Conntecting the Dots

3 Ways to Make Your Life Consistent with God’s Standard

The word align seems to be coming at me in various forms these days particularly as it relates to spiritual matters. It came to me again this morning via Ecclesiastes 7:8a—“Notice the way God does things; then fall into line.”

So what might the Holy Spirit be telling me? Here are my thoughts.

  • As Christ followers, we ought to align our behaviors with His. For example, if we treat others in a matter contrary to the manner in which He treated them—with respect and compassion—then our behaviors are out of line and change needs to happen. We need to realign them to make them consistent with our Master’s teaching and role model.
  • As Christ followers, we ought to align our thoughts with His. Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Thoughts that dwell on what is untrue, critical, impure, and dishonest fall short of God’s standard—they’re misaligned and need an adjustment.
  • As Christ followers, we ought to align our values with His. For instance, He cares for orphans and widows, therefore we ought to do the same (James 1:27). He says we’re to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, therefore we ought to pay our taxes with integrity (Mark 12:17). He says we’re to gather with other believers for fellowship, therefore we ought to be involved with a local body of Christians (Hebrews 10:25).

I find the word align so helpful in evaluating my spiritual well-being. It helps in the physical realm too. For instance, I know what weight I want to maintain for the rest of my life assuming I’ll stay healthy. In order to achieve my goal, I need to align my behaviors with that goal. Anything less destines me for failure.

How does the word align resonate with you? What behaviors or attitudes could use a realignment in your life either to line up with God’s standard or to reach personal goals?

#bgbg2   #ChristianDevotions

How to Have Confidence for Whatever This Week Holds

It’s Monday—the start of a new week. I wonder what it holds for you and me.

Depending on your life season, you might be feeling overwhelmed with graduation festivities, or weddings, or year-end baseball games and dance recitals and the like. Perhaps you’re in the throes of planning a summer vacation or raising funds for a mission trip. Or maybe you’re feeling more than a tad stressed with work demands, caring for a senior parent, or trying to hold a difficult marriage together.

Personally, I’m feverishly writing the first two weeks of a Bible study for a ministry in the USA. When done, I’ll send it to a committee that will either accept it, reject it, or offer suggestions for tweaking it. If the former, I’ll tell you all about it in future blogs!

If you’re beginning your week feeling swamped, you might be tempted to forego your quiet time with the Lord. The enemy will whisper, “You’re so busy with other things right now—you don’t have time to read the Bible or pray.” Guess what will happen if you listen to those whispers? Your stress will only increase. Been there, done that.

I encourage you to keep your quiet time with the Lord as first priority. He’ll honor you for doing so. His presence will be real and sweet, and He’ll bless you with the strength you need.

When my workload stresses me, I respond by filling my mind with God’s Word. Here’s a passage that’s blessing me today. It reminds me that the One who created the universe holds me in His hands. He’s infinite, therefore the supply of all I need for this day is infinite too.

“Listen to me, O family of Jacob, Israel my chosen one! I alone am God, the First and the Last. It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth. The palm of my right hand spread out the heavens above. I spoke, and they came into being” (Isaiah 48:12,13 NLT).

No matter what you face this week, remember this: There’s no need to fear. God, who created the universe and holds it in His hand is the One who holds you. He’s got it covered. All is well.

#bgbg2  #GodIsStrong  #ChristianDevotions

Help! I’m Looking for Peace!

Several years ago, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to get involved with business women in my community. That mere thought scared me. I don’t speak their language. This is way beyond my comfort zone, I argued.

The Holy Spirit continued to prod. I caved and began tiptoeing into the business community by attending their monthly luncheons. Months passed, and then He told me to host a weekend retreat for these gals, most of whom were unbelievers.

“You’re kidding me, right?” I asked.

I stalled for months, waiting for the Spirit to write His marching orders on the wall. Either that or change His mind and give me an easier assignment. My plan failed. The only thing that happened was this—I lost my peace.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, Isaiah 48:17-18 says, “The LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, says, ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling like waves.’”

God is good. He’s also wise. Loving. Holy. Faithful. Sovereign. Omnipotent. He knows everything about us, and He’s developed unique plans—good plans—for each of us. Because of who He is, we can trust Him to fulfill them for our good and His glory.

