Bible Verses about Seeking the Lord Continually

  • Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.
  • Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.
  • Psalm 34:1
    Psalm 34 ] [ The Lord Delivers the Righteous ] [ Concerning David, when he pretended to be insane in the presence of Abimelech, who drove him out, and he departed. ]
    I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
  • Psalm 71:14
    But I will hope continually and will praise you more and more.
  • How happy are those who reside in your house, who praise you continuallySelah
  •  Psalm 119:20
    I am continually overcome with longing for your judgments.
  • Hosea 12:6
    But you must return to your God. Maintain love and justice, and always put your hope in God.
  • The Parable of the Persistent Widow ] Now he told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not give up.
  • giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  • Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
  • Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
  • Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17
    pray constantly,
  • Hebrews 13:15
    Therefore, through him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.

He can do what is above and beyond

I’ve found myself repeating one particular Facebook comment in the last few weeks, over and over, post after post.  I have one thing I keep saying:

Way to be creative!

In the middle of coronavirus craziness, I’m stunned by the creativity of teachers and business owners and churches and more.

I’ve seen our local  parks and recreation have to  cancel all summer programs and then the karate instructor get permission to  take his class outside.

I’ve seen a gym owner who can’t train others inside the gym, so he does social distance training from his own home and even hosted an outdoor boot camp.

I’ve seen churches offer online services, hymn sings, drive-in prayer meetings, and meal distributions with toilet paper.

Teachers have my kids doing Star Wars work-outs, musical hopscotch, virtual field trips, scavenger hunts and nature walks.

Theaters are live-streaming productions of Shakespeare I’d never have seen otherwise.  I’m watching virtual choirs and bands jamming together over Zoom.

Restaurants closed down indoor seating and quickly transitioned to  curbside delivery and take-out.

Our local pottery painting studio made adorable take-home kits and our  library posts a steady stream of videos with stories and drawing lessons and more.

We’ve watched zoo safari lessons and the interpreters at Colonial  Williamsburg busy at work all from our living room.

There are days and moments within days that I begin to feel doomed and in despair, especially when I hear about changes they might make to the schools next year.  I fret over what my kids will experience and all that they have to lose.  I’ll have two high schoolers next year who love the arts and I’m reading articles saying that band, chorus, and theater are all on the chopping block because of coronavirus concerns.

I worry.

Oh, do  I worry.

I do not like the potential of a new normal and I’m relentlessly brokenhearted about each loss for my children.

And then I remember the creativity I have seen in the people around me….and the seemingly endless capacity for human creativity points me back to the undefinable, unlimited creativity of our Creator God.

He is not surprised by our situation and He is able to rescue and redeem us in it.

I read this today:

Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21

He is able, not just to do what we expect or imagine, but to do far more than that.  He is able to go above and beyond.

G.K. Chesterton said:

The trumpet of imagination is like the trumpet of the resurrection. It calls the dead out of their graves.

God creates beauty from ashes.  He forms a world out of the void.

He resurrects what is dead and heals what is broken.  He makes us new.  He is making everything new.

And when we create and imagine, we are just imitating our Heavenly Father and the resurrecting, creating work He is always doing.

So may it point us back to Him.  May all the innovation we see around us encourage us to bring all the worry and all the struggle to a God who can do a new thing in us and around us.

In Romans, it says:

Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.  Romans 6:4-5

It’s this creative, resurrection work that I’m looking to Christ to do, in me and in our churches and communities, in my kids and their situations.  We have not seen the limit of what God can and will do.

Of course, the super-planner-extraordinaire in me wants to nail down the details.  Get it all in writing.  What exactly will it all look like?  When can I know?

But that’s when I see another  example of someone being creative  and I remember our God creates–above and beyond.  He helps us “walk in newness of life,”‘ overcoming what we experience, enduring what is difficult, holding onto hope, reaching what is promised.

 

Say to those with fearful hearts

At the amusement park, after we’ve parked  the minivan and handed over our passes to be scanned and our bags to be checked, we head for the measuring station .

Only one of my kids still needs to be measured.  My girls have long since passed the point where they can ride anything in the park because of their height.

My son, though, is still tracking his growth progress through wrist band colors.  Each color tells him what he can ride based on how tall he is.

Somehow between the start of summer to the early fall, he shot up through three different colors on the ride chart.   That means technically he can ride his first big roller coaster.

