Conntecting the Dots

The Key to Hope

I attended the Peace River Bible Institute missions conference this week. One presenter invited mission reps to a session about identifying and overcoming burnout. He noted that burnout happens when hope is lost, and hope is lost when we fall into faulty thinking about who God is.

This session really resonated with me. Last Saturday I spoke at the RADIANT conference, and my plenary message basically taught the same premise. So does my new Bible study that’s scheduled for release this month through First Place 4 Health.

Here’s an example of how this works based on personal experience.

Years ago, when Gene and I entered career ministry at Camp Homewood, we were required to raise financial support for our family of five. Donations were tallied and cheques issued on the 10thof each month.

We lived above the office for the first three years. A flight of stairs separated us from the staff mailboxes into which those cheques were placed. I ran those stairs several times each pay day, waiting and watching for our cheque to appear in our box. Why? Because the fear of financial insecurity held me captive. Would we have enough to feed our family? Would we have enough to buy gas and ferry tickets? What about kids’ winter coat and orthodontic bills?

Several years passed, often filled with mounting and unexpected expenses. Stress nearly took me to the brink. I absolutely professed God as my provider, but on financial uncertainty led my thoughts down the wrong path.

Subconsciously I began to question God’s care for our family’s needs. For a short while I wrestled with anger toward Him for bringing us to camp only to abandon us there. In retrospect, I resembled the Israelites who accused God of bringing them out of Egypt only to die in the wilderness.

Aligning my thoughts about God with truth about His character was vital to restoring hope. I began meditating on Bible verses that reminded me of His glory and majesty. I turned those verses to prayer and expressed them aloud as I walked for exercise. I also filled my home with praise music and sang along with the lyrics while doing chores.

When doubts about God’s integrity and intent toward our family threatened to raise their heads, I squelched them with the truth: God had a plan for our family, and He would fulfill His purpose. He’d called us to this ministry, and He would provide. Doing anything less would be to deny His nature. Peace replaced fear. Hope returned, and courage to trust God for bigger things came with it.

Our thoughts about God are the most important thing about us, so let’s strive to ensure our thoughts are based on truth.

Have you ever lost hope? If so, how did believing an untruth about God’s character play a role?

#LostHope #GodIsOurHope #BelieveTruth

3 Truths to Remember When Life Hurts

Life often brings challenges, disappointments, and heartaches. As I write this, I’m thinking of the families affected by Pittsburgh’s tragedy and the plane crash in Indonesia. What can one say to console them?

Closer to home, I’m thinking of three friends whose husbands—all of them professing Jesus followers—have walked away from their marriages since June.

I’m thinking of family and friends struggling with cancer and chronic illnesses, and one who recently entered widowhood.

When life hurts, our human bent focuses on fear. We might entertain thoughts of our circumstances being unfair. We may even question God’s goodness.

Times like this test our faith. Here are three truths to remember even if God seems silent or doesn’t rush to our rescue as we wish He would.

  • Truth #1 – God never changes. “I am the LORD, and I do not change,” He declares in Malachi 3:6. In the midst of our uncertainties, His rock-sure stability and promises remain the same.
  • Truth #2 – God is always ready to help. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” We can call on Him day or night. He’s never too busy to hear our cries.
  • Truth #3 – God is good. “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him,” says Psalm 34:8. When life hurts, God’s goodness comforts and carries us. It surrounds us like a shield, fills us with strength, and make us overcomers.

Remembering truths about who God is helps us hang onto hope when life hurts.

What truth about His character brings you hope?

#bgbg2  #Hope #WhenLifeHurts

Two Little Voices

Little voices in my head vie for my attention. They start the moment I wake.

“Get up. Go to the gym. You’ll feel so good afterwards.”

“The gym can wait. You need more sleep. Snuggle in.”

The voice that tells me to go the gym wins, but the argument continues while I’m on the treadmill.

“Aren’t you glad you came? Your efforts are worth it.”

“You’ve already walked 1.5 miles. That’s good enough. Quit now and go home.”

The voices go back and forth about what snacks I should or should not eat and the size of my meal portions. They squabble about other matters, too.

“Stop dwelling on that hurtful experience from the past.”

“Why should I? So-and-so hurt me and I can’t let it go.”

“Be content with your circumstances. Bloom where you’re planted.”

“That’s hard. I could feel happy if only things were easier.”

The enemy of our soul whispers lies bent on our destruction, but the Holy Spirit speaks words meant to strengthen and encourage us. Listen well, my friend. Learn to discern who’s speaking. Heed only the voice that speaks peace and life, and you’ll flourish.

Question: So—am I the only one who hears little voices throughout the day? Or do you hear them, too? Share some examples with us, and tell us how the Lord’s words have spoken peace and life to you recently.

