Conntecting the Dots

Jesus — Mighty God

“These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Life being what it is, we sometimes face problems that appear insurmountable. We deal with circumstances that seem utterly impossible.

Perhaps Mary viewed her situation through that lens when the angel Gabriel said she would become pregnant. Naturally, she questioned how that could be possible while she was still a virgin.

Gabriel explained that the power of the Most High would overshadow her and she would conceive the Son of God. Furthermore, Mary’s relative Elizabeth, barren and beyond child-bearing age, was six months pregnant. “For nothing is impossible with God,” he said. (Luke 1:31-37)

Nothing is impossible with God, mighty God—the One who spoke the universe into being. The One who parted the Red Sea so His people could walk through on dry land. The One who became flesh and walked among us on earth.

Mighty God in human form turned water into wine, gave sight to the blind, healed the lepers, and fed the masses with a few loaves and fish. He walked on the waves and calmed the storm at sea. He performed miracles of every sort and then topped them all when He rose from the grave.

Nothing was impossible with God then, and the same holds true today.

We might view our circumstances as impossible. We’ve prayed and prayed and prayed for a wayward child to return. We’ve fought for our marriage, and we’ve done everything we know to make our finances stretch. We’ve waited for a miracle and wondered why God doesn’t operate according to our timetable.

Our problems might seem insurmountable, but focusing on them in that light will only cause discouragement. The more impossible our circumstances, the greater our opportunity to experience Mighty God’s presence and power.

How have you seen Mighty God do something that seemed impossible by human standards?

#MightyGod  #Advent  #ChristmasMeditations

4 Meditations on the Names of Jesus – Week 1

The Christmas season is upon us full bore. Even the international airlines featured Hallmark-type Christmas movies on our flight from England to the USA yesterday. I’ll admit it—I enjoy wrapping myself in a warm blanket and watching these movies for fun on cold winter nights as Christmas approaches. I also enjoy wrapping gifts, baking cookies for my neighbors, inviting friends over for board games and hot chocolate, and the anticipation of getting together with my kids and grands.

During quiet moments, I enjoy meditating on the names of Jesus.“These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”(Isaiah 9:6). With four names listed and four weeks until Christmas, I thought it would be nice to share a thought about one name per week. How does that sound?

So, for starters, let’s talk about “Wonderful Counselor.” Those two words immediately reassure us that no problem we face is too great for God. He understands every detail involved including those unseen and unknown to us. We might feel confused and clueless, but He knows the best solution and how to achieve it. He also knows not to rush toward quick fixes but to work according to the best timing.

As our Wonderful Counselor, Jesus is accessible at all times. We never need set an appointment to talk with Him. We never need worry that He’ll judge us for sharing our most troubling secrets. We never need fear that He’ll view us as hopeless cases for He instills hope within us.

Our Wonderful Counselor is wisdom personified, and He is more than willing to share that wisdom with us. (James 1:5) He’s also kind and tender. And He always speaks the truth to us for our good even though we might not want to hear it.

The Wonderful Counselor has come to give us wisdom, guidance, and hope. With Him as our Counselor, no problem is unsolvable or insurmountable. Close your eyes for a few moments and ponder the beauty of this gift.

Please—go ahead and tell us what “Wonderful Counselor” means to you.

#WonderfulCounselor  #Advent  #ChristmasMeditations

Help From Heaven

Bald eagles fascinate me. They’re the picture of strength and majesty, rising on the wind and circling overhead with their wings outspread.

When we lived on Quadra Island, I saw bald eagles on a routine basis. One made its home in a snag near the ferry landing. I recall sitting in the ferry lineup and watching it soar and hearing its familiar cry. Its strength and beauty captivated me.

I’m no longer living on Quadra, but I still enjoy the privilege of seeing bald eagles in my city. Two live in a tall tree several hundred meters from my boat-home. Every so often I see them diving for their dinner in the river. The sight causes me to stop whatever I’m doing and watch them.

Deuteronomy 33:26-27 says– “There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you.” I read these words and immediately think of the bald eagle soaring, circling, and diving. And then I visualize God—soaring like that eagle across the heavens to rescue me when I call on Him for help.

