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Keeping a promise...


We can trust God to keep His word, but what about us?  Joshua said:“Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed.” Joshua 23:14  God does not break His vows.

Why is that important to hear today?  Because the turmoil we are going through is temporal. Something fantastic, according to Jesus is going to happen. He promised us, that He would go and prepare a place for those of us that love Him and that He would return for us one day—-perhaps quite soon. And oh, what a witness is the Christian’s anticipation of Christ’s return – either on a personal level or in a great, cataclysmic event!  Do I yearn for His return? Am I waiting, each day, for Him to come again? Could today be that day? What if He came before I finished this sentence? I would be the happiest I have ever been, but not because I have been the best example of one of His servants, nor because I have lived a flawless life. It is because I have not only come to know His great love for me, but I have fallen in love with Him. He is my goal, purpose, light, hope, and joy. He is the source of all that I have always desired.

For the time being, my little sons look to me as the one that makes them feel safe, secure, protected, loved, and the one that will always love and look after them. They keep reminding me that I have promised to not die until they are much older. Imagine their joy when they come to know the real source of security, purpose, and love. I pray that they will come to Him soon because I am a poor surrogate.  But to see God as a “promise-keeper”, they must first see me as a promise-keeper!

I hope to show by my example, and remind them when we talk about God, that He cannot break His Promises!  He will return for them one day.  I might fail them and others they trust might break their word, but it is against the very nature of God to break His promise. It would be a contradiction of what He is.

So please hear two things today: First God cannot break His promise to us.  The problem for most of us is that we anthropomorphize God. We think of Him and judge His promises and merits based upon human promises and merits.  We fret that maybe God is just like us and will break His promises or not honor His word just like everyone else. We worry that maybe He is capricious God that can’t be trusted to follow through on a commitment or, worse, that one day He might change His mind and “un-create” us or forget us.

There are two kinds of promises you can hold onto with absolute certainty in this world:

1. Those that God offers to all that love Him.  They are recorded in the written Word—-read the Bible and claim those promises and be at peace that He will keep those promises. He cannot lie and cannot break His word.

2. Those promises that He whispers to you and me.   Has He given you a promise?  Are you sure of it?   Bravely hold onto those words of love He has spoken to you!  “I love you”… “I will never let go of you”….”this will soon pass”..  Beloved, I am His——and because of that He will never stop loving me, let go of my hand or leave me alone——and He will come back for me because He has promised!

The second point today is that we must keep our promises. God’s Holy Spirit spoke to those that wrote His Holy Word time and time again to remind us about how keeping our promises is a reflection of God within us.  God has told us how highly He esteems in a man that keeps His word  when David wrote in the 15th Psalm, “….blessed is the one who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind;”   This is what God values  because it represents what God is!  He is the definition of truthfulness and goodness. He always keeps His promise! He simply cannot break a promise and neither should we.

Later in the Old Testament there’s a sad story of  a man that made a foolish promise to God. “Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the Lord’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh no, my daughter! You have brought me down and I am devastated. I have made a vow to the Lord that I cannot break.”

“My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the Lord. Do to me just as you promised, now that the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”

“You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and her friends went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father, and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.  From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.”    He killed his own child because he gave his word!  NO, I am not advocating keeping your word to kill your children, skin them alive, or any other crime!  But the reason this story is important is to focus upon how the Hebrews understand what we have largely forgotten—-a promise has to be kept!

Why do we break promises today?  My children offer up the same excuses adults and I offer for not keeping a promise:

-Oh, I forgot

-Yes, I did not keep my promise, but neither did you 

-It was a dumb promise and I never should have made it, so it doesn’t count

-You made me make that promise promise!

But not keeping a promise is not only dishonoring to God, it’s bad for us as well. When we don't keep a promise to someone, it communicates to that person that we don't respect him or her. We have chosen to put something else ahead of our commitment. Even when we break small promises, others learn that they cannot count on us. Soon enough a relationship is destroyed or damaged.  My sons tell me that Mr. Jerry and Dr.. Wayne never break their promises, but they note that many other adults do break their promises and the same adults rely upon the same childish excuses that they use.

