What did God REALLY Promise You?

Introduction

The following passage from Psalms 37:4 has troubled a lot of people. They feel that it makes a promise to them that God has ignored. For instance, they might feel that this verse promises them that God will give them a marriage partner and a family. This is their desire and they feel that they are meeting the caveat.

Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

But is this what God is really saying in this verse? Is this a blank check that you can cash anytime you feel like it? Can you actually force God to give you whatever you want?

Context

It is important to consider the context of a verse before we base a strong conclusion on it. When we isolate a verse from its context, it is easy to make it say anything we want it to say. So note the following statements also found in this Psalm.

  • Trust in the Lord, and do good
  • Commit your way to the Lord
  • Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him
  • Do not fret
  • Cease from anger

In fact the first eight verses of Psalms 37 list behavior patterns God expects of us. The rest of the Psalm then goes on to clarify the promises in the first part. When you read the verses carefully, you will notice that the promises are actually future ones. While God is free to give us these things anytime that He wants, He might wait until we get to heaven to do this.

Compare Other Verses…

I’m troubled by the number of people who try to coerce God into doing what they want. Some feel that He promises us wealth and power. Others try to claim marriage partners under this promise. Some go so far as to blame God for being unfaithful to His promises if he doesn’t do this.

In the New Testament, Paul faced a similar situation in his life. He had a thorn in the flesh and he felt that it was hindering God’s work. But God viewed it from a different perspective.

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10)

What is Your Desire?

In the passage above, we have a clear example of a time when God’s will conflicted with a Christian’s desire. So does this mean that this contradicts the verse in Psalms 37?

I don’t think so. It just clarifies it. Since God doesn’t contradict himself we need to understand that in a situation like this we need to understand the two passages in a way that they complement each other. There are several ways we can do this.

In the first place, God understood Paul’s desire better than Paul did. Paul felt that he could serve God better if God would heal him. So his real desire was to be able to serve God better. God knew him better than he knew himself, and told him that he would be a stronger witness with the thorn in his life than he would without. In fact, if God removed Paul’s thorn, it would lead to people glorifying Paul rather than God.

Paul did want to glorify God, from the bottom of his heart. So he was willing to praise God for his weakness and accept God’s verdict. So did God fulfill His promise? I think Paul would have said that He did.

God’s Will, Not Mine

Jesus faced this same situation in the garden before His crucifixion.

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt 26:39)

Sometimes we simply need to lay down our desires at the feet of God and say, “You know best, Lord.” If Jesus needed to do that, how can we expect anything else?

This means that we might need to give up…

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  • health
  • our job
  • having a spouse and family
  • wealth and possessions
  • friends
  • etc.

God told Paul that, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” If we want to serve Christ from the bottom of our heart, then isn’t it our deepest desire to have His strength made perfect within us? This means that we must be willing to lay our personal desires on the altar at His feet. God doesn’t refuse to honor His promise. He just changes our desires so that He can honor them.

Read the book Hinds Feet in High Places for a wonderful illustration of this.

Using an Outline Template in MS Word

Using Heading Styles in Word

To get the biggest benefit from all this, you need to turn on your Navigation pane in Word. Click on the view tab and make sure it is turned on, as in the screen shot.

 

 

 

When you have done this, the navigation pane will show up on the left part of the document window. Click on headings to show your outline. I find this a very handy way to navigate through a longer document. You can also right click on a heading and promote or demote it, or drag and drop it somewhere else.


If you click on the Home tab in your Word ribbon, you will see the styles, somewhat like above. You can then type in a number of headings and points using the normal style, then sort them by highlighting and applying heading styles. If this entirely new to you, find some YouTube videos that show you how to use styles. In my opinion styles are one of the most powerful features in Word, and you need to know how to use them. You will save a lot of time in formatting when doing longer documents.

Word’s Templates

This is what my outline looked like when I finished it. You can download this document by clicking HERE

You can download this file and play around with it. Or you can download this template and use it to build your own outlines.

This is a very cursory treatment of an important subject. I know that this doesn’t fit at all into some people’s way of working. But with some time it can become second nature to you.

Outlining Made Simple

An Outline is a Snapshot

Years ago, before the days of Windows, I picked up a freeware or shareware outliner. During those days I was teaching at a Bible school in Ohio every winter and I needed good outlines. I discovered that an outliner forced me to think more logically.

