Daughters of Promise

The Prayer For Hard Stuff

January 29, 2020

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Hebrews 13:20-21 

There’s a certain kind of personality type that enjoys taking aptitude tests.  I am one of them.  I like to see how people are wired and understand why they do what they do.  My enjoyment includes the exploration of spiritual gifts.  It’s a wonderful thing for a person to discover their unique areas of giftedness; gifts that are birthed, sharpened, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

But as the book of Hebrews closes, the writer has bigger dreams for his audience.  He’s not only wanting them to do what they do well, he blesses them to be fully equipped in every area of their lives to accomplish God’s work.  He is thinking of the whole person, the one who is fully mature and spiritually well rounded.

Life isn’t just about getting to do what I enjoy doing.  I am called upon to function in a lot of roles and to work well with different kinds of people.  I can’t only hang out with people I like.  Difficult people grace my life and one or two are usually in our own families.  If I’m an impatient person, I will need to learn patience. If I’m an exhorter, I will have to learn to be quiet and to pray instead.  If I’m good at tough love, I will have to learn to be compassionate.  God asks me to be full of the Spirit around those who are angry, depressed, and grieving.  I’m also called to be full of His Spirit when others prosper and I’m in a tough season.  I will be called to do things for which I have little aptitude and, in my frustration, will others be able to tell that I love Jesus when I’m doing things  that offer little or no enjoyment?

I’m not sure Jesus had a personality type.  He was simply well-rounded because He was fully equipped by His father to fulfill His mission.  He was Spirit-filled in every area of His life and there were no gaps in His ability to function in any situation.  At 33 years of age, He had completed everything He had been sent to do and had functioned perfectly in every single relationship.  He never said the wrong thing.  He never had to offer an apology.

Even now, in my sixties, I still see areas of impairment.  Though my limps have been tempered through the years, emotionally and spiritually, I am still working on them.  I would like to say that I am fully equipped and mature but I’m not.  Oh, that I could always be Spirit-filled!  I am aware, even this morning, that today holds things for which I must ask for special graces to accomplish.  At the end of the day, I will offer a prayer of thanks for the supernatural breath from the Spirit who rose up to help me in my time of need.

Day by day, I learn more about grace and Your faithfulness.  Amen





Cure For A Nagging Conscience

January 28, 2020

Pray for us, for our conscience is clear and we want to live honorably in everything we do. Hebrews 13:18

Generally speaking, my conscience is my moral compass.  It will let me know when I violate what I know to be right.  While it is often reliable, it isn’t 100% accurate. If I was raised in a culture where bigotry was commonplace, I would grow up to discriminate with a clear conscience.  That’s scary!  And if I was raised around people who loved to inflict guilt, no matter how good I was, I never felt good enough. As an adult, I suffer from an overly sensitive guilt trigger and believe it’s the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Peace is never mine to enjoy.

It is possible to have a clear conscience.  It is possible to be free of self-condemnation.  It is possible to live at peace with God and with myself. The one who wrote Psalm 139 points me to the source of internal rest.   “You discern my thoughts from far away.  Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely” Psalm 139:2-4 The One who is holy is the only One qualified to shape my conscience.  I need Him because, though He created me with a conscience that knows right from wrong, the Fall of mankind has marred its reliability.  My Heavenly Father examines my heart, and the flow of my thoughts, and helps me sort them out according to His wisdom and righteousness.  I don’t need to be afraid of the One who can see clear through me.  Though He is holy, He is also Love.

Have you ever been uncomfortable in someone’s presence because you felt like they were studying you?  Their gaze was penetrating and invasive.  But Peter did not feel this way when Jesus looked at him.  On the shore of the sea of Galilee, he said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” John 21:17 Although he had recently denied Jesus, he knew Jesus could see the remorse in his heart.  He was not afraid of Love, even though intimate.

Guilt is a complicated thing and drives many to counseling.  But I can count on this.  God promises a clear conscience.  God’s Spirit is within me to convict me of sin and also assure me of sinlessness.  Satan’s guilt is tormenting, vague, and promises no end.  God’s conviction is precise, points to a particular offense, and offers closure on the other side of repentance.  His Word is my mirror, the only reliable rudder against the voice of the great deceiver of this age.