When we break our word we are telling ourselves that we don't value our own word. We think it is okay to let someone down, to say something we don't mean, or to fail to follow through on something we said we would do. Not keeping a promise is the same as disrespecting yourself. Ultimately it can harm your self-imageself-esteem, your life and your walk with Christ.

I had to leave my home a few months ago for a two-hour meeting.  As always, there was a major emotional meltdown with one of the younger boys. He begged to come with me, cried, pouted, threw a tantrum, screamed, and yelled. You name it … he did it.  But I have never, not once, surrendered to his demands. Why does he do this?

Again, I was only gone for a couple of hours, but you would have thought I was being led to a firing squad by the way he behaved. Finally, thirty minutes later, he was exhausted, apologized, hugged me, asked once more if he could go with me, and then asked me if I would promise him that I would come back. That was the issue. He wanted to know whether I would come back for him.

The boys that live in my home, as you all know, are my adopted sons.  But each have on five occasions (and one boy on ten occasions) had their biological parents, step-parents, or foster parents leave the house and never return. These boys have been fooled many times by adults that promise to come back but never do. Being placed in five and ten foster homes has broken their hearts more than once, and they are hoping that I won’t break them again. It’s heartbreaking to think of it. Promises have been broken by social workers and even some professional therapists and they have had a hard time trusting the promises of adults. Shame on any adult or caregiver that breaks a promise to a child. We complicate, hinder and become  stumbling blocks to children and adults that want to trust God and believe in His promises when we claim to know God and don’t keep our promises.

When I returned home after the two hour meeting there was great happiness and excitement from the young sons.  But I would dare say that the youngest was waiting in greatest anticipation for my return. Such is his love, dependence, and need of me.  Such is the need and dependence—-“child-like”—that God requests of us.

There are consequences in our lives when we break our promises  to God or anyone else. Have you done that? If it’s not too late, fulfill your vow to Him!   David said: “Make vows to the Lord your God, and pay them;  Let all who are around Him bring presents to Him who ought to be feared.” Psalm 76:11

The Bible states that when we make a vow or promise unto God that we keep that promise.  Do we?

Many times have you  heard people ask God to heal them, bless them financially, give them a job, give them a spouse and so forth telling God what they would do for Him if these things came to pass for them, but when they did, they didn't follow through with God.

Our Heavenly Father is a loving and forgiving God and is not waiting for the chance to zap us for not fulfilling our promises, but when we do carry through with what we promised God, He pours out more blessings unto us because of our faithfulness unto him.  Have you made a promise to God that is not fulfilled yet? It is not too late to do what you have promised him; start today working on doing what you said you would do and watch the blessings of the Lord come.

We must to keep our promises to our children… our spouses….to those we represent…to our employers and employees…..and to our God.  Friends, God can be trusted—-but can we?

This week, before you make a promise, ask yourself, “Am I being realistic? If you can’t keep the promise don’t make it!

And secondly, “Do I need to make this promise? Jephthah made a very stupid vow!!! God never required that promise!  But such was the resolution of the time  that when a promise was made it was kept! No matter how stupid or ill-advised it was. A promise meant something! And in this, more than anywhere else, we have drifted as the people of God.  The ancient Hebrews lied, committed adultery, were proud and rebellious and disobeyed God, but they tended to keep their promises.

There is nothing in life that says you MUST make promises to others.  Tell the truth and you will be pleasing God and blessing those that look up to you.  But if you make a promise, you’ve got to keep it.

And if I may be bold, if possible, this fall we should only elect officials and policy makers that will keep their promises once in office. We are suffering as a nation because our leaders are not keeping their word, telling the truth, honoring God and/or putting themselves last….

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