Conntecting the Dots

To What Voices Do You Listen? – Part 1

I’ll always remember the voice on the phone that day: “Why do you bother doing what you do? If I were you, I wouldn’t even have tried.”

The woman was referring to my writing and speaking ministry. Her words so shocked me that I didn’t know how to respond. The conversation ended moments later and I slumped into my office chair feeling defeated to the core.

Thankfully God, in His wisdom, used that incident as a pivot-point for me. Through it, I learned the importance of choosing which voices to heed and which to ignore. I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about…

Voices that whisper fears when you debate a new venture: “You want to do what? You don’t have the know-how. What if you try and fail?”

Voices that mutter misgivings and cause you to question your worth: “You’re not as pretty or capable as other women. Move over, sister – you’re out-of-date.”

Voices that murmur doubts and cause you to query God’s character: “A good God would never allow such painful circumstances. Why devote yourself to Him? He obviously doesn’t give a rip about your well-being.”

Three Hebrew officials – Eliakim, Shebna and Joah – encountered a negative voice, too. Their story, told in Isaiah 36, began when an enemy king sent his chief of staff with a huge army to confront King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. When the three Hebrews went out to confront the army, the chief of staff made it his mission to discourage them. Here are some of the things he said:

“What are you trusting in that makes you so confident? Do you think that mere words can substitute for military skill and strength?” (vv. 4,5)

“I’ll tell you what! Strike a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria. I will give you 2,000 horses if you can find that many men to ride on them! With your tiny army, how can you think of challenging even the weakest contingent of my master’s troops, even with the help of Egypt’s chariot and charioteers?” (vv. 8,9)

“…Do you think we have invaded your land without the LORD’s direction? The LORD himself told us, ‘Attack this land and destroy it!’” (v. 10)

“What god of any nation has ever been able to save its people from my power? So what makes you think that the LORD can rescue Jerusalem from me?” (v. 20)

As if those comments weren’t enough, the chief of staff blatantly disregarded the official trio’s request to speak in Aramaic to protect the Hebrew population from overhearing him. Instead, he shouted to the Hebrew people, “Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the LORD by saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us…” (v. 13-15)

Unfortunately, the Hebrew men listened to the negative voice. Despair overwhelmed them, and they tore their clothes in response to their mental and emotional state.

We probably wouldn’t tear our clothes, but depending on our circumstances and what the voice says, we might feel equally as distraught. And so we’re faced with a choice: do we listen or do we ignore? We all know the right answer, but knowing how to do it (or choosing to do it) is where the challenge lies. I’ll talk about that I in Friday’s post. See ya then!

What negative voices have you encountered in your life? How did they impact you?

Check out this Crosswalk article for more on this topic.

#negativevoices  #bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions

Someone’s Watching!

From my office window, I see a hanging basket. A blue jay landed on it a few days ago. I could tell that the bird held something in its beak. Out of curiousity, I watched to see what it would do.

The jay cocked its head several times from side to side. To me, it appeared to be considering the basket as a possible hiding place for its treasure. Several seconds passed, and then it looked around as though checking to see if anyone was watching. Sneaky, sneaky!

Sure enough, the jay lodged its beak’s contents in the basket. Deed done, it flew away to roost in a nearby tree.

I couldn’t help but think about times I’ve behaved like the blue jay when thinking no one’s watching:

  • I’ve gorged on chips or chocolate when feeling lonely or struggling with writers’ block.
  • I’ve muttered under my breath and rolled my eyes in frustration over a difficult relationship.
  • I’ve spent money totally on impulse, on clothes or jewelry completely unnecessary but pretty.

Yup, I think I’m successful at being sneaky, but then I read Ecclesiastes 12:14 and my cover’s blown: “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

We might think we can hide our dastardly deeds. We might think we can be sneaky about bad choices and get away with it. We might think no one’s watching, but that’s not so. God sees every secret thing we do, whether good or bad.

We might be successful at concealing secret behaviors from people, but we’ll never hide them from the Lord. How easily we forget this truth. When we’re tempted to do something we shouldn’t, may He prick our conscience and remind us that Someone’s watching. May we be quick to respond and change our intended behavior not because we’re afraid of His heavy hand, but because we don’t want to grieve the One who loves us and is watching over our soul.

