God’s compassion


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

Psalms 54-56 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He understands our sorrows and collects our tears

When I was a young girl, I had a friend who really let me down, and I was heartbroken.  My mom consoled me by letting me know that throughout life most of my friends would let me down at one time or another and that she would too. I remember saying something along the line of, “Thanks, Mom, for that encouragement.”  She went on to say that I would let my friends down on occasion as well, and sadly, she was right.  However, she continued by saying that there was one friend who would never let me down, one that I could trust in every situation every day of my life.  Of course, that friend is Jesus.

I’ve found my mom’s words to be true.  Sometimes we disappoint each other, but today we read about David who knew rejection and pain from those who were the closest to him. The pain was unbearable.  Hopefully, we’ll never experience the depths of his sorrow, but if we do, we can run for comfort to the one who will never let us down just as David did. 

@ Psalm 55
Most believe Psalm 55 to be David’s response to the rebellion of his son Absalom, and the betrayal of one of his closest advisers, Ahithophel, a story we will read in 2 Samuel 15-19.  Absalom was out to kill him and steal his throne, and rather than face his son, David cried out to God, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest!  I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness.  How quickly I would escape – far from this wild storm of hatred.” (6-8)  Unless we’ve experienced it ourselves, it’s difficult to grasp the depths of pain associated with this kind of hatred from a relative or close friend.  I, too, would want to run away rather than face this pain head-on.

David’s description gives us a brief look into what Jesus may have felt at the betrayal of Judas.  “It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that…Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion, and close friend.  What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.” (12-14)  I think about how the denial of Peter must have stung the heart of Jesus at the most difficult moment in His life on earth.  God understands more than we can imagine our pain when we are hurt by others.

@ Psalm 56
“You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book.”  (8)  The One who knows how many hairs I have on my head, and probably the only one who knows their true color, also keeps track of all my sorrows and collects my tears.  This intimacy with my Creator and my God brings me to my knees.  How can I remain glum and sorrowful with Him on my side?  David expressed it well, “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  What can mere mortals do to me?” (11)

Although I’ve known my share of pain, I have not walked this path of despair to the degree of David, and none of us have experienced what Jesus did.  However, God keeps track of all our sorrows, and this tells us that we are not alone. He is with us, collecting teardrops along the way.  Even in all of this pain, David encouraged, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will take care of you.  He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (55:12) 

Moving Forward: With the knowledge that He is with me and caring for me, I step out bravely today because I trust Him. 

Tomorrow @ Job 37-38

Matthew 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He understands our guilt and pain

After observing the exploits of four mischievous older brothers while growing up, I was decidedly a compliant child and teenager.  I mean, how much can parents take?  My obedience wasn’t due so much to any goodness on my part, but more so out of compassion for my mom.  Somebody needed to give her a break!  However, I remember a time as a young teen when I blatantly disobeyed her.

It wasn’t an unpardonable sin kind of thing, but in that day and in our church, it was considered wrong. Today? Not so much.  I will never forget the torment of guilt that plagued me as I sat in disobedience, nothing was right with the world, I was somehow stained, and God seemed completely out of reach.  The feeling of guilt over something we have done wrong is a powerful emotion.  In light of this, I can’t imagine bearing someone else’s guilt of sin for them.  I just wouldn’t want to do it. 

@ Matthew 26
“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (39)  Do I really understand this prayer? Jesus knew the physical pain He would experience.  He knew the emotional pain He would feel as He bore the sins of the world.  He knew the spiritual pain of separation from His Father that He would endure.  Yes, I have known physical, emotional and spiritual pain, but I have never known them as the sinless Son of God.  “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

If sinful me would run from this cup, I can only imagine the dread felt by our spotless Lord to take on the guilt of the entire world, for us. If it is possible…but, no, it wasn’t possible.  Our redemption would require a spotless Lamb, the only One of its kind, “He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

I can’t think of a more desperate moment for anyone who has ever walked this earth than the time that Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane, The Olive Press, and the place where He felt the press of agonizing pain before His crucifixion.  Rejected by those He came to redeem, betrayed by one of His own, knowing He would be denied by all who followed Him and now the Cross, He prayed, “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we have been rejected by those we have tried to serve, betrayed by those we trusted or denied and abandoned by those we have loved – friends, companions, children, parishioners.  We pray for the pain of this cup of suffering to pass, and because of Gethsemane, we know He understands.  “He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” (Luke 22:44)  He understands our pain, and unlike His disciples, He will keep watch with us.

