Tag Archives: God’s promises

Escaping Captivity (Guest Post)

Escaping Captivity

by Steph Beth Nickel

Because of Jesus... we can escape captivity.Many of us have read books or watched movies in which the main character is taken captive, books such as Janet’s own Heaven’s Prey.

While few (if any) of us have experienced this horror, we have all been held captive at some point. Some such occurrences seem almost too insignificant to mention: that bad dream that leaves us in a funk for the rest of the day for example. Some we seek to keep hidden: that bad habit we can’t seem to shake perhaps.

And what about that careless choice that makes us want to relive even a few seconds that would change the course of our lives for several days, months or even years to come?

Our Response to Captivity

Do we get tied up in knots? Do we obsess over negative feelings or less than stellar choices? Or do we actually believe Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV).

Many Christians have memorized this verse and quote it often. But do we cling to this promise when we’re at a low point?

Do we quote this verse and others like it to reassure ourselves, to pull ourselves out of emotional captivity or simply as a declaration of truth?

Our Response to Truth

If we don’t instantly feel better, will we still cling to the truth?

If God doesn’t “fix” everything in the way we want Him to, as quickly as we want Him to, will we still believe?

Will we allow our captivity to keep us bound in knots, making us ineffective?

Or will we deliberately look for the good in every situation? Will we pray for those involved? Will we see it as one more step on the journey to spiritual maturity, to authentic freedom?

Our Response to Promises

Will we rejoice in the midst of everything? (See 1 Corinthians 5:18.)

How can we, as Christians, escape captivity? We can hold onto 1 Peter 5:6-8 with both hands. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ESV).

And when we can’t hold on, we can trust that our great God will always, always, always hold onto us.

No matter what happens, whether because of our choices or the choices of others, we can trust God. Even in the midst of apparent captivity, we can live in the freedom there is to be found in a growing relationship with the Lord.

Tweetables:

Because of Jesus, we can escape captivity. (click to tweet)

God’s promises believed bring freedom. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

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God Hasn’t Moved

“Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.”
Judges 6:13, NLT*

Gideon was bitter that God has abandoned the people and given them into the hands of Midian.

Yes, God did that. But Gideon didn’t see – or think to ask – why. When the people cried out to God in despair, He sent a prophet to remind them why they were experiencing this oppression. Perhaps Gideon didn’t hear that message, but now he was talking with the Angel of the Lord.

Gideon’s own father had an altar to idols. Did Gideon realize this was wrong before God told him to destroy it? He knew about God from history and tradition, but likely thought as many do today that those days were gone, that God had changed or maybe faded.

It sounds like he blamed God for the trouble and didn’t see it was sin that had caused the separation. God hadn’t moved. The people had.

We see the same tendency today, sometimes in ourselves, and often in the world around us. There’s no easy answer about why God allows pain, and suffering is not always a consequence of our sin. Sometimes it’s because of someone else’s sinful choices, and sometimes it’s just life with no apparent reason.

Whatever the cause, when we’re hurting we can trust the God who promised to never leave us. We can press into Him, asking Him to reveal anything that we may have allowed to come between us and to restore us to Himself. We can trust Him to forgive us if needed, and to carry and sustain us. He loves us and will be with us.

Father, forgive us when we doubt Your goodness, and when we blame You for any distance we’ve allowed to grow between us. Whatever trouble comes our way, help us use it as a motivator to rely more on You. Help us to cling to the truth of Your promise to never leave us, and help us to not give any foothold to the enemy of our souls. We belong to You and You will not abandon us. Help us to stand on Your truth.

Never Alone” from Barlow Girl talks about those times when we can’t seem to find God.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Responding to God

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises.
2 Peter 1:5a, NLT*

“In view of all this” refers to what Peter says in verses 3 and 4 about the abundance of what God has given to those who have received Him. God’s promises are “great and precious” and they’re what enable us to draw nearer to God and to escape the corruption around us (v. 4).

How do we respond to God’s promises? And do we truly “make every effort”?

I think part of responding is discovering and relying on His promises. Believing them. Each of those actions require work, but Peter assures us in verse 4 that we’ll benefit from this work.