#bgbg2 #HearingLittleVoices  #GodSpeaks

Works in Progress

…God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again. (Philippians 1:6NLT)

“I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get it right.” A woman spoke these words to me recently within the context of her weight loss journey. “Somedays it’s easy to say no to unhealthy snacks and second helpings. Other days are a different story.”

Most of us can relate to this woman’s feelings. Our struggle might be different than hers, but we, too, experience victories and losses. Sometimes we mimic a mighty warrior, but other times not so much. Despite our best intentions, we do the very thing we vowed we’d never do again. We wonder if we’ll ever get it right.

Truth be told, we’ll never get it right all the time this side of heaven. But here’s one thing we cando—ask God to give us hearts that joyfully obey His commands and then thank Him for being faithful to complete the good work He has begun in us. He knows we’re works-in-progress, and He patiently keeps changing and refining us to make us more like Jesus. Knowing He never gives up on us gives us the ability to extend grace to ourselves and persevere.

For what area in your life are you trusting God to complete the good work He has begun? As for me, one of those areas is in my wellness journey. Traveling so much makes it hard to stay on track with healthy eating and regular exercise, and I seriously don’t want to revert to old ways and habits. I have to trust God for victory in this area of my life. Now it’s your turn to share with the rest of us.

#ChristianDevotions  #WorksInProgress  #bgbg2 #NeverGiveUp

A Practical Guide to Wise Speech

Have you ever opened your mouth and said something before engaging your brain? If so, how did that work for you?

I’ve been known to do this on occasion, and it didn’t go well. As a result, I’ve begun using this acronym as a resource to help me determine whether or not I really need to say the words waiting to roll off my tongue.

T – Are our words true? If not, zip the lip immediately. Sometimes our words are true but they’re gossip. Sometimes they’re true but blurted in the wrong spirit. They may be true, but they could be considered boastful. Not every truthful word needs to be expressed.

H – Are our words helpful? Will they contribute to another person’s well-being, or are they just a personal rant? Are they spoken at the right time, or might they be better received in a few days or weeks?

I – Are our words inspirational? Our speech ought to inspire hope and encouragement. That doesn’t mean we avoid saying the hard thing to someone who’s heading the wrong direction, but it does mean our words are well chosen and spoken with love.

N – Are our words necessary? Not everything we want to say needs to be said. The more we speak, the more prone we are to say something we later regret. When with others, let’s listen well and then make our words count.

K – Are our words kind? Do they remind others that they matter to us, or do they criticize and belittle?

Wise speech carries the power of life and hope. Using an acronym like “THINK” will help ensure our words bring a smile to God’s face.

Does one of the letters in this acronym resonate with you more than the others? If so, which one?

#ChristianDevotions  #WiseWords  #bgbg2

Join the Shout-Out of Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. 1 Chronicles 16:34 says, “Give thanks to the LORD for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (NLT). So, let’s do what it says and offer a shout-out of thanks to God by completing this sentence:

Today I give thanks for ______________.

I’ll start. “Today I give thanks for God’s clear guidance when He moved us onto a sailboat and into this marina. He worked out every detail so we’d never second guess whether or not this move was the right thing to do.”

Okay–now it’s your turn to finish the sentence. You don’t have to be Canadian to join the shout-out!

#ThanksgivingDay  #GratitudeToGod

Being Honest from the Heart

“Who, me? I don’t have a problem with fear. Or envy. Or impure thoughts.”

“Who, me? I don’t struggle with unforgiveness. Or impatience. Or comparison.”

We might look in the mirror and think we’re doing okay, maybe even a tad bit better than the next person. But, human nature being what it is, we sometimes deceive ourselves. We deny that we’re struggling with an issue or fail to acknowledge our sin, and then we wonder why we feel stuck.

King David gave some great advice learned the hard way. After confessing adultery, he wrote, “For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being” (Psalm 51:5-6NLT).

Being honest with ourselves, others, and God requires admitting we’re imperfect. Doing so is humbling, but the rewards are worth it. Honesty—admitting when we’ve messed up—opens the door for forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. It paves the way for us to grow in wisdom and learn from our mistakes.

Here’s one way in which I’m learning to apply this truth: I’ve shared publicly about my wellness journey and how I’ve lost about 65 pounds. I maintained that weight loss for more than a year. But moving aboard the sailboat combined with increased ministry travels has challenged the nice routine I’d established, and I’ve gained several pounds back.

My human bent is expert at making excuses, but honesty from the heart admits that I’ve made unhealthy food choices especially while traveling. I’ve also enjoyed a few too many chips in secret while alone on the boat. Ouch.

Being honest from my heart—that my weight gain is a direct result of my choices—is humbling. But admitting it and taking responsibility for it makes me wiser in my inmost being—and able to turn this around.

How does this truth about honesty from the heart apply to your life?

#ChristianDevotions  #Honesty #StopMakingExcuses  #bgbg2

How to Overcome the Stress of a Busy Schedule

Do you ever look at your calendar or to-do list and wonder how you’ll get everything done?

