God’s Promise


2 Chronicles 11-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He rewards those who seek Him and obey His commandments

As parents, we’ve always been told that praises and rewards given to our children should outnumber our scolding and disciplines, and of course, this is worthy advice.  However, sometimes these precious little ones go through stages where we wait with great anticipation throughout the day for just one behavior or attitude to praise.  We don’t want to discourage our children with our constant disciplines.  We want them to know that we love them and that we’re on their side, and we look for every opportunity to bless them and reward their good behavior.  And we need to understand that God feels the same way about His children.

In our reading today, the kings of Judah gave God reason to bless them on occasion, and no doubt God was looking for every opportunity to bless His children.  They were His special treasure, and He loved them, but just as with our children, He often had to wait for an opportunity to reward.  When Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and his leaders humbled themselves while under Egypt’s attack, God did not allow Egypt to kill them.  He had been waiting for an opportunity to bless.  Unfortunately, Rehoboam’s moments of surrender to God were few and far between and so were his blessings.

Abijah, his son, experienced a great moment of God’s protection and blessing while under the attack by the northern tribes of Israel when he proclaimed, “But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not abandoned Him,” (13:10) and God gave them victory.  But, we learned in I Kings 15 that Abijah was most often unfaithful to the Lord.

The next king was Asa who did what was pleasing to the Lord for the first ten years of his reign.  He responded to the prophet Azariah and removed idol worship from Judah and repaired the altar of the Lord.  God was waiting to bless, and He wasn’t disappointed.

King Asa and the people of Judah entered a covenant with God to “seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul…They earnestly sought after God, and they found Him.  And the Lord gave them rest from their enemies on every side.” (15:12,15)  Hebrews offers this promise to us, “Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek him.”(11:6)

There’s something to be said about seeking to do what God is already blessing rather than only asking Him to bless what we are doing.  When our children act on our desire that their rooms are clean and orderly and go about cleaning them on their own volition, a reward and words of praise are pretty much a slam dunk.

Jesus gave us a heads up about what we can do that He is already blessing, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him…God blesses those who mourn…God blesses those who are humble…God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice…God blesses those who are merciful…God blesses those whose hearts are pure…God blesses those who work for peace…God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right.” (Matthew 5:3-10)   Blessings to you as you sincerely seek Him!

Moving Forward:  I pray I’ll give Him plenty of opportunities to bless today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 117-118

Acts 1-2 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He has promised us a gift, and He keeps His promises! 

The check is in the mail, the package is on its way, or any similar promise will send us running to the mailbox each day until it arrives.  I was working on a project one time and needed additional resources, so I contacted an individual with the information and heard the promise, “It’s in the mail.”  After several days, I realized that it wasn’t.  Quite upset by this, random thoughts flooded my mind about the possible hazards in starting one’s car or 1000 camels, but then who hasn’t failed at one time or another to keep a promise?  Well, the answer to that would be God – He always keeps His promises!

@Acts 1 – It’s in the mail!
“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.  John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (4)  Jesus reminded the disciples before He left for Heaven that the promised gift would soon arrive.  I think Luke, the writer of Acts, was the perfect believer chosen to give us the historical account of Pentecost and the early church.  As a doctor, his writing may not have been very legible to those who had to transcribe his words, but he sure did manage to present a methodical and descriptive accounting of the early church. He let readers know from the start that this baptism in the Holy Spirit was not some fluke.  It was promised by God, and it was expected!

Jesus went on to explain what this Holy Spirit baptism was all about, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”(8) Power!  The disciples would be receiving power, taken from the Greek word dunamis where we get our word dynamite.  I, for one, am hesitant to receive a gift of dynamite, but if it’s coming from the Holy Ghost, bring it on!  The baptism of the Holy Spirit is explosive power, empowering us to be an unstoppable force, obliterating darkness around the world and spreading the light of the Gospel.  Have we used our dynamite power today? 

@Acts 2 – Promise Delivered!
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (1-4)  God’s promised gift was delivered!  The power of the Holy Spirit was the gift and speaking in other tongues was the evidence that the gift had been delivered, the Delivery Confirmation if you will.

The Holy Spirit plays so many roles in our life – convicter, comforter, counselor and teacher – just to name a few, but in Acts 2, He is our baptizer. Has your Gift been delivered – with your Delivery Confirmation?

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful to have received God’s promised gift long ago, but I’m reminded that it’s not a gift to be placed on a shelf.  It’s a powerful gift to be used every day in sharing His Gospel. 