This is thrilling to him.  He announces to each member of the family what color he’s on now.

But when I ask him if he really wants to ride any of the bigger rides—any of them at all—-he says, “I’ll do that when I’m 7.”

He’s taller than he is brave.

I remind him that the colors don’t really matter if we’re not going to ride any of the higher, faster rides, but he’s thrilled just the same.  He celebrates physical growth and that’s enough for him.

Not all of my kids have been like this, but most of them have (three out of the four).  We are timid about these things,  more likely to enjoy the small swings,  the bumper cars and the kiddie roller coaster long after others have moved on to bigger thrills.

We’re not born brave.  We’re  not naturally bold.  Courage isn’t part of our DNA.

(I’m still not a thrill-seeker.  At almost 40 years old, I’d rather not ride any rides at all . Even the spinning teacups aren’t my favorite.)

I can have fun at an amusement park without the speed and the rush and the drops that I hate so much.

But in life, fear can be so  much more crippling than this:  stealing joy, stealing peace, stealing boldness for the gospel and courage for Christ, stealing sleep.   It’s not about preference—rides or no rides.  It’s about fear holding me back from obeying Christ or keeping me from fully entrusting myself, my family, my kids to God.

Sometimes, all the anxiety over taking a next step can be utterly paralyzing.  What I really need to  do is just do  it.  Just take the step.   Just have  the conversation.  Just sign up or just step down.  Whatever God is asking me to  do, I need to do in obedience.   Faith over fear.  Trust over timidity.

Still I waiver so often.

Still I feel that paralysis of indecision and anxiety.

Still I try so hard to keep control over the many things I cannot control.

In the Everyday with Jesus Bible, Selwyn Hughes reminds me of what fear does and why it’s our enemy:

Fear sinks us:  When Peter stepped out of the boat, he “saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord,  save me!'” (Matthew 14:30 CSB).

Fear knocks us down:  When the disciples saw the glory of the Lord at the Mount  of Transfiguration, their fear sent them to their knees.  But, “Jesus came up, touched them, and said, ‘Get up; don’t be afraid.'” (Matthes 17:7 CSB).

Fear hides our treasures and gifts:  The man with one talent in the parable said, “I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground.”  His talent was wasted, buried in the earth and shoved into a hole in the ground because of fear.(Matthew 25:25 CSB).

Fear puts us behind closed doors:  After Jesus’s resurrection, the disciples gathered in secret, “with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.”” (John 20:19 CSB). 

“Fear drives us underground:” Joseph of Arimathea was “a disciple of Jesus—but secretly because of his fear of the Jews” (John 19:38 CSB).

I wonder how often I let fears from my past hold me back in the here and now.  Maybe I’ve grown. Maybe I’ve gone up a few colors on the growth chart, and yet I’m still sticking to the same-old same-old, the easiest and the most comfortable things before me instead of moving on.

Isaiah the prophet said:

Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

Maybe these are words we can speak to fearful hearts around us.

Or  maybe this is the reminder our own fearful heart needs:  “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming….”

It’s because of his presence, His strength, His might, His mercy that we fearful ones can take the next courageous step.

 

Not the same anymore

When my son was a baby, I  gave away his infant swing because he hated it.  He was the fourth baby in our line of babies to swing in that very same swing.  Others had loved it, just not him.  So I  gave the swing away and saved space in our living room.  It was a win-win.

Now here  we are five years later and this same kid spent at least 30 minutes swinging non-stop at the playground today.  He shooed me away when I tried  to push him because, “I know how to pump my legs all  by myself now, mom.

So, I sat on the nearby bench in the shade and watched as he lifted himself higher and higher.

This is the same boy.

Sometimes you don’t really catch all the signs that your kids are growing up .  Then there’s a moment when you’re sitting on a wooden bench alongside a playground and it hits you all at once: How big he really is.  How he’s about to start kindergarten.  How he’s changed so much.

And that’s the thing that I’ve been  weighing this afternoon, the changing.  A former baby-swing-hater now loves to swing.

I’ve had changes all  around me in the past year or two, and I have changes before me in this next year once again.

A “baby” starting kindergarten.  My oldest starting high school.   A brand new season where, for  the first time in 15 years, I don’t have a little one at home with me.

