Goodness on the good days, the best days, and the hard days too

“This is the bestest day  I’ve ever had.”

We took a day during spring break to visit the aquarium.  It took as an hour-and-a-half to get there, the tickets were expensive, and when we arrived, the line to get in stretched outside.

I almost left, just turned around and found some other place to visit for the day.

But we stuck it out and in the end, it was one of those days where everything turns out just right.  We stood at the otter exhibit just as a museum volunteer walked over and announced we could watch them feed the otters.  Later we walked by the huge shark exhibit just as another keeper told the crowd it was time for a “shark talk.” Sharks are my sons super-favorite.

So, when my son declared it was the “bestest day” ever in his entire four-year-old life, I figured he must have forgotten the trip to Disney, but yeah this was a pretty great day.

But then the next day was his bestest day ever, too.  We played mini-golf and ate scoops of ice cream, so I nodded knowingly . Yes, it was a good day.

Then came Monday morning and the end of spring break.  We rushed right back into school and activities, but that hadn’t changed his perspective.  That was “the bestest day” he had ever had also.

Cleaning and errands and hanging out at home?  This is the bestest day?

Now every day is the best day, whether he heads to preschool in the morning or stays home, whether we visit the post office or the library, whether we run errands or take a walk, whether it’s the weekend or a rushed and busy weekday.

“What makes the best day?”  I finally ask him.

“When people are nice to you,” he says.   A few nice words, a sweet smile, a pleasant encounter and that’s a great day.  Not just a great day, but the best day.

Of course, people aren’t always nice.  Sometimes we have hard days or even difficult seasons.  We know it’sure doesn’t feel like “the best day ever.”  Maybe instead it’s disappointing or long, rushed and breathless, stressful and tense or simply and deeply sad.

On those days, when crawling back into bed sounds like the way to go, we rely on something more.  It’s got to be more than trips to the aquarium or ice cream night or simply the kindness of a friend that helps us hold onto hope and trust in God’s love and His plans for us.

We believe in His goodness.  That He will not  abandon us.  That He is not out to harm us or to arbitrarily or  apathetically watch us suffer.  He is with us in the pain and in the hard days and He is helping us and holding us.

The Psalmist said:

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!  (Psalm 31:19 ESV).   

David wasn’t really having a great day.  He was tormented by enemies. In this same Psalm, he said,

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
    and my bones grow weak.

Sorrow, distress, grief, anguish, groaning, affliction, and weakness– and yet David declared the abundant goodness of God and trusted that God had a plan for his future.

I consider Abraham.  How God had promised him descendants that would outnumber the stars and, not jut that, but a land of promise, a place to call home.

But the very first time Abraham arrived in Canaan and set foot on the Promised Land,there was famine.  He had to head onto Egypt in order to survive.

And the very first land Abraham ever owned in Canaan was the burial plot he purchased for his wife, Sarah.

This was the Promised Land?  This was what he had journeyed for? Famine and mourning?

Still he trusted and still he praised, because God’s goodness never changes.  His loyal love for us remains steadfast.

We just keep looking up.

Abraham looked to God for fulfillment rather than in the promise itself.  David looked to God for strength when His enemies surrounded him.  We also can look up, seeking Jesus and His goodness.

It may not be the bestest day ever in our life, but the day of trouble does not change the goodness of God.  His goodness is our refuge., our safe place, every single day.

The Lord is good,
a stronghold in a day of distress;
he cares for those who take refuge in him (Nahum 1:7)

