Your Love Endures Forever

God, I have a really hard time understanding why people refuse to believe in Your love for them.  They refuse to follow You or trust You or listen to You, though You make yourself known so clearly!  Either that, or they’re quick to acknowledge you with their lips, but fail to acknowledge You in their hearts.  I don’t understand it, God, until I take a long look at myself and discover with horror that I do the same thing.

I want to believe in Your love for me, Jesus, but how quickly I fall into the trap of believing the lies of the enemy about You and me and our relationship.  I do something beautiful and I beam with pride in my own accomplishment, without taking the time to give credit to the one who was in charge of it all to begin with.  I want people to acknowledge my good deeds and praise my efforts, instead of pointing people to You, the author and perfecter of my faith and theirs.

I want to recognize Your authority in everything, God.  Not just when I need You, or not just when I’m thinking of You, but all the time.  I know that You forgive me. And I know that You love me. But my love and obedience are so frail, Lord.  I get caught up in the hype of my own reflection in the mirror. Increase my faith in You God and what You want to do through me.

I know that loving myself is important.  You made me. You love me. I should love me.  Everything that You make is worth loving. But I need to love myself out of a desire to show my love to You, not in order to lift myself up as worthy on my own merit.  I am beautiful because You call me beautiful. I am lovable because You have called me lovable.

So, I’m not going to beat myself up for the times I have failed You and I’m not going to cry over mistakes I have made in the past.  Instead, I will continue to ask You to help me point to You more, and seek Your honor above my own more. I will continue to try, Lord, knowing that my efforts are not in vain because You will help me.  You will patiently teach me and guide me. And I will try to trust and obey.

I won’t live in condemnation, but instead lift up Your righteousness and forgiveness.  I will recognize Your authority over me and praise You for blessing the works of my hands, so that Your name will be glorified.  

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
4 to him who alone does great wonders,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 to him who made the great lights,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;|
13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew[a] Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
17 to him who struck down great kings,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed mighty kings,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to Israel his servant,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
   for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 he who gives food to all flesh,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,
   for his steadfast love endures forever.

 

You, Oh God, Are Faithful

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:6-7

Why have I ever questioned Your faithfulness, God?  You define Yourself as faithful and yet I forget to trust You in that.  I want to trust You more God. The desire of my heart is to trust You in all things and be lifted up out of the pit by Your faithful hand, because You are faithful.  

The world is fallen into deep chaos, God.  Idolatry, murder, sexual immorality, and evil of all kinds commands this world in an orchestra of personal passion mixed with the screams of the innocent.  It can be pretty terrifying, God. Evil rules and evil wins all the time. We are barraged with the cannon fire of the enemy at every turn. The spiritual battle waged against us is real.  It is painful. It is discouraging. It is real.

But, You, Oh God, are faithful.

You answer evil with the victory of Jesus.  You answer hatred with the love of forgiveness.  You answer the lusts of the flesh with the intimacy of unconditional acceptance.  Why would anyone choose anything else? You abound in steadfast love and yet the world mocks what You offer and chooses to go their own way.  How it must break Your heart to see people stubbornly refuse Your love and faithfulness. How it must sadden You to watch people twist Your offer of acceptance into a license to do whatever pleases them.  

People are ruled by the desires of their own hearts.  People have chosen to decide for themselves what is “good” and what is “evil”.  From the moment Adam and Eve ate from the tree, people stopped trusting You and chose instead to trust themselves.  People will permit all sorts of evil now, God. How it must sadden You!

Trusting You is the better way.  You bring order from chaos. You offer life over death.  You bring restoration instead of decay. It’s pretty clear that Your way is the better way, because Your way brings life!  In a world that longs to live forever, why would anyone choose to go their own way? Why would anyone choose death over life?  Help me to show them, God. Help me to tell them. Help me to live so that others want life, too.

Life is found in You alone.

Here is a message from Nasser al’Qahtani regarding Exodus 34:6-7. 