Sometimes, however, we choose to follow our own path. We doubt His integrity and intent toward us. What happens?

We end up striving to make things happen the way we want, and that never goes well. Ultimately, we lose our peace. I speak from experience.

My daily quiet time became a chore rather than a delight.

I lost the sense of God’s nearness.

I lost my ability to hear His whispers throughout the day.

My peace had taken flight, and I knew why—I was walking in disobedience. The only way to restore peace was to change my direction and walk on the path God had placed before me.

How’s your peace quotient today? Is it flowing like a gentle river through your soul? Or has it dried up like a stream in summer drought? If the latter, ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and show you what needs to change. If He reveals disobedience in your life—an unconfessed sin, a refusal to accept a God-given assignment, unforgiveness toward someone who’s hurt you, a sin of omission—then don’t waste another second.

Change your direction. Listen to what God’s saying, and do it.

#InnerPeace  #ChristianDevotions  #bgbg2

Content Like a Baby

I spent the weekend babysitting the grandkids. How fun! We played board games, enjoyed a movie and popcorn, and engaged in their favorite activities—things like collecting and washing their chickens’ eggs, playing with their 70-pound Great Pyrenes puppy, climbing trees, building a make-believe airplane from a toy lawnmower and a wheelbarrow, and more.

My youngest grandchild will turn two next month. At one point this weekend, Ruthie dragged her blankie across the living room floor and climbed onto my lap. “Do you want to snuggle?” I asked. She nodded. I wrapped her in that blankie and cuddled her, and she smiled. I could feel her body relax in my arms.

Oh, that I’d become more like my granddaughter and learn to rest in the arms of my heavenly Father as she rested in mine.

The Psalmist moved beyond desire to experience. He wrote, “God, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” (Psalm 131:1-2 The Message).

How easy it is to whine when circumstances don’t go as we wish, or when we feel misunderstood and overlooked, or when someone utters an unkind word. But then—if God is who He says He is, and if His promises are true, and if He never fails to fulfill them—why do we worry or assume the worst? Why do we think He needs our assistance to fix a situation that seems all wrong, at least from our perspective? Why prevents us from resting in the love that envelops us?

I suspect it’s because we allow our humanity rather than the Holy Spirit to fill and control our minds. When that happens, contentment flies the coop and we succumb to negative emotions.

Cultivating a quiet heart is a much better option, don’t you think?

Personally, I strive to do this by spending time alone with the Lord daily. I talk with Him about everything throughout my day. When I catch myself complaining about something, I reframe my thoughts by finding something for which to be thankful. I often pray, “Search my heart and show me anything that grieves You. Give me a heart that runs the way of Your commands.” Keeping my heart aligned daily with God’s heart calms me. It helps me nestle, not wrestle.

How grateful I am for my grandchildren. And how thankful I am for the lessons they teach me. Like a baby content, so I want my soul to be content, relaxed, satisfied, and completely comfortable in my Father’s arms.

#bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions  #Contentment

My Sheep Follow Me – What Does This Mean?

A familiar praise chorus acknowledges that Jesus leads us step by step. It also says that we’ll follow Him all of our days. That’s quite a declaration!

The dictionary definition offers several definitions for the word follow:

  • To come or go after
  • To take as a model; imitate
  • Obey
  • To watch or to listen to closely

All of the above fit the context of that familiar chorus. They also fit the context of John 10:27 – “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

So, to follow Jesus as our Shepherd means that we go after Him. We pursue Him even though we’d rather run ahead when He walks too slow for our liking. We persevere when the path’s steep and we’d rather sit down and stay put.

To follow Jesus means we imitate Him. We love and serve others as He did. We spend alone time with God because He did. We focus our eyes on heaven rather than on earthly matters because that’s what He did.

To follow Jesus means we obey Him. We accept by faith that He always has our best interest at heart, and so we do what He says because we trust and love Him.

To follow Jesus means we watch His behavior, His response to people, and His relationship with the Father. We also listen closely to His voice. We expect Him to interact with us, to engage with us in our day-to-day lives. We expect Him to talk with us, and so we listen for His voice. And because we know Him, we can recognize it when He speaks.

