Conntecting the Dots

God is Always Right, Even In the Shadows

 

“…the Lord our God is right in everything he does.” (Daniel 9:14 NCV)

 

 

Life is stinkin’ hard sometimes. Sooner or later, we walk through the shadows where mystery shrouds our understanding. Our faith tells us that God is still in control, but sometimes our pain causes us to question His ways, and—dare I say it? —doubt His wisdom and intent toward us.

 

How easy it is to express gratitude and trust in God when our journey leads along a sunlit path. When doors fling open and circumstances fall neatly into place. When our monthly bills are paid with a little extra left. When our loved ones flourish in every aspect of their lives. When our health is good and personal dreams come to pass. When everything’s honky-dory, we find it easy to praise God for who He is and thank Him for all He’s done.

 

But faith tests come when our path takes a detour into the dark.

 

Joseph walked that path after his brothers sold him into slavery. Later, false accusations landed him in prison. (Genesis 37-40)

 

Naomi made that journey when her husband and two sons died. (Ruth 1)

 

David—anointed by God to become ruler over Israel—experienced it when jealous King Saul chased him through the wilderness. (1 Samuel 21-23)

 

Detours happen. Now, during the pandemic and civil unrest, millions have found themselves in the shadows. Mystery surrounds our understanding of what’s happening and what’s yet to come. Our only hope lies in our loving God.

 

He is eternal, the Alpha and Omega, the Author of mankind’s story. He knows the conclusion. He knows the purposes He wants to accomplish and how to bring them to pass. This applies to the entire world stage as well as to our individual lives.

 

Some folks look at current events and shake their head in bewilderment. Some raise their fists in defiance. Some go on with life, determined to make the most of every day while others retreat in fear.

 

May I encourage you today with Daniel’s words? God is right in everything He does. He’s right when He leads us down those sunlit paths, and He’s no less right when those paths lead into the dark places.

 

Max Lucado expresses it well in his book, Traveling Light: “God is never wrong. He has never rendered a wrong decision, experienced the wrong attitude, taken the wrong path, said the wrong thing, or acted the wrong way. He is never too late or too early, too loud or too soft, too fast or too slow. He has always been and always will be right. He is righteous.”

 

God is either in control of all or not at all. And His ways are right and good because He is righteous and good.

 

So, what does that mean to you and me right now? It means we can trust Him implicitly and not be afraid. Now’s the time to put our faith into action and discover what it means to rest in Him, to be still and know that He is God.

 

“Father, You know the needs of every person reading this blog today. You know the questions, the hurts, the joys, fears, and hopes both expressed and held secretly in the heart. Because of who You are, I ask that You meet those needs today. Instill confidence that You are in control, and You are right in all You do. Grant courage and faith to trust You in all things whether understood or shrouded in mystery. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

Question: Tell us about a time when your path led into the shadows. What brought hope in that place?

 

 

 

#Hope  #TrustGod  #Devotions

 

Help for These Crazy Days is Closer Than You Think

Sailor-Man and I traveled by ferry on the weekend to visit our son and his family. In times past, ferry rules said we could not remain in our car for the crossing to Vancouver Island. We had to leave our vehicle and go upstairs to one of the passenger decks for the trip’s duration.

 

The pandemic has changed the rules. As the ferry pulled away from the dock, an announcement encouraged passengers to remain in their vehicles. Anyone choosing to go upstairs would have to wear a mask and maintain safe distancing.

 

Sailor-Man and I stayed put. The people in the car behind us went upstairs. Unfortunately, something triggered their car alarm, and not just once. It pierced the air and our eardrums about eighty times during the ninety-minute crossing.

 

Annoying? Yes. But pandemic circumstances have stirred up a lot more emotions than annoyance.

 

As COVID numbers begin to climb again, some folks fear that we’ll soon be looking at a rerun of the past few months. Some are fed up, frustrated with trying to figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction.  

 

Some folks are excited about re-engaging with society. Others feel sadness at the prospect of emerging from hibernation.

 

Some folks are grieving loss of loved ones. Others are dealing with disappointment over the death of a dream. Some are grateful for the calm that COVID-19 brought when isolation forced them to stay home. Others are confused about how to proceed from this point.

