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 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?

 

 

 

 

What If ……….?

At this time of year I like to review my prayer list, to see what answers to prayer there have been and those prayers that have not yet been answered.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

At this time of year I like to review my prayer list, to see what answers to prayer there have been and those prayers that have not yet been answered. I like to think about my Impossible List and to think about anything else I should add to it now that another year has passed.

Sometimes I don’t like the name Impossible List because, well, it just seems impossible and sounds impossible. I have just been reading a book where the chapter heading was What If? I was immediately captivated by the idea of a What If List? We all have dreams and ideas about what we would like God to do in us or what we would like to do for God, or what we would like God to do in our friends, workplace, city, nation, etc.

How about spending some time thinking and imagining what it would look like if God answered some of those items on your impossible list? For example I have been praying for members of my wider family to know Jesus for themselves and to move from being opposed to God and the gospel to loving God and enjoying the outworking of the gospel in their lives. If I ask myself What If they were saved? I can imagine them knowing the love of God in their lives, I can imagine them worshipping alongside me and praying with me. street-sign-141396_1280All of those things are absolutely impossible at the moment but I find if I use the What If method it lifts me out of praying the usual short prayer of” Lord please save them” to telling God all of my imaginings and asking God to make them reality. It makes praying for long-term requests exciting . If I have gone off the boil a bit in praying for particular things it re-energises my prayers.

During the Christmas season we had many events at our church which were absolutely packed with visitors. I have found myself imagining what it would be like if all those people who were crammed in waiting for concerts and carol services to begin and then rushing for seats were actually pressing in and rushing in to meet with God. What would that meeting look like?

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How would it affect our communities if hundreds were newly saved? How would it affect our city? I find myself thrilled with the prospect of this and I pour it out to God, telling him all about it and asking Him to bring it about.

Asking myself What If has really helped to lift my praying to another level. It has taken me from sometimes dull repetition of the same prayers to prayer times that are full of life.

In case you are wondering if this is Biblical, have a look at what Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians

“Now to him who by his power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine—to him be glory in the Church through Jesus Christ for ever and ever, amen!” (Eph. 3:20)

I like the Message version too:

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”

God can do FAR more than we can imagine! 

What can you imagine? Start talking to God about it! He can do more than we can imagine.

Jesus said “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt.19:26)

What If ……………?

 

Photo Credits
Imagine  & Possible pixabay
Worshippers Unsplash

 

 

 

Unspoken Questions

In difficult times the thoughts of most people, Christian or not, turn to God in some way. Why is this happening to me? Why does God allow suffering?

In difficult times the thoughts of most people, Christian or not, turn to God in some way. Why is this happening to me? Why does God allow suffering?

As Christians  we can feel that it is wrong to question God and those questions remain unasked festering away in the recesses of our minds. The problem is that the questions don’t just go away, they keep playing like a tape in our heads and work against us receiving the help we need from God.  We need to ask Him. These are some of the questions the Psalmist Asaph addresses to God:

“Will the Lord spurn for ever,
    and never again be favourable?
Has his steadfast love for ever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (Ps. 77:7-9)

Questions lying beneath the surface might be “Don’t you know what’s going on” Do you see me? Do you hear me? If you’re in control why don’t you do something? Why is this happening to me? Why are you doing this to me? All these questions are fundamentally asking “Is God trustworthy?” and “Can I trust Him with my life?” If we can’t resolve this we will never truly trust God nor will we be able to experience His love for us because that requires opening ourselves up to God and we won’t do that if we don’t trust Him.

why-1432955_1280Lying underneath the “Why? question is the notion that we don’t deserve this. We expect our  lives to be plain sailing and  question God when they are not. “What have I done to deserve this? If we haven’t done anything “wrong” then we can make the deduction that God must be fickle or a hard task master who must be appeased. If we distort who God is – that He is an evil tyrant then in turn we distort who we are. Instead of beloved children we behave as slaves working away through our performance to earn God’s approval or love as a means of dealing with our pain.

Sometimes, because we are suffering, we believe lies about ourselves . There is a faulty logic which says that if bad things happen to me I must deserve it and therefore I am in some way unlovable or undeserving of God’s love. This is where wrong thinking can compound our suffering so we are dealing not only with the source of pain but also with the lies we believe about ourselves. This can also lead to unhelpful behaviour where we try to deaden our pain with comfort-eating, drink, drugs, performance or denial etc

Suffering can produce a ripple effect in our lives. There is the initial pain but there can be ripples that go on and on throughout our lives. Some of those ripples are the consequences of what happened to us, maybe a relationship ended or we lost our job, some of the ripples are where we have compounded our own suffering with believing lies and adopting sinful behaviour which in turn produce more ripples of pain/suffering.

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Often we don’t want to face our pain with God because it is so painful for us. Painful to talk about and/or painful to face up to where we have compounded it with our own behaviour. If we can’t go to God we are shutting ourselves off from the very one who can help us.

So how do we answer those questions? We need to take them to God. We need to remember what we already know about God and to remind ourselves that our circumstances do not change the nature of God. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. We need to listen to Him and to those around us as they encourage us with truth.

