His faithful love endures forever

Someone asked me this weekend if I could find the word ‘unconditional’ in the Bible. As in, God’s love is unconditional. Salvation is unconditional. Mercy and grace are unconditional. Of course I can find it! It’s everywhere, I said. And then I went to my Bible and tried to find it.

…Looking, looking. (You may begin humming the tune from Jeopardy as I search.)

Well, so it’s not everywhere. Actually, I couldn’t find the word ‘unconditional’ anywhere. But that’s okay. The Bible doesn’t have the word ‘trinity’ in it, either. Or ‘rapture.’ But that doesn’t make those concepts any less true or relevant. God’s unconditional love is defined and demonstrated through the lives of people in Scripture:

Abraham, who tried to rush God’s covenant blessing with Hagar.

Sarah, who laughed in disbelief when she heard the covenant blessing.

Jacob, who lied about his identity and essentially stole the birthright from his older brother.

David and Bathsheba, who committed adultery and then tried to cover it up with murder.

God’s love and blessing stayed with these people (with me!) in spite of bad decisions and faithlessness. Jesus’ life and death is proof of unconditional love, and these examples speak to my heart when I fear I’ve messed up so badly He must turn His face in shame. In 1 Chronicles 16, King David teaches the priests and the people to sing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Remembering this truth also gives me strength to keep going when I’m so tired I can only imagine falling face-first in the dirt and passing out for days.

His faithful love endures forever.

When I remember all He has done for me and the power that lives inside me, I feel compelled to get up out of the dirt and take another step. Praying for direction with each footfall, I take another step. And without realizing it, His faithful love has guided me through the fear and doubt. I rest safely on the other side, encouraging others with the truth. His faithful love endures forever.

What does His faithfulness help you accomplish?

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with my spirit

I love words. Originations, definitions, variations. Little wonder I’m a writer, because I could spend hours lost in the depths of a good dictionary. The older the dictionary, the better, and a concordance… Well, I think I might have died and gone to heaven when I get my hands on a good concordance and a few hours to spare.

The word I find myself interested in lately is ‘grace.’ We use it so easily sometimes, but do we really understand what it means? What the Bible says about it? It’s a powerful foundation for our belief, and it carries incredible freedom when we grasp it.

My Bible (Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation Second Edition, copyright 2007) says grace is God’s free and unmerited favor toward sinful humanity. Did you get that? Free and unmerited. From the creator of the universe. We can’t earn it. We can’t deserve it. We can’t stop it.

As if that’s not heavy enough, it points me toward the word ‘favor.’ “Gracious kindness, approval from a superior, a special privilege or right granted or conceded.” Another definition says, “to show partiality toward.”

God shows gracious kindness, approval, and partiality toward you and you can’t earn it, deserve it, or stop it. Take a minute to let that soak in. How does it feel?

I’m completely humbled.

The reason I’m so interested in grace right now is that I feel like I’ve ignored it. I’ve trivialized it and made it something I can earn with well-behaved children or a clean home. Healthy dinners, folded laundry, bills paid on time, good books, and a solid marketing plan for those books will surely make me good enough. If I can just fit all that in, plus Bible reading and daily prayer (and don’t forget pleasing everyone in sight while I’m at it), no one can find fault with me. I’ll be a good Christian, worthy of God’s favor.

But that’s ridiculous. I know the Bible says I can’t earn His favor. It’s a gift. Today’s truth, taken from Philippians 4:23, is to simply rest in that gift. To begin believing that God bestows His grace on me and I can accept it and relax in it.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with my spirit.

May it be with your spirit, and may we take a few minutes today to recognize its significance and simply accept it as we would a beautiful bouquet from a loved one. This is the best smelling flower we could ever receive.

What is your challenge in accepting God’s grace?

With His love, He will calm all my fears

I read a very sad, insightful article from forbes.com today. Written in 2006, it states that the average child at the time of writing had the same level of anxiety as a psychiatric patient in the 1950s. Call me crazy (pun-ish intended), but I think that’s way too much fear! The article says one reason we are in the “Age of Anxiety” is the disconnect with society. Fewer people are involved with churches, synagogues, other religious groups, and local institutions like the PTA. And rest assured, if you have one phobia, it says, you likely suffer others. That was six years ago, and we’ve only become less engaged with the rise of online conveniences. Facebook, anyone? Twitter? Flickr, Tumbler, LinkedIn, MySpace?

Is anyone else appalled by this “Age of Anxiety?” I don’t want to live in fear, and I surely don’t want my children to have as much anxiety as an adult admitted to the psych ward in 1950. Where is our security? Our Savior? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could plug in like The Matrix and get a download of truth? If that download “stuck” and changed us from the inside out in one sitting?

