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The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. Genesis 21:1(NLT)

As parents we’ve all done it. It doesn’t matter how hard we try not to. It just happens sometimes. We tell our kids they can do something or that we will do something for them. We give them our word. We utter the dreaded ‘P’ word.

“Dad, do you promise?”

“Yes son, I promise.”

Then it happens. For whatever reason you can’t (or won’t or don’t) fulfill the promise. It may seem like a small thing to you, but in the minds of our children it makes a mark. It sends a message we never intend to send. A message that promises don’t mean anything. That even the word of a parent is subject to time and space issues.

Some parent’s promises are made flippantly. It’s not verbalized of course but subconsciously they think, “If I say I promise will you leave me alone?” The promise is made with no intention of completing it. It’s made with the hope that you, the child, will forget.

Other times promises are made with the complete intention of honoring it. “I really planned on being at your game but the traffic was terrible, there was a last minute mandatory meeting, the plane was late, etc. etc.” Reality is, there are times when our best intentions simply cannot be carried out because we are, after all, mortals and imprisoned by a time and space continuum.

Then of course, there are some promises we are asked to make that simply can’t be made because they would cause harm to our children. “Yes, I promise you can play in the middle of the freeway.” Isn’t a promise most parents would make to their children, even teenaged children!

From a human perspective, promises are sometimes pretty hard to believe. Maybe that’s why Sarah laughed when she heard her husband talking to the Lord outside her tent (Genesis 18:12). A baby? At my age? Yeah, right. Fat chance that will happen! But, it did. Just as God said it would.

That’s the difference between our promises and God’s promises. Promises are only as strong as the person who gives them. If we believe the God of Genesis to be all powerful, then we must also believe that if he promises something it will happen just as he says. He is our father. He won’t promise us anything he can’t deliver. He won’t deliver anything that will harm us; only those things that will help us grow stronger.

Common logic told Sarah she couldn’t have a baby. Common logic says you can’t conquer addictions. Common logic tells you a person can’t change from a life of crime, addiction, abuse. Common logic tells you tragedy will have lasting, negative effects. Common logic says your past will haunt you the rest of your life. But common logic isn’t God-logic.

He promised to forgive you. He promised to walk with you. He promised that no matter what you are going through, he’ll be there to strengthen, comfort and give you whatever you need to prosper. If God promises something, he delivers.

PRAYER: Father God. I pray that today, as I face the challenges of life ahead of me, that you would remind me of your promises to comfort, forgive, strengthen and provide. Help me to live in the full assurance that as a loving and powerful parent, you can do what you say you will. In Jesus name, Amen.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Philippians 2:5

Q: What do you need to do to make Jesus love you more?

A: Nothing. That’s right. Nothing.

The problem is, from a human perspective, love doesn’t work that way in real life. We say we’ll love each other forever. We tell ourselves and our loved ones that nothing can ever change our love. But then real life sets in.

Affairs happen and destroy the intimacy that once protected our trust. Lies happen and shatter our faith. Health issues and financial calamity hits and we lose sight of what love is all about. No one ever walks the aisle with the hope that this union will last a year. ‘Til death do us part’ is the ideal we all hope for.

Love isn’t guaranteed in the parent/child relationship either. Children are abused or asked to leave their homes. They are abandoned or neglected by parents who are so wrapped up in their own lives and needs that they completely overlook the needs of their offspring. It’s unthinkable, but true.

Love dies when we fail to consider the feelings and value of the other person. Love dies when we fail to see ourselves as God sees us. If I see you as the special creation you are because of God’s fingerprints on you, then I’ll not hurt you. I’ll cherish and protect you at all costs, no matter what. If you love me as Christ loves you, then the mistakes that I make will be forgiven.

That’s how Jesus loves us. He loves us with an unconditional love that says no matter what you say, or where you go, or what you do, I love you. We may suffer consequences for our actions, but even then we are loved by the Father through Jesus Christ. We need only to confess our sins to receive forgiveness in order to feel his love in our lives.

Loving others as Christ loves us isn’t easy. In fact, in some situations it’s almost impossible. Sometimes we have to separate ourselves from those that hurt us for our own safety and their own good. But separating ourselves from other people due to abuse doesn’t mean we don’t still go on loving them through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Loving others doesn’t always mean trusting others.

Love as Jesus loves. Love others based on who you are in Christ Jesus. Love others based on the fact that even though they may have hurt you, in reality they are God’s creation and his desire for them, like you, if for relationship.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the unconditional, eternal and merciful love that you have for me. I look back at the path I’ve taken and see so many times when I’ve ignored your love and taken you places and let you see me do things that I never should have done. Still you love me! Empower me with your Spirit to love others in the same way you love me. Not for my sake but for yours. In your name I pray. Amen.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve are described as being naked and yet feeling no shame. There is much more to that line than two nude people walking around in a perfect world. Their nakedness was much more than skin deep. They were naked in an emotional, intellectual and spiritual sense as well. Nothing was hidden from each other and there was no shame.

Then that dreaded piece of fruit appeared and nothing has been the same. Ever since that time we have struggled with acceptance. We struggle to feel accepted by others. We struggle to find acceptance with God in the midst of our weakness. Most importantly, we struggle to find acceptance according to the standards we set for ourselves.

We do all sorts of things to feel comfortable with ourselves. Some of us make a conscious or unconscious decision to remove ourselves from circles where we feel badly about us. We find that it works and remove ourselves more and more until we avoid people at all costs.