 

None of us have walked a road like this before, and trying to figure out how to do it well can stretch anyone. But there’s good news. We don’t have to attempt this on our own. Ephesians 6:10 reminds us that we can tap into a supernatural power source: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

 

In the original language, the phrase “in the Lord” implied that the supernatural power we need is locked up in the person of Jesus Christ. But get this—believers are also locked up in Him (Ephesians 1:3,4,6,7,10,11,13). He is our permanent spiritual address. That means we’re located in the same place as the Holy Spirit’s power.

 

One writer paints a word picture to help us understand this spiritual principle. He tells readers to think of an aquarium that holds water and a fish. Christ would be the tank, the Spirit is the water in the tank, and believers are the fish immersed in the water. Both the water and the fish are in the same place—inside the tank. This gives the fish immediate and constant access to the water.

 

Such is our access to the Holy Spirit’s strength “in the Lord.” We don’t have to go searching or begging for it. If we’re followers of Christ, then we have ready access to the Spirit’s power because we’re locked up in Christ with Him. Trouble is, we sometimes forget. We grow accustomed to trying to do life in our own power and figure this is just the way it is.

 

As we learn to walk this road of change and uncertainty, let’s admit that our strength is not enough. Let’s make it our goal, then, to do it in the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power. That means becoming more aware of His presence and what it means to walk in step with Him moment by moment.  

 

So, here’s a question for you. How have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s power already during these crazy days?

 

#InnerStrength  #LockedUpInChrist  #Devotions

 

 

 

 

3 Ways to Wait Well

 

The pandemic has canceled our overseas ministry travels this year. I’ll be honest—I don’t miss the challenges that go hand-in-hand with international travel. Especially the waiting. A couple of years ago, a flight to Slovakia topped all.

 

The trip began in Vancouver. While waiting at the gate for our flight to Toronto, I heard an announcement saying it was canceled. We sat tight for more than an hour while an agent rebooked our tickets, and then we waited another hour for the new flight.

 

Our plane leaving Toronto sat on the tarmac for two hours after boarding. Apparently, a flight attendant was injured during the loading process, so we had to wait for her replacement to arrive. In Slovakia, our airport shuttle van’s engine died, and we had to wait for someone with jumper cables to rescue us. 

 

Waiting seems a part of life: A friend waits for God to restore her marriage. Another waits for biopsy results. A third waits for her wayward son to come to his senses. A fourth waits to hear whether or not her husband will be transferred to a city two provinces away. Another waits for an overdue paycheck.

 

Beyond individual situations, it seems the whole world is waiting. We wait for delayed surgeries and postponed specialist appointments. We wait for churches and businesses to open, jobs to be restored, subsidy cheques to arrive, airlines to resume travel, embassies to process papers, and vaccinations to be invented. We wait to see what COVID-19 will do after thousands rioted in the streets. We wait to wrap friends and family in big hugs. We wait for justice to be served and racial inequality to be resolved once and for all.

 

It’s easy to grow impatient in the wait. Depending on the circumstances, we might think God needs our help. Like Sarai, we step in to give Him a hand, but we mess things up. We might begin to believe the lie that God doesn’t care about us. We might grow angry or bitter, or we may even lose hope of ever seeing our problem solved or our desire fulfilled.

 

Waiting can be difficult, yes? How, then, can we wait well? Here are three insights:

 

  • Give God credit. Acknowledge that His wisdom and ways are much higher than yours. He sees the bigger picture and is working behind-the-scenes at all times. Let Him do His job and rest in the truth that He makes no mistakes.

 

  • Give God thanks. Thank Him for being sovereign over every detail of your life. Thank Him for surrounding you with lovingkindness. Thank Him for providing this opportunity to grow and mature. “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

 

  • Give God your full attention. Ask Him what He wants to teach you in the wait, tune your ear to His voice, and expect Him to answer. Do not resist what He says. Maintain a teachable spirit and be willing to do whatever He says.

 

Waiting can either drive us crazy or become a rich experience that draws us into a deeper, sweeter walk with the Lord. We’re in control of the outcome. It all depends on how we choose to respond, so let’s choose well that we might wait well.