Peace with You.  Rest in Your presence.  These are mine as I live a cross centered life.  Amen

Do I Have To?

January 27, 2020

Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”  Hebrews 13:17

Do those who are in authority over me feel glad that I am in their lives?  Is my pastor pleased that I am in his church?  Is my spouse happy that I am married to him?  Have my employers been grateful that I’ve worked for their company?   Hopefully, the collective answer is yes.  But if ‘yes’, then why?

It might be because I like and respect them.  It’s easier to defer under those conditions. Oh, but when they are foolish, it is instinctive to be contentious and confrontational. I get my back up and resent my duty to submit.  I might even find ways to circumvent their orders.

I recall that the Apostle Paul instructed slaves to be good slaves to their masters.  He didn’t tell them to defer only if their masters deserved their allegiance.  In light of this consistent biblical precedent, this scripture from Hebrews highlights some interesting side notes.

  1. We are to obey those who have rule over us. (But, obeying God takes precedence if we are told to do something God would forbid.)
  2. The ones who have authority over us watch for our souls. (Some watch over us well while others give no thought to our well being.)
  3. Each one in leadership will give an account. Those who lead well will be rewarded.  Those who cause their people to suffer will not get away with it.  (Our part is to obey God and leave the outcome to Him.)

While talking with a woman recently about her marriage, she shared that her husband is a poor spiritual leader in their home. She made the comment, “It’s hard to show respect to someone ungodly, one who does not consider me to be a person of any value!”  Most likely, we will all know what this is like sometime in our lives; to be invisible, despised, unappreciated, to be held in low regard.  These are the very things that make it hard to submit to bad authority.  If I am struggling today, I have to remember that the person with whom I struggle is under God’s authority.  He may not acknowledge it but he is.  He, or she, will give an account of how they failed to represent God.

And, I am under God’s authority.  I am His child and I am under His umbrella. I know where to go home to heal from the wounds of injustice and the abuses of poor shepherding.  I heal in the embrace of the One who owns me and calls me precious.  He leads me and He serves me.  There is nothing He has not already experienced.  I am safe and I am of infinite value.

I choose to live above my feelings and, by faith, obey Your order of things.  I am yours and that joy is enough. Amen

“Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” Matthew 13:8,23 …

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I Am a Lattice of Windows

January 22, 2020

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  Hebrews 13:16

How vast are the effects of obeying this verse but only if I understand what God is asking me to do.  It’s not just stopping to help someone carry a heavy package, or taking someone a meal, or even making a hospital visit.  ‘To do good’ means to show someone else the same kindness and favor that God showed to me.  I am to receive and then transmit what I received.  I am a conduit and the point of doing good is to leave an aroma of God, not myself.

A lot of people do good things and simple kindnesses are powerful, certainly.  But without God behind them, the effects are earthbound.  If I am to receive first, then transmit, I must experience the lovingkindess of His blessing.  May the Lord bless and keep you, may the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and be gracious to you, and bring you peace.  Numbers 6:24-26  The Hebrew picture of lifting up a countenance is one of a father holding up a child in order to adore him.  God’s blessing starts with His delight.

Screen Shot 2020-01-22 at 7.57.56 AMWhen the priest raises his hands to pronounce this well-known blessing from the book of Numbers, he faces his palms downward and touches his thumbs together.  The four fingers on each hand are split into two sets of two fingers each and this hand formation is called ‘the overlapping lattice of windows.’  Their tradition says that the Divine Presence will shine through the fingers of the priests as they bless the people.  King David asked God specifically for this blessing.  Make your face to shine upon your servant. Psalm 31:16  David was down and needed to feel the impact of God’s kindness.

As I am blessed, humbly blessed, I am told to rise, then go and communicate this same blessing to another person.  The particular deed isn’t as important as the Divine Presence of God that I take with me.  It’s the humility with which I love another.  It’s communicating what is often unspoken.  “God has loved me so much and I want you to feel that too.”

