What Love Is This?: a prayer reflection on Psalm 145


The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made. (Psalm 145:8-9)

In the stillness, I come to a place of quiet before You, my God. May the wonders of Your presence meet me this morning, Lord. My eyes are on You.

Thank You that You are gracious, giving good gifts to the undeserving. I know that I come to You like a beggar to a king at all times, and I marvel at Your grace to me. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Who am I to receive such a gift? I am no one, other than one made in Your image and valuable to You.

Thank You that You are compassionate, showering love upon those who have not deserved it and forgiving those who have wronged You. Like a confused child, who selfishly lashes out in disobedience yet is disciplined and consoled by a good parent, so You have showered my life with Your compassion and correction. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Such mercy! Such compassion!

Thank You for being slow to anger and rich in love. This is such perfection of restraint and lavishing of full charity. As a holy God, there are certainly things that bring forth Your anger. I praise Your firmness in justice and righteousness that calls forth righteous anger in the face of wrong. But thank You as well for being slow to anger so that a transformative turn might occur in human hearts. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Thank You for Your patience with me, mixed with compassion and grace, which has brought me to an encounter with the richness of Your love. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Who am I to receive and experience such love? Who am I that I should experience Your patience—the slowness to anger—that leads to the fullness of love in Jesus Christ? All of this is grace from start to finish, transforming my days with the radiance of Your love and compassion.

The Compassion of Jesus

Harvard Medical School lists a number of ways people deal with stress, highlighting the tendency we all have to deal with stress in unhealthy ways, such as:

  • Watching endless hours of TV
  • Withdrawing from friends or partners or, conversely jumping into a frenzied social life to avoid facing problems
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Sleeping too much
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Lashing out at others in emotionally or physically violent outbursts
  • Taking up smoking or smoking more than usual
  • Taking prescription, over-the-counter or even illegal drugs[1]

Now, I don’t know what you do when things are busy and stressful, but Jesus’ response is markedly different.  Look at what we read in Matthew 14:14:

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)

I love that phrase: “He had compassion on them…” (NIV). 

The Greek word for “compassion” here, σπλαγχνίζομαι (splanchnizomai), is a difficult word to translate because no one word entirely captures its range of meaning. It is a cognate of the word for “spleen” and has the idea of deep emotions coming from the deep places of one’s person, like the bowels or intestines. It conveys being deeply moved, pity, sympathy, compassion, and warmth toward others.[2]

Again and again, Jesus is moved with compassion by the situation of the crowd and those in need (Matthew 9:24; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34). This is Jesus’ typical response to humanity in need: compassion. Or, as one commentator, R. T. France, renders it: “His heart went out to them…”[3]

And this is, in my opinion, how you know that Jesus is the Messiah sent from God and not just some ordinary person. Worn out by grief, needs, and pressures, Jesus doesn’t check out with a cold beer and his buddies to watch Ted Lasso or the Packers game. He steps forward, open-hearted and full of compassion to those in need.

Praise God for the heart of Jesus the Messiah! 

Praise God for this revelation of the heart of God in Jesus of Nazareth. Praise God that we get this glimpse into what leads Jesus ultimately to the Cross. Why doesn’t Jesus pull back? 

Because His heart leads Him to act how God always acts toward humanity: to continually move forward into human need for healing and salvation. 

[1] “Watch out for unhealthy responses to stress,” Harvard Health Publishing, August 2, 2012, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/watch-out-for-unhealthy-responses-to-stress.

[2] Moises Silva, ed., “σπλαγχνον,” in New International Dictionary of New Testament Exegesis and Theology, 2nd ed., Volume 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 353.

[3] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007), 373.

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 September 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.

“Expect No Ethnic Majority in 2065 America. How Can Churches Fight Fear and Embrace Diversity Now?”Suzanna Edwards at The Better Samaritan: “If you think the U.S. is a melting pot now, just wait another 30 years. By 2065, the White demographic will cease to be the majority, and no single race or ethnicity will constitute a majority. For many people in the current majority, this statistic is cause for fear. But if we let go of our fear and embrace diversity, we will not only be better off, but we will look more like the kingdom God will raise up in glory. The New Samaria, or ‘Samerica,’ as author Alejandro Mandes refers to it, represents the increasingly multiethnic population in the United States. That’s what he unpacks in Embracing the New Samaria (NavPress, 2021), with the goal ‘to help Christian leaders learn to see, love, reach, and ultimately be the New Samaria in a way that brings true transformation to our churches and communities’. Mandes guides readers through each of these steps, providing his own perspective as a non-White evangelical and allowing readers to expand their own views regarding multiethnic communities. Each chapter concludes with a reflection section, complete with challenging questions, spiritual exhortations, and recommended action items.”

