Conntecting the Dots

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

Help is on the Way

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made the heavens and earth.  (Psalm 121:1,2 NLT)

Spending time with my grandchildren brings great joy. The older ones are becoming more independent, but the little ones still ask for my help when we’re together: They say thigs like, “Grandma, can you help me wash my hands?” or “Grandma, can you help me reach my jacket on that hanger? It’s too high for me.”

“Of course,” I say. Denying these precious little people or considering their request a bother would never cross my mind. I delight in every opportunity I have to connect with them.

Likewise our heavenly Father delights in connecting with us. No worries, no fears—He’ll never deny us or consider us a bother when we ask for His help. Granted, His method of helping us might not look like what we think it should, but we can rest assured that it’s always rooted in love. He encourages us to come to Him with our requests and welcomes us with open arms.

#bgbg2 #devotions  #LovedByGod  #GodAnswersPrayer

The Tough Question of Suffering

So consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:3 NLT)

Having struggled with chronic pain for three decades, my sister has an insider’s perspective on suffering. She recently told me that the most common question believers and non-believers ask within that context is, “If God is a God of love, how could He allow innocent people to suffer?”

She often communicates with people who have rejected God because they feel this question goes unanswered. She reminds them that God didn’t instigate suffering; it entered the picture as a natural consequence when mankind sinned.

She also reminds them that the God of the Bible is the only God who suffered for mankind’s sake. He willingly became flesh and endured hunger, thirst, lashings, and ultimately crucifixion for us. Therefore, He fully identifies with us in our pain. That knowledge brings comfort and hope when we experience suffering or witness others walk through it.

Hurt comes, and sometimes it lingers for what feels like far too long. But here’s hope—we’re not alone. God is with us in the midst of it, and He empathizes with us.

#bgbg2 #devotions  #Suffering  #GodCares

Eager to Do What’s Right

…Then God will establish one of David’s descendants as king. He will rule with mercy and truth. He will always do what is just and be eager to do what is right.

Isaiah 16:5 NLT

“Aw, Mom—do I have to?”

How often have you heard a child say those words when asked to do a chore? They reflect a heart that’s reluctant to do what’s right. Sometimes my heart reflects the same.

“Forgive that person who’s hurt you,” whispers the Holy Spirit. “Avoid the sin of gluttony. Invite your neighbors for dinner tonight. Invest time in that gal who’s so emotionally needy.”

My human bent is to say, “Aw, God—do I have to?” But if He’s truly my Lord and His Spirit fills me, then my response ought to reflect a heart that’s eager to do what’s right. A bending of the knee. A “Yes, Lord,” without reserve.

What’s the Holy Spirit whispering to you? Are you reluctant to obey, or eager to do what’s right?

The king whom God would establish displayed the latter attitude. May the same be said about us.

#bgbg2 #devotions  #DoWhatIsRight  #NoReluctance  #YesGod

Lessons Learned from a Starfish

I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely.

 Psalm 63:8 NLT

Gene and I left Vancouver last Monday to sail north to Quadra Island for a friend’s memorial service. We anchored in secluded coves along the way for the first four nights. One morning, when he pulled up the anchor, he found a baby starfish clinging to it.

My mind immediately recalled Psalm 63:8. I thought of times when discouragement or fear shrouded me in darkness. Hope and strength came by clinging to God and His promises. Doing so drew me from darkness into the light of truth. There I gained both a new perspective about my circumstances and the ability to persevere.

When faced with tough times, humanity’s natural inclination isn’t to cling to God and His promises. We cling to our spouse or our kids or a good friend for encouragement. We cling to past experiences for wisdom. We cling to fantasies or alcohol or dreams of a better life. But all these eventually disappoint.

Jesus alone is our Anchor in life’s storms. Let’s hang on tightly to Him so that His sweet presence will draw us from darkness into the light of hope.

Question: What does clinging to Jesus look like to you?

#bgbg2 #devotions  #ClingToGod  #JesusBringsHope #StarfishLessons

Awesome God

Come everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise! For the LORD Most High is awesome. He is the great King of all the earth. (Psalm 47:1,2 NLT)

We use the word “awesome” to describe a variety of things: a breathtaking sunrise, an entertaining movie, an unexpected good deal when paying for items purchased.

As I write this, I’m sitting in our sailboat-home’s cockpit, crossing from BC’s mainland to Vancouver Island. The sun dances on the water, waves roll gently, and worship music plays from the outdoor speakers. Moments ago we saw a whale spout in the distance. Awesome!

“Awesome” describes things that bring joy, but it assumes a new level of meaning when referring to God. Consider His creative genius, His sacrificial love for us, and His surprising ways of providing for our material needs. Ponder His sovereignty over the details of our lives, His ability to strengthen us when we’re beyond tired, and His magnificent method of using the broken places of our lives to bless others when we surrender those places to Him.

Our thoughts about God are the most important thing about us. Do we acknowledge Him as God but then relegate Him to a back corner of our heart so we feel more comfortable living as we wish? Do we regard Him as important in the grand scheme but not important enough to deserve our complete allegiance? Or do we, literally or figuratively, fall on our knees before Him and praise Him because He is truly awesome in every way?

In one or two words, post what you believe is awesome about God. Let’s make this a dress rehearsal for heaven!

#bgbg2 #devotions  #GodIsAwesome  #PraiseGod

Canceled Flights, Bedbugs, and Giving Thanks

But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path,

I will reveal to you the salvation of God. (Psalm 50:23 NLT)

I’ve just returned from a two-week mission trip that provided lots of opportunity to practice giving sacrificial thanks. The first came when our flight was canceled as we waited to board. “Thank You, Lord, that this was no surprise to You,” I said.

Running through the Toronto airport for 20 minutes to catch our connecting flight prompted me to pray, “Thank You, Lord, for helping me be fit enough to do this!”

Then came that flight’s two-hour delay after boarding. “Thank You Father, that we don’t have to make another connecting flight,” I said as we sat on the tarmac awaiting take-off.

The most memorable opportunity came when someone discovered bedbugs in one room at the hotel where we were hosting an evangelistic family camp. “Thank You, Lord, that the hotel manager took immediate and drastic action to prevent an infestation. And thanks for maintaining calm when the manager broke the news to our campers.”

Traveling home meant rising at 4:30 AM to catch a shuttle van at 6:00 AM to Budapest, Hungary. When departure time came, the driver turned the key in the ignition but nothing happened. He tried several more times. Nothing. “The battery is dead,” he said.

To this news, my thanksgiving sounded like this: “Thank You, Father, that You’re in control of this delayed departure. You know the amount of time required for us to check in for an international flight and we can trust You to get us there on time.”

The driver phoned his boss to bring jumper cables. When the boss still hadn’t arrived 20 minutes later, he tried again to start the van. This time the engine roared to life. “Thank You, Lord!”

When circumstances don’t go as we plan, we can either grumble or give thanks. Grumbling is our natural bent even though we all know it does no good, right? But giving thanks shifts our focus from our circumstances to the God who rules over them. It sets our mind to rest and frees us to watch with anticipation to see what God will do on our behalf.

What circumstances in the past week have provided you with opportunities to give sacrificial thanks?

“Father, thank You for providing us with opportunities to learn how to express gratitude no matter what. Help us to respond well. Amen.”

BTW – a hearty thank-you to all who prayed for me while I was on this trip. I’m certain your prayers helped me choose gratitude over grumbling.

#bgbg2 #devotions  #gratitude  #Thankfulness