Verses 5b – 7 give practical life advice that we can only obey if we’re relying on God’s promises to be all we need. We certainly can’t do this in our own strength.

Why does it matter?

We’ll grow, and be productive and useful (v.8). We won’t forget what God has done for us (v.9). We’ll prove our faith is real, and staying focused will keep us from drifting from God (v.10). There will be a reward (v.11).

I think just growing deeper into the abundant life God gives will be reward enough.

God our Deliverer and Redeemer, on our own we can’t stay spiritually focused to remember You and Your promises, but this is the sort of prayer we can be confident You want to answer: Give us the desire to grow in relationship with You, give us hearts willing to make every effort to respond to Your promises. Remind us when we forget, and help us to begin again, as often as needed. Your patience is great, and Your mercies are new every morning.

When we think of all that God has done for us, it’s natural to join Kathryn Scott in singing “How Can I Ever Say Thank You?

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Abraham’s Example

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.
Romans 4:20, NLT*

Abraham believed God. He obeyed, went where he was told, and tried to live a righteous life, but it was his faith that made him “the father of all who believe.”

Perhaps the hardest thing for him to believe was God’s promise to give him and his wife a son. Especially when the years kept passing with no sign of pregnancy. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for this elderly, childless couple to reproduce.

But “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise… his faith grew stronger.” He didn’t know how, or when, or even why (except that God said so). But he knew Who.

God gives some people “impossible” promises, but He gives all of us the promises in His word. Promises like “I am with you always,” and “whoever believes in Me will have eternal life.”

Abraham’s example shows us how – and why – to live in the big challenges and the small ones. Our purpose is to bring glory to God. That doesn’t have to involve doing great things. Sometimes the greatest thing is just to hold onto our faith and to act in obedience.

Father God, help us to trust You with our honest questions. Grant us the faith to keep holding onto Your promises, no matter what. Help us trust You and wait for what You will do. Help us hold onto You, and to know that You are holding onto us. Your grip is sure.

Let the Newsboys‘ song, “Stay Strong,” encourage us today.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Squandering the Inheritance

All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!
Luke 15:29-30, NLT*

Can’t you hear the bitterness in the older brother’s voice as he accuses his father? (If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the prodigal son, you can read it here: Luke 15:11-32)

Squandering… that’s exactly what the younger brother did with his share of the inheritance, advanced to him by his still-living father.

But the father had divided his estate between the two sons, and I think the older one was squandering his share too. Just in a different way. Because he didn’t realize it was his.

He hadn’t received it.

Have we, as Christians, fully received the inheritance that God gave us when He saved us? I’m not talking about the treasures we’re called to be storing up in Heaven, but those things we forget to notice, or don’t fully believe are ours.

The promises that are already ours: forgiveness, abundant life, the fruit of the Spirit that will grow as we work out our salvation: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT*)

The little gifts in each day: sunbeams (or fat, gorgeous snowflakes), a loved one’s smile, the perfect parking spot when late, a cup of tea steeped just right?

The wealth of God’s presence with us in the now.

Squandering our inheritance… it’s the same thing whether we misuse it or fail to receive it.

I haven’t run away like the younger son, but in some ways I’m like the elder one, “in the house, but not home.” I want to be home – engaged with God’s presence, relying on Him and receiving all He has for me.

It’s a simple matter of turning to God – returning to Him even if we’re not far away – repenting, in a sense. And it’s a lifetime to master the constant turning that keeps us close to Him when our natural bent is to slip away. For encouraging insights, I recommend Janice Dick’s first-Tuesday-of-the-month series of conversations about Brother Lawrence’s book, The Practice of the Presence of God. (Here’s the link to the first post: Satisfied by God)

Lord Jesus, You know how many days I just push through, head down, missing the tangible gifts You’ve strewn across my path and the more valuable spiritual gifts I need only stop and receive. I’m helpless to live the abundant life on my own, and that’s how You designed it. Teach me to be mindful of Your presence and my need, whether I’m quiet before You or attending daily duties. Open my eyes to see, ears to hear, and heart to receive all that You have for me.