Can you picture that with me? Imagine! God rides across the heavens to help us. He rushes across the skies in majestic splendor to rescue us. He sees us from afar, and He rides the wind to save us. He swoops underneath us and catches us on His wings to save us from a freefall.

Do you need His help today? Call on Him, and thank Him in advance for answering you. Here’s what you can say: “Father, I praise You because there is no other God like You. You ride across the heavens to help me. You soar across the skies in majestic splendor. You are my refuge. Your everlasting arms are underneath me.  I will trust in You and not be afraid. Thank You, God. Thank You.”

I’ve told you how these Scripture verses conjure images of the bald eagle for me. What visual image do these verses bring to your mind?

#bgbg2  #Eagles  #GodHelpsUs

The Best Thoughts to Think at Night

On what thoughts do you dwell when you’re in bed and either falling asleep or unable to sleep?

Some folks might say they plan the next day’s to-do list. Others might contemplate tough stuff they’re experiencing—a difficult relationship, the pain of betrayal, troublesome money matters, or a recent loss.

Some might ponder more positive happenings—an upcoming vacation, the expected birth of a child or grandchild, recent answers to prayer, or the bliss of a life blessed by peace on every side.

When I wake at night, I most often turn my thoughts to the wonder of God’s presence with me, and I thank Him for His care and love. Then I pray for those whose faith is being tested at that time.

I like what the psalmist did. He wrote, “I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord…” (Psalm 119:55). My hunch is that those reflections focused a lot on God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. Perhaps they also focused on His sovereignty, wisdom, and power. The result? Obedience. “…Therefore, I obey your instructions.”

The more we meditate on who God is (based on the truth of His word, not on human misperceptions), the more courage and confidence we gain to walk in obedience. As we come to understand His love for us, we realize He’s fully trustworthy. As we understand His wisdom, we learn to rest in His plans for us. As we understand His power and sovereignty, we gain courage to say yes even when we don’t know the details.

Perhaps your nighttime thoughts wander down the path of worry or fear. Maybe they take you to painful memories. Perhaps they lead you to a place of despair. If so, choose to refuse to linger there. Instead, do as the psalmist did—reflect on the character of God and allow the truth to transform you.

Question: Where does your mind typically go during the night? If it goes to worry or fear, what’s one truth about God that can replace that thought?

Here’s a song to get you started.

#bgbg2   #NighttimeThoughts  #GodLovesYou

When Plans Change

I’m preparing to leave for the Middle East on Sunday morning. Last week I thought I was doing great in regards to wiping my to-do list clean so I could focus on long-term writing projects in the days prior to departure. Then came a writing assignment with a due date immediately after our return.

Writing this assignment while I’m overseas isn’t feasible, so I need to get ‘er done this week. Doing so means tossing my best-laid plans for the long-term project out the window.

I’ll bet similar things have happened to you.

Maybe you and your hubby made plans for a weekend getaway, but then the kids caught the flu. So much for romance.

Perhaps you made plans for your retirement, but then your health or financial situation changed. So much for hobbies and travels.

Maybe you made plans for spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with your family, but someone’s schedule or circumstances changed and you weren’t able to get together after all. So much for precious moments with your loved ones.

Stuff happens and our best-laid plans change in a heartbeat. We can respond in one of two ways: annoyance or acceptance.

Annoyance isn’t pretty. Been there, done that. Fretting and stewing over the change in our plans only makes us feel ripped off. Like our needs don’t matter. Like we don’t matter. We listen to the negative voices in our head and before long we’re angry at other people or feeling sorry for ourselves.

Acceptance works much better. We acknowledge our disappointment without getting stuck in it, and then we move forward with Plan B. This requires flexibility on our part, but that’s a great quality to develop.

I’ve found Proverbs 16:9 helpful to remember whenever my plans change. It says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” This verse reminds me that ultimately God is in control of every detail of my life. If I’ve invited Him to be the Lord over every part of me, then He has the right to steer me in the direction He wants to accomplish His purposes in and through me.

I’ll spend the next two days working on my new assignment. And I’ll do it with joy knowing that God has directed my steps down this path. If He wants me to invest my time on this assignment rather than on the long-term project in my head, who am I to argue?