“Father God, help us remember that You see everything we do. You know every thought and every motive even though they’re hidden from people’s sight. Grant us pure hearts, hearts filled with love and adoration for who You are so we’ll behave in a manner that makes You smile at all times. Amen.”

#bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions  #PureMotives

How to Make Choices That Bring a Smile to God’s Face

(This article appeared in my September newsletter several days ago. I’m reprinting it here because of the positive feedback it received from readers).

Alicia Britt Chole, author of Pure Joy writes, “Today, many agree on what is absolutely evil and absolutely good. But in a world of ever-expanding shades of gray, we can lose confidence in our ability to distinguish where light ends and darkness begins.

“Yet God always sees clearly. When faced with a specific decision, let us first look to His Word and ask a simple question: Can I picture God smiling over this choice?”

This question is simple but profound. It’s worked well for me on my lifestyle change over the past two years—especially when I’m tempted to eat too much or snack on unhealthy foods.

I see my body as the Holy Spirit’s temple, and I’m its caretaker. Therefore, when I’m tempted to stuff it with junk food, I ask myself, “Can I picture God smiling over this choice?” It always gives me the strength needed to say no to that temptation.

The same question works when we’re debating whether or not to watch a particular movie, buy a specific garment of clothing, enter a relationship with a particular man, or speak words that we think need to be said to someone.

“Can I picture God smiling over this choice?” is a question we can ask ourselves when we allow negative thoughts about another person to linger in our minds. Or when we shrink back from a God-given assignment because fear grips us. Or when we choose to harbor unforgiveness toward someone who’s hurt us.

The concept of living a life that brings a smile to God’s face has been on my mind for several months. My daily prayer has become, “Father, help me live this day in a way that brings You pleasure.”

Asking this simple but profound question is one way to ensure this prayer is answered affirmatively.

TAKE ACTION: Identify one situation in your life to which you can apply this question. If your choice will bring a smile to God’s face, that’s great! If not, then what needs to change?

How to Respond When Someone Hurts You

I’ve admired Job for a long time, but my respect for him just climbed another notch. This guy suffered unspeakable anguish when he lost his children and all his earthly possessions. Then boils ravaged his body. As if that weren’t enough, his friends gathered around him and, with skewed theology, tried to explain the underlying reasons for his tragedies. Their words and attitudes must have hurt like rubbing alcohol poured over an open wound. And yet Job maintained his integrity.

Job 42:7-10 shows us Job’s depth of character despite the pain his friends inflicted. It says:

After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite did as the LORD commanded them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer. When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before.”

Job’s friends failed him miserably when he needed them most. They also offended the God he loved. A person of lesser character might have told those friends to take a hike, but Job set a higher standard by praying for their well-being. We don’t know the exact content of his prayer, but we can surmise that he asked God to demonstrate mercy and forgiveness toward them. What enabled him to do this?

Job considered himself a servant of God.

Four times in Job 42:7-10, God called Job “my servant.” Obviously then, Job was submitted to God’s commands and purposes. When the Lord told him to pray for his friends, he did so despite the way they’d treated him, and God accepted those prayers.

If we’re followers of Jesus, then we, too, are God’s servants. That means He’s our Master and has the authority to ask anything He wishes of us. When He tells us to pray for our enemies and those who despitefully use us, then that’s what we’re to do.

I’ve been learning this lesson firsthand. Someone spoke hurtful words that questioned my integrity several years ago, and I’ve been praying for that person’s inner healing ever since in obedience to my Master’s command. Sometimes my emotions lag, but I do it anyway, trusting Him to accept my prayers and answer in His way and time.

God is Master, and we’re His servants. If He says to pray for those who have hurt us, then let’s do what He says. If we maintain a pure heart as Job did, then we can rest assured our prayers won’t go unanswered. God will hear and accept them, and we can trust the outcome to His wisdom and sovereignty.

#bgbg2  #PrayForThoseWhoHurtYou  #Job

Jesus is Enough…Really?

One of my Polish friends sends emails to me a couple times each week. Writing in English is challenging for her, so she keeps her messages short. Her last email said simply, “Psalm 4:7-8.”

