Promises You Can Count On

Promises You Can Count On

Those of us who live in the north of the country are now enjoying the beauty of Springtime. The birds have migrated back to their nesting places and bulbs planted in the fall are pushing their way through the earth. The trees and bushes are blooming in a glorious array of color everywhere we look. Farmers have begun the process of tilling the soil and planting new seeds with hopes of a good harvest. This is all looked forward to with great anticipation in the full circle of the seasons – especially the warmer weather! The promise of Spring brings hope and it has been proven scientifically that more sunshine and longer hours of daylight elevates our moods.

Our politicians make many promises we cannot count on. Weddings and graduations bring many promises of a bright future but sometimes those promises are broken and plans do not turn out as hoped for. The farmer plants with great expectation but he cannot control the rain and sun that is needed for heathy growth. Are there any promises we can count on?

The definition of a promise is, “a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen” or a “binding pledge from one person to another”. The person to whom the promise is made has every right to expect the promise to be fulfilled. A mans’ (or womans’) word used to mean something. If you gave your word and shook on it it was as good as done. When we were kids on the playground we would “pinky promise” about something and it meant you could be trusted and would never betray your friend. There are almost 7500 promises from God to mankind in the Bible. Throughout the Scriptures faith is the trustful human response to God’s self-revelation through His words and His actions. He has proven over and over that He is faithful to His Word even when we are not.

In an article I found on Bible.org it listed 12 types of promises we can find. God promises 1) to answer our prayers, 2) provide healing 3) give us strength and power 4 )hope for the future 5) to be with us 6) forgiveness of sin 7) protection 8) peace of mind 9) wisdom and guidance 10) to supply our needs 11) eternal salvation 12) an end to suffering.

A verse I memorized as a child told me where to look for the answers in life and here are some other favorites. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm  119:105

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100: 5

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   1John 1:9

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:26,27

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.    Romans  8:38,39

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   Matthew 6:26&29

Yes, we can count on our great and mighty God’s promises. The second verse of an old hymn, “Standing on the Promises of God” says it well.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail.
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]

RISEN

RISEN

As I stood on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, I was profoundly moved standing in this place and recognizing my own deep need for soul restoration and peace with God. Tabgha is the traditional site where Jesus first called His disciples, performed several miracles and prepared a last breakfast for his disciples post-resurrection. Here He restored Peter to relationship with Himself and to future service as head of The Church. However, my mind was also flashing back to scenes from a movie we had recently watched called Risen.

The crucifixion of Jesus is over but Pilates’ problems are still unravelling. Three day later the body is missing from the tomb and Clavius, a Roman tribune is tasked with finding the body. He examines the tomb and finds the Roman seal has burst from the inside, the heavy stone moved, used grave cloths lay empty and the guards cannot be found. He begins his pursuit of ferreting out the truth.

The Tribune sends his guards to find all followers of this Yeshua to find what they did with the body and to stop the rumors that their crucified teacher had risen from the dead as He prophesied. Clavius enters the upper room where he finds the disciples with Jesus, he drops his sword as he views the man he saw die on the cross, sitting among them. He watches in shock as Thomas examines the mans’ hands and pierced side. He cannot reconcile two things in his mind, “A man dead without question, and that same man alive again.” He then abandons his post and follows these disciples back to Galilee to learn more. He is at Tabgha with the disciples and realizes this man Jesus is like no other. The Tribune admits his part in the crucifixion to which Jesus replies, “I know”. And then asks him, “what bothers you?” Clavius replies, “being wrong”. “What is it you seek?” but before he can reply Jesus answers,” Certainty, peace and a day without war?“‘ The very same answer this Tribune had given Pilate earlier. At the end of the film, Clavius is retelling his story to an inn keeper and states, “I believe. I can never be the same.”

Have you examined the facts of The Resurrection? Jesus’ willing sacrifice on the cross was for our sin to reconcile us with The Father. His last words were, “It is Finished”. There was no more need for animal sacrifice and we can not earn our salvation by doing good works. The power over death and the grave has only been accomplished by Jesus, the Son of God . Every other prophet and leader in history remains in their grave. Being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus Christ, having peace with God, sharing His love and being certain of our eternal future. What bothers you my friend? What is it that you long for? Do you seek certainty and peace? Follow Him and your life will never be the same.

Standing at Tabgha on
the shore of the Sea of Galilee

Jesus’ Last Journey to Jerusalem

Jesus’ Last Journey to Jerusalem

When Jesus and His disciples were preparing to go to Jerusalem for Passover He tried to clearly explain that His end was near but they did not understand. Jesus knew there was still work to do in his last couple of weeks. The 40 mile trip was taken in a series of day hikes over moderate to strenuous terrain by first traveling through the Jordan river valley.