 

#Waiting  #Devotions  #WaitingWell

 

Encouragement for the Soul-Weary

two hands holding universe

Hey, my friend. How are you really doing this week?

 

Between you and me, I’m feeling a wee bit soul-weary. It’s about waiting for life to settle into a normal that allows us to visit family.

 

My daughter and son-in-law just bought their first home and will move in this week. Sailor-Man and I were really hoping to celebrate this major accomplishment with them by helping them paint and do other tasks related to their move. But that’s not to be. The Canada/USA border will remain closed until late July at least.

 

The whole world has been living under unusual stress for months. The brain and the body can absorb only so much. When I’m physically tired, I take a walk. Even ten minutes at a moderate pace works wonders. When I’m feeling soul-weary, I listen to praise and worship music on my walks. I also turn focused attention to God’s promises. Here are two that have blessed me this week.

 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10NIV).

 

It’s beautiful, yes? Knowing that God holds me in His hand renews my inner strength and hope. But it becomes even more meaningful when read within the context of the preceding chapter.

 

Isaiah 40:12 says, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”

 

The One who promises to hold us and strengthen us is the same One who cradles the world’s oceans in His palm. He gathers the earth’s dust into a basket and weighs all the mountains and hills on a scale. There is nothing He cannot do. Everything is possible for Him. No wonder we needn’t fear! My mind cannot comprehend such magnitude. The thought of His being aware of my weariness and promising to lend a hand humbles me.

 

As strong as God is, He is also gentle. Isaiah 40:11says, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his hear. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.” The same hands that hold the seas carry us close to the Father’s heart. He cares.

 

If you’re feeling a wee bit soul-weary today, be encouraged. You’re in God’s hands, and there’s no better place.

 

 

#Rest  ##SoulWeary  #Hope  #Devotions

 

3 Keys to Hope When You Don’t Know How the Story Ends

God writes our story

When we read a story, we have a distinct advantage over the characters involved: We know how it ends. As the protagonists struggle with various conflicts, we want to cheer them on: “Hang in there—you’re going to be okay.”

 

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery when he was about seventeen years old. Later, his boss’s wife accused him of sexual assault and he landed in prison where he was bruised by fetters. We also know that God used prison time to test his character and prepare him for his role as second-in-command over Egypt (Psalm 105:18-19). We know Joseph ended up being his brothers’ savior and that his family was reconciled (Genesis 50:15-21).  But Joseph didn’t know these things while God was writing the pages of his story.

 

God is writing the pages of your story today. Perhaps the plot has taken a few hard twists, especially during the pandemic.  Maybe you wish you could rewrite a chapter or two. You have no clue where this storyline is going or how it will end. So how can you walk this journey with hope? Here are three keys to remember.

 

 

  • Practice God’s Presence

God was with Joseph throughout every ordeal, and He’s with you, too. Greet Him when you wake up. Invite Him into your day’s activities even if they seem mundane. Talk to Him as you go about your chores, take a walk, or drive to work. Being more mindful of His presence brings courage when we feel afraid and comfort when we feel lonely.

 

  • Refuse to Worry

Nazi holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom, lived a story few of us can imagine. She said, “Worry doesn’t empty today of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” So true!

 

Every rich story includes conflict of one type or another. Our natural inclination is to worry about possible outcomes. But God’s word counsels us to take a better approach. “Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 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 4:5-7 NLT).

 

Scripture gives us a clue about how the story will end: Jesus will return someday, wipe every tear from our eyes, and set every injustice right. In the meantime, let’s apply this equation to every conflict we face: prayer + thanksgiving = peace.

 

You might find it helpful to take a piece of paper and identify your greatest concern in a word or two at the top of the page. Underneath that heading, express your worries about it to the Lord. Then write at least three things for which you can give thanks in the midst of it.

 

  • Offer Praise

When we give thanks to God, we’re expressing gratitude for all He has done on our behalf. When we offer praise, we focus on who He is by nature—faithful, wise, sovereign, just, powerful, and holy, to mention a few. We might focus on His names—Immanuel, Prince of Peace, Jehovah Jireh (provider).