Now I’m not necessarily promoting that you need to get outlining software. In fact I built a little template in MS Word that does the same thing, even adding numbers and letters and all those good things. It allows me to drag points around, demote them or promote them, etc.

But my real point here is that outlining gives a different perspective of your book, essay, sermon, or Sunday school class. It forces you to pick out your main idea, the one big thing that your presentation is about. It also forces you to go through your thoughts and see which ones can be used as legs on which your presentation can stand. Everything else needs to fit into one of those “legs”. If it doesn’t, you need to throw it out.

That’s right. I said (or wrote, for all you purists out there) THROW IT OUT. It might be a really good illustration, definition, or theological term. But if you have to “bend” it to make if fit, get rid of it.

So how do we go about it?

Building an Outline

I found the paper pictured in the featured image floating around here recently, and it spurred my interest. Someone (I won’t say who) was writing an essay. That person had an assigned subject, I think, which always makes it a little easier. I liked how they (okay, it was one of my daughters, so she) illustrated this. She put the title, the big idea, what this was all about, in the middle and drew a circle around it.

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Okay, that’s easy enough. Next you need to find some legs for the main idea to stand on. Centipedes don’t work well, no matter what your project is all about. Anything short, like a sermon, an essay, or a Sunday school class can’t handle more than about four or five legs. A book might have more, but even a book can be too broad in its approach.

In this case, the writer picked three legs: bad effects of computers, good effects in the workplace, and personal benefits. If she had known that a thousand people were going to see this posted online, she would have improved it a bit more. This was more or less off the cuff with a time limit on the finished product.

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Notice how she then started to flesh out the various legs with more ideas.

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Notice that we haven’t used all of the points yet. So we continue adding to the legs, like you can see below.

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Note that B.3.b could have been turned into A.3 since it is actually a bad effect. In that case, B.3.a would become part of B.3 since you shouldn’t have a single point under another point.

In Conclusion

The last part of the process, in this case, was transfering this into a full blown essay. You also might want to transfer it into PowerPoint, or print it. But this kind of a process is almost guaranteed to improve your writing or speaking. It will force you to discipline yourself in presenting your ideas from a logical perspective.

It will also be a big aid to those who need to read what you wrote, or listen to what you say. It will take some self-discipline if you aren’t a logical thinker, but do it anyway. It’s like switching from hunt and peck typing to touch typing. It will slow you down at first but eventually the benefits will be HUGE.

Note: I'm going to try to follow up and post my MS Word template so that you can download it and use it, if you want. I'll include instructions with it, but its easy to use.

A Tribute to my Father

My father was the kind of person you only meet once in a lifetime and he made a big difference in my life. He died several weeks ago and I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to him, so I’m writing this instead. Travel with me as I think back over the years.

If I reach way back, I can vaguely remember living on a farm in southern Ontario. I only remember a few things from that, and they are mostly about my mother. But apparently my father had an accident with a farm gate that resulted in him having a very stiff neck and a serious arthritis condition called ankylosing spondylitis.

Ever since I knew him, my father lived in pain. He couldn’t turn his neck. But he persevered and held down a job, and eventually owned his own business. The doctors said he’d be in a wheel chair by the time he was thirty, but only in the last few years of his life did he use one at times.

My parents were very poor, but they tried hard to give my two sisters and I a normal childhood. I can remember my father pitching a softball for us, and taking us fishing. We had a few family trips, but they were rare enough that we still remember them. 

My father was especially interested in talking to people about Jesus. He was one of the people who actually walked his talk. He would walk the streets giving out tracts, and I remember a wedding held at our house for a couple that he had led to the Lord. We still consider them as part of our family to this day. 

My father also went regularly to a local prison for Bible studies every week for years. There were times that he had to crawl into the house because of his pain afterwards, but I don’t remember him ever staying home because of it. After he had his own business, I worked for him, along with the occasional inmate who was on day parole and needed work. I realize now how he might have worried about me, but those men respected him too much to every be a threat. One of them (I think) did steal his pickup truck once. And another broke into our house, but none of that ever stopped him. 

You can imaging the impression this made on me as a teenager when I started to realize what kind of qualities that my father had. I can honestly say that I had a good relationship with my father pretty well all my life. When I stood beside his coffin and thought back over his life, I couldn’t find any bad memories. None. And I tried, but they weren’t there and still aren’t.

I hope that when I pass on, my children will feel this way about me. I fear they won’t, because I know I’ve failed them at times. Probably my father would say the same, but if he did I don’t remember. 