I do not love change.  I do not seek it out and I do not enjoy it. I push against change all the time, clinging tight-fisted to whatever reality I know in fear of whatever is unknown.

But here I am in a season of  change, a long  season of frequent and significant changes at that.

So I wonder as I  watch my son swinging away today whether God wants to  do more than just transition and transform the environment around me.  Could it be that He wants to do the same work of transition and transformation inside me?

What can He change within me that maybe I’ve thought could never change?   A habit?  A weakness?  A stubbornness?  A sinful attitude?  A prejudice or judgment?  A fear?

When the Old Testament prophet, Samuel, poured anointing oil over a man named Saul and announced he would be the first king  of Israel, it wasn’t because Saul was already equipped for the job.  Scripture says:

Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day (1 Samuel 10:9 NASB). 

God changed Saul’s heart in that very moment.

Not that Saul was perfect, mind you.  Far from it.  We know his failures as a king and spiritual leader of Israel.

Still, in that moment, God changed Saul’s heart because God had a plan for Saul.

What if I offered up my heart for the Spirit’s work, invited the Lord to do the renovation that needs to  be done?

Joy where there is not joy.  Peace where there is fear. Love for others who are hard to love.  Humility in the places pride has dug down deep.  Compassion in hard ground.   Repentance when my heart hasn’t been soft enough to see the sin.

Change my heart, Lord.  Change my mind and thought processes and attitudes so that I reflect your heart and your mind.

My struggle sometimes is that I don’t want change.   Other times my struggle is that I long for something to  give way and change, but  change feels impossible.  Stuck.  Hopeless.

What then?

Warren Wiersbe reminds us that:

God is not limited by the past.  No matter how many disappointments and failures we may have had in the past, when Jesus Christ comes on the scene, everything has to change….Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change.  We need to remind ourselves that God can change things!  God can forgive sin and put new power into lives that seem to be utter failures.  God can send revival to a church that everybody thinks is dead.   God can move into a difficult situation and turn seeming failure into victory.  God makes the difference!” (The Bumps are What You Climb On).

Christ’s presence means everything has to  change.

So I settle my heart, I yield, I invite Him in and I invite Him to  make Himself at home.  May He change what needs to be changed in my life, in my circumstances, in my relationships, and in my heart and mind.

He loved me and Gave Himself for me

“Use your self-control.”

This is one of my favorite takeaways from my son’s preschool teachers this year.  They are so gentle and measured when they say it.

He’s ready to lose it over a near-tragedy—not getting to sit next to his good friend or struggling with the zipper to his backpack because it’s extra full that day.

Their gentle reminder is the same: “Use your self-control.”

I love that it assumes he  has self-control and that he can access it, that somehow this little pause and this little reminder gives him the ability to breathe….reflect….choose.

Meltdown?  Or self-control?

He’s in progress.  He sometimes  chooses meltdown.

Me too.

Fruitfulness is part of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.  It means He is alive, and He is active, and we are yielded to Him.

Paul tells us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB). 

It’s not a list for me to tackle like some holy agenda.  It is not up to me to manufacture goodness or to self-concoct gentleness or peace.   It takes  a leaning in with the full weight of my fractured soul on the strength and the character of God in me.

May He be at work and may the work-in-progress be me.

May He be the one to cultivate love in me, to stir up joy, to  grow patience, to establish goodness.

May I be the one to learn, to long for the Spirit and to open myself up to the work that He does.  May I be the one to  focus my eyes on Jesus and His own fruitfulness because He is the perfect model of:

Love.
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-Control

And when I see this fruit in Jesus,  I love Him for it.  I long to be like Him, to let Him shine in my heart, to turn over hardened ground and to till up the soil and to plant the seeds.  Fruitfulness, Lord.  Abundant fruitfulness in my life. 

It seems fitting during Holy Week to consider Jesus and the fruit He bore out on the cross.

Some conflict, some uncertainty, some worry, some stress may bring out the uglies in me.  I’m not always loving, not always peaceful, not always gentle when my kids are picking at each other at the kitchen table and we’re rushing because we need  to be out the door in 8 minutes and I’m still  trying  to cook dinner and give a practice spelling test to  a child.

But Jesus endured all of the pain of the garden, the betrayal, the trial, the beating, the mocking, the condemnation, the cross, the sin and the separation.