Take four minutes and let this song from Steven Curtis Chapman bless you: “Be Still and Know.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

A Prayer for Every Day

Finish what you started in me, God.
Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now.
Psalm 138:8, MSG*

Wouldn’t this be a great prayer to memorize? To print out and stick on the bathroom mirror, on the car dashboard or somewhere else you’d see it every day?

I love the trust in these words. David knows that God has started a work in him.

God has started the work. God has started the work. David can count on it, and so can we, as believers in Jesus.

God’s love is eternal. That includes His patience, His wisdom and His creativity. We often lament that we’re slow learners with God. Let’s draw closer to Him in trusting surrender, so that He can work unhindered, but let’s also relax and rejoice in the knowledge that His timing is perfect.

God never quits. He finishes what He starts. We have His promise. As we pray “don’t quit on me now” what we’re really expressing is the confidence that He won’t quit on us—now or ever.

Wonderful and all-powerful God, because of Your great love You’ve begun a work in each of Your children. We praise You that You finish what You start, and that Your love is eternal. We rejoice in Your promise to never leave nor forsake us. Help us to cooperate with You in the renovation of who we are—because of Whose we are.

Paul Baloche‘s song, “Because of Your Love,” is a great reminder for our spirits.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Choosing to Trust God

In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56:4, NIV*

Did you ever struggle with this verse? David repeats it twice in this psalm, so we know it’s important.

Maybe it’s my fiction-writer’s imagination. Maybe it’s some of the books I’ve read, or the news footage I’ve seen, but whenever I’ve seen the question “What can mere mortals do to me?” my mind started making a list.

We know that our fellow humans can do some terrible things. How could we not fear the worst-case scenarios? Sometimes God lets these things happen, even to His own.

I couldn’t believe this verse. Doubting left me feeling guilty.

This time through the psalm, God alerted me to the context of the verse. This is David writing, David who has been promised by God that he will be Israel’s next king.

At this point in David’s life, he’s on the run from the present king, Saul. Yes, David is afraid. Saul has a large, well-equipped army, and only wants one thing: David, dead.

But God has promised. Because of that, David can reassure himself. Clearly, Saul isn’t as strong as God, and God’s plans will be fulfilled. In light of that, what can mere mortals do to him?

The context liberates me, prompts me instead of doubting to consider: What has God promised me? Where is He directing me? What obstacles are blocking my path, where I can pray in confidence for God’s intervention in His best timing and in His own way?

Even without physical enemies, the “stuff” in life looms large, and pressures can hunt us like King Saul chased David. In our families, work and volunteer duties, home care, and many other areas—we can pray in confidence that, if we’re in God’s will, His purpose for us will be fulfilled. Now that I can believe, although at times it takes a spiritual battle to do so.

God who keeps His promises and whose purposes will be fulfilled, we praise and thank You for the privilege of being Your children and of living for Your glory. Forgive our doubts and stumbling, and remind us that Your plans for us are good. Help us see where we’ve accepted fear or defeat when You wanted us to take courage in Your strength. Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

A good song to sing in prayer when we’re struggling with this is Matt Redman‘s “Never Once.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

What if We Believed God?

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:9, NLT*

I have the privilege of reading the children’s story at church on Sundays. For Easter, I chose one from Violet Nesdoly’s site, Bible Drive-Thru, and in hindsight I shouldn’t have been surprised that Violet’s words would teach me too.

Her story explained how Jesus had warned the disciples that He would die and be resurrected, but when the women came from the tomb with the news, “they were shocked. Their surprise shows that either they didn’t hear Him, or they didn’t believe Him, or both.” [read the full post here: Death to Death]

Well of course the disciples didn’t believe Jesus when He told them what would happen. They didn’t want to believe the dying part, and the rising again part was more than their minds and experience could process. We only know better because the Resurrection happened. People saw proof and handed their experience down to us.

It got me thinking: what else may God have told us in His Word that our minds have naturally sloughed off because it doesn’t fit our human understanding?

Our God, the Bible brims with promises and hope, yet we confess that sometimes we trust our thoughts above Your Word. We believe our doubts rather than Your truth. Often we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Please remind us of what You said and give us faith to believe You really meant it—and meant it for us. Help our unbelief.