Others of us use external things to make us feel good. Some of these are harmful to our bodies like drugs, smoking, sex or extreme behaviors. Sometimes we can use ‘good things’ like religion, social action, philanthropy or volunteering to make us feel better. Whatever we choose to soothe our feelings of inferiority is short-lived and requires a ‘bigger dose’ to accomplish the task.

God suggests we use a different approach. The next time the voices in your head remind you of your inadequacy, tell yourself the truth. Do it out loud if necessary.

You were chosen by God to be his special possession. He chose you knowing all about your weakness, your rebellion, your poor choices, your hate and your anger. He saw every flaw in your physical, emotional and spiritual life. Still, in spite of all that, He loved you enough to purchase you with his most cherished possession, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Don’t listen to the voices that tell say you don’t measure up. That is a lie of the enemy. You are special. You are chosen. God loves you above all things. That’s grace!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for loving me. Like Adam and Eve I’ve spent most of my life trying to cover up the things I’m ashamed of about me. I’ve tried to use so many good and bad things to make me feel better about myself. Empower me by your Holy Spirit to live with the realization of how special I am to you. Help me to live free of the emptiness shame puts on me. In Jesus name, Amen.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10

Jesus tells the story of a man who was caught cheating by his employer. As a result of the dishonesty the man was informed that he would lose his job. Before he was fired he went to all the people that owed his boss money and gave them huge discounts. While this further cheated his boss, it made the man many friends. We aren’t told in the story, but no doubt these people were willing to help the dishonest person because he helped them.

The lesson from this story is that honesty isn’t dependent on the amount entrusted but on the sense of responsibility a person has to those who trust him. The man in the story may have been considered generous by those he gave discounts to, but in reality, he wasn’t concerned in the least about their well-being. He was really only concerned about himself.

Our view of ourselves has a huge part to play on whether we are honest or dishonest. Many times we will lie to cover up our own mistakes, choosing to blame others instead of accepting the responsibility. Other times we may lie to make ourselves look better. We don’t want to admit we are weak, so we lie to make ourselves look better than someone else.

Dishonesty at any level destroys our entire reputation. If I lie about a little thing, then I most likely will lie about bigger things as well. On small amount of dirt in a clear glass of water taints the whole glass and makes it undrinkable. In the same way one little lie, on little act of deception tarnishes our entire character.

As Christ-followers each of us is responsible for making sure we are men and women of integrity and trust. There is no place in our lives for any action that has it’s basis on avoiding responsibility for our actions or making others look bad for our own benefit.

Grace teaches us that we are, in some senses, completely helpless to live a life of purity and perfection. There will be times when we fail in our attempt to be honest. There may be times when our actions are misunderstood as being malicious when they are not. Those are the times we can come to our Savior, Jesus Christ, for forgiveness, and strength to continue on.

Start with the small things. As you learn to trust Him for strength in the small areas of your weakness you will find it easier to tackle the larger areas where you tend to be dishonest. Jesus didn’t come to condemn liars. He came to empower them to be honest.

PRAYER: Father you know that I tend to be dishonest in some of the things I say. I ask that you would forgive me for those times. Empower me by your Spirit to be willing to accept responsibility for my actions. Enable me to be a person of integrity for your sake. Amen.

Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be. Job 8:7

There are times when all of us can identify with some parts of the story of Job. Those times when God seems distant; when everything is going wrong and we can’t get a handle on solutions. Those are the tough times along the journey. The times when the rocks and dust along the path choke our desire to go on. The times when our heart is faint as we view the gaping chasms that drop on each side of the road.

All too often we can add to that misery the myriads of people who see our dilemma and feel it is their duty to ‘cure us of our disease’ by offering all sorts of advice and suggestions. All too often these well-meaning ‘messiahs’ don’t take the time to consider our past or what we are going through. Emotional and spiritual battles are not solved by one-size-fits-all bandages.

Enter Bildad, Jobs friend. In the midst of his pain and devastation Job’s friends gathered around to tell him exactly what his problem was and how to fix it. The problem is, as is often the case, they were off base on their assumptions and too proud to admit their ignorance. They were no help at all!

Each of us has a ‘Bildad’ or two in our lives. People that have all the answers to all the world’s problems. They may be well-intentioned, but they are often of little or no help.

There are two things we need to realize when we run across the ‘Bildad’s’ of life. First of all, most of them are well-intentioned and we should do our best to accept them grace-fully even though their assumptions are not valid.

Secondly, as with Bildad in Job 8:7, there is some truth to be gleaned from their words. While the basis of Bildad’s tirade was false, verse 7 holds a nugget of truth each of us can hold on to when the road is rocky and our journey is in jeopardy.

Too often in life we want it all now. Setbacks can cause us to give up completely. We live in a microwave world and serve a God that works more along the lines of a crock pot. He brings things about slowly which is harder for us to take, but better in the long run.

Job suffered unbearably. Still, in the end his faith and perseverance paid off. He was able to see all his riches restored. It’s the same for us today as Christ-followers. Even though you may fail to see any good in what you are going through. Even though your health may be failing, your kids rebelling, your boss (or employees) is jerks. Patient waiting on God will bring all things about in His time, not ours.

God loves you. He wants to see you succeed in life. He wants to provide you with the best life can offer. Sometimes it just takes longer to get where you want to be. Trust Him to show you the way today.

PRAYER: Holy God. I thank you today for the fact that you know all about what I’m going through. Even though they are hard to deal with, I thank you for the ‘Bildad’s’ that cross my path. Help me to be patient with them and to try to see some truth in what they say. Most importantly help me to grow closer to you and wait for your working in the trials I’m going through. Amen.

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February 2023
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