The ancient city of Jericho was an oasis due to underground springs, a common stop for weary pilgrims and an out-post for Roman soldiers. As He drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. He heard that Jesus was passing by and despite the crowds’ shushing began to cry out loudly, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him and asked the man, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “ Your sight is restored; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he could see and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

A sycamore tree in Jericho today called the Zacchaeus tree.

They continued passing through Jericho and behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich from cheating his own people working for the Romans. He wanted to see Jesus but could not because of the great crowd and his short stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when the people saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Walking the Jericho road towards Jerusalem was the most difficult and dangerous part of the trip. Approximatly a 15 mile stretch uphill about a half mile high and westward. Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said,  “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he liked helping himself to their money bag. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” Large crowds were coming to see Jesus and Lazarus. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.

Jesus knew his time left on earth was limited but He was never too busy to stop and care for people. The blind beggar was given his sight from Jesus, The Light of the World. He stopped to look up in a tree to see a man considered a traitor to his people that was in desperate need of restoration of soul. Jesus rested one last time with dear friends who had often welcomed him into their home. Only Jesus understood the enormity of the sacrifice and service Mary performed and that it was the only proper burial preparation his earthly body would receive. The next day Jesus prepared for His last entry into Jerusalem. He came humbly, riding on a colt, a symbol of peace not as a warrior because He is the Prince of Peace. He accepted praise from the crowd that would soon turn into an angry mob shouting epitaphs. Today from the Mount of Olives there is a magnificent view of the ancient Temple and old city of David. And it was here from the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus prayed for His friends, followers and us.

Has Jesus brought light to your life, restoration to your soul or peace to your heart? This week, reflect on all that Jesus has done – the life He lived, the examples He set and the sacrifice of His own sinless life to reconcile us with The Father. Let us worship Him with hearts full of love, joy and thanksgiving.

Scripture passages were taken from Matthew 21:1-11, Luke 18:33-19:10 and Luke 19:28-38

Does Jesus Care?

Does Jesus Care?

When you are facing a crisis of any kind, do you wonder if God cares? When you feel lost or alone and think , “can’t He see I’m struggling here? ” When you watch tragedies unfold on the television do you wonder if He hears our prayers? I can tell you dear reader that yes, He cares. From cover to cover the Bible reminds us of Gods’ love and faithfulness to individuals as well as groups of people.

Reading through the Psalms of David gives us insight into this “man after God’s own heart.” David was called as a young man to serve God and was anointed to one day become king of Israel. But most of his life was filled with difficulty – running from a crazy man(Saul), family disfunction and wars to name a few. That is why his words so often reflect the feelings and questions of our own hearts.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18. ESV

A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and he takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the LORD supports him with his hand. Psalms 37:23-24 CSB

Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember you …. Psalms 42;5&6 CSB

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3 CSB

One time when the Lord Jesus travelled across the Sea of Galilee with His disciples, a great storm arose. In terror, the men roused their sleeping Master. “He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ (Mk. 4:38). What a question! The irony of it is striking. Why had He come to this earth? To save those who are perishing and destined for eternal ruin (Lk. 19:10; Jn. 3:16). On another occasion, the Lord was visiting in the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at His feet, absorbing His teaching. But “Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me’” (Lk. 10:40). If the first example represents fear’s mastery over faith (Mk. 4:40), the second strikes at the root of values and priorities (Lk. 10:41-42). by Robert Cottrill in Wordwise Hymns

Frank Ellsworth Graeff (1860-1918) was a Methodist minister who was well known for his sunny disposition and story telling abilities especially with children. However he struggled deeply with a number of losses, pain and testing experiences in his life. He often turned to Scripture for strength and solace and 1 Peter 5:7 “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”, became especially meaningful to him and spoke to his need. It was during a time of great despondency and doubt that Rev. Graeff penned the words to the hymn, “Does Jesus Care?”.

It is only human to to experience times in our lives when we have doubts and question the nearness of God. Our struggles can leave us feeling defeated and depleted of joy when we lose sight of who God is and His loving care for us. It is in these moments we need to read in the Bible about the character of our God and cling to His promises.

God is Eternal, Faithful, Holy, Just, Loving, All Powerful, All Seeing, All Knowing, Always Present, Unchanging, Prince of Peace…

God is our Advocate, Counselor, Healer, Provider, Protector, Redeemer, Savior, Shepherd and Friend…

You can bring all your concerns, petitions, shattered dreams and wounded hearts and give them all to Jesus because YES He cares!

