The Queen of Countdowns

 

A little reminder from a few years ago when my “baby” girl was 7.  A countdown to summer is on our minds again!

“Mom, I’m only about 9 years away from getting my driver’s license and when I do, Andrew will be 12.”

This is what my baby girl yelled up at me from the back of the minivan yesterday.

Yes, the baby girl who is celebrating her seventh birthday this morning is already calculating the countdown to her driver’s license.

Way to make your mom’s heart skip a few beats.

This week, while her older sisters were away at summer camp, she also calculated how long it might be before she got a job.

Then she decided she wants to head off to summer camp next year and counted off how many months it would be until she could register.

My Catherine is the queen of the countdown.  She is forever calculating the time between now and the next dream-come-true.

On the first day of summer vacation, we presented my daughters with a wrapped gift.  Inside, we included a picture frame displaying an image:  Mickey Mouse ears with the words:  “Days Until Disney:  ___.”

Everyone was excited, but it’s my baby girl who became the official keeper of the countdown.  She’s faithful and focused.  Every morning, she pads out of her room still yawning and heads straight for the Mickey Mouse picture.  She uses the dry erase marker to alter the numbers.  One more day down.  One less day to the dream-come-true.

This isn’t quite the same as my goal-setting older daughter, the girl who sets tasks and accomplishes them.  My older girl is all about pushing herself to personal achievement.  She makes schedules, checklists, and charts and sticks to them until she’s raced across another finish line.

But this is different. This isn’t self-discipline and it’s not about achieving or doing in any way.

My baby girl loves countdowns because they allow her to throw down anchors of hope in the midst of the everyday.

And she enjoys today completely because she knows that another good day is coming: The day when it’s her birthday.  The day when she has that playdate with her dear friend.  The day when we pack the minivan and head to Florida.  The day when her sisters come home from summer camp.

They’re all good days and they’re all coming.

So, today she can relax, kick back her feet and enjoy it all.  It’s all part of the journey from here to the promised land, and the view is just fine.

This is the natural inclination of her heart; she overflows with joy  and she bubbles up with gratitude for all the gifts of every day.

Maybe it’s not the natural leaning in my own soul, but I take it to heart and I pray I can be more like this seven-year-old girl—this daughter who was so excited to spend a week of “alone time” while her big sisters were away at camp and who is equally excited to see them come home again.  It’s all good with her.

I can learn, this too.

I can learn how to throw down anchors of hope in the middle of the beautiful, and the everyday, and the seemingly hopeless situations.  All of them.

In Acts 27, Paul was headed on a ship to Rome that was caught in a tempest in the Adriatic Sea.  The sailors and crew despaired and fretted.

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight (Acts 27:29 ESV).

Stormy seas.  Threatening rocks.  The possibility of shipwreck.  The appearance of disaster.

Surely we’ve all been there.  Maybe we are there.  Maybe we’ll be there someday.

And right in the middle of the season that seems forever or the situation that seems like it can’t possibly get better, not ever–right then is when we “drop anchor…and pray for daylight.”

Throw down the anchors, the truths we know that will clamp us to the rocky foundation of faith, and watch for God’s deliverance.

God is faithful. 

He will not abandon us.

He has a plan.

He will be glorified.

He is sovereign and He is able.

Scripture tells us:

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain (Hebrews 6:19 ESV).

The Message paraphrase says it this way:

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God (Hebrews 6:18-20 MSG).

Grab on to hope with both of your hands and don’t let go.

That anchor that you toss down–that future promise, that assurance of deliverance–reaches right to the presence of God.

