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

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?

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn published in 1779, with words written by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725-1807). It is an immensely popular hymn, particularly in the US, where it is used for both religious and secular purposes. It has been estimated that the song is performed about ten million times annually in various forms.

The story behind the author and his words is fascinating and has been produced as a movie and Broadway play. John’s mother died before he turned seven and he joined his father on a merchant ship as an apprentice at age eleven.  He was well known for his headstrong disobedience and incredible profanity. After being flogged for desertion from the Royal navy he joined the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel so severely that he called out to God for mercy. That moment marked his conversion but he continued slave trading, considered a respectable vocation at the time, for several more trips until he left the sea for good at age 30. Newton began studying Christian theology and began preaching about the grace of the cross which saved him and later he became an abolitionist. Shortly before his death at age 82 he preached, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!”

An amazing story of a changed life but what does grace mean?  In Christian belief it means “God’s free gift of unmerited favor manifested in salvation and bestowing of blessings”. I was always taught the simple acrostic; God’s Riches At Christs’ Expense. 

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.      Eph 2:8-10 (NLT)

John Piper wrote; “Well, it  appears that the word grace in Paul’s use not only refers to God’s character trait or disposition or inclination to treat people better than we deserve, but the word grace also refers to the action or the power or the influence or the force of this disposition, which produces real, practical outcomes in people’s lives, like being sufficient for good deeds or enduring the thorn in the flesh or working harder than everybody else, which Paul says about his own apostolic work.”  

Throughout the pages of the Bible we see story after story of men and women, rich and poor, powerful and unnamed, failing God by disobeying His law and turning to temporary gain or satisfaction. By God’s grace these people saw God at work in their circumstances and the power of changed lives. Their stories are much like ours. God’s love never fails. He faithfully waits for us to turn back (repent) so we can enjoy a living and growing relationship with Him.

If you fear you’ve written too many checks on God’s kindness account, drag regrets around like a broken bumper, huff and puff more than you delight and rest, and, most of all, if you wonder whether God can do something with the mess of your life, then grace is what you need.      Max Lucado

I may not have a history like John Newton but I need God’s grace just as much. I want Him to work on my heart and through His enabling power to live in grace. Grace extends forgiveness and kindness by overlooking others faults. Grace carries on when people misjudge you. By God’s grace our lives are put into order with purpose and meaning. God’s amazing grace never runs out.

 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.      Heb 4:16 (NLT)

The Need For Resilience

The Need For Resilience

Today I am reposting my blog from last January (something I don’t usually do) because encouragement and resilience are still desperately needed. I wish for you to have courage and peacefor today and hope for tomorrow.

We survived 2021 with all of its’ bumps, bruises and losses. From political unrest, natural disasters and a world wide pandemic, life is not going to be back to “normal” anytime soon enough. Although we have great hope in beating this virus with vaccines, we are still struggling. So how should we respond in 2022? We cannot give up hope but instead to continue building resilience.

Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity and to use challenges to forge strength and prosperity. Having resilience does not mean that you don’t struggle, make mistakes, or need to ask for help. Resilient people keep plugging along even when the situation becomes ugly or exhausting.

There are many characters in the Bible who developed resilience through tough challenges. A favorite of mine is Joseph found in Genesis 37-47. If you have never read the whole story – please do ! Joseph was the youngest and favorite son of Jacob the Patriarch of Israel. From a young age God spoke to him in dreams which made his brothers even more jealous. The angry brothers sold Joseph into slavery and told their Dad he was dead. Joseph was bought as a household slave in Egypt and did well until the Masters’ wife lied about an assault putting him into prison. Joseph kept the faith and his dreams got him out of jail and placed him serving the Pharaoh himself. A life of extreme ups and downs yet Joseph never stopped believing and trusting in God because he understood that God has a purpose even in our suffering.

God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor over Egypt. Gen 45:7-8 (NLT)

“A helpful way to exercise spiritual resilience is by cultivating gratitude and counting your blessings. Be thankful for what you do have rather than focusing on what you are missing. Build optimism and be positive. Accept the past and focus on the future.” American Psychological Assoc.

How we respond to our circumstances or developing good coping skills will help us maintain balance. We need to take care of our bodies and avoid negative outlets. Masking our pain with alcohol, drugs and even food is tempting but it’s like putting a bandaid on a deep wound. Find resources to manage stress, not avoid it. Don’t dwell on the news and Facebook but instead find uplifting music, scripture and supportive friends. We can be proactive in finding purpose by making goals, problem solving and helping others. We need to keep things in perspective and be realistic about change. Not all change is bad. Finally, resilience should give us a hopeful outlook because we have learned from our past. Resilient people have a survivor mentality.

Our situations may vary widely but the answer is the same – call on God, the Almighty Creator, Our Sustainer, Redeemer, Healer and Friend.

 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Gal 6:9-10 (ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (resilience) 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (ESV)