The sweet kindness of God

I hate teeth.

They make me a bit queasy to think about, and my one recurring nightmare involves my teeth loosening, aching, and falling out.

When I was a teenager and old enough to babysit or volunteer with kids, I found that children really love showing off their teeth.  They are so excited about every loose tooth and new tooth and have this universal reaction to any change in their dental status:  I need to show everyone.

Look at my loose tooth! Look at where I lost a tooth. Look at a new tooth growing in! 

They’re thrilled and rightfully so.

Me, not so much.  I hate seeing teeth wiggle around and hold on by the strands.

I’d try to keep my cool when these little ones showed off their pearly whites with pride.  I’d nod my head and muster up some celebratory joy:  “Wow, look at that loose tooth.  Amazing!  Won’t be long now.”

Then I’d avert my eyes as soon as I possibly could because a loose tooth was way gross to me.

When I had my wisdom teeth out as a teenager, it took some courage for a girl who hates teeth.  I slid into the chair and gripped my hands together across my middle.  I didn’t know the doctor, but he went over everything with me and then said something about the nerves and how they were entwined with the root and there was the possibility, although rare, that there would be a complication and I would have difficulty talking or singing after the procedure.  But it’d probably be fine.

Awesome.

Then he started to work, only to find that I don’t respond normally to numbing and need extra medication in order for me not to feel  what he was doing in there with all of his metal tools.

Double awesome.

But here’s the thing, I was a scared teenage girl who didn’t like teeth about to undergo a dental procedure that was already off to a rocky start and then I heard the Beatles.

The radio station they were playing in the dentist office that day had kicked off a Beatles weekend and the Beatles were (are) my super favorite.  So, I breathed in a little breath and prayed out a little prayer: “Thanks, Lord, for the little reminder that you see me down here and are with me.”  And I sang in my head to  Beatles tunes while the dentist worked.

That was  20 years ago, and I still remember that little kiss of God’s kindness.

We have these moments, all of us, where we’re tumbled into a pit of fear or darkness.  We have to face our greatest nightmare.  The very worst thing, the thing we hoped would never happen, sometimes happens.

Sometimes  we’re simply overwhelmed, the little things have piled up into one big massive, overwhelming thing.

Or perhaps we’re so exhausted and weary and our soul feels heavy-laden indeed.

Perhaps out of nowhere, we’re hit with conflict.  We had peace, and then there was war.  People against us.  People attacking us.

There is loss and sadness, anxiety and fatigue.

But there is also Jesus.

There is, most importantly, Jesus.

In some of those seasons when I wondered if He could possibly even see me still,  that’s exactly when He’d show me kindness, a little blessing in the day, a pick-me-up, a joy.

It was enough to know that He saw me and hadn’t forgotten me, that I was in His sights and in His mind.  It was enough to know that because He was with me, I could make it one more step, one more day…and on and on until I could fully overcome.

The Psalmist prays:

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings (Psalm 36:7).

Kindness is compassion and sensitivity to need, and God’s kindness is a sign of His loyal love for us.

His greatest act of merciful kindness to us was sending Jesus.

Titus tells  us that:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:4-5 NIV). 

and Paul tells us the same:

in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7 NIV).

We didn’t merit salvation.  We weren’t good enough.  We hadn’t earned it in anyway, and yet Jesus poured Himself out for us because of His deep and abiding lovingkindness.

And that kindness continues.  He brings us  moments of refreshing and breezes of peace. He brings us reminders of His affection and signs of His love right when we need them most.

The Art of Celebrating

“Mom, can we have a milkshake because  it’s Tuesday?”

We do celebrations in our family.  We celebrate first days and last days, pick-me-up treats on the hardest days, victory treats when we have a big win and  even sometimes just for trying.because we know trying requires courage.

My daughter has a competition this weekend, but I’ve already let her request her “celebration dinner,” whether she comes home with first place or last place.  We’re not saluting the prize, we’re saluting the effort, the time, the commitment, and being done, of course.

Our celebrations aren’t elaborate or Pinterest-worthy.  We make a special batch of cookies or stop in at 7-11 for a Slurpie, cook up a special dinner or maybe even get milkshakes for a “big” treat.  We “party” with family movie night and a bowl of popcorn or head to  a beach or a playground for some afternoon fun after a week of testing at school.  I’ve even been known to happy  dance in the kitchen occasionally, (which is instantly embarrassing to my children).

