Between the Promise and the Fulfillment

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Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3

Abram received an incredible promise from God, one that would affect not just his own family but families for generations to come. His offspring (as yet unseen) would become a people who would one day introduce the Savior to the world. Through Abram, all people would be blessed.

And Abram trusted God. “And he went out,” as the author of Hebrews writes, “not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). We remember Abram as a man of great faith, and rightly so. Abram’s faith becomes a key component of Paul’s argument in Romans, showing righteousness to be counted to people on the basis of God’s promise rather than on the basis of human accomplishment (Romans 4). Abram sets a positive example for us in many respects. But we would do well to remember that he remains a human like us.

Just a few verses later, we see him seemingly forget the promises of God. When he and his wife entered Egypt, he feared that the Egyptians would recognize his wife’s beauty and would kill him to have her, so he devised a lie. Though God promised to bless him, to make him a great nation, and to lead him, Abram seemed to forget such promises in the face of danger. Between the promise and the fulfillment stood a period of testing, a time when fear entered the picture and challenged the faith of the servant.

Abram’s story here isn’t unique. He’d be tested again, both in the waiting between the promise of Isaac and Isaac’s birth as well as in the call to sacrifice Isaac, the child of promise, on the mountain in Moriah. And Abram isn’t alone in his experiences. The people of Israel (descendants of Abram) react in terror at the approach of the Egyptian army after being saved by God from slavery through mighty deeds which show Egypt to be powerless before the Almighty. Elijah despairs at Jezebel’s threats almost immediately after watching God prove himself as sovereign over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18-19). Throughout Scripture, God’s people see him move, hear his promises, and then tremble before temporary challenges.

We aren’t that different from them. We too have promises of God. He promises to provide for our needs as we seek first his kingdom and righteousness, leaving us no reason to worry (Matthew 6:25-34). “I am with you always,” says Jesus, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Paul writes, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Further, we know that nothing, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). We can trust that “he who began a good work in you will bring it completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). We can count our trials as joy because God is using them for our growth, and we can ask God for wisdom in faith that he will give it (James 1:2-8). We know he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We know he forgives us (1 John 1:9).

We have all these promises and more in the Bible, truths recorded for our faith. And though some promises are for the present moment, many pertain to the future, to the enduring hold of God upon his people. This means that we don’t always see how he’ll fulfill his promises to us, and we can be tempted to forget the unseen God before seen threats. We fear for our safety when we observe the dangers around us. We worry in the face of uncertainties. We fret when we feel our weaknesses. In short, we struggle to live in faith in spite of the ways we’ve seen God move.

I don’t do this well. I doubt far more often than I trust. Trials tend to show my weakness of faith rather than my strength. But I want to get better at this. God is trustworthy, and he deserves more credit than we often give him. So I pray that we would fear and love him more than we fear and love anything else. I pray our certainty of his goodness would remain in every circumstance. And I pray that as we walk between the promise and the fulfillment, we would walk by faith and not by sight. May he be pleased by our faith in him.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Thank to Richard for his suggestions for points in today’s post.

Words

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Our words divide. They rend each other’s souls.
The Word rends our division, offers peace
To war-torn hearts that long for true release
From slavery, from talk’s eternal tolls.
Our words deceive. They prove our father well.
The Word destroys deception in his wake
And takes e’en death’s ability to take
That souls may surely hope to ‘scape from hell.
Our words decay. They cannot help but fade.
The Word will never not be, shall endure
Should sea and sky be shaken. He is sure,
Salvation for the burdened and afraid.
Lord, teach our tongues, if e’er we speak, to be
Tamed by the Truth, to ever echo thee.


Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

Bitterness

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Bitterness inhabits me,
Burns within these weary bones,
Breaks the heart’s song, shifts the key —
Melodies to monotones.

Feelings fixate on frustrations,
Fast forgetting joy and peace.
Anger turns to accusations
As emotions seek release.

Father, temper this, my temper,
Tossed midst waves of woes and whims.
Devastate my vile distemper.
Heal my heart through holy hymns.