american-bible-society-german-bible-large“Bring Your Bible to Class — or Church” – Wesley Hill at The Living Church: “As I prepare to begin my 10th year as a seminary professor, I’m going to begin the biblical capstone class I’ll be teaching by recommending that my students consider taking up a habit they’re likely unfamiliar with: bringing an actual, physical, printed-and-bound Bible to class. My reason for the recommendation isn’t just about nostalgia, though I did grow up carrying a Bible to church each Sunday. The first Bible I recall as being “my Bible” (the possessive pronoun being a piece of Christian-speak that seems to have burrowed its way into the instinctive vocabulary of the faithful) was the Youthwalk edition of the New International Version, given to me by my parents while I was still in middle school. I liked the swath of deep purple that stood out on the cover, but I don’t recall reading it much, aside from thumbing through it to find isolated verses, old favorites that I had already memorized, or gathered that I ought to have memorized. It wasn’t until I was in high school, when I acquired a faux-leather-bound study edition of the New King James Version, that I started reading larger chunks of Scripture, often while sitting at church when I grew bored with the sermon. That’s how I learned my way around the Bible, stringing the verse-pearls I already knew onto a more extensive narrative, historical, and theological thread.”

Workplace spirituality“Why Intel and other top companies make room for religion in the office” – Kelsey Dallas at Deseret News: “Intel has been a star in the technology world for nearly half a century. One secret to its success is a little more spiritual than you might have guessed, according to CEO Pat Gelsinger. In a recorded message that will play during an international conference on business and religion this week, Gelsinger highlights the competitive advantage that comes from building a culture that celebrates personal faith alongside other employee traits. At Intel, workers are free to ‘bring their entire self’ to the office, he says. ‘When we take into account everyone’s nuanced differences, we put our organizations in a position to capture truly sustainable business advantages,’ Gelsinger says. Intel put itself in that position in part by enabling employees to form resource groups based on religion, says Sandra Rivera, the organization’s former chief people officer and current executive vice president, in the same video. Currently, Intel has seven such groups, including one for atheists and agnostics, she says.”

Ambivalent Embodiment“Ambivalent Embodiment: Lessons from pastors’ work in the pandemic” – Peter Hartwig in Comment: “‘There’s something funny about the term embodiment, in the sense that it’s already an abstraction,’ says Dr. Elizabeth Powell. ‘By saying “yes I’m going to write or think about embodiment” it’s already saying we’re in a position in which we look at our bodies,’ as opposed to being in our bodies. She makes a good point, the irony of which is nearly tragic. Embodiment is the term we have come up with to refer to the fact that we human beings experience our lives and our selves through our bodies. Everything we do involves our bodies in one way or another. The creation of art, the completion of work, even the generation of thought all require a body. So, too, our bodies are our way of interacting with the world around. No relationship or interaction we have happens without our bodies; they are just about the most concrete, practical, down-to-earth thing about us. So when I said yes, I’m going to write and think about embodiment, I figured I would need an anchor, something to keep me out of the clouds of theory and speculation. Who better to anchor me than pastors? After all, it has been pastors who have faced the pandemic head-on.”

Walter Wangerin, Jr.“Philip Yancey: My Benediction to the Beloved Storyteller, Walter Wangerin Jr.” – Philip Yancey at Christianity Today: “Last week, Walter Wangerin Jr. passed away, and a unique voice fell silent. His wife Thanne (short for Ruth Anne), his family, and a few close friends from Valparaiso University were with him when he died. I first encountered Walter as a speaker at a conference in which we both participated. A slender man with a handsome, angular face and a shock of dark hair, he stalked the stage like a Shakespearean actor. I thought of the accounts of Charles Dickens sitting onstage in the great halls of England, reading his stories to a mesmerized audience. Yet Wangerin was neither reading nor sitting. He was performing in the purest sense of the word, weaving stories and concepts together in erudite prose, directing our minds and emotions much as a conductor directs an orchestra’s sounds—now meditative and melodic, now electrifying and bombastic. We got to know each other mainly through the Chrysostom Society, a group comprising 20 or so writers of faith. Walt usually sat quietly on the margins, stroking his then-shaven chin while observing everything around him with piercing blue eyes. He rarely showed emotion, and when he spoke, he acted as a peacemaker, calming the heated arguments that sometimes emerged from the gaggle of writers. A pastor by profession and calling, he seemed thrilled simply to be in the company of writers.”

