As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,  and his righteousness with their children’s children-  Psalm 103: 8-17

Writing requires deliberate effort and time, two things which have been lacking in my life over the last few weeks. Something about traveling to the United Kingdom and proposing to your girlfriend seems to have stifled some of my public creative output.

Not that I’m complaining.

Stateside as a newly-engaged man, I’m trying to get back into the swing of discourse. We talk a lot at Patrol about God, Christianity and the implications of theology. The collection of writers contributing to the conversation at this site come from a wide range of philosophical and theological backgrounds, so while there is much about what Christianity is not, there is very little definition about what Christianity actually is.

It seems a bit strange that there can be this critique of movements and individuals, without a clear standard of “Christianity” and “The Gospel” to hold life against. It starts with the inerrancy of Scripture. Once that ceases to be the final authority for what is, and is not, Christianity and Truth, and it’s just an endless stream of interpretation and posturing.

But that’s not the point of this post.

At Capitol Hill Baptist Church, we’re experiencing a bit of an exodus. It’s a bittersweet occasion where a number of the individals on the staff of our church are leaving to either work at, or (in the larger number) pastor other churches. So in honor of these last days, our senior pastor, Mark Dever, asked those leaving, and some of those staying, ” If This Were the Last Sermon I Ever Preached,” what would it be?

Geoff Chang preached on Psalm 103 this Sunday, and I’ve spent the last two days thinking on the passage.

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,  slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

The psalmist goes on to say how far God has removed our sin from his presence, but stop and think about what a tremendous concept that is, “he does not treat us as our sins deserve.” On Sunday, I was sitting in church, thinking of all the things pulling and stretching my life, and feeling a bit glum for myself, but that passage just cut me. 

Whatever stress i might feel or frustration I might have with the changing circumstances of life, at the foundation, I have been set free. This is at the heart of the Gospel, and the foundational reason for why the psalmist finds his lips filled with praise. We are sinful, fallen and have offended a righteous and holy God. That’s where it starts. But for those who have been called and repented of that sin, our Father does not treat us as we deserve. 

The tremendous mystery of the forgiveness and justification we have been given should be held centermost in our mind on a day-to-day basis. C.J. Mahaney’s “The Cross-Centered Life” is always worth re-reading on this subject.

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,  slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west,        so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 

think about that for awhile and all the implications of that.

 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

For some reason, that really struck me yesterday. He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. Sometimes we feel that our Father does not understand the weakness, the weight of this reality he has asked us to bear. He has given us so much, we know that, and we know we should feel grateful, but things still feel far too heavy, too tiring and we are constantly reminded that we are the frailest of vessels. It creeps in the back of our heads, speaks in the darkness of the bedroom, and has sent far too many tired souls into the pit of depression.

But just as an architect knows best what a bridge can handle, how many cars can pass over it, what tension the cables are at, so our Father, the architect of humanity, knows exactly what we can handle. He promises to remember what he made us out of, not stone, not steel, not brick… but dust. shifting, weak dust.

and he says, “i remember that your frame is made of that.”

Then with that knowledge, He promises to give us an easy yoke and not more than we can bear.

Whatever else you’re feeling right now, whatever tiredness, frustration, anxiety and larger philosophical angst with God, don’t forget that he remembers what he made you out of. he’s promised to not give us more than we can bear… pardon the off-the-cuff use, but while the bird in the garden said that, “human kind. Cannot bear very much reality”

Our Father’s grace includes reality.

Even in the midst of a terrifying national and global economic crisis, volcanoes stranding thousands, a seeping blackness polluting the water and jobs of my Mississippi home, and a political climate of discourse that seems better suited for the arena of the gladiator than the marble halls of Congress. Even now, there is grace.

 
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Nathan Martin

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