My friend loves Jesus with all her heart, and she’s a valiant prayer warrior. Whenever she sends me a Bible reference, I look it up and listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice. What might He be telling me through this earthly messenger?

Psalm 4:7-8 says, “You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.”

In the past two weeks I’ve thought often about what brings me satisfaction and a sense of security or well-being. My list includes time with family and friends, daily routines (ie: rising early to workout at the gym, enjoying quiet time and morning coffee on the patio, ending the day by sitting for an hour or so beside my hubby on our recliner loveseat), an outside space in which to write, access to an abundance of fresh summer fruits and veggies, using the beautiful Polish pottery mugs and plates I’ve collected over the past decade, and even having a comfortable mattress on which to sleep.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God, and I count the above as gifts from His hand. I’m grateful for each one. Would I feel as grateful if He asked me to do something new that meant giving up some or all of them?

I recall the years I lived in a mud house in Nepal—no electricity, no running water, no indoor plumbing. I bathed in a basin on the floor, washed clothes in an irrigation ditch that trickled nearby, and cooked three meals a day on a kerosene camping stove. Life was tough, and culture shock significant, but God used that “stripping away” season to teach me reliance on Him. It’s a season I’d gladly redo so I could once again experience Him as I did then.

Loving relationships, comfortable circumstances, and material possessions are good gifts meant to be enjoyed, but they’re not meant to become the source of our security and satisfaction in life. Only Jesus deserves that role. I can see, though, how I’d find it difficult to let go of the things on my list if He gave me a new assignment that required doing so.

What about you—would you find it difficult to give up those things on your list if the Lord asked you to do something that meant having to do so?

Psalm 4:7,8 tells us that the Lord offers true security and brings unequaled joy. He is enough. Or is He?

#bgbg2  #JesusIsEnough

10 Verses about God’s Strength

Isaiah 41:10 – Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

 

Psalm 96:4-7 – Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be revered above all the gods. The gods of other nations are merely idols, but the Lord made the heavens! Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary. O nations of the world, recognize the Lord; recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.

 

Psalm 84:5-7 – Happy are those who are strong in the Lord, who set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.

 

Ephesians 6:10 – A final word: Be strong with Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.

 

Deuteronomy 31:6 – So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

 

Joshua 1:9 — This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

 

2 Samuel 22:33 — God is my strong fortress, and he makes my way perfect.

 

Psalm 48:10 — As your name deserves, O God, you will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory.

 

Psalm 148:14 — He has made his people strong, honoring his faithful ones— the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

Proverbs 18:10 – The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe.

 

How Can We Know God’s Will for Our Life?

I often hear people ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” Asking that question hoping to discover details such as where we should live, what career we should pursue, and who we should marry, can put us through a lot of stress. Focusing too long and hard on it can result in fear—before long, we’re afraid to make a decision or take a step lest we make or take the wrong one.

Perhaps the better question to ask is, “What is God’s will?”

Ultimately God’s will is to redeem a broken world by bringing mankind into right relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ and for us to then enjoy intimacy with Him.

Intimacy with God grows when we seek Him daily. It deepens when we apply His words to our lives—when we not only hear what He says, but we put it into practice. It sweetens when we learn to recognize His Spirit’s voice as He directs, comforts, teaches, encourages, and convicts us.

Simply put, pursuing God and learning to truly know Him is His will for your life and mine. Everything about us flows from that relationship. The more we discover who He is, the more we love and trust Him. The more we love and trust Him, the more able we are to hear His voice, and the more willing we become to follow wherever He leads even when it doesn’t appear to make sense.

I’ve been reading Experiencing God by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King. I did the Bible study nearly twenty years ago, and it changed my life then. Reviewing it is really blessing me. Today I learned something I hadn’t thought about until now.

In John 14:6, Jesus says He is the way. I’ve always thought of that statement in terms of His being the way to salvation and eternal life. Indeed, He is that. But there’s more: Jesus is also the road map for discovering the details about God’s will for our lives. When we make our relationship with Him our priority, following Him day by day and staying attuned to His voice, He will show us the way we should go. We needn’t get overly concerned about the details because He’s got those covered. He’ll show us one step at a time, on a need-to-know basis.