Christ has borne more suffering,
Bears me up in all I face.
Make of me an offering.
Let me ever sing of grace.


Photo by Alina Chupakhina on Unsplash

Does He Hear Us?

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I watched a movie recently where the protagonist (a minister) wrestled with questions concerning prayer. Is God listening to us? Can we know his thoughts on the matters that most trouble us? Is there only one way to pray? As he struggled to reconcile his faith with his feelings, I found myself resonating with his concerns. At the root, I kept returning to one question:

Does God still listen when we feel like we’re praying all wrong?

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From Bossier to NOLA

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Down the forty-nine to ten we travel.
Feasts of kings and cakes, our destination.
Down we go, our worries to unravel.
Food and fellowship, our motivation.
Past the city’s lights and steel magnolias.
Past the airbase and the coliseum.
Past the capital after Angola.
Past the lakes and rivers and museums.
Standing still, undrowned through stormy seasons,
History endures through celebration.
All Louisiana knows her treasure.
So we travel for our varied reasons –
Stories, memories, anticipation –
Seeking carnival in greater measure.


Photo by NICO BHLR on Unsplash

Thanks to Dustin Hadley for providing the topic and title for today’s poem.

In Spirit and Truth

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But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:23-24

In spirit and truth.

In response to a question about places of worship, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman of a coming shift in perspective. Soon (indeed, sooner than many of the day realized), true worship would no longer be identified with a specific location, neither at Jerusalem (where the Jews worshiped) nor Mount Gerizim (where the Samaritans worshiped). True worshipers would worship in spirit and truth.

But what does it mean to worship in spirit and truth?

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Little Windows

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Little windows show us shocking visions,
Tempt us to expect what is not fitting,
Make into our minds subtle incisions,
May be slyly twisting and remitting
Our convictions. Still, we give attention.
Still, we turn away from concentration.
Still, we stoop to savage condescension.
Still, we step into the conflagration.
Portals to such vast opportunities
May, in truth, be endless winding hallways.
Consider steps in these communities.
Keep perspective. Know that there is always
More to life than windows ever show us,
More to lose than windows ever show us.


Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Simple and Ordinary

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For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
1 Corinthians 15:3-5

Christ died for sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day in fulfillment of the word of God. This is the gospel. This is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). This is enough.

Recently, I’ve given more thought to students in the church who don’t know Jesus. As I prepare lessons, I wonder how to help kids see that Jesus is better than anything else in life. I wonder how to connect the dots between what a student knows and what a student believes. I want lives to be changed, not just heads to be filled. So I try to use good illustrations and plan better lessons and answer questions well, yet I still feel like I’m missing something. I’m still unable to open a student’s ears to truth.

I find a similar difficulty in writing. I often approach the blog with a desire to be profound or novel in some way. I want to say something meaningful, something worth pondering or repeating. I want to stir up a love and a reverence for the Lord. So I consider phrases and consult editors and attempt to use pointed words, yet I still feel like I’m missing something. I’m still unable to open the reader’s eyes to truth.

I sometimes feel my words are too simple or too ordinary to get the work done, yet I forget that the effectiveness of the gospel isn’t contingent upon my eloquence or profundity. No quality or quantity of speaking or writing can make deaf ears hear or blind eyes see. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, can do both. He works through human words to awaken souls to life, empowering the gospel message as it is spoken or written. And while profundity and eloquence and wit can serve us well, Paul argues that the gospel message is enough on its own to change lives. He writes,

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5

While Paul did at times delve into deeper matters – and was not always easy to understand, according to 2 Peter 3:15-16 – he reminds the Corinthians that the gospel by itself is sufficient for the work. The Spirit moves through the simple message to transform lives for eternity. So we need not worry as we share the message of Christ with others. Words that may seem simple and ordinary to us still have the power to shake loose the shackles of darkness and to bring life to the dead. The gospel is enough for that student, it’s enough for that post, and it’s enough for you and me.


Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Thanks to Maci and Cortney for reading over this post in the editing process.