Promises to Keep


My children are promise trackers. If you tell them that we “might” go to visit a friend, it’s as good as complete to them. If you suggest there “may be” dessert in the cupboard, you better have checked the status of the Oreo package before throwing haphazard statements around. Children misunderstand the difference between promises and basic conversation. They often believe that something stated is something as sure and certain as the sun rising each day. Adults should always be cautious about making promises they can’t keep, but it’s also an important skill for children to learn that promises are meant for big things, not Oreos; life happens, and forgiveness reigns where there is trust.

God makes promises to us in the book of Isaiah, over and over again. These are not maybe-there-will-be-Oreo promises. These are big promises.

The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel… 

But He was pierced for our transgressions…

With righteousness He shall judge the poor…

My servant shall be exalted… 

God tells us clearly in Isaiah that not one thing is missing, not one promise is left out or abandon.

Not one promise is broken.

Hear it for yourself by reading Isaiah 34:14-16 –

And wild animals shall meet with hyenas;
    the wild goat shall cry to his fellow;
indeed, there the night bird settles
    and finds for herself a resting place.

15 There the owl nests and lays
    and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow;
indeed, there the hawks are gathered,
    each one with her mate.
16 Seek and read from the book of the Lord:
    Not one of these shall be missing;
    none shall be without her mate.
For the mouth of the Lord has commanded,
    and his Spirit has gathered them.

While goats and fellows, owls and nests may seem obscure, they couple up. This is how God’s promises work. Verse 16 above brings the obscurity together, reminding us that as we seek and read, our eyes are opened and every promise meets its rightful destination – fulfillment in Christ Jesus.

God does indeed keep His promises…because He gathers.

He gathers prophecies up in His Word and fulfills them all like puzzle pieces clicking together over the course of time. This match here, that match there. We are given the privilege of studying them, finding a promise, seeking its fulfillment in the Word and lifting the pieces up in praise to His name.

We may as parents misspeak. Life may happen and promises might fall by the wayside, but God is completely in control. He reigns over the universe, so life doesn’t get in the way for Him. He is also perfect, so not one promise falls. He is ever-present in all time. He sees the whole of eternity before Him and He plans accordingly.

How often, however, are we like children and try to hold God to promises He never made? How often do we claim He promised worldly treasures, when He really promised just what we need? How often do we rail at Him for our suffering, when He promised to be there with us in it, rather than to give us a life called perfect by our own standards? How often do we demand control in life, when He promised to lead rather than leave us in the white-knuckle life of fear, fighting for control?

God’s message in Isaiah through the gathering of prophecy and fulfillment is this –

He gathers up His promises and holds them tightly for just the proper time. Every Word will be fulfilled. When we can’t see what He’s doing, we lean into His promises that never change.

Not one promise broken. Not one.

Because He gathers.


Exploration:

What kind of plans disappoint children when they are broken? What kind of plans disappoint us, as adults, when they are broken?

How do you differentiate between a plan that is able to be shifted and a promise that can not be broken?

Do you think God differentiates in His word between plans and promises?

What promises of God do you cling to?

I do, in fact, Love My Shepherd


I like blankets. When I was little they were my comfort, with their fuzzy middles and their silky edges. They wrapped me up when I needed to feel safe, and warmed my toes and arms on winter nights. My mom knew that when I was sad, I needed a hug and my hole-y blue blanket, ragged and worn, so I could love it to literal pieces.

What speaks comfort into your life? What physical manifestation of God’s warmth and goodness has He blessed you with in this life? God encourages us to fix our eyes on the eternal, but He leaves us with the temporal as a bonus, small reminders that He is good. He is our comfort on cold days and in the dark of night.

God, throughout Scripture gives us a vision of comfort in the language of Good Shepherd. The Shepherd who consistently gathers His sheep. Please open to Isaiah 40:10-11 or read below –
10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
    and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
    and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.

He comes with might, but listen to the tenderness of it all. God is so fantastically perfect that He is complete in a way we cannot fathom. This mighty God, this powerful Shepherd goes out to defeat the wolves of this world, to defeat the devil who destroys… He also holds you in His arms. He gathers every part of you to Him and will never let you go. He gathers His people to His chest and loves, loves, loves, and loves some more. What a God we have!

How many of you would list Psalm 23 as a verse on your comfort list? Clearly I would! I named my blog after it. 😉

Let’s read it together today.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

He restores. He overflows. He walks with me. He pursues me with mercy. He provides for me. He gathers me around the table and He eats with me.

Let’s widen it a bit. Let’s think about gather in its fullest sense.

He restores us.

He overflows into us.

He walks with us.

He pursues us.

He provides for us.

He gathers us around the table. He eats with us.

We were made for gathering. We were born into a flock. We experience the fullness of Him within the gathering of His people.

