Sunday, June 18, 2017

No Empty Words

Most of us know what empty words are. Some had their first exposure to empty words in childhood when Dad frequently promised to attend school plays or soccer games, but never showed up. Sometimes his failure to show wasn't even acknowledged and when it was discussed, there was a promise to come next time or an admonition to not be a crybaby about his absences. Or maybe Mom repeatedly promised a trip to a favorite ice cream parlor after chores were done, but trips never materialized and when asked about them, she was too tired or claimed it was too close to dinner. And to add insult to injury she would usually add, "Maybe next week!" Some had their first exposure to empty words, when a noncustodial parent never showed up for visits. The excuses were many--new wife needed him, the dog was sick, got home too late from work, or maybe there was just silence with no excuses offered. Some had their first exposure to empty words when a parent's addiction was the root of broken promises. They promised repeatedly to stop drinking and to be a better parent, but the roots of addiction ran too deep and words--they were empty and couldn't be trusted. Some experienced empty words that were threats of disciplinary actions that never followed through and Mom and Dad still wonder why their kids are so unruly or got in trouble with the law. 

Some grew up in healthy homes where words were kept, but they were exposed to empty words outside the home. Maybe it occurred when a friend repeatedly failed to fulfill the plans you made together. Maybe she left you hanging at the Mall, the Basketball game, the movie theater, or just didn't show up for planned sleepovers. For some it occurred when they were dating a guy who repeatedly double booked or got caught up in the moment with his friends, failing to show up for dates, and promising to do better while expecting you to be "understanding." After all, isn't that what good girlfriends do? After all, don't Christians have to show grace? For some, it happened in a job when a boss promised a raise that never materialized. He was good at convincing workers to work until the project was finished so the company could make enough money to give you the raise you hoped for--the raise that never came to be.  

For many, empty words came in the form of apologies. Oh, the apologies rolled so easily off the tongue. "I am sorry I missed your game." "I am sorry I pushed you so hard to "do it," it won't happen again." "I am sorry, I didn't make it home in time for dinner again." "I am sorry I forgot to fix that leaky pipe this weekend, I'll do it next Saturday." "I am sorry I forgot to call you when I knew I was going to be late." "I am sorry I can't pick up the kids this weekend." "I am sorry I got drunk and made a fool of myself in front of the kids, it won't happen again." "I am sorry I was viewing porn again, I promise I won't do it again." But the apologies are made of empty words and the people saying them are saying the words only to alleviate his or her guilt and the behaviors, but they never change. 

But, with God, there are no empty words. In a world filled promises broken, vows not kept, pledges retracted, and assurances quickly given and even more quickly forgotten, God remains true to His Words. History proves it:
  • "Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers." (Joshua 21:43a) 
  •  "And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers." (Joshua 21:44a)
  • "Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass." (Joshua 21:45} 
These verses are important verse because they show the partial fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham in Gen. 12:2-3, "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 dishonor you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

And the complete fulfillment of them is found in Jesus. In Him, every person has the possibility of redemption. We have a truth-minding, promise-keeping, covenant-fulfilling God. And this is important as we live out our faith in a broken world filled with fear-inducing events, debilitating illnesses, broken promises, and sinful people who fail to love well. 

God's faithfulness is how the parents of a child who is suffering with heart defects or cancer makes it through the day. They hold on to the Psalmists words, "The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness You restore him to full health."  (Psalm 41:3)

Those grieving can find comfort and hope in Psalm 30:5b, "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." 

Those struggling with loneliness and fear of abandonment can hold onto the Lord's promise found in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you or forsake you." 

Those wondering if the sin they just committed is one sin too many sins to be forgiven can hold on to 2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Those afflicted from every side can hold onto the promise found in Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all."   

Those struggling with fearful hearts can trust the words of a prophet in Isaiah 41:10, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all." 

Those facing death can hold on to the promise Jesus made in John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" 

And those feeling distraught over the immoral, hate-filled climate in which we live can hold onto   1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and the sound of the trumpet of God." 

In this world filled with empty words, we can remember God speaks no empty words! Every word is trustworthy, powerful and life-sustaining. Our struggle with unbelief often has had its roots in man's failures, not God's. 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!