God’s Promise


Deuteronomy 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards those who obey His commandments

Parents have been using the whole naughty or nice list of Santa’s for a long time to exact obedience and good behavior from their children for a few weeks leading up to Christmas.  I haven’t met anyone who was emotionally scarred for life after learning all this good behavior was for an imaginary figure that existed in the minds of conniving parents, but I guess the potential is there.

As a parent, I always believed in rewarding good behavior and punishing disobedience, but many today have a different viewpoint.  Some think that punishment is too degrading and that rewarding some children and not others may cause a lack of self-esteem in those unrewarded. The thought of raising a generation of children who do not understand that there are consequences that will follow their actions is frightening to me.  Our scripture today leaves no doubt in my mind that God is all over the idea of rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience. 

@ Deuteronomy 28
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” (1)  As Israel stood at the gateway of promise into the land of their dreams, God put before them a challenge.   Tucked in between many curses that would result from disobedience to God’s law are 14 incredible verses of blessing for the nation of Israel if they would keep His commandments.  Rewards and punishments.

Moses went on to declare blessings over towns, fields, children, crops, herds, and flocks.  God would conquer their enemies and fill their storehouses with prosperity.  They would be powerful and respected among the nations.  All this would be theirs if they obeyed God’s commandments.  “If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.” (13-14)  But isn’t that exactly what the nation of Israel did!  They threw away the promise of all these rewards for the worship of other gods.  Because of their disobedience, they eventually lost their nation and freedom to Babylon.

The rewards and curses of Deuteronomy 28 are relevant to all lives and nations.  I believe we have come dangerously close to throwing away the blessing of the Lord through our worship of other gods. May we learn from the mistakes that Israel made.  As New Testament people, even more is at stake. “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)  God’s rewards for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and obey His commandments are more numerous than this blog could contain.

Consider Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Jesus said, speaking of His followers, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:10-11)  And one day we will experience His reward of eternal life, “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)

Excessive joy, provision, God’s continual love, abundant life and countless other rewards here on earth and then eternal life in Heaven!  I don’t know, I just can’t think of any desire or disobedient act that is worth the risk of losing any of it.  I want all the rewards that come with my obedience to God’s commandments.  God’s nice list, if you will, the list of the redeemed, is the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that’s the list I want to be on! 

Moving Forward: I’m looking forward to walking in His blessing and reward today, obeying His commands and listening to His voice. 

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 10-13

I John 4-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: God is love

My husband performs a beautiful wedding ceremony for young couples.  What I enjoy most about it is his challenge to the bride and groom about the kind of love on which they should base their marriage.  The English language has one word for love.  We love each other, we love chocolate, and we love sports.  Many other languages have several words that differentiate the type of affection being expressed.

In his wedding ceremony, Tom explains the four Greek words for love and how they apply to a marriage.  Eros is a sensual or passionate love and is conditional on how someone makes us feelPhileo is a friendship love and is contingent on similarity in interests or direction.  Storgē is the love shared within a family based on the family ties.  While these forms of love are valid, they are all conditional on something, and when the conditions no longer exist, so often neither does the love. 

Agape is unconditional, supernatural love that exists regardless of flaws and weaknesses in others, regardless of affection, regardless of love offered in return.  This love is higher and more perfect than any love that man can achieve by himself.  This love is God’s pure, selfless unaffected love, and John writes all about it today. 

@ I John 4
“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (9-10)  In verses 7-21, John expressed the agape form of love 27 times, and knowing this helps us to understand that the love John is talking about is not love that we can achieve through our own desire or works.  We need God’s help.

“God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” (16-18)  As we follow the Lord and become more like Him, our love becomes more like His – pure, selfless and unaffected by the behavior of others.  It was God’s love that allowed Jesus and Stephen to forgive those who were killing them.  We won’t live with a fear of man, with fear of the future or with fear of judgment when we are filled with God’s agape.

The more we know Him and surrender every part of our life to Him, the more our human love changes to His perfect love, “our love grows more perfect.”  It is through His perfect love that we are able to love others with the pure, selfless love of I Corinthians 13, not only in marriage but in all of our relationships.  “We love each other because He first loved us.” (19)  If we want to know how to love others, love others the way He loves us!

Moving Forward:  May I grow closer to His perfect love today and reflect His love to all those I meet. 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 23-25

Malachi 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He came to heal our hearts and open the door to eternal life with Him

“Mommy, I feel so clean inside.”  As a three-year-old, I really didn’t understand all that had taken place in my life the day I asked Jesus to cleanse me from my sin.  I’m not sure how dark and deep my sins could have been at such a young age, but I remember the cleansing, the warmth, and wholeness that came deep within me that morning.  I still feel it today, and there’s just nothing else like it!  Our prophet today, Malachi, ended the Old Testament with encouragement about One who was coming to bring cleansing, warmth, and wholeness to the lost. 

@ Malachi 4
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.  And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” (2)  In the first three chapters, Malachi had chastised the Israelites for their sins in marrying pagans, robbing God of the tithe and unfaithfulness to the family, but now he came with a message of hope for the future.

Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, was coming to bring healing to their sick hearts, and the freedom they would experience would send their hearts leaping for joy.  The sun can be a destructive fire or a warm glow to our lives, but those who would turn to God would feel the cleansing, the warmth from the Son of righteousness and complete wholeness.  There would be nothing else like it!

“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.  His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.” (5)  God was giving the Jews a heads up on how they could recognize the Sun of Righteousness.  There would be a prophet, a forerunner, who would announce the arrival of the Messiah as foretold by Isaiah, “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’ This messenger was John the Baptist.” (Mark 1:2-4) With such a clear marker, I’ve never understood how they missed Him.

“Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  But then Malachi ended his message and the Old Testament with a curse.  On judgment day, those who have not asked Jesus to cleanse them from their sins will be judged accordingly, and the Sun of Righteousness will be a consuming fire.

Those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, the One who came to destroy the curse, will experience His grace, cleansing and the warmth from the Sun of Righteousness. The redeemed will no longer be cursed but will experience the blessing from the final words of the New Testament in Revelation 22:21, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.”  Thank you, Jesus, for coming and removing the curse, making us clean inside. Thank you for opening the door to eternal life with you.  I feel the warmth.

Moving Forward:  I’m blessed beyond measure today because of the Son of righteousness, Jesus, and the promise of eternal life He has brought to me.  I move through this Christmas Season with a grateful heart for what it truly means to celebrate His birth. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 19-20

Zechariah 8-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is the God who does the impossible

One of the highlights of my life to date was a trip I took several years ago to visit the Holy Land.  It was a thrill to look out across the Sea of Galilee and imagine Jesus viewing the same scene so many years ago, to walk the streets of Jerusalem where He walked and visit the Garden of Gethsemane stained by His tears.  At the Wailing Wall, I felt as though I heard the prayers of God’s people through the ages, prayers for peace and safety.  Will it come? 

@Zechariah 8
Returning to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon, the Israelites saw utter devastation to their beautiful city and Temple.  The controlling forces in Jerusalem had no desire to see Jerusalem rebuilt by the Jews, but God’s people rebuilt their Temple by the Spirit of the Lord (4:6).  Now their prophet gave a declaration from the lord, “I am returning to Mount Zion, and I will live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City; the mountain of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will be called the Holy Mountain.’  This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: ‘Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares.  And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play.’” (3-5)

These words were difficult to accept because of the dismal reputation that Israel had in the eyes of its neighbors.  Zechariah was a great Messianic and end-times prophet and the words that he shared from God will come true.  Throughout the ages, God enabled the Jews time and again to return to their Jerusalem, but because of their rejection of Him as in the day of Zechariah, they had been scattered throughout the world.

In 1948, Israel was once again recognized as a nation before the eyes of the world, and just as in the past, their neighbors did not accept them.  Zechariah continued the message that has carried Israel through these many years of turmoil, “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: All this may seem impossible to you now, a small remnant of God’s people. But is it impossible for me? says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (6)  Nothing speaks more clearly of God performing the impossible for Israel than does the six-day war of June 1967, where Israel fought against countries much larger and better equipped, yet came out the victors.

One day the prophecy of Zechariah will come to pass and the Lord will return to Mount Zion and live in Jerusalem.  Until that day, those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior have been grafted into the vine as His chosen people and can claim His promises to Israel as well.  Circumstances that seem impossible to us now – our healing, a job, our unsaved loved ones, or whatever it is – must respond to the question from the Lord, “Is it impossible for me?”   Israel is our example of how the hand of God moves in the impossible areas of our lives.  “With God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) 

Moving Forward: Believing today for the impossible things in my life to be touched by the God of possibility.

Tomorrow @ Acts 17-18

Deuteronomy 13-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  When we honor Him with our tithe, He blesses us beyond measure

We enjoy honoring our friends for their birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new births, graduations – the list seems endless.  These celebrations are little respites for each of us from our day-to-day lives as we are honored with cards and gifts.  I love finding just the perfect gift for a friend, something that shows that I have taken time and effort to give honor.  When I run into a store for a birthday card, my husband knows it is anything but a run.  He settles back for a good 15-20 minute wait because I am compelled to find the perfect card to honor my friend.  In the same way, I always want to do my best to bring the most perfect gifts to the Lord to honor and celebrate Him.

@ Deuteronomy 14
“You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.  Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for His name to be honored.” (22-23)  It just makes sense to give our tithe at the designated place where we worship as long as His name is honored there.  I would never take my gift for the friend I am honoring to someone else’s celebration or throw it up in the air and hope it lands somewhere useful.

In Malachi, God cursed the people for neglecting their tithe – help – and instructed them, “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” (Mal3:10) What a promise!  We give our tithe at the storehouse where we’re being fed so that the storehouse, our church, is able to provide all that is needed for the work of the Lord, and in return, we are abundantly blessed.  Well, I’ve tried it, I’ve tested it, and it works!

“Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” (23)  Tithing doesn’t teach us to be afraid of the Lord, but this fear refers to reverence. Just like the gift for a friend, it is our opportunity to show honor and respect for the Lord.  A weekly or monthly tithe is a continual statement to the Lord that we honor Him with our provisions, the resources that keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. Our resources are meaningful and needful to us, yet we honor Him with them.

“Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest…”  (24) And isn’t this the bottom line?  All that we have, our provisions, are from His hand anyway.  Our tithe is our acknowledgment to Him that our income and resources come from His hand of blessing.

My tithe, my tenth, is a natural expression for me to show honor to the Lord. It is my continual gift to honor who He is to me and what He has done for me, and I could only bring it to a place of worship where I know He is honored and His work is carried out.  And believe me, in response to my giving, He has opened the windows of heaven for me, and He has blessed!

Moving Forward:  Today I am assured more than ever that I just can’t out-give God.  He always seems to outdo me because that’s just the way He is. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 1-5

I Peter 4-5 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  He will one day reward us with crowns for our faithfulness

“There she is, Miss America. There she is, your ideal……”  What little girl hasn’t dreamed of having that glittering crown placed on her head as she walks the aisle to begin her reign as Miss America?  There’s something about a crown that adds validity to a role.  One time I toured the Treasury of the former rulers of Austria, and let me say, those folks knew how to design a crown.  Extravagant crowns filled with large diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires were beautifully displayed, all behind glass and security.  No doubt the weight of each crown was excruciating, but don’t we love their beauty.  Well, one day we’ll see some crowns that could only be described as priceless. 

@ I Peter 5
“And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches…when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.” (1,4)  The life of a pastor is often difficult with few accolades, but Peter declared a crown of glory and honor that will last forever for those faithful pastors.  How do you put a price on that?

“After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.” (I Thessalonians 2:19)  The crown of rejoicing will be given to those who have led others to the Lord, but I believe seeing them in heaven will be reward enough! Priceless!

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)  This is the crown that marks us as one who loves God, and this is the crown for which we have been waiting.  It is our identity, it is invaluable!

“And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)  For those who are not tied to this world and its riches but looking for the return of Jesus, this crown of righteousness will be given.  More precious than gold!

These are the crowns we will receive from the Lord when He returns for us, and their worth puts all others since the beginning of time to shame.  However, I don’t think we will be displaying them in our heavenly homes or wearing them around heaven.  No, I believe we will follow the example of the 24 elders, “the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne.” (Revelation 4:10)

How could we not give to Him, the One who loves us most, our prized possessions, the treasures we value most?  With all of heaven we will sing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come… You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.” (Revelation 4:8,11) 

Moving Forward: I’m looking for Him today, staying faithful to the end and bringing along as many as I can to heaven with me.  Hoping to adorn Him with many crowns! 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 13-15

Haggai (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His blessings follow our obedience to Him

Many books and movies tell the story of the farmer who plants the seed and then waits for the sun and the rain to bless his efforts and bring about a bountiful crop.  Because he has invested all he has on the seed, his investment is lost if the rain doesn’t come.  The drama of waiting for a dark cloud, even a small one, to form in the sky is heart-wrenching to watch, and sometimes the families are on edge as they struggle with what to do next.  Anytime a blessing from the Lord seems to be withheld from our lives, it gives cause to consider the reason.

“Look at what’s happening to you!  You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:  Look at what’s happening to you.” (Haggai 1:5-7)  The Israelites returned to Jerusalem with the specific instructions to rebuild the temple, but instead, they built their homes and did not work on the temple.

When life is not going well and our efforts seem in vain, it never hurts to examine what’s happening to us and to make sure we are following His plan for us.  God’s love makes Him longsuffering, but He will do what is necessary to get our attention.  When the Israelites realized their disobedience, they turned to the Lord and His gracious response was, “I am with you, says the Lord!” (13)

A drought or dry season in our life may have nothing to do with our willfulness, but it may be a testing time to develop character and prepare us to be used by Him.  I’m sure the 40 years that Moses spent on the backside of the desert caused him to search his heart and question what was happening to him, but God was preparing him for great things.

When our efforts bring little reward and we feel that God’s blessing is not on them, it’s not time to blame Him or to resist Him.  It’s the perfect time to look at what’s happening to us and evaluate our situation.  Are we doing our best to follow His direction for us?  If so, we can be confident that He “causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  His blessings will come in due time.

Our obedience to God brings a promise to our lives like the one given to an obedient Israel after the foundation for the temple was laid, “Think carefully. I am giving you a promise now while the seed is still in the barn. You have not yet harvested your grain, and your grapevines, fig trees, pomegranates, and olive trees have not yet produced their crops. But from this day onward I will bless you.”  (2:18-19)  Regardless of how it comes or when it comes, obedience brings the blessing of the Lord to our lives. 

Moving Forward: I am certain of His blessings in due time as I walk in obedience to Him. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 13-14

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