Keeping promises and committed to love

When God promises to do something for ever, all of eternity is being shaped.  That is why our covenant with Him is so central.

Our hope is not in our ability – our hope is in His ability to hold us.  Our trust is not in ourselves – it is in what Jesus Christ has done.  Our faith is not in our good works – it is in His good work for us – that is why we say…”Lord, there is no God like you!”

This is the story with Solomon dedicating the temple – it is also a story of God’s unrelenting commitment to God’s people through divine words of hope, judgment, summons and warning – all because God is seeking to maintain this covenantal relationship with His people. A patient and merciful God awaits our response and listens to our prayers.

The promises of God – what we hope for tomorrow – changes who we are today.  These promises are foundational doctrines that colour all of lives as believers, both in times of temptation and in our trials.  These promises of God motivate holiness and awaken expectation and confidence in our pursuit of the Lord.

O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart – 1 Kings 8:23

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It is not you who speak

O Almighty God, please give me the courage to speak up for Jesus with grace and boldness trusting that your Spirit will give me the right words and attitude to share my hope with those who do not yet know your grace given in Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Do you really believe that you are speaking the truth? Do you really believe that this is the word of God? Do you really have the hope of life in Christ?

As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them.  And the good news[b] must first be proclaimed to all nations.  When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.– Mark 13:9-11

Able to deliver

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, a favourite for so many reasons. Three men who had well grounded hope and persuasion of deliverance because of the former testimonies of God’s power and goodness in their lives and in the lives of the other captives in Babylon.  There was more though – they considered the glory of God and they put that up against the king’s defiance of God and his blasphemy against Him.  Hard to believe that God would not take notice.

This story found in Daniel 3 gives us warnings, but most of all it gives us hope in the One who will ultimately save us from the presence and power of sin.

Main principle – God’s power is released through faith. There is little hope of enjoying God’s power in full display if we do not expect Him to release it.

Shame that we look at our trials of life as something we dream or wish God will deliver us from – because it is something we can definitely hope on.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord rescues them from them all. – Psalm 34:19

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a big God – a God who could do anything – they offer us strong optimism at a time when hope might seem gone.

The clash between the power of God and the forces of the world; deliverance from an unjust death at the hands of the empire; a miraculous “son of god” not bound even by death; hope for physical restoration and resurrection — these are some of the thematic links connecting Daniel 3 and Easter.

God is in control even when His people are suffering and in their faithfulness God’s power moves.  It gives us the ability to thrive now, and a bright hope for the future.  It gives us meaning today and a role of promise tomorrow. 

Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter.  If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”– Daniel 3:15-18

A living God

The argument of the king, in the case of recalling his dream and its interpretation, seems to have been something like this: “They who can explain a dream correctly can as well tell what it is as what its interpretation is, for the one is as much the result of Divine influence as the other; and if men can hope for Divine help in the one case, why not in the other? As you cannot, therefore, recall the dream, it is plain that you cannot interpret it; and your only object in demanding to know it is, that you may ward off as long as possible the execution of the threatened sentence, and, if practicable, escape it altogether.”

Daniel had what no other leader of the day had – a hope in a living God in whom He hoped in, that could deliver to him what the king wanted to know. 

In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed such dreams that his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. So the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had such a dream that my spirit is troubled by the desire to understand it.” The Chaldeans said to the king (in Aramaic), “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will reveal the interpretation.”  The king answered the Chaldeans, “This is a public decree: if you do not tell me both the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you do tell me the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time, “Let the king first tell his servants the dream, then we can give its interpretation.” The king answered, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see I have firmly decreed: if you do not tell me the dream, there is but one verdict for you. You have agreed to speak lying and misleading words to me until things take a turn. Therefore, tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.” The Chaldeans answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can reveal what the king demands! In fact no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean.  The thing that the king is asking is too difficult, and no one can reveal it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.” Because of this the king flew into a violent rage and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. The decree was issued, and the wise men were about to be executed; and they looked for Daniel and his companions, to execute them.  Then Daniel responded with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the king’s chief executioner, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon;  he asked Arioch, the royal official, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel.  So Daniel went in and requested that the king give him time and he would tell the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his home and informed his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,  and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions with the rest of the wise men of Babylon might not perish.  Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.  Daniel said: “Blessed be the name of God from age to age, for wisdom and power are his.  He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him.  To you, O God of my ancestors, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and power, and have now revealed to me what we asked of you, for you have revealed to us what the king ordered.”

