The steadfast love of God

Never-changing, never failing, always constant, love

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Psalm 36

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
    your judgements are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.
10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your righteousness to the upright of heart!

I read this passage out during a prayer meeting recently and it has stayed with me since then. I like to amplify my own reading of the Bible as it helps me to engage with the text so here are some of my thoughts and my annotations of the text.

Your steadfast (never-changing, never-failing, always constant) Love (pure, without ulterior motive, genuine, unconditional, divine, father’s love) O Lord (sovereign ruler over everything, master, king, all-powerful) extends (covers the whole distance) to the heavens. (David could not imagine anything further away to help him describe the scope of God’s love.)

Your (I’m so glad it’s your faithfulness and not mine) faithfulness (trustworthiness, loyalty, never-letting-go of me) to the clouds (David has already used the heavens so he picks something else equally out of our reach to describe its magnitude.)

bergsee-2502983_1280Your righteousness (He always acts in line with his own character: his holiness, purity, justice, love, mercy; he acts righteously) is like the mountains (rock-like, unmoving, spanning millennia, not giving way, not fickle/blown about by wind of change, prominent, visible for all to see for miles around) of God.

Your judgments (decisions made on the basis of God’s moral attributes, He is Just, Holy, slow to anger, full of loving-kindness, all-knowing, always pursuing our good) are like the great deep (like the deepest ocean still uncharted or fathomed by man or the inky darkness of the deepest reservoir – impenetrable, the depth of His judgement is a picture of His wisdom.)

Man and beast (all created things, all creatures and peoples on earth, innumerable species) you save (preserve, sustain, feed).

How precious (we can’t adequately express in words, valuable, costly, dear) is your steadfast love (David just has to repeat this phrase because it is so AMAZING), O God (isn’t it incredible, wonderful, that we can address God personally, that we can even come into his presence!)

golden-eagle-1679166_1280The children of mankind (it’s open to anyone) take refuge (hide in, take comfort from, are safe, find shelter) in the shadow of your wings (a picture of God as an eagle or a hen protecting his chicks, spreading out His wings for all His young to come under, there’s room for all, it’s warm and safe.)

They feast (not just eat for sustenance, dig in, hoover up food in quantity and in quality, the best food, treats, nom nom!) on the abundance (not stingy, rich and plentiful, more than enough) of your house (we are part of His family now, we have come home, we live with Him and enjoy all the benefits of living in His family home, not as guests but as family/residents)

And you give them drink (living water, thirst-quenching, cool, refreshing, restorative) from the river (not a trickle, but a flowing body of water, it is powerful, beautiful, mighty, always moving further downstream, it makes glad the people of God (Ps. 46) of your delights ( wonderful, joyful, pleasing, satisfying, enjoyable).

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For with you (that’s where I am – with Him and He is with me, my Beloved is mine and I am His) is the fountain (geyser, gushing up, spraying everyone, the source of everything springing out of Him) of life (that should be LIFE, not the life we once knew but the abundant LIFE of those who love Him, living to the full, fulfilling all the potential we have in God).

In your light (He is the light of the world, we are no longer walking in darkness, misery and defeat) do we see light (we have a new light to live by, all life and light emanates from him, we are no longer lost.)

(No wonder David prays) Oh continue your steadfast love to those who know you (when we have seen, when we have tasted this steadfast love all we can say is – that this is so wonderful please let it continue but in fact it will continue because that’s what steadfast love does, that is God’s heart towards us)

And your righteousness to the upright of heart (not sure that I could describe myself as upright of heart, but Jesus came for us sinners to make us righteous.)

Only one word remains:

Hallelujah!

 

Photo Credits
All photos are from pixabay

 

 

 

The antidote to magical thinking

We can all so easily fall into a kind of magical thinking that goes something like this “if only x would happen

“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” (Acts 1:9-11).

I wonder what the disciples were thinking as Jesus disappeared from sight. I can imagine that it went something along the lines of “if only he would come back”, “I don’t want you to go”, “how will we cope now?” They hadn’t had time to process what was happening when they had an angelic visitation. These angels didn’t seem to do too well on the empathy front! They asked the bereft disciples why they were still looking into heaven. “Well duh! Why do you think?”might well have been their response. But actually those angels were pointing them to a new reality. Jesus had gone but the Holy Spirit was coming.