Tomorrow @ Hebrews 5-7

Hebrews 1-4 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because He became flesh, He understands all that we face

Our propensity to judge the behavior of others would be curtailed if  given the opportunity to walk a mile or so in their shoes.  In their shoes, we may come to understand the reason why they do the things they do.  When we’re trying to comfort someone or give direction, we so often hear, “Well, you just don’t understand” or “You just don’t get it,” and many times they are right.  Jesus, on the other hand, gets it all!  He has walked in our shoes and understands anything and everything we are going through. Praise the Lord!

We’re not certain who authored Hebrews, though most believe it was someone who knew or traveled with Paul or even Paul himself, but what a challenge faced the writer!  Most of the Jewish Christians were probably second generation at this point and faced extreme persecution from the Jewish leaders as well as the Roman government.  On top of that, doctrinal error was threatening the church, and it appeared that many were considering returning to Judaism.  The writer of Hebrews had the task of presenting the legitimacy of the risen Lord, the benefits of accepting Him and the lifestyle of one who does.   He, or possibly even an educated she, began with the humanity of Christ and the fact that He walked in our shoes.

“It was necessary for Him to be made in every respect like us, His brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then He could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since He Himself has gone through suffering and testing, He is able to help us when we are being tested.”(2:17-18) Because of His humanity, Jesus is a sympathetic mediator for us to God as our High Priest who goes before God on our behalf.  Jesus understands us, and He’s on our side!

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 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.”(4:15-16)  We might be tempted to say, of course He didn’t sin, He was God and had all of heaven’s resources to help Him.  Well, we’re not God, but we do have all of heaven’s resources to help us stay strong.  “He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (I Corinthians 10:13)  Help is on the way!

The writer of Hebrews went to great lengths to make the point that God, through His Son Jesus, became human and understands all the trials and temptations we face and knows how to provide what we need to endure and conquer.  All we need to do is run, not walk, to His throne and tell Him all about it.  This seems to be the difficult part for us, running from our temptation and trial and running to Him for help.  But when we run to Him, “We will receive His mercy.” He understands our need and does not punish.  Then, “We will find grace to help us.”  He will give us all the help we need at that moment whether we deserve it or not.  What part of that deal did the Jewish believers not like?  It’s beyond me, but then I haven’t walked in their shoes.  Fortunately, He has.

Moving Forward:  How great to know that He understands everything we will face today. Any temptation that comes our way, He’s been there, but did not yield.  Any trial we walk through, He’s been there and came through victoriously.  And He will give us exactly what we need to do the same. 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 25-28

Joel (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He gives His Spirit to the repentant heart

I decided a long time ago that Italian men are farmers at heart.  My grandfather had an exceptional garden and grew much of what the family ate.  He was the only person I know that could grow a peach tree in the cold Minnesota climate. My dad had a great garden with wonderful tomatoes, beans and peppers.  And my husband, Tom, can grow just about anything.  Hence, Italian men are farmers at heart.

Tom loves to take plants that look like they are ready to be discarded and nurse them back to health, and he’s terrific at it.  We one time had a beautiful rosebush, the Dolly Parton, and it was the most fragrant rose I’ve ever smelled.  We came home from a trip and found that it had been attacked by some blight and was on its last…stem.  Tom saw that one little stem seemed to have some life left in it.  Well, he took the frail, devoured plant, cut it down to almost nothing and nourished it from the inside out.  In no time at all, the fragrant rosebush was in full bloom, ready for me to enjoy!  What a guy!  Sometimes it takes some heavy duty pruning and nourishment to bring restoration, and the prophet Joel knew all about that.

Joel prophesied about a blight of locusts that was coming to devour – the judgment of God that was coming to Israel if they did not repent of their sins. Some believe this prophecy told of a literal plague of locust as well as the invading Assyrian and Babylonian armies.  Regardless, a dreadful day was coming for Israel and was aptly described in Joel 1 and 2, “Despair, all you farmers!  Wail, all you vine growers!  Weep, because the wheat and barley—all the crops of the field—are ruined…Come, spend the night in burlap, you ministers of my God.  For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of your God.  Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting.” (1:11,13-14)  Pruning was coming to Israel.