How about you? Share an example of when your best-laid plans changed.  How does Proverbs 16:9 put a positive spin on your perspective?

Bgbg#2  #WhenPlansChange  #GodIsSovereign

3 Truths About Life’s Hard Places

Genesis 28 tells the story of Jacob traveling to his uncle Laban’s home. This wasn’t a fun excursion. He was on the run from his twin brother who wanted to kill him for stealing his blessing. (Genesis 27:41-45)

One night Jacob set up camp and found—get this—a stone—yes, a stone—for a pillow. Can you imagine trying to sleep on a rock? I can’t. This was hardly a comfy, cozy bed. The guy must have been desperate or completely exhausted to fall into a deep sleep under those circumstances.

As Jacob slept, he dreamt of a stairway that reached from earth to heaven. He saw the angels of God going up and down, and the LORD stood at the top and spoke reassuringly to him. (Genesis 28:13-15) When he woke, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it” (Genesis 28:16).

This account is only a few verses long, but it packs important truths for us to apply to our lives today. Here are three:

  • God knows where we are at all times. We might end up camped in a hard, unfamiliar, uncomfortable place and we might feel all alone there, but He is with us in that place. Just as He did not abandon Jacob, so He will never leave or forsake us. (Joshua 1:9)
  • God reveals Himself to us in the hard places. “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father, Isaac,” He declared to Jacob in a dream. (Genesis 28:13) He wants to reveal Himself to us, too. For reasons known only to Him, the hard places of life are often where we experience those revelations best. Let’s reframe the way we regard those places, then—not as places to avoid at all cost, but as places to enter with courage and expectancy knowing God wants to deepen our friendship with Him there.
  • God’s presence can go unnoticed. Sad but true. When we’re in the midst of a hard place, we might become focused on our loneliness or pain and completely forget that God is still actively engaged in our lives. When that’s the case, we become vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks and lose hope. We need to ask Him to keep us ever mindful of His presence.

Jacob made another statement that captures my attention. He said, “What an awesome place this is!” (Genesis 28:17)

My human nature wants to respond, “Seriously? A hard place is an awesome place?” But then I think about the amazing God-encounter Jacob experienced that night, and I have to agree with him. If life’s hard places mean experiencing God, then they are awesome indeed.

How have you found a hard place to be a place of personal growth and intimacy with God?

#LifesHardPlaces  #devotions  #GodRevealsHimself  #bgbg2

3 Ways to Influence Your Destiny

Where we fix our focus determines our destiny. Letting our eyes linger on an object, person, or goal that doesn’t meet God’s approval will land us in trouble. Case in point – Oholibah.

You might wonder, Who in the world is Oholibah? Truth be told, I hadn’t a clue who she was until I studied the book of Ezekiel for writing my “First 5” Bible study assignments (Proverbs 31 Ministries). I discovered that she’s an allegorical adulteress. That’s a mouthful, eh?

Ezekiel 23:14-17 tells of Oholibah gazing at pictures of Babylonian military officers on a wall. The pictures appeal to her. Instead of turning her eyes away, she lets them linger until she begins to lust. Then she acts on that lust. An illicit relationship follows, and her lovers eventually destroy her.

In this allegory, Oholibah represents Judah. God had warned His people against pursuing relationships with ungodly nations. He knew that doing so would lead to adopting foreign gods and religious customs. His people would fall into idolatry, and this would destroy them. Sure enough, He was right. Judah formed a political alliance with Babylon, she fell into idolatry, and Babylon destroyed her.

Oholibah’s destiny might have been much different had she applied Psalm 119:37 when gazing on the pictures of the Babylonian military officers. It says, “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” Fixing her gaze on God, the One who promised her His undying love, would have kept her affection in the right place and saved her from destruction.

As I thought about how Oholibah’s focus determined her destiny, I realized that Eve shared a similar story. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…, she took of its fruit and ate…”(Genesis 3:6).

Potiphar’s wife followed the same path. “And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me” (Genesis 39:7).

And then came David’s adultery. “…he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2).

