From Here to Eternity

I announced  it was time to go and my son and his friend scrambled into clean-up mode and prepared to say their goodbyes.

When I opened the door, my little guy turned to call out one final farewell.  That’s when his friend ran to the door and they both leaned over for a sideways hug.  My son then made what he considers the ultimate, laid-in-cement gesture of friendship.  He yelled, “I’ll invite you to my birthday party!”

It’s August.

My son’s birthday is in October.

In the parking lot, I ask him how he enjoyed his time with his “best bud,” and he quickly corrects me.  He likes to call him, “my favorite friend.”

I’ve been thinking  as I watch all my kids, in their various stages of friendship and maturity, about what it really means to connect and belong, to love, to show grace, to stand strong and maybe even stand alone, and how God can bind us together with others in community.

After all, my son doesn’t just  think about his friend now, or about inviting his friend to a party in October.  He thinks about when they’re in middle school  together and then about high school.  He’s got long-term plans for friendship. This is sweet and cute and so “5-years-old,” but what if this is also for me as an adult, too?

In his book, Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson says this about  the Church,

The Holy Spirit formed it (the church) to be a colony of  heaven in a country of  death.

This image captivates me.  “A colony of  heaven.”  We can’t be heaven, of course.  We live in sin-brokenness and we are so clearly imperfect.  After all, that’s why we’re part of the Church—because we need a Savior!  Because we’re sinners!  We step on each other’s toes and we invade each other’s spaces at times.  We all battle Death;  it surrounds us in this death-bound world.  The church is constantly battered from without and beaten within by the impact of that brokenness.

Still, we have life.  We who follow Jesus already possess eternal life.  This is what ties us together as believers.  We’re not just in this together for the temporary, or even for a decade.  We’re in this together for eternity, and the great news is that our eternity has already begun.

It’s not “once upon a time.”  Our Kingdom life, our heavenly journey, begins the moment we follow Christ.

How can that change my perspective on loving others?

I feel less pressured, for one thing.  I remember that God has an eternal work in mind.  He brings people into my life and then He moves them on in a new season, and I can let Him direct my steps.  When to cling?  When to let go?  He knows, and  I can trust Him.

When God was preparing to  take Elijah up to heaven, his sidekick, right-hand man, and apprentice (Elisha) knew Elijah was about to leave.

In 2 Kings 2, Elijah told Elisha three different times, “You stay here.  God wants me to go to  another place—Bethel, Jericho, the Jordan.”  He tried to get Elisha to stay behind.

But every time Elisha said, “As Adonai lives and as you live, I will  not leave you” (2 Kings 2:6).  Elisha remained steadfastly by Elijah’s side and ultimately received a double-portion of the Lord’s anointing when he sees Elijah taken up to heaven.

Then Elijah was gone.   God removed Elijah and led Elisha into a new season of ministry without his mentor there any longer.

I remember this also: that eternity has begun for us, but none of us are perfect in the here and now.  I need the perspective of grace and of growth for me and for others: that we’re transforming—we haven’t already transformed.

Paul writes:

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB).

We’re in that place now of building  and equipping one another, and we’re in this together UNTILUntil Christ comes.  Until we’ve achieved 100% unity in faith and knowing Jesus.  Until we’ve fully matured into Christ-likeness.

We’re not there yet.  In the meantime, we equip each other.  We build each other up.  We help each other become more like Jesus.  We serve and we minister as He’s called and equipped us for the benefit of the whole Church because we’re in this together for now and for eternity.

 

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.

Bible Verses about Remembering

WE REMEMBER THE LORD AND HIS COVENANT LOVE

  • Exodus 20:8 ESV
    “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  • Deuteronomy 6:12 ESV
    then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
  • Deuteronomy 7:17-18 ESV
    If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lordyour God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt,
  • Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV
    And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.
  • 1 Chronicles 16:12 ESV
    Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
        his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
  • 1 Chronicles 16:15 ESV
    Remember his covenant forever,
        the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
  • Psalm 42:5-6 ESV

    Why are you cast down, O my soul,
        and why are you in turmoil within me?
    Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
        my salvation[a] and my God.

    My soul is cast down within me;
        therefore I remember you
    from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
        from Mount Mizar.