And the fruitfulness is still there:  He showed love, joy, peace.  Despite the pain, He was gentle and kind, good and faithful.

He also “used His self-control” by choosing the cross for Himself so He could offer forgiveness to us.  It was, after all, His choice to make.

He wrestled in prayer and made the final declaration on His knees:   “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

That set His destination.   He would not give into fear or to  the flesh.  He would  choose the cross.

And He chose not to call down angels to rescue Him when the soldiers marched into the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 27:41-42).

With the very power of His voice there  in the Garden, He spoke the words:  I AM.  Then all of the military might fell to the ground, struck down by two  small words spoken by the Messiah.

What an embarrassing mess for them.  They were all geared up, swords and clubs at the ready, and a completely average-looking Jewish teacher said two little words and they landed on their backsides.

They walked out of the Garden with Jesus  as their captive because Jesus chose to be their captive.  Paul says it this way, Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 CSB).

The author, Selwyn Hughes, reminds me that Paul lists self-control last in the fruit of the Spirit.  It’s not first.  We don’t begin with self-control and then produce all  the other fruit, even though that’s likely what we try to do sometimes.

“I will be more holy. I will be more righteous. I will hate sin more.”

That’s self-righteousness at work.

Instead, Hughes writes that we begin with love—just as Paul lists it in Galatians 5– and “when you begin with love, you end up with self-control.”

Christ’s love covers us and compels us.

Because we are oh-so-loved by a Savior who is oh-so-good and who chose the cross for us,  we delight in Him and in what pleases Him and what pleases Him is the Spirit’s fruit in us.

Bible Verses about Spiritual Growth

  • 1 Corinthians 13:11 CSB
     When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.
  • Ephesians 4:15-16 CSB
    But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.  From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.
  • Philippians 1:6 CSB
    am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you[a] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus
  • Colossians 1:10 CSB
     so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God,
  • Colossians 2:6-7 CSB
    So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude.
  • 1 Timothy 4:14-15 CSB
    Don’t neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all.
  • Hebrews 5:12-14 CSB
     Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food. 13 Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.
  • Hebrews 6:1-2 CSB
    Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings,[a] laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment
  • 1 Peter 2:1-3 CSB
    Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander.
     Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that you may grow up into your salvation,  if you have tasted that the Lord is good
  • 2 Peter 3:18 CSB
    But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.

Finding the sacred in this place

Hats and sunglasses, that’s what my son likes, and he’s amassing a collection.

When we headed to the beach this week to enjoy the weather,  he popped his Paw Patrol baseball cap on his head .

“This is my beach hat,” he announced.

Then he gave me the full run-down.  His Batman hat is for playgrounds.  His Paw Patrol hat is for the beach.  And, when he gets a Star Wars hat , that will be for the aquarium.  “My aquarium hat,” he says.

This is funny on so many levels.

For one thing, he doesn’t need an aquarium hat since we are infrequent visitors.

And for  another thing, we really and truly just grab whichever hat we can find whenever it’s time to go to wherever we’re going.  We have more than one hat precisely because we don’t always know where any given hat is at any given moment.

Hats are essential  wardrobe pieces for us.  We are fair-skinned folks who burn at the slightest hint of sunshine.

But exactly how many hats does he plan on having anyway?

Specific hats for specific places may not be practical or likely by any stretch of the imagination, and yet I love the idea of valuing place, all the individual beauty and uniqueness of this place and that place.

How something changes in us as we travel from  here to there, something about us in those destinations that might even require a new and different hat.

It’s so biblical, isn’t it, the way God’s story roots itself  in geography and location?  The Holy Land and Mount Sinai, Eden and Bethel ,right on to Bethlehem, to gardens and mountaintops, the Sea of  Galilee, the Jordan River.

God’s story in us does the same thing.

There are places that have entwined themselves with my own salvation story:  a childhood neighborhood, a college campus,  a church, a two-year sojourn in New Jersey, and the long-term settling in Virginia where God continues to work in me.

Maybe certain places in our lives are set aside for a holy work of significance.

Like the way the burning bush drew Moses’s attention out in the wilderness, and how God brought him and all of Israel back to that same holy mountain after they made it out of Egypt.

Or the way Jacob camped out at Bethel and saw a vision of a stairway to heaven and then returned to the same place years later to settle there with his family and build an altar to God.

