God’s compassion


Psalms 120-121 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He watches over us day and night and protects us from harm

Traveling around Europe, whether by car or train, we can’t help but notice the enormous castle fortresses that were built centuries ago usually at the highest point of the city. They were built to hover over the city as a protector from enemies who could advance from any side.  Sentries stood guard day and night so that the city would never be hit by a surprise attack and the residents could work and sleep with the knowledge that they were protected.  Wouldn’t that be a great solace?  Well, we have our security systems, alarms, and law enforcement today that help to keep us safe, but sometimes we forget about our Sentry who is so highly skilled that He even sees the invisible forces that come against us.  Move over ADT!

@ Psalm 121
“I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!” (1-2)  It certainly does help to look up when we need help, but as the psalmist decided, we need to look a little higher than the mountains.  Our help comes from the Lord who made the mountains, the oceans and who made us, but He didn’t just create us and leave us to flounder here on earth.  No, He protects us as well.

“He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.  Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you!” (3-5) Just like the sentry guarding the city, the Lord watches over us 24/7, but from His vantage point, He sees both the visible and the invisible and is never taken by surprise.

Not only does He watch over us, but He stands with us, “The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.  The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.  The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.”(5-7) He stands with us like a shadow covering us from the intense heat of life and the darkness that comes. (Psalm 91:1) The word keeps speaks to His ability to preserve us as we walk through the harm that is all around us.

Sometimes when we’re going through an especially difficult moment, we are tempted to think that God has closed His eyes or stepped away from His Sentry post, but nothing could be further from the truth.  God is faithful!  “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (8) And as we all know, forever is a very long time. 

Moving Forward:  So very thankful today for the protection of the Lord.  He watches over all my comings and goings and stands with me through the challenges. 

Tomorrow @Proverbs 31

2 Chronicles 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He searches for the cry of the righteous heart and will answer

As parents, it’s difficult to watch our teenagers struggle through situations because they have refused our help.  We’re standing close by them, ready to help at a moment’s notice, but it’s as if they forget that we are the ones who brought them to this point in life through our guidance and direction.  Instead, we see them turn to peers or others who really don’t know them at all for the help that we are so willing to give.  We watch and wait for any indication that would tell us they are seeking our guidance.  I wonder if this was somewhat how the Lord felt when King Asa, who had sought His help for many years, decided to turn to others for help. 

@ 2 Chronicles 16
King Asa started his reign in a positive manner.  God was his help, his source and the one he ran to for help. Last week we read the covenant Asa and the Israelites made with the Lord, “Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. They agreed that anyone who refused to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, would be put to death—whether young or old, man or woman.”  Because of Asa’s reliance and trust in the Lord, the country was protected from war.

Unfortunately, as time when on, Asa decided he no longer needed his Father’s help, and he made alliances with Aram to secure protection for Israel instead of praying to God.  A prophet came and pronounced judgment on Israel because of this, “What a fool you have been!  From now on you will be at war.” (9)  Then, to add insult to injury, “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa developed a serious foot disease. Yet even with the severity of his disease, he did not seek the Lord’s help but turned only to his physicians.” (12)  There’s nothing wrong with using physicians, but why not seek the Lord’s help first?

God, the Father of all Israel, was standing by waiting for Asa to pray for help, but Asa failed to do so.  What happened to cause this change in his heart anyway?  And why do we fail to pray when we should and instead turn to others for help?   I once heard an evangelist say that pride keeps us from praying.  When we fail to pray for a need and in turn make alliances with others for help, we are saying to God that we feel we can handle it all by ourselves.  We really don’t need His help.  Or perhaps we don’t trust that God is able to manage our problem, and in a sense, that is pride too.

Just like a loving parent, God is standing by waiting for us to ask for help.  After all, He knows our need before we even pray because of how intimately He knows us.  In fact, the prophet told Asa, “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (9)  God is actually searching to help those who trust in Him.  David declared it in Psalm 34:15 and Peter did as well in I Peter 3:12, “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right; his ears are open to their cries for help.”  Do we really want to let a thing like pride or unbelief keep the Creator of the Universe, the One who knows us best, from helping us in our time of need?  I pray not! 

Moving Forward:  Oh yes, I need His help today. I can’t do it myself. Hear my cry, Lord. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 119

Psalms 117-118 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is love, and He is faithful

When I was young and barely able to read, my Children’s Church teacher offered a special prize to anyone who would memorize an entire chapter in the Bible and quote it within the next couple of Sundays.   I had memorized all the regular scriptures that children tend to know at this point, but this seemed impossible for me until I chanced upon Psalm 117.   It was short and sweet, and with my mom’s help, I memorized it!

There were two or three of us that took the easy route and quoted Psalm 117, and we still received the prize – a miniature copy of the Book of John!  That teacher was going to get the Word of God into us one way or another. 