Following Jesus wholeheartedly requires courage because doing so makes us a target for Satan. If he considers us a threat (that’s a good thing), he’ll do whatever he can to discourage or destroy us. It often results in our being misunderstood or criticized. It sometimes means walking a path that leads to a place we’d never choose to go on our own.

Thankfully, following Jesus means we’re never on our own. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. He’s with us at all times and in all places, and His presence brings both peace and empowerment.

Why, oh why, would we ever choose to follow anyone or anything other than Jesus?

#bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions

I Love You T-h-i-s Much

One of the ways in which I express love for my grandkids is this – I extend my arms wide open and then I say, “I love you t-h-i-s much!” At the very least, the little ones grin. Often they repeat my words and actions, and then they give me a big hug. So precious.

I want my grandbabies to know beyond a doubt that I’m crazy-in-love with them. It thrills me to know that our heavenly Father desires to communicate the same message to us, His kids. One of His methods of doing so is through His written Word.

Take a few moments to read and ponder His love for you as expressed in Ephesians 1:4-9:

“Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”

Imagine—God loved and chose you as His child before He even created the world. His plan from before time began was to adopt you into His family. This gave Him great pleasure. But wait—there’s more! He poured His kindness on you through Jesus Christ, His dearly beloved Son.

How much does our heavenly Father love us? Enough to show us what He’s like by sending Jesus from heaven to earth in human form. Enough to make Jesus—the innocent One—pay the death penalty we deserve for our sin. Enough to turn His face from Jesus as He hung on the cross for our sake.

God, in human form, wants us to know He’s crazy-in-love with us. So He stretched His arms wide and allowed soldiers to pound nails through His hands into a roughly hewn cross. “I love you t-h-i-s much,” His actions declared.

May we respond with gratitude. May we respond with joyful obedience to His commands. And may we respond with a determination to trust Him in all things even when we don’t understand.

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions

God’s Got the Details

This week’s been a game of “Good News, Bad News.” It began last Friday after Gene and I drove more than 12 hours to attend a family reunion in southern Alberta.

Good news: Our eldest daughter and her husband—from Washington state—were able to join us.

Bad news: Our youngest daughter and her husband, and our son Matthew and his family were not able to come (or so I thought).

Good news: Matthew, Cheryl and kids arrived at the reunion late Friday night. They’d known for two weeks that they would come, but they kept it a surprise from nearly everyone, me included. How fun to see them again!

Bad news: All good things must come to an end. They began their long journey back to Vancouver Island on Sunday morning. Gene and I stayed in Alberta for one more day because we had to train two women who plan to volunteer at one of International Messenger’s Romanian ministries in July.

Good news: Gene and I enjoyed yet another scenic drive through the Rocky Mountains on Monday.

Bad news: Matthew and family did not. Their van engine blew, leaving them—six kids, a pregnant mommy, and a 31’ Airstream—stranded on the highway.

Good news: A kind family lived a few feet from the breakdown. This family—complete with kids, kittens, and a backyard that resembled a play park—welcomed our kids and grandkids and gave them a place to stay while Matt called a tow truck and made hotel reservations.

Bad news: The fix-it shop said the van needed a new engine. Ching-ching.

Good news: Because Gene and I had remained in Alberta for an additional night, we were behind Matt on the trip home. Several hours and a few hundred miles after learning of their plight, we arrived at the kind family’s house to help shuttle people to the hotel.

Bad news: One of our tires went flat minutes after we arrived, thanks to an embedded nail. We’ve driven this car for nine years without experiencing a flat tire. How’s that for timing?

Good news: Our car was parked in a yard where we could unload its contents to dig out the spare tire—how convenient. Imagine doing this on the highway shoulder.

Bad news: The tire fix-it shop said it would cost $300 for repairs because, by now, it was after shop hours. My husband said, “No, thanks.” He suggested that we drive home (another five hours) on the skinny spare. This would mean traveling through the mountains at night without reliable cell coverage should we run into problems. I said, “No, thanks.”