Bible Verses about God’s Faithfulness

  • Exodus 34:6 NIV
    And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
  • Deuteronomy 7:9 ESV
    Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
  • Deuteronomy 32:4 ESV
    He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
        and all his ways are just.
    A faithful God who does no wrong,
        upright and just is he.
  • Psalm 36:5 ESV
    Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
        your faithfulness to the clouds.
  • Psalm 40:10 NIV
    I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
        I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
    I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
        from the great assembly.
  • Psalm 86:15 ESV
    But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
        slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
  • Psalm 89:1-2 NIV
    I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
        with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
        through all generations.
    I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
        that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
  • Psalm 91:4 NIV
    He will cover you with his feathers,
        and under his wings you will find refuge;
        his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
  • Psalm 100:4-5 NIV
    Enter his gates with thanksgiving
        and his courts with praise;
        give thanks to him and praise his name.
    For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
        his faithfulness continues through all generations.
  • Psalm 111:7-8 NIV
    The works of his hands are faithful and just;
        all his precepts are trustworthy.
    They are established for ever and ever,
        enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
  • Psalm 119:90 ESV
    Your faithfulness endures to all generations;
        you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
  • Psalm 89:8 ESV
    Lord God of hosts,
        who is mighty as you are, O Lord,
        with your faithfulness all around you?
  • Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
    The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness.
  • Romans 3:3 ESV
    What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
  • 1 Corinthians 1:9 ESV
    God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
    No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful,and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:3 ESV
    But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
  • 2 Timothy 2:13 NIV
    if we are faithless,
        he remains faithful,
        for he cannot disown himself.
  • Hebrews 10:23 ESV
    Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
  • 1 John 1:9 NIV
    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins  and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Bible Verses about God Fulfilling His Promises

Here are verses to remind us that God fulfills His promises, He completes His work, and He does not abandon His plans for us.

  • Joshua 21:45 NIV
    Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
  • Joshua 23:14 NIV
    “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.
  • Proverbs 13:12 NIV
  • Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
        but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
  • Proverbs 13:19 NIV
    A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil.
  • Jeremiah 1:12 NIV
    The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
  • Lamentations 2:17a NIV
    The Lord has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago…
  • Ezekiel 12:28 NIV
    “Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: None of my words will be delayed any longer; whatever I say will be fulfilled, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”
  • Luke 1:38 NIV
    “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
  • Luke 1:45 NET
    And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.
  • Philippians 1:6 NIV
    being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

20 Bible Verses for the days you are discouraged

verses-for-the-discouraged

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV
    Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
  • Joshua 1:9 ESV
     Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • 2 Chronicles 15:7 ESV
    But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
  • Psalm 27:14 ESV
    Wait for the Lord;
        be strong, and let your heart take courage;
        wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 31:24 ESV
    Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
        all you who wait for the Lord!
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 42:11 ESV
    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my salvation and my God.
  • Psalm 55:22 ESV
    Cast your burden on the Lord,
        and he will sustain you;
    he will never permit
        the righteous to be moved
  • Psalm 94:14 ESV
    For the Lord will not forsake his people;
        he will not abandon his heritage;
  • Isaiah 40:31 ESV
    but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
        they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
    they shall run and not be weary;
        they shall walk and not faint.
  • Isaiah 41:10 ESV
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Matthew 11:28 ESV
    Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
  • John 16:33 ESV
    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  • Romans 12:12 ESV
    Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Romans 15:4 ESV
    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV
    We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
  • Galatians 6:9 ESV
    And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
  • Colossians 3:23-25 ESV
    Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
  • Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
    Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Living With the Tension

I sing to my children, “Jesus loves me, this is I know….” and “Jesus loves the little children.”

Jesus is love.  That’s the message in the melody.

I sing (more like chant): “God is so big, so strong and so mighty! There’s nothing my God cannot do.”

And there it is, the lesson of God’s greatness, His majesty and power.

I sing again: “God is so good….God is so good….God is so good, He’s so good to me.”

His goodness, His grace, His might, His love.  I sing them as lessons, I read them on the pages of Bible storybooks and bedtime devotionals and my kids soak these in, the stepping stones of theology and doctrine.

Somehow kids can take all this in, the vast array of God’s character, the completeness of who He is, and accept it without conflict or contradiction or competition.

But we age so often into adult extremists, wanting to shove God into ill-fitting categories, taking stands along divisive theological battle-lines, innocently enough most of the time.  We don’t realize it usually.  Generations swing wide from one dangerous cliff to another, rarely achieving the balance, and we swing along with them.

