abounding

abounding

From Psalm 103:8

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Lord overflows with steadfast love for His people. Like Moses when God announced this very aspect of himself to him, my heart bursts into worship of this God who is so much better to His people than we ever deserve. Why, oh why, do we ever forget his benefits?

People disappoint us. Fellow believers and loved ones hurt us. People leave. They give up on us. We do those things to others. Yet, our God overflows with steadfast love and faithfulness. 

Bless the LORD, O my soul!

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“God made this!”

prayingpsalmsFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Praying With the Psalms:

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. ~ Psalm 139:15

The mysteries of conception and birth, the marvels of sinewed bone and muscle, provoke awe: God made this! I am evidence of God’s skill! I am proof of God’s creation! “Every man carries in his own body reasons enough for reverent gratitude” (Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, 2:388).

PRAYER: Father, I have complained about my body when I ought to thank you for it. I have grumbled at its pains and been dissatisfied with its shape. Bring me to a state of shocked wonder at its intricacies, in awe of its marvels. Into a body not dissimilar to mine, and into flesh constituted like mine, you entered, O God, for my salvation. I praise you for it because of and through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

“We must trust and obey because those responses are fitting.”

notthewayFrom Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.:

The gifts of God — vitality, love, forgiveness, courage against evil, joy at our depths, and everything else that flows from the terrible work of Christ — may be found only in the company of God. And we keep company with God only by adopting God’s purposes for us and following through on them even when it is difficult or initially painful to do so. To place ourselves in range of God’s choicest gifts, we have to walk with God, lean on God, cling to God, come to have the sense and feel of God, refer all things to God. Contrary to our self-interested impulses, we have to worship God with a disciplined spirit and an expectant heart.

But just here lies our main evasion, the one we have all practiced a thousand times: like the Israelites indicted by Jeremiah, we “forget God” (Jer. 2:32, 13:25, 18:15). For weeks at a time we go through the motions, never seriously attending to God, never focusing on God, never — with all the weight of mind and heart — turning ourselves over to God. The thought that by such negligence we keep on wounding the only being who loves us with a perfect and expensive love, the thought that we are deeply entangled not only in our sin but also in the bloody remedy for it — these thoughts become bearable and then routine. At last we put them away and sink into functional godlessness. When we are in that state, God does not seem very real to us. So we do not pray. The less we pray, the less real God seems to us. And the less real God seems to us, the duller our sense of responsibility becomes, and thus the duller our sense of ignoring God becomes.

It’s important to emphasize that the loss is ours. The loss is God’s, but it is also ours. It’s not just that we owe God our respects and fail to pay them. Despite certain modern assumptions, life with God isn’t mainly a matter of knuckling under to our superior — the image modernity so much detests. We do have to trust and obey God, we do have to express our devotion to God, but not merely because God is stronger than we are, and surely not because God wants to bully us into submission. We must trust and obey because those responses are fitting. After all, we know something of God’s goodness and greatness. We know that we have been made and rescued by God. We know that we have been graced by God — forgiven, accepted, renewed as slowly and arduously as addicts. Indeed, only inside the cradle of grace can we even see the true depth and stubbornness of our sin.

This knowledge of God and ourselves opens us up to a whole range of opportunities and duties — to worship God, to try to please him, to beg his pardon when we fail, to receive God’s renewing grace, and, out of gratitude, to use our lives to weave a whole pattern of friendship, service, and moral beauty.

“But if we have our eyes open…”

prayingpsalmsFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Praying With the Psalms:

How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep! ~ Psalm 92:5

There is a kind of dullness that is oblivious to both sure causes and certain consequences. But if we have our eyes open, we quickly see evidence of God on all sides. Intelligent observation turns up ever new materials for praise. “I greet him the days I meet him, and bless when I understand” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Wreck of the Deutschland”).

PRAYER: Give me a quickness of mind to see your hand in all things, O God — your gracious acts in creation and your steady purposes in redemption. I do not want to be among those who grope in the dark but with those who walk in your light.  Amen.

“…at the summit of earth’s fullness.”

prayingpsalmsFrom Eugene H. Peterson’s Praying With the Psalms:

Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle.
~ Psalm 24:7

Something like this happens every time Christians gather in worship: we come to “seek the face of …God”; God, the “King of glory,” comes to greet us and bless us in Jesus Christ. The church at worship, with heads lifted up in expectation, is at the summit of earth’s fullness.

PRAYER: Almighty God, when I next assemble with fellow Christians in worship, grant that I may not be so taken up with my own plans and anxieties that I miss the proclamation of your presence at the gates and your entrance into our midst as the King of Glory. Amen