I have loved working with others. A small adhoc group has brainstormed about banner wording for outside Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park. After voting on 14 possibilities we chose: God's Promises. Does He Deliver?
I like its question. Of course, some passers-by will be wary of talk about promises - especially religious ones. Sadly, too many have experienced broken human promises. But this question focuses on how God makes promises - and He is in a totally different league from anyone else.
How would you define promise? Someone wrote this (rather drily!): promise is an intentional speech-act by which the speaker assumes an obligation to perform some specified future act on behalf of the hearer.
How do you react to this? My immediate response notes its two sides. On one side, the speaker sincerely commits to deliver something that only they can do. It won't happen during the normal course of events. So the one who promises has a huge responsibility to make it occur in the future. When we consider God's character and track record as promiser we stand on solid ground.
But, on the other side, the one who receives the promise has major responsibility too. Though making promises come true lies beyond their control, they need to commit hearts and minds. Promises involve faith, trust, obedience and relationship. Some promises are general for everyone, but others are specific. Some are conditional, with an "if" attached. All promises call for mature responses.
So when we ask 'Does God deliver?' we tackle the most important part - the reliability of the promiser. But our responses are critical too.
What else strikes you about promises?
Saturday, December 29, 2007
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I agree with your concept of a promise having two sides. A promise both recognizes and creates a unique relationship between the promise giver and the promise receiver. We can't expect a total stranger to make meaningful, reliable promises to us. On the other hand, promises made in the context of a significant relationship have deep meaning. The presence of that relationship also creates the prospect of profound disappointment and hurt if the promise is broken or not fulfilled. We have all experienced this on a human level. Those of us who have a relationship with God may feel vulnerable. Will He deliver or will He be just another disappointment?
A couple of quick (no pun intended)comments.
First, we need to be clear that we understand what the promises are. Secular culture has a way of confusing God's promises for our wants. I don't think they are one and the same.
Second, a promise is not the same thing as a contract (covenant). God had a contract with Israel that was broken when they proved (not surprisingly)unfaithful. God promised a messiah regardless of what we do. His promise of the Holy Spirit coming was not based on our relationship but on what He would promise to accomplish. So it is critical that we understand what his promises are because they will not depend on us. Thus if we fail it doesn't mean God will not keep his promises.
All this to say I think it's a great sermon series. People don't know the truth, either by ignorance or by confounding so let's have at it. Preach on!
The question of God delivering on his promises, is the basis for my faith. I spent my childhood learning not to depend on others, my twenties learning not to depend of myself, and my thirties, learning to depend on God. I grew up in the church and attended a Christian University. I often wonder why it wasn't until my thirties, that I gave God a chance. (I think it because for my dependence to be real, I needed to face my worst fears about myself. Thank God for His patience.) Today, I am surprised by his faithfulness throughout the course of every day.
I have always enjoyed honest discussions about different worldviews. I have spent some time with a colleague, who has no belief in God or spritual things, discussing our different worldviews. In the course of our discussions, he expressed the hopelessness of his worldview and how he struggles with this as he gets older. He mentioned figuring out a "life strategy" would help him survive. He is genuinely confounded by my faith in God and has asked me point blank asked "Why?". These discussions and their questions have caused me to do quite a bit of reflection. It became clear to me that I would never be able to argue him into faith. Recently, I considered offering the following challenge to this man as he looks for a "life strategy". Examine God's word and His promises of life, sharing with him my "leap" of faith and my surprising spiritual rescue. This leap (when done with honesty, through the work of Jesus), and experiencing a promised rescue would reveal undeniable evidence of God's existence and character. This is not a revolutionary approach, it is finally becoming so real for me. As I drove by the church and saw the sign, I was even more encouraged by this idea.
At this time, there is tension between us and our conversations on any topic have been strained. Right now, I am praying for another chance to speak with him.
Finally, as I have heard this series, I have been encouraged by your faith.
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