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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Attributes’

Check out this baby oak tree. Isn’t it adorable, sporting those glossy, miniature leaves on its spindly stem?

 

 

Every other spring or so our yard becomes a forest of miniature oak sprouts, peeping up over the grass. They’re birthed from the thousands of acorns produced by our neighbor’s mammoth oak tree.

Not so adorable by the dozens. They look like weeds. Thankfully most of them stop growing after being mowed down again and again.

But then there are the acorns that squirrels diligently plant among the bushes, plants, and flowers in front of the house—sometimes right at the base. A sincere effort is required to dig them all out, because their taproots grow surprisingly deep for such tiny trees.

 

 

Of course there’s good reason to reach deep. The developing oak must absorb moisture and minerals for the monumental growth that’s ahead (should the sprout be allowed to mature, that is!). The deep root also provides support for the above-ground portion.

Perhaps these two purposes were on Paul’s mind as he encouraged the Ephesian Christians to be “rooted and established in God’s love” (3:17).

But how do those root-tasks of absorbing and supporting relate particularly to God’s love?

Actually, “love” is a perfect choice for Paul’s metaphor because so many of God’s attributes come to us out of his love—such attributes as his mercy, forgiveness, grace, patience, compassion, faithfulness, goodness, attentiveness, and generosity.

 

 

To be rooted in God’s love is to draw sustenance from all that he is, in order to grow into all we can be (Isaiah 61:3b). In addition, God’s love provides stability against the winds of trouble.

Such nourishment and support for our spiritual lives is essentially found in his Word, the Bible. That’s where we learn about the many facets of God’s love:

  • His mercy—so abundant it covers every sin (Psalm 86:15)
  • His forgiveness—so complete it washes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18)
  • His grace—so generous it overflows (Romans 5:17)
  • His patience—so extreme, he endures our pride and self-will, waiting for us to come to him (2 Peter 3:9)
  • His compassion—so reliable it never fails (Lamentations 3:22)
  • His faithfulness—so vast it reaches to the skies (Psalm 36:5)
  • His goodness—so great he has to store it up (Psalm 31:19)
  • His attentiveness—so individualized he knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7)
  • His generosity—so magnanimous he supplies every need—and then some (Philippians 4:19; Psalm 40:5)

 

 

Like a far-reaching root system, this network of truths about God’s love supplies nourishing strength and firm support—especially during the winds of crisis like we’re enduring right now.

God’s love also sustains us against fear and uncertainty. Again, his comfort and assurance are found in the Bible—familiar passages like Psalm 23, Psalm 56:3-4, and Philippians 4:6-7.

But there are many more—very appropriate for these days of battle against the coronavirus.

For example:

Are you wondering whether you can endure until it’s over?

 

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,

who daily bears our burdens.”

–Psalm 68:14

 

“You are my strength, I sing praise to you;

you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.”

–Psalm 59:16-17

 

(And don’t forget Matthew 6:26-27!)

 

Do worries refuse to budge from your thoughts?

 

“When anxiety was great within me

your consolation brought me joy.”

–Psalm 94:19*

 

Are there difficulties to be overcome?

 

“Lord, hear my prayer,

listen to my cry for mercy;

in your faithfulness and righteousness

come to my relief…

…Let the morning bring me words

of your unfailing love,

for I have put my trust in you.

Show me the way I should go,

for to you I entrust my life.”

–Psalm 143:1, 8

 

 

Reach deep into the rich soil of God’s loving assurance, provided among the pages of his Word.

The result will be peace (Isaiah 26:3).

 

*What does that last line mean?  Just what we’re seeking to accomplish in this post:  joyful consolation through the contemplation of God’s attributes, affirmations, and promises.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.peakpx.com.

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“I AM WHO I AM.”

That’s how God identified himself to Moses, as he spoke from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).

On the face of it, God’s statement seems rather strange.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but doesn’t it sound like a line Lewis Carroll would write for the Mad Hatter, or Dr. Seuss for the cat in the hat?

Moses had asked a legitimate question in response to God’s directive to return to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let the Israelite slaves leave the country (v. 11).  On what authority could he tell Pharaoh what to do?

But of course “I AM WHO I AM” was the perfect response. It’s a name that encompasses all the glorious complexities of almighty God.

