Promises, Promises

Double Rainbow
Double Rainbow

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Amazing Grace
By: John Newton, 1725-1807

Listen as you read.  This version is from Grace by David Tolk.

The rainbow after the Flood was given by God as a sign of His promise to us.  It is only one example of the many promises we find in God’s Word to us, the Holy Bible, our source of hope.  A quick Google search will reveal numerous lists compiled around any number of subjects.  Type “Promises” in the search on YouVersion and you will find no shortage of devotionals structured around promises.  The problem is not with the promises, the problem is with us.

Context

I thought about compiling a list of the promises of good things that the Lord has promised to us, but the prospect of that was overwhelming, especially considering the scope of what it is I want to help you accomplish on a normal Tuesday.  I want to help you tune your heart.  Any musician will tell you, when it’s time to tune, you generally ask for one note.  Generally.

Violin Tuning
Violin Tuning

I was rehearsing with a violinist recently and learned a little trick.  I thought I should give her an A first, and I was correct, but then she asked for a second note to provide context, I believe it was the E below it.  She said it was a good way to impress a string player, to play that second note for context before the tuning player requests it.  I thanked her and we began.

I mention that here because I want to provide a single promise, but one whichI believe  provides a context for this tuning.  And what is that promise you ask, 2 Peter 1:4.

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

This is the context of our hope, all His promises to me, and you.

Hope, Secured

Hope is generally defined as a feeling, and for us it is certainly that.  But because of God’s Word given to us it is that and a whole lot more.  You see, feelings are fleeting and often are reactions to external circumstances beyond our control.  This is not how the Bible describes the hope we have in God’s promises.

God's Promises
God’s Promises

To take this one verse as our context, consider the two aspects it sets forth.  Because of His promises to us we get to

  1. Share in his divine nature, and
  2. Escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

I don’t want to speak for you, but I draw a lot of hope from those two realities that flow from all of God’s promises to me.  I get to be like him, and be free of the corruption of this world, even while still living in it.

So let’s keep this simple.  To tune today, simply take a few moments and thank God for all of His promises.  Ask for His forgiveness for the times you have failed to believe them and so have not lived as if your hope was secure.  Thank Him for the blessing of sharing in his divine nature, and then ask him to reveal how he wants to change you so you may reveal it better today.  Thank Him for the privilege of escaping corruption, and then ask Him to show you what desires need to change in you so you can experience that freedom.

Then the next time you are reading some of His promises, and I hope it is soon, take a few moments right then to evaluate how you can experience them by adjusting your living within that context.

Happy Tuning!

Jesus, thank You for all the promises You have made to us in the Bible.  Help me to read them regularly, and when I do, to ask the Holy Spirit to open my blind eyes and give me understanding.  I want to learn Your promises, so they may fill my weary soul with hope. In Jesus name.  Amen.

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On My Way Home. Thanks Grace.

Traps
Traps

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Amazing Grace
By: John Newton, 1725-1807

Listen as you read.  This version is from Sacred Piano by Paul Cardall.

When you first look at that image, what comes to mind?  For me, it was something like, “How am I going to get through that?”  This reveals that fact that my default perspective is that these traps are in front of me, causing my road ahead to be a very treacherous one.

And while that may indeed be true, I want to welcome you instead to imagine that instead of traps like these filling the path ahead of  you, imagine instead that this is your view if you look back.  Have you wrapped your mind around that yet?  There is a very real sense in which that is indeed the case.

Traps Behind, Traps Ahead

My initial thoughts about Grace bringing me safe thus far centered around the idea that I was aware of many of the traps in my way, but thanks to Grace I was able to avoid them.  In other words, Grace showed me the safe path through the traps by revealing them and the way to pass through them unharmed.  Again, while I am sure that is true of some of the traps I have avoided, it occurred to me that sometimes simply walking in Grace enabled me to avoid them, even when I did not see them.  Truthfully, not seeing them at all may have actually been the most gracious thing that Grace did for me.

See, if there are traps in my past and/or my future, one thing is certain, someone set them.  And that someone set them for a reason, to ensnare me.  That someone knows the ways I travel, my well worn paths, and has put those traps in just the right places to catch me.  But Someone else knows my paths as well, and leads me safely along them, even encouraging detours at times, some of which I am very unhappy with at the moment, but often later realize were wise departures.

Think about it.  What traps has Grace led you through, around, over?  You are certainly aware of some.  Thank Him.

You are however not aware of them all.  For the ones He led you through that you never even knew about, Thank Him.

So we should draw some marvelous encouragement from this simple fact.  The knowledge of the traps behind, coupled with the reality that I have made it through them, gives me great courage to carefully tread on the path Grace marks out ahead, knowing that His leading is good.

Heavenly Gates
Heavenly Gates

Lead Me Home

And just where is He leading me?  He is leading me home.  To that place He has prepared for me.  Jesus said in John 14:4, “You know the way to the place where I am going.”  [John 14:1-4]  That is good news.  He makes it clear a few verses later, “I am the Way…”  So we need to make certain we stay on the way, or the Way, if we want to arrive at the place He has been preparing for us.