Whether our hearts are distraught over our country, a family crisis, church turmoil or problems in our own lives, we are challenged by the prophet Joel to start with repentance while there is still a little life left in the stem.  “That is why the Lord says, ‘Turn to me now, while there is time.  Give me your hearts.  Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.’”  (2:12-13)  Go to him with a broken spirit and a repentant heart, repenting of any failure or sin. (Psalm 51:17)

Israel could have avoided a lot of pain and devastation had they listened to Joel and to the many other prophets that God sent along their way.  But just as my patient gardener brought life back to a beautiful rosebush, our loving God will take the remnant of any situation, prune it and bring life back to it when it is finally yielded to Him.  Oh, how much better, though, to avoid this painful process through repentance.

“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy.  Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.  In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike.”  (2:28-29)  As with my fragrant rosebush, Israel’s sweet fragrance of communion with the Spirit of God one day would be restored.  Israel experienced it on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, when His Spirit became available to all people.  And we today are all people, too.  Approach Him with a contrite heart and enjoy the beautiful fragrance of His Spirit—prophetic dreams and visions included!

Moving Forward:  I will turn to Him today in any crisis, repent when needed and enjoy the beautiful bouquet of His Spirit. 

Tomorrow @ John 13-15

John 10-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has provided the gateway into His presence

Even though the wonderful relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep expressed in Psalm 23 needs no affirmation, John 10 does just that.  David explained that relationship from the viewpoint of a sheep, and Jesus confirmed it from the viewpoint of the Shepherd.  I can’t help but give pause to John 10.  Here’s an excerpt from Intimate Moments with the Shepherd, Chapter 48, a visual impression from the Lord entitled,“The Gatekeeper.”

Night was advancing across the countryside as the sheep rushed past the Shepherd to the fold, tired and ready for rest.  As the Shepherd approached the fold, He found a bottleneck at the somewhat narrow gate as the sheep pushed and jostled to move through it.  The Shepherd moved to the middle of the gateway and stood, allowing the sheep to pass one by one on either of Him safely into the fold.

Although it would seem that His position at the gate would narrow the passageway even further, it actually brought order and safety to the flock.  As the sheep passed by Him one by one, the Shepherd, knowing each name as He did, was able to see who was there and who was not.

Why not have many gates and avoid all this chaos?  More sheep could enter more quickly and rest would come all the sooner to the weary flock. “‘I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep,’ [Jesus] said.” (John 10:7)  Why is the gate so narrow?  “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)  Why is there only one way into heaven?  Wouldn’t a loving God want everyone there?  “All others who came before me were thieves and robbers.   But the true sheep did not listen to them.  Yes I am the gate.  Those who come through me will be saved.” (John 10:8-9)  “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

None of our questions will change the facts.  The Lord our Shepherd is the only gateway into eternity with God and He was chosen by God to fulfill this role.  God, our creator, overflowing with great love for His lost creation, sent His Son, the only part of Him that our finite minds could ever understand, to be our gateway to Him.  All that is required of us is to accept this Savior and to follow Him to His Father.

Any other gate would be an insult and a mockery of God’s sacrificial gift to us.  “There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.  However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:4-7)  Paul, not known to mince words, laid it out plainly in this passage. An individual who believes someone or something created life other than God may take exception to this declaration.  Unfortunately, eternity will clear that up one day should that mindset continue.

Order was not the only benefit given to the flock by the Shepherd positioned as the gate.  Their Shepherd was a very personal shepherd, and He knew each one by name.  Because of this familiarity, the Shepherd would know immediately if one had failed to pass by Him, and He would search for the missing sheep.

Our God knows us by name, as well.  In fact, His knowledge of us is so personal that He actually has numbered the hairs on our head. (Matthew 10:30)  For those who are hair challenged this may not be such a big deal, but for most of us, it screams intimacy—intimacy with our Creator.  Although He will not force our devotion, He will pursue us and abundantly fill us with His love.  Bless the Gatekeeper!

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful for my intimate relationship with the Shepherd today.  I know Him, and He knows me…intimate moments. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Timothy 3-4

I Chronicles 10-14 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He welcomes us with outstretched arms when we seek Him first above all others

Aspirin is a good thing.  That little tablet of salicylic acid will take away a headache and soothe back pain; but, of course, it will also burn a hole right through a stomach if taken in excess.  I’m thankful for doctors and medicines, and God uses them so very often to bring healing, but when they are what I run to first when I experience sickness or pain, it’s not a good thing.  At the very mention of His name, I have an instant appointment with the Great Physician, something unheard of with any primary care physician to be sure.  The Great Physician knows my diagnosis even before I call Him and has the perfect solution to each and every problem with no troublesome side effects.  So I’m wondering, why would I not call on Him first? 