We’re rarely comfortable with the tension implicit in God’s character.

But this is who God is: Perfect, living as the only One who can balance the holy tension between the extremes in this spiritual tug-of-war.  Labels don’t fit Him.  Our pat explanations don’t always work.  Our well-reasoned arguments fall short.

In our churches, we see this.  In our Christian books and our favorite pastors, we assume allegiances just like the early church declaring, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos” (1 Corinthians 3:4 NIV), more comfortable following humans than following our enigmatic God.

In the past, we proclaimed the importance of righteousness and living holy lives, digging ourselves into trenches of legalism and creating a Christianity more focused on moral expectations than salvation.

Now, we praise brokenness, moving past the healthiness of confession and vulnerable living, setting ourselves up all comfortable and cozy with sin–because we’re forgiven, after all.  And sin is sin and we’re already saved, so why bother reaching for holiness?

We used to drag people to the front of a sanctuary to say the sinner’s prayer and voila, pronounce them saved for all eternity.

But we’ve moved away from “cheap grace” without discipleship or fruit or revolution and now we’re “fruit” judges, examining people’s finances and the size of their homes and the cost of their shoes to determine if they’re radically committed enough to make it into heaven.

We preach messages of encouragement to one another, reminding burnt out, hard-working Christian servants that God loves us for who we are, not what we do.  We don’t need to perform for Him, don’t need to DO anything to earn His affection or merit forgiveness.

Then we tell them the church needs workers and salvation displays itself through service and how are you working for the Lord?

We categorize God into Old Testament ogre of divine retribution and New Testament Savior offering grace.

Which is God?  What is true?

Does God desire righteousness or brokenness?psalm108

Does He save us by grace alone or should our faith work itself out with fear and trembling?

Does God love us regardless of how we perform or does He want us to be working for Him?

Is God holy, just, big, good, and pure?  Or is He gracious, forgiving, all-loving, and compassionate?

Yes.

Not either/or, one or the other, this or that.

But yes and amen.

God is perfectly able to inhabit this place of holy tension.

In our faith, we “become like little children” (Matthew 18:3 NIV), simply trusting Him, accepting the truths without turning them into combat zones.

Our God is holy and gracious, just and compassionate, saving us because of His grace and calling us to serve.

We return to Scripture and see that even in the Old Testament, God is characterized by grace.  He enacted a long-established plan to save us; it wasn’t an invention of the Gospel writers of the New Testament.

Because of His great love for His people Israel, He disciplined them with captivity.  Yes, even in discipline there is love.

Jeremiah the prophet declares:

“It will be a time of trouble for my people Israel. Yet in the end they will be saved!” (Jeremiah 30:7 NLT)

and he reminds them of God’s promise:

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love.  With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3).

The prophet spoke of punishment and grace, captivity with the promise of freedom, destruction with the assurance of future restoration and hope.

Because this is who God is, this is His perfection, this His greatness that is beyond our capacity to understand—but that we worship.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Hot Enough For You?

One night years ago my daughters discovered popcorn.

At first, we did our popping in microwavable bags, but we soon switched to a popcorn popper.  On that first exciting day when I pulled the contraption out of the cabinet and set it on the counter, the girls stood on stools so they could watch what would happen.  The kernels tumbled into the popper and I plugged it in.  One daughter covered her ears with her hands and the other shouted, “What’s going to happen?” over the roar of the machine.

And then that first kernel popped.  They squealed in surprise!  And then more kernels began popping in quick succession until there was a constant stream of fluffy white popcorn pouring down the shoot and into the bowl.

The girls danced, laughed and shouted and kept calling our attention to the popcorn as if we’d never seen such a magic trick.  My husband and I watched the girls more than the popcorn; their excitement was joy-giving.

It does seem like magic.  Dump into an inauspicious machine a hard, dried up tiny little crackle of corn and with heat, it transforms into a new texture, color, shape, consistency and taste.  Who would have ever thought looking at the original kernel that the wonders of popcorn lie within?