 

clipper-ship-760430_1920My grandfather used to tell me that when his boat came in he would buy me a doll. I was very small at the time and didn’t know that he didn’t actually have a boat and I used to regularly ask him if his boat had arrived. What I didn’t know was that this was just a kind of magical/wishful thinking – when I am rich I will buy you nice things.

 

We can all so easily fall into a kind of magical thinking that goes something like this “if only x would happen then y will (magically) happen too. If only I get that job, get married, have more time, have more money, more resources for my  project… or when I am well again , when the children are at school THEN I will be satisfied, I will be secure, I will spend time praying and reading my bible, I will give more,  I will be able to achieve what God has called me to, I will be free to help others etc  What is your if only? If only I ………………. then I ……………………… (insert your own).

The disciples were now faced with a life without the physical presence of Jesus, faced with carrying on the mission without him. The angels were encouraging them not to stand looking wishfully at the sky. They didn’t want them to get stuck there.

Sadly we can get stuck in our if only’s. Some of them are really painful to us, some are simply pragmatic but whatever they may be that is not a good place to stay. There is so much more for us than living under a cloud of regret or disappointment.

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The disciples went on to Jerusalem where in the upper room they were filled with the promised Holy Spirit. They now knew that Jesus was with them through the Holy Spirit. In the Isaiah 7:14 Jesus’ birth is foretold and that he shall be called Immanuel which means God with us.

Jesus did indeed live among men but now that he is ascended into heaven he has sent his promised Holy Spirit to each and every one of us. Having Jesus with us in the now is the antidote to magical thinking. We don’t need to wait until x, y or z happens, Jesus is with us NOW! That means that we have all we need for life and godliness now (2 Pet 1:3). In Jesus we have the answer to every aching void, every disappointed hope, every sense of constriction or limitation. God himself has promised to be with us. He will never leave us. Because of that all the resources of God are available to me – all his love, all his power, all his wisdom etc… in fact all of who He is, all of His attributes, all of His mercies. We have already got everything we need right now.

How will I ever find fulfillment in the future if I don’t find fulfillment in Him now? I am learning to take my if onlys to Jesus and to enjoy Him in the present. He truly is everything.

I don’t want to miss out on what He has for me now because I am waiting for my boat to come in.

Photo Credits
Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash
Ship: Pixabay
Screenshot Pixabay

 

It’s all mercy

I don’t receive what I do deserve, and I do receive what I don’t deserve.

When I was worshipping in a prayer meeting this week I found myself weeping at the sheer mercy of God towards me. Mercy is another of those words we use so lightly but hold so much meaning for us. I’ve been thinking about it so much since  that worship time.

The only time God has ever held anything back from me was when I was lost and did not know Him. He held back His wrath even though I deserved it. When my feet were in the miry clay, when I was in a pit of my own making, when I was as far from God as I could be – dead in my trespasses and sin, God loved me! How amazing! He held back all the punishment that I deserved, the wages of sin meant death but He held it back. He held back because of His mercy.

mercy-1However there was a day when He did not hold back, but gave everything, even His own dearly-loved son, to die for me. His mercy paid for me. Because He did not hold back I got to walk free. Free from sin, free from death and the fear of death, free from all that had ensnared and enslaved me; and more than that He lavished His love on me. I who had been opposed to God was now adopted into His family and can call Him Abba Father. I just did not deserve it.

Now, there is no good thing that He withholds. He is lavish with me, not stingy or mean but generous and liberal. It’s all  mercy – “compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it”. You see there was nothing good about me that deserved God’s love. I was sinful; but this is the nature of the gospel that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, the just for the unjust. I still don’t deserve it.

This is the wonder of mercy that I don’t receive what I do deserve, and I do receive what I don’t deserve. Not just once in the past but every day. Every day when I blow it, get things wrong,  give in to temptation, get jealous, greedy, unkind, shout at my husband and/or children etc there is still mercy for me.

