Conntecting the Dots

A Baby Changes Everything—Including Me and You

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A group of women who’d spent the fall studying Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman-to-Woman Conversation invited me to join them for a Christmas brunch on Wednesday morning. The brunch was to start at 9 AM.

My Wednesday morning online Bible study runs from 8 AM-9 AM. To accommodate both meetings meant asking the brunch hostess if I could arrive at 7:45 and set up my laptop for my 8 AM Zoom call.

My GPS told me the trip would take 49 minutes. I figured I’d allow an hour—just in case. I’d been on the highway for one minute, maybe two, when traffic slowed and then stopped. There I sat, staring at an endless ribbon of red taillights.

Hopefully it’s just a slow start to the morning rush hour, I thought. Things will start moving again soon. I turned on the local Christian radio station. One carol after another filled the car, but truth be told, I didn’t pay much attention. As traffic began to crawl, my eyes focused on the GPS and its suggested estimated time of arrival. The ETA pushed back further and further, and my angst climbed. It soon became obvious that I’d miss my 8 AM meeting. Would I be late for, or even miss meeting with the women at the brunch too?

That’s when the words of a carol grabbed my attention: “A baby changes everything….”

It’s true. Jesus came as a baby, and He changes everything, I thought. Including me.

“Father, please change my attitude,” I prayed. “Forgive me for worrying about this morning’s meetings. Teach me to trust You more, and to worship as I wait not knowing what the outcome will be.”

I watched a helicopter fly back and forth, back and forth across the highway before hovering about a half mile ahead. “And Father, thank You for encouraging me to be more mindful of others. Perhaps there’s an accident ahead, and people are injured and frightened. If so, please send the help they need, and comfort them at this time.”

Peace replaced my angst. Ten or fifteen minutes later, I discovered the reason for the backup: a burned-out semi-trailer.

A baby changes everything. Jesus, Prince of Peace, came into our world so He could live in us. His presence ought to bring inner peace on days like my Wednesday, yes? His power at work within us ought to help us worship, rather than worry, in the wait when we don’t know what the outcome will be.

A baby changes everything. How has this baby made a difference in your life?

A Promise for Every Child of God

Are you a follower of Jesus? If so, then the Bible’s filled with promises that pertain to you—assurances of God’s love and faithfulness, His presence, His peace, and His strength. He promises to watch over you, protect you, hear you when you pray, answer your prayers according to His will, and work all things out for your good and His glory.

We’re just skimming the surface here. The more we explore the Word, the more treasures we discover. This morning I noticed this promise: “Every child of God defeats this evil world” (1 John 5:4).

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The wicked world in which we live throws all kinds of hurtful stuff at us while we’re still warm and breathing, but it cannot defeat us. We can rise above disappointments. We can resist temptation. We can move beyond the pain of betrayal or rejection or abuse. We can maintain hope even when we can’t see a way out. And then, when we take our final breath, we deliver the final blow. Every child of God eventually defeats this evil world because we, like Christ, will rise again.

How’s this possible? 1 John 5:4-5 says, “…And we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.”

Jesus died and rose again to experience ultimate victory. Placing our faith in Him as our Savior means He shares that victory with us. Because of what He did, we know who stands on the podium for the medal ceremony. We know who walks away with the prize.

How does this truth impact your life?

#bgbg2 #WhoWins #ChristianDevotions

The Lord Helps Us: A Basic but Life-Changing Truth

Earlier this week I listened to an interview on Focus on the Family. The guest told of her husband suddenly becoming ill and passing away within 24 hours. She not only became a 31-year-old widow, but she also became a single mom with two preschool boys. She spoke about how God had prepared her in advance for her loss and the subsequent challenges.

Months earlier, she’d read Psalm 121 and written it down for quick and easy recall. It begins, “I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” She’d found the phrase “My help comes from the LORD” especially meaningful.

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Within moments of her husband’s passing, this phrase came to mind and brought hope and confidence that, despite her world doing a flip, everything would be okay. The Lord—almighty Maker of heaven and earth—was with her and would be her strength and wisdom moment by moment. He’d promised to be her helper, and He fulfilled His word.