One of my favourite artists, Jonny Diaz, released a new album this month: Let it Fly. This song is a good reminder for us: “Live Like He’s Alive.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Free from Fear

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.
He freed me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4, NLT*

Anointed as the future king of Israel, as a young man David spent years on the run from the current king, Saul. When he first fled from Saul’s palace, leaving behind his wife and his best friend, David went to the enemy Philistines for refuge.

The Philistines recognized him, and David realized his life was still in danger. He pretended to be insane, and the Philistine king sent him away. (You can read the story in 1 Samuel 21:10-14.)

Psalm 34 looks back on that experience. The introductory note uses a different name for the king (Abimilech instead of Achish) but according to the Geneva Bible, “Abimilech” was a term used for all the Philistine kings.

In that context, today’s verse makes me stop and think. David said “He freed me from all my fears.”

God kept David safe and got him out of the Philistines’ clutches, but David knew Saul still wanted to kill him. And David had an honourable streak that wouldn’t let him kill Saul first.

David’s reason for fear—Saul—was very much alive and well. But David declared that he’d been set free from all his fears.

To me, that suggests an important distinction. Maybe it echoes another David-psalm where he rejoices that his Shepherd is even with him in the dark valley under death’s shadow. (Psalm 23)

The danger hadn’t changed, but David had. Fear didn’t own him anymore.

This wasn’t David’s first experience with God’s trustworthiness. Growing up, he faced down lions and other predators. Then he acted in faith to kill the giant, Goliath. (1 Samuel 17)

I think he fled from Saul in disappointment, discouragement and panic. And somehow, his experience with the Philistines reminded him where he needed to put his trust.

Even when we can’t change our circumstances, we can change how we respond. We don’t have to act insane like David did, but we can choose to rely on our strong God.

My theme message in my novel, Heaven’s Prey, is “Whatever happens, Jesus will be there.” I think that’s what David remembered in his moment of Philistine-induced terror. It’s what I need to remember every time fear or anxiety start to whisper.

It isn’t easy, and it’s not a one-time deal for most of us. It often starts with bringing God our fears, and saying “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:14-29)

He will.

We will still feel fear. But we don’t need to be afraid, bound by that fear. Our God is bigger.

God, our strong and mighty refuge, You promised to never leave us, and to shepherd and shield us. Whether you lead us through easy terrain or dangerous paths, help us remember that You are with us. Help us trust Your love. We know that doesn’t mean we’ll live pain-free, happy lives, but whatever  happens, You will be with us to carry us through, to Your glory and ultimately for our good.

Let these words from Jeremy Camp sink into our spirits today: “Trust in You (I Will Not Be Afraid).”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Therefore We KNOW

The Lord’s promises are pure,
like silver refined in a furnace,
purified seven times over.
Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed,
preserving them forever from this lying generation,
Psalm 12:6-7, NLT*

The Lord’s promises are pure… Therefore, Lord, we know you will…

The context in these verses comes from verse 5, where God says He has seen and heard the suffering of the poor and helpless and He will rescue them. And so, verse 7 says that’s what the people know He will do.

But the same logic holds for us today: Because God’s promises are pure, we know He will keep them. (Tweet this)

Whatever they are.

That doesn’t mean we can pick something out of the Bible and expect God to fulfil it our way and on our timetable. There are plenty of promises we can claim in confidence, though.

  • Jesus will be with us always. (Matthew 28:20)
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive them and to cleanse us. (1 John 1:9)
  • He has begun a good work in us and He will finish the job. (Philippians 1:6)

He may have spoken a personal promise to you. If so, He will keep it in His way and His time.

The Lord’s promises are pure… Therefore, Lord, we know you will…

Doesn’t that encourage you? When doubts come, when we’re tired and worn, we can stand on what we know: that God will keep His word.

Mighty God, Your promises are pure and true and thoroughly tested. There is no doubt, no defect or weakness in them. Help us therefore to believe and to declare that we know You will keep them. Remind us of the ones we need to rely on at any given moment. Thank You that Your promises are guaranteed by Your character, which cannot change. Let us rest in that fact.

Matt Redman‘s song “Never Once” reminds us that God is faithful.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.