And true to his word and character, the I AM of omnipotence and wisdom did take care of everything to release his people from Pharaoh’s grip and take them back to the land of their forefathers.

 

 

And since God never changes (Malachi 3:6), the same I AM is everything and anything we will ever need (Philippians 4:19), including the following.

Let’s shout these affirmations from our spirits:

 

The I AM of absolute power and sublime perfection

is our stability and security (1).

 

The I AM of self-existence and self-sufficiency

is our foundation and competence (2).

 

The I AM of supreme sovereignty and divine holiness

is our confidence and sanctification (3).

 

 

The I AM of firm constancy and unrivaled transcendency

is our inspiration and strength (4).

 

The I AM of complete wisdom and absolute knowledge

is our counselor and guide (5).

 

The I AM of abiding faithfulness and assured reliability

is our help and support (6).

 

 

The I AM of unfailing love and generous benevolence

is our encourager and comforter (7).

 

The I AM of enduring patience and exceeding kindness

is our peace and joy (8).

 

The I AM of deep understanding and gentle compassion

is our defender and reconciliation (9).

 

 

The I AM of bountiful mercy and lavish grace

is our Redeemer and Savior (10).

 

The I AM of righteous integrity and overflowing goodness

is our Shepherd and provider (11).

 

The I AM of splendorous glory and royal majesty

is our Father and Friend (12).

 

 

Listen to his affirming whisper:

“I AM in you, with you, and for you. 

When doubt or fear seep into your thoughts, remember who I AM and send those negative thoughts scurrying.  

Rest in who I AM; enjoy who I AM— the One who delights to bring all My attributes and blessings to bear upon your life.

Take joy also in the principle of reflection. The more time you spend in My presence, even as you’re involved in other tasks, the more you will reflect Me and My character to others. 

As you look to Me, you will be radiant.

And those around you will see who I AM.

 

 

(1 Corinthians 3:16; Psalm 23:4; Romans 8:31; Psalm 143:5;

Psalm 145; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 34:5; Matthew 5:16)

 

 

Notes:

  1. Matthew 19:26; Psalm 18:30; Psalm112:7; Proverbs 3:26
  1. Psalm 90:2; Acts 17:24-25 and Romans 11:36; Psalm 18:31; 2 Corinthians 3:4-5
  1. 1 Chronicles 29:9-11; Isaiah 6:3; Proverbs 3:26; 1 Corinthians 6:11
  1. James 1:17; Psalm 113:5-6; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 46:1
  1. Romans 11:33; Job 37:15-16; Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 58:11
  1. Psalm 33:4; Psalm 121:3; Psalm 33:20; Psalm 18:35
  1. 1 John 4:8; Psalm 31:19; Isaiah 41:10; 2 Corinthians 1:3
  1. 1 Corinthians 13:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Psalm 4:7
  1. Psalm 103:14, 8; Psalm 138:7; Colossians 1:20-22
  1. Exodus 34:6-7; Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 45:21-22
  1. Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 25:8; Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 145:9
  1. Exodus 15:11; Psalm 93:1; 2 Corinthians 6:18; John 15:14

 

Photo credits:  http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.canva.com (3); http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.needpix.com; http://www.flickr.com.

 

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A homeless woman slumped against the familiar brick wall of the warehouse, then grouped her plastic shopping bags snugly around her. Next she looped several bag-handles on her legs, and stretched her arms over the rest. The worry of losing to theft any of her treasured possessions kept her vigilant. Once settled, she succumbed to a fitful doze.

A man approached. “Excuse me, ma’am,” he called gently. “Are you Genevieve Bartlett?”

The woman startled awake, instinctively clutching her belongings more tightly. “What if I am?” she grumbled.

“Well, if you can answer a few questions for me, I may have some excellent news for you,” he replied calmly, recognizing that defensiveness in her position was only to be expected.

Genevieve returned his gaze with a scowl, but sat up straighter, readying herself to listen. The questions were easy: what were the names of her deceased parents and grandparents, when and where had she been born, and where had she attended school.

The man handed her his card and began to explain. “My name is Henry Lewis. I’m a lawyer, here to inform you you’re the last surviving Bartlett of your family, and you’ve just inherited fifty million dollars. If you’ll come with me, we can take care of the details at my office, and start the process of…finding a more comfortable situation for you. Would that be to your liking?”

