Splashing Indiscriminately

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. Matthew 5:44-45 (NLT) 

Like perfume dripping down 

like rain on the evil and the good 

like drink offerings lost in the dirt 

vessels of his love-glory 

pour yourselves out 

tip yourselves over 

lavishly 

wastefully 

splashing indiscriminately 

not thinking of merit 

no one deserves 

his love 

Image by Mark Ordonez  https://flic.kr/p/6DhvmR  

Love Was When

Love was when  

   God became a man  

Locked in time and space  

   without rank or place  

Love was God  

   born of Jewish kin  

Just a carpenter  

   with some fishermen  

Love was when  

   Jesus walked in history  

Lovingly  

   He brought a new life that’s free  

Love was God  

   nailed to bleed and die  

To reach and love  

   one such as I

To love  

   one such as I 

   — Love Was When, lyrics by John E. Walvoord 

  

Image in the Public Domain

The Everlasting Lyrics

Jesus knew what he was singing, but did the disciples?

The priests stood at their posts, and the Levites also, with the instruments of music to the LORD, which King David had made for giving praise to the LORD—” for His lovingkindness is everlasting” … 2 Chronicles 7:6 (NASB)

1 Chronicles 16:39-41 records how David appointed worship leaders and established the way to give thanks to the Lord saying, “for his lovingkindness is everlasting.”  It appears that by the time of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple this phrase, His lovingkindness is everlasting (or His love endures forever), had become the standard for praise. Ezra 3:10-11 confirms that “according to the directions of King David of Israel” they were to play the musical instruments and praise God in this way.

The Psalms are full of this phrase. It is used 26 times just in Psalm 136. Wouldn’t you love to know how the music went? But even more important is to know why that phrase? What is so important about these lyrics – for his lovingkindness is everlasting?

Psalm 118, one of the great Messianic prophecies, foreshadowing Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his death as the Passover lamb, uses this phrase five times. The Psalm declares that “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone,” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.” But it also says this:

The Lord is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 118:27-29 (NASB)

What is this festival sacrifice mentioned here? It is the sacrificial lamb. Did you know that on major feast days, according to Jewish tradition, a set of Psalms were sung that are referred to as the Hallel? It includes Psalms 113-118 and 136. So, these words could have been among the last that Jesus and the disciples sang before they went to the Mount of Olives the night Jesus was arrested.

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:20

The Greek word translated “hymn” here is humneo, which is the “singing of paschal hymns … Psalms 113 – 118 and 136, which the Jews called the ‘great Hallel.’”[i]

Jesus knew what he was singing when he sang “bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar,” but did the disciples? Did it, maybe, dawn on them later the everlasting meaning of those last words?

Give thanks (shoot arrows, extend your hands in reverent worship, confess the name of the Lord, praise, give thanks) to the Lord,

for He is good (gracious, joyful, kind, loving, precious, sweet);

For His lovingkindness (goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy, pity)

is everlasting (from the beginning of the world, perpetual, continuous, eternal, to the vanishing point). Psalm 118:29

I’m not sure David understood what he was singing. I don’t think the disciples did either at first. But this perpetual, continuous, gracious, loving, precious, sweet goodness, kindness, mercy of God has always existed. It was his plan from the beginning of the world, this sacrificial Lamb.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 1 Peter 1:18-20

Let us join in the eternal song. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting!

Image, Silk Willoughby church, East Window detail, by Jules & Jenny on flickr.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpguffogg/


[i] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament

In a Pitiful State

The concept of checed is as big as God himself it seems. There is no limit to God’s checed, so of course it would overflow us.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:14

Satisfy us (Hebrew sabà=to be satisfied, sated, fulfilled, surfeited, filled, have desire satisfied, have in excess, be surfeited, overflowing, sate, i.e. fill to satisfaction, have enough)  

with your unfailing love (Hebrew checed=goodness, kindness, faithfulness, lovingkindness, merciful kindness, plus, plus, plus, more, more, more),

that we may sing for joy (overcome, triumph, be overcome/undone, cry out, shout for joy, give a ringing cry in joy, exaltation, praise, sing out for joy, rejoicing)

and be glad (rejoice, be joyful, be merry) all our days.

That word translated “satisfy” above is the Hebrew word sabà – to be satisfied, more than satisfied. This Psalm asks that we may be sated, fulfilled, overflowing with God’s checed. The concept of checed is as big as God himself it seems. There is no limit to God’s checed, so of course it would overflow us.

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses (checed) indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22 (NASB)

 Checed is too big for a short definition. The NetBible reference notes from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament uses 2,444 words to attempt a definition, but still doesn’t sabà-fulfill this concept. But one statement resonated deeply with me as the very heart of checed.

[Checed] is a kind of love, including mercy, ḥannûn, when the object is in a pitiful state. It often takes verbs of action, “do,” “keep,” and so refers to acts of love as well as to the attribute. The word “lovingkindness” of the KJV is archaic, but not far from the fulness of meaning of the word.

