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February 2007 Your faith

Make a special gift for someone you care about

A treasure chest for our families

Why not start to make a special gift for someone you are praying for today? Michele Morrison explains more

“The more I called Israel, the further they went from me” (Hosea 11:2). Many parents could substitute the name of a beloved child for ‘Israel’, and understand God’s broken-heartedness. As Christian parents, our deepest desire is to see our children in growing relationships with the Lord. But often we watch in anguish as they give way to the overwhelming onslaught of temptation that ensnares them.

Thank the Lord that their salvation is not down to us! Further on in Hosea 11, the heartbroken Father cries out, “How can I give you up? . . all my compassion is aroused . . .They will follow the Lord . . . I will settle them in their homes”.
   
It’s a promise. God will not give up on your children. They will follow him. He also promises, “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays” (Ezekiel 34:16). He will do it.
   
Is your heart breaking for a child who has strayed off along cliff-top paths, deaf to your cries, unresponsive to your protestations? Are you bemused and dismayed as your child traverses teenage years, and the once-smiling face hardens into a defiant pout, the cheery banter reduces to a sullen grunt, and your child of Christ prefers a laze in bed to a praise in church?
   
Take it from me: all the nagging in the world, all the emotional blackmail you can muster, won’t change things. Been there, done that. Much better if you back off, fall on your knees, and claim God’s promises.
   
It’s not easy, and it takes time, but trusting God to keep his promises is every Christian’s responsibility. Encourage your trust by taking action.

Invest in God’s promises, but resist trying to fulfill them yourself. Though Scripture says, “The Lord helps him who helps himself,” it also commands, “Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14). It’s a tricky balance to achieve, but the two are maybe not as contradictory as would first appear.

Abraham  and Sarah had some trouble waiting for the Lord, and erred rather spectacularly a few times by helping themselves.  But, by the end,  perhaps Abraham  had learned his lesson. Though wealth and descendants  had  been given to him, he and his family lived as sojourners in the Promised Land. It was still inhabited by pagan nations, and when Sarah died, Abraham faced a dilemma. Kindly neighbours  offered him a cave for the burial, but he declined to take it free of charge. He insisted on paying market value for it.

It’s as if Abraham  were saying to God, “I believe you about the land. And to prove it, I want to invest in your promise. I will pay for the first plot of land to be owned by my family in this place.”
   
Investing in the promise. Not forcing God’s hand. Not making it happen himself. But declaring that he believed  God’s promise, and he was willing to act on that belief, while remaining dependant  on  God to bring fulfillment.

Several months ago, inspired by this example of Abraham, I decided to invest in God’s promise to bring back the strays. I have a few strays in my family. So I searched  in the attic for my cardboard box of old prayer journals. I found others in my desk,  my handbag and the bedside  cupboard.
   
Over the next few weeks, I re-read every journal, and each time I found a specific word for one of my children,  my husband,  or myself, I noted it down and filed it in an A5 binder with dividers bearing each of our names.

Some of the things I noted were words from God into specific situations – often encouragements to me when I was clinging desperately to him. Other notables were prayer pictures, offering insights and guidance. There were also Scriptures highlighted by the Holy Spirit. I went through all my old Bibles, copying relevant marginal notations. Finally, there were instances of spiritual breakthroughs  noted down and, I have to confess, since forgotten.

My idea was, in effect, to buy a plot in the promised land for each of my children, whom God has promised to save, so that when they step into the kingdom and begin a love relationship with God, they can read a chronicle of his pursuit of them.
The day arrived for one of them sooner than anticipated. Going through an intensely stressful time, it seemed  increasingly evident that the Lord was using her situation to draw her to himself. When we prayed a prayer of confession, relinquishment and commitment together on the phone,  I knew it was time to send the treasure chest. But it wasn’t finished!

I’d hoped to use an actual decorated box, but as it had to be posted, I chose instead a lilac plastic wallet. On separate sheets of colour co-ordinated writing paper, I penned the various promises and verses. I threaded chiffon ribbon through the 2-ringed holes to secure them. Then,   I wrapped up and enclosed a little angel charm, which hinged open. I asked God for a special verse, wrote it out in fairy-sized writing, rolled it into a scroll and popped it inside. Finally, I slipped in an appropriate Christian book.
   
She was overwhelmed.  Can you imagine the blessing of realising that even during the tough, rebellious years, God never rescinded his plan for your life? That through it all, he loved you with an everlasting love?

We had to text when she received it; voices were not to be trusted. “This is amazing,” she finally whispered down the phone. God is great.

I have three more spiritual treasure chests to finish. I want to be ready when the time is right for the next one. The very act of writing out wonderful promises of God has raised my own threshold of faithful expectation and encouraged my prayer. It’s a perfect blend of taking action, and waiting.

My only regret is that I didn’t think of it sooner. My prayer journals are not complete  – in every year there are months of silence – but not, I’m sure, from God. He will have been  speaking, I may have been  hearing, but I wasn’t writing it down.

So, to all parents or grand parents, I encourage you to note the specific promises of God. If you start a spiritual treasure chest at the same time you buy a baby book, think how full it will be when the child has grown! Even the child who never rebels could find great encouragement in such a personal record of God’s love through the years. It could be a fine 21st birthday present, or a wedding present.

If you don’t have children, why not start a spiritual treasure chest for the individuals God lays on your heart repeatedly? It will encourage your prayer, and who knows – that heightened expectation may just bring forward God’s saving grace in their lives.

It is easy to treat with disdain or contempt the promises of God simply by forgetting, and consequently ignoring them. So I am also gathering God’s words to Don and me, hoping that in the future we will not betray doubts and fears, by crawling up to God every so often and whining, “But did you really say . . .”

God’s promises bring hope. They reinvigorate the discouraged, refresh the weary, are fodder for prayer, and remind the faithful that, in fact, God is in control and his promises never fail.

What greater treasure can there be?

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