@ Psalm 117
“Praise the Lord, all you nations.  Praise him, all you people of the earth.  For he loves us with unfailing love; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.  Praise the Lord!” Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible as well as the center chapter of the Bible.  It may be short, but it declares two unchanging characteristics of our God:  God’s love for us will never fail, and His faithfulness to us will last forever. Furthermore, this love and faithfulness are not just for Israel, but for all the nations, Jew and Gentile alike!  The whole world is called to praise the Lord.

My theology at that young age in Children’s Church was not much further along than “God is Love,” but I knew what love was and I knew who God was.  The fact that His love for me would never fail has stayed with me my entire life and has carried me through many discouraging and challenging moments.

Even though we grow more sophisticated in our theology and hopefully more intimate in our relationship with God, the foundation never changes – God’s love and faithfulness will last forever, and His love is for everyone.  And that message will preach to anyone, anywhere. 

Moving Forward: With my heart, I will praise Him for His love and faithfulness. With my mouth, I will share it with even the youngest of children because I know they will understand. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 28

Hosea 8-14 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because of His love for us, He does not willingly let us go

The value of a soul.  Well, we really can’t place a value on one’s soul – it’s priceless.  So much so that God sent His only Son to die to redeem that soul.  When we’ve been praying for someone for a long time, one who is resistant to the Lord, we’re often tempted to give up on that soul.  Hosea continued to reveal God’s abiding love for His people even though they had rejected Him.

“Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?  How can I let you go?… My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.” (11:8)  In the previous three chapters, Hosea summarized Israel’s rebellion against God, and because of their continued rejection of God, they would harvest what they had planted (8:7)  But God’s heart was torn, “How can I let you go?

Hosea challenged those who had rejected God for so very long, “Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord.  Say to him, ‘Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises.’” (14:2)  This, this is what God is longing to hear; and His response to heartfelt repentance is, “I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.”(4)

There are several individuals I have prayed for as long as I can remember, asking God to touch their lives and change their direction.  I must admit that I have gone through periods where I’ve just given up because it all seems so futile.  Then I read something like this, revealing God’s incredible capacity to love and to hope, and my commitment is renewed to keep praying, keep believing.  These dear ones I have been praying for may walk through some seeds they have sown, but if our pure and Holy God loves them so very deeply, who am I to give up on them? 

Moving Forward: My hope is renewed today as I continue praying for those who desperately need fellowship with the One who loves them so deeply. 

Tomorrow @ John 10-12

Psalms 102-104 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He fills our lives with love, mercy and good things

Can we really believe anything we read in the newspaper and on our computer news feeds or see on television news?  So often today the news is filled with bias and opinion, and we rarely get the straight scoop on a story.  I think of the old television police detective who would say when interviewing at a crime scene, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.”  When we want to know about someone through the media, we have a hard time deciphering fact from fiction.

After all, these reporters don’t really know the individuals they are reporting about, they simply reveal facts, using the term loosely here, that they have been able to uncover.  When we read the Bible, it’s a different story.  Inspired by God’s own Spirit, the Bible is an accurate portrayal of who God is and His relationship to us and no one portrays Him any better than David.

@ Psalm 103
Psalm 103 is one of so many chapters in the Bible that helps us understand the heart of God and confirms what we already know to be true about Him through our experience.  David is not writing from hearsay or supposition.  No, David had an intimate relationship with the One he was writing about.  Some of my favorite verses about our awesome God, awesome in the truest sense of the word, are found here.  When I read them, my heart and all that I know about Him confirm their truth.

“He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.  He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.  He fills my life with good things.  My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! (3-5)  As if forgiveness of sins was not enough, He heals us and is responsible for all good things in our lives.  “The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” (8)

How One so perfect can be so unbelievably merciful to one so far from perfect is difficult to understand, but I know it to be true.  In fact, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (12)  When our thoughts turn to our failures and sins from the past, we can know that it wasn’t God who introduced them back into our lives.  He’s very forgetful that way…

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.  For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” (13-14)  Many have tried to label God as uncaring and fierce, but those who really know Him have experienced His tenderness, His gentleness.  When earthly fathers have portrayed a poor example of our Heavenly Father, it’s difficult to understand how loving and tender He really is.  It’s true that a father who dearly loves his children will discipline them when necessary; and our Heavenly Father sometimes disciplines us, but He does so in love, remembering how frail we are.  This I know to be true.

After reading David’s accurate account of some of God’s attributes, we can rest assured that his information came to him first-hand and can be trusted.  But greater still is when we take this inspiration from David and experience it for ourselves.  We can know our tender, loving Father who forgives and forgets our sins because of His great mercy, who heals our bodies and who fills our lives with good things.  And that’s the straight scoop! 

Moving Forward: More in love with Him today than yesterday, I can move forward in His love and mercy, expecting good things.

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 20-21

Psalms 69-71 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He hears our desperate cries for help and rescues us by His saving power 

@ Psalm 69
“Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck.  Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold…” (1-2) Talk about a sinking feeling!  Whenever I read this Psalm, my mind goes back to a hot summer night in my early teen years. Occasionally on Sunday evenings after church, a group of us gathered at Cedar Lake for a refreshing nighttime swim.  I never ventured far from the shore because my swimming ability was mediocre at best, but one night without realizing it I floated out to an area known for drop-offs.  When I went to stand, nothing was there!  I couldn’t find a foothold and down I went, swallowing half the lake in the process.

