Daughters of Promise

I Thought About You The Other Day

February 4, 2019


But somewhere it is testified in these words: “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? Hebrews 2:5-6

A little boy attempted to recite the Lord’s prayer.  He said, “Our Father, who art in heaven, how do you know my name?”  That child had no idea he was capturing the wonder of these verses.  He misquoted the prayer but correctly summarized this direct quotation from Psalm 8.  On a distant hillside, a shepherd boy gazed into the heavens and was awestruck by the privilege of being thought of by God.  All David had to go on were the stories of his ancestors, truths about God from the Torah, and the experience of being part of a nation God called ‘Israel, my glory.’

In 1968, when Apollo 8 circled the moon, the astronauts took turns reading the story of creation.  You might have heard them recite it on archived recordings.  What’s more meaningful than that is when Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon and celebrated communion.  As he did, he read this verse from Psalm 8.  “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?”  It was under radio silence so no one got to hear it.

What does it mean that God is thinking of me today?  Am I a fleeting thought?  Is it like when I run into an old friend and hear them say, “It’s really strange that I would see you today.  Last week, out of the clear blue, I thought of you.”  While that’s slightly meaningful, it’s not life changing.  It’s clear that I was just someone’s stray thought whereas God is preoccupied with me.  With the billions of people on earth, He doesn’t divide His time to think about me for just a split second before moving on to someone else.  He is ever conscious of my every breath, every sigh, every joy, frustration, tears and celebrations.  He is intimately acquainted and eternally committed in Covenant love that He initiated.

On this day, right now, how are you feeling?  Alone, challenged, intimidated, forsaken, perhaps even betrayed?  Savor every word of this love letter.  If it’s familiar, don’t read it on auto pilot.  Take your time.  It’s one of many expressions of love but a perfect one for this moment in time.  Allow the wonder of what it means to belong to God infuse new iron into your foundation.

But now the Lord who created you, says: Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

Isaiah 43

WHEN GUILT SEEMS TOO MUCH TO BEAR

And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!”  Genesis 16:4-5

            This story stings, personally stings.  The implication on our fallen human nature is large.  And here it is.  When I am guilty of something, sometimes I don’t think I can bear it.  To feel better, I give in to the need to transfer the blame.  I lash out at someone else as if the whole matter were their fault.  This is called ‘blame-shifting.’

            So, let me get this right.  God made Sarai and Abram a promise of a child in their old age.  Sarai fainted as time progressed and believed God wasn’t good for it.  She took matters into her own hands and told Abram to sleep with her handmaid so there would be a child for her to hold in her arms.  Abram did what she asked.  When Hagar became pregnant, Sarai lashed out at Hagar, who only did what she was told.  That wasn’t enough.  She then lashed out at Abram.  Who was guilty?  Sarai.  Who dumped all the guilt on others?  Sarai.

            A guilty person rarely bears up under the consequences of their actions.  It is a rare person who is willing to be humbled by the hand of God to suffer quietly for their wrongdoing. There is a season where I am led to submit to God’s discipline for my choices.  The consequences unfold and it seems too much to bear.  Grace is poured out, if I ask, and as I look to God for strength to endure, He gives an additional gift.  Wisdom!  He shows me what it is in me that caved to the pressure to sin.  He reveals each step I took as I approached sin’s threshold.  He shows me the sin from His viewpoint – just how bad it is and what harm it produces.  After a time, he starts shedding light on what redemption looks like.  One step at a time, He leads me out.  As forgiveness and restoration begin to take place, I enter a new layer of wisdom, a firsthand experience of the nature and character of a just and forgiving God.

            I feel led to speak to two people today.