H. J. Stoebe[i]

Mercy and acts of love when the object is in a pitiful state. Yes, and amen.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless (strengthless, helpless, weak, feeble), Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

You could say that when we were in a pitiful state, Christ died for us. When we were sunk in the muck up to our chins and sinking fast, when there was nothing left for us to try, when we were at the end and knew it, stuck, ensnared, trapped, hopeless – pitiful – Jesus stepped in and proved God’s checed for us by dying on the Cross. Jesus, our Emmanuel. God’s very Presence with us showing us the Way to God’s very Presence within us. And shout for joy, give a ringing cry, exalt rejoicing, for that is where we find our sabà. In His Presence.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness (sabà) of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

Thank you Jesus that you demonstrated the Father’s unceasing, unlimited checed for us, saving us when we were in our pitiful state and making a way for us to find sabà, overflowing fulfillment, in your Presence forever.

Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love (checed) and compassion, who satisfies (sabà) your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

If you long to find fulfillment and satisfaction in God, but are in that pitiful state, trapped in sin, please pray.

“Dear God,

I know I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness.
I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died
for my sin and that you raised Him to life.
I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord,
from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do your will.

I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

∗Prayer from Billy Graham ministries

Image copyright 2019 by Derek Bair


[i] Stoebe, H. J., “Die Bedeutung des Wortes Hasad im Alten Testament,” Vetus Testamentum, 2:244–54.

My Testimony During My COVID Struggle

A dear friend of mine has been struggling through COVID-19 illness for many weeks. Yesterday she posted this wonderful testimony of her experience of God’s love and faithfulness through it all. I asked her for permission to share it here because it is so uplifting and encouraging – no matter what your current struggle is.

My testimony during my COVID struggle:

My Father has given me three very intense and personal experiences with Him to make sure I KNOW with every cell and every part of who I am, how deep His love is for me, how He has compassion for me and how He SEES me with no condemnation but PURE LOVE.

  1. Jesus is sitting right beside me at the table He has prepared for me, in the presence of my enemies. Sitting right next to me, laughing with me, enjoying me, eating with me… MY BEST FRIEND who SAVED me. Every door to my heart is open to Him and He is fully with me. I feel His joy in me, His friendship with me and His complete love for me.
  1. My Father God is sitting right beside me. His face shines on me with PURE JOY. I saw Him beside me and saw Him turn His face and look directly into mine. He fully SEES me, and I am UNDONE. Pure love. Pure joy. Pure compassion. With NO CONDEMNATION.

I am undone. On my face before Him with just that brief glimpse of total love for me. When the veil is removed, and I get to spend eternity with Him face to face how can I stand? For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.

  1. This life is precious and sacred because God is WITH me and IN me. With everything that is in this world and this life that would beat me down and cause me to give up and give in… I push into Him. Wanting only deeper love for Him and a deeper KNOWING Him.

Death means FULL JOY, FULL LIFE, FULL LOVE. A full knowing and understanding of the love and joy He has in me and for me. And it means I will be fully with Him with no veil and no barriers ever again.

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

Whether I am healthy or sick. Whether I grieve or experience pure joy in His presence. Whether I am overwhelmed by life, or am sitting with Him on the beach at Lake Michigan at sunset. Whether I am alone, or in the presence of a husband and family He blesses me with. Whether I feel very far from Him, or I feel Him in me and with me. Whether I can’t catch my breath, or peacefully breathe in His presence through the Holy Spirit.

NOTHING in this life will EVER separate me from the love of Jesus, my LORD and SAVIOR, who rescued me from running after sin, and rescued me from death.

HE IS EVERYTHING to me. EVERYTHING.

I am uniquely His. Here on earth and into eternity.

 

 

 

Image copyright by Jack Bair

 

Another Lost Sheep

Jesus came for the ones who have been written off.

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.  Luke 15:1-5

This fellow welcomes sinners. One of my favorite verses. He welcomes us sinners! He doesn’t just tolerate us. That word means to receive or give access to one’s self, to admit into companionship, to accept and not to reject. It comes from a word that means to receive into one’s family, to embrace, make one’s own. What glorious grace! And, praise God, he doesn’t wait for us to come to him, because if he did, most of us would never find our way. This fellow goes out and tracks us down.

Everyone will be lost at one time or another. Or many times. Some of us chronically wander into narrow canyons where paths stop so abruptly you can’t even turn around and go back out. Only a shepherd’s crook from an overhanging ledge in the hands of a strong shepherd can haul you up to safety.—Suzanne Guthrie

I love that – everyone will be lost at one time or another. I love, too, the title of the above image by Kristen Klein: Found – Another Lost Sheep. Yes, another.

