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

 

 

 

Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, all you have to do is call

life is made up of all different sorts of seasons.

The first six months of this year were filled with different experiences for me:

My son got engaged and we couldn’t have been more happy, then a dear friend died and I attended his Thanksgiving Service and then I was  unwell, only a heavy cold but it knocked me for six, then we had builders working on our home for ten weeks, we had a holiday in France where a relative broke his arm necessitating a trip to a French A & E, I’ve marked exam papers and finally arrived at a more settled period before preparing for a foreign student coming to stay with us. 17022154_10154199182015800_2736362741751243244_n I’ve been reflecting that life is made up of all sorts of different seasons – it’s not just a straight-line experience of moderate happiness but actually life is made up of highs and lows and everything inbetween.

So often we think that our lives should be happy or easy, certainly not difficult and painful, but the truth is that  life is made up of many challenges. It is through those challenges that we put our faith to the test and we have to find God in the everyday, sometimes even moment by moment.

As I analysed this year’s events I thought about  my son’s engagement. It was absolutely joyful for us as parents, in fact the joy I felt  was beyond what I had anticipated. I already knew that he was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him  but when it actually happened it was so joyful and that was wonderful. But soon afterwards there were the thoughts of: Where will they live?,  When will the wedding be? Will the wedding plans come together?, Will my son be able to get a job after his internship? How will they cope financially? These concerns are probably typical of most mothers but it is so important that we don’t lose our joy through fear or anxiety. We should allow ourselves to experience joy to the full when it comes.

bereavement-1151085_1280Then there was the news that my friend had died. He was such a life-and-soul-of-the-party kind of guy, somebody who had been a friend particularly in my early adult years. He and his wife had been full of fun. I had known that he was unwell and then sadly I heard that he had died. The Thanksgiving Service was such a celebration of him, full of the gospel, full of who he was – quirky and funny, it was a special moment to mark such a great life. But of course I was not a close family member, I was not one of those having to walk through bereavement but I know that we all face bereavements especially as we get older. We begin to go to more funerals than we do weddings. It’s just another season.

 

Seasons are good for us. Seasons bring forth life. Here in the Uk the seasons are clearly different. We have periods of dormancy when nothing is happening above ground but actually it is a time when plants are storing energy for the growth that’s to come. When Spring comes they need all that energy to be put into the growing process. In our lives when we are in those kind of seasons we can feel that nothing is happening or life is isn’t going anywhere but actually these are times when we can dig deep into the resources of God and feed on his word so that we have enough to keep us going  for when we we are in the growing season and feel stretched.

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Then the Summer comes and there is heat and although we associate Summer and the sun with freedom, yes there can be times of great freedom and joy, but the heat can also be a time of intense pressure. I know that was what it felt like when I had breast cancer and at the same time my husband’s job was very uncertain, it was a time of intense pressure. It is at those times too when we are drawing on all that we have stored up during earlier seasons. Then  Autumn comes again , things begin to die and we see the season is changing.

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Sometimes we notice those things in our own lives, particularly as we grow older, or move into different phases. It is a different season now and we can worry about all that it will bring, we can be sad about what is gone, or we can embrace all that God will bring in the new season.

In difficult seasons it is tempting to get into magical thinking – if only this season were over, then I would be ok but we are in danger of missing out on what God has for us now in this very season. (I’ve written about the antidote to magical thinking here)

I want to encourage you that whatever season you are in whether it is a good season or a difficult season, whether you are young or old,  that there will be many more different seasons to come and each one is a place of God’s goodness, a place where we can find him to be faithful and we can hold on to Him because He is good and He will never leave or forsake us. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall ….. all you have to do is call – on Him.

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him “ (Ps. 145a)

 

Photo credits
Seasons and Statue pixabay
The other photos are my own and may not be used without permission

 

 

 

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

The Marvelous in the Mundane

How often do we sing or pray “His mercies are new every morning” without really stopping to think about it?

As I  was walking to work this week There was a thick white frost and a dense fog hanging over the landscape. It was so beautiful that I began to thank God for it, thanking Him for the beauty he had created that morning. Of course it wasn’t just for me but I enjoyed it all the same and stopped to take the photos used in this blog.