Likewise, who would look at us much of the time and fully realize all that God has placed in our hearts and all that He has planned for our lives?  Others might see a brittle surface with no flavor.  We might look useless or dried up.  We might simply look un-fun and plain old ordinary.

Yet, God is the Master of transformations.  Although He sees us and fully knows who we are in this moment, He also always sees what we can become.  And He’s willing to turn up the heat to change us.

Because heat is what it takes to break us down, cracking our exterior and softening our insides so that we’re receptive and usable.

To the untrained popcorn popper, it might seem like waste, like the Master is burning His kernels over the flame and they’ll be ruined and tossed aside.  Or that this process is pointless and no good will come from the heat; nothing will ever change.

God, however, never takes us through the fire without purpose and never leaves us in the flame a moment longer than necessary to achieve transformation.  He isn’t reckless or thoughtless.  He’s not cruel or forgetful, blind or oblivious.

Paul wrote in Romans:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

Over the years, I’ve read these verses often and just as often shrugged them off as an impossible standard.  “Glory in our suffering?”  Not hardly.  Truth be told, I’m more of a whiner than a perpetual rejoicer.

But as a toughened kernel who’s experienced at least a bit of transformation from my own sessions in the heat, I’m looking at these verses anew.

My commentary says:

This is more than mere Stoic endurance of troubles, even though endurance or steadfastness is the first result in a chain-reaction outgrowth from distress. This is spiritual glorying in afflictions because of having come to know (as in “to know by intuition or perception”) that the end product of this chain reaction (that begins with distress) is hope.

This gives me pause.  Have you really considered how hope fits into this picture?  Perhaps I can begrudgingly endure a trial here or there because some periodic heat produces perseverance and fixes flaws in my character.  But how does that stir up hope?

For the Christian, hope is confident expectation that God will do what He says He will do.  The only way we know that is through experience, the kind of experience that develops perseverance and strengthens our character.  We have hope because we’ve seen God deliver us time and time again and we’re confident that He will never fail.

Paul finishes those verses by telling us “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” In other words, we won’t be disappointed or shamed by unfulfilled promises.  The commentary continues:

“The reality of God’s love in a believer’s heart gives the assurance, even the guarantee, that the believer’s hope in God and His promise of glory is not misplaced and will not fail.”

It all comes down to the reality of God’s love for us.  He loves us enough to know that we’re more than a golden kernel with a tough exterior.  He knows that sometimes it takes heat to reveal, refine and transform, but He also knows just how hot it needs to be and just how long it needs to last.  He’s not out to singe us or blacken us with despair.  He’s lovingly and expertly making us new.

I use The Bible Knowledge Comentary, New Testament Edition, by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Weekend Walk, 08/06/2011

Hiding the Word:

Last week, I started the first half of a set of verses from Psalm 145 and they were a blessing to me.  There were days when it was hard to trust that God would truly keep His promises, and yet Psalm 145:13 says :”The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.

On days that I felt as if I had tripped and fallen or that the weight of stressors and annoyances and my own faults had pushed me hard to the ground, I recalled Psalm 145:14: “The LORD upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”

And in those moments when I calculated bank balance versus upcoming expenses, I remembered Psalm 145:15-16: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

This was a powerful set of verses for me.  So, on to the second half for this week:

The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
Psalm 145:17-19

Those are the verses that will be posted up on my stove and bathroom and in my journal for me to meditate on and memorize throughout the week ahead.

What verse(s) will you be learning?  Please share!

Weekend Rerun:
How He Loves Us, originally published 02/17/2011

If you ever see me driving down the road in my minivan and I’m clearly singing my heart out and maybe even have one hand up in the air (the other hand obviously on the wheel), I’m going to tell you right now what I’m doing because it could only be one thing.  I’m singing How He Loves with David Crowder, probably for the fifth time in a row off my iPod.  (I know this song was originally by John Mark McMillan, but I’m a huge David Crowder fan, so I’m biased to his version.)

Anyway, if you haven’t heard this song, feel free to stop reading for a moment and give it a listen here.  Go ahead, give it a listen.  I am going to stop writing and listen to it again, too.

