Laughing at promises

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Photo by Edu Carvalho on

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is in Romans 4:16-17 where it says, “…to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations;- in the presence of God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told…

I struggle with depression. I don’t always feel like laughing or even smiling. I hear the hopeless thoughts and know what the psalmist meant when he said he pleaded for God to let him hear his voice so he didn’t become like a dead man (Psalm 143:7). The circumstances of our lives can often send us the same message Abraham and Sarah got from their circumstances, “We’re as good as dead!” God gave them an outrageous promise. He said they would have a child when they were obviously too old to do so. God’s promise was impossible in their circumstances. And just as Abraham and Sarah were promised the impossible, we too are promised something that just can’t be in our physical, mental and spiritual condition.

Abraham and Sarah both laughed at the thought that God would give them a child in their old age. Surely they laughed at the scandal of the idea. When I face the impossibility of the promises God has made to me in Christ, my first inclination is not to laugh. It’s to do what Sarah did- doubt and try to do the best I can with what I have and end up with lots of Ishmaels in my life; lots of self-made ways to try and be what only God can make me in Christ. And then when I find myself in the mess I’ve made, like Sarah I’m angry and depressed. I forget what God promised. But when I remember, when I see Christ in the scriptures, in the church, in my life, there is something in me that just wants to laugh.

Proverbs 31:25 says of the woman who fears the Lord, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”

I used to read that and think, “How can she laugh? There are so many bad things. So many hard things. So much death. So much isn’t right in the world or in my life, how can I be a woman who fears the Lord and laughs at the future?” I had this idea that her laughter was a mocking victorious laughter. A sort of, “Haha! Give me your best shot future! I’ve got this!” But as I read about Sarah and Abraham and the laughter that came out of them at Isaac’s birth, I think this laughing at the time to come is an unexplained joy we feel when we believe God, despite all the impossible circumstances in our lives that seem to say there’s no way God can make me like Jesus and make all things right and destroy evil, sin and death. God is doing what he promised in us!

There is no way we can make the things God promises come to pass. But just as God promised and gave Isaac to as-good-as-dead Abraham and Sarah, he will make us who feel the weight of sin and death in our bodies, who were once dead apart from Christ- he will and is making us free (John 8:36), alive (Ephesians 2:5) and whole (2 Timothy 3:17) because he’s given us Jesus. He will finish what he’s started in us (Philippians 1:6). He will make all things new (Galatians 21:5). And we will reign with him forever (2 Timothy 2:12)!

Why it’s important to meditate on the Bible: A conversation between mom and son.

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Photo by Don Milo on

Until about 7 o’clock this evening I felt like the walking dead. Doing some night shifts at the hospital is taking its toll on me.  But I’m always surprised at how much I notice God’s presence and help when I feel especially weak. Today was no exception.

My 13-year-old is new in his personal walk of faith following Jesus and as his mom it’s priority for me to intentionally disciple him in the love and teaching of Christ. I look to the Bible, prayer and the promise of the Holy Spirit’s help for this.

It’s a funny thing when you think about it, we look to a book to learn about this God we have been captivated by. Christ has captured our hearts and given us a desire to love him and others like we never had before. But we can’t see him. We have a book- actually a collection of books in the Bible, and we have the church.  Yes, we have nature and other relationships through which we learn more about this God we love and have never seen, but the meat and potatoes of our spiritual growth diet is the Bible and the church.  When I look back over my years following Jesus, it’s chewing on the messages of the Bible, alone and in community, that has sent tap roots of faith down into the soil of my tumultuous life.  I want my sons to have that same deeply-rooted faith.

The Bible can be misused. And sadly is. In the Bible Satan uses the scriptures to tempt and lie to Christ himself. Reading or knowing the Bible is not a sign of humble faith or a regenerated heart. But without taking in the scriptures, chewing on them and spitting them out in prayer and community, with questions and responses, we will be weak Christians easily tossed by the storms and droughts of life.

I’ve been asking my youngest to form habits of reading scripture, asking questions, praying and discussing it with me. Today, we read the daily reading from our church’s app.  It was from Isaiah 53.  After we listened to the reading of the passage, we began a discussion.  Actually, I started preaching. And my son obliged and listened. I was surpised to find that in my crawling skin, bowling-ball head, tired, burning eyes and foggy brain Christ was bubbling up “rivers of living water.”

My son doesn’t like to read.  He’s part of this generation that gets most of its information from technology like his smart phone and social media. It a social norm I feel very wary of.  And without selling all our possessions and moving to Pennsylvania to become Amish, I try to push back against the strong current of information passively wearing my sons down to flatness. I urge them to grow deep roots and strong minds by reading the Bible and reading other good books.

Reading Isaiah 53 today with my son it just hit me: God has given us two ways to eat.  One is through our mouths into our stomachs, and the other is through our eyes and ears into our minds and hearts.  When we read, we are challenged to grow strong through asking questions and seeking answers.  Our diet is healthy.  When we passively take in information through phones, T.V. and social media our diet is unhealthy.

I’m convinced the need for picking up a Bible, chewing on it like a goat or cow does hay, and continuing this ruminating, meditative practice of digesting, regurgitating and digesting again God’s word is the healthy way God has given us to grown strong in our faith.

I’m thanking God for the promise tonight that he will not send out his word in vain.  It went out from me into my son today.  It was impressed upon him.  And it will achieve the purposes God has for it.

We need to read our Bibles!  We need to chew on what we read, ask the text questions, pray what we read, and spend time in community talking about what we read.  We need a healthy diet for our hearts and minds.

‘ “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’ -Isaiah 55:10-11

‘ but his delight is in the law of the Lord , and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.’ -Psalms 1:2-3