I’ve experienced the Lord’s help on many occasions. Currently, He’s helping me write my next book. Every day, when I sit down at my computer, I ask Him to give me the words that He wants penned for that day’s portion of the manuscript. I’m leaning heavily on Him, and He’s proving faithful.

In the past, He helped me through the challenges of culture shock and isolation when I moved to Nepal as a newlywed in 1982. He gave me energy when I was a young mom raising three preschoolers. He helped our family transition into career camping ministry in 1996. He helped me grieve the loss of my father and my husband’s parents within 16 months.

On an ongoing basis, He helps me and Gene by providing financial support through faithful donors to our ministry month after month. He helps me make wise food choices and rise early to exercise at the gym every morning. He helps me stay healthy despite traveling so much, eating foods foreign to me and sleeping in beds that aren’t like mine.

This list could go on and on. Why? Because God’s faithfulness never ends. No problem we face is too big for Him. Nothing we encounter surprises Him. No need we experience drains His resources. There’s no way on earth I could navigate life and its challenges on my own. I give all the credit for every successful endeavor past, present, and future to my Helper.

Our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth. He stands ready and waiting, eager to lend a hand the moment we invite His participation in our circumstances. How have you seen this prove true in your life?

I’ll host a FB Live chat about this blog/verse on Saturday at 1 PM PST. Join me if you can, okay? Share how God is your helper and encourage others who join the chat.

#bgbg2 #GodIsMyHelper #PowerfulPsalms

Who Controls Your Destiny?

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My first national television interview was in 2005. It was on “100 Huntley Street,” and we discussed my first book—10-Minute Time Outs for Moms.

There’s a three-hour time difference between British Columbia and Ontario. When I woke up in Burlington that morning, the alarm clock said it was 5:30 AM, but my body’s time said it was 2:30 AM. Between fatigue and the fear of failure, I remember thinking, How in the world am I going to string even two sentences together in a coherent manner?

I rolled out of bed, heart pounding and stomach in knots. That’s when lyrics to a popular worship song popped into my mind: “Jesus commands my destiny.”

The words helped me refocus. Yes, indeed, Jesus controlled my destiny. My future wasn’t dependent on whether or not I aced that interview. I didn’t need to strive to impress my hosts or the television audience. I just needed to give the best interview I knew how and to trust Jesus to empower me and work out His good purposes through me.

That realization lifted a huge weight from my shoulders then, and it continues to encourage me eleven years later. God commands my destiny and nothing can thwart His purposes as I consistently seek to give Him first place in my life.

How about you? Are you carrying the weight of trying to secure your future? If so, how’s that working for you?

Daniel 5:23 says that God gives us the breath of life and controls our destiny. We ought to find this truth hugely freeing. And we ought to find it highly motivating to ensure that we give Him the honor He’s due because of who He is. He’s trustworthy, faithful, loving, all-wise, all-powerful, holy, and sovereign God. He is God over all gods. He has no equal.

This is the God whom we serve. When we are in right relationship with Him, we need not be afraid or behave as though our future depends on our smarts and skills. We can cease striving and rest because He’s got our back.

So…how can we honor the God who gives us the breath of life and controls our destiny?

  • By daily expressing thanks to Him for the gift of life and for being aware of and in control of every detail concerning us. He sees the tiniest sparrow fall, and we matter more to Him than the birds of the air.
  • By daily surrendering ourselves to Him for His highest purpose. We might think we have our day and agenda set, but He might have a different idea. Let’s let Him do what He wants knowing His purposes are always higher than ours.
  • By daily inviting Him to fill us. If we try doing life in our own strength, we’re bound to fail. We’ll dishonor God by thinking inappropriate thoughts, saying hurtful words, harboring wrong attitudes. You get the picture. Living a life that honors Him is vital, but it’s possible only through His empowerment.

God gives you the breath of life and controls your destiny. May this truth encourage you today, my friend. No matter what you face, God’s bigger, and He’s got your back.