So—do you want to know the way you should walk in regards to a specific situation? Are you faced with a decision and want to make the right choice? Make knowing Jesus your priority and then trust Him to show you the way. His love and care for you was settled on the cross, and He will always lead you along the best path.

#bgbg2  #KnowingGodsWill

Arrow Prayers — Short but Effective

Conversing with God doesn’t have to be formal or complicated. Sometimes it resembles what we call an “arrow prayer”—brief and pointed. Here’s an example, taken from Nehemiah’s life:

“The king asked, ‘Well, how can I help you?’ With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, ‘If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried’” (Nehemiah 2:4-5).

Nehemiah had a split second to pray before he responded to the king’s question. What might his arrow prayer have said? Perhaps it was, “God, give me the right words,” or “Help!” Maybe it was a compressed version of a request he’d prayed months before—“Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me” (Nehemiah 1:11).

I shoot arrow prayers regularly. It happens often when I’m traveling by plane and a spiritual conversation opens with a fellow passenger. On one instance a woman beside me said, “I’m on a personal quest. I’m searching for peace. Have you found it?”

I shot an arrow prayer: “God, give me the right words.” I launched into answering her question trusting the Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and my mouth.

I shoot arrow prayers when driving down the highway. “God, safety.”

I shoot them when I feel completely exhausted: “God, strength.”

I shoot them when I don’t know how to pray: “God, help.”

Our prayers needn’t be long and sprinkled with big words in order for God to listen. They just need to be heartfelt, honest expressions of our need for His involvement in our lives. Sometimes arrow prayers are all we can muster and that’s okay. God hears and answers even the briefest cries for help.

#bbg2  #Prayer  #ChristianDevotions

God’s Word Changes Lives!

Our Polish evangelistic camp ended last weekend and we bid tearful goodbyes to those who attended. It never ceases to amaze me that relationships can run so deep in such a short time period.

On the last morning, one gal gave me a big hug and whispered in my ear, “Thank you for coming. Thank you for opening my eyes to the truth.”

This woman attended the daily Bible lesson that I facilitated, and she blossomed like a rose. The Holy Spirit did a good work in her heart as we read and discussed God’s Word. It was like she came alive before our eyes.

God’s Word is indeed alive and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. When we read it with a heart open to learning, it reveals wrong thinking we’ve believed. It corrects and directs us. It teaches us the truth about who God is. It shows us how to live in a way that fulfills His purpose for our lives and brings Him pleasure.

The importance of spending time reading and studying Scripture cannot be over-emphasized. It’s a treasure entrusted to us by the Author Himself and for which men and women over centuries have literally sacrificed their lives.

What a privilege to bring God’s Word to Poland—a country which forbid its citizens to read the Bible until the late 1960s. Some people ask why we return year after year to this land. The answer’s easy—because God’s called us to communicate His love to these people. He wants them to know that He created them for relationship with Himself. Putting His Word into their hands and exploring it with them is a primary means of accomplishing His desire.

For those who prayed for our camp ministry—thank you. Prayer is the hard work, and God honored your labor.

International Messengers has two North American offices—one in Iowa and one in British Columbia. Together we could use more than 300 men and women to help host camps like this across post-Communist Europe every summer. Recruiting for next year’s teams begins now. Would you consider participating next summer? Perhaps you, too, could witness the light come on in someone’s eyes as they read God’s Word for the first time. Contact our office if this tugs at your heart, okay? Get questions answered, pray about it, and see where things lead from there.

Perhaps next summer a new friend will whisper in your ear, “Thank you for coming. Thank you for opening my eyes to the truth.”

USA office – https://www.internationalmessengers.org

Canada office – https://im-canada.ca

#bgbg2  #SummerMissions

How Has God Helped You?

Happy Monday, all!

I’m a bit preoccupied this week with helping to host an evangelistic family camp in Poland, so pardon the lack of a written blog. In its place, I’m sending you a verse on which to meditate this week.

How have you seen God help you in the past? Recall His faithfulness by listing the ways in which He’s answered prayer, provided for you, and protected you. Perhaps you could make this a family project, or share this idea with a friend and set a date to share your list with each other. No doubt, as you recall God’s faithfulness, you’ll have every reason to sing for joy!

Know you are loved,

Grace