Good news: Our eldest daughter had been following the adventure by text. She booked and paid for a hotel room for us.

Bad news: Wait a minute, there’s no bad news for this one. We had a comfortable bed in which to sleep when we finally got there. What more could we want?

Good news: The next morning dawned sunny and warm. The hotel offered an amazing complimentary breakfast, and Gene was able to get our tire fixed for only $30. The overnight delay gave us unexpected time with Matt and Cheryl and their kids—even a half hour in the hotel swimming pool.

Bad news: Matt’s van would not be ready for several days. What to do? Sit in a hotel room for several days? Rent a van?

Good news: A rental van was available.

Bad news: It was a seven-passenger van rather than eight, as needed.

Good news: Gene is a master packer. He rearranged all the stuff in our car to make room for one grandchild. The seven-year-old entertained us with stories of how technology has changed the world, his ambition of becoming Spiderman, the need to respect nature, and more. Life from a child’s perspective—so precious!

Bad news: Our car’s air conditioning is broken, and the ride was stinkin’ hot. (Not gonna complain about this, though, because the enjoyable conversation made the miles fly by).

Good news: We all arrived safe and sound in the lower BC mainland by 9ish Tuesday night.

Bad news: The drop fee for leaving the rental van there was a whopping $700.

Good news: Gene and I were able to return the van on Wednesday thus avoiding the drop fee. Two hours into the trip, I was even able to pull into a restaurant parking lot, connect my laptop to the internet, and participate in my weekly Wednesday morning Bible study.

Bad news: Another ten hours on the road, the last half without air conditioning.

Good news: McDonald’s is offering soft drinks of all sizes for only $1. And McDonald’s restaurants are located every hour along this route.

Bad news: I know, I know, diet soft drinks aren’t healthy.

Good news: We arrived home safe and sound—and in time for me to lead my weekly Wednesday evening Bible study. And there’s more: We spent nearly forty hours driving in the past week. Sometimes those roads are treacherous, but now they were clear. We experienced the joy of reconnecting with extended family members, the generosity of others who paid for our hotel room, and the kindness of strangers who welcomed our kids and grandkids into their home. We saw God’s presence and protection in every detail. We stand amazed at His goodness, hearts overflowing with gratitude.

Why, oh why, do we sometimes worry and fear? More and more, when circumstances deviate from the path I’d choose, I find consolation in three little words: “God’s got this.”

It’s true—either He does, or He doesn’t. He’s in control of every detail of our lives, or He’s not.

Perhaps you have a Good News, Bad News story of your own. Feel free to share it with me and other readers. Encourage us today!

Connecting the Dots Between Faith and Real Life

I grew up in a family of faith. I attended Sunday school, Pioneer Girls, youth group and church summer camp. I even graduated from Bible college. You’d think those years of learning Bible verses and stories and attending prayer meetings would have trained me to trust God no matter what and to live a life of instant and complete obedience. Unfortunately, my “Sunday school theology” hasn’t always passed faith tests with flying colors.

Neither did Martha’s (John 11:26,27,39). She notified Jesus when her brother, Lazarus, was deathly ill. “Come quick, please! We need Your help!” Sadly, Lazarus died and was buried in a tomb before Jesus responded.

When Jesus finally arrives, He says to grief-stricken Martha, “Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

“Yes, Lord,” she says. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” There’s her Sunday school theology. Yes, I believe.

 

Then comes the test. “Roll the stone away,” says Jesus.

Martha’s Sunday school theology fails her: “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible!”

Dear, dear Martha. Gotta love that woman’s humanity. Yes, I believe You’re the Messiah, but…

 

That scene was an emotional one for Jesus. Scripture says He felt anger, He was deeply troubled, He wept, and He felt angry again (vv. 33, 35, 38). My hunch is that Martha and her friends’ unbelief triggered those emotions. Why, after knowing Jesus as a good friend and witnessing His power in so many ways, were Martha and the others not able to connect the dots between their beliefs and real life?

I don’t want to be too harsh on Martha because I’ve done the same thing. Currently I’m writing the proposal for a 12-week Bible study. I believe this is a God-given assignment, but the fear of inadequacy rears its head daily. Yes, I believe He’s God Almighty for whom nothing is impossible, but the work is daunting. What if I fail?