God IS with us in our suffering. He sees us, He hears us and He understands. How do we know this? Because Jesus came to earth and identified with us. He suffered AND took all our sin and shame on Him. He suffered mockery, rejection, betrayal, physical abuse, and isolation. He has suffered more than we ever will.

Jesus gives us an example of how to cope in times of suffering. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying and  knowing that he was about to be betrayed, beaten and crucified he cried out to God, “Abba!” The name a child calls their father, Daddy. It speaks of intimacy and trust. He was able to pray “not my will but thine be done” because he trusted in the goodness of His father.

Jesus has sent his Holy Spirit to us by whom we can now cry “Abba!” because we have been adopted into His family as His children. Even if we cannot find the words, the Holy Spirit is interceding for us.

If life is difficult right now, or if you are in pain as a result of suffering in the past. There is hope for you. Hope for healing and hope for change.

When I went through a difficult season in my life what sustained me and helped me through was knowing that God is always good towards me. He will always be good to me, He will always be good to you because He cannot change. Our circumstances change, sometimes they are good, sometimes they are not, but God does not change and He is always for you.

How about you? Do you really know that God is good?.

 

Other relevant blogs:

The Goodness Bag,

The Valley of the Shadow of Death,

When the going gets tough

Photo credits: all images are from pixabay

 

 

 

A Strange Season

Each year the Summer Holidays can be difficult for me.

This Summer has brought mixed emotions for me. We had a fabulous week’s holiday with our sons and family friends in July. Then I came back to August. Such a strange month for me. No regular midweek small groups, friends away on holiday or busy with their children, people away serving at a Youth Event, Sunday mornings depleted. It’s a season without routine and regular fellowship.

I am a people person, I really need other people around me.  It’s with people that I derive stimulation, where ideas emerge, where I am inspired and encouraged. Each year the school holidays can be difficult for me. I feel alone and isolated and I can easily become dry spiritually. This year I just felt very flat. From past experience I knew that I needed to make arrangements to see people but this year it just didn’t seem to work out. Even friends who were coming on holiday with us cancelled. There were many days when I was working from home and didn’t speak to anyone from the time my husband left for work until he came home again. For some of you, I know, this would be your idea of bliss but not me!

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At times like these I can struggle with negative thoughts, “I haven’t got any friends”, nobody ever calls me, etc. It’s because it is a vulnerable time for me. We all have them. We need to know ourselves and be prepared. The bible warns us to be watchful as the enemy is “like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8) I don’t want to present myself as easy pickings to him. I need to take action. The trouble is that it takes me a while to realise or notice what is happening. For me there is a subtle slide towards feeling low before I notice that I’m not doing so well.

When at last I realise what is happening,  I begin to consciously  “draw from the wells of salvation” (Is.12:3) Drawing water from a well is physically demanding and time-consuming. If you are thirsty, you may become even more thirsty as you haul on the rope to draw water. You need to keep going.

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What are the wells of Salvation? I like to think of them as the deep places in my soul where I have stored up promises, past experiences of God’s goodness, truth about God (and me) and where the living water that Jesus talked about to the Samaritan Woman bubbles up.

How do I draw water from these wells?  Firstly I have to start; this is often so hard when we are in a difficult or dry season. Secondly I have to work at it; I need to make it my priority and to give time to it. (When I am feeling low I can become so lethargic and lacking in energy  that everything feels too difficult.) Thirdly I need to keep going; it’s no good reading one verse of the Bible and saying that didn’t work! Lastly I revisit old journals,  prophetic words and our book of answered prayer which really encourage me. They are like the memorial stones put up by the children of Israel to commemorate what God had done and to be a lasting reminder for anyone who revisits them.

Of course I ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in all of these things because He is the One God sent to be with us and help us.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”( Jn. 14:26)

Not only this but the Holy Spirit fellowships with us. He talks to us and encourages us. What an amazing provision of God He is to us!

Was I still lonely? Yes I was at times but I know that this is a season and soon life will be very full and busy again. I know too that my Father is with me in every season and He never leaves me.

We all have seasons that are different, a bit dry, or just flat or even very happy; at times like these we need find God in and through our circumstances.

So to those of you who have wondered why there has been no blog, or indeed where have I been. I’ve been drawing  water from the wells of salvation. In fact not only drawing water but swimming in it, luxuriating in the life-giving river of God.

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Photo Credits
Header photo: Unsplash
All other photos: pixabay
Negative thoughts cloud created using tagul

 

 

Heads up!

Looking down instead of up

Sometimes something imperceptible happens –  maybe I’ve had a tough week, maybe I am just tired, maybe I have had bad news and after a short time I realise that I am looking down instead of up. It’s not that I have sinned or that I have made a willful decision to look down. It just seems to happen from time to time.

 

At times like these I can find myself turning to myself and my own resources for living my life. It’s a dangerous place to be. I can turn to other things – tv, boxed sets, food or anything else that gives momentary satisfaction.