Bible Verses on Redemption

  • Job 19:25 NIV
    I know that my redeemer lives,
        and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
  • Psalm 107:2 NIV
    Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
        those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
  • Psalm 111:9 NIV
    He provided redemption for his people;
        he ordained his covenant forever—
        holy and awesome is his name.
  • Psalm 130:7 NIV
    Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
        for with the Lord is unfailing love
        and with him is full redemption.
  • Isaiah 43:1-2 NIV
    But now, this is what the Lord says—
        he who created you, Jacob,
        he who formed you, Israel:
    “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
        I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
    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 44:22 NIV
    I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
        your sins like the morning mist.
    Return to me,
        for I have redeemed you.”
  • Isaiah 52:3 NIV
    For this is what the Lord says:
    “You were sold for nothing,
        and without money you will be redeemed.
  • Lamentations 3:57-58 NIV
    You came near when I called you,
    and you said, “Do not fear.”
     You, Lord, took up my case;
      you redeemed my life.
  • Mark 10:45 ESV
    For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Luke 1:68 NIV
    Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
        because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
  • Luke 21:28 NIV
    When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
  • Romans 3:23-25 NIV
    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—
  • Romans 8:23 NIV
    Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV
    And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
  • 1 Corinthians 6:20 ESV
    for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:23 ESV
    You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants[a] of men.
  • Galatians 3:13 ESV
     Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
  • Galatians 4:4-5 NIV
    But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
  • Ephesians 1:7 ESV
    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace
  • Ephesians 1:14 NIV
    who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
  • Ephesians 4:30 NIV
    And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
  • Colossians 1:13-14 NIV
    For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
  • 1 Timothy 2:6 ESV
    who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
  • Titus 2:14 ESV
    who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
  • Hebrews 9:12 NIV
     He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
  • Hebrews 9:15 NIV
    For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
  • 1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV
     For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
  • Revelation 1:5-6 NIV
     and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
  • To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
  • Revelation 5:9 NIV
    And they sang a new song, saying:
    “You are worthy to take the scroll
     and to open its seals,
    because you were slain
     and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Dandelions are out; Tulips are in

A confession.

Until we put our house up for sale last year, I can’t say that dandelions ever bothered me very much.

So they were weeds.   So others didn’t like them.   So what?

I barely noticed them.  When the grass got cut, the dandelions got chopped down, too, and that seemed like enough.

When I wanted someone to buy our house, though,  I suddenly felt motivated to keep  my yard weed-free.

That’s when the war started. and I’ve brought the battle from the old house to the new, only this time I refuse to give up any territory.

These dandelions have overrun yards all over my new neighborhood, but not my yard.  Not this time.

I  pop those dandelions out by the root every time I take a walk or get the mail or just  head out the door to  the minivan.

But while I’m warring against the dandelions, I’m also choosing to fight for something else.

The whole time I’m digging out weeds, I’m cultivating tulips, watching over them like a mom does a newborn baby.  I marvel at every single hint of growth. I point out the first sprouts of green to my kids, and I wait expectantly for the first blooms  to appear.

In my old house, I planted tulips nearly every fall because I love their vibrant colors. They didn’t grow, though.  In the 13 years we lived in that house, I probably only had tulips bloom two of those years.

They were eaten. That’s why.   Apparently tulip bulbs are a high-class delicacy to voles, who tunneled all through the yard and snacked on my plants through the winter.

I’m determined, though–determined to keep the dandelions out and determined to keep the tulips in.  So I clicked my way through Google searches to find some tulip- growing remedies.   Then I headed out to the garden with a bag of crushed oyster shells and containers of garlic powder and  chili powder.  I mixed that fragrant little concoction up and dumped  it into the holes before I dropped the tulip bulbs in the soil.

The garden smelled like garlic for at least a week.

Now,  it’s spring. The tulips are about to bloom and I finally see the results of all that effort.

I have fought against and I have fought for.

Maybe that’s what I need to know spiritually, too.  That battling against is fine and well and good, but it’s incomplete if we aren’t also cultivating what is beautiful and right and enduring in its place.

James wrote:

16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace (James 3:16-18 CSB). 

We dig out envy, pride, and evil.  We grow peace, gentleness, and mercy.

Paul told the Galatians:

 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy,outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (Galatians 5:19-21 CSB). 

But that’s not the end.  It’s not enough to be rid of the flesh or pull out the sin; we need the Spirit to do a new work within us, and the fruit of the Spirit is:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB). 

I can deal with sin, take it seriously, talk about sin, focus on sin, try to conquer sin, determine not to sin, read about sin, listen to preachers preach about sin, recognize my sin, and constantly declare that I’m a sinner.