P.S. 10-Minute Time Outs is no longer available in stores, but I have copies. It makes a wonderful gift for moms with kids of all ages. Order your copy now to receive in time for Christmas.

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions #GodControlsYourDestiny #NoFear

Why has God Brought You To This Place?

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Do you sometimes wonder why God has brought you to a particular place or situation?

For example, why has He brought you to your place of employment? On the flipside, maybe you’re in a place of being unemployed and wondering how to pay mounting bills.

Maybe you’re in a place of chronic illness or facing a life-threatening disease. Perhaps you’re in a place of disappointment; you’ve suffered the loss of a lifetime dream and not sure how to deal with that.

One of my friends is in a place of deep sorrow after losing her husband. Another one is in a place of waiting as she trusts God to show her how to best use her skills and passions to make an eternal difference.

Several of my friends’ adult children are involved with overseas missions. Those friends are in a place of surrender, trusting their kids to God’s care and protection.

Maybe you’re in a good place right now. No complaints, no worries. Life hasn’t always been like this, and there are no guarantees that it will stay this way, but for now, all is well.

This week a passage from Ezekiel really grabbed my attention. The prophet Ezekiel wrote about God showing him a vision in which He took him to Israel and set him on a high mountain. From that vantage point, Ezekiel saw what appeared to be a city, and then he saw “a man whose face shone like bronze standing beside a gateway entrance. He was holding in his hand a measuring tape and a measuring rod” (Ezekiel 40:3).

That man spoke these words to Ezekiel: “He said to me, ’Son of man, watch and listen. Pay close attention to everything I show you. You have been brought here so I can show you many things. Then you will return to the people of Israel and tell them everything you have seen’” (Ezekiel 40:4).

I thought of multiple ways this verse could apply to me (and to you). For instance, God has taken me to physical places such as Nepal, Egypt, India, Russia, and numerous other international destinations. While there, I kept my eyes and ears open so I could learn everything He intended for me. He showed me many things about myself, like my utter dependence upon Him while in a foreign setting. He also showed me many things about Himself, especially His ability to equip me to do what He’d called me to do there. And He showed me many things about how He’s building His kingdom in those countries—amazing stories unlike anything we hear in North America. When I came home, I told others about the things I’d seen and experienced. Their faith was encouraged as a result.

I remember the first time He brought me to a writers conference. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I was supposed to be there. I welcomed every day with an attitude of anticipation. I asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to learn and to help me connect with people with whom He wanted me to connect. His taking me to that place changed my life.

Currently I’m in a faith-stretching place. I’m writing a new book (even stating that publicly make my knees knock), and I’m fully aware that the job’s too big for me. Each time I sit down at my computer, I ask Him to show me the words He wants me to write. My eyes and ears are wide open, and I’m trusting Him to show me many things during this process.

So, to what place has God brought you? No doubt He wants to show you many things there. Keep your eyes and ears wide open. Keep your heart open, too, so you can learn everything He wants you to learn during this time. Some day you’ll have the opportunity to share your story, and He’ll use it to teach others and to bring honor to His name.

Join me at 5 PM PST today as I explore this devotional a bit more. It’ll be a 30-minute Facebook Live chat at www.fb.com/gracelfox. I hope to see you there!

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions #PlaceofTrust

How to Say Thank-You Through Our Lives

My fellow Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving more than a month ago. It’s the Americans’ turn this Thursday.

My husband and two of our kids are American citizens. We lived in Washington state for eleven years before moving north in 1996. Even after settling in Canada, we kept the American Thanksgiving as a Fox family tradition. This year will be no different even though our kids have flown the coop.

We hear alot these days about the importance of developing a thankful heart and of expressing gratitude. Doing so on a regular basis can literally change the brain as we focus on the good in our lives rather than on the negative. But let me offer another thought for consideration.

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Psalm 119:5-7 says, “Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands. As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!”

As we seek to honor God with expressions of gratitude, let’s not limit them to words alone. According to this verse, we ought to give thanks through our behavior, honoring Him by living according to His commands.