Now, don’t you love that song?  It’s just not possible for me to write about God’s love without the song How He Loves playing through my thoughts.

I love the reminder in this song of the powerful simplicity in this truth: He loves us.  Sometimes I need to hear that over and over and be reminded of the magnitude and weight of His love.   It’s especially true when my circumstances are difficult and I feel like I’m sinking.  As the song reminds me, “If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”—-not drowning in our circumstances, but enveloped by His grace.

When I take the time to truly meditate on God’s amazing love for me, I am changed.  My focus is shifted off of my failures or fears or what-ifs and fixed instead on His love.  Again, as the song says, “I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about the way that He loves us.”  It’s pretty difficult to meditate on God’s great love and be afraid or paralyzed by our past mistakes at the same time.

I wonder how my everyday life would change if I walked around fully aware of God’s love all the time.  All my self-condemnation would cease.  My worries would end because I’d know God loves me enough to care for me and not to abandon me.  I would love others more unconditionally because of the grace I myself have received.  I wouldn’t question God’s plans for me because I’d trust His love.

My life would be transformed.

Paul reminds us that our life changes when we live in the knowledge of God’s love for us:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledgethat you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19

The Message translates verse 19 this way: “Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

Amazingly, we’ve done nothing to earn this love and we can do nothing to end it.  Paul writes in Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He loved us in our sin, with all of our mistakes and failures, with our lack of trust and our self-focused lives.  He loved us when we didn’t have anything to offer in return.

Life is sometimes exhilarating and sometimes frightening.  I cannot explain why we go through difficult times and why life is so hard.  But I do know that:

God sees you. He hasn’t lost you in the midst of your circumstances.  He knows your hurt and pain, as well as your joy and excitement, and He wants to walk with you at all times.

God is big enough to save you. He is mighty and powerful and has your world in His hands.

God loves you with a lavish, unconditional, and unchanging love. The Psalmist tells us God isn’t just a powerful being who doesn’t care about us.  In Psalm 62:11-12, it says,  “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:  that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.”

Rest in this today—He loves you.  Oh, how He loves you.

Book Review:

And a bonus for you this weekend!  If you click on the Bookshelf tab on this blog, you’ll see some of the books and studies I’ve been reading this year with some brief comments about each one and a link to more information about them.  There are some great reads on that list!  But, every once in a while I’m going to pop in a quick book review for you to enjoy here on the weekend page.

This past week, I picked up Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, with no idea what to expect.  She’s one of the new speakers to the Women of Faith team and in just a few weeks, I’ll get to hear her speak.  After reading this book, I’m even more excited about that opportunity.

First off, she’s a riot.  We might type LOL in Facebook all the time, but how often do we actually read something that makes us laugh out loud?  Lisa Harper’s book did that for me.  She’s genuine and authentic with a knack for storytelling and an engaging wit.  Each chapter moved so quickly, I read the book in about a day.

That doesn’t mean what she said had no weight to it.  Lisa adeptly moves from funny to thought-provoking.  It’s a book I’d like to read again more slowly as a daily devotional or as a small group to really consider each of her points.  And she touches on so many big-deal issues for women in this book—things like handling disappointment, feeling loved, loving others, showing grace and receiving grace, and developing a heart of gratitude.  Her small group/personal reflection questions at the end of the chapter are what really could push this book from a basic overview of grace to a deeper consideration of each topic.

The bottom line is that we’re not perfect and we’re all stumbling a little into God’s grace, tripping over one untied shoelace after another.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

True Confessions of a Promise-Breaker

Welcome to Friday’s post!  If you’re doing the Online Bible Study with us and you haven’t posted yet for this week, I hope you’ll take the time to click over and share your thoughts about Chapters 7 & 8.  Week 5 starts on Monday!

True Confessions of a Promise-Breaker

“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”
Numbers 23:19

Hi.  My name is Heather.  And I broke a promise to my daughter.

Let me explain.  For several years, we have taken our daughters to the performance that concludes our community’s summer children’s theater camp.  The costumes are amazing, the songs so cute they get stuck in your head for years to come (and years and years), and the scripts are funny.  Every year as we left the show, my girls quizzed me on how many years, months, days it would be before they were old enough for theater camp.