  • Psalm 45:17 ESV
    I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations;
        therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.
  • Psalm 63:6 ESV
    when I remember you upon my bed,
        and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
  • Psalm 77:11 ESV
    I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
        yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
  • Psalm 78:35 ESV
    They remembered that God was their rock,
        the Most High God their redeemer.
  • Psalm 98:3 ESV
    He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
        to the house of Israel.
    All the ends of the earth have seen
        the salvation of our God.
  • Psalm 106:4 ESV
    Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them,
  • Psalm 111:4 ESV
    He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
        the Lord is gracious and merciful.
  • Psalm 119:55 ESV
    I remember your name in the night, O Lord,

        and keep your law.
  • Psalm 136:23 ESV
    It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
        for his steadfast love endures forever;
  • Proverbs 10:7 ESV
    The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
        but the name of the wicked will rot.
  • Isaiah 46:9 ESV
        remember the former things of old;
    for I am God, and there is no other;
        I am God, and there is none like me,
  • Jonah 2:7 ESV
    When my life was fainting away,
        I remembered the Lord,
    and my prayer came to you,
        into your holy temple.
  • Luke 22:19 ESV
    And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
  • John 14:26 ESV
     But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
  • 1 Corinthians 11:24 ESV
    and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.
  • 2 Timothy 2:8 ESV
    Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,

THE LORD REMEMBERS HIS PEOPLE AND HIS COVENANT WITH THEM

  • Genesis 8:1 ESV
     But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.
  • Exodus 2:23-25 ESV
    During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
  • Psalm 105:8 ESV
    He remembers his covenant forever,
        the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
  • Psalm 111:5 ESV
    He provides food for those who fear him;
        he remembers his covenant forever.
  • Isaiah 40:15-16 ESV
    “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
        that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
    Even these may forget,
        yet I will not forget you.
    16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
        your walls are continually before me.

THE LORD CHOOSES TO FORGET OUR PAST SINS

  • Psalm 25:6-7 ESV
    Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
        for they have been from of old.
    Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
        according to your steadfast love remember me,
        for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
  • Psalm 79:8 ESV
    Do not remember against us our former iniquities;[a]
        let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
        for we are brought very low.
  • Isaiah 43:25-26 ESV
    “I, I am he
        who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
        and I will not remember your sins.
  • Isaiah 65:17 ESV
    “For behold, I create new heavens
        and a new earth,
    and the former things shall not be remembered
        or come into mind.

Bible Verses to Remind us that God Hears

  • 2 Samuel 22:7 ESV
    “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears
  • Psalm 4:3 ESV
    But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
        the Lord hears when I call to him.
  • Psalm 17:6 ESV
    I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
        incline your ear to me; hear my words.
  • Psalm 18:6 ESV
    In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
  • Psalm 28:1-2, 6
    To you, O Lord, I call;
        my rock, be not deaf to me,
    lest, if you be silent to me,
        I become like those who go down to the pit.
    Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
        when I cry to you for help,
    when I lift up my hands
        toward your most holy sanctuary….
    Blessed be the Lord!
        For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
  • Psalm 34:17 ESV
    When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
        and delivers them out of all their troubles.
  • Psalm 54:2  ESV
    O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.
  • Psalm 61:5 ESV
    For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
  • Psalm 66:17-20 ESV
    I cried to him with my mouth,
    and high praise was on my tongue.
    18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened.
    19 But truly God has listened;
    he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
    20 Blessed be God
    because he has not rejected my prayer
        or removed his steadfast love from me!
  • Psalm 77:1 ESV
    I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me.
  • Psalm 84:8 ESV
    Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
  • Psalm 139:4 ESV
    Even before a word is on my tongue,
        behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
  • Proverbs 15:29 ESV
    The Lord is far from the wicked,
        but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
  • John 9:31 ESV
    We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him.
  • John 11:41-42 ESV
     So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
  • 1 Peter 3:12 ESV
    For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
        and his ears are open to their prayer.
    But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
  • 1 John 5:14 ESV
    And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

We Celebrate Courage (Because We’re Not Naturally Courageous)

 

Bravery doesn’t run rampant in this house.

My kids and I freak out about bugs.

We grab for a dry towel when water splashes into our eyes.

We talk through all possibilities and potential scenarios so we won’t freak about what’s new and different.

We inch into doorways when there’s a room full of new people.

We’re not adventurers or discoverers, explorers or conquerors.  We’re not risk-takers or rock-the-boaters.  We’re not the movers or the shakers.