Lots of questions, and I have only one answer.

With His love, He will calm all my fears.

Zephaniah 3:17 is just the download I need. “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

There is so much the enemy of our souls would have us fear. Everything from the outdoors and heights to spiders and death. Life itself is something to fear.

Or is it something to embrace, knowing that the Lord our God lives among us and calms all our fears?

What is your biggest fear?

I will be kind

Mornings are not my best times, but they’re hard to avoid with two small children. Children who are A.W.A.K.E. before 7am. Children who jump and scream and turn on all the water faucets as soon as their eyes open. Children who want to eat immediately. Mornings – in the best of circumstances – make me grumpy.

Today’s confession is probably a repeat, but I find it necessary in some cases. Mornings being one of them.

I will be kind.

Lots of people know the part of scripture that says, “Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude” (1 Corinthians 13:4). And a lot of people correctly substitute Jesus’ name in place of the word ‘love.’ Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. But how often do we associate these words with our own actions?

Today, when my littles spray water on the dog and on each other, when they refuse to eat what I’ve prepared for them (what they’ve ASKED for), and when they run from me with something I desperately need, I will say today’s confession in my head. Then I will say it out loud. I will be kind because love is kind, because Jesus is kind, and because it’s good for my spirit. And after I say it out loud, I will chase my littles down and…

I will hug them.

What will you do today?

God’s thoughts toward me are kind

When I was younger, my mind seemed much more organized. I could multi-task fairly well and hold a thought for longer than thirty seconds. That all changed when I had children.

After each of my littles was born, it felt like my mind was caught in the dangerous edges of a cyclone. Whipping, spinning, wild and unruly. I couldn’t grasp the simplest thing. If someone asked me what I was thinking, I was just as likely to tell them I couldn’t remember as to offer some pitiful thread of consciousness. I’m so thankful God brought me out of that. And I’m thankful for today’s confession because it illustrates the greatness of this God who loves us and calls us to Himself.

God’s thoughts toward me are kind.

Psalm 40:5 tells us that His works are wonderful. In the next sentence, we learn that His thoughts toward us are too many to be numbered. Doesn’t it follow, then, that His many thoughts toward us are wonderful? Doesn’t it also make sense that He would send His Son to die for us only if His thoughts toward us are kind?

I’ve been thinking the last few days about Valentine’s day and what it means to me, a very silly, romantic-type girl who is married to a very logical, un-romantic-type man. In a nutshell, it means I can plan my own gift if I want one and he doesn’t even realize February 14th is marked in red and pink. But God is the ultimate love. He is patient, forgiving, and just. His gifts and His call can never be removed. His love is everlasting. And His thoughts toward me are kind.

Will you include God, the ultimate love, in your Valentine’s day plans?

God’s love for me is everlasting

I spent most of my Valentine’s days alone before I met my husband (and I didn’t marry the most romantic man), so it’s not my favorite holiday. I always longed to get a note or a flower or a special smile that let me know I was in someone’s thoughts. I didn’t really consider the One who made Valentine’s day. After all, we love because He first loved us.

So I turn to the ultimate love note and find promises that take my breath away. Like Jeremiah 31:3. “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

Well, that just gives me warm tingles. Everlasting is a cool word, I think. It reminds me of fairy tales, strong music, and timelessness. When I pair it with God’s love for me, ‘cool’ just doesn’t describe it.

How do I consider everlasting? Timeless is a good way. Strong. Or I could use the No Matter What principle. Here’s how it goes:

The person I love most just said I’m ugly, incompetent, and a waste of their time. God loves me no matter what.

I say some very mean thing to someone who had a rotten day, effectively destroying their spirit. God loves me no matter what.

I kick a puppy across the street. God loves me no matter what.

I allow myself to be used, abused, turned inside out, stomped on, branded, and snuffed out. God loves me. No. Matter. What. Unconditional. Forever. Eternity. Without end. That’s the No Matter What principle, and that’s everlasting.

God’s love for me is everlasting.

In Isaiah 54:8, God says that with everlasting love, He has compassion on us. We can’t stop or change His love for us, and no one can take us away from Him once we’ve made the decision.

Everlasting, people. Confess the truth with me today and every time you feel alone or invisible. God’s love for me is everlasting. Write that on a frilly heart and stick it to your computer monitor!

What do you love or hate about Valentine’s Day?

If God is for me, who can be against me?

I love Chris Tomlin’s song, Our God. It reminds me of the power of the Almighty God, of His miracles, of His love. “Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind. There’s no one like you, none like you. Into the darkness you shine, out of the ashes we rise. There’s no one like you, none like you.”