  • If you are suffering for your sin, God doesn’t hate you.  He loves you and whom He loves, He disciplines.  Don’t turn away from Him when you need Him the most.  Don’t lash out at others and believe that if you do, you will benefit.  You won’t.  Not in the long run.  If you believe you can’t bear the guilt, God will pull You close and pour strength into you.  Suffering is only for a season and He will help you.
  • If you are in relationship with a blame-shifter, someone who needs to convince you that you are guilty when you’re not, then realize that the guilt is not yours to bear.  Speak the truth once, put the responsibility on the one to whom it is due, then live in quiet strength before God.  Realize this ~ blame-shifters are drawn to those who will soak in the guilt they love to inflict.  They are persuasive, building a case as to why you are the one who is guilty, when what angers them is their own deep seated sense of failure.  If you keep accepting their blame, you do yourself, and them, a disservice.  They will never feel the need to repent for their sins.

            I do not want to waste the lessons my spiritual ancestors can teach me.  Their stories are rich in wisdom.  I’m making my way slowly through the life of Abram and his family because nothing was captured in words that is not beneficial.

Only You, Lord, can lead me through the minefield of real guilt and false guilt.  Only You can help me suffer patiently for the wrongs I’ve done.  Restoration is mine but only as a reward for accepting Your hand of discipline.  I see there are no shortcuts.  Grace and comfort…you offer.   Amen

Are Confirmations For The Weak?

January 31, 2019


This salvation was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, and was affirmed by God through signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.   Hebrews 2:3-4

How kind God is to His children.  He knows how we are wired and how impaired we are to see and understand spiritual realities because of the fall.  We don’t easily believe things we cannot see.  Kingdom truths are abstract and outside of our human logic.  His thoughts are far from our thoughts.  Faith does not come naturally to us at all so He is gracious to reveal spiritual things creatively and through many people.  Today’s scripture is a good way for me to see how He announces, confirms, and then affirms again in order to build our confidence.

  • Jesus announced that He was the Messiah, that He was God in the flesh.
  • Those who heard Him and believed in Him announced it through personal witness.
  • Then, Jesus confirmed it again through signs, wonders, miracles, and through the display of supernatural gifts He gave to His disciples.

Confidence in God and the assurance that we have heard His voice correctly is important to Him and so very critical to us.  Confirmations are part of this picture.  They are often misunderstood so what is it I’m allowed to ask for in prayer?

It is not wrong to need to hear confirmations about things related to direction. It is not faithless to ask for signs that confirm important decisions. God wants me to get it right.  He promised to be my shepherd and to lead me.  He promised that I would know His voice. He promised that He would plant my steps securely and that I would not stumble.   I think of how many signs God gave His people.  Here are just a few.

God gave the shepherds a sign for how to find baby Jesus.  “You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  He gave the disciples signs about how to find the Upper Room, following a man with a water jug.  He gave Gideon signs with a piece of fleece.  But how does He do it today?  Additional scriptures, His still small voice in prayer, a word from a brother or sister in Christ, a line from a book, circumstantial evidence that has been divinely rearranged, and even in dreams.

Some would warn that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes asked Jesus for a sign but Jesus rebuked them and called them an evil and adulterous generation.  But they wanted signs to make Him prove Himself and His identity.  That’s altogether different.

Asking for confirmations as God’s child is the privilege afforded to those who call God ‘Abba’. The skeptic, however, is inclined to put God to the test by saying, “If You are really who You say You are, prove it!” This is arrogance from the heart of one who really doesn’t want to humble himself to believe.  God does not bend to whims of the unregenerate.

Thank you for every creative way You have spoken to me.  I’m sure I’m missing many cues but continue to teach me all the times You try to speak in unsuspecting ways.  Amen

The Nature Of Neglect

January 30, 2019


For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding and every transgression and disobedience received a just punishment, how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?  It was first spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard HimHebrews 2:2

Once unbelievers have been introduced to the Gospel, they should not neglect the salvation Christ offers.  Why?  Because the very nature of neglect is dangerous.