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God … (Romans 3:22-23)

And that lostness does not merely mean the meandering wandering of a confused sheep. The word translated “lost” is the Greek word apollumi, which means to destroy, mar or render useless, perish, be lost, die or kill. It comes from two words:

apo = the separation of a part from the whole; separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed; a state of separation, that is of distance

olethros = ruin, death, destruction

Isn’t that what sin is all about? Separation from the family. Separation from fellowship, leading to ruin, death, and destruction. It’s a hopeless word; it’s a seemingly final word. Yet (yet!), Jesus said he came for us destroyed, ruined, marred, perished, dead ones. He came for us, who by our sin and wandering from the way, have been separated from the flock, separated from fellowship with God, headed toward ruin, death, and destruction.

If you are trapped in one of those dead-end canyons and feel like you can’t turn around, that you can’t go back, that it’s too late for you, know this: Jesus came for the ones who have been written off. The ones, who in the eyes of world and maybe their own eyes too, are already dead. But not in the eyes of God. Never in the eyes of God.

He is seeking you right now. He welcomes you. Cry out to him and the strong Shepherd will be there instantly.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15

For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:22-24 (MSG)

 

This blog is also available as a Bible study, free to copy and use, at Another Lost Sheep Bible Study

Image, Found – another lost sheep . . . by Kristen Klein https://flic.kr/p/iZRiZV

To the Vanishing Point

Yet I am always (continually, perpetually, constantly, like the daily sacrifice) with you;

you hold (grasp, take hold, seize, take possession of) me by my right hand.

You guide me (guide tenderly, lead me away captive, conduct me along the path) with your counsel (plan, purpose),

and afterwards you will take (get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, acquire, buy, bring, marry, snatch, take away, receive) me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire (delight in, take pleasure in, bend down to) besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail (be spent, be used up, waste away, be exhausted, come to an end, vanish, perish, be destroyed),

but God

But God!

is the strength (the Rock, refuge) of my heart and my portion (allotment, possession, territory, inheritance) forever (everlastingly, unending future, to the vanishing point, eternally, without end).

Psalm 73:23-26

 

Image in the Public Domain

The Hands of the Loving Potter

The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; from His dwelling place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works (deeds, actions). Psalms 33:14-15 (NASB)

These verses are a comfort and hope to me. God’s gaze is on me. He sees me. He understands why I do the dumb things I do. And he is fashioning, forming my heart. Strong’s Concordance defines this forming as squeezing into shape as a potter does with clay. It feels like squeezing too.

And the psalmist says that God sees all the sons of men; he is forming the hearts of all, everyone. This forming is being done where we cannot perceive, deep inside the hidden place. Those people we look askance upon, doing things that, to us, are incomprehensible – their hearts are also being fashioned by the hands of a compassionate, merciful God. I like how the Pulpit Commentary puts it:

“The hearts of all men are in God’s keeping, and his gracious influences are exerted to ‘mould’ them aright. Some hearts are too stubborn to yield themselves up to his fashioning, and refuse to take the impress which he desires to impart; but all, or almost all, owe it to him that they are not worse than they are.”

Yes, that’s for sure. We all stubbornly resist at times, but he does not give up on us. And neither should we give up on each other. This is a gracious hope for me. That God is working in the hearts of those for whom I am praying. That the hands of the loving potter are at work though I may not be able to see it.

If there are ones for whom you have been praying, maybe for a long time, do not give up. Let us wait in hope. Let us keep loving. Let us keep praying. Let us trust that the hands of the loving Potter are upon us all.

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name. Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in You. Psalms 33:20-22

 

 

Image from https://floridaclayartstore.flclaypotteryequipmentceramicsupply.com/

Engraved on His Palms

(Today I would like to share an entry from 3-Minute Devotions with Charles Spurgeon¹ that has meant a lot to me.)

“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”— Isaiah 49:16 KJV

No doubt a part of the wonder which is concentrated in the word “Behold,” is excited by the unbelieving lamentation of the preceding sentence.

Zion said, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me.” How amazed the divine mind seems to be at this wicked unbelief! What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God’s favored people?

The Lord’s loving word of rebuke should make us blush; He cries, “How can I have forgotten thee, when I have graven you upon the palms of my hands?”

We know not which most to wonder at, the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of his people. He keeps his promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt him.

He never fails, yet we are as continually vexed with anxieties, molested with suspicions, and disturbed with fears.

“Behold,” is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marveling. Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of his hands.

The name is there, but that is not all: “I have graven your person, your image, your case, your circumstances, your sins, your temptations, your weaknesses, your wants, your works; I have graven you, everything about you, all that concerns you; I have put you altogether there.

Will you ever say again that God has forsaken you when he has graven you upon his own palms?

Lord, You have written my very existence on the palms of Your hands. I am forever grateful for Your love. I will trust in, rely on, and lean into You today—and always! Amen.

(A full sermon by Spurgeon on this topic can be read here Neither Forsaken Nor Forgotten)

¹ Published by Barbour Publishing Inc. Used by permission. Copyright 2015.

Photo by Jack Bair 2019, all rights reserved.