Embracing God's Promises

The lilac trees are teeming with the fragrant blooms. (I still have to get a photo of them.) Weeds are growing profusely together with the fair wild flowers. And there's no stopping them. I have spent mornings trying to stop their progress from surrounding the house and making it a den of crawly bugs, and that thought has helped me get the kids to help me out on this mission. They hate the idea of the creepies invading their rooms.

Once, these flowers and all the verdant trees were just promises of a brighter, more colorful season. Now, they are here for my eyes to feast on and my soul to rejoice in God's steadfast creative work in our yet sin-filled world, but which reveals His kingdom to those who have the eyes to see and the 'ears to hear'.

* * * * *

"I'm coming back next year," a student brightly announced. Before I could recover from my surprise, another piped in, "Me too!"

I am one happy teacher. Not because the school year has ended for me, but because I have successfully finished this year with more than what I've expected. And that for me translates relationship/s and being able to rub on, even on just a few of my students, the love and joy for learning. And, they're coming back next year! Yay! Well, a few are. I am glad because, to be honest, I'm missing them already. (By the way, I'm teaching special classes.)

Actually, I told them that I am afraid they won't have anything to learn from me anymore. But bright as they are, they told me that they haven't exhausted me yet. Haha. But for sure, they'll keep me learning so I will have something new to teach.

I am holding them on to their promise and I am looking forward to working (teaching) and seeing them again this coming fall. I am grateful for any teaching opportunities, because for me they are also learning opportunities. Isolated as I am because I have to take care of a young child and also due to language barrier, I am grabbing anything that would sharpen me and expand my world beyond the familiar shores I know.

* * * * *

I sure have come far from the warm shores of my beloved Philippines. June 12 was my birth country's day, a day to celebrate and commemorate the freedom that many Filipinos are now enjoying. We call it Philippine Independence Day. On this day, we have become independent, free from foreign rule and oppression after so many years of being colonized, ruled and taken over by foreigners.

I don't believe in coincidence, but surprisingly, my foster country now celebrates June 12 as Russia Day. This is when Russia became as it is now and not the one that is part of the Soviet Union. It is taking some time though for many Russians to recognize this day as a national holiday but a bigger percentage have already called it as Russia's Independence Day.

As it appears, my family have two reasons to celebrate on this day. My children will grow and understand what it took and what it means to enjoy the privileges they are enjoying now. This will remind them of their heritage. In the future, I will enlist my husband's help to make it memorable for them as they learn about their countries and culture. Exciting!

I have never thought I'll be living as far as Russia, even after I have gotten married to one of its sons. But since acknowledging God  as the one who directs my steps, I have embraced His words for Abraham, “Get out of your country, from your family... to a land that I will show you. I will bless you... and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). I have no idea at all if this promise is being fulfilled now, but I trust that God will do as He says. Or He may allow me to go back to my country... Who knows?

What I am eagerly awaiting, though, is that place where the only visa needed is Jesus in my heart and in my life. And where I won't be a foreigner any more. "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:20 NKJV).

It is not easy, though, journeying on to the heavenly Promised Land, just as the Israelites had a hard time staying steady on the path God was leading them on. But there are scores of those who have come before me who have held fast to God's promise despite of what they've gone through. One of my favorite writer writes, "Those who closely connect  with God may not be prosperous in the things of this life; and they may often be sorely tried and afflicted. Joseph was maligned and persecuted because he preserved his virtue and integrity. David, that chosen messenger of God, was hunted like a beast of prey by his wicked enemies. Daniel was cast into a den of lions because he was true and unyielding in his allegiance to God. Job was deprived of his worldly possessions and so afflicted in body that he was abhorred by his relatives and friends, yet he preserved his integrity and faithfulness to God. Jeremiah would speak the words which God had put in His mouth, and his plain testimony so enraged the king and princes that he was cast into a loathsome pit. Stephen was stoned because he would preach Christ and Him crucified. Paul was imprisoned, beaten with rods, stoned, and finally put to death because he was a faithful messenger to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. The beloved John was banished to the Isle of Patmos "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."

She further writes, "These examples of human steadfastness, in the might of divine power, are a witness to the world of the faithfulness of God's promises--- of His abiding presence and sustaining grace. As the world looks upon these humble men, it cannot discern their moral value with God. It is a work of faith to calmly repose in God in the darkest hour - however severely tried and tempest-tossed, to feel that out Father is at the helm. The eye of faith alone can look beyond the things of time and sense to estimate the worth of eternal riches" (E. White, Testimonies, V.4, 525).

And so, the Scriptures have said of those who stay steady while they stand on God's promises, "... not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16). 

A homeland. Where God is the people's God. These words stand out for me.

Despite of being still on this road, I am hopeful. Because having lived in three different countries, I have seen glimpses of God's heavenly promise to His children. It may not be perfect, but then, nothing is perfect in our world broken down by sin. In the Philippines, I have seen how it would be like to live together in warm fellowship with each other, and extend hospitality in unaffected manners, humbly and generously sharing even the only or last food that we have. In Korea, I have experienced what it would be like to live in harmony as each one treats each other with consideration and courtesy. In Russia, I have enjoyed the natural beauty of God's created world and the stimulating conversation that ensues when talents and gifts are cultivated. I hope to see more, meet more people and experience more places, but I know every place would be limited and nothing will ever come up to what God has in store for us. These limitations are not only in the physical world, but mostly in the spiritual. When God is not the God of the people, then His blessings can only flow so far.

* * * * *

I live on God's promises. Actually, I survive on them. I know that people, and that includes myself, can be fickle. But I have proven God being my God to be stable. When He says "I am with you" (Matthew 28:20), He is not lying. I can depend on His abiding presence when I abide on Him. When He said,  "My grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 12:9), His grace does sustain me through, especially in my darkest or the mundane of days and I'm bored to tears. And just as the promise of summer has come, so will He fulfill His Word to His people, for it is said, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). And when He said He will come, He will come.

Here are some of the Bible promises I hold dear and embrace...

Have I not commanded you? 
Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, 
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. 
Joshua 1:9

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; 
They shall mount up with wings like eagles, 
They shall run and not be weary, 
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, 
nor angels nor principalities nor powers, 
nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, 
nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God 
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38, 39

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, 
and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. 
God Himself will be with them and be their God. 
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; 
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. 
There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” 
And He said to me,“Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
Revelation 21:3~5

What's yours?


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