But I’m still missing out.  James moves past that.  Paul moves past that.

It’s fruitfulness they describe and it’s fruitfulness I really want.   I want more than a yard without dandelions.  I want the beauty of the tulips.

And that doesn’t happen if I’m focused on myself, my own efforts,  my own failures.   Fruitfulness requires abiding in Christ, lifting my eyes from my self to my Savior.

That’s when my life begins to bear fruit, His supernatural peace, not just the absence of worry, but a heart that loves peace and pursues peace with others.

That’s when He helps me to love even when it’s hard.  That’s when He grows gentleness, mercy, kindness, and goodness within me.   That’s when I have an abiding joy that isn’t determined by circumstances.   This is the Spirit’s work.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5 NIV).

 

 

Bible Verses and a Prayer about being Wholehearted

  • Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV
    But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV
    You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
  • Deuteronomy 10:12 ESV
    And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lordyour God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
  • Deuteronomy 13:3 ESV
    you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
  • Deuteronomy 30:6 ESV
    And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
  • Joshua 22:5 ESV
    Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
  • 1 Samuel 12:20 ESV
     And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart.
  • 1 Samuel 12:24 ESV
    Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
  • 1 Kings 8:61 ESV
    Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”
  • 1 Chronicles 28:9 ESV
    “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.
  • Psalm 86:11 ESV
    Teach me your way, O Lord,
        that I may walk in your truth;
        unite my heart to fear your name.
  • Psalm 119:10 ESV
    With my whole heart I seek you;
        let me not wander from your commandments!
  • Psalm 119:34 ESV
    Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
        and observe it with my whole heart.
  • Psalm 119:58 ESV
    I entreat your favor with all my heart;
        be gracious to me according to your promise.
  • Psalm 138:1 ESV
    I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
        before the gods I sing your praise;
  • Jeremiah 29:13 ESV
     You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
  • Joel 2:12 ESV
    “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
        “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
  • Matthew 22:37 ESV  (also Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27)
    And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

prayer-to-be-wholehearted

Parenting in light of the resurrection

My son woke up early on Easter morning and he is not a morning person.  He is, instead, a curious combination of early riser plus total  morning grump.

That  means demands, tears, and the request (denied) that we use the tie-dye kits he and his sister received to make “splat shirts” right away, as in before 7 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning.

Mornings aren’t usually rough, but everyone has a  tough start sometimes.  Mostly, I just shrug ours off and move along.

But this day.  This day was harder on the soul.

It was Easter Sunday morning.  It should be holy and sacred and full of worship in all-the-things.  Worship  in my parenting.  Worship in my daily routine and acts of service for my family.  Worship in the breakfast meal and the dinner preparation.

Good golly, we should have JOY!  Joy, I tell you!

It wasn’t  worship, though.  Or joy.

It was  more chaos  then calm.  A clothing crisis (or two or three) and missing shoes despite instructions that all  children should prepare all outfits the night before.  It was a grumpy four-year-old not wanting to leave the comfort  of the couch.

It was the culmination of a weekend when we had seen sin and attitude and outbursts of anger and fighting.

That’s how I ended up at church on Easter Sunday, trying so hard to psych myself up into feeling all the excitement of celebrating Christ’s resurrection, but actually feeling stretched thin with the realities  of me being not-enough.

It hit me in a wave  of realization as we sang about death losing its sting and about the wonderful cross.

I was  distracted by a teen outgrowing her  clothing, a lost pair of white shoes and a four-year-old who doesn’t like waking up.

Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be worshiping the God of the Universe who died on the cross for my sins and then rose up from the dead!

That’s what started my searching:  What does it look like for the resurrection to impact my parenting?   My home?  My everyday morning routine and beyond?

Christ brings  all the power of the resurrection right into my everyday, ordinary life.

We read in Romans:

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies [a]through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11 NASB).

and in Ephesians:

 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT).

The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is within us!

He can mightily heal what is broken and  He can re-order any mess that seems hopelessly overwhelming.   No way can an “off” morning defeat me, nor should it  distract me.