This morning I looked at my schedule for upcoming ministry trips and asked myself how it accommodates for time with our family, my senior mom, our neighbors in the marina, and my writing projects. But as I prayed about it, I sensed the Lord say, “Be still. Let Me take charge of those details.” Then the Holy Spirit brought Psalm 139:16 to mind. I meditated on it for a few minutes, and calm washed over me.

Realizing that God laid out every moment of every day of my life before my birth brings me peace. He knows what my family’s needs will be in the future, and whether I need to be available or He has someone else in mind to help should help be necessary. He also knows how much work any future writing projects might take and what their deadlines will be. It’s my role to trust that He’s carved out enough time for me to meet those deadlines.

Here are three other insights that came to mind:

  • It’s our responsibility not to overcommit. Not every opportunity or task that comes our way is ours to do. We need only say yes to those that the Lord gives us.
  • It’s our responsibility to keep our heart in tune with God’s. The more intimate our relationship with Him, the more able we are to discern what He wants us to do with our time and energy.
  • It’s our responsibility to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead every day. Sometimes He interrupts our neatly arranged schedule and our best laid plans fall like dominoes. Do we respond with annoyance or do we go with His flow?

So long as I make my relationship with Jesus my first priority, I can trust Him to guide me and to help me accomplish all that He wants accomplished. Every day of my life rolls out as He has purposed when He’s my number one.

What spiritual truth helps minimize stress when you feel overwhelmed by a busy schedule?

#ChristianDevotions  #FeelingOverwhelmed  #BusySchedules  #bgbg2

The Most Important Thoughts We Think

Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

(Romans 12:2 NLT)

I’m a huge fan of sunrises and sunsets. To me, they demonstrate God’s limitless creativity and grandeur. Human artists can paint a canvas, but only God can sweep and blend colors across the heavens as He does. Every time I see the sky ablaze with red, pink, orange, and yellow, I direct my thoughts toward Him in praise and worship of who He is—all-powerful, all-wise, holy, loving, and just in every way.

The thoughts we think about God are the most important thing about us. That’s because our thoughts shape our beliefs. Our beliefs influence our behaviors, and our behaviors determine our destiny.

For instance, imagine facing a really tough situation. A cancer diagnosis, perhaps. Or an unexpected job layoff that causes financial stress and perhaps forces a move to a new location. If we think God is truly good, then we’ll believe He cares about every detail of our circumstances and those involved. Our beliefs cause us to turn to Him for help and to trust that He knows our concerns and hears our cries. We pray in faith believing His answer is the best answer. Even though we hurt inside, we experience inner peace for which there’s no human explanation.

On the contrary—imagine facing that really tough situation thinking God doesn’t give a rip about our circumstances or those involved. Our thoughts lead us to believe He’s cruel and untrustworthy. Those beliefs result in our feeling anxious and perhaps angry. We make fear-based decisions believing the outcome rests solely on us because, after all, God doesn’t care. Or so we think.

I can identify countless situations when my behaviors reflected inaccurate thoughts about God. Like when our family entered career missions and I stressed big-time over financial uncertainty. And when He called me to write Moving from Fear to Freedom and I argued with Him for a year because I doubted His ability to equip me for the task. And when I gossiped, ignoring the fact that He could hear every word and would someday hold me accountable for the things I said. Goodness, my list could go on forever.

By human nature, my thoughts about God are much too small and far too inaccurate. Those thoughts influence my beliefs, determine my behaviors and ultimately determine my destiny. I want my destiny to be the one God’s chosen for me, so change must take place. That change begins in my mind. As the Holy Spirit brings my thoughts into alignment with truth, transformation happens.

This is a fascinating spiritual concept, and it’s the premise for my new Bible study, Forever Changed. It will be available for pre-orders through “First Place 4 Health” on October 1st.

How about you? How have inaccurate thoughts about God impacted your behaviors?

#bgbg2 #devotions  #WhoIsGod  #OurThoughtsMatter

Living a Life of Worship

Give to the LORD the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come to worship him.

Psalm 96:8 (NLT)

Years ago I cleaned other people’s homes two days per week. Doing mundane tasks like vacuuming and scrubbing toilets brought me joy when I made them an act of worship.

How did I do that, you ask? By praying and praising my way through the houses as I worked. I celebrated God’s presence with me, thanked Him for everything I could think of, and gave my best effort to my labors as though I were cleaning for the King.

Sometimes we compartmentalize worship into a half hour of singing on Sunday morning, but it’s much more than that. It’s an attitude of the heart that spills into every aspect of our lives. It’s ongoing gratitude for what God’s given us and praise for who He is even though we can never fully understand His greatness. It’s walking in the truth of His love and presence and power every moment of every day.

What responsibilities are you fulfilling today? Whatever they are, invite God into them. Make them an act of worship. And be blessed.

#bgbg2 #devotions  #LifestyleofWorship  #Worship