We’ve been on a 3-year-long countdown.

This year, we excitedly dropped off my oldest daughter, finally the right age for theater camp.  But my middle girl was sad.  She was still one year away from being old enough, so her countdown continued.  “When is it my turn?,” she whined to me as we left her big sister behind on that very first day.  “Next year,” I promised.

Only I found out there wouldn’t be a next year.  The leaders were stepping down and no one else agreed to take their place.  No leaders.  No theater camp.  The decision had already been made.

Now, normally I pad my promises to my kids to protect them and me from uncontrollable circumstances that could turn me into a liar.  I say a lot of, “If everything goes well . . . We’ll see . . . Maybe . . . I’ll try my best . . . Perhaps this or that . . . If the weather . . .”

But I hadn’t done that this time.  And so I had to answer the hurt accusations of a five-year-old girl, “But you promised . . . ”

We can promise and assure others, give our word and sign our name on the dotted line, but sometimes the unexpected waves of life crash down over our well-intended plans.  The rubble of hurt is all that remains.

But God.

Don’t you just love that in the midst of human inability and limitation we can say, “But God”?

Because even the best of us can’t stay true to our word sometimes, but God always keeps His promises.

There are no unforeseen events or circumstances beyond His control that change His mind or prevent His faithfulness. It is a basic tenet of His character.  The Psalmist wrote: “The Lord is trustworthy in all He promises and faithful in all He does” (Psalm 145:13).

There are times, maybe for you also, that I lift up my hurt face to my Heavenly Father and cry to Him, “But you promised  . . . ”

To be with me always, but I feel alone.

To provide for my needs, but I see no provision.

To take care of me, but as much as I cry out for help, my circumstances remain unchanged.

To be near me, to answer me when I call, to strengthen my feet as a deer, to turn my mourning into dancing . . .

You promised.

But it is then we must wait. “Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).  Not twiddle our thumbs in boredom waiting, but active waiting, prayerful waiting, do what we need to do in the meantime waiting, keeping watch waiting, pouring His Word into us more and more until our dry and cracked spirit is saturated with His promises to us waiting

We pray His word back to Him, trusting that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” and His character displayed time and again in the Bible remains constant and consistent here and now in the middle of my life.

We wait.  And He, ever faithful and true, does what He said He will do.

For more promises from Scripture, check out this beautiful site: http://www.365promises.com/

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

I’m Not a Boy

Happy 100th post everyone!  I’m so thankful that through God’s grace we have made it this far and I pray that He will bless us with much more time together in the days ahead.

To celebrate with you and as a way to say thanks to you for reading these devotionals, I’m hosting a giveaway!  I hope you’ll post a comment anywhere on this website by Sunday, 07/17/2011 at midnight, and I’ll announce the winners in Monday’s post.

Now, onto today’s devotional:

I’m not a boy.
I’m not a good dancer.  I’m not easily offended.  I’m not a blonde or a red-head.
I’m not tall.
I’m not artistic.  I’m not quick to cry.
I’m not usually a fan of “chick flicks.”  I’m not much of a TV watcher.
I’m not from a small family.
I’m not a quick decision maker.
I’m not an extrovert.  I’m not athletic.  I’m not fond of “outside.”

We all define ourselves by lists of “I ams” and “I am nots.”

“Are you a Christian?”  I am.
“Are you fond of sports?”  I am not.

Is it any wonder that God has a list, too?  His “ams” and “am nots” through Scripture establish His character and give us reliable assurances in times of trouble.

We rest in safety because we know He is “I am.”

It’s the most powerful declaration of God’s identity in Scripture, when He tells Moses His name: “I AM WHO I AM . . .This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation” (Exodus 3:14, 15).

My Bible notes that His name could also be read as: “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.”

He is I am and I will be.  He is eternal.  He has existed before our human history began and He has walked through the entirety of our time on this planet and will still remain forever.