It also means He brings peace.

After Jesus’s resurrection, He stood in the middle of a room, surrounded by followers, and He said:

“Peace be with you” (John 20:26).

He knew that’s what they needed with all their fear, worry, sorrow, and their deep grief and confusion.  They needed His peace smack dab in the middle of the mess they were in.

He brings the peace of His presence  right  into my life, too.  Right into my craziest morning with the deepest ache for calm and for quiet, He can speak peace.

He can BE my peace.

Parenting in light of the resurrection also brings great value to what we’re doing here.  It means there is salvation for my children.   No one has to stay the same.  And I get to be part of their sanctification.  I get to witness God at work in their lives and hearts.

Not only does Jesus bring peace.  He brings redemption.  He brings strength for me and He brings grace for  my kids as we come face-to-face with sin and how ugly it is.

Because Jesus died and because He arose, my kids can be forgiven.  They can be transformed over time.  The sin that tangles them up now doesn’t have to tangle them up forever, as long as we’re willing to battle together against it .

I’m a mom who needs Easter.  I  need the resurrection to  keep the right perspective.

He came.  He died.  He arose.

Such grace.  Such love.  Such power.  Such hope.

Such peace.

 

Bible Verses about Fruitfulness

  • Psalm 1:3 NIV
    That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
        which yields its fruit in season
    and whose leaf does not wither—
        whatever they do prospers.
  • Psalm 92:12 NIV
    The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
        they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon
  • Proverbs 11:30 NIV
    The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
        and the one who is wise saves lives.
  • Matthew 3:8 NIV
    Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
  • Matthew 7:16 NIV
     By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
  • Matthew 13:23 NIV
    But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
  • Luke 6:43 NIV
    No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.
  • John 12:24 NIV
    Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
  • John 15:4-5 NIV

    Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

  • John 15:16 NIV
    You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
  • Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
  • Ephesians 5:9 NIV
    (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
  • Philippians 1:11 NIV
    filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
  • Colossians 1:9-10 NIV
    For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God
  • James 3:17 NIV
    But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

The desperate longing for something that doesn’t change

“I would like to stay to a kid forever.”

That’s my son talking.  He’s happy to be four.  Who wouldn’t  be?

Most of my kids have wanted to rush right on through childhood and into adult life.  They try to plan out their whole lives while they’re still in middle school.

I’ve had to reassure my 11-year–old repeatedly this year that she doesn’t have to  choose a career in sixth grade.

But my son gets it.  He gets all the beauty of being four years old.

Specifically, this week,  he’s been thinking about his “little, soft blue blanket” and how he’d rather not give it up.

It doesn’t cover his whole body any more.   He snuggles into his blanket as best he can, but his feet inevitably stick out, so he needs  a supplemental blanket to provide full coverage.

But this blue blanket is loved.  I  dare to suggest he might be too big for it soon, and his answer is quick and clear:  “I would like to stay to a kid forever.”

He’s my resident Peter Pan, not wanting to grow up, and the comfort of the blue blanket makes never-ending childhood oh so worth it to him for now.

I appreciate his happiness with the “now,” the willingness  to  just enjoy all that life offers in the present tense.  He’s not worrying about the future or even trying to escape to the past.  He’s four and he’s pleased to be four.  That’s a beautiful thing.

But I also see in his little heart this desire for permanency, to cling maybe a little too strongly to  what is good but what won’t last.

The truth is he’s going to keep growing out of this blanket.  That day will surely come.

I understand his struggle, though, because I’ve been longing myself for something permanent, some reassurance that I won’t wake up to a new day and find life all shaky and unsure or find my feet sticking out of my favorite blanket.

I have this longing for peace,  peace in all  the places.  Peace in work and ministry and home and friendship.  No relational conflict.  No disappointment in people.  No workplace surprises.  No undercurrent of trouble unexpectedly rising to the surface.

But “in this world you will have trouble,” that’s what Jesus told us, and just when peace settles into one place, it seems it shatters in another.

That’s bad news for a girl like me who longs for the comfort of a perfect plan and knowing all the details in advance.