Somehow I kicked myself to the surface, gasping for air and flailing in pure panic, and then down again I went.  On my third time down, certain that I heard the old hymn, Coming home, coming home.  Lord, I’m coming home, I stuck my arm up as high as I could in hopes that someone would see it and rescue me.  Obviously, someone did.  I felt tight fingers grab my wrist and pull me up out of the deep water.  My friend saw my splashing and saved me.

There are moments in life when we feel like we are going down for the third time, panicked and overwhelmed by our situation and not able to find a foothold anywhere. I think perhaps this was how David was feeling in this Psalm.  Surrounded by those who hated him without cause (4), even his own brothers, David cried out to God for help from their slander, lies and persecution.  He was sinking fast. It’s no wonder this is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament by the likes of Jesus, Paul, John and Peter, men who understood unjustified persecution. Like me, David was waiting for that hand to reach down and pull him from the deep water and rescue him.

“I endure insults for your sake…Zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.” (7,9)  Taking a stand for righteousness and for the principles of God often result in hatred and persecution from those who hate God.  I remember reading the news report a few years ago of 19 young men gunned down in a Mexican Teen Challenge Center, a place where young men are delivered from drugs and alcohol.  The drug lords had their revenge.  Each day Christians around the world are persecuted and killed for their faith in God.  At times, many of them experience the fear and panic that David expressed.

We hardly know what persecution for one’s faith is like in this country.  It usually comes in the form of bias or alienation from neighbors or co-workers, and they can make life very difficult.  But make no mistake, many influential leaders hate us because of our faith and would like to stop us or even harm us.  The time may come when we feel like the floodwaters are up to our necks as well.

In the days ahead, our strategy should not be to give up and sink.  Had I not made a commotion to stay afloat years ago, I would not be here today.  Just as my friend responded to my desperate situation, God will respond to our cries for help.  “Answer my prayers, O Lord, for your unfailing love is wonderful. Take care of me…come and redeem me; free me from my enemies…Rescue me, O God, by your saving power.”(16,18,29) 

Moving Forward: Although some have perished for their faith, I will not give up today.  I pray that my desperate cries will cause His hand to reach down and rescue believers everywhere from those who hate and want to do harm. 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 4

Lamentations (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  “Great is His faithfulness.”

“I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken.”(2:11) Jeremiah cried in anguish over the ruins of Jerusalem in Lamentations, appropriately named.  A lamentation is a song or poem expressing grief or sorrow, and the book of Lamentations is just that, a funeral dirge for the loss of lives, the devastation of war and God’s rejection of rebellious Israel.  God removed His hand of protection from Israel, and the enemy came to destroy it.  Jeremiah was at a funeral, but before we put on our black garb and pass the tissues, we need to continue reading.

After experiencing the devastation of September 11, we have an idea of Jeremiah’s pain and emotions as he looked over the smoldering city.  One of his greatest sorrows was remembering what was – the beautiful palaces and city gates, the children laughing and playing.  And he remembered the temple, the place of holy festivals and Sabbath days, His altar and sanctuary (2:6).

With the many, many churches in each of our cities today, we may not understand the importance and focal point of the Temple in early cultures. Traveling through Europe today and viewing the landscape of old cities, I have noticed that the dominant structure in each one is the church in the heart of the town.  Jeremiah grieved over his broken temple, the focal point of his city, his life.

I understand this heartache when I think of my nation that is broken in so many ways, remembering what was – a nation founded on Biblical principles where God’s blessing and hand of protection were valued and sought after.  Sadly, we have taken God’s role in our nation’s beginning out of our textbooks, our schools and our hearts.  And with Jeremiah, I shout, “Cry aloud before the Lord…let your tears flow like a river day and night.  Give yourselves no rest…rise during the night and cry out.  Pour out your hearts like water to the Lord.  Lift up your hands to Him in prayer, pleading for your children.”(2:18-19)  This can be our only response, turning our hearts back to our God in prayer, not only for us but for our children as well.

The hope of Jeremiah’s Lamentations and of ours is this, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:  The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning…For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever…because of the greatness of His unfailing love.” (3:21-23,31-32)  The restoration of Israel has been slow, but Jeremiah’s tears and prayers have reached down through the centuries, along with the prayers of countless others, and Israel is once again a strong nation.  No one can deny that His hand of protection has been on Israel. Great is His faithfulness.

I am challenged today to pray harder than ever before for the restoration of my nation with the understanding that we do not have centuries for it to happen.  If we pray, if we repent, He will respond to our prayers because of His unfailing love – He just can’t help Himself. 

Moving Forward: I am encouraged today by God’s unfailing love and His new mercies for my nation and for me.  With hope I believe and sing, “Great is Thy faithfulness, Oh God, my Father.  There is no shadow of turning with thee. Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not. As thou hast been, thou forever will be.” 

Tomorrow @ Luke 9-10

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