But that day, my daughter  climbed in the minivan after school and asked for a treat because it was Tuesday.

I finally gave in and asked, “Why are we celebrating Tuesday?”

“Oh, it’s just that Tuesdays are really busy days for  us and I think we just need a treat because it’s Tuesday and that’s all.”

Well, maybe we’re stretching our rejoicing habits a bit too far if we’re now celebrating specific days of the week just because they exist on the calendar.

I tease my daughter gently and call her the “queen of treats.”

Can we celebrate because we had  a good day?  Can we have a treat because we had a bad day?   Can we have a treat because…it’s Tuesday?

We all have a good laugh because this is who we are:  We’re celebrators and rejoicers.  We’re joy-seekers.

I love that God gives reason to rejoice.  Not just that, He compels us to rejoice.

In Romans, Paul tells us that we have peace with God because of Jesus. We’re justified by His blood and saved from  the wrath of God.  He reminds us we were God’s enemies and yet, because of Jesus’s death, we’re now reconciled with this perfect, holy  God.

But Paul tells us what is the greater thing.  We recognize His holiness and our need for  reconciliation.  We recognize we were enemies of God and yet now we have peace with God.  We recognize all of that….

and then…

we rejoice.

He says:

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11 ESV).

We rejoice because Jesus has done the work.  We believe in Him as our Savior, we place our faith in Him as our Lord, and He has reconciled us to the Father.

So, we don’t need to drag around shame; we can lift up praise.    We focus more on our Savior than we focus on our sin.

We are saved.

The note in my Bible says, “Christians GO BEYOND avoiding God’s wrath and actually rejoice in the same God who would pour out wrath on them were it not for Christ” (ESV Study Bible).

So, let’s go beyond. 

Our faith is about more than just avoiding the wrath of God; it’s celebrating the good news:  Jesus made us righteous by covering us with His righteousness.

And, God Himself rejoices.  Maybe recapturing the image of God and all of His joy reminds us to have joy, too.

 

He rejoices over His people:

I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people.
The sound of weeping and crying
will no longer be heard in her (Isaiah 65:19)

and He sings over us with gladness:

The Lord your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will be quiet in his love.
He will delight in you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17 CSB). 

We are unworthy, and yet He loves us.  He finds joy and takes delight in us.

And it is His joy, His deep-hearted gladness, that we can cling to when we’re overwhelmed by our own sin.

In the book of Nehemiah, the people were moved to mourn when they heard Ezra the priest read from the law.  They saw all of their unworthiness and all the reasons for their exile.

Nehemiah and the other leaders redirected them:

This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep…today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:9, 10). 

Rejoice today.  Celebrate.  Praise Him.

He loves you.   He died to save you.  Her rejoices over you. Such love deserves a celebration.

Bible Verses on How God Forgives Us

  • Psalm 32:5 ESV
    I acknowledged my sin to you,
        and I did not cover my iniquity;
    I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
        and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
  • Psalm 51:1-2 ESV
    Have mercy on me,O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
    according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
  • Psalm 103:11-12 ESV
    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
        so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
     as far as the east is from the west,
        so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
  • Proverbs 28:13
    Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
  • Isaiah 1:18 HCSB
    “Come, let us discuss this,”
    says the Lord.
    “Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they will be as white as snow;though they are as red as crimson,
    they will be like wool.
  • Isaiah 43:25
    “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
  • Daniel 9:9 NIV
    The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him
  • Micah 7:18 HCSB
    Who is a God like You,
    removing iniquity and passing over rebellion
    for the remnant of His inheritance?
    He does not hold on to His anger forever,
    because He delights in faithful love.
  • Matthew 26:28 HCSB
     For this is My blood that establishes the covenant;it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Acts 2:38 ESV
    And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receivethe gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 3:19 HCSB
    Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord
  • Acts 10:43 HCSB
    All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.
  • Ephesians 1:7 ESV
    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace
  • Colossians 1:13-14 NIV
     For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
  • Hebrews 10:17 ESV
    then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
  • 1 John 1:7-9 HCSB
    But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • 1 John 2:2 HCSB
     He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.