We found the poem above with his personal papers. I don’t think he wrote it, because it was with a collection of poems people had given my parents when my youngest sister died at two days old. But it described him so well that we put it on his memory card. The pastor in charge at the funeral read it to the audience of his own accord. 

We all knew it was true. 

Should I self-publish?

NOTE: I recently got an email asking about my experience self-publishing with a certain publisher. I think most points are applicable for most self-publish services. This post is not promoting or denigrating any particular publisher.

Advantages…

  1. Pretty well any publisher will provide stability to a project, too often missing in self-published books. [Be sure to do an internet search for other people’s experiences because there are a few bad eggs out there.]
  2. They provide some editorial and design services.
  3. They put you in contact with sellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble
  4. They take care of the e-book formatting, etc.
  5. Many will allow you to pay for their services over a ten month period.
  6. I have heard and experienced mostly good reports from in house “publishing experts”

Disadvantages…

  1. The price often seems very high for the services they provide.
  2. In my case I needed to find my own contact editor. The publisher said that they edit the books but it was only a copy edit, and they didn’t edit structure or story flow. This is a very important editorial function and a normal sized book will probably cost you an additional thousand dollars or so. When I contracted with them, I thought this was part of their editorial process. My book was too far into the process for me to pull, so it actually didn’t get the editorial treatment I like for my writing to have. [Make sure you know the details.]
  3. I ended up doing a suggested cover layout of my own. Their designer added finishing touches which were good, but I’m not sure what they would have done otherwise. I get the feeling they have certain templates they use that allow them to fast-track design. You have to be clear in your expectations and not afraid to ask for changes. BUT each change request adds a month to the process. My project ended up taking close to a year.
  4. The first uploads to Amazon and Barne’s & Noble had obvious errors in the descriptions. While my publishing expert was quick to get this fixed, it again depended on me to ask for it. I felt that for the price I paid, they should have been more careful about details in various times throughout the project. I asked for advice different times and it seemed like the person in charge of my project was reluctant to step out with concrete suggestions.

More Thoughts…

Maybe my expectations were too high. But it is the little things that derail the success of your book. If you feel comfortable being your own general contractor, here is what you probably need to expect.

  1. You need some good reviewers, not just people who pat on the back for your “wonderful work.” You need critics. Cost? It depends on who you know.
  2. You need a good content editor. Say a thousand dollars? Depends on book size.
  3. You need a thorough copy editor. Another thousand? Amazon has both available, but look for some good freelancers. I’d say that a good content and copy edit would cost you at least $1500 and maybe as high as $2,000, depending on the length and complexity of your book.
  4. You need someone to design the layout and the cover of your book. Maybe $750 or so.
  5. You need someone to design / format your e-book. Another $500 – 750.

My publisher also did a video trailer, which makes a good sales point, but I’m not impressed with mine and I don’t think it will really generate a lot of sales. They gave me a page on their website, but I have my own website. They do a press release, but I don’t know how many get printed or read. They do make the book available on a world wide distribution network.

I’m waiting to see how much their marketing efforts will help my book. But I suspect that in most cases, you will have to do your own promotions to make it work. It is hard to know who much these things help and how many simply make a good sales pitch. I don’t feel that they are dishonest, and a lot of people do seem to like their work. The books I have from them are good quality.

I paid them around $4800, most of which I borrowed. Add content editorial and I would be at close to $6000. [That was CND $$. US $$ might be cheaper.]

To produce the same thing on my own, if I had to hire everything, would cost around $3500. Say $4000 to be safe. So the extra $2000 goes for services like getting an ISBN, getting the book into the distribution chains and online, and giving me some security. Is it worth that? I’m glad in some ways that I took this route for my first self-published project. I know what to expect now. However, I used to do layout and cover design when I worked for Rod and Staff Publishers, so I could probably knock up to another $1500 off that. If I do another self-published project I’ll likely do it myself. But my next book has already been accepted by a regular publisher, and they have made me an offer on writing future books for them that I really can’t turn down. It takes some of the variables out of everything. Especially, they pay for editorial and review and do all the design without me financing it. 

That should be your long term goal. Look at self-publishing as an investment in your future. But be sure that you do a good job of it, so that you can use your books to sell yourself to a publisher. I haven’t been very impressed with many of the kindle books I’ve download from Amazon to try to get a feel for the market.

