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God's Shelter FOR YOUR STORM
By SHEILA WALSH
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Sheila Walsh
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePromises, Promises
Anchors in Life's Storms
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. —2Corinthians 1:20
PINKIE PROMISE! ... Cross my heart and hope to die! ... We grow up on promises. We start making promises when we're young, and our friends make promises to us. With those promises comes a sense of security—and who doesn't want that, whatever the age!
I was past the pinkie-promise stage when I first started learning about God's promises in Scripture. But my desire to do an in-depth study of these promises actually began with a letter—an actual delivered-to-my-mailbox letter, which is rare these days. I picked up the hand-addressed envelope and began to read.
I had never met the woman who wrote to me, but apparently she had heard me speak at an event and sensed a connection with me. She wrote about some of the struggles she had been through in the past few years. These were not small things: illness, financial hardship, and the breakup of her marriage. Amid her overview of these hardships, one line arrested my attention because of its profound simplicity:
"I would not have made it this far without the promises of God."
I read her letter again. I heard enormous pain, but at the same time I heard an unshakable faith in God. To some, the scales in this woman's life might seem imbalanced: the tangible hardships of her life had left her body, heart, and soul stripped bare. Yet her confidence in her God was compelling—beautifully and almost heartbreakingly compelling. Her words didn't read like wishful thinking but as a proclamation she had lived out in an I know that I know, tear-bathed way.
From the darkened caves of countless hearts, I have heard the same primal cry, the same questions over and again:
Has God forgotten me? Does my life matter? Is there a plan somewhere in all of this mess? How am I going to make it? How do I know God cares about my family? Will I die alone? Why won't God heal my depression? Why hasn't God restored my marriage? How do I know that God even heard my prayer? We have pain that runs so deep that its presence, a reminder of the past, invades our lives over and over again. The aching hurts, failures, disappointments, and regrets keep us questioning: Do God's promises hold fast when life is falling apart around us? Can we trust Him to keep His promises? What exactly does He promise us anyway?
THE PROMISE ... FOR KEEPS
My husband, Barry, our son, Christian, and I loved having William—Barry's dad—living in our home for the last several months of his life. He was funny and sweet, and we were so glad that we could watch over him and simply enjoy him. But then one day we were discussing something at dinner. I don't even remember what it was now, but whatever I was saying, William disagreed with me and said so. We were all quiet for a moment. Then he pushed back his seat from the table and went upstairs to his room.
When he didn't come down after an hour, I decided to see if he was feeling okay. I knocked on his bedroom door, and William invited me in. "So do I leave now?"
I was stunned. "of course not! Why would you ask that?"
"Well, I know you said I could stay forever." He paused. "But I broke the house rules. I wasn't kind to you."
I thought back to his comment at dinner, and I guess, to him, his leaving the table registered as unkindness toward me. "Pop, rules might give us some order, but love and grace make life worth living. You belong here. You are allowed to mess up just like any one of us. Besides, we threw away the sales receipt when we brought you home, Pop. We're keeping you!"
THE PROMISE OLDER THAN MOSES
Keeping is what we long for, and keeping is what God promises us. We hope, we wish, we pray for promises we can count on, come rain or shine, to shelter our hearts and our being, our dreams and our doings. We want these promises to be kept whether we mess up or when someone else does. We want to believe in our heart of hearts that God makes and keeps His promises to us, regardless of our faithfulness to Him.
And we are often totally unfaithful. Remember when the children of Israel melted down their jewelry, made a golden calf, and worshiped it? Moses was enraged, heartbroken, and devastated. God was devastated too—so shattered that He told Moses that maybe He should leave His people.
When Moses begged Him not to abandon His people, God's heart was moved: He was unable to leave those He loves or resist their cries. In the dust and rubble of the broken tablets on which He had first written the Ten Commandments, His Word remained true, and He would keep His promises. God looked on Moses as he begged not only to stay in God's presence but to see all of God's glory. Acting on His infinite mercy, God commanded Moses to get two more tablets for another set of the Ten Commandments. Then He directed Moses to the cleft of Horeb, a cleft meant not only for protection from the storms but this time for the chance for Moses to see God's glory.
This cleft pointed to Christ, the ultimate Cleft, the rock of Ages. In Christ, you can know protection from whatever storms are raging in your life, and you will see God's glory as He keeps His promises, sustains you, blesses you, and keeps you.