But here’s the good news.

All that shakiness in the world around me and all those times I’m tumbled headlong into another season of change or uncertainty makes me desperately long for solid ground, for a permanent, unshakeable place to stand.

This longing drives me right to Jesus.

Scripture tells us that we can have that safe place.  We can have an unmoving,  never-changing, solid, trustworthy foundation that we can count on no matter what earthquake rattles the ground beneath us.

Even if we get the phone call, the email, or the bad news, we can always return to this safe place, this refuge.

We can be confident in God’s character.

Hebrews tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (13:8 CSB) and James reminds us that our heavenly Father “does not change like shifting shadows” (1:17 CSB).  The Psalmist prayed, “But you are the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27 CSB) and reminded us that God’s “faithful love will endure forever” (Psalm 138:8).

God has been strong in the past and He will be strong.  He has been able and He will be able.  He has been mighty  and He remains mighty.

No circumstance and no conflict changes His goodness or His compassion, His sovereignty or His power.  His love endures.  Right in the middle of whatever has tossed us into uncertainty or fear or fretting, God’s love remains steadfast and sure, and we can hide ourselves away in the shadow of that unfailing love.

 

We can be confident in God’s Word.

Jesus promised that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35 CSB) and the Psalmist declared, “Lord, your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven” (Psalm 119:89 CSB). 

Peter said,

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever  (1 Peter 1:24-25 CSB). 

Forever. 

Forever is what I need on the days my feet stick out of the blanket and I realize change is in the air.  Forever is what I need when I long for peace, but it seems elusive.

I can hide myself away in God and His Word without fear.

Bible Verses and a Prayer about the Resurrection Life

  • Job 19:25 ESV
    For I know that my Redeemer lives,
        and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
  • Isaiah 25:8 ESV
    He will swallow up death forever;
    and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
        and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
        for the Lord has spoken.
  • Luke 24:46-47 ESV
    and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
  • John 11:25-26 ESV
    Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?
  • Romans 6:4 ESV
    We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
  • Romans 6:5 ESV
    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
  • Romans 8:11 ESV
    If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
  • Romans 8:34 ESV
    Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
  • Romans 10:9 ESV
    because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:14 ESV
    And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 ESV
    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:17 ESV
    And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV
    For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
  • Philippians 3:10 ESV
    that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death
  • 2 Timothy 2:11 ESV
    The saying is trustworthy, for:

    If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

  • 1 Peter 1:3 ESV
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
  • 1 Peter 1:21 ESV
    who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

People actually still do that?

“Fasting?!  People actually still do that?”

Right in the middle of our family devotions this week, my daughter registered pure shock.  We laughed, we explained,  and then we considered the truth: How could she know that fasting is still part of our faith-walk today?

Our hope is that our kids see us practicing the spiritual disciplines because we should be living them out, not just preaching them:  What does prayer look like?  What about Bible reading?  Serving at church and elsewhere?  Loving others?  Giving?

Can they see these in our lives?

We’re imperfect and they’ll never see perfection if they look at us.  Still, we try to live our faith out day in, day out–not just  in the church, but in the home, and the office, and the minivan, and the meeting, and more.

But fasting is unique.  Scripture tells us when we fast not to let others know we’re doing it, so we tuck this one discipline away into a secret space with the Lord.  We don’t talk about it.

Somehow, though, we need to break through the silence enough for my kids to know that fasting isn’t some archaic religious practice confined to “the olden days.”   It’s a here-and-now spiritual discipline that helps us re-place Jesus as first in our lives.:  First over our wants.  First over our desires.  First over even our physical hunger.

Lord, I want you more than anything.

That’s the declaration we make when we forego something good in order to seek God more fervently.

And Jesus didn’t say to his disciples, “If you fast…”

He told them, “When you fast” (Matthew 6:16 NIV).

So, we laid out the basics for our kids.  About how fasting is usually, but not always, from food (especially for those with health needs that preclude fasting from meals).  We talked about Lenten fasting and fasting out of obedience to the Lord’s call, how fasting can be meaningful and how it can end up meaningless tradition.

