God’s compassion


Psalms 143-145 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His grace and goodness are immeasurable, His love unfailing

“Would anyone like to share a testimony tonight of what God has done in your life this past week?”  Those of us who remember hearing this invitation from our pastor during a Wednesday or Sunday night service are probably over 50 years old.  At that invitation, church members would stand and give a testimony.  As a little girl, I enjoyed hearing testimonies of miracles, healing and provision straight from the mouths of people I knew.

Yes, sometimes Sister So and So would go on and on for quite a while and share much more than was needed, and as churches grew in size, it was difficult to hear what was being said. But the testimony service seemed to build a foundation of faith in me – God is faithful, He will not fail me, and He loves to bless His children.  Today I love when my pastor calls someone up front to share about the goodness of the Lord, and I love the testimony of David in our reading today. 

@ Psalm 145
“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness… Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.” (3,6-7)  Well, it’s testimony time!  Regardless of the difficult challenges we may be facing at the moment, there is always something that will stir us to give praise and glory to our God.  Just in case we need a reminder, David supplied us today in verses 8-20 with some thoughts that should encourage our testimony of praise:

  • The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
  • Slow to get angry
  • And filled with unfailing love.
  • The Lord is good to everyone.
  • He showers compassion on all his creation.
  • All of your works will thank you, Lord,
  • And your faithful followers will praise you.
  • They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
  • They will give examples of your power.
  • They will tell about your mighty deeds
  • And about the majesty and glory of your reign.
  • For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
  • You rule throughout all generations.
  • The Lord always keeps his promises;
  • He is gracious in all he does.
  • The Lord helps the fallen
  • And lifts those bent beneath their loads.
  • The eyes of all look to you in hope;
  • You give them their food as they need it.
  • When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
  • The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
  • He is filled with kindness.
  • The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.
  • He grants the desires of those who fear him;
  • Hears their cries for help and rescues them.
  • The Lord protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked.

Our testimony service has gone on and on, but my faith is renewed!  I am reminded that God is faithful, He will not fail me and He loves to bless His children. Our testimonies are powerful tools, building faith in us and touching the hearts of others as well, giving the power to overcome the enemy.  Revelation 12:11 gives insight to the cause of our future victory, “And they overcame [the enemy] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (KJV)  I’m wondering, does anyone have a testimony today of what God has done in your life?  I’m certain you do. 

Moving Forward:  “My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” (KJV 21) 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 3-4

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

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