 

We do this because it shifts our perspective from our problem to the Problem-Solver. It reminds us that He is bigger and stronger than any enemy we face. It helps us remember that He’s the one in charge, and nothing can thwart His purposes for our lives.

 

Many of us like to believe we’re in control of our circumstances. This pandemic has shown us that we’ve believed a lie. Only God is in control, and He knows best how to sort things out for our good and His glory. Let’s leave the pen in His hands.

 

Cling to the Lord, trust Him as the author of your story, and hang onto hope. As Billy Graham said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible, and it’s all going to turn out all right.

 

#YourStory  #GodsStory  #Hope  #Devotions

 

What the World Needs Now

Years ago, a lilting tune said that the world needed love, sweet love. The writer said love was the only thing of which there was too little. A simple tune, it was, but its simplicity carried a powerful message.

 

Truth be told, I’ve been so busy writing the new book that I was going to take a shortcut this morning and rework an old blog to ease my workload. But considering the state of the world, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. We’re in desperate days. I feel a sense of urgency to address what’s happening. I can’t remain silent.

 

A few weeks ago, the mantra heard was, “We’re all in this together.” We locked down, canceled flights, and weddings and school. We grieved loved ones alone, lost our jobs, and lost the privilege of meeting to worship. We shut stores and gyms and playgrounds. Bringing life to a grinding halt became our strategy to fight a common enemy – COVID-19.

 

Fighting the common enemy awoke something in us. Our frenetic daily pace gone, we began to see others through new eyes. We began practicing kindness—fetching groceries for those more vulnerable, reaching out via Zoom to others in isolation, calling others just to touch base. We realized that there’s more to life than what we see with our eyes. We recognized afresh the importance of human connection.

 

But the fight also revealed something else in humanity. It’s been there all along, but it’s particularly obvious now. What is it? The evil hidden in the human heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” It seems it’s becoming obvious to all.

 

A couple of nights ago on the local news, I watched footage of a young woman crossing a public patio. A senior Asian woman using a walker approached nearby. The young woman suddenly changed direction, came behind the senior and knocked her in the back of her knees. The older woman lost her balance and tumbled to the concrete. The assailant turned and walked away as though nothing had happened. Why it took weeks for this footage to be shown on the news is anyone’s guess.

 

We see footage of what’s happening in the United States. George Floyd’s death has given further revelation to the evil hidden in the human heart. This tragedy is only one piece of a bigger picture, though. It seems our society has gone mad in its pursuit of self-love.

 

We loot and burn and destroy other people’s livelihoods under the guise of social justice. Further from today’s news but still indicative of the evil in the human heart, we abuse our power and positions to take advantage of others. We buy and sell human beings like commodities. We make laws that say it’s okay to kill on demand and then remove funding from facilities that refuse to comply. We take the lives of unborn children and call this an essential service. This is craziness!

 

Calling in the military to dominate the dissenters will not make things right. Providing funding to help alleviate our society and our personal lives from those whose presence might inconvenience our pursuit of happiness will not make society better. We’re a mess. And there’s only one way to fix this.

 

We need to understand that people are not the enemy. Their skin might not be the same color as ours, and they might not share the same values, but they’re not the enemy. We’re at war alright, but it’s with a common foe who’s bent on destroying our souls—“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). The devil is real, and he wants to take out every man, woman, and child on the planet. And right now, it feels like he’s pulling out all the stops by stirring anger and violence and a whole lot of self-love.

 

What the world needs now is love. Not self-love. We’ve tried that since the dawn of time and it hasn’t worked so well. We need to get over ourselves and learn to love others despite the differences. We need to learn to love even when it costs us something.

 

Trouble is, the human heart being inherently evil isn’t capable of such love on its own. We can only begin to truly love others when we begin to understand how much God loves us. And wow—did it ever cost Him!

 

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

 

God loved the world—every man, woman, and child—enough to send His son to pay the death penalty we deserve for our sin. And heaven only knows the extent of it—greed, lust, unforgiveness, murder, abuse, ingratitude, gossip, lies, cheating, adultery, racism, and the list goes on. None of us can say we’ve never sinned. We’re a mess, beyond hope without His help.

 

The enemy of our souls wants to destroy us, but God offers a better future.  My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life,” He says (John 10:10). It begins with the forgiveness of our sin and continues as He recreates our hearts, making us into new people with a fresh start.