ITLITLHRIST IS THE CLEFT, THE KEEP
This is the shelter of all God's promises: God not only keeps His promises, but He longs to keep us in them.
Did you know that in those rock-and-stone castles of long ago, the very center tower was called the "keep"? it provided shelter, a place of habitation, an operating station from which defense, under siege, was centered. Usually a well was built at the center of the keep so those sustained there could not only endure but thrive.
In God's kingdom, there is a keep too, and it is Christ. The apostle Paul put it this way: "No matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ.... He anointed us, He set his seal of ownership on us" (2 Corinthians 1:20–22). God claimed us through Christ—He has made an eternity-long commitment to us that He cannot break. But we can be so unfaithful. Sometimes in our pain or panic, we forget His promises. Why would God want to keep us, and His promises to us, when we mess up so badly?
The Bible reminds us of a truth we too often forget, a truth that shines as clear as daylight. Why would God want to keep us and His promises to us? Because He cannot help Himself. The force of His righteousness and mercy are the unchanging foundation upon which His promises are built. God does not change. God's promises are as dependable as He is. Because they are Him.
GOD'S PROMISES ARE NOT LIKE OURS
Do you remember the Old Testament prophet named Balaam? Yes, the one whose donkey talked back to him (Numbers 22:22–35). Hear what even the heathen Balaam learned: "God is not man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind" (23:19). Balaam could not help but recognize what is true: God cannot lie. And this from a man who, we're told, had no love for God or any desire to change his own self-serving ways. I love the fact that we are given those words not from a devout follower of our father but rather from an outsider who recognized the truth of who God is and that, without exception, He does what He says He will do. When God speaks, He cannot lie. He means what He says, and He says what He means.
When God makes us a promise, He can never break it. If a heathen prophet can live by this understanding, how much more can we whom God has restored? Yet we have a lifetime of experiencing pain and heartache on one side of the scales and a simple, profound promise on the other: God cannot lie. Our human experience does not sync up with that heavenly truth. We have to separate promises that may never be kept from God's promises that will never be broken. I wonder if we have a hard time believing this, a hard time resting in God's promises, because we have been lied to so many times and because so many earthly promises are broken.
We are told: if you follow this diet, you will lose twenty pounds in two days. If you use this face cream, you will look twenty years younger in two weeks. If you use this shampoo, your hair will be full and flowing as it sparkles and shimmers in the breeze. Culture has driven us to think that promises are all about personal fulfillment, but God's promises are not about us—they are about Him and our being saved by Him. God's promises are an expression of His holiness. Furthermore, God keeps us not only to give us a future, but also to reflect His glory. He keeps His promises to us because He cannot help Himself. He cannot lie, and He is full of love for His creation.
To put this truth in more personal terms, God cannot lie to you, and He is full of love for you. You are His beloved child.
FROM THE CLEFT BACK TO THE GARDEN
From the very beginning, God made a promise and had a plan. You can trace His promises back to the garden of Eden. Cursing the serpent, God said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Genesis 3:15). God promised that the seed of Adam and Eve—Jesus Christ—would crush Satan's head and destroy him for eternity. Satan would bruise Christ's heel, meaning He would experience pain and suffering. Here God promised that there is a limit to the time that the enemy will have free reign on this earth.
When life is hard, we need to remember that we are travelers in this world, headed back to our true home with God, and that we come upon detours in our journey. Each detour takes us from the garden to a cross on a hill, where Christ Himself paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free. Even as Christ was placed in a grave carved into a cleft of rock, He went there as a fulfillment of God's promise that death would be swallowed up in victory, for no grave could hold Him.
In fact, during the worst storms of our lives, God invites us to find our safe hiding place in Him. Our faithlessness does nothing to diminish God's faithfulness. We can therefore stake our lives on whatever God says. And Christ came to show us who our father is. In Christ all the promises of God are fulfilled, for no matter how many promises God has made, they are "yes" in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Normally we doubt whether a promise maker will be a promise keeper. But the witness of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus is that God has kept His most difficult promise to fulfill.
The Father is truly the only Promise Maker who is in earnest a Promise Keeper.
A promise from God is a promise kept.
There are His promises and His unbreakable commitment to keep them.
There is Christ. There is yes.