It helps to know what places have holy significance for us, especially when we’re seeking His face.  Where do we go when we want to be alone with Jesus?  Where do we go when we’re desperate for a glimpse of Him or to hear His voice?  Where do we go when we need hush and peace and a stillness in our hearts?

Where is our Bethel?  Where is our Sinai?

Where is the place of spiritual retreat?

For  me, it’s a back deck or a porch, just one small step from inside my house to outside my house and there I am, in a peaceful place.

Sometimes, though,  I need to run away from the ordinary, everyday.  These aren’t long trips, just a drive to the botanical gardens, or to a museum, or the beach–anywhere there is beauty and there is quiet.

My go-to holy place, though, is a mobile one–it’s in a walk  The location matters less than the opportunity to stride in rhythm and not talk for about 30 minutes.   This is a sacred space for me.

It  also helps to know that God does focused work in specific places.

This is Gilgal for Saul.  That’s where the prophet Samuel sent the newly anointed King to wait before being presented to Israel.  That’s where Saul is crowned.  It’s also the same exact place where Saul loses his kingship, as he gives up waiting for Samuel and disobeys God’s instructions (1 Samuel 10:8,  11:15, 13:7).

Gilgal is where Saul both received and lost the kingship.

What if Saul had recognized the significance of the place?  Gilgal is where I wait and where God is faithful.  Maybe he would have been more patient.

Perhaps this place where you are right now is the growing place or the place of rest.  Maybe it is the land of milk and honey or maybe it is the waiting place.

It could be the place of worship or the place of calling.  Maybe it’s the place where we’re poured out or maybe it’s the well where Jesus fills us.

Where are you now?  In this place God has brought you, how is He at work?

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).

A life-long legacy of real-deal faith

Moving sometimes feels like God’s ultimate character-training ground.

And when you’re moving with four young kids,  it’s a faith-growing opportunity for the whole family.

When we first started this process, I didn’t even want to get my kids’ hopes up too much about all the possibilities of  a new house.  I organized closets, purged junk, and packed up boxes for storage without telling them why.

It wasn’t until they were all gone for a day and I painted  their room that I finally fessed up.

The confession went something like this:

“While  you girls are gone, I’m going to repaint your room.”

“What?!!  Paint?!!  I hope it’ll still be purple!!!”

And that was it, the big  moment when I had to share the news.

“Well, actually, no, the whole point is to cover over the purple.  You see, we’re preparing the house to  sell  it and that means making the rooms neutral colors.  Your walls will be cream.”

Long pause.  Long, long pause.

An initially disappointed face:  “Cream?  Cream?  I really liked the purple.”

Then the news sinks in. “Wait!!  We’re going to try to move?!!!!”

And oh the ups and downs of moving have involved us all.  I tried to prep the girls’ hearts for how long it may take to sell our house or what it all  involves.  How we shouldn’t get our hearts set on a particular house unless our contract is accepted.

Truthfully, though, God has been so good to us and the process has been fairly smooth as far as these processes ever go.  But what I love the most is how my kids celebrate the good things He has done.

When a buyer put an offer on our house so quickly after we put it on the market, one of my girls said, “Look how God answered our prayers!  We prayed this would be fast and He did that for us!”

When we picked the new house and it had the right number of bedrooms and was still in their beloved school district, one of my daughters said, “God really gave us what we needed!”

And as we worked through inspections and repairs and all the prep work for moving, they prayed right along with us for God to  help the process go smoothly.

We’re actually still praying!

They are engaging in active faith and using the language of faith.  They are turning to prayer in times of need and praising God for answering  the prayers we offer.

And it’s a beautiful thing.

In life, there are some things we can’t always share with our children, not completely, especially not when they’re young.  We shield them from some of the hardest and scariest situations..

But there are also times and seasons when it’s right to draw them in to see how our faith fares when we don’t know all the answers.

What  does faith look like when we’re waiting?

When we’re uncertain?

When we’re hurt?

When we’re disappointed?

If our tweens and teens think faith is easy, what will happen when decisions are hard and oppression is real and personal?

I’ve been feeling a heart-check, the need  to make sure my faith is sincere and to live that out with my kids.

When I say, “God answered our prayers,” I need to make sure that’s the truth, that my kids knew I was praying….and they see how God came through.