On what might we fix our eyes to our detriment? Here are a few ideas that come to mind:

  • Material possessions
  • A goal of trying to impress others
  • A person other than our spouse
  • Money
  • Position or power

Rather than focusing on things that appeal to us yet fall short of God’s standard or approval, let’s be intentional about fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV) Here are 3 ways we can do so:

  • Read God’s Word on a regular basis. Ask Him to give you an unquenchable desire for it. The more we read His Word as His love letter to us, the more we understand His desire for relationship with us and that His purposes for us are good. This understanding strengthens our commitment to follow Him.
  • Keep an ongoing conversation with the Lord. Involve Him in every aspect of your life, even the mundane. This makes us more mindful of His presence and less likely to turn our focus elsewhere.
  • Live in moment-by-moment revival. This means that we keep short accounts with God. The moment we’re aware that we’ve fixed our gaze on a lesser god, we confess and bring our focus back to where it belongs—on Jesus.

Where we fix our focus determines our destiny. Therefore, turn your eyes from worthless things. Focus on Jesus, and you’ll discover the abundant life He intended for you.

Question: What other worthless things might we be tempted to focus on?

#FocusOnJesus   #NoWorthlessThing  #bgbg2  #Truth

Why Our Thoughts About God Matter

Have you noticed how your thoughts about God play a vital role in your perspective and response toward stuff that happens in life? I’ve seen this prove true time and time again. Here’s a simple, current example.

Where I live, winter is marked by overcast skies and rain. It’s already upon us. The marina dock is slick, and carrying groceries or suitcases from the parking lot to our boat isn’t exactly a ton of fun. The memory of falling face-first while pulling a suitcase and wearing a 25-pound backpack last October still haunts me.

I could quickly fall into complaining about the damp cold and the dangers of walking on a wet dock except that I know God placed us here. I also know that God is wise and good. He makes no mistakes. He has my best interest in mind. He uses circumstances to refine my character and make me more like Jesus. He has purposes beyond my understanding for placing us here, and He’s given me the privilege of playing a role in seeing those purposes fulfilled.

If I start second-guessing God’s goodness and wisdom (ie: “What was He thinking when He told us to move aboard a sailboat? This is ‘way too hard for a woman my age!”), then I will soon resent living here. I’ll envy my friends who live in houses—especially if they have attached garages—and discontentment will eat me alive.

In contrast, focusing my mind on the truth about God brings peace. Because He’s wise and good and makes no mistakes, I know He is completely trustworthy. He’s got my back and will give me everything needed to thrive through our second winter as liveaboards. I can trust and not be afraid.

John 8:12-25 tells the story of Jesus addressing a group of unbelievers:

“That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I claim to be,

you will die in your sins.”

“Who are you?” they demanded.

Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be” (vv.24-25 NLT).

When Jesus walked this earth, He taught that people’s thoughts about Him mattered. Unless they believed the truth about who He said He was—the Savior sent to cleanse them from sin and restore them to a right relationship with God—they would die in their sins.

The same principle holds true in our thoughts about God the Father. They matter. They matter a great deal. If they’re not based on truth, we develop a skewed understanding of who He is and His role in our lives. We develop a distorted perspective. We start living according to our own truth. Eventually, we sacrifice peace and joy for envy, discontentment, and fear.

Our human tendency is to make God into something our finite minds can grasp. Or we make Him into something we want Him to be so we can excuse sinful behaviors. Or we misconstrue His character by over-emphasizing one attribute at the expense of another.

Let’s guard against doing this, okay? Let’s ask God to reveal inaccurate thoughts about Him and to replace them with the truth.

Our thoughts about God ultimately determine our destiny both in this life and in the hereafter. They’re the most important thing about us, so let’s strive to ensure they’re based on truth.

Here’s a question for you: What truth about God’s character means the most to you at this time, and why?

#bgbg2  #TruthAboutGod  #SpiritualTruth

3 Promises of Peace When Your Story has a Difficult Plot

Everyone has a story, right?

When I speak at women’s retreats and conferences, I hear many. Some stories draw laughter. Some leave me speechless, in awe of how God reveals Himself to those who seek Him. How He provides for those who ask. How He grants wisdom to those who lack.

Sometimes those stories break my heart. I hear about adult kids struggling with addictions or going through the throes of abuse or divorce. I hear about grandmothers estranged from their kids and grandchildren and not knowing why. I hear about families grieving a recent loss or walking a cancer journey with a loved one.