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You see the looking down has become avoidance. Because I haven’t felt great I don’t feel like worship, I don’t feel like making an effort. Then I can get stuck. Not enjoying the place where I find myself but not wanting to do anything about it either.

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This is where the enemy starts to whisper condemnation and accusation into my ears. Feeling disgruntled and disappointed makes us withdraw further.

Telling ourselves to pull ourselves together doesn’t work; it’s not an answer – just more trying to do work things out in our own strength and not dealing with the issue. No at times like these whether we feel like it or not we need to go back to God

Thank goodness we have a Father who is the lifter of our heads. Ps 3:3. He gently puts his hand under our chin and raises our head so that we gaze into his eyes. In that place we reconnect with the love of God. As we meet His gaze we know that we are loved, the condemnation and accusation falls away and I am at home with my Father.

When I  lift my eyes to God I am able to process my disgruntlement and disappointment with Him, I can talk to Him about it instead of storing it all up in my pity jar. I can be real about the pain with the One who really understands.

When I lift my eyes to God I am lifting my eyes to the source of all my help. He is described as the author and finisher of my faith. He is the one who gave me faith in the first place and one day He will bring me home to glory when the time for faith will be finished because I will see him face to face. Of course He will help me, Of course He wants me to come to Him.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and for evermore.

The Psalmist knew where his help came from. I know that too really. It’s just that sometimes I need to remind myself.

photo credits:
DVDs photo belongs to me and  cannot be used without permission. Thank you!
Other photos: pixabay

 

 

 

The Impossible List

Prayer makes the impossible possible

Some years ago when our sons were very young one of them left a note for us shortly before his birthday. It was a list of things he wanted. He had divided it into three sections: impossible (a Nintendo 64),  middle (a micro scooter) possible (black biking gloves) ! As a postscript he added “I love you Mummy & Daddy” – always a winner with parents! We have kept the note ever since.

At the time we were financially hard-pressed and I think our son understood this and he knew that we didn’t buy extravagant birthday gifts nevertheless he was still hopeful.  When we saw this note something in us immediately wanted to bless our son and to give him what he most wanted and what he thought was impossible. We managed to get a second-hand Nintendo 64 and of course he was very surprised and absolutely delighted. He could not believe that what he thought was impossible had become reality.

This is a great picture of what our Father God is like with us. He delights to give us good things and responds to our faith. He loves us and wants the best for us and His timing is perfect. If we have a wrong view of God, that He is aloof, stern, a hard task-master, we will never trust Him to do good to us and we won’t ask big prayers for the impossible.

Since that time Rob and I have always had our own impossible list of things we have been praying for. Many of those prayers have now been answered and we have added new ones to the list. One example was in 2011. We had owned a succession of elderly second-hand cars which we used to run until they were no longer economically viable (in practice this usually meant that we could not afford to repair them to get them through the MOT.) In November our car finally went to the scrap yard and we began to pray for a new(er) car. We had no savings so we decided that we would pray every day for a car and get by without one until God provided for us. After two or three weeks of cadging lifts, borrowing cars to do the grocery shop and walking wherever possible we came to the point where we realised that it was a lot harder to do without a car than we had thought.

There came aFile_000 (8) day when we decided that we would pray one more time and after that we would have to look for another cheap old car. After Rob had left for work I had a phone call from a friend who said that he and his wife wanted to buy us a car! I phoned Rob who was on the bus to tell him the good news. Shortly afterwards we were able to buy a much better car than we had ever had before and which we are still driving today.

Throughout our married life we have kept a book recording our prayers and the answers we have received. From time to time we read through the book and are amazed to see how many of our prayers have been answered. This is such an encouragement when we are tempted to give up praying. We have many other examples of things that were impossible for us which God has answered.

Our book is annotated with scriptures to remind us about what God is like: “with God all things are possible“, “God has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness“, “nothing is too difficult for Him“, “you do not have because you do not ask” God loves it when we ask Him for anything believing that He will do it. We see this in the story of the centurion who came to Jesus asking him to heal his sick slave. He responds to our faith.

Of course some of our prayers  were not answered as quickly as the ones for the car. We are still praying for some things  after many years. Some prayers were not answered in the way we envisaged, for example I wasn’t healed of cancer but God did speak to me and sustain me through the treatment.

We can get very hung up on whether we should pray for things for ourselves but God calls us to have faith in every area of lives whether spiritual or material. He encourages us to pray for our daily bread. Our whole lives should be lived by faith not just what we consider to be our “spiritual” lives. Of course we have not only prayed for things for ourselves – but for our church, our friends, projects, people who are sick, house-moves , church building projects and so on.

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When our prayers are answered miraculously it is SO exciting, the impossible becomes possible, and we turn back to the Giver and thank Him with all our hearts (just as our son thanked us ). When God blesses us it enables us to bless others. There is an overflow of blessing. In fact this is just what the Bible teaches us – that the measure that God uses is “pressed down, shaken together and running over.“More than we can imagine, with plenty to share.

I challenge you to start an impossible list. You will be amazed at the answers to prayer, how your faith grows and how you can bless others through your praying.