I find that Paul slips this word “sincerity” into his letters quietly and frequently (2 Corinthians 11:3,  Philippians 1:17, 1 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:5).

He doesn’t lay out a long sermon about what sincere faith looks like, but he makes this consistent distinction.

Don’t just have faith.

Have sincere faith.

Maybe it was the former Pharisee in  Paul showing through here.  Genuine faith mattered to him because otherwise it’s just show and outward actions.

This is what Paul says about Timothy:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (2 Timothy 1:5 ESV).

Timothy’s sincere faith is something he learned from his mom, who learned it from his grandmother.

Because they were the real deal, Timothy grew to be the real deal also.

This is what I want for my kids and what I want for me–a lifelong legacy of “real-deal faith.”

May our faith be sincere, rooted so deep-down within us that our automatic response to trouble is the fruit of belief:  prayerfulness, trust,  confidence in God.

May our faith be genuine, not just outward show with Christian catch-phrases and good-girl actions, but  a life led sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 

Welcome Home

psalm-90

We want to do “Home” here.

On the bad days, on the days you messed up or didn’t win, on the days the minivan breaks down and we all cram into the little car to shuttle around town….

On the days when we say the foolish thing and our tempers get the better of us…

On the day when we’re just crazy forgetful or running late and the ballet studio is calling me (again) because my daughter is waiting for me and I’m still two minutes away on Main Street….

On the nights when mom didn’t sleep because she was up all night stressing about a problem and then remembering to pray over it…

When we get bad news, when our feelings are hurt, when our friendships are tricky, when two girls keep fighting on the playground and that ruins our favorite recess game….

We want to come home.

I want my husband and my kids and surely myself to have this place of space and grace.

This is the place we celebrate with milkshakes and we commiserate with movie nights and freshly popped popcorn.

Life can sure be disappointing sometimes.  People can be cruel, trodding all over you when you’re already down in the dust.

But home is where the people are who genuinely celebrate your victories and accomplishments.

Home is also where you drag your disappointed heart with its hurt and sadness because it’s safe here.  You are hugged.  You are loved without conditions and expectations.  These are your people, the ones who are for you.  The ones who won’t mock your tears or tell you to ‘buck up and just get over it.’

Home should be the safe place.  The united place.  The place where being you is being enough.

Of course, Home isn’t that way for everyone.  And that’s the great tragedy.  It must break God’s heart to see how Home sometimes hurt instead of heals.

But at least here in my space, in my life, for my family, I want Home to be the refuge God meant it to be.

I read in Psalm 90:1, how Moses prayed to God.  He said:

“Lord, through all the generations you have been our home” (NLT).

I’ve read this in other translations before.  The ESV says the Lord has been our “dwelling place” and the HCSB says the Lord has been our “refuge.”

But I let that word “home” echo a bit and think about what it means for God to be Home for me.

My safe place.

My refuge.

The place where I abide, live, dwell…where I relax and be myself, where I kick off my shoes and plod around in my cozy white socks, where the masks are off and people see the real me, where I wash off my makeup, where I mess up sometimes and ask for forgiveness from those who love me still.

God is my Home.

He’s celebrating our victories.

And He’s wrapping us up in arms so big when we unload the disappointment, hurt and sadness we’ve been carrying on our shoulders.

In a world where we can feel judged and criticized, like people are always jumping in with suggestions of how we should be, where bullies and mean girls set themselves against us, God is our Home.

He loves you as you are.  He says you’re beautiful.  He says you have value and worth and He’s proud of you and He’s seen it. All of it! All your hard work and effort–and He says it’s good.

I wonder what it was like for Moses to write that God was his home?

Moses–the slave baby sent into the river on a basket, raised by an Egyptian princess in a palace where he didn’t quite fit in.

Moses–the murderer turned fugitive, who spent 40 years out in the wilderness tending sheep and living outside his community.

Moses–the leader of a nation that spent another 40 years wandering around the desert, pitching tents, moving on and never lingering in one place for long.

FOR THE UNWANTED, FOR THE OUTSIDER, FOR THE BROKEN, FOR THE SINNER, FOR THE PRODIGAL, FOR THE WANDERER, FOR THE LEADER, GOD WAS HOME.

GOD IS HOME.

WELCOME HOME.