Here are three examples to show how this works in practical terms:

  • Jesus died so that we might experience forgiveness for our sins. We express gratitude to Him for what He’s done by doing what He says—we forgive those who hurt us.
  • Jesus intercedes for us. We express gratitude for His prayers on our behalf by blessing others with ours.
  • Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. We express gratitude to Him for this gift by engaging with the Spirit every day, by being aware of His presence and allowing Him to fill and control our lives.

If we profess to follow Christ, then our lives are meant to serve His purposes and bring Him pleasure. What greater pleasure might we give Him than to make our lives a continual, year-round offering of thanksgiving for all He’s done for us?

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions #BringGodPleasure

Why Can We Face the Future with Confidence?

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America’s presidential campaign and election unsettled millions of people. No one can predict what might happen with the economy and global relationships in the weeks and months ahead. Even the political experts admit they’re clueless. One can only watch. And pray.

The future is anything but secure on a worldwide scale. Truth be told, it’s not certain on home fronts, either. A week ago today, one of my friends and her husband enjoyed their morning coffee while watching Canada’s national Remembrance Day celebrations on television. By that afternoon, he lay in ICU in an induced coma after suffering a massive heart attack. He passed away on Tuesday.

Losing this friend has been a surreal experience. I’ve been mentally processing it all week, realizing how quickly life can flip. One minute all is well, and then everything changes in a heartbeat, sometimes literally.

So, how can we face the future with confidence? By knowing what God says about it and by taking Him at His word. Here’s a verse that’s helped me in recent days.

Hebrews 13:5,6 says, “For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear.’”

God’s promise to remain faithful and present enables us to develop and maintain a fearless outlook. And get this—He says He will always be faithful, and He will always be present. That means we can always be fearless. No matter what comes our way, He will help us get through it. Of this we can be sure.

Let’s personalize the verse by reading it this way: “For God has said [to me], ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So I can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear about _______________.’”

Fill in the blank with whatever’s pertinent to your situation. Here are some suggested responses to which you might relate.

  • my (or a loved one’s) recent medical diagnosis
  • starting a new job
  • growing old
  • caring for my senior parents
  • parenting to the best of my ability
  • the difficult situation facing my adult child
  • teaching a Sunday school class
  • trusting God with the sale of my home
  • my children’s well-being

Today at 5:00 PM, I’ll host a 30-minute Facebook Live opportunity to talk about this Scripture with whoever wishes to join me. It’s a come-and-go event at

https://www.facebook.com/gracelfox

Send me a friend request if you want to receive a notification when I go live. I hope to see you there!

#bgbg2 #JesusNeverFails #ChristianDevotions

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What Possessed You to Do That?

On Saturday I attended the memorial service for Letisha Reimer, the 13-year-old Christian girl who died following an attack in her high school a few blocks from my home. It’s hard for me to imagine what possessed the 21-year-old drifter who committed this evil act.

http://www.abbynews.com/news/400965635.html

“What possessed you to do that?” is a question asked in many contexts. For instance, a parent might ask it when he learns that his teen is experimenting with drugs.

A wife might ask it upon discovering that her husband has gambled away their life savings.

I’ve recently heard of airline pilots arriving for work intoxicated. No doubt someone’s asking them this question.

These are negative examples, and the answers vary: selfishness, fear, unresolved personal issues, poor judgment, or plain ol’ sinful nature. But the same question can be asked in a positive context.

Think about the nearly 90-year-old man who travels to Poland every summer as part of a volunteer mission team (it’s true!). What possesses him to do that?

What possesses a child to save her allowance for a year and then spend it on a toy for a less privileged child at Christmas?

What possesses a middle-aged man to donate one of his kidneys to his younger sister whose health is failing?

What possesses a couple in their late 50s to quit their jobs, sell their home, and get involved in a career ministry with no pay or benefits?

The apostle Paul knows the answer. “Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us,” he wrote to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 5:14).

