- 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.
- Genesis 1:2 CSB
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.
- Genesis 1:21 CSB
So God created the large sea-creatures and every living creature that moves and swarms in the water, according to their kinds. He also created every winged creature according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
- Job 38:8-11 CSB
Who enclosed the sea behind doors
when it burst from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and total darkness its blanket,
when I determined its boundaries
and put its bars and doors in place,
when I declared, “You may come this far, but no farther;
your proud waves stop here”?
- Psalm 8:3-9 CSB
When I observe your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you set in place,
what is a human being that you remember him,
a son of man that you look after him?
You made him little less than God
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands
you put everything under his feet:
all the sheep and oxen,
as well as the animals in the wild,
the birds of the sky
and the fish of the sea
that pass through the currents of the seas.
Lord, our Lord,
how magnificent is your name throughout the earth!
- Psalm 89:9 CSB
You rule the raging sea;
when its waves surge, you still them.
- Psalm 93:4 NASB
More than the sounds of many waters,
Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
The Lord on high is mighty.
- Psalm 104:24-26 CSB
How countless are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, vast and wide,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
There the ships move about,
and Leviathan, which you formed to play there.
- Psalm 107:28-30 CSB
Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
He stilled the storm to a whisper,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then he guided them to the harbor they longed for.
- Psalm 139:9-10 NASB
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
- Psalm 146:5-6 CSB
Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea and everything in them.
He remains faithful forever,
- Isaiah 43:2-3 CSB
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you,
and the rivers will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be scorched,
and the flame will not burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior.
I have given Egypt as a ransom for you,
Cush and Seba in your place.
- Jeremiah 31:35 CSB
“This is what the Lord says:
The one who gives the sun for light by day,
the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar—
the Lord of Armies is his name:
- Amos 9:6 NASB
The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens
And has founded His vaulted dome over the earth,
He who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the face of the earth,
The Lord is His name.
- Micah 7:19 CSB
He will again have compassion on us;
he will vanquish our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.
- Habakkuk 2:14 NASB
For the earth will be filled
With the knowledge of the glory of the Lord,
As the waters cover the sea.
- Matthew 8:27 CSB
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him!”
- Revelation 15:2 CSB
I also saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had won the victory over the beast, its image, and the number of its name, were standing on the sea of glass with harps from God.
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 continually. Selah
- Psalm 119:20
I am continually overcome with longing for your judgments.
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
Therefore, through him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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:
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.
- 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, 7 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, 2 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.
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?
“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.
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).