Compassion

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.
‭Psalms‬ ‭145:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Why is God ultimately so merciful and compassionate? We look around us at our world and wonder why He doesn’t remove all evil and, in particular, evil people. After all they get in His way. They frustrate His will and purposes. But as we muse about how wonderful it would be if God removed the wicked, we get a light bulb moment – He would remove us as well. As Paul said in Romans 3:23, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” So it’s just as well God is merciful and compassionate. He gives us time. Time to repent of our sins. Time to align our lives to His. Thankfully He is “slow to get angry” with us. 

But that is not to say that God’s mercy will always be there. There will come a time when He can be merciful and compassionate no longer. There is a time of judgement coming. You see, our loving Heavenly Father is also a righteous Heavenly Father. He can tolerate nothing that is evil, and when we pass the Great Divide into a new life, anything that is evil will not be allowed in His presence. And so God has created a place apart from Him where evil will be allowed and confined. We can be assured that all the injustices, all the evil, all the wickedness, all the crime, all the bad things we experience in this life – none of it is going unnoticed by God. It is all being noted down in Heavenly life-logs. And one day God will open the data vaults and will publicly replay the videos before casting judgement. Thankfully there is a remedy for us – read on!

Today, in this life, we enjoy being showered with compassion. All of us, good or bad, live in a time of incredible blessing, a time of God’s patience and goodness, a time of God’s grace. As we take our faltering steps along the roads of life, His compassion helps us. His goodness is with us. His love is unfailing. His grace without limit. But God is not a passive parent. His mercy and compassion is active. He sent His Son, Jesus, to show us the way to a right relationship with Him. When Jesus takes on all our sins, we take on Jesus’ righteousness. If that isn’t the ultimate demonstration of compassion, of love, then I don’t know what is. And covered in Jesus’ righteousness, we today receive a “not-guilty’ verdict from the Righteous Judge. The Lord is surely good to everyone. Even me.

Loving God

O God-Enthroned in heaven, I lift my eyes toward You in worship.
The way I love You
    is like the way a servant wants to please his master,
    the way a maid waits for the orders of her mistress.
    We look to you, our God, with passionate longing
    to please You and discover more of Your mercy and grace.
For we’ve had more than our fill of this scoffing and scorn—
    this mistreatment by the wealthy elite.
    Lord, show us Your mercy!
    Lord, show us Your grace!”
Psalm 123:1-4 TPT

How would we describe how we love God? Wanting to please Him? As a servant waits for instructions? With passionate longing? Wanting to discover more of His “mercy and grace“? The very nature of this Psalm exposes the dichotomy between those that love God and those that don’t. Between those that have an intimate relationship with Him and those who would deny His very presence. But we who are His children love Him. How do we love Him? As it says in Deuteronomy 5:6, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” A completeness surpassing all other loves. A commitment surpassing all other commitments. A relationship surpassing all other relationships. We love God. There is no alternative.

Amazingly, God loved us before we even knew Him. Romans 5:8 says,  “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” He showed us a love that transcends anything His creation can devise or implement. Any response from us cannot even register on the Richter scale of what love means. But we try. We respond to God as best we can, but how? We are drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit that dwells within us, but there’s more.

The Apostle John understood more than anyone about God’s love. He was the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13:23). And it was a love that transformed his life. We read in his first epistle (1 John 4:11-13 from the Passion Translation), “Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life! No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendour. But if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us. And he has given us his Spirit within us so that we can have the assurance that he lives in us and that we live in him.” We can’t get away from it, folks – because God first loved us, we can only respond by loving one another. And John said that when we love one another, God makes a permanent home in us. Sadly, the world would say that the only person worth loving is ourselves. No home or even a room for God there.

In our Psalm, the writer briefly shifts his adoring gaze away from God onto those around him, the God-deniers, who scoff and scorn. On our pilgrimage through life we will find plenty of them. And not just the “wealthy and elite“. And the Psalmist was so desirous to respond to God in the correct way, that he cries out for grace and mercy. And we echo his call – O Lord, please show us more of Your grace and mercy so that we can love others. Amen.

The River

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalms‬ ‭46:4-5‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Psalm 46 continues in the “God is our refuge” theme, and with verses 4-5 we can build a picture of an impregnable city where God lives and where a river of His grace and mercy sustains the joyful occupants. And the allusion to the “break of day” implies a continuing infallibility in His protection.