I Love My Shepherd is about We Love Our Shepherd

…stretching my heart for my husband, Christ, and His Church. We are the comfort, dear friends, for our husbands, and those in our homes, in our churches, and in our lives. We speak Jesus into one another’s life in a way we wouldn’t experience walking this earth on our own.

Let’s pray Psalm 23 today for our own needs, but also for one another. Let’s thank our Shepherd for just being Himself in all His wonderfulness as well as giving us this life to live together.

So, here’s how this is going to go. Read Psalm 23 through 3 times.

Read through #1 – focus on who God is, as our Shepherd. When you read the Psalm, what do you learn about Him? Spend time in prayer proclaiming His character, such as provider, comforter, leader, etc.

Read through #2 – focus on what our Shepherd does for you as an individual. How has He brought His work proclaimed in Psalm 23 to bear in your real life? Where have you seen Him shepherd? Where have you seen Him lead? What do you need Him to walk with you through?

Read through #3 – focus on what our Shepherd does for His people or for other people in your life. Pray the psalm over anyone in need or ask for God’s provision, comfort, overflow into individuals and/or your church.

We are gathered, sheep into our Shepherd, sheep into the sheepfold. Loved on, cared for, mightily rescued, guided, filled to the brim with overflowing.

I love my shepherd. And I know you do too.

Exploration:

Share some of your prayer insights from Psalm 23 with us, fill in the requests you feel comfortable sharing for each prayer round or share some that stick out to you overall.

Round 1 – Who God is as our Shepherd…

Round 2 – What God does for you, as an individual…

Round 3 – What God does for His people, or the people in your life…

Worship speaks Life


Ever feel like you need a flashing neon sign from God? I think we all have at one time or another. Most of the time, God doesn’t really work like that, but today we get a treat. Today, we’re going to talk life. And we’ll keep it simple.

Please, open your Bibles to Isaiah 11 and read just one verse, Isaiah 11:12 –

He will raise a signal for the nations
    and will assemble the banished of Israel,
and gather the dispersed of Judah
    from the four corners of the earth.

If we needed that flashing neon sign from God, here it is. God raises a signal and holds it high for all people to see, crying out with arms outstretched –

“Come to me. Let me gather.”

We look for giant billboards and signs for what to do and where to go from God, but the signal is no mystery. The signal is very simply Christ Jesus saying “Come.”

God makes this clear throughout the Scriptures over and over again, but Isaiah 11 is like a giant beacon, shining light into the darkness of the unknown. Back up and read Isaiah 11:1-2 –

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

Don’t these verses just make you want to worship Him? This is no mistake, my friend. Jesus is the signal, raised high for us to gather around, but how will the world know?

What if God uses our worship as the bull horn of salvation for the people? And the billboard of encouragement and discernment for one another?

What is worship? His Word going out, His promises proclaimed, and His people responding. The Word surely does the work, but what do people see when they look around them and see worship?

They see Life in Worship and worship as the way we live our life.

Sweet, sweet worship. What a gift! Worship may be at times just between you and God, but mostly, it was meant to be communal. It was meant to be you and God, and God’s people. It speaks to one another and it speaks to those on the outside looking in.

We don’t worship for a show. We aren’t performers or puppeteers putting on a nice pretty picture for the world around us, but when the people of God gather, Life flows. Forgiveness flows. Confession happens. Mercy is given. Truth is spoken. Love is bestowed. Grace rains down. Encouragement builds.

God gathers His people. Only by His grace do we get out of bed on Sunday morning or Thursday night or whenever else, to worship alongside family, friends, and strangers. Only by His grace do we remember to pick up the family devotion book off the table and share His Peace with one another. Only by His grace will we be brought together in the heavens to sing with all the saints and angels “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabbaoth! Heaven and earth is full of Your Glory. Hosanna in the Highest!”

Jesus is always concerned with reaching the nations around us, the people around us. He reaches out and sweeps in the people with His ever-loving arms every time He comes to us.

Listen to what will happen. The Signal that is Christ Jesus will come again and the worship that results will be like nothing the world has ever seen. Indeed, every nation will see and hear –

…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:10)

Highly exalted, worthy of worship, every knee, every tongue.

Worship is Life and it speaks Life to a hurting world.

Worship with your life, friends. Worship for the Life He has given you and let Life flow to others by the act of your worship. And watch Him gather!

Lord, we worship You. We adore You. You alone are faithful, Lord. You alone are worthy. Let our worship be in honesty and in Truth. Let it be only for You. May you use each of us as your signals, as “little Christs” proclaiming Your Honor to all the earth. In Jesus we pray, Father, through Your everlasting Spirit. Amen!


Exploration:

What are your favorite parts of worship? Consider phrases or hymns, songs or proclamations, or elements that are not spoken, things you see, touch, or the people around you?

What is special at the place and in the people you worship with weekly? What makes your church and church family unique?

Bonus: Look at Isaiah 11:1-12 in full. What promises do you find? What will gathering look like in the end?