@ I Chronicles 10
“So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord. He failed to obey the Lord’s command, and he even consulted a medium instead of asking the Lord for guidance. So the Lord killed him and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.” (13-14)  Help! Mercy, mercy, mercy – I’m so thankful for His mercy today through Jesus.  But because I want to bless Him and bring pleasure to Him, I take to heart the valuable lesson I can learn from the life of Saul.

King Saul lived by the motto, “When all else fails, pray!”  Obviously, God did not like it.  This wasn’t a one-time problem with Saul.  We learn through Scripture that it was a pattern he followed throughout most of his reign.  Occasionally, Saul would call on God to help him as in I Samuel 28, but it was always after he had tried doing things his own way.  It’s difficult to understand why an anointed King of Israel would seek out a witch for direction in his life with all of Heaven at his disposal, an army of angels at the very least.  This thought causes me to question who it is that I run to for help in all of life’s challenges.  Is God always my first response?

A while back I was looking for a very important document that I desperately needed.  I searched for one hour and nine minutes in all the places I thought it would be.  Of course, I realize this doesn’t speak well about my filing/secretarial skills.  Finally, at the end of my rope, I cried out, “God, please help me.”  And He did.  No, I didn’t find the document, which I’m certain is resting in some landfill in the area, but He instantly reminded me of where I could find a duplicate.  Problem solved!

“So there at Hebron, David made a covenant before the Lord with all the elders of Israel. And they anointed him king of Israel, just as the Lord had promised through Samuel… And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was with him.” (11:3,9)  I don’t want to be like Saul who asked for God’s help when all else had failed. I want to be like David who made a covenant (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) to follow the Lord in obedience and who sought the Lord at most every turn as we have read throughout Psalms.

Moving Forward:  My motto today is “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)  May He be my first stop in every challenge I face today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 99-101

Numbers 1-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart:  He has promised victory to all who serve in His army

Numbers!  Math was my least favorite subject in school, and I must admit that I approach an entire book entitled Numbers with fear and trepidation.  While the book opens with the numbering, or census, of the Israelites, Numbers is really not so much about math at all but is more so a story about a group of people at the threshold of incredible promise, their response to that promise and God’s undeniable patience with them through it. 

@ Numbers 1
At the opening of Numbers, the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, traveled south to the area around Mt. Sinai and were camped there for almost eleven months. During that time, through His spokesman, God built a nation and established the nation’s purpose by renewing His Abrahamic covenant with Moses.  He set up the nation’s constitution by providing the laws needed to govern.  And most importantly, He gave the guidelines for the construction of the Tabernacle, providing the means He would use to fellowship with His people.  When we think about the time spent in Sinai in light of this agenda, a great deal was accomplished in a very short time.

Now at the beginning of Numbers, God is ready to advance His people to their new home.  He directed Moses to count the men, “A year after Israel’s departure from Egypt, the Lord spoke to Moses in the Tabernacle in the wilderness of Sinai. On the first day of the second month of that year he said, ‘From the whole community of Israel, record the names of all the warriors by their clans and families. List all the men twenty years old or older who are able to go to war.’” (1-3) This directive from the Lord alone must have served as an indication to the Israelites that war was ahead for them.  Moses needed to know how many troops he had for the battles that were ahead, and we should note that this directive did not ask for volunteers.  It was all men over 20, all hands on deck, stand up and be counted and be all that you can be! The army was formed and ready to possess the land!

Similarly, when we give our hearts to the Lord, we automatically become a part of His army, and there isn’t a separate sign-up sheet for active duty.  Just as the enemy of God’s chosen people fought them on every front even before they entered their land, our enemy will fight to keep us from entering the territory God has for us.  If this isn’t the case, why has God provided all our tools for battle in Ephesians 6:13-17?

The Israelite army totaled 603,550, a strong military by any standards, but by the time they reached the battleground, only 2 had survived the journey.  As we read their story over the next several weeks, we will learn how they became casualties on the way to the Promised Land.

We, however, need not be dismayed or discouraged by their outcome because we have reinforcements they did not have in the way that we do, “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness… Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:26,35,37)  And my personal favorite is, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 KJV)

Numbers is more than a census, more than a page in Jewish history.  It paints a picture of God’s patience with us, and on occasion, it also portrays how not to serve in the army of the Lord.  Sometimes He just needs to draw a picture for us… 

Moving Forward:  Suited up according to Ephesians 6 and ready to rumble!

Tomorrow @ 1 Chronicles 5-9

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