But where does God live in our lives? Do we live in an impregnable spiritual fortress, our own spiritual “city of God”, impervious to the cut and thrust of human life here on Planet Earth? Or do we grow faint with worry when the enemy appears on the horizon, our walls crumbling at his first attack? Or even get anxious when reading a news story? As Christians we live in a continuum of two kingdoms – the kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of God. But because of our physical presence on Planet Earth, we are susceptible to enemy action, our satanic opponent always looking for a chink in the walls of our God-sustained fortresses. However, we would do well to remember that God’s kingdom contains all the resources we need to sustain us in our earthly existence.‬‬

But what about this river? This resource in God’s kingdom that contains an unlimited supply of everything we spiritually need? Do we allow it to flow elsewhere while choosing to live in a desert of our own making? Our wonderful Heavenly Father knows what His children need and He puts on our tables the richest of foods, the most refreshing of drinks. So sad that many choose rather to go out and find their own food and drink, putting up with products and experiences that never satisfy. Jesus said in John 4, referring to the water drawn from a well, “…Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” That’s the water I want to drink.

Panting

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Psalms‬ ‭42:1-2‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

I must confess that I have never seen a deer panting for water. Having said that I must also confess that I have never been physically thirsty to that extent either. But I have been in a place where I have been spiritually thirsty. A place where God seems far away, where circumstances have been overwhelming, where prayers are seemingly unheard and ineffective. A place where I have cried out to God for His grace and mercy. But I can also say that in time God has appeared to me with a solution to my distress. To my spiritual loneliness. To my thirsty soul.

Where are these spiritual deserts? They could be anywhere. In the middle of the night while tossing and turning in sleepless anguish. In a hospital bed fighting sickness or enduring pain. Reflecting on the news or some piece of information just received. During a conversation with workmates. Even in a church service. Whenever possible, during those dry times, I take a walk and ask God to speak to me, humbly trusting that He is there and able to pour out those streams of living water into my thirsty soul. And eventually He always turns up with words and thoughts full of love and reassurance. Just because my feelings tell me that He isn’t open for business that day doesn’t mean that this is a fact. It just means I need to search diligently for that spiritual oasis in the middle of the desert. Because there I will find God. It means that in the process of the searching I must clear out the blockages that are stopping me from seeing Him. Those proudful thoughts and attitudes. Those unconfessed sins. And then I must continue to search for God, believing in faith the verse that says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:13‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬). I will find God. He will pour out the spiritual water that I need in my time of thirst. And I will respond in a hymn of praise and thankfulness, refreshed once again.

Trust In The Lord

Don’t worry about the wicked or envy those who do wrong. For like grass, they soon fade away. Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In Psalm 37, David picks up again his thoughts about wicked people, and in the process he contrasts their behaviour with that of God’s people. Again and again in this Psalm he points out what “the wicked” are doing wrong and how their lives will end, and then provides a contrast of how Godly people live their lives, adding in words of advice where appropriate. The dichotomy between the two types of people is stark and extreme and it is clear that Godless lives will not end well.

The instruction, “Trust in the Lord and do good” acts as a doorway into a gold mine of instructions, thoughts and behaviours. Just reading this inscription above the door knocker will be ineffective on its own; the door has to be opened and the nuggets within removed, consumed, and acted upon, to provide all that is necessary for life in communion with our Heavenly Father. And a relationship develops with God, so close that “Trust” becomes second nature.

The Psalmist also encourages God’s people to “do good”. Two words almost hidden and overlooked after the impact and boldness of “Trust in the Lord”. But nevertheless an important part of life as a Christian is to do good deeds to and for those around us in our communities and families. Galatians 6:10 reads, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone…”. And there are many other similar encouragements spattered throughout Holy Scriptures.

The end result of living our lives God’s way though, is clear. Safety and prosperity will result. There is always a tendency to interpret the word “prosperity” from a financial perspective. But it’s so much more than that. Think about the riches of being healthy – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Think about being blessed by the richness of having a loving family. And of course we mustn’t overlook the prosperity God’s people will find in their ultimate spiritual home.

We can’t leave these verses without considering the last few words. As we delight ourselves in the Lord, and align our hearts, our thoughts, with those of Him, we will find that any worldly materialistic desires will be eclipsed by what really matters. God-values such as love, compassion, mercy, grace, righteousness and so on will infuse our ways of life and waking thoughts. And we don’t worship a stingy God – He will pour out bountifully all we need. 

Psalm 37. Essential reading for everyone. We ignore or disregard these verses at our peril.