Imagine with me what the world might look like if Christ’s love possessed us: We’d put others’ needs ahead of our own. We’d give and serve with no ulterior motive or desire for repayment. We’d seek to be peacemakers and to promote harmony within our families, our churches, and our workplaces. We’d refuse to take offense at unkind or thoughtless remarks, and we’d not pass judgment on those who don’t measure up to our standards or expectations.

Paul encourages us to allow Christ’s love to control us. Let’s do what he says. Let’s ask Jesus to fully possess our minds, our eyes, our hands, our tongues, and our feet and to love others through us.

Our world is a hurting place and desperately needs hope and transformation. Christ’s love and its power to change lives is the answer. Amen?

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions #PowerofLove

Serving Others: The Path of Blessing

Several hours before Jesus was arrested, He and His disciples shared a last meal together. Then He knelt before the men and, one by one, washed and dried their feet—Judas included.

“Do you understand what I was doing?” Jesus asked when He finished the job. “Since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” Then He added the clincher: “You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing” (John 13:12-17).

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Given our human nature, following Jesus’s example is often easier said than done. Who wouldn’t rather be served than serve? After all, being the recipient of another person’s kindness makes us feel special. Important. Loved. Donning the role of servant and doing the dirty (often thankless) work doesn’t carry the same appeal. Yet that’s exactly what we’re told to do.

Intentionally serving others—even the Judas in our lives—is the path of blessing. Doing so is not always convenient, and it might prove costly in time, energy, and resources, but when we do as Jesus says simply because we love Him, He will reward us.

That reward might be the joy of knowing we’ve done what’s right. It might be the satisfaction we feel upon helping lighten someone’s load. It might be experiencing God inexplicably making up the time we’ve invested to serve. It may even be personal transformation as we begin to care less about our own needs and more about those of others. Whatever the blessing we receive, that’s up to Jesus. But putting into action the things we know is up to us.

So, what’s one act of service you can do for someone this weekend? I’m going to invite friends over for Sunday supper and prepare a homecooked meal. I’d love to hear what you’ll do.

Know you are loved,

Grace

#ServingOthers #bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions

Worry: The Root Cause and the Cure

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

Some folks call it worry. Others call it fear or anxiety or stress. Still others call it concern. Regardless of the name we give it, it leaves us in a troubled state of heart and mind. It keeps us awake at night, turns our stomach into a knot, and robs us of peace and joy.

Worry—or whatever the label—is not a burden Jesus wants us to carry. He created us for an abundant life (not necessarily an easy life), and it’s impossible to live that abundant life if worry weighs us down. And so, if we ever hope to move beyond it, we need to understand the root cause and the cure.

In few words, the root cause is wrong thinking about God—either He doesn’t care about us or He doesn’t have the power to do anything about our problems. We can slip into that mentality without even realizing it. That’s when worry assumes control over our minds.

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So what’s the cure?

  • Acknowledge worry as wrong thinking about who God is.

The truth is—our problems neither take Him by surprise nor are they too big to baffle Him. He who created the universe and calls the stars by name is more than able to address our concerns. Do we trust Him to do so? Do we trust Him to do so even when His answer to our cries doesn’t look at all what we think it should look like?

  • Pray about everything.

Worry accomplishes nothing but negative side effects. Why invest energy and time in something that hurts us? Prayer, on the other hand, changes everything. Sometimes it changes our circumstances; always it changes our perspective about them, and we’re better off for it.

  • Thank God for what He has done.

Thanksgiving works like therapy against worry and its ill effects. Expressing gratitude to the Lord for His faithfulness moves our focus from our problems to His sufficiency to overcome them.

Years ago I began intentionally thanking God in advance for what He was going to do in answer to my prayers, and I found that doing so replaced worry with a sense of anticipation. My thinking changed from, Oh no! What am I going to do about such-and-such? to I can hardly wait to see what God is going to do about such-and-such.

When we do these things, then God fulfills His promise to give us peace. It’s different from the peace with God we experience when we place our faith in Christ for salvation. It’s the settled state of heart and mind that comes when we choose to believe that God is who He says He is and trust that He’s in control of our circumstances.

Your thoughts? What do you do to overcome worry?

#bgbg2 #devotions #InnerPeace