 

 

Genevieve didn’t move for several moments. “Fifty million dollars,” she repeated slowly, and studied the lawyer’s face. Could he possibly be telling the truth? But why else would he seek her out at the warehouse?

Genevieve suddenly slipped the bag-handles off her legs, stood up, and announced, “I’m ready, let’s go!” Without even looking back, Genevieve left her shopping bags and their worthless contents on the pavement.

Out of several interpretations for this story, consider the shopping bags as representative of our fears. Don’t we sometimes hold on to them—worthless as they are—as tightly as Genevieve held on to her belongings?

But as God’s children, we possess tremendous wealth, worth much more than fifty million dollars, because “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure” (Matthew 13:44). And unlike Genevieve during her homeless days, we have access to a good part of that treasure now, if we let go of our worries and lay hold of our wealth.

 

 

So what might that treasure include?  Consider the following:

1. God’s Glorious Provision. Unlike Genevieve, we know a glorious inheritance is waiting for us.  Ours is in heaven—an inheritance so magnificent, when we arrive there, we’ll look back on our earthly lives “as an insubstantial dream from which we have happily awoken” (Austin Farrer).

2. God’s Involvement. He is always at work. Take note of his wisdom in creation, his engineering of life-circumstances, and his generosity in the blessings he bestows. God even makes joy available in the midst of trouble. 

3. God’s Sovereignty.  No doubt Mr. Lewis designed a plan for Genevieve to provide for her well-being. God too has designed a perfect and purposeful plan to accomplish much good, in the world at large and for each of us individually.  Whatever we entrust to him, he will take care of much better than we can.

 

 

4. God’s Unfailing Love.  We can leave our worries behind, as Genevieve did her shopping bags, when we dwell on the lovingkindness of God. In fact, peace of heart is guaranteed–if we keep our focus upon him. 

5. God’s Constant Presence. He is always with us—even as we wait for him to act. The attentive person recognizes his presence in the aria of a songbird, the sunbeams of a morning, the spontaneous hug of a friend.

 

 

6. God’s Kindness and Care.  Surely Genevieve marveled for the rest of her days how Mr. Lewis had changed her life.  We can draw strength and great delight from remembering God’s gracious provisions of our past.

7. God’s Powerful Word. Scripture offers indispensable comfort and encouragement, reminding us that God is our protective Shield and dependable Rock, our caring Shepherd and devoted Helper, our loving Provider and strong Confidence.

 

 

In these seven ways and more, God generously shares his inheritance with us now, giving us the opportunity to overcome anxiety with joy.   After all, every fear about our future, safety, health, suffering, death, financial woes, inadequacy, and events beyond our control are good-for-nothing baggage.

The question becomes: Will I let go of my worthless bags of worries and lay hold of my glorious inheritance?

 

 

Scripture Notes for:

  1. 1 Peter 1:3-4
  2. Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 94:19
  3. 2 Chronicles 20:6; Romans 8:28
  4. Psalm 94:17-18; Isaiah 26:3
  5. Psalm 23:4
  6. Psalm 92:4
  7. Psalm 3:3; 18:2; 23:1; 46:1; 78:23-29; Proverbs 14:26

 

(Genevieve’s story is based on an illustration from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “To Give You the Kingdom.”)

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pexels.com; wwww.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net.

 

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(a personal psalm based on Psalm 36:1, 5-8, 10 and other scriptures)

 

Our world is in travail, O God.

Wicked men create schemes to fraud others;

They viciously hunt down the innocent.

Their mouths are full of curses, lies, and threats.

Blameless victims suffer at the hands of their selfishness and greed.

In prideful arrogance, they even mock You, Father.

 

 

How is it that the wicked accumulate wealth and wield power?

Their dark deeds and unjust treatment of others

stir up frustration and resentment in our hearts.

Then we remember: the days of the wicked are numbered.

Our best course of action is to contemplate You,

And affirm our trust in your wise and loving ways.

 

 

Yes, You are our God of steadfast, self-sacrificing love,

As expansive and incomprehensible as the heavens.

Evidence of your attentive love is all around us—

In the gracious people we meet,

The delightful circumstances we experience,

The unexpected gifts we receive and enjoy.