Steadfastness and Encouragement

Met with my leadership coach today and we both reminded ourselves that we are attracted to God, as sinners, because He gives us a living hope.

That hope is not found in our day-to-day experiences when we read our news, or a piece of modern literature etc. The world is a dark and dismal place.

Because of what scripture has declared in the past, we can anticipate hope, with confidence, in the future. For what the scriptures have declared in the past has already come true.

The Old Testament relates the story of God’s history – power, faithfulness and love – providing a foundation for understanding the New Testament.  We can learn from the faith, and faithfulness of those who have gone before us – inspired, comforted and judged – all of this producing hope from promises fulfilled.

I found myself short on hope and it is only in dusting off the old stories of faith – reading them again – that I regained my instruction and my encouragement.
Loving God,
The written scriptures bring us your stories, and we have gladly heard them, some of us again and again and again. We thank you that your story brings new fresh hope and steadfast sure encouragement to those who hear. We pray that your story would be heard in our community with crisp fresh life, new power, green shoots of hope, sprouting potential and a tender invitation to respond.
Romans 15 keeps it pretty clean – scriptures have been written down, read aloud, studied silently, preached, taught and discussed. They are instructional, steadfast, patient, encouraging and comforting.  Live in harmony, follow instructions, take on the mindset of Christ and live with hope in the Spirit.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

 

I seek You

“After twenty years of listening to the yearning’s of people’s hearts, I am
convinced that all human beings have an inborn desire for God. Whether we are consciously religious or not this desire is our deepest longing and our most precious treasure. It gives us meaning. Some of us have repressed this desire, burying it beneath so many other interests that we are completely unaware of it. Or we may experience it in different ways – as a longing for wholeness, completion, or fulfilment. Regardless of how we describe it, it is a longing for love. It is a hunger to love, to be loved and to move closer to the source of love. This yearning is the essence of the human spirit; it is the origin of our highest hopes and most noble dreams’. – Gerald May

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. – Psalm 63:1

Every Eye is on You.avi

Comes with mercy

David prays and looks to God for help, especially when he is surrounded with enemies.  In fact in Psalm 57, in the very first verse, he repeats the request twice because he is fully aware of how great the danger he is in, and not just twice but with intensity and those two things implied just how much hope and trust he had in God’s mercy.

His argument – God has helped me in my past distresses and that is why he has hope in his present situation.

David supports himself with faith and hope in God, and prayer to Him.

This is not to earn the mercy of God; mercy can’t be earned. He said it to tell God that He was David’s only hope. His soul trusted in God and nothing else; there was nothing else to trust in.

“How can the Lord be unmerciful to a trustful soul? Our faith does not deserve mercy, but it always wins it from the sovereign grace of God when it is sincere.” – Spurgeon

So what will I do – I too will put my life in God’s hand – my immortal spirit knows no other portion than God. Even when I need a speedy answer – immediate relief – I can expect the mercy and grace of God.  My great act of faith is to only trust God in such circumstances – not just a profession of trust – but one that is sincere – all my heart and all my soul – and that makes a reason or argument for mercy seeing that His mercy encourages my faith and hope.  I believe the Lord takes pleasure in those that hope and trust in Him. 

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.  I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.– Psalm 57:1-2

Magnificent God – Big Daddy Weave

People of God held in honour

Trying to find something important and not being able to find it – how many of us would try to find a man or woman of God so that they could tell us?

Other than today – it never dawned on me just how weird that was for Saul and the boy with him to consider. 

Maybe they did not want to know where the donkeys were, maybe they were thinking more generally like – should they go home or continue to look for the donkeys?

I think there was only one prophet at the time – Samuel – and would one really tie up Samuel’s time with such a question?

What I did like was the distinction clearly made between a fortune-teller and a person of God. However, if people of God could respond as Samuel responded, maybe there would be more people seeking the advice of our people of God who serve today in the church. Maybe even how to help reach the lost who have yet to hear the gospel.

