Perpetuity: Experiencing God

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”- Lamentations 3:22-23

 I am captivated every time I walk down a beach and watch the ocean waves crash onto the shore. It is easy to become mesmerized by the constant pounding, white foam, and continuously changing shape and color of this powerful water. What awes me the most, however, is the fact that the waves never stop! I can walk down the beach one summer and know with confidence that when I return a year later the waves will still be pounding the shoreline, reshaping it, and exposing more shells while providing cover for the tiny minnows. Kids will still be using their skim boards and lovers will still walk hand in hand as they skirt the flowing water.

My favorite place in the world to watch this perpetuity is in a river while fly-fishing. The majority of my most enjoyable worship experiences are while I stand in a river soaking up the wildness and the majesty of the mountains around me. This setting alone energizes me, but because I am fishing I can always manage to focus enough on fishing to present my fly in the right ripple to draw the attention of a beautiful rainbow trout. But part of my amazement in this setting is the way that the river never stops flowing. From a source way above me the water begins to obediently follow gravity as it makes its way to the ocean. And the melting snow and falling rain make generous contributions to the parade of life along the way. Because of this, the river’s journey never stops. The sound of the water falling joyously down the mountainside contributes to this glorious experience. I consider it an orchestral masterpiece on a mind numbing level. It displays, to me, an absolutely amazing Designer. I thank Him often for this intoxicating experience.

Both of these settings, the ocean and the river, add to the awe we can experience with God. They display His eternality. The Psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” God was not created and, thus, has no beginning. Neither will He ever cease to exist. He will always be sovereign.

Although rivers we see will cease to exist when the new heaven and new earth are created, His reign will be perpetual. One of the parts of heaven that I think I am most excited about is the River of Life, which will flow from His throne. Revelation tells us the water will be crystal clear and the river will be lined with the Tree of Life, a tree that we have not seen since Adam and Eve were escorted out of the garden. Imagine the devastation that would have followed had they also eaten of the tree of life! There would be no end to our sinful state. God in His perpetual love made sure we did not eat of that fruit. In the new garden we are free to enjoy of the Tree of Life which will line the banks of the River of Life!

IMG_0159My mind wanders to this literally endless river. I believe that we will be able to follow this beautiful river and never reach it’s end (because there is no end)! And yet, we will not wander from his watchful and loving presence. He will be with us forevermore. Imagine! Perpetuity at its best!

Psalm 136 explains all the things God has done and yet has never failed! He has the only perfect track record. Sometimes we may think He has abandoned us or stopped loving us, but with hindsight we realize this is simply not true. Here is how Psalm 136 ends:

“God saw the trouble we were in. God’s love never fails. He rescued us from our enemies. God’s love never fails. He gives food to all who live. God’s love never fails. Praise God in heaven! God’s love never fails.”

Despite our sometimes, perilous circumstances, God has never failed us. Our ability to see clearly is limited by our finitude. He is infinite and has no such confinement. Nor is their confinement in His goodness and mercy! His character is perpetual.

Questions to Ponder.

  1. As you think about your life, how might considering God’s unending love help your perspective about whatever you’re going through? Think of specific ways this could help.
  2. Where do you struggle to believe God’s love is relentless and perpetual?
  3. Consider making a “thankful” list of as many things as you can think of that God has provided for you (job, health, friends, health problems, finances, opportunities to serve, family).
  4. Consider memorizing and drawing comfort from Psalm 19:1-6 which reads,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” Psalm 19-1-6

Prayer:

“Lord, I know that your word says to give thanks in all things. It’s much easier to thank you for the good things, but I want to thank you for the not so good things and ask you to use them to help me see your how you never change. I want to trust you in good and bad times and knowing that you are eternal and consistently good helps me do that. Even though my circumstances make me feel one way, I know the reality is that your love never fails. It’s as predictable as the sun rising each morning or the waves continuing to crash on the beach. Thank you for your perpetual love.”

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Comfort: Experiencing God

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”- Isaiah 43:2

It was the phone call you dread as a parent. We got the worst news we thought we could hear. A good friend in Big Fork, Montana called me to ask if I’d heard about my son Philip. He told me Philip was in surgery and he just wanted to make sure we knew. Of course, I was shocked and did not know about the accident. So I called the Billings Clinic in Billings, Montana and found out our son was in surgery because of a motorcycle accident that had occurred at 3am that morning. Eventually I spoke to a doctor who told me that he was still in surgery and, although stable, the surgery would take an additional three hours. It was a punch in the gut. We called our other two children and asked them to come home to wait for a phone call from his neurosurgeon. We began texting friends and family about his accident and asked them to pray. The school he was due to graduate from in a week, Rocky Mountain College, turned out to be a great group and a community. We heard that many of Philip’s friends had stayed in the hospital since news spread that he was in an accident. His good friend Sam had done such a great job of being the point person because she and her husband cared for him like they did own children. That was very apparent to us. We eventually heard from the doctor who told us that he broke his nose and that a piece of bone went into his brain. They successfully removed that bone from the frontal lobe, but this, of course, was difficult to comprehend and accept. The future remained very uncertain and intensely uncomfortable. The numbness in our soul began to nag. Tears came and went like the waves of the ocean, unpredictable and often uncontrollable.