Blessings on your work. If you have more questions, feel free to ask in the comments, or contact me using the contact form. However, I’m finding my way as well, so I’m not an expert. Note that the costs I mentioned are off the top of my head, but they should be close.

There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else.
(Ecc 12:12 MSG)

UPDATE: This book has now been on the market for about nine months. I have found the biggest downside of self-publishing through a publisher to be the fact that you can’t set your own prices. You can’t do any kindle give-aways, or sell hard copies at a discount. My impression is that the pricing is about 25% to high.

The marketing my publisher did for me [if any] accomplished nothing, as far as I can tell. On the other hand, about four months ago a traditional publisher released a small book that I wrote. I didn’t really expect much of it, but someone I knew wanted a book on that subject. They sold over a thousand books in the first three months. No cost to me for editorial, marketing, or layout. I won’t tell you how many self-published books I’ve sold in the past nine months.

Poor Me!

Potential brother?

How Can You Tell?

Right now, I’m sitting at my desk trying to put together an answer to an email. This is the third email now from this person and everything I tell him just triggers another rant against me and Christianity in general. As a former Christian, he feels that he knows everything there is to know about Christians, their beliefs, and their shortcomings. If I recommend a book that I think covers his questions or challenges, he rails at me for not knowing the answers myself and needing to refer him to a book. When I do try to answer his questions myself, then my approach isn’t Christlike. I think you get the picture.

Jesus said: “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” 

In this verse Jesus said we are be careful with our pearls . When do we get to the point that we are violating this verse in our discussions with unbelievers and scoffers? Is it ever right to write someone off? Should I just stop answering this particular person’s emails?

What bothers me about doing that is that I don’t know what is going on in this person’s life. Maybe he isn’t “yelling” at me at all. Maybe he’s really fighting with himself. Maybe he’s crying out for help and doesn’t even know it himself. It would be sad if I quit now when maybe a little more patience would bring him to Christ. And yet, I’m responsible to be a good steward of the time God has given me, and while I’m responding to these emails, I’m not doing other things that might be important in helping someone else.

I don’t discuss for the sake of winning an argument. I dislike controversy too much for that. But I do want to do what I can to help others. The person writing these emails might be a future brother or sister in the Lord. Wouldn’t it be great to walk into the New Jerusalem some day to be greeted with a big hug from someone you helped to find the way? Maybe someone you almost wrote off as being impossible to help, but kept on?

I hope I can meet at least one person in heaven who will tell me, "I'm here because you didn't give up on me." Even if it is just one person, it will be worth it.

I think I’ll say another prayer and answer that email. You never know…

Never despise someone Jesus died for…

ACCOUNTABLITY

WHO ARE YOU ACCOUNTABLE TO?

Some people don’t worry about accountability. If they want to do something, they do it. If they don’t, they don’t do it. It’s as simple as that.

But the Bible gives us a different perspective, as this passage shows.

“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL CONFESS TO GOD.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom 14:10-12)

This is something worth thinking about. If we voluntarily hold ourselves accountable to God, and ask Him to show us how He feels about what we are contemplating, we can save ourselves a lot of grief. One way to find out what God considers sinful is to read the Bible, especially the New Testament. Jesus stated that we would be judged by the words that He has spoken. Those words are recorded in the New Testament.

But the Bible also teaches another level of accountability. In our church, we are having our biannual communion service [known as the Eucharist to some]. It is our practice to have a separate service before communion that we call counsel meeting. During this service every member who is planning to take communion the next Sunday will give a public testimony of his personal status before God. This may include confession of sin, testimony of victory, joy for the goodness of God; pretty well anything you feel led to share.

There are no Bible passages that tell us that this is how we should do. But passages like Matthew 18:15 – 20, etc., make it clear that we are accountable to fellow Christians. Our counsel service is one way that we have chosen to do this. We give public testimonies since we do not believe that we are accountable to church leaders alone, but to the entire congregation.

However, this opens up an area that most Christians would like to ignore; their responsibility for their brother and sister. Not only am I accountable to the brotherhood I am part of, but each of them is also accountable to me. For this to work, each of us must be willing to go to a brother or sister that we see is struggling and offer our help. Jesus makes it even stronger than that in this passage:

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. (Luk 17:3)

Accountability is serious. It helps us to follow God and be ready to meet Him. It also helps us to help those around us in the church to be ready. Accountability works two ways.