No, we’re planners and organizers.  We’re the faithful and the hard-working and the folks dipping their toes in all gentle and nervous on the side of the pool to test the waters before jumping in.

That’s why we celebrate every victory in our house, every display of courage and every hint of bravery.

The year that my most fear-prone daughter announced she was really going to ride an actual roller coaster instead of the kiddie ride at Busch Gardens, we cheered her on.  I took pictures.  We celebrated and high-fived after her victory.

And when my older girls went on to try out other roller coasters, we looked straight in their eyes and told them we were so proud of the courage in them.

Even when my one daughter tried a roller coaster and hated it and complained that it was creepy and made her afraid, we still celebrated because she tried it.

She doesn’t have to ride again—that’s wisdom.  In Let’s All Be Brave, Annie Downs says, ‘The road to courage is lit by God’s wisdom.”

But to overcome her fears and try at all—that’s courage.

I’ve spent years of motherhood praying for my kids to be brave and celebrating every time they battle down fear.

I tell them:

It’s okay to make mistakes, so just give it a try.

I tell them:

God is with you, so don’t fear.  Just relax and trust Him.

I tell it to them and maybe along the way I’m preaching to myself.

Sure there are plenty of other kids who have faced down bigger and badder roller coasters than we’ll ever dare to try.  We’re no daredevils after all.  But still, that’s not the same as true bravery.

Bravery doesn’t require doing what everyone else is doing or trying to keep up with or match the accomplishments of others.  Courage is so personal; it’s not about you being like anyone else.

And, while not feeling any fear at all can make you look courageous on the outside, it can also make you foolhardy.

That’s not what courage is.

Being brave isn’t the same as being unafraid.  Bravery means doing the right thing no matter what, even if you tremble in your sneakers and even if your stomach flip-flops with fear.  

You trample all over the anxiety and the worry and the fearfulness and you do it anyway.

YOU DON’T LET FEAR CONTROL YOU, IMPRISON YOU, OR HOLD YOU BACK FROM WHAT GOD HAS CALLED YOU TO DO.

Those men and women of courage in Scripture didn’t follow God without facing their own fears.

When Mordecai told Esther that she needed to petition King Xerxes for the rescue of her people, she told him why that was too much to ask:

“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:11 ESV).

Esther, the poster-child for Biblical courage, was scared out of her mind.  She knew she couldn’t obey God on her own so she asked her to people to fast and pray with her for three days before she finally set one foot in front of the other and walked into the throne room to see the King.

She was terrified.  But she still took a stand.

That’s being brave:  Obeying God even when you’re afraid.

God’s calling can cost us.  It can be frightening and unsettling.  He can ask you to face down giants or ask you to face down change or ask you to face down the unknown.

In all circumstances, he tells His people to “Be strong and courageous.”  He knows, after all, that we aren’t naturally strong or naturally brave.

But He also knows we take courage from His presence–and He promises to be with us.

Bible Verses about Grace

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

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

  • Jeremiah 31:2-3 ESV
    Thus says the Lord:
    “The people who survived the sword
        found grace in the wilderness;
    when Israel sought for rest,
        the Lord appeared to him[a] from far away.
    I have loved you with an everlasting love;
        therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
  • John 1:14-17 ESV
    And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
  • Acts 4:33 ESV
    And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
  • Acts 15:11 NIV
    No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
  • Acts 20:32 ESV
    And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
  • Romans 3:23-24 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.
  • Romans 4:16 ESV
    That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
  • Romans 5:1-2 ESV
    Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:8 NIV
    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Romans 5:20 ESV
    Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
  • Romans 6:1-2 NIV
    What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
  • Romans 6:14 NIV
    For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.
  • Romans 11:6 NIV
    And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV
     But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV
     But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 HCSB
    Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.
  • Galatians 2:19-21 NIV
    “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
  • Ephesians 1:1-3 ESV
    Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
    To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
    Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places
  • Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
    But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
  • Ephesians 4:7 NIV
    But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
  • Colossians 2:13-14 ESV
     And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 NIV
    He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
  • 2 Timothy 2:1 NIV
    You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
  • 2 Timothy 4:22 NIV
    The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.
  • Titus 2:11 NIV
    For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.
  • Hebrews 4:6 NIV
     Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
  • Hebrews 12:15 ESV
    See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled
  • Hebrews 13:9 NIV
    Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so.
  • James 4:6 NIV
    But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

    “God opposes the proud
        but shows favor to the humble.”