prayerforgiveness

Bible Verses on Compassion

  • Exodus 22:27b NIV
    When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
  • Exodus 33:19 NIV
    And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
  • Exodus 34:6 NIV
     And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness
  • Deuteronomy 13:17 NIV
    and none of the condemned things are to be found in your hands. Then the Lordwill turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors—
  • Deuteronomy 30:3 NIV
    then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.
  • 2 Kings 13:23 NIV
    But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.
  • 2 Chronicles 30:9 NIV
    If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”
  • Nehemiah 9:17 NIV
     They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them,
  • Nehemiah 9:19 NIV
    Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the wilderness. By day the pillar of cloud did not fail to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take
  • Psalm 51:1 NIV
  • Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
  • Psalm 86:15 NIV
    But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
  • Psalm 90:13 NIV
    Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
        Have compassion on your servants.
  • Psalm 102:13 NIV
    You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
        for it is time to show favor to her;
        the appointed time has come.
  • Psalm 103:4 NIV
    who redeems your life from the pit
        and crowns you with love and compassion
  • Psalm 103:8 NIV
    The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
        slow to anger, abounding in love
  • Psalm 103:13 NIV
    As a father has compassion on his children,
        so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
  • Psalm 111:4 NIV
    He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
        the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
  • Psalm 112:4 NIV
    Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
        for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
  • Psalm 116:5 NIV
    The Lord is gracious and righteous;
        our God is full of compassion.
  • Psalm 119:77 NIV
    Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
        for your law is my delight.
  • Psalm 119:156 NIV
    Your compassion, Lord, is great;
        preserve my life according to your laws.
  • Psalm 135:14 NIV
    For the Lord will vindicate his people
        and have compassion on his servants.
  • Psalm 145:8-9 NIV
    The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
        slow to anger and rich in love.
    The Lord is good to all;
        he has compassion on all he has made.
  • Isaiah 14:1 NIV
    The Lord will have compassion on Jacob;
        once again he will choose Israel
        and will settle them in their own land.
    Foreigners will join them
        and unite with the descendants of Jacob.
  • Isaiah 30:18 NIV
    Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
        therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
    For the Lord is a God of justice.
        Blessed are all who wait for him!
  • Isaiah 49:10 NIV
    They will neither hunger nor thirst,
        nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them.
    He who has compassion on them will guide them
        and lead them beside springs of water.
  • Isaiah 49:13 NIV
    Shout for joy, you heavens;
        rejoice, you earth;
        burst into song, you mountains!
    For the Lord comforts his people
        and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
  • Isaiah 49:15 NIV
    “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
        and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
    Though she may forget,
        I will not forget you!
  • Isaiah 51:3 NIV
    The Lord will surely comfort Zion
        and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
    he will make her deserts like Eden,
        her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
    Joy and gladness will be found in her,
        thanksgiving and the sound of singing.
  • Isaiah 54:7-10 NIV
    “For a brief moment I abandoned you,
        but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
    In a surge of anger
        I hid my face from you for a moment,
    but with everlasting kindness
        I will have compassion on you,”
        says the Lord your Redeemer.
    “To me this is like the days of Noah,
        when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
    So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
        never to rebuke you again./
    10 Though the mountains be shaken
        and the hills be removed,
    yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
        nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
        says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
  • Isaiah 60:10 NIV
    “Foreigners will rebuild your walls,
        and their kings will serve you.
    Though in anger I struck you,
        in favor I will show you compassion.
  • Isaiah 63:7 NIV
    I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us— yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to hiscompassion and many kindnesses.
  • Jeremiah 12:15 NIV
    But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country.
  • Jeremiah 31:20 NIV
    Is not Ephraim my dear son,
        the child in whom I delight?
    Though I often speak against him,
        I still remember him.
    Therefore my heart yearns for him;
        I have great compassion for him,”
    declares the Lord.
  • Jeremiah 42:12 NIV
    I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’
  • Lamentations 3:22 NIV
    Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
        for his compassions never fail.
  • Lamentations 3:32 NIV
    Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
        so great is his unfailing love.
  • Ezekiel 39:25 NIV
    Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob[a] and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.
  • Hosea 2:19 NIV
    I will betroth you to me forever;
        I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
        in love and compassion.
  • Joel 2:13 NIV
    Rend your heart
        and not your garments.
    Return to the Lord your God,
        for he is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and abounding in love,
        and he relents from sending calamity.
  • Jonah 4:2 NIV
    He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
  • Micah 7:19 NIV
    You will again have compassion on us;
        you will tread our sins underfoot
        and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
  • Zechariah 7:9 NIV
    This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.
  • Zechariah 10:6 NIV
    I will strengthen Judah and save the tribes of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them. They will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them.
  • Malachi 3:17 NIV
    “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.
  • Matthew 9:36 ESV
    When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
  • Matthew 14:14 ESV
    When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on themand healed their sick.
  • Matthew 20:34 NIV
    Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
  • Mark 6:34 ESV
     When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
  • Luke 7:13-15 ESV
    And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her,“Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
  • Luke 15:20 NIV
    So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
  • Romans 9:15 NIV
    For he says to Moses,