There’s no biblical basis for such logic. It stems from my own fears and insecurities, and it must grieve my Lord deeply to see the disconnect between faith and real life. If He’s called me to do this work, then failure isn’t on His radar. Why, then, do I doubt and fear?

How about you? What do you believe to be true about God? How has your faith impacted your life when He’s asked you to do something beyond your own ability? Take a few minutes to answer these questions. Feel free to share from your heart. I’d love to hear from fellow so-journers.

#bgbg2 #RealLifeFaith #SundaySchoolTheology #ChristianDevotions

3 Reminders As We Wait to To See Hopes Fulfilled

For what are you hoping today? 

I’ve spoken at numerous women’s retreats and conferences across western Canada this spring. Judging from private conversations at these events, it seems many women struggle with difficult family relationships and hope for restoration.

Some wrestle with medical issues and hope for renewed health. Others live in difficult marriages and hope for a breakthrough. Some grieve their prodigal kids and hope they’ll soon return to both home and faith in God.

Personally, I’m hoping for several things during this season. Here are a few examples:

  • For the complete restoration of a difficult relationship.
  • For my latest book proposal to garner a contract.
  • For the healing of a nasty shoulder issue that’s suddenly resurfaced after 17 years.
  • For God to supply a successor for my husband’s ministry role—not that he plans to abandon his post anytime soon, but training someone will take time.

Sometimes we see our hopes fulfilled in breakneck speed. But more often than not, they take much longer than we expect. Waiting can be tough, so we might be tempted to speed things up. You know—lend God a hand.

Remember Sarai? She hoped to see the fulfillment of God’s promise to make Abram the father of many nations, so she involved Hagar in the process (Genesis 16). Unfortunately, manipulation never goes well.

As we wait to see our hopes fulfilled, let’s remember these things:

  • God is very aware of the hopes we embrace, and He understands the pain we feel in the wait. When angst threatens to squelch hope, remember that the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
  • God’s timing is not our timing. Sarai waited more than two decades before she saw His promise fulfilled. Some people don’t see His promises fulfilled in their lifetime. This doesn’t mean He’s not doing His job. It just means He’s working in ways we can’t see or understand (Isaiah 55:8)
  • God’s love for us is so vast that we can trust Him in the wait. His intentions toward us are fully good. He will fulfill His promises because He loves us and because He cannot lie (Psalm 147:11).

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions #Hope

What’s the Litmus Test of our Love for God?

You’ve probably heard the phrase Talk is cheap. We can make as many plans and promises as we wish, but our words mean little unless we back them up with appropriate action.

What does this look like in everyday life? Here are a few examples:

  • An adult child who lives in the same community as his parents promises to help with spring yardwork, but he fails to follow through.
  • A parent promises to take his family on a special outing, but other things take priority and that outing never happens.
  • We say we want to get physically fit, but we don’t make necessary changes in our eating or exercise habits.
  • We say we want to save money for a rainy day or retirement, but we spend any extra funds on stuff we want but don’t need.
  • A husband says he loves his wife, but he never has time for a meaningful conversation.

Talk is cheap in the spiritual realm too. When we profess to love the Lord, we need to ensure our actions back up our words. This means more than tithing and attending church regularly. It means obeying God in both the big and the little things.

Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15). That means we put off attitudes such as envy, jealousy, self-centeredness, and pride. We put on humility, compassion, generosity, and love. We forgive when we feel more like taking revenge. We express gratitude when we feel as though life’s unfair. We say yes to whatever task God assigns us even though the mere thought of it makes our knees knock.

The litmus test of our love for God is obedience. We don’t just say we love Him; we do what He says.

God blesses us when we align our actions with our words. “Those who obey God’s commandments live in fellowship with him, and he with them,” says 1 John 3:24. Imagine the ramifications of living in fellowship with God as opposed to being afraid of Him or trying to hide from Him. Living in fellowship with Him means we experience peace, joy, assurance of His presence, and access to His unhindered power.

So, what do you think? Does obedience to God in all things really matter?

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions #LovingGod