed inheritance of the Kingdom of God!  It is a truth we cannot recognize until all we are is simply not enough to face the problem life has thrown our way.  The gateway to God’s Kingdom is too narrow for us when we are full of ourselves.  Recognizing our poverty allows us to enter into the richness of our Lord!  The blessing is indeed greater than the difficulty. 

The second difficulty often opens the gateway by bringing us to the awareness of our poverty.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  
Matthew 5:4

Mourning flows from the loss of someone or something loved.  All earthly love involves risk.  Refusing to love, though, is absolute loss, for the losses of grief open the door to understanding the beauty of God’s eternal love.  Grief is a common experience for all of us.  Sometimes the grief is for a loss we have suffered; sometimes it is for a loss we cannot alleviate for another.  Those who love us, and those we love, are unable to fill the role intended for God alone. 

A dream fades, an ambition leads to deadly results, a treasured support slips out of our life or a person we treasure dies—the causes for grief are different but the results are the same.  Grief rocks the foundation of our life.  It causes us to examine our loves, to consider that which we value and build our lives on.   The blessing of mourning comes when we allow the shaking of our lives to toss us into the eternal love of God.  Understanding that love in this earthly realm always includes the potential for loss can harden a heart from loving or soften it to receive the unending love of God.  The blessed comfort in mourning is knowing there is healing for a broken heart in the love of God. 

When the very best this world has to offer falls short of lasting joy, the grief makes us thirsty for eternal possibilities.  The blessing again is greater than the difficulty.   The blessing of mourning is God Himself--the only power that can comfort the unavoidable grief of a broken world. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The promise of Isaiah 46:11 is completion!   In context, it is a promise that inspires fear.  God promised judgment to His idolatrous children; this assurance spoke to the completion of that promise.  Yet is it a truth reiterated throughout scripture:  what God says, God is faithful to do.  It is the truth powering all of the promise studies of the past weeks.

The purposes of God are good and outcomes already established in eternity.  For the soul in rebellion against the Sovereign Holy One, this is a chilling promise.  The truth of God’s faithfulness is a certainty intended to drive the unrepentant to their knees at the cross of Jesus. 

For the soul seeking the face of the Lord, the promise is a breath of life!  The fourth stanza of Amazing Grace strengthens my spirit in difficult times:

The Lord has promised good to me.  His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and purpose be, as long as life endures.

Mining God’s Word for the ways He accomplishes His purposes strengthens me.  God feeds His flock and guides those with young.  He satisfies the longing soul.  He forgives my sins and sends me out with the same good news for this dying world.  There is no need my heart can encounter which Jesus cannot completely fill. Moreover, the fulfillment is complete.  It simply waits for me to appropriate it.

On the Cross, Christ said, “It is finished.”  Earlier in His ministry, the Lord had said He came to do the will of the Father and complete the work of God.  On the cross, that work reached completion.  God faithfully fulfilled His good purposes.  Only the victory celebration remained.  We can join Paul in saying, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”  Committing every detail of our lives to the work of Christ is the key to the Victory Party!

The struggles of life, the attacks of the enemy, assault our confidence in Christ.  The things we commit to God that are in line with His purposes are a done deal!  We can trust God’s faithfulness.  We must not let fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) keep us from the victory celebration.  Press on in confidence of the purposes and power of God.  He is greater than our mistakes.  He is able to guide us on His path.  He is able to accomplish His good purposes.  He has accomplished them already:  it is finished!

Friday, October 5, 2012

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!