So, we can trust Him.  We can place in His capable hands all that frightens us because He knows where we have come from and where we are headed.

It’s more than that.  He tells us:

  • “I am with you” (Genesis 26:24).
  • “I am God Almighty” (Genesis 35:11).
  • “I am the LORD, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26).
  • “I am the LORD your God” (Exodus 16:12).
  • “I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).
  • “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:3).
  • “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5).
  • “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” (Isaiah 48:17).
  • “I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is His name” (Isaiah 51:15).

Can you read through this list of what God says about Himself, His “I ams” and not be in awe, not be filled with the desire to worship, not be comforted?

He is with you, there in the places of hurt and despair.  He heals you.  He is holy.  He is your Savior, pulling you out of the pit and redeeming you through the blood of His Son.  He is the only God.  He directs our steps.  He is Lord Almighty, in control of all creation, including the circumstances you find yourself in.

Praise God!

He doesn’t stop there, though.  He also has “am nots.”  Just as powerful, these are declarations of His dominion over all the fake gods that vie for our worship.

In Daniel 2:11, the magicians and advisers of King Nebuchadnezzar whine that no one can possibly tell the king what he dreamt except the gods, and “they do not live among humans.”

Not our God.  He made His dwelling among His people, directing them to “make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8).  He abandoned the glories of heaven and “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

He can say, “I am not distant from you.”

In Psalm 135:15-18, the Psalmist writes:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.  They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear nor is the breath in their mouths.

Not our God.

Our God is the Shepherd who speaks to His sheep (John 10:27).  He is the God who sees us (Genesis 16:13) and hears our voices when we call to Him (Psalm 5:3).

He can say, “I am not ignorant of your need .”

And our God “is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).

Colin Urquhart wrote, “God is the God of promise.  He keeps His word even when that seems impossible.”

He can say, “I am not a promise-breaker.”

It may feel difficult at times to believe in God’s nearness, responsiveness, concern, love and faithfulness because we are immersed in a pit of circumstances that blocks our view of Him.  And yet, He tells us all the things He is and all the things He is not and it is that Scriptural assurance of His character to which we cling.

We can rest in safety knowing that He is I AM.  We can rest in safety knowing all that He is not.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Nothing Too Difficult

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised
Genesis 21: 1 (NIV)

Last week, I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food for my family all lined up on the conveyor belt.  I assured the cashier that I didn’t need my milk in a bag; it seemed like putting her through extra effort just to take the plastic bag home and recycle it.  “Not really,” she said, “What is a really big pain is people who bring 15 or more of those reusable bags and make me put cold stuff in one, cleaning stuff in another, bread and eggs separate.  Now, that takes forever.”

I nodded my head with understanding and sympathy.  Meanwhile, I was praying under my breath that she wouldn’t notice how my groceries were carefully categorized and organized as they headed to her scanner.

  • Heavy things first.
  • Nonperishables.
  • Cold items with meat and poultry separate.
  • Non-food items like cleaning supplies and personal care products.
  • Produce.
  • Bread and eggs.

What can I say?  I like my groceries bagged a certain way.  But, I don’t leave this to chance or pester the tired Wal-Mart cashier to organize my purchases for me.   No, I like to help things along.  Truly, I am trying to be considerate of the girl getting paid so little money to incessantly scan and bag during her entire work shift.  Organizing all my items saves her some time and effort.

But, there’s also something else.  I don’t believe that she would do it correctly if I didn’t categorize the items for her.  I don’t trust that she knows not to put my cereal with the yogurt or that my laundry detergent shouldn’t sit next to my chicken.

I don’t believe.  I don’t trust.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether I fully trust and believe in the professional skill of the girl checking out my groceries.  But, my unbelief and lack of trust seep into other areas of my life that should be in the hands of our thoroughly trustworthy God.  It’s a slow drip, drip, drip of anti-faith that I ignore until suddenly I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty and gasping for air in a flood of my own making.

I pray for things and then make plans and decisions based on God NOT answering my prayers.

I lay at His feet my anxiety and concerns about situations and then snatch them back up later when His answer doesn’t come quickly enough.