And just how do we do that?  By living with the end in mind.  If Heaven is my home, then I should live like I believe that.  I do not mean being “So heavenly-minded that you are no earthly good.”  On the contrary, it should be your heavenly-mindedness that makes you good for the earth, and the people who share your little part of it.  The knowledge that you have eternal peace with God should be reflected in your temporal decisions and actions.

We believe the Bible teaches that we when we stand before God we will have to give an account for all we have done in this life.  [Romans 14:12, Revelation 20:11-15]  We also believe Jesus’ righteousness will be credited to us.  [Romans 3:21-24] Amazing Grace!

Think about it.  Do a little self-assessment.  If you were to pass through the gates today, would those who shared this life with you   be surprised you made or not?  I do not mean surprised you earned it, because you never could, but would they be able to say that you had lived out your debt of love to Jesus with grace?  If you have any reason to believe they might not, change your course today.  What adjustments do you need to make to demonstrate you are walking through the traps of life with grace, with Your eyes on the place He is preparing for you even now?

That way, when you pass through those gates, Grace having led you home, you will continue to sing the song you had been singing all along…Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…

Jesus, thank You for being the Way, and helping me to walk in it everyday.  Forgive me for the times I go my own way, and headstrong hurl myself at dangers You could help me avoid.  Fill my life with Your grace so those around me can see you clearly, and can find there way with me to my heavenly home.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

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Dangers, Toils and Snares

Snares, on a drum
Snares, on a drum

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Amazing Grace
By: John Newton, 1725-1807

Listen as you read.  This version is from Sacred Piano by Paul Cardall.

So here’s one of those times when it is helpful to understand one of the more obscure words in the hymn text in order to be able to appreciate what the writer in saying.  Being a musician, the first thing that comes to mind to me is those twisty metal things at the bottom of a snare drum that give it that distinct sound.  But that is not the snare being alluded to here.

Fowler's Snare
Fowler’s Snare

The Fowler’s Snare

No, this is a snare that is specifically designed to trap its intended prey.  Fowler’s, or people who deal with fowl or birds, make use of snares to trap birds.  They come in a few different forms, but suffice it to say, the image of this one that looks essentially like a net gives a rather graphic representation of what a snare truly is.  Looking at that poor bird, a beautiful boat-billed flycatcher, caught in that snare caused me to feel physically uncomfortable.  [Disclaimer:  I had to search google with the image because I do not really know birds that well.]  I relieved a bit of my discomfort by searching YouTube to see this lovely creature moving around freely in it’s natural habitat.  You can do that too here if you like.

This was helpful for me to recall and even imagine some of the things the Lord has brought me through, many of which I have never even realized were there.  It’s not like the spiritual life has sign posted so you know when you are entering a troublesome patch.  On the contrary, the enemy of our souls, the Fowler who sets all those snares for us, is quite clever at disguising the traps so we do not even know they are there until it is too late.

TOILS AHEAD
TOILS AHEAD

But that is not the fate that Grace has made available to us.  See the impact of grace in this context?  Grace has brought me safe this far, and grace will lead me home.  There are both immediate and ultimate advantages to walking in and with grace.  Let’s consider both briefly.

Immediate

Now I want to be careful not to push the illustration to far, so think about your own life for a moment.  So here is the first part of the tuning.  What snares has grace brought you safely through, or delivered you out of?  You could think about it the other way as well.  What snares have I fallen into when I have not followed the path of grace?

For me it is often trouble with my tongue, or rather trouble my tongue creates when I do not let grace lead me.  I am referring to those moments when I speak before I think.  When I let grace bring me through those times as opposed to my flesh, I am able to avoid the snares.  This allows me to get and stay in tune with the Father’s activity in me.

I think of it in terms of a prayer I came across tears ago.  “Lord, deliver from the temptations of my flesh, this world and the Devil.”  You see, if it were not for my flesh, I would not have to worry about the world or the Devil, but until I get my new body, when I finally get Home, I am going to need grace to help me get through all the perils of this life, many of which I inflict on myself.  This brings us to the consequences of following grace which are…

bird-nestUltimate

If we follow the bird-snare illustration out, our Home could be our nest.  Think about the relief of that flycatcher above if it was able to get free from that snare and safely arrive at it’s nest.  That nest is really not much to look at but think of what it represents to the bird.  Safety and rest, maybe belonging and certainly memories.

For us, there is not only the relief of arriving in a safe place like our home after we have made it through another day filled with dangers, toils and snares, but also a more ultimate arrival.  The arrival at our final destination which for the believer will be Heaven.  When we arrive there we will know better than we ever have that it was indeed Grace that led us there, through the moment of decision, and along through the life that followed, until we finally arrive at…home.

heaven-1Here is the other part of the tuning, which actually really informs the former.  Knowing Grace is leading us to our Heavenly Home, makes allowing Grace to led us through these Earthly Days.  I have often said that is it odd how little we think about the place where we will spend so much of eternity.  Think a little about Heaven right now.  Let what you know overwhelm you.  If you don’t know much about what the Bible says about it, I would recommend Heaven by Randy Alcorn.

Happy Tuning!

Jesus, thank You for all the trouble you have lead me through already.  Teach me to follow You more closely in the remaining days I have here.  Remind me to think about my ultimate home in Heaven more often, and live like someone who is being led by grace, now and forever more. In Jesus name.  Amen.

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