 

If you are dissatisfied and done with the mess, then choose the better way. Talk to God like you would talk to a friend and invite Him to lead you in His way. You can pray something like this:

 

“God, thank You for loving me and for having a purpose for my life. I believe You sent Jesus to pay my death penalty for sin and that He rose from the dead to purchase a place I heaven for me. Please forgive me. Cleanse my heart from everything that grieves You. Help me live life the way You intended from this day forward. Amen.”

 

What the world needs now is love. God is love, and we need Him desperately to show us how to love others so we can make this world a better place.

 

If you prayed that prayer above, please let me know. I’d be happy to provide you with a resource to show you how to grow in your relationship with God.

 

 

#bgbg2 #devotions #Love  #LoveIsTheAnswer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How You View Yourself Matters

 

“I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”     

 

“I’m only a devotional writer.”

 

“I’m just learning how to ___________.”

 

How many times have you heard people describe themselves in apologetic terms such as these? I’ve done it myself. In fact, those three examples are my own quotes.

 

Why do we do this? Because we’ve listened to negative voices around us rather than believing the truth about who we are in Christ Jesus.

 

The Israelites did the same thing. Day after day—for forty days—Goliath taunted them: “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul” (1 Samuel 17:8). His words influenced the Israelites’ self-perception and eroded their courage. Their lowly view of themselves led to defeat. “When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken…As soon as the Israelite army saw him [Goliath], they began to run away in fright” (1 Samuel 17:24).

 

But then David showed up and brought a fresh perspective to the scene: “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

 

David turned things around. He viewed them as soldiers fighting in the army of the living God. And he regarded the giant as only a pagan foreigner, not as a mighty intimidator capable of mass destruction. His perception of Goliath removed the fear factor of facing him in battle.

 

How did David view himself? His older brother accused him of being proud and deceitful, and Saul said he was “only a boy” incapable of fighting Goliath, but David refused to let others’ opinions determine his self-perception. Instead, he recalled the victories he experienced through God’s help in the past, and he saw himself as a conqueror on the verge of yet another conquest. His view of himself influenced his behavior, and he accomplished a historical victory that day.

 

I remember how empowered I felt when I stopped apologizing for being a stay-at-home mom by eliminating the word “just” from my vocabulary in that context.  My self-perception changed. I no longer saw myself as inferior to women my age who were successfully pursuing their careers. Instead, I counted myself blessed to pursue my heart’s desire to stay home with my children.

 

In the past, I’ve wrestled with being branded as a devotional writer. It didn’t help much when a friend in the publishing industry asked, “When are you going to start writing real books?” I’ve had to seek God’s perspective on the writing He’s called me to do, and now I view devotionals as sips of cold water prayerfully crafted to quench the parched. Now, when people ask what I write, I say, “I’m a devotional writer.” No apologies for not writing chapter books or novels.

 

Rather than just learning how to do something new (which subtly carries the connotation of feeble attempts), I am learning how to do something new (which carries the connotation of being gutsy enough to tackle a new endeavor). Again, I feel empowered to press on, to learn, to grow, and to develop my skills.

 

Here are a few personal growth questions to ponder:

  • How do you see yourself?
  • What factors have influenced that self-perception?
  • And how might that perception be influencing your behavior?

 

Feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

 

#bgbg2 #devotions #SelfPerceptionMatters

 

 

 

 

 

10 Gifts Our Shepherd Gives Us

 

Psalm 23:1 holds a special place in my heart. It says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need.”

 

On my fiftieth birthday, I sat in my backyard with Bible and journal in hand. “God, please give me a theme verse for my next 50 years,” I prayed. Psalm 23:1 instantly came to mind.

 

I’m embarrassed to admit that my first response was, “No thanks. It’s too simple. Give me something a bit more profound.” Thankfully the Holy Spirit stood His ground.

 

Psalm 23:1 – simple yet profound. The Lord wants us, His sheep, to flourish so He does whatever it takes to make that happen. Here are 10 gifts He provides to ensure our well-being.

  1. Wisdom—“If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.” (James 1:5)
  2. Constant companionship—