Because mercy is given to those who don’t deserve it I don’t have to work at being deserving- it’s unattainable anyway. Far better to spend our time worshipping the One who is merciful and let the wonder of His mercy move us to tears.

annie-spratt-156497Matt Redman has written a wonderful song about God’s mercy here. In it he describes God’s mercy as endless as the sea. Mercy is like those ocean waves – it just keeps coming towards us. We will never get anything other than mercy from God. Hallelujah!

 

Photo credits:
Photos Unsplash
Mercy word cloud created using Tagul

 

 

The most important thing about me?

Our view of God shapes our lives. The more amazing He is to me the more it impacts my life and the way I live it.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us”.

A W Tozer

When I read that this week it was like a lightning bolt had struck. I couldn’t move away from it. I felt all sorts of arguments rise up. That’s not true – the most important thing about me is that I’m saved, what if I’m just in a bad mood etc. The thing is that I couldn’t let that thought go. What did it mean? What Tozer meant of course is that our view of God shapes our lives.

It is no coincidence that this quote is in his book “The Knowledge of the Holy” which has twenty-three chapters describing the attributes of God. So far I have read about The Holy Trinity, The Self-Existence of God, The Self-Sufficiency of God, The Eternity of God, God’s Infinitude and God’s Immutability. Long words trying to capture the intrinsic nature of God and make the inaccessible accessible to us.

Working my way through these rich explanations I have noticed that I find myself increasingly aware not only of the Otherness of God but also of my own security because I am found in Him, this amazing Almighty God. The more amazing He is to me the more it impacts my life and the way I live it.

File_000 (23).pngAs I look at what God is like in terms of absolutes, (He is absolutely good etc) I realise the poverty of my own thinking. Why do I  make God smaller than He is? – simply because I don’t have the language to describe Him and so I fall back on descriptions out of my own experience. We all do that.

We can so easily put God in a box where He seems manageable to us. That god is really too small, we can even think that we can control him. A pocket-sized god that we keep for when we want or need him.

People, including the psalmists, describe God in terms of what He is not e.g. He is not like us, He is not unjust, He is not fickle, He doesn’t grow weary, He doesn’t faint. It’s because we don’t have anything adequate to compare Him with. Even words like amazing and awesome have been devalued by  their everyday use.

The Bible teaches that God is Other, that means He is not the same as us. We find it hard to grasp what God is really like but we see and experience glimpses of him. Sometimes we experience the grace of God in a very profound way and from that point on we have more understanding of His grace and may focus on it more than other aspects of God’s nature because we have some familiarity with it.

But what about those other attributes? For example what about Infinity? Infinity literally means limitlessness. This means that you can’t go “To Infinity and Beyond” because there is nothing beyond Infinity  and it has no end. Stay with me here. It’s difficult for us to understand limitlessness because we are limited, we are finite beings. God is different He is boundless, measureless in every respect. He is not bound by timebaby-2028307_1280, everything that comes from him is also infinite, so his grace, mercy etc is boundless too. There is no end to His goodness. Hallelujah!

Even if we feel like Winnie the Pooh who said “I am a bear with little brain and long words bother me” it is so worthwhile to take some time to ponder, to think about the greatness of God. It expands our understanding as we contemplate the mystery and wonder of who God is. It feeds our souls and helps us to have a right perspective of the King of the Universe. It leads me to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and to gaze in wonder.

Having a right view of who God is and what He is like is also fundamental to our well-being:

If I think He is mean, I will live like a pauper trying to find scraps and crumbs.

If I think He is generous I will live like a prince enjoying His blessing on my life.

If I think He is a taskmaster I will live like a slave

If I think He is my Father I will live like a son or daughter.

If I think He is powerless (or disinterested), I will not pray, I will have no hope

If I think His all-powerful (omnipotent) and caring, I will pray with faith and see miracles in my life (and so on)

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So why not dust off the dictionary, look up the attributes of God, and engage in a journey which will never end, a journey filled with wonder, a journey of discovery of how great God truly is.

Christine

Related Blogs:

Absolutely Superlative

What’s in the box

Photo Credits

“What comes into our minds” and “Omnipotent”created using wordswag

Winnie the Pooh, pixabay

Dictionary is my own photo, please do not use without permission