 

 

You are our God of reliable and unchanging faithfulness.

You keep all of your scripture promises—all 2,300-plus of them!

You always have and always will act according to your holy character;

Therefore we can forever trust you to do what is right.

Never will you turn your back on us,

Even if we turn our backs on you.

 

 

You are our God of perfect and transcendent righteousness,

As firm, immovable, and majestic as mountains.

Everything you do is good,

Motivated by a purity that will not forever tolerate wrong.

Your perfect plans always conform to the prudent purpose of your will.

Everything you say is truth; you cannot lie.

 

 

You are a God of certain yet merciful justice.

To be honest, we’re often mystified by your actions.

We see evil men prosper and righteous men suffer.

Your judgments are as unfathomable as the deepest oceans.

But what we do know is this, and we cling to its hope:

In your infinite wisdom you work all things for good.

 

 

You are our God of strong and ever-present refuge,

Offering comfort, peace, and security through your Word.

In your Presence we are strengthened; our faith is renewed.

You shelter us from the full force of the storms of life.

You even protect us from what we thought we wanted

And provide for us instead what You know is best.

 

 

You are our God of abundant and delightful blessings

That flow continually like a great river.

Who can count all the wonderful works you have done?

But above all, you O Lord, are the embodiment of all blessing—

In you alone we find rest, support, and salvation.

In you alone we place our trust.

 

Stanza #1: Psalm 10:2, 7

Stanza #2: Psalm 36:1, 10

Stanza #3: Psalm 36:5a, 7, 10

Stanza #4: Psalm 36:5b; Psalm 145:13; Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Timothy 2:13

Stanza #5: Psalm 36:6a; Psalm 119:68; Habakkuk 1:13; Ephesians 1:11; 1 Chronicles 16:27; Numbers 23:19

Stanza #6: Psalm 36:6b; Jeremiah 12:1; Romans 8:28

Stanza #7: Psalm 36:7; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 31:19-20; Psalm 9:9; Psalm 18:2

Stanza #8: Psalm 36:8; Psalm 105:5a; Psalm 62:5-8; Psalm 31:14

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; pinterest.com.)

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You Are

(A personal psalm)

 

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God of the boundless universe,

Your oceans roil and churn across wide expanses of the earth

To depths greater than the height of Mt. Everest.

Your sun explodes with firestorms,

Spewing plumes of flame thousands of miles upward.

A mere handful of 100 billion stars form the Milky Way–

Just one of your millions of galaxies.

You are a God of awesome, infinite power.

 

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God of perfect wisdom,

You know all truth and comprehend all things.

You possess the ability to always choose the best.

Your wisdom is righteous, impartial, and sincere–

Not just a function of your all-knowing, precise mind–

But guided by a heart of purity, understanding, and compassion.

Your wisdom is always active, never-failing, and full of mercy.

You are the all-wise God–far beyond human comprehension.

 

james3-17

  

God of mercy and compassion,

Your persistent love pursues us, longing to bring us home.

Your selfless love engulfs us, bestowing forgiveness and grace.

Your generous love endows us, lavishing immeasurable treasure.

Your changeless love is not based on our performance.

Your attentive love does not leave us to struggle alone.

“Your perfect love perseveres until it perfects.”*

You are a God of incredibly active love.

 

heaven-2327_640

  

God of glorious resplendence,

You illuminate our way through life,

Dispelling the darkness of fear.

You send forth your enlightenment and truth to guide,

Diffusing the fog of uncertainty.

You provide the radiance of your presence,

Instilling a sense of well-being and peace within our spirits.

You are a God of transforming light.

 

god39s_light_-_gates_of_heaven_-_panoramio

  

God of bountiful blessing,

Every good and perfect gift comes from you—

From cloudless skies to life-giving rain,

From hearth-fires in winter to fireflies in summer,

From treasured memories of yesterday to anticipated hopes for tomorrow.

From rousing sunrise to restful sunset,

Each day overflows with abundant pleasures.

You are a God of extravagant goodness.

 

sunset-1815991_960_720

  

You are a God transcendent above all imaginings or hope!