  • 1 Peter 4:10 NIV
    Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
  • 1 Peter 5:10 ESV
    And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
  • 2 Peter 1:2 NIV
    Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
  • 2 Peter 3:18 NIV
     But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Bible Verses about Loving Our Neighbors

  • Leviticus 19:18 CSB
     Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.
  • Proverbs 3:28-29 CSB

    Don’t say to your neighbor, “Go away! Come back later.
    I’ll give it tomorrow”—when it is there with you.
    29 Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor,
    for he trusts you and lives near you.

  • Psalm 15:1-3 CSB

    Lord, who can dwell in your tent?
    Who can live on your holy mountain?

    The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness,
    and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
    who does not slander with his tongue,
    who does not harm his friend
    or discredit his neighbor,

  • Matthew 22:37-40 CSB
    He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.38 This is the greatest and most important[b] command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
  • Luke 10:36-37 CSB
    “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
    37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
    Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”
  • Romans 13:10 CSB
    Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.
  • Romans 15:2 CSB
    Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
  • Ephesians 4:25 CSB
    Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor,[a] because we are members of one another.
  • Galatians 5:13-15 CSB
     For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.
  • James 2:8 CSB
    Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.

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 Boldness

  • Proverbs 28:1 (CSB)
    The wicked flee when no one is pursuing them,
    but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
  • Acts 4:13 (CSB)
     When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.
  • Acts 4:29-31 (CSB)
    And now, Lord, consider their threats, and grant that your servants may speak your word with all boldness,  while you stretch out your hand for healing, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.
  • Acts 14:3 (CSB)
     So they stayed there a long time and spoke boldly for the Lord, who testified to the message of his grace by enabling them to do signs and wonders.
  • Acts 28:31 (CSB)
    proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:12 CSB
    Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness.
  • Ephesians 3:12 (CSB)
     In him we have boldness and confident access through faith in him.
  • Ephesians 6:19 (CSB)
     Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.
  • Philippians 1:14 (ESV)
    And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word[a] without fear.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:2 (ESV)
    But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.
  • 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (CSB)
    Therefore, I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power,[a] love, and sound judgment.
  • Hebrews 13:6 (CSB)
    Therefore, we may boldly say,
    The Lord is my helper;
    I will not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?
  • Hebrews  4:16 (CSB)
    Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.

Bible Verses for When You Need Strength

  • Nehemiah 8:10 NIV
    Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
  • Psalm 22:19 NIV
    But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
        You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
  • Psalm 27:1 NKJV
    The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    Whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the strength of my life;
    Of whom shall I be afraid?
  • Psalm 28:7-8 NIV
    The Lord is my strength and my shield;
        my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
    My heart leaps for joy,
        and with my song I praise him.
    The Lord is the strength of his people,
        a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
  • Psalm 29:11 CSB
    The Lord gives his people strength;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.
  • Psalm 37:39 NKJV
    But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
    He is their strength in the time of trouble.
  • Psalm 46:1 NIV
    God is our refuge and strength,
        an ever-present help in trouble.
  • Psalm 118:14 NIV
    The Lord is my strength and my defense;
        he has become my salvation.
  • Psalm 119:28 NIV
    My soul is weary with sorrow;
        strengthen me according to your word.
  • Psalm 138:3 NKJV
    In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
    And made me bold with strength in my soul.
  • Proverbs 18:10 NASB
    The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    The righteous runs into it and is safe.
  • Isaiah 12:2 NIV
    Surely God is my salvation;
        I will trust and not be afraid.
    The Lordthe Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
        he has become my salvation.”
  • Isaiah 33:2 NIV
    Lord, be gracious to us;
    we long for you
    .
    Be our strength every morning,
    our salvation in time of distress.
  • Isaiah 40:29 NIV
    He gives strength to the weary
        and increases the power of the weak.
  • Isaiah 40:31 NIV
    but those who hope in the Lord
        will renew their strength.
    They will soar on wings like eagles;
        they will run and not grow weary,
        they will walk and not be faint.
  • Isaiah 41:10 NASB
    ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
    Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
    I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
    Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
  • Habakkuk 3:19 NIV
    The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
        he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
        he enables me to tread on the heights.
  • Mark 12:30 NIV
    Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV
    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
  • Ephesians 3:16 NIV
     I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
  • Ephesians 6:10 NIV
    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
  • Philippians 4:13 NIV
    I can do all this through him who gives me strength.