Sometimes the only words I can muster are, “I’m so sorry.”

Undoubtedly you have a story, too. Maybe you’ve faced bitter disappointment. A friend or spouse’s betrayal. The pain of watching your child make negative life-altering choices. The ongoing pain of health issues that baffle medical professionals.

Some mornings you wake and force yourself to function. Some days you’d rather stay in bed. Perhaps you’re living a story you wish could be rewritten. If so, I want to encourage you today with three promises of peace:

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16NIV).
– Peace is found in the person of Jesus, not in circumstances. No matter what we face, He is the source that never runs dry. He alone can fill our cup to overflowing.

“I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people” (Psalm 85:8NLT).
– God’s voice consoles us with truth—He is wise and sovereign, He will never leave us, and He can turn bad situations into something good. Turn a deaf ear to the voice of fear that says our circumstances are beyond hope. Ignore the whispers that say God’s intent toward us cannot be trusted. Listen to God’s voice and hang onto every word He speaks.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).
– Experiencing God’s peace happens when we take specific action steps. First, refuse to worry about those difficult circumstances. Worry won’t change a thing, but it will rob us of today’s joy. Second, turn those worries into prayers. Pour out your concerns to God rather than letting them mess with your mind. Third, recall God’s faithfulness in the past and thank Him for all He has done. Then thank Him, by faith, in advance for what He’s going to do in answer to your prayers. Taking those action steps leads to experiencing God’s peace.

Your story might contain twists and plots you didn’t choose but hang onto hope because peace is possible. Keep your ears tuned to God’s voice. Listen for His promises, and do what He says. Keep your focus on Him, and you will know a peace that cannot be manufactured.

#bgbg2 #PeaceIsPossible #InnerPeace #PeaceDespiteCircumstances

Recapturing the Wonder of God

“Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy” (Psalm 65:8NLT).

Sunshine bathed my dining room one spring morning. Unbeknownst to me, its warmth melted the wrapped European chocolates sitting in a dish on the table.

My grandchildren popped in for an unexpected visit at noon. Anna and Luke, ages five and three at the time, discovered the softened sweets. “Oh no, Grandma,” Anna exclaimed. “They’re melted! What should we do with them?”

“Put them in the fridge,” I said. “Then they’ll harden and be easier to eat.”

Anna checked on the chocolates an hour later. “You were right, Grandma!” she exclaimed. “Look—they’re hard now. Wow! How did that happen?” Her awe made me smile.

Last weekend my youngest daughter sent me a picture of her five-month-old lying on her tummy on the lawn. Fallen leaves strewn around her had captivated her attention. The photo was another reminder to slow down, open my eyes, and appreciate the simple yet profound.

Living life with a sense of wonder and awe seldom happens in adulthood. Work and worry often blind us to the miracles that surround us. We rush through our days focused on silencing the tasks calling for our attention, and we miss the delights before us.

My grandchildren restore my perspective. Seeing life through their eyes reawakens me to wonders such as a ladybug’s spots, a daisy’s petals, an ant’s activity, and a bird’s nest. It renews my awe at the Creator’s ingenuity.

Living on a boat has also restored my perspective. I’m more alert to the resident heron standing in the mud on its stalk-like legs, the ringed ripples on the river after a fish jumps, lacey spiderwebs dripping with raindrop pearls, and sunrises rich in colors that defy description.

Creation’s majesty and intricacies leave me speechless. Sometimes the only word I can muster is, “Wow!” But here’s what leaves me even more amazed—the Creator’s love for us.

Think about it. The One whose handiwork leaves us in awe is the same One who loves us and wants relationship with us. I suspect the Psalmist felt the same way when he wrote these words:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
    putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
    and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
    and everything that swims the ocean currents. (Psalm 8:3-8NLT)

Let’s do today asking God to open our eyes to the wonders He’s created. Let’s celebrate His creative genius. Let’s stand in awe of who He is and marvel that He loves us and wants relationship with us.

Now it’s your turn: What aspect of God’s creation inspires awe in your life?

#bgbg2  #GodsCreation  #EverydayWonders