 

Sources of inspiration included:

  • Stanza #2—James 3:17; Job 28:12-13.
  • Stanza # 3—Luke 15:11-27; Romans 8:38-39; Deuteronomy 31:8; *Philip Yancey, Grace Notes, Zondervan, 2009, p. 242.
  • Stanza #4—Psalm 89:15; 27:1; 76:4; 43:3.
  • Stanza #5—James 1:17; Psalm 31:19.

Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.dailybibleme.com; http://www.dayofgrace.me; http://www.wikimedia.com; pixabay.com.

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psalms-145-17

 

Nine times in Psalm 145, David used the word, “all” to describe the totality of God’s attributes and their far-reaching impact. These attributes fall into two sets, as follows.

The Lord is:

  1. Good to all (v. 9a),
  2. Compassionate on all he has made (v. 9b),
  3. Faithful to all his promises (v. 13c), and
  4. Loving toward all he has made (v. 13d).

In addition he:

  1. Upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down (v. 14),
  2. Is righteous in all his ways (v. 17a),
  3. Is near to all who call upon him in truth (v. 18a), and
  4. Watches over all who love him (v. 20a).

 

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How glorious to consider that all these general statements apply individually also—to you and me.

With a bit of effort, these truths can be turned into personal praise:

 

My heart sings for joy, Father.

You are so good to me (v. 9a)—blessings abound.

Even at this moment I revel in your gently falling rain,

The sound of Steve puttering in the kitchen

(Thank you for a husband who likes to cook!),

And three year-old Elena* on the floor,

Writing a story about making pancakes with Mommy.

Your goodness is on display, even in small moments.

IMG_0730

 

I praise you for your compassion (v. 9b),

Expressed through a doctor who, just last Saturday,

Offered consult on a weekend,

And even checked in on Monday morning.

Your compassion is evident in the kindness of strangers as well.

Just today a driver graciously gave me

the right-of-way on a narrow street,

Bestowing respect, favor, and a smile.

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How thankful I am for your many promises in scripture (v. 13c)–

Over 2,300 statements of hope and encouragement–

Promises sometimes fulfilled in amazing and creative ways–

Classic promises like Romans 8:28 and 1 Peter 5:7,

Realized as Steve and I moved to different communities

And embarked upon new chapters of our lives.

Personal promises, like Ruth 2:11-12 and John 13:7—

Surprisingly well-suited to the moment.

b3e39ee809ae0e119a52171b6506ca2b

 

I praise you for your loving nature (v. 13d),

Your attentiveness and favor expressed through

The cheer of bird song in the morning,

The grace and friendliness of people at church,

The inspiration of your Word,

The redemption from hurtful experiences of the past,

The peace of mind and joy of the Spirit

You infuse into each day.

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And thank you for the sweet comfort of your presence (v. 18a)

That fills me with delight.

How precious are those times when

I sense your nearness,

When praise songs and scripture

Bring tears that clear my eyes

For the sight of you in your grace

And make the vision of your favor more precious (1).

c497a3ccd0c1e18b744233df5f307b43

 

Every day I want to praise you (v. 2).

You are pure goodness,

Manifested in infinite power,

Giving the light of truth, wisdom, and discernment.

Your glorious majesty reigns supreme over all creation.

And most amazing of all:

Everything you are, you offer to your children.

You are always seeking to manifest yourself to us.

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Words fail to praise you adequately.

But, oh, how I yearn to do so!

 

*Our granddaughter

(1) based on a Charles Spurgeon quote

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.dailyverses.net; http://www.pinterest.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.strongtowns.org; http://www.pinterest.com (4).

 

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Every field of study includes specialized vocabulary or terms that students learn, in order to function in that realm.

In economics, you need to know arbitrage, equilibrium price, and store of value.

Business-Meeting-1

Those in the field of education learn about asynchronous learning, constructivism, and heutagogy.

elementary-classroom-panorama

An engineer becomes familiar with Bernoulli’s Theorem, fixture units, and porosity.

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(Give yourself a pat on the back for each of those terms you can actually define!)

The study of God, theology, is no different. Sit among a group of seminary students and you’re likely to hear terms that don’t come up in our daily conversations, such as immutability, omniciency, and transcendency.