I hover over His shoulder and share my opinion on the kind of job He is doing in my life.  Are you sure you want to put the pasta in that bag, God?  Don’t you think the cheese would be better next to the butter, God?   I think you could provide a bit better for me if you changed this about my job.  Don’t you think I’ve waited long enough, God?  Surely there’s a more efficient way of doing things.

I pester and nag and “help” and act like a know-it-all back seat driver.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, had her moments of grasping for control just like I do.   She helped things along a little bit, made “suggestions” (demands), and pressed ahead with plans without considering consequences.

To be fair, Sarah waited years for God to fulfill His promises and patiently trusted that God would give Abraham a “son who is your own flesh and blood” (Genesis 16:16, NIV).  It may have even been thrilling and easy to believe at first.  A promise from God, a child, the deepest desire of her heart seen by Almighty God and assuredly in her future!  Surely she headed to the wilderness version of Babies ‘R Us and set up a registry just days after Abraham came home and told her what God had promised. Faith is easy when the promises are fresh.

But then nothing.  No pregnancy.  No baby.  Promises faded away.  Questions arose.  Cultural expectations weighed heavy on her.  Just about a decade after the original promise, Sarah’s faith finally buckled under the heavy weight of circumstantial evidence mounting up against God.  He hadn’t done what He had promised.  No baby was coming.  Sarah’s biological clock had ticked and tocked out and she clearly needed to step in and help God out a little bit.

And so the trouble begins.  A second wife for Abraham.  Conflict and abuse between Sarah and Hagar.  Runaway maidservant.  Ishmael born, son to Abraham, but not the child God had promised.

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth and about 24 years after the original promise, none of Sarah’s involvement, ideas, or attempts to help (or control) the situation had yielded results.

Yet, in all this time, God’s plans never changed.  His intent from the beginning was to birth an entire nation through Abraham and Sarah and He was willing to let Sarah reach the point of impossibility, of clear human failure, before fulfilling His promises.  She was past menopause, now 90 years old.  There was simply no possible earthly way for Sarah to bring forth the promised heir.

That’s what unbelief would say.  That’s what lack of trust would claim.

God is so gracious to us in our weakness, though.  He certainly was with Sarah.  He visited with Abraham again and reiterated the promise, this time with an added clarification—I believe it could only have been for Sarah’s benefit.  He told Abraham, “I will bless her (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her . . . your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.”

Did you notice that subtle new bit of information in the promise?  The first time, God said that Abraham would have a son and heir.  This time, He clearly said to Abraham, “You know Sarah, as in your wife Sarah?  She will have a son by you.  Together.  Nobody else needs to be involved in this.  Just you and her.  Got it?”

And there was a promise for Sarah in this, too, a special notice by God, who called a childless woman in her 90s to be the Mother of Nations.  As kids we sang the silly song, “Father Abraham, had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham.”  Why don’t we ever sing about Sarah?  After all, the poor woman had to give birth to the promised child at 90 years of age with no epidural.  I think she deserves her own song!

Abraham and Sarah were nothing without God’s miraculous involvement in their lives.  “Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.  When I called him, he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many” (Isaiah 52:2, NIV).    Like Abraham, it is God’s blessing on us that multiples our lives into bounty and fulfillment.

Therefore our testimonies are not that we have accomplished much or attained great things in our own strength and ability. If Sarah had produced the promised heir through surrogate motherhood, fertility treatments or even naturally while her body was still ripe for childbearing, then there would have been no need for God’s personal touch.

As Beth Moore wrote, “If Isaac’s birth says anything at all, surely it says that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.”  That’s the question God asked Abraham while Sarah stood laughing in her tent over the promise of pregnancy in her old age.  “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14, NIV).  Isaac’s birth proves God’s possibilities even in impossible situations.

In Genesis 21:1, it beautifully says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised (NIV).  And so He will for you.  God will do what He has promised.  And when He does, when He so graciously delivers you, He will receive all the glory and give you a testimony of miraculous provision so that others may believe and trust in a God for whom nothing is too difficult.

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King