Little Miriam RESIZE“In Golan Heights landscapes, photographer reimagines biblical women’s stories” – Nadja Sayej reviews Women of the Bible by Dikla Laor in National Catholic Reporter: “So often when many of us think of women in the Bible, Eve comes to mind. But who else? A self-published photography book, aptly called Women of the Bible, by photographer Dikla Laor, celebrates dozens of biblical women and aims to shine a light on the important roles that biblical matriarchs played in the holy texts. ‘While biblical women have been instrumental to the foundations of human history, the details of their lives are hazy and their voices unclear, often glazed over in stories that are so dear to our hearts,’ Laor told me. ‘The unsung power of the women from the beginning of time is a story begging to be told.’ Placing biblical women center stage in biblical history is part of the approach for the recreated scenes.”

Music: Third Coast Percussion, “Niagara,” from Paddle to the Sea.

What Concerns God?

When I look at my life, there are things that concern me: my family, meaningful relationships, my finances, the state of the world, and more. I am sure that you have your own list of things that concern you.

In my Scripture readings from the past week, I was interested in finding out that there are also specific things that concern God. Look at these words from Exodus 2:

God heard their [the enslaved Israelites] groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Exodus 2:24-25)

God is concerned about people. His concern for people plays out in two different ways: 1) God’s concern that He is faithful to His promises to people, and His concern about the suffering of His people.

God is Concerned About Being Faithful

First of all, God is concerned with being faithful to the promises He makes with people. The Scripture quoted above says that God “remembered” His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though the Israelites are now enslaved by the Egyptians, God has not forgotten the promises He made to them over many generations. He remembers His covenant, or agreement, with Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation…” (Genesis 12:2). He remembers that He renewed that covenant with Abraham’s son, Isaac: “I am the God of your father, Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you…” (Genesis 26:24). And God remembers that, even though Jacob has done many things wrong, He renewed that covenant again with Jacob: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac….I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…” (Genesis 28:13, 15).

God is concerned with being faithful to these promises. As it says in the Psalms: “He is faithful in all He does” (33:4). And as it says in Numbers 23:19, “God is not a human, that He should lie.” God is faithful to His promises, and He is concerned about living up to His promises to people. It is helpful for us to remember this in our lives. When we have our own concerns and worries, God is concerned about being faithful to what He has promised to us.

God is Concerned About His People’s Suffering

Secondly, God is concerned with the suffering of His people. After hearing the groans of the Israelites, God calls Moses to be a deliverer for His people. Here are God’s words to Moses that reveal His motivations in calling Moses to the job of deliverer:

The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them…’ (Exodus 3:7-8)

God is concerned about their suffering. Many people view God as an impassive, removed deity who has no sense of the pain and suffering we endure in our lives. The picture we see of God here in Exodus is quite different. God is concerned about the suffering of His people.

In the life of Christ, we come face to face with God’s concern over human suffering. On the one hand, Jesus reaches out to heal and care for people in their suffering. On the other hand, Jesus goes to the cross for the sin and evil of the world, bringing healing to a suffering world: “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4). God is concerned with the suffering of His people, not only in this Exodus story, but also in our daily lives. He hears and He is concerned about us.

Since we live in a world filled with concerns, it is beneficial to remember that God has concerns as well. He is concerned with being true to His promises to us, and He acts in complete faithfulness with us. God is also concerned with the suffering of His people, and He acts with appropriate care and power to help us.

How has God showed up in your life with His divine concern?

Every Life Made in God’s Image

Makoto Fujimura - Splendor

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Each and every life is made in God’s image. Because of this great truth, no life is either less valuable or more valuable than another. To speak of the value of each life reminds us that in God’s eyes each of us is treasured and loved beyond measure. God gave Himself for us in Jesus Christ and that shows us just how far He will go to display His selfless love for us.

Let us not lose sight of the precious wonder in each other person made by God and treasured by God. Let us not fail to honor the wondrous work of God in each other human being we encounter. Let us look for God’s handiwork and do our best to preserve and honor the treasure that God has given us in one another. Let us stand against anything that hinders such preservation and treasuring while simultaneously working for the upbuilding of each life into God’s greatest potential for them.

When voices of hate rise up, let us counter them with words of love.
When misunderstanding and misrepresentation blaze, let us be willing to slow down to hear and understand the other.
When pain surges in lives around us, let us not rush past but dwell with the other in their pain and salve their wounds with the compassionate love of God.
When fear grips human life with wild uncertainty, let us instead walk by faith and not by sight.
When acts of violence fuel the flames, let us work steadily for peace through self-sacrifice.
When human efforts fail, may we seek to redirect all eyes to the Living God revealed in Jesus Christ.

May we do this because our God came in and brought salvation in His very flesh that all might experience the abundant life through Him.  May we do this so that God’s glory—His goodness and greatness—might be made manifest upon this earth. May we do this until the day when a new heaven and a new earth are brought forth in fullness and we see Him face to face.