But maybe those words (and others that describe God’s attributes) should become familiar, everyday terms, because:

  • What we think about God influences what we think about everything else—our values and possessions, other people, the world, etc.
  • to fully appreciate our God, we must know him well
  • the better we know him, the greater his impact upon our lives
  • the more we know him, the more we can trust him

Take, for example, that fancy, six-syllable word, immutability. It refers to God’s insusceptibility to change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). It is not in his nature to change—ever. God is always the same. He is consistent in all his attributes, all the time.

malachi-3-6

Isn’t that glorious news? When we come to him, we don’t have to worry that maybe he’s decided we’re not worthy to enter his presence anymore. We don’t have to worry about whether he’s in a good mood or not.  And we don’t have to worry that he might go back on his promises. God’s character never changes, and he doesn’t change his mind either.

How about omniciency? That’s only four syllables, but just as profound as immutability. It refers to God’s ability to know all things—perfectly.

“Stop and consider God’s wonders,” Elihu said to Job. “Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:14-16, italics added)?

lightning-over-water_270_600x450

Again, what stunning news! He knows all things.  He knows the past and the future, therefore he can guide me—perfectly. He knows my personality, my innermost thoughts, my motivations. Therefore, he understands me–perfectly. He knows my needs, therefore, he can provide for me—perfectly.

And then, last but not least (for today, that is): transcendency, which means God is above all of his creation. He existed before the first glimmer of light appeared in the universe (Genesis 1:1-3). And his existence is not dependent upon creation as we are. In addition, the way God thinks and works is far beyond our limited capacities (Isaiah 55:9).

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Under the heading of God’s transcendence we find his infallible wisdom, incomprehensible power, self-existence (because no one made him), righteousness, justice, mercy, and more.

And all of these wonderful attributes he graciously exerts upon us who believe in him, who seek to know him.

Think of it. The immutable, omniscient, transcendent God who oversees the universe, is also Overseer of each of our lives. He is caring for us, living in us, and participating with us each and every day.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise you, oh God, for the magnificence of your attributes. You are immutable, never responding out of character. You are omniscient, always responding in our best interest, because you know all. And you are transcendent. From you, through you, and to you are all things (Romans 11:36). Oh, that we may worship you as you deserve!

(Art & photo credits:  stagecraft.co.uk; http://www.teachtought.com; http://www.hengineers.com; http://www.shareaverse.wordpress.com; http://www.environment.nationalgeographic.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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His kayak paddle provided more steering than propulsion, as the tourist enjoyed a quiet excursion past tall conifers and wide-armed hardwoods. Slowly he meandered southward, confident that returning to his launching point would not be a challenge.  The man at the kayak-rental shack had assured him: surface water flowed at just over one mile per hour. And should he fall out of his craft, no real danger would threaten. The water was only three feet deep, and the shore not more than ten feet to either side.

It’s hard to imagine, the kayaker thought,  that this narrow, shallow stream actually becomes a mammoth river. He’d been told the stream was fed by underground springs, and flowed another 2,300 miles from where he paddled. Along the way, more rivers would flow into it. And when the fresh water finally met salt, the river would be over a mile wide.

Mississippi-River

Have you guessed the name of this waterway? It’s the grand and powerful Mississippi. Yet its headwaters is a tame little stream, fed by a few underground springs or fountains.

Such a river offers an illuminating picture of our relationship with God. We are the rivers, and…

…“[God] is the fountain of life,” (Psalm 36:9).

Anglican bishop John James Stewart Perowne (1823-1904) said: “These are some of the most wonderful words in the Old Testament. Their fullness of meaning no commentary can ever exhaust.”

But if we don’t at least try to grasp the wealth of truth in these six words, we stand to lose much profit.

So let’s consider that, as our fountain of life:

  • God the Son is the source of all life, and all life is sustained by him (Hebrews 1:3). Without him, all life would cease.
  • In him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28).
  • He is like a spring of water welling up to eternal life in our spirits (John 4:14).

Those are wonderful concepts, which Dr. Perowne surely had in mind as he contemplated Psalm 36:9. Yet our triune God is like a fountain of spring water in more ways.

First, a bit of digression. No doubt you’re aware that bottled spring water is a big business these days, supposedly offering water that is much superior to what comes out of the tap. Critics have their doubts.

