My father was a man of his word.
Whenever I was growing up and Daddy told me he’d buy me an ice cream cone, or promised to take me fishing, or said he’d come to my school play, it was as good as done.
No changing his mind. No taking it back. No making last minute excuses when the time came and he felt tired and his back hurt and maybe he wished he hadn’t made such a commitment in the first place.
I could depend on Daddy to do what he said.
But such dependability was a two-edged sword.
Whenever I misbehaved and my father told me to settle down or suffer the consequences, I knew he wasn’t making empty threats. If he promised me a spanking, I got a spanking. When he grounded me for a week, I stayed grounded for a week. No early release for good behavior.
One Sunday when I was in high school, Dad mentioned over the dinner table he thought I’d been too heavy handed in applying my makeup that morning.
He was right.
It had taken half an hour of highlighting and contouring to get the glamorous look I was going for. But Dad remained unimpressed.
“If I ever come into church again and see your face plastered with makeup that thick,” he said matter-of-factly, “I will pull you out of choir, march you to the bathroom and scrub it off myself.”
I knew better than to try him.
Please understand, my father had nothing against makeup worn in moderation. He just didn’t like seeing his little girl painted up to look like a woman of the evening.
Rather than push the limits, I swung from one extreme to the other. I tossed out my contour pencils. My burgundy lipstick. My artist pallet in 50 shades of shimmering blue, green and charcoal eye shadow.
From that day forward, I wore the barest minimum: A hint of blush. Clear lip gloss. A light whisk of mascara.
The change worked to my advantage. I eventually married a man who shared Dad’s preference for fresh, clean, paint-free faces. He probably wouldn’t have given me a second look had I still been applying my makeup with a putty knife.
Daddy may not have been a fan of heavy makeup, he was undeniably fond of me. Whether I was wearing clear gloss or clumpy mascara, Dad was delighted to have me for his daughter.
Never for a minute did I doubt that fact.
I knew Daddy loved me just as much when he was doling out discipline as when he was distributing double-dipped cones.
God is that same way, only infinitely more so. His Word is true and trustworthy. His love endures forever. His grace is freely given.
But while God’s love has no qualifiers or conditions, many of His promises do.
People are quick to cite verses that assure us of God’s blessing, peace, comfort, help, power and strength.
But there’s an equally long list of promises nobody clamors to claim. God’s promise to resist the proud. (James 4:6) To punish evil doers. (Psalm 37:9) To frustrate the plans of all who oppose Him. (Micah 5:9-11)
You’ll seldom see the likes of these adorning coffee mugs, T-shirts and bumper stickers:
— “Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
— “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
— “If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you roll a boulder down on others, it will crush you instead.” (Proverbs 26:27)
— “Those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble reap the same.” (Job 4:8)
— “If you don’t forgive others their sins, your Father won’t forgive yours.” (Matthew 6:15)
— “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” (Ezra 8:22)
— “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
Those are all promises we can take to the bank. And we’d be wise to heed their instruction.
The good news?
— Sanctification is as much a work of grace as salvation is. God promises to faithfully complete the good work He’s begun in us. (Philippians1:6)
— We need only to stay on the Potter’s wheel. (Jeremiah 18:6)
— Soft. Pliable. Ready and willing for God to shape us. To mold us. To conform us to the image of His blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 12:2)