We reminded them that fasting isn’t meant to be a public show put on to satisfy our spiritual pride.  If anything, it’s deeply humbling to know how needy we really are.

It’s not about proclaiming our strength or superiority; it’s about longing and dependence.

That’s what Jesus described:

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast (Matthew 9:14-15 NIV).

Our bridegroom is gone now, just as Jesus said He would be.  Now that Christ is no longer walking this earth, we’re filled with that insatiable longing, a constant desire for His presence.  And it’s that seeking after the Lord’s presence that motivates us to fast.

We fast because we need Jesus.

This world surrounds us with its mess and its disaster.  Evil oppresses.  Sadness overwhelms.  School  shootings  harass us with fear.  Conflict tosses us into intense storms and we cry out for the peace that only Jesus  can bring.

It’s all  because we’re looking for our Bridegroom, our Lord, to  return again and to  bring the total victory over death,  over the grave, over  evil, over sin, over everything broken and wrong and sick and painful.

In the meantime, we languish.   We long.  We seek.  We wait.

We hunger.

Not for bread or hamburgers or pizza or pasta.

We hunger for His righteousness.  We hunger for Christ’s presence right in the middle  of the mess.  We hunger to know Him more fully and to see Him more  clearly.

We want Jesus more than we want the answer, more  than the provision, more than the solution we’ve been seeking.   We channel all that misplaced want to the only One who can satisfy our truest, deepest need.

We want you, Lord.

Fasting reminds our bodies, minds, and hearts that Jesus is not just our greatest desire; He is the best we could ever desire.

When we do this, when we choose more Christ and less us, when we discipline our very own bodies to go without so we can choose Jesus over all else, the Lord can break through.

It’s not that there’s a magic formula here.  It’s not that fasting today means insta-answer tomorrow.  It doesn’t mean that fasting always guarantees a grand revelation.

Fasting does, however, position us to  seek the Lord, seek Him wholeheartedly, seek Him without distraction, seek Him with determination and focus.

Then we cling to  the promise:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV).

Bible Verses about God’s Presence

  • Exodus 33:14 NASB
    And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
  • Joshua 1:9 NASB
    Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
  • Psalm 16:11 NASB
    You will make known to me the path of life;
    In Your presence is fullness of joy;
    In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
  • Psalm 23:4 NASB
    Even though I walk through the [d]valley of the shadow of death,
    I fear no evil, for You are with me;
  • Psalm 27:4 NASB
    One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
    That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
    To behold the beauty of the Lord
    And to meditate in His temple.
  • Psalm 41:12 NASB
    As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
    And You set me in Your presence forever.
  • Psalm 51:10-11 NASB
    Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
    And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
  • Psalm 73:28 NASB
    But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    That I may tell of all Your works.
  • Psalm 100:2 ESV
      Serve the Lord with gladness!
        Come into his presence with singing!
  • Psalm 139:7-10 NASB
    Where can I go from Your Spirit?
    Or where can I flee from Your presence?
    If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
    If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
    If I take the wings of the dawn,
    If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
    10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
    And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
  • Psalm 140:13 NASB
    Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name;
    The upright will dwell in Your presence.
  • Isaiah 57:15 NASB
    For thus says the high and exalted One
    Who [a]lives forever, whose name is Holy,
    “I dwell on a high and holy place,
    And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
    In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
    And to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • Jeremiah 29:13 NASB
    You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
  • Matthew 18:20 NASB
    For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
  • Matthew 28:20b NASB
    and lo, I am with you ]always, even to the end of the age.”
  • John 1:14 NASB
    And the Word became flesh, and [a]dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of [b]the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 14:16 NASB
    I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [a]Helper, that He may be with you forever
  • John 14:23 NASB
    Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
  • Hebrews 4:16 NASB
    Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
  • Hebrews 10:19-22 NASB
    Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a [h]sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
  • Hebrews 13:5 NASB
    Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
  • James 4:8 NASB
     Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
  • Revelation 21:3 NASB
     And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them[