But our God is 100% perfect! No doubt about it.

 psalm8-how-excellent-your-name0

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

Consider as well the following scriptures, which itemize his excellent perfections. And keep in mind they come to us in unending supply:

  • Presence.  “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).
  • Reliability.  “The plans of the Lord stand firm forever; the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:11).
  • Right-Doing. “His righteousness endures forever” (Psalm 111:3).
  • Faithfulness.  “The faithfulness of the Lord endures forever” (Psalm 117:2).
  • Sovereignty.  “He rules forever by his power, is eyes watch the nations” (Psalm 6:7).
  • Love.  “His love endures forever” (Psalm 100:5).
  • Compassion.  “[The Lord’s] compassions never fail” (Lam. 3:22).
  • Protection.  “Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever” (Psalm 28:9).
  • Stability.  “The Lord is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4).
  • Joy.  “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).
  • Blessing.  “Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence” (Psalm 21:6).
  • Grace.  “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).

That’s an even dozen attributes. But since our God is infinite, his attributes are also infinite. We’ve barely begun to explore his perfections. In addition, he will forever expend those attributes for our good (Romans 8:28)—not only outwardly, as he engineers circumstances, but inwardly as we allow his attributes to flow in us.

In addition, God is flowing through us, so we can provide life-giving grace to those around us—grace that expresses itself in love, compassion, and blessing.

And that brings me to another metaphor–for those tributaries that pour into the Mississippi. They remind us of the influence of others in our lives–faithful and mature family members, friends, pastors, and teachers, who come alongside us by example and with wisdom, providing strength and growth.

Mississippi_watershed_map_1

Chances are, those tributaries of the Mississippi are also fed by springs. For every believer, our triune God is the pure, ever-flowing, life-giving source of all that is excellent, and everything we need for a fulfilling life.

Is your heart overflowing with praise?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We do give you praise, oh God! You are the fountain of our abundant and excellent spiritual life. You are the only spring that quenches our thirst for fulfillment, joy, peace, and satisfaction.  Thank you for flowing in us, so these desires and more are fully met. And thank you for flowing through us, so we might have the privilege of sharing your living water with others.

 

(Information about the headwaters of the Mississippi from the Mississippi Headwater Board and wikipedia.org.  Photo & art credits:  www.nature.org; http://www.1mississippi.org; http://www.fbcphil.org; http://www.agodman.com; http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“What traits should you look for when determining if someone is trustworthy?” asked the subtitle of a magazine article.

That question piqued my interest, and I read further.

According to the researcher, integrity is a crucial component, but there’s another trait that’s equally important: competence. The author gave the following scenario as an example: His best friend, Charlie, had proven himself completely reliable, but he wouldn’t want that friend performing an operation on him.  Charlie is not a surgeon.

So a trustworthy person is not only honest and fair, he is also competent for what you need him to do.

Those of us who know God have just such a friend.  Think of all we know from scripture about the character of our virtuous, competent God.  He is:

  • just, faithful, and upright (Deuteronomy 32:4).
  • righteous (Psalm 119:142) and holy (Leviticus 19:2).
  • wise (Daniel 2:20) and good (Psalm 106:1).
  • truthful (Psalm 31:5).

An  enlightened understanding of our trustworthy God should calm our fears and doubts, right?

But perhaps you’re like me—struggling a bit from time to time, asking questions like:

  • Lord, I know you have a plan, but when are you going to reveal it to me?
  • Why hasn’t Bill been healed? We’ve prayed so hard and for so long!
  • Dealing with Meredith day after day is sapping my strength, God.  When will the frustration end?

According to Philip Yancey, faith boils down to the matter of trust in the relationship. Do I have confidence in God or not? If I do stand on a bedrock of trust, the worst of circumstances will not destroy the relationship (Grace Notes, p. 198).

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So how can I develop that strong bedrock of trust? Saturating myself in scriptures about the character of God, such as those listed above, is a good place to start. Another worthy study-pursuit: the promises of God, because…

…“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill” (Numbers 23:19)?  No, of course not.

To truly impact my trust quotient, a change of habit is necessary–a habit such as: T-squared. Any time I find doubt or fear creeping at the edges of my thoughts, I want to Turn, Trust, and Thank. T x 3 includes:

  1. Turn away from thinking about the what-ifs, the negative, the hurtful.
  1. Express trust in God through song, prayer, and scripture. “Doubts are dismantled by declarations,” says my good blogger-friend, Jody Collins.*
  1. Thank God for his attributes that he’s bringing to bear on any negative situation.  Thank him also for every scripture-promise that applies.