It is just as dangerous to me.  This scripture was also written to believers, to remind us not to neglect the salvation that is still ours today.  If I only see the cross as what was necessary to make me a follower of Jesus, I will miss the essence of sanctification.  The salvation Jesus offers affects every single day of my life and without the cross as my focus, my sin edges toward becoming a stronghold and my conscience hardens in the process.

Paul said in His letter to the Corinthian church, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I Cor. 1:18   Because Peter was writing mainly to believers, ‘’being saved’ refers to my ongoing salvation from sin. Every single day, I am called to do what God has historically done, separate light from darkness.  It starts in my thought life.  Is it a light thought or dark thought?  I decide to nurture the first and shun the latter, or vice versa.  If I choose light, I call upon the grace of God to save me from allowing my dark thought to lead to action.  This is the daily battle.  This is the fight for faith.

So, what about the nature of neglect?  Whatever I choose to neglect will become easier and easier to avoid.  I think about a chore I’m not looking forward to. “I don’t want to do that today.  I think I’ll save that for another day.”  Guess what!  Tomorrow, it will be even easier to put it off again.  Neglect is a cancer.

It’s never wise to put off dealing with sin but the consequences are dire when it involves a person’s eternal destiny.  The decision about what to do with Jesus is high stakes Russian roulette but quite shockingly, most gamble by assuming they will have tomorrow to think about it.  They don’t realize that, by then, they will probably be repelled by the idea.

What changes to your life has God been asking you to make?  Why have you neglected it?  Knowing that neglect metastasizes, confront it today.  It’s not the time to be stubborn.  The only ones that pay for that are you and me!  We may as well announce, “I’m putting off abundant life for another day.”

Neglect doesn’t mean I’ve gotten away with anything.  Lord, help me see that I’ve already paid dearly for the blessings I’ve missed.  Amen

What Words Do I Cherish?

January 29, 2019


Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  Hebrews 2:1

 Because of everything that was just said in Chapter 1, the author urges, “we must pay closer attention to what we’ve heard.’   The message is this ~ Because Jesus was not an angel..  Because Jesus was God…  Because Jesus created the earth…. Because His story, His words, His death and resurrection are paramount to our faith….let these truths move us from just interesting facts to precious and lifesaving realities.  Whether or not his audience (persecuted Jews) listened and heeded his pleas would make such a difference in how they faced the pressures of being outcasts in society.  With their lives at stake, they really needed to be convinced of everything Jesus said.

Whose words do you value?  What makes them important to you?  Did they come from someone who held a prestigious position, or from someone who had a breadth of experience that made them wise?  Perhaps they came from someone you love ~ someone who was precious to you.  Think of it.  That is why we quote famous people.  That is why we quote the elderly who lived well over a lifetime and why we remember the words of those we love the most.

Then there are someone’s last words. I think we all hope that the people we love will say things they need to say before slipping away, something they know we need to hear or they need to confess.  Someone’s last words are important and always internalized, then tucked away, never to be forgotten.

Reviewing all this, I wonder why I’m not quicker to quote Jesus in conversations. “That reminds me, do you know that Jesus said….” doesn’t come out of my mouth often enough.  Out of all people I reference, shouldn’t His words be among the most quoted?  When I choose to be quiet about someone I profess to hold dear, shouldn’t that make me question my affection or how deeply I am persuaded?

The writer of Hebrews says that we must not let important things about Christ drift away.  The picture is one of a piece of pottery that is not carefully made. Consequently, water slips through the cracks, falls to the ground, and is no longer useful or recoverable.  I’ve had seasons where the Word was spoken and went over my shoulder.  I didn’t grab it and value it enough to make it mine.  I didn’t consider it life-saving to me.  How things have changed.  I’ve gotten very picky about my inner world and what I put inside.  I guess that goes with getting older.  Today, I’m more resolved to remember that I am called, in scripture, ‘an earthen vessel.’  Sounds like pottery.  I must let the Potter fashion it as He wishes so that it is well made and nothing of the kingdom leaks out and is prove useless.