    “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
        and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

  • 2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV
    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
  • Ephesians 4:23 NIV
    Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
  • Philippians 2:1-2 NIV
    Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
  • Colossians 3:12-13 ESV
    Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other;as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
  • James 5:11 NIV
    As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
  • 1 Peter 3:8 NIV
    Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble

Bible Verses for When you Need God’s Comfort

  • Psalm 23:4 ESV
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff,
        they comfort me.
  • Psalm 71:21 ESV
    You will increase my greatness and comfort me again.
  • Psalm 86:17 ESV
    Show me a sign of your favor,
        that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
        because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
  • Psalm 119:50 ESV
    This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
  • Psalm 119:52 ESV
    When I think of your rules from of old,
        I take comfort, O Lord.
  • Psalm 119:76 ESV
    Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
  • Psalm 119:81-82 ESV
    My soul longs for your salvation;
        I hope in your word.
    82 My eyes long for your promise;
        I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
  • Isaiah 12:1 ESV
    You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.
  • Isaiah 40:1 ESV
    Comfortcomfort my people, says your God.
  • Isaiah 49:13 ESV
    Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.
  • Isaiah 51:3 ESV
    For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
  • Isaiah 51:12 ESV
    “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass,
  • Isaiah 52:9 ESV
    Break forth together into singing,
        you waste places of Jerusalem,
    for the Lord has comforted his people;
        he has redeemed Jerusalem.
  • Isaiah 56:18 ESV
    I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
  • Isaiah 61:1-2 ESV
    The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
        because the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor;[a]
        he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim liberty to the captives,
        and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b]
    to proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor,
        and the day of vengeance of our God;
        to comfort all who mourn;
  • Isaiah 66:13 ESV
    As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
  • Jeremiah 31:13 ESV
    Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
  • Zechariah 1:17 ESV
    Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”
  • Matthew 5:4 ESV
    “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
  • Acts 9:31 ESV
    So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
  • 2 Corinthians 7:6-7 ESV
    But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.
  • 2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV
    Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
  • Philippians 2:1-2 ESV
     So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ESV
    Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace,
     17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.

I am for you and not against you

“I am for you.”

That’s what I tell my 12-year-old daughter after a long day and after we’ve flopped down onto the overstuffed blue couches to pray and to  chat  before bed.

It’s probably what I’ll be saying often for the next few years as she steps into the teen years.

Maybe it seems like some days I’m against her.

I tell her what she can’t have or what she can’t do.  She carries home yet another flyer advertising yet another activity and I remind her that her calendar is already dripping with ink from her doing so much.

She talks about movies, books, songs, apps, and sometimes she’s the one left out.  She doesn’t know that band.  She hasn’t read that book.  Maybe we won’t let her see that movie.

This is hard.  This is her coming to grips with what it means not to fit in, what it means to miss out, what it means to let things go even when others around her indulge like it’s no big deal.

Of course, she’s a good girl.  She’s not asking to attend wild parties or drink or do drugs or even watch a PG-13 movie.  That’s not her.

