God is bigger and more inclusive than you imagine

The following excerpt has really been challenging my paradigm of God. In times of suffering, difficulty, and trial it is so easy for me to get focused inward–on myself or my own circumstances–and lose track of looking outward–particularly to the Gospel truths and who God is amidst it. In a world where there is so much turmoil, inconsistency, and pain God promises to be a steadfast, firm foundation whose promises are always true and who is eternally unchanging (see Psalm 118, Hebrews 12:26-28, 2 Timothy 2:19, and Hebrews 13:8).

“Over the years I’ve seen Christians shaping God in their own image–in each case a dreadfully small God. Some Roman Catholics still believe only they will grace heaven’s green pastures.. There is the God who has a special affection for capitalist America, regards the workaholic, and the God who loves only the poor and the underprivileged. There is a God who marches with victorious armies, and the God who loves only the meek who turns the other cheek. Some, like the elder brother in Luke, sulk and pout when the father rocks and rolls, (and) serves surf-and-turf for a prodigal son who has spent his last cent on whores. Some, tragically, refuse to believe that God can or will forgive them, for: my sin is too great.

This is not the God of grace who “wants everyone to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). This is not the God embodied in Jesus that Matthew came to know. This is not the God who calls sinners–which, as you and I know, means everybody.”

From The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (p.42).

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I could dissect this quote for hours, but for the purpose of this particular posting I will draw out only one thing that comes to mind: God is so much bigger and so much more inclusive than I give Him credit for or imagine; and when I reflect on this truth it is so remarkably calming–freeing, even. This massive God is powerful, not particular. Sovereign, not slave-driving. Victorious, not defeated (or defeatable!).

This is the God who sees me at my lowest and has the power and compassion to lift me up. This is the God that, as the book of Hebrews says, aligns with me in my weakness and is “mindful of me” (Psalm 8:4). This is the God I sing about, pray to, look towards, and live to proclaim. This is not some manmade idea to help make sense of a complex world. This is a God both higher than our intellect while also closer than our most intimate emotions.

Quite simply: This is a God worthy of our worship.

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Why Do I Continue in Mourning?

“Why go I mourning?”—Psalm 42:9.

Can you answer this, believer? Can you find any reason why you are so often mourning instead of rejoicing? Why yield to gloomy anticipations? Who told you that the night would never end in day? Who told you that the sea of circumstances would ebb out till there should be nothing left but long leagues of the mud of horrible poverty? Who told you that the winter of your discontent would proceed from frost to frost, from snow, and ice, and hail, to deeper snow, and yet more heavy tempest of despair? Do you not know that day follows night, that flood comes after ebb, that spring and summer succeed winter? Have hope then! Ever have hope! For God fails you not. Do you not know that your God loves you in the midst of all this? Mountains, when in darkness hidden, are as real as in day, and God’s love is as true to you now as it was in your brightest moments.

No father chastens always: your Lord hates the rod as much as you do; He only cares to use it for that reason which should make you willing to receive it, namely, that it works for your lasting good. You shall yet climb Jacob’s ladder with the angels, and behold Him who sits at the top of it—your covenant God. You shall yet, amidst the splendors of eternity, forget the trials of time, or only remember them to bless the God who led you through them, and wrought your lasting good by them.

Come, sing in the midst of tribulation. Rejoice even while passing through the furnace. Make the wilderness to blossom like the rose! Cause the desert to ring with your exulting joys, for these light afflictions will soon be over, and then “for ever with the Lord,” your bliss shall never wane.

“Faint not nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe and thou shalt see,
That Christ is all in all to thee.”

~ C.H. Spurgeon (from Morning and Evening, a daily devotional; words adapted for contemporary language)