How often do we sing or pray “His mercies are new every morning” without really stopping to think about it? I know I do.

God has already been incredibly merciful to us. He sent His son to die in our place so that we could walk free from sin. He adopted us into his family to become joint heirs with His son Jesus, so all that is His – is mine – including the love of the Father. I’ve come home to a place of rest where I am known and loved. I have been given all this freely. What new mercies can there possibly be?

Some blessings are so everyday that  we  take them for granted. They are so much part of our lives that we don’t even think about them.

First of all, there is life itself. Every breath we take is a mercy of God. Since recovering from cancer I am much more aware of how precious life is than I was before. Our lives are a gift from God for us to experience His blessings. God knitted us together in our mother’s womb, he gave us life and he has numbered our days. Each one is a gift from God. Each day is full of potential for experiencing the blessing of God, for living the adventure of faith and serving Him. Sometimes I think we miss the marvelous in the midst of the mundane. We do the same things in the same way not stopping to see what the Father is doing in and through the small things that shape our lives.

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We have been placed within God’s wonderful creation. Everyday we can enjoy the beauty that surrounds us. Each morning as I walk to work I have been taking photos, many in the same places and of the same trees.File_000 (22).jpeg It has meant that I have taken time to notice all the changes taking place as the seasons come and go. If we take the time to notice we can find the wonder in the smallest flower and thank God for the incredible diversity in His creation which is for us to enjoy.

Ps 103:2 encourages us to “forget not all his benefits” It’s really good to take a little time to think not just about the big things that God has done but for the everyday mercies and blessings that come our way.

In one of the VeggieTales movies Madame Blueberry sings a song called “The Thankfulness Song”. which includes the line “a grateful heart is a happy heart”.Our boys used to watch this when they were small and I always remember that phrase. Being grateful leads to happiness. When we remember all that God has done and is doing for us it lifts our hearts.

What new mercies are you thankful for today?

 

 

 

 

Hearts First

The love of God is our security, it is a rock beneath our feet. It is a source of joy.

At the beginning of the year it is tempting to set goals, make plans and dive into the busyness of the new term (not that those are bad things). We tend to hit the ground running after the post-Christmas break as regular meetings start up again and new projects begin. This year as I was praying about our church’s two weeks of prayer which we hold every January I heard God speak two words to me, “Hearts first”.

Before we do anything God wants us to check our hearts. What kind of shape are they in? Are they filled up with the love of God?heartbeat-1892826_640

It is a reminder that first and foremost God, our Father, wants a relationship with us and what we do flows out of that. He created us in the first place for relationship as an expression of the outflow of love between the Trinity . He has always desired to have a people, to adopt us individually as sons and daughters into his family. We are now in Christ and enjoy the same love that the Father has for Jesus because we are “in Him”. It’s amazing! It’s overwhelming! It’s incredible!

In the story of the Prodigal Son the two sons both had a problem with understanding that their father loved them. The younger son felt guilty and unworthy of his father’s love and so he returned home to work as a servant or slave on his father’s estate. blue-1845901_640The older son thought that he earned the father’s love through working hard. Both could not be farther from the truth. The father was looking everyday for the return of the younger son because he loved him even though he had sinned. He was also alongside the older son everyday and all that He had was available to him because he was a dearly loved son.

Even if we’ve worked through these issues before it’s so easy to fall again into guilt and unworthiness, or performance. The new year is a great time for a personal inventory to ask ourselves do we really know that God loves us? or do we still know that God loves us? You see we will never give Him our hearts if we don’t understand this. We love because He first loved us.(1 John 4:19)

The love of God is our security, it is a rock beneath our feet. It is a source of joy in our lives. It motivates us to love and serve others.

Before we launch off into the activity of a new year we need to be saturated with the love of God, to be captivated by him. It’s then that there is an overflow of love to others whether it’s in serving our churches, in evangelism, at work or wherever God has placed us. So before your life gets taken up with “doing” spend some time with your Father, receive His love for you and pour out your love to Him.

He wants our hearts in good condition – filled up with His love.

YOU ARE LOVED!

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Photo Credits
All images: pixabay