Perhaps we know individuals who are walking this difficult path right now.  Will we keep watch with them and pray with them in their hour of Gethsemane?  I regret the times when a busy day keeps me from watching over others like I want to, but at the very least I will pray for them, along with Jesus who “lives forever to intercede with God on our behalf.” (Hebrew 7:25)  No one, absolutely no one, understands like Jesus. 

Moving Forward: Reminded of an old song today, “No one understands like Jesus when the days are dark and grim. No one is so near, so dear as Jesus. Cast your every care on Him.” (J.W. Peterson) 

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 5-6

Isaiah 40-44 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He is God, creator of all things, yet tender enough to carry us in His arms.

“You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’…He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (40:9,11 nkjv/nlt)  The first 39 chapters of Isaiah have been rugged with prophetic judgments on the nations, but the tone of the prophet Isaiah changed in Chapter 40 as he reminded Israel of who God really is:  He is God, creator of all things, yet tender enough to carry us in His arms.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” (43:2) I am thankful that because of Jesus, I am part of this promise to Israel.  As I go through rivers of difficulty in my life, He is with me and will not let me drown. Sometimes the waters feel like they are right at my neck, but somehow He supports me and keeps me afloat through the difficulty.  I look back at situations in life and see myself as though I was almost walking on water rather than drowning because of God’s grace.

This is the God that Isaiah was encouraging Israel to remember and to follow.  One of the most beloved and quoted scriptures is found here in Isaiah 40:31, “Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” And they just may walk on water…

These chapters in Isaiah remind me of Who ultimately controls the outcome of powers, governments and kingdoms and their deeds.  In Chapter 41:2 and again in 44:28, Isaiah prophesied about a king from the east, 150 years in the future, who would deliver Israel out of Babylon captivity, someone God called into His own service to do His bidding. King Cyrus of Esther and Nehemiah fame, a pagan king, sent Israel back to their homeland simply because God willed him to do so.

I think of the events in more recent history where powerful men and nations chose to carry out their evil imaginations causing death and destruction, but their actions soon brought their own demise.  Out of the rubble of World War II, an evil regime died and Israel once again returned to its homeland, a nation stronger than ever, with a friend by its side, a strong friend and ally, the United States.  My prayer is that we remain a friend to Israel, for our own sake as well as for theirs.

Because heartless leaders and zealot groups around the world have met their doom, the gospel is now being preached and churches established in an area of the world where they were once forbidden. I am ever convinced that God will use the acts of all powers, governments and kingdoms to ultimately bring about His good.  Yet, so personal is He that He feeds little me, carries me in His arms when needed and guides me along life’s path.  I declare with Isaiah, Behold our God!  There is none other like Him.

Moving forward:  God is in control – I will remember this today regardless of the news alerts and headlines.  I’ll remember that He is with me through my difficult moments of life as well.  He’s got this! 

Tomorrow@Matthew 20-22

Matthew 11-13 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His yoke is easy and His burden is light

I fondly remember the first time I walked into a bakery in Paris and viewed the vast array of French pastries. Be still my heart!  As I walked back and forth in front of the pastries, I saw chocolaty éclairs, buttery croissants, eggy sweet brioche, nutty tarts and many other delectable sweets.  Choosing just one was painful, but for the sake of my well-being, it was necessary to decide on just one.

That’s how I felt today reading Matthew because it holds so many great truths from the words of Jesus Himself.  How do I choose to share about just one?  Fortunately, many of the His truths from our reading today are woven together into one great thought.  By the way, at the bakery, I chose the Chocolate Almond Croissant with that gooey creamy filling – a little bit of everything together in one great pastry! 

@ Matthew 11
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”(28-30)  These verses spoken by Jesus and found only in Matthew are some of the most comforting words in the Bible to me.  The burdens of this life can be difficult to carry, but Jesus offers a remedy for us.

There is a yoke of responsibility that comes with living on this earth and living for God, and those who attempt to live a yoke-free life often shirk their responsibilities and live only for themselves.  One might think that those already bearing a heavy burden certainly don’t need the burden of yet another yoke, but Jesus was saying try my yoke instead, trade your yoke of heaviness.  A yoke is simply the framework used to carry a load, and a proper yoke is an easy yoke, one that balances the load and makes the task much easier. This is the yoke that Jesus offers us.