Speak.  I’m listening for gold.  Amen

 

Familiarity

January 28, 2019


And did God ever say to an angel, as he does to his Son, “Sit here beside me in honor until I crush all your enemies beneath your feet”?  Hebrews 1:13

Angels do not rest in the presence of God because they are working for Him.  Jesus, however, sits at the right hand of the Father.  Only He can rest.  Only He can sit in repose in God’s company.

We should never get too comfortable around high authority.

There is a story about a man named Lear who was hired to give Queen Victoria art lessons. Things went well, and Lear started to feel quite at home in the palace. He enjoyed standing in front of the fire, leaning on the hearth and warming himself in a relaxed manner, but every time he did that, one of the Queen’s attendants invited him to look at something on the other side of the room, causing him to move. No one explained it to him, but after a while he got the idea: good manners said it was wrong for a subject to have such a relaxed attitude in the presence of their Queen.

Have God’s children become so comfortable around Jesus that we’ve lost respect for His Kingship?  Sometimes, yes.  The balance between intimacy and deference must be preserved.  So, it is imperative that I keep company with believers who are intimate with Jesus, who appreciate that the veil in the temple was torn so that we could draw close to God.  But it is also imperative that intimacy never replace awe so I must also keep company with believers who are hushed by God’s mercy and their own sinfulness.  Intimacy should not take the privilege of proximity for granted.

Being a musician, I want to address worship and liturgy.  Praise and worship is multi-faceted.  Contemporary worship songs accentuate and foster intimacy.  Hymns from our spiritual ancestors accentuate and foster respect.  Liturgy, as in reciting the Nicene Creed, brings a weightiness to our view of God and accentuates and fosters humility. Liturgy reminds us that God is the God of heaven and earth and He is beyond our comprehension.  That kills narcissism.  I was made to worship someone else, not myself.

When I worship correctly, my heart is satisfied, and I am saved from self.  I kneel in respect when in the Throne Room and rest confidently when I’m tucked under His wings.

I draw close to You Jesus but begin on my knees.  Amen

Walk The Trail of Thought

January 25, 2019


You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”  Hebrews 1:10-12

Yes, these verses are beautiful in just their poetry.  Songs have been written from them and Fernando Ortega’s is my favorite.  But the deep beauty and power of this passage lies behind the words. It’s all in the implications of how the writer reached back to quote a Psalm.

Here’s how the history of it unfolds.  Hang with it till the end to join me in finding gold.

  1. The writer of Hebrews spent this chapter talking about Jesus and how much more excellent He is than angels. The topic is Jesus.
  2. To put spiritual dynamite behind his point, He reaches back to quote this section of Psalm 102, a Psalm about God in the power of creation.
  3. Perhaps he has stopped talking about Jesus and started talking about God.
  4. No! He’s continued to talk about Jesus by saying that it is ‘He’ who laid the foundation of the earth.
  5. The point ~ He takes a Jewish text from the Old Testament, a passage about God and one the Jews are familiar with, and by inference – inserts Jesus’ name into it. He wants there to be no mistake about the point he attempts to make. Jesus is God.  God is Jesus.  No angel’s name belongs in these verses!
  6. Since all scripture is God-breathed, God used the writer of Hebrews to give us the true identity of Jesus. While it was announced throughout the Gospels, it has new significance when a book written to the Jews, by a Jew, quotes a Jewish text to describe Jesus Christ.

He is God.  No mere angel.

No angel ever laid the foundation of the earth.  They are creatures, not creators.

No angel can claim the heavens as the work of their hands.  They have not fashioned anything.

No angel can declare himself eternal.  He exists by permission of his Creator.

No angel can roll up the heavens like a garment.  Their power is conferred, not self-generated.

Jesus, You are worthy of my worship. You are to be exalted.  You are God and Your name is above all other names. Hallelujah.