Lord, I don’t want to waste even one gesture of kindness.  Bless me and let me bless others in the overflow.  Amen

The ‘Praise Him’ Song

January 21, 2020

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.  Hebrews 13:15

I remember learning this song as a little girl.

Praise Him, praise Him, praise Him in the morning
Praise Him in the noon time
Praise Him, praise Him, praise Him when the sun goes down.

It was catchy and it was a sing-song-challenge that didn’t offend a child, not until that child grew up to face adulthood. Being told to praise when all was not well seemed ludicrous.  That’s unfortunate because adults don’t always get to hear today’s scripture the way it was meant to be heard.

Praise is never a denial of pain.  It is not a command to just suck it up to say the right things regardless.  Such dogma does not support the truth that God weeps with His creation over the ways the Fall has affected us.  It does not highlight the truth that Jesus suffered every temptation known to humanity.  How hollow this would have seemed to the audience to whom this letter was written.  They were being persecuted harshly for their faith.  Throughout the preceding chapters, they had been encouraged to persevere and remember the Lord Jesus who also suffered.  So, praise must be compatible with everything that has been said before.  But how?  This verse gives me two clues.

  • Praise is offered ‘through Jesus’.  His Spirit is the One makes me able to sing through my tears. As with every other thing in my spiritual life, it is only possible with supernatural ability that is conferred on me.
  • And, praise is the fruit of the lips that profess God’s name. This means so much more than just calling myself a Christian.  To profess Jesus’ name in the time this letter was written was to potentially lose everything, but it also meant to remember everything His name meant.

If you’ve studied the names of God, you know that the many ways He is addressed encompasses the full reach of His character and power.  This is the secret to praise!  When I know and embrace the many names of God, the result is open praise.  No matter what may be going on, no matter how dark and no matter how complicated my troubles, praise flows out of my spirit because I know to whom I have given my life.  He is conqueror.  He Is Lord of all.  He is provider.  He is comforter.  He is my shield.  He is my refuge.  He is my healer.  Easily, I could keep writing and writing and I’m sure you are filling in the blanks.

When Jesus faced his darkest hours, he did not do so without hope.  He praised His Father for all these same reasons.  If He did, so can I.

Praise was Your default language and it can be mine.  It’s what spills out along with my tears.  I know I’m in good hands.  Amen

What I Must Leave Behind

January 17, 2020

“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.”   Hebrews 13:12-13

For the Jewish man or woman who received Christ as their Messiah, believing would be unpopular and isolating.  For the Pharisee or High Priest of Jesus’ day, embracing Him to step into the New Covenant would be unpopular and isolating.  For the man or woman who lives today in places hostile to the Gospel, acknowledging Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life is equally unpopular and isolating, even life threatening.

The death of Jesus happened outside the camp of anything having to do with Judaism.  It was not in the city center of Jerusalem; nor was it in the confines of any temple.  The message for anyone then, or now, is clear.  Salvation is about Jesus alone.  It is stepping outside any religious boxes to encounter Him, face to face, at the foot of the cross.

We have grown up in a time when has been easy in the United States to trust Christ.  Within the camp of an evangelistic crusade, someone walks forward as ‘one of many’.  People receive and congratulate them at the front.  How many might go forward for the joy of being affirmed?  Some, indeed.  And in the comfort of the church which can be ingrown, we live and enjoy its community without an awareness that we have embraced Christ at risk of public shame and humiliation.  Jesus went outside the city – bearing his reproach.  To become His disciple, I must also forfeit the expectation of applause and comfort and step outside my city gates.  Out into the open.  Out into the open wilderness where watching eyes that are not always friendly can see me declare my allegiance.

For everyone who has come to Jesus and left religion, family, and friends to do so, Jesus has received you outside the camp.  Your reproach, He understands.  The danger, He has faced.  The abandonment of close friends, He sustained.  But, For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2   This is the pathway for passing from death to live.  “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me.”  Psalm 23

Oh Jesus, the joy of inclusion into Your Kingdom and into Your arms, eclipses whatever I have had, or will be called to sacrifice.  Amen