Still I explain it that night to her as we relax on the sofa in a moment of quiet, and I hope what I say sinks deeply down to the needy parts of her heart:

I am not against you.  Even when it feels like I’m against you because I’m not giving you what you want or what even feels reasonable or what other people get.  I’m never your enemy and I’m never out to hurt you or deprive you of what is good. 

No.  I am for you.  Always.  Because I love you.  And it’s because I want the very best for you that sometimes I have to keep you from the second-best, or even what seems “good,” or perhaps what we both know isn’t right or true.

She nods her head in understanding for  now.

I hope the understanding lasts.  It probably won’t, not all the time.  I’m sure I’ll be echoing these words again and again, if not to her, then to her siblings.

It makes me marvel at God really, because He knows how I feel.  He knows what it’s like to be the parent having the hard conversations, building the unpopular boundaries, saying the “no” that a child doesn’t want to hear.

In Romans it says:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  (Romans 8:31 ESV)

And the Psalmist wrote:

Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me (Psalm 56:9 ESV).

God isn’t for me because He gives me everything I want.

 

To says God is for me means  His heart, His passion, His desire is for my ultimate blessing and my ultimate good.  He wants the best for me, even if it feels uncomfortable at the time because it’s not what I wanted or what seemed easy or appealing.

He knows what’s truly good and what I truly need, and that’s what He’s going to be doing in my life, directing, guiding, pausing, saying “no,” and saying “yes.”

So, as my daughter shuffles off to her room for bed, I sit for a moment with God. It’s as if He nudges me with His elbow to say, “See?  See what I’ve been trying to tell you?”

God isn’t against me when I don’t like His timing.

God isn’t against me when I long for the blessing He doesn’t choose to give (or when He gives it to someone else and not to me).  Even if we feel sometimes like everyone else His favorite because He so readily gives to them the things He withholds from us (and what’s that all about, anyway?).

God isn’t against me when my plans go awry or His plans don’t seem to make sense.

God isn’t against me when I experience injustice or hurtfulness.

God is for me.

He is for you.

It’s a matter of trusting His love for us, trusting Him enough to love us well and love us completely and to believe it when we read, “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly”  (Psalm 84:11 ESV).

When I Fell in Love

1-john-4-19

I can’t say exactly when I fell in love with this man.

He was on stage the first time I saw him, portraying Mr. Elton in a production of Jane Austen’s Emma (my favorite), and I was an audience member.   I laughed loud and long when he delivered the first line of the play while pretending to read from a book:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

I heard my laugh hit the silence of the auditorium.  Apparently, I was the only one who got the joke (as a character from Emma read the first line from Pride and Prejudice).  And so I slumped into my chair wishing someone—anyone—shared my sense of humor.

I actually met him a week later after a college worship service.  Someone in the crowd pointed to the guy up front strumming the guitar.  “See that guy,” he said, “You just saw him on stage last week.”

Unbeknownst to me, this young guy who led worship and the drama ministry and acted in productions based on my favorite literature had just prayed a daring prayer two weeks before.

He told God he wasn’t looking for a relationship any more.  He was content to be single until God hit him over the head with a 2 x 4 and told him “Thou shalt marry this girl.”

I met him two weeks after that.

And a week after that, I was the new pianist on his praise team (and he’s still my worship leader even now).

I fell in love with the way he used his gifts and talents for God’s glory.

There was his calmness, too.  I loved my dad, but life with him wasn’t calm; it was loud much of the time and sometimes downright volatile.  This man, though, measured his words with wisdom and careful thoughtfulness.

Add to that his quick and witty humor that kept me giggling endlessly in the corner of the praise team section, and I realized that he was smarter than me and that was okay.

We’ve never been an opposites-attract kind of couple.  We’re probably two of the most alike people who God matched together.

Except for the fact that he only cares about doing what’s right and not whether it pleases anyone else while I’m a people-pleaser.

And the fact that he can rest and take time (perhaps . . . dare I say it . . .procrastinate) and I’m neurotically pushed to do and do and do relentlessly, first, fastest, and rest when you die.

I can’t say when it happened, but at some point I fell in love.

I can’t speak for him and say exactly why he fell in love with me.

Nor can I say exactly why God loves any of us either, surely not my awkward, nervous, uptight, worrying self.