And the chorus is straight from Romans 8:31: “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?”

What power we have in a relationship with God! If He is for us – and we know He is because He sent His Son to die for us – what in the world could stop us? Have you given that thought lately? It’s the confession I’m running with into the weekend. I’m taping it to my bathroom mirror, the window above my kitchen sink, and my car dashboard.

If God is for me, who can be against me?

He is good and kind and generous. He is power and grace and love. God is FOR me. Who could stand against that? My prayer is that we realize the enormous strength and love that formed a universe from nothingness, and that we allow it to empower us in His love. Be blessed with that this weekend, dear readers.

Do you believe God is for you? What stands against you?

God showers me in kindness

The birth of a Savior is an incredible thing, isn’t it? Freedom, grace, mercy, and the chance at eternal life in Paradise is the kindest gift we can ever imagine. With Jesus, “He has showered his kindness on us” (Ephesians 1:8). But as usual, He didn’t stop there. Even with the pressures of life beating us down, we can speak today’s confession with certainty.

God showers me in kindness.

Sometimes God’s kindness is so intense that we’re forced in our humanness to ask Him to ease up. I think of the incredible generosity shown in the TV series Extreme Makeover Home Edition and I know those gifts ultimately come from God. Sure, Ty Pennington seems to be in charge of everything, but every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). Ty and his crew are simply the go-betweens.

I’m also reminded of the story of a man imprisoned and severely beaten. I don’t remember his crime, but as he lay in his cell, broken, bleeding, and praying, God showered His love and kindness on the man. It was so intense that the man had to beg God to stop. In his finite body, God’s infinite love became too much to bear.

It’s rare to experience this intensity. And what I’ve seen is that to know this level of love is to also know the opposite. Overwhelming pain, loneliness, and brokenness make us believe God is not there, His love is not ours, and He is far away and uncaring. Then, just when life is darkest, God’s light shines brightest. We are raised from the dead, healed of our afflictions, opened to supernatural things, and we become the go-betweens. He uses us to shower His love and kindness on others, which is still another kindness!

Have you had a real-life experience of God’s kindness? I’d love to hear it!

Christ’s love controls me

I choke and my fingers stumble a bit as I type that heading. Christ’s love controls me. It’s a convicting confession.

The truth is that I don’t always act as though the love of Jesus Christ controls me. I have a slightly sarcastic streak – something the apostle Paul and I might share. After all, he did apologize to the Corinthian church for not costing them financially (2 Corinthians 12:13). I’ve been known to spout off to certain internet providers for their unnaturally slow connection, lack of customer service, and outrageously high prices. Oh, that I had the power to completely overhaul huge corporations with a single snap of my fingers!

Er… Sorry. Got off track there.

Have you ever said something that made you cringe to remember it? I have. It shames me to admit that those things are often said to my family. We do hurt the ones we love. Thank Jesus for His and their forgiving natures.

Today, instead of getting angry and emotionally wrought over my littlest little’s ear-piercing screams or my biggest little’s selective hearing loss, I will remember that Christ’s love controls me, as 2 Corinthians 5:14 says. Instead of threatening to bury an entire technology department in poison pen letters, I will remember that Jesus Christ lives in me and His love controls me. Instead of considering insulting (albeit clever and humorous) comments to hurl at someone, I will remember…

Christ’s love controls me.

Say it with me. Even in the heat of the moment, those words have a way of defusing the situation. The best part is that as you act on this confession, others will notice it. They’ll wonder what’s gotten into you. And you’ll have the perfect opportunity to tell them.

How does Christ’s love change you? I really want to know!

God answers my prayer

Yesterday’s confession was that God hears my voice. Knowing that truth begins to ease my feelings of hopelessness and isolation. Today’s confession takes another step.

It’s a wonderful thing to be heard, isn’t it? To be understood. To be loved so much that someone takes the time to listen and validate me. Warm fuzzies abound. But does it stop there? We’re heard, and then we go on about our business with no outward change? My warm fuzzies are cooling and going flat.

The God of the universe is abundant in love and grace and mercy. He never ‘stops there.’ Psalm 65:5 says, “You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior.”

God answers my prayer.

But not only does He answer it, he does so faithfully and with awesome deeds. Who am I that God should hear me? Who am I that He should answer me? And who am I that He should show me faithful and awesome things?

I am His beloved, His creation. Begin your day with the knowledge that you are God’s beloved and His creation. He longs to hear your voice and faithfully answer you with awesome deeds.

What awesome things has He done in your life? I’d love to hear them!