 

Creator of All Things

“God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”
Daniel 1:17

God, you are the creator of wisdom, intellect, beauty, and leadership.  You made everything and bestow Your gifts upon mankind as You see fit. Since I’ve been back in counseling I’ve been so introspective.  I’ve been pondering who I am. As I examine myself more deeply and consider all the things that have made me and molded me, I am reminded that You are the one that made me.  You’ve given me Spiritual Gifts, and You’ve also given me everything else. You’re the one that made me sweet and kind and gregarious and bold. You’re the one that put me together piece by piece and decided how I would look and what my personality would be.  You decided what family I would be born into and the time and world I would live my life in. All of it was You.

As I’ve been studying Daniel, You keep pointing out that You are the author of everything.  You gave Daniel his lineage, his appearance, his wisdom, his knowledge. It all came from You.  And even though Daniel had been hurled into captivity in Babylon, You used him mightily for Your glory!  Daniel honored You, acknowledged You, and deferred to You in praise and petition for everything that he did, and You blessed him in that.  Daniel had faith to see You in everything.

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
   to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
   he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
   and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
   he knows what is in the darkness,
   and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
   I give thanks and praise,
for you have given me wisdom and might,
   and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
   for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
Daniel 2:19-23

Lord, help me to see You and know You in everything, so that I can be strengthened and encouraged, and so that I can bless and teach the people I come in contact with.  I am a captive in this Babylon of sin and death, Lord. But You have given me wisdom and faith and boldness to see You and trust You. Lord, the mustard seed of faith that You planted in me as a small child has grown into a giant tree of trust and faith.  Let me move mountains for You, God! Let me trust You more! As I ponder myself and my architecture, Lord, let me see Your grand design in a fresh light. Remind me of Your complete faithfulness. And give me the boldness to proclaim it even in the face of death.

 

The Time of Singing Has Come

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
   and come away,
11 for behold, the winter is past;
   the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth,
   the time of singing has come,
Song of Solomon 2:10-12

You are coming back, my Love, my Lord!  You are making all things new. You are making me new.  Gone are the days of my vain suffering. The winter is past.  Lord, I clean to Your promises. I worship You for what You have given me!  I am Yours. The time of singing has come. I rejoice in You. You have promised to rescue me and I will rejoice!

You had my friend pray this scripture over me yesterday, and Lord, I know that You are with me, encouraging my soul, breathing life into my heart again.  I want to hold onto You, Jesus. I want to cling to You for all I need and be sustained.

Forgive me for only seeing the ashes for so long!  I was caught in despair and I had forgotten true joy.  I had forgotten that my Love is bounding after me like a gazelle, eagerly ready to restore me and commune with me.  Lord, You made our union for our glory together!

You made me to worship You and to be Yours!  I am Yours. I love You! I submit to You because You are Good.  You are Light. You are Trustworthy and Faithful. Your words are True.  Your Glory is revealed in Your Love!

I worship You, God!  I find rest in Your arms.  The time of singing has come.

Sifted Like Wheat

“And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Luke 22:15-16

Jesus, the Passover came just as you had planned, and You knew You would soon endure deep physical and mental suffering.  The Passover meal is such a beautiful reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people, and I know You longed to commemorate that moment with your friends, and encourage them before the trials that would soon come.  Suffering is so hard, Lord. The reminder and celebration of Your faithfulness is imperative in dealing with the struggles that plague our lives. We so easily forget Your faithfulness and enduring love.

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Luke 22:19-20

Lord, you served us in Your suffering.  You said that the blood You would shed for us would be a new promise for us:  A promise of salvation forever. Just as the blood of the Passover lamb protected the Israelites from death, so, too, Your blood was offered as a new promise of life and safety to anyone who would agree to accept Your promise.  

Following You is hard, God.  Following You also means following the road You had to travel: the road of suffering.  And You never told anyone that following You would be easy. Instead You quickly let Your friends know that following You would come at a great cost.  

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Luke 22:31-32

Lord Jesus, I have often felt “sifted like wheat”.  I’ve struggled and faltered and my faith has been at times so weak, and at other times strong enough to move mountains.  But Lord, it has been hard. Satan doesn’t mess around. And I have been hurt! At times, by my own folly, I have fallen into pits.  At other times, I held strong to Your promises and still fell into pits of destruction and pain.

“Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Luke 22:33

Isn’t that just how life goes?  I am weak. I am strong. I am weak.  I am strong. But You are always strong.  I make promises to You that I can’t keep. My flesh is weak, no matter how strong my spirit is.  But Lord, Your Spirit in me is always strong. Your Spirit in me will get me through the trials that I face, both the ones of my own making, and the ones set before me by the enemy.  

It was the enemy that set about to kill You.  And it was the enemy that tried to destroy You.  But Your plan all along was to love Your enemies and die for them, no matter how much they hated You.  So, you let the enemy sift You like wheat, tearing your flesh from your body, hurling insults at You, driving You like an animal to Your death, until You were displayed on a cross for all the world to see, and proclaimed, “It is finished!”  

You had the last laugh, Lord Jesus!  You broke the bonds of sin and death on that day and defeated the enemy with Your victory.  Your resurrection proved You were God and had dominion over life itself. And You offer that life to any who would receive it.  

So, I want to receive Your life fresh today, Lord.  Help me to endure the trials that come. Humble me to receive Your power at work within me and help me to encourage those around me to endure just as You did.  I don’t want to arrogantly proclaim, I will follow You anywhere. Instead, let me humbly say, I will trust You no matter what happens.

I trust You, Jesus.  You are faithful.

 

Surely Not!

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while.10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
Luke 20:9-18

For the longest time I have denied certain sins in my own heart, God.  Like the scribes and the chief priests in the temple long ago, I’m guilty of denying the blatant arrogance in my own heart.  I say, “Surely not, Lord! Not me. I’m a good Christian! I go to church and read my Bible, and I pray! I do this and that and this and that and this and that!”  We all do that, don’t we, God? In the past I would read these words scattered all over the Gospels and I would shake my head and think in my heart, “Sure am glad I’m not like that!”  Wow! How wrong I was! How wrong I am!

How many times have I said to You, “Surely not!”  

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Isaiah 64:6

I’m so sorry, Lord.  I’m sorry for refusing to hear your conviction in my heart because of my own arrogant confidence in myself and my deeds.  Of course I knew that my deeds were “filthy rags”, but I still acted like they were so much more than that! In my own depravity I welcomed the validation of my own actions with the pride I felt in them.  

But I’m done with that, Lord.  

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2

I want to always remember that only by Your grace and only by Your blood am I worthy of anything.  But by that same grace and blood I am worthy of all things! I’m done with sin and death. I want to pick up Your life and be free!

So, humble me, Lord Jesus.  Show me again how great You are!  Show me fresh the love You have for me.  Show me deeply how beautiful I am because of You.  I won’t walk in shame for the failure of my own heart.  Instead I will lift up Your name and acknowledge the banner of love You cover me with.

He brought me to the banqueting house,
   and his banner over me was love.
Song of Solomon 2:4

I’m in your banqueting house because You brought me there.  I didn’t do anything to deserve it, but You choose to fly your banner of love over me. So, Lord, the next time I start to say, “Surely not!”, please show me with your gentle love and correction.  Only that will bring wisdom and peace for my whole life.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
   or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
   as a father the son in whom he delights.
13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
   and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
   and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
   and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Proverbs 3:11-15

You Call Me Beautiful

Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
   behold, you are beautiful;
Song of Solomon 1:15a

Thank you, Lord, that you call me beautiful.  I need to remember that. I get so caught up and entangled by my own inadequacy and I call it humility.  I get down on myself. I call myself weak. And I think I am being humble. I think I am following You. But you call me beautiful.  You call me your love. I am so dirty with sin and shame. And you call me clean. You call me beautiful. I am beautiful.

How can my sin be be called beautiful when it covers me like caked on mud?  Because You no longer see the sin! You have washed me clean! Your blood has washed me clean.  Your love has overcome my filthiness.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Lord, You have cleansed me of ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.  I am clean. I am beautiful. You call me beautiful.  You call me clean.

As a lily among brambles,
   so is my love among the young women.
Song of Solomon 2:2

And so I shall be called a lily among brambles.  The world around me is filthy and full of sin, but I am Your beauty.  I am your flower. Your love. I want to walk in the confidence of that knowledge!  I want to spend every moment walking in the power of how You know me, how You see me!  I want to know I am Your beautiful flower! Help me to have the confidence of Your truth about me!  

I am loved.  I am beautiful.