Amazingly, though, this isn’t a “fall in love” kind of love at all.  God doesn’t grow to love any of us over time or awaken one morning and realize how much He cares.

HE LOVES US.

It really is the beginning and the end of our story.

Like the first time I saw my children, I loved them in an instant–loved them even before I saw them actually.  I didn’t slowly grow to appreciate their character or develop feelings for them over time.

In Jeremiah, God declares:

“before I formed you in the womb I knew you”

and David similarly prayed,

“you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13).

God loved you before you squinted your eyes at the first burst of light, screamed, and got cleaned off, bundled up and handed to your mom.

He loves you when you feel loved and when you feel overlooked, when you received a blessing and when you endured a trial.  This love of his doesn’t wax or wane, change or alter or depend on us and what we do or say or feel or think.

We’ve never been good enough, pure enough, beautiful enough, or wise enough to earn it.

But even though we’re unworthy, even when we’ve strayed, even when we’ve felt that seemingly incurable distance from Him or poured out in painful honesty what’s troubling us…

STILL HE LOVES.

He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

And what can we do with this everlasting and unfailing love, so amazing and confusing because it’s far more than we deserve?

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Originally published September 24, 2012

25 Bible Verses about Loyal Love

verses-loyal-love

Loyalty to others

  • Ruth 1:16-17 ESV
     But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
  • 1 Samuel 15:21
    But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.”
  • Proverbs 3:3-4 MSG
    Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty. Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart. Earn a reputation for living well in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.
  • Proverbs 17:17 ESV
    A friend loves at all times,
        and a brother is born for adversity.
  • Proverbs 18:24 ESV
    A man of many companions may come to ruin,
        but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
  • Proverbs 19:22 ESV
    What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
        and a poor man is better than a liar.
  • Proverbs 27:10 ESV
    Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
        and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
    Better is a neighbor who is near
        than a brother who is far away.
  • Micah 6:8 MSG
    But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.
  • Matthew 26:33 ESV
    Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”
  • John 15:13 ESV
    Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV
    Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
  • James 1:12 MSG
    Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

God’s Loyal Love

  • Exodus 20:4-6 MSG
    No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am God, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
  • Exodus 34:6 MSG
    God passed in front of him and called out, “God, God, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
  • Numbers 14:18a MSG
    God, slow to get angry and huge in loyal love,
            forgiving iniquity and rebellion and sin
  • Deuteronomy 5:10 MSG
    But I’m lovingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
  • Deuteronomy 7:9 MSG
    Know this: God, your God, is God indeed, a God you can depend upon. He keeps his covenant of loyal love with those who love him and observe his commandments for a thousand generations.
  • Deuteronomy 7:12-13 MSG
    And this is what will happen: When you, on your part, will obey these directives, keeping and following them, God, on his part, will keep the covenant of loyal love that he made with your ancestors:
    He will love you,
    he will bless you,
    he will increase you.
  • 2 Samuel 22:26-28 MSG
    You stick by people who stick with you,
        you’re straight with people who’re straight with you,
    You’re good to good people,
        you shrewdly work around the bad ones.
    You take the side of the down-and-out,
        but the stuck-up you take down a peg.
  • 2 Chronicles 5:13 MSG
    The choir and trumpets made one voice of praise and thanks to God—orchestra and choir in perfect harmony singing and playing praise to God:
    Yes! God is good!
    His loyal love goes on forever!
  • Psalm 36:5-6 MSG
    God’s love is meteoric,
        his loyalty astronomic,
    His purpose titanic,
        his verdicts oceanic.
    Yet in his largeness
        nothing gets lost;
    Not a man, not a mouse,
        slips through the cracks.
  • Psalm 66:20 MSG
    But he most surely did listen,
        he came on the double when he heard my prayer.
    Blessed be God: he didn’t turn a deaf ear,
        he stayed with me, loyal in his love.
  • Psalm 100:5 MSG
    For God is sheer beauty,
        all-generous in love,
        loyal always and ever.
  • Lamentations 3:22-23 MSG
    God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
        his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
    They’re created new every morning.
        How great your faithfulness!
    I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
        He’s all I’ve got left.
  • Lamentations 3:31-34 MSG
    Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way