* * *
I Believe; Help My Unbelief
My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:19
CHRISTIAN WAS ABOUT TO TURN four, and his father and I were in full birthday-party-planning mode. How do you show a lifetime of love in a moment, in a day? Would Crackles the clown be the ticket? or a jumpy-inflatable-castle thing? Jungle Jim from the zoo? Pony rides? or llama rides? A face painter?
Well, long story short, all six of these birthday-party options showed up at our house, all at the same time—and as they filed out of our home that day, the children declared it the best party they had ever attended. The mothers did not look so thrilled. "What are we supposed to do now for our parties?" one asked. "Book the space shuttle?"
What had happened? Needing to know, I asked Barry. "Well," Barry said, still looking a little shell-shocked, "I asked them all to hold the date until I decided which one I wanted, and I forgot to get back to the others when I made my decision."
We looked at each other and fell on the floor laughing.
"Well, none of the moms are speaking to me," I said, "but Christian sure had a great party!"
THE PROMISE TO PROVIDE
On Christian's fourth birthday, my little family had way too much to offer, but that hasn't always been the case. There have been times when we feared we wouldn't have enough—enough money, time, energy.
Haven't we all been in that place of worry, fret, and fear when the needed provisions aren't at hand and don't seem to be coming? maybe you're there right now. You are drowning in a sea of bills and feeling overwhelmed by everything that has to be taken care of and your awareness that there are not enough resources to meet the needs. The demands of life can seem crushing when you look at what you have and compare it to what you need. You can be left wondering, Is God listening? Does He see? Will He fix things?
But God is faithful; He will not disappoint. His provision for you will be in keeping with the wealth of His mercy as demonstrated in Jesus Christ. He takes care of His own. He will take care of you, no matter how loudly your current situation is shouting otherwise.
The unfailing promise is that God knows our needs, and as His track record shows, He will provide abundantly beyond what we can imagine. Yet the need to take care of ourselves is so deep within us. And when we can't, or when some great need outstrips our ability to handle it, the fear and desperation that set in can be brutal.
It's a feeling Jesus was familiar with.
JESUS KNOWS YOUR NEEDS
Try to put yourself in the position of Jesus' twelve disciples. remember His marching orders when He sent them out on their first missions trip (Mark 6:7–12)? "Go out with a buddy." So far, so good. "Take very little. No money or food. Just a staff to ward off wild animals." What?!? "Accept the first invitation to stay the night—and don't try to upgrade the accommodations during your visit." What is Jesus expecting? Are we supposed to beg our way through the villages? And then came Christ's command to cast out demons and heal the sick! it was one thing to watch Jesus conduct remarkable miracles, but quite another to be commissioned to do the same.
The experience must have been amazing as the disciples saw God use them to do the very things they had watched Jesus do: heal the sick, cast out demons, call many people to repentance. What a change from their previous jobs, from pulling fish out of the sea, collecting taxes, and guarding sheep. What an exciting moment when they all rejoined Jesus and reported on their missionary experiences. Jesus must have been deeply moved by His friends' stories and excited about their experiences, but we know He was wrestling with grief too. His heart was broken over the news just received that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod Antipas. The disciples must have been distraught too. John had given his life to prepare the way for Jesus—and his life ended in a barbaric way before a drunken crowd. Where had God been? What about His promise to provide protection and care?
PROVISION IS NOT PERFECTION
Upon hearing the news of John's death, Jesus' heart was heavy. So were His disciples' hearts. Mark 6:32 tells us simply, "So [Jesus and His disciples] went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place." There are times when words don't help, when friends can't touch our grief. Our deepest need is simply to pull away with Christ.
Jesus understands your fear and fatigue, your disappointment and discouragement. Whatever you are facing, Jesus understands. He knows that heartbreak from worry and distress over provision, protection, and care can eat away at your peace, your hope. He understands the pain that comes when God doesn't seem to be keeping His end of the bargain. He understands that pain can be extreme (you lose a friend; a loved one dies) or more daily (you have to keep working with the office partner who feels compelled to criticize your every move). He also understands when external demands outweigh the internal strength required to simply stay afloat. Like when an unexpected doctor's visit leaves you with a bill bigger than your next six months' income.
Excerpted from God's Shelter FOR YOUR STORM by SHEILA WALSH Copyright © 2011 by Sheila Walsh. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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