It Is Well With My Soul

It Is Well With My Soul

We hear and read about great tragedies on a daily basis. The deadly car crash, fires, hurricanes, the wild tornadoes and now a deadly war rages in the Ukraine. Our friend, a former fire Captain, told us that even if a building is a total loss but there is no loss of life it is a success. How do you respond to personal tragedy?

Horatio Spafford was a lawyer and supporting friend of the evangelist Dwight L. Moody. In the spring of 1871, Spafford invested in real estate north of Chicago . The Great Fire of Chicago in October 1871 reduced the city to ashes and most of Spafford’s investments with it. Two years later the family planned a trip to Europe. Late business demands kept him from joining his wife and daughters as they headed for England on vacation. On November 22,1873, while crossing the Atlantic, their ship was struck by an iron sailing vessel and sank rapidly killing 226 people, including all four of Spafford’s daughters. His wife Anna survived the tragedy and upon arriving in England she sent a telegraph that read, “Saved alone.” Spafford sailed to England to join his grieving wife and as the ship passed the area where his daughters had died he was inspired to pen the words to the now famous hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul’.

1. When peace like a river. attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

Habakkuk prophesied just before the Babylonian invasion and captivity of Israel around 607 BC. The book presents a picture of a man who trusted God even though he was perplexed by current events.

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,
18yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17–18 (ESV)

King David and others wrote Psalms crying out to God for hope and help, courage and strength in distress.

3When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3–4 (ESV)

1God is our refuge and strength, a very sufficient help in troubles.
2Therefore we will not fear though the earth change, and though the mountains totter into the midst of the sea,
3though its waters roar and foam, though mountains shake with its surging water. Psalm 46:1–3 (LEB)

Matias, director of Word of Life in Ukraine shared a post from a graduate there. Here is a shortened version: “Tomorrow, there is a van leaving for Germany from my city in the Dorbass region, which is almost entrenched by enemy forces…….However I decided to stay. I gave my life to God at camp last summer….This is my attitude now, I am ready to go in the fire. I understand that this is the place for me to be here to work and to serve… I’ve come to understand that I can find myself in the coolest country in the world and still be unsatisfied, or I can stay here, in the midst of bombings and fear, and be the happiest person in the world, because I am doing what I should be doing. I am not scared at all now, because I know the One who goes ahead of me.”

When I have found myself wondering why God is allowing something in my life I have read and hung on to His word, His promises. Whatever circumstance you may find yourself in whether great danger, financial disaster, illness, loss or even war, are you able to say with confidence, “It is well with my soul”?

Hope in Troubling Times

Hope in Troubling Times

Today as I started to write my heart felt so heavy. Our world is in a mess largely of our own making. Climate change has brought uncontrollable fires and floods, draughts and increased tornadoes with loss of habitat and life . Where I live in New England we had a beautiful 65 degree day on Wednesday and today (Friday) we have snow with six plus inches. Worldwide the economy is struggling and the pandemic caused so much death as well as controversary over wearing masks and vaccine mandates. It seems that injustice and violence are ever increasing. Until yesterday the world powers hoped, watched and waited for Russia to de-escalate but instead they have started an unprovoked war with Ukraine. Where is God while all this is going on? The events on our timeline are no secret to Him but are part of a plan started long ago and that gives me hope.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. Psalms 121:4 (NLT)

O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. Isaiah 25:1 (ESV)

Jesus himself warned: And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.7 Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.8 But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. Matt 24:6-8 (NLT)

Faith is trusting God even when you don’t understand. Faith accepts that God has a better plan, even if the results are never seen. Faith is having the courage to let God have control. When we relinquish “our right” to control – actually it is our right to worry about what we have no control over – then He will give us peace. Faith is obeying His word when life doesn’t make sense. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command. (Heb 11:3)

Just recently I was reminded of how easy it is to take the order of creation for granted. There are four seasons in every year. Each 24 hour period has night time and daylight with sun, stars and moon weather we see them or not. The ocean tide rises and falls and in spring we see signs of new life in flora and fauna. We see Him at work through creation. Psalm 139 extols our all powerful Creator Who sees and knows everything, is always present and searches our hearts. Our God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – He never changes and that is why we can trust Him and find hope in all of our trouble.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you 1 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NLT)

The Bible clearly states that we are saved (from eternal death and separation from God) through faith in Christ’s death on our behalf or for our sins (mistakes, faults, failures) , that He died a cruel death but rose again having power over the grave and He is coming back again. What we are experiencing in our world today are signs of the end times but I am not an expert on prophecy. I do know that we need to be ready. Are you?