In the following chapter, Jesus went on to give examples of the yokes that burden us and make us weary.  The man-made laws of the Pharisees did not allow the disciples to pick wheat for lunch nor did they allow Jesus to heal a man on the Sabbath.  Those with a religious spirit are always more concerned about legalistic rituals than they are about man’s needs and they have little desire for the supernatural work of God.  Jesus said, “You would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’”(7)  His yoke is easy and full of mercy.

The parables of Jesus that followed were examples of what He meant by, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  For all those who would take the yoke of Jesus and learn from Him, they would be good soil and reap a great harvest. (13:23)  The parables of mustard seed faith, planting good seeds, hidden treasures, the pearl of great worth and all His teachings are words that will bring understanding to our hearts and lighten the load we carry.

The difference between the yokes of this world with their heavy burdens and the yoke that Jesus offers to us is that it is balanced by His merciful love.  Yes, without a doubt, to follow Him we must keep His commandments, but in the keeping of them, He gently guides us along in the process.  So Jesus says to us today, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,” cast away the yokes of man’s rituals and expectations and the taunts from the enemy, throw away the yokes that make you heavy and downhearted, take my yokeand be light and easy.  Jesus has made us an offer we really can’t refuse. 

Moving Forward:  I won’t wear the yoke of heavy burdens today because I’ve chosen to wear His yoke, and I feel as light as a feather. 

Tomorrow @ Romans 11-12

Job 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Unthreatened by our questions, He answers those at the heart of our need

The tales I’ve heard about the language mother’s-to-be have used in the throes of delivering their babies could make a grown woman blush, especially in the days before the pain relievers available today.  I think of the dear father coaching his sweet wife along in the process when the pain of an absolute explosion occurring in her abdomen causes her to lash out at the instigator of all this pain.  Obviously, the lack of understanding in his advice was insulting and not welcomed.  Poor guy – he was just trying to help!

Just like these fathers, we may experience something similar when we offer advice after listening to someone’s woes.  That well-intended advice could come back to bite us. Some questions come to mind from our reading today in Job:  In the midst of a struggle and in our telling of it to others, what response are we really expecting from them?  What is our responsibility as a listener? 

@ Job 3
In all the trials that Job faced, he did not take his wife’s advice to curse God, but he did do some cursing.  “At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth.” (1)  So miserable was his existence that he asked that the day of his birth be removed from the calendar. (6)  Job just wanted to die.  Jeremiah expressed similar words in Jeremiah 20:14, “Yet I curse the day I was born! May no one celebrate the day of my birth.  I curse the messenger who told my father, ‘Good news—you have a son!’”  Some struggles in life are so painful that dying just seems easier.

Job began his questioning of why, seven times just in this chapter alone. “Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die…Why is life given to those with no future?” etc. (11-23)  God isn’t really threatened by our questions because He made us and understands our desire to know the answer to our why; but in this testing, God had more important truths for Job to learn.

Job’s friends had come to him and sat in silence which was the custom of the day, but also because grief and anguish leave many of us without words.  However, when Job started to ask his many questions, his friends felt compelled to answer, and answer they did.  As in the mother scenario, Job did not care for their answers.  Perhaps we can learn from Job’s experience that when going through a crisis, we can express our sadness and pain to caring listeners, but for the answers to our difficult questions, we are wise to go to those who may have actual answers, and even more so, we should seek the Lord. 

@ Job 4
Put on the spot, Eliphaz, the most seasoned of Job’s friends, felt obliged to answer, “Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright been destroyed?  My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.” (7-8)  Because we are privy to the dialogue of Chapter 1, we know that Eliphaz, in all his experience, was just offering his opinion in Job’s case and even had the audacity to say he was speaking on God’s behalf.  His counsel to Job was inaccurate and wasn’t helpful.

In Galatians 6:2, Paul strongly encouraged to “Share each other’s burdens,” and this is one of the many blessings we receive as believers.  Sometimes we feel all we can do is listen to our hurting friend, but so often, that is exactly what is needed.  The most valuable time Job’s friends spent with him was when they sat in silence.  From Eliphaz’s poor counsel, we learn that the best and most helpful advice is based on fact and not on opinion.  Finally, praying with our friend is the one thing we can do that opens the door to God’s supernatural intervention for their need. Whether He uses us or someone else to help our friend, He is the One who knows all the right answers to all the questions and reveals them at just the right moment.

Moving Forward: For those I meet today who may be hurting, I pray that my response is Spirit-led, whether in simply listening or in sharing truths. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 7-11

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