We left our home and had our kids take us to the airport where we hopped on a plane for Billings. We arrived at 11pm. It was, as you would imagine, a horribly long flights. When we arrived at the hospital there were still ten or so of Philip’s faithful friends who were in the waiting room late that night. That encouraged us so much. It was simultaneously comforting just to be with him and also disturbing to see him in such condition. He looked very rough with tubes and wires all over the place. It was encouraging, though, when we grabbed his hand and as we spoke reassurance, he acknowledged our presence. He had been responding to basic commands, which was a good sign for neurological recovery. We were just relieved to be with him, although small, that was a comfort to us. We left the hospital at 3am and went to the hotel for a couple of hours of “sleep.”

The next morning the nurse said that he was doing quite well and he was succeeding 100% in regards to the neurological tests she gave him. He even indicated that he wanted to communicate by writing. He made a “writing” motion to say this.

Even though the tears came and went, we were encouraged. The unpredictable state of his brain injury and how it would affect his personality, cognitive abilities, and his career, were yet to be determined. It was a sad time for all of us. Here is the passage of Scripture where we camped out during this horrific moment:

“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up: the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

We were very sad about the accident, and occasionally angry that it happened because it shook our world. As I mentioned we cried a lot, and cried out to the Lord a lot more. It was disconcerting to experience such painful moments.

As believers, when such pain enters our lives, we can respond in one of two ways, usually responding both ways during the experience. First, we can try our best to rationalize and make sense of what we’re experiencing. During those moments we do our best to understand the dilemma. But, as Christians, we must eventually arrive at the second way, and that is acquiescence to our God and King. He is sovereign and always righteous even when He may not show His will. But it is a perfect will. His ways are not our ways, but His character is always perfect and He is entirely trustworthy.

Through our experience, we were comforted in our pain by God. He displayed His love through the inner peace, but also through His other children who prayed for us and comforted us through their prayers, kind words, and tangible gifts (food, money, time, hugs, tears).

When you encounter inexplicable circumstances where do you turn? Who or what do you trust?

How does God’s character encourage you as you walk through the valley? How have you seen His perfect will provide peace?

Read Matthew 8:23-27. How can we find comfort in this story?

In what ways are you seeking comfort today?

Prayer:

“Father, I want to believe and trust You no matter what life brings my way, but it is sometimes very difficult. I don’t understand you and your ways, but I want to trust you regardless because you have never failed me. Your mercies are new every morning. You’re kindness never fails. Your word says that in Christ You call me friend and have called me to holiness and righteousness. In Christ, you have adopted me. I thank you for that but am often caught up in the thinking that says, like the man whose son was healed by Jesus despite his struggle to trust Him. He said, “I do believe, Lord, but help me in my unbelief.” That, too, is my prayer Lord. Help me in my weakness to recall that you are with me when I am in deep waters. Thank You for never failing me. I worship You.”

Compassion: Experiencing God

“He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19

As I approached the greenway by the river a feeling of wonder overcame me. The setting was beautiful with a refreshing cool breeze blowing through the changing leaves of brilliant yellow and orange. I walked across the New River through the covered bridge. Before me lay a pavemass pic.jpgd mountain trail that ran beside the river twisting with it’s bends and turns. It was a familiar trail that I had often run on, but I never tired of its beauty and peacefulness. I always left refreshed and never grew tired of the setting with the sounds of the river, and the solitude it brought. I thought this would be a day just like all the others as I took off on my 3 mile run. When I came off the bridge I noticed to my left a handwritten piece of paper taped to a trail sign. I am by nature a very curious person so I stopped to read what the sign said.

“Lost. Necklace with multi colored stones. Sentimental value. Reward offered”

There was also a phone number at the bottom of the sign. But I thought little of it, except to feel a hint of empathy, but quickly headed down the trail for my run. I pessimistically thought, “that person will never find her necklace.” As I ran by the river, my mind kept going back to the sign, and the owner’s necklace. It didn’t take long before something interesting began to happen; I started to look for the necklace. It wasn’t very easy either because it began to affect my stride as I looked side to side trying my best to spot the necklace. Occasionally I would slow down when I saw something shiny. But as I searched the trail I felt a growing desire within me to find this piece of someone’s history. The more I looked, the more I prayed that I would find the necklace. Soon I began to think about what I would say to the person if I found it. I didn’t want the reward money. I only wanted to see the poor girl’s face when I handed it to her. Especially when I refused the reward money.

But, alas, I never found it. Instead the whole run started my mind churning and asking myself why it was so important for me to find this unknown girl’s necklace? It didn’t make sense to me at first, until I realized that the reason I felt such compassion was because God is a compassionate God. And we are made in his image. We have his DNA hardwired into us and the most uncorrupt basics of emotion are there essentially because God place them there. This realization encouraged me and brought a smile to my face. But it also occurred to me that this was an intangible proof of God. It was like a forensic piece of evidence pointing to this remarkable Creator. I cared about the woman’s necklace, as unimportant as that might seem, because it’s shows how God cares for us, his children.

It reminded me of the time one of my kid’s bikes was stolen when we lived in Colorado one summer. I searched and searched, but to no avail. Then I simply prayed that God would show me his kindness, not because he had to, but because he was good and compassionate. As soon as I said “amen” I looked up and fifty yards away I saw the bike!

Living out our faith and trusting God each day doesn’t require that he make our life easier or trouble free. Sometimes our lives are remarkably challenging and painful, but when we focus on his character and his consistency we can navigate those moments successfully. After all he told David in Psalm 23 that he would walk with him through the valley, not remove him from it. Being with us is, in reality, enough.

As you think about God’s compassions what comes to mind? How has he shown his compassion to you?

How does it strike you to know that you are made in God’s image? How might this affect how you live your life today?

Create a thank you list to express your thankfulness for God’s compassion upon you in saving you.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.