I think I’ll try it right now.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

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Oh, Father, I praise you that you are strong, and protect like a shield.   My heart leaps for joy knowing you care for me and will help me. I praise you for surrounding me with your love, because I trust in you. All my life you have proved yourself trustworthy; why would I want to stop trusting you now? Oh, how I praise you that, as I keep my mind steadfast upon you, you will fill me with your peace. You are my trustworthy Rock—reliable and unchanging.      

(Psalm 28:7; 32:10b; 71:5-6; Isaiah 26:3-4)

 *Visit Jody’s blog at http://www.threewaylight.blogspot.com.

 

(Photo credits:  www.pixgood.com., http://www.katherinepasour.net., http://www.tyndalerewards.com.)

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How would you finish this prayer: 

“Oh, Lord, what I need most right now is ____________________.”

What word would you put in the blank?

Guidance?

Provision?

Strength?

Purpose?

One glorious Bible verse tucked into Isaiah presents four comforting promises that cover each of those needs:

 

Isaiah58.11 

“The Lord will guide you always;

He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

And will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

Like a spring whose waters never fail” (58:11).

Lots of truth packed into five short lines. Each phrase warrants careful consideration. For example:

 

1.  The Lord will guide you always.

 

He’s not a life coach, counselor, or psychologist. The almighty God of the universe promises to be your guide—free of charge! And he’s available 24/7. Think, too, of his astounding attributes that make him the perfect guide:

  • God is omniscient—He knows everything (Psalm 139:1-6), including every detail of your situation and the people involved.
  • God is righteous—Everything he does is good (Deuteronomy 32:4). He can be relied upon to lead you down a perfect path.
  • God is merciful—He responds in loving compassion (Psalm 116:5). He’s your understanding Father, your strongest ally.
  • God is truthful—All that he says can be trusted (Titus 1:2). He will not lead you astray.
  • God is faithful—He keeps his Word (Psalm 33:4). God does not lie or forget what he said. Neither does he change his mind.

Notice that first phrase says God will always be your guide. Not every once in a while when you’re really in a quandary, but always. You are never left alone to your own devices—unless that’s the way you want to live. God is a gentleman; he leaves the choice up to you.

 

2.  He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.

 

Not he might satisfy your needs if he feels like it. He will. 

No matter what the landscape of your life looks like, God will see that your needs are met.

Have you ever been surrounded by sun-scorched land, perhaps a desert or wilderness where no life is visible?

Steve and I visited Israel a number of years ago. One of our tour stops was in the Judean wilderness—a desolate and foreboding sight to behold. Not a single tuft of grass. No bushes or plants of any kind—not even cactus. Only two things are visible when standing in the midst of this desert: sky and pale gray-brown mountainous rock, as far as the eye can see.

 

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Should you decide to live there, you’d have to bring with you everything necessary for survival: all your food, water, and clothing. For shelter, you might find a cave.

Ah! But what if there was Someone there ahead of you? Someone who already had at his disposal the supplies you required? And they would never run out? That’s the life-giving, unfailing provision of your Heavenly Father.

Let’s you and me rest in the assurance that the essentials—and even many delights!—will be generously supplied. If something is meant to be, he will take care of it—just as he’s been doing since each of us was born.

Think how he has led you through the wilderness of broken relationships and difficult circumstances. His grace has been sufficient for every challenge (2 Corinthians 12:9), right?

Now project that assurance into the future. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have no need to fear. Our all-powerful God is with us (Psalm 23:4)–guiding and providing.

(Please remind me of that when I come to a wilderness-patch, will you?)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Heavenly Father, I praise you that day by day, moment by moment, you are delighted to guide us in perfect wisdom. You generously provide for our needs and lovingly care for us body, soul, and spirit. Thank you for your compassion, your faithfulness, and grace to see us through the wilderness valleys. “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in your hands.’” (Psalm 31:14-15a).  

 

Please come back on Monday. We’ll meditate on the second half of Isaiah 58:11.

 

(Photo credits:  www.hischurchwomen.com; http://www.freerepublic.com; http://www.biblestudytools.com.)

 

 

 

 

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