Hope can come from other people.  In this story, it was never about the lost donkeys, it was about a future king to be made into the hope of Israel. However, the principles still matter – may God put people of honour in our lives that can be of support and deliver of hope as they share the Word of God with us.

When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to the boy who was with him, “Let us turn back, or my father will stop worrying about the donkeys and worry about us.” 6 But he said to him, “There is a man of God in this town; he is a man held in honor. Whatever he says always comes true. Let us go there now; perhaps he will tell us about the journey on which we have set out.”– 1 Samuel 9:5-6

Wisdom

If age doth speak of wisdom learned,
And battles won, and sorrows earned,
Then youth doth boast of hopes to come,
Of strength to waste, and wisdom shunned.

But if youth could seek instead the wise,
and see life through more vintage eyes
And turn to God while still they sow
The seeds of harvest they’ve yet to know,
They might then be blessed to reap
A bounty they’ll delight to keep,
And share with those who come behind
A harvest of a richer kind.

—Vicki Baird

Helps and upholds

We can hope because God helps us in extraordinary manners and His helps is as sure and as certain as our prayer.  He upholds our lives through His encouragement of our faith and our hope not only exists but is sustained.

So when David prayed such prayers we not they were not random but offered in the exercise of faith. He knew God was at his side to defend him and with that faith he knew he could handle the obstacles as they came, even the moments of despair when they appeared. What gives us hope is that we know David’s life. He was all over the place but could still speak of God being near him and could recognize the gracious presence of God. Where did David get his hope from? God was glorified in every act of every man who was with David and even though they were few in number, possessed little power, had more fears than David had – David knew and believed that under the guidance and protection of God that would be superior and God’s help would more than abundantly compensate for all.

The Lord then becomes the champion of all champions, friend and confidant.  He upholds us using the efforts of friends who support us.

 Oh Righteous God,
Bring relief from the pain and suffering of my life.
Help us to look to you to show us good in the midst of bad.

Let your face shine on us. Bring hope and joy to my heart once again.
Allow my sleep to one again be peaceful.
Let me dwell with you in safety. Amen.

The 1719 hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past by Isaac Watts and William Croft, reminds us that God has been our help in the past and will continue to be our hope in the years to come:

O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come; Be Thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home.

But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. – Psalm 54:4

Westminster Abbey – Oh God Our Help in Ages Past

Call on Me

Psalm 50 is about God holding people in court, on trial for insulting Him, and it is in that context that He is offering them hope.

I am not sure just what a day of trouble looks for you, but for me it cannot get much worse than being in God’s presence and on trial.

Basically, we are talking about prayer and the worship of our heart – something God desires more than anything else.

When we pray, God answers and brings Him glory. It shows that He is a reality to us.  There is in a sense a spiritual connection that is made.

Prayer is filled with a manifest hope in God exhibiting a clinging affection to Him and a sure confidence.

 The law brings us into bondage, but grace proclaims hope.

Even so with this promise – we need to be patient. It might seem that God has ignored us or that we have to take up the case ourselves – but the one who feeds the sparrows will provide everything we need. Hope – and in the arms of faith as we are in our sea of trouble – God will deliver us.

Our emotions can become waves of resentment and fear for the future – in those moments life seems darker as the storm rages on and on.  Even so – we must remember that the only secure place to put our hope is in the character of God. Our breath prayer needs to sound like this – “my hope is in You and I hope in Your unfailing love.

Robinson Crusoe has been wrecked. He is left in the desert island all alone. His case is a very pitiable one. He goes to his bed, and he is smitten with fever. This fever lasts upon him long, and he has no one to wait upon him—none even to bring him a drink of cold water. He is ready to perish. He had been accustomed to sin, and had all the vices of a sailor; but his hard case brought him to think. He opens a Bible which he finds in his chest, and he lights upon this passage, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” That night he prayed for the first time in his life, and ever after there was in him a hope in God, which marked the birth of the heavenly life. (favorite portion of Charles Spurgeon’s)

 

Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.  Psalm 50:15

All My Hope On God Is Founded