12 Bible Verses about God’s Love

verses-about-Gods-love

  • Psalm 86:15 (NIV)
    But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
    slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
  • Psalm 103:8 NIV
    The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
  • Psalm 136:1 NIV
    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
    His love endures forever.
  • Isaiah 30:18
    Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
  • Jeremiah 31:3 NIV
     The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying:
    “I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
  • Zephaniah 3:17
    The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
    He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.
  • John 3:16 NIV
     For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
  • Romans 5:8 NIV
    But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Romans 8:37-39 NASB
    But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • 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.
  • 1 John 4:9-11 NIV
    This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
  • 1 John 4:16 (NLT)
    We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

My perfect future

Psalm 31-15

At least eight of them were going to live in big houses.

One of them wasn’t going to have a big house.  His house was going to be BIG.

They would compete in the Olympics, be world famous surgeons and vets and carpenters, play professional sports, write books, run businesses, and make a lot of money.

They would drive Jeeps or a Ford or a convertible.

They would all marry, have several children (whose names they already knew) and live incredibly happily ever after.

These were the futures my daughter and her fellow fifth graders described during their DARE graduation this week.

We parents in the crowd smiled and laughed and probably some of us cried.  What a wonderful, beautiful, sometimes humorous thing it is to hear eleven-year-olds dream.

My daughter jumped right in there, dreaming with the best of them about education, career, marriage, having kids, and making a difference in the lives of others.

Lovely thoughts, all of them.

But when they read her “My Future” paragraph at the graduation ceremony, I finally succumbed to the tears when I heard her concluding words: “My future is in God’s hands.”

Whatever happens…

Even when the plans don’t turn out the way she hoped or expected….

Even when life gets crazy or even just slightly uncertain…..

“My future is in God’s hands.”

I take this to heart.  Shouldn’t we all?

My eleven-year-old self never planned or expected all that God has done and all that He has planned for me.  My life has twisted itself up into a thing of beauty that I never could have created on my own.

There were seasons I thought God was messing it all up.

He told me ‘no.’

He changed my direction.

He made me wait ‘forever.’

He carried me through valleys of darkness when I couldn’t see the next step right in front of my face.

Maybe now I already know the answers to the questions these kids were asking:  Where would I go to college? What would I study?  Who would I marry?  How many kids would I have?  Where would I live?  What would I do?

Yet, still there’s that constant compulsion to lay the future all out clean, perfect, organized, and bullet-pointed with measurable goals and a five-year-plan of how to make it all happen.

My own daughter’s wisdom brings me back.

Do I need to know all that?

Or do I need to just know this:  ‘My future is in God’s hands’?

I think of Joseph, the perpetual Old-Testament dreamer.

God gave him so much more than a fifth-grade perfect-life wish-list.  God gave him prophetic visions of his parents and brothers bowing down to him in homage and respect.

Then he was trapped in a pit while his brothers plotted to murder him.  He was sold to slave traders and carried off to Egypt.  He was falsely accused and thrown into prison.  He was forgotten and left to rot in the jail while others were freed.

It might have looked like one great big hopeless mess.  How could Joseph ever make those God-given visions work out?

The truth is he couldn’t.

And he didn’t need to.

He just needed to keep living, day after day, moment by moment, obedient to God, trusting that God was in charge of his life story.

Louie Giglio writes in his book The Comeback:

Maybe your dream is to go to school or get a degree or accomplish a certain task or find a certain spouse or start a business or move to a certain place or create a movement or carry the gospel to people who’ve never heard it before. Those may be great dreams, but there’s a bigger dream that overrides everything else: it’s that your life counts for the glory of God.

This is the constant dream we can cling to at all times and in all situations:  May our lives bring glory to God.

Yes, in the prison.

Yes, in slavery.

Yes, even when all the dreams come true.

Ultimately, Joseph told his brothers:

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5 ESV).

Joseph knew nothing happened just for his own benefit, personal comfort or ultimate happiness.

Everything he endured was so God could ‘preserve life.’

His life was tucked into the grander story, the God-story, the story of salvation.

That’s true for us, as well.

We can dream, plan, plot and strategize, but ultimately we return to trust.

We trust that our lives can glorify Him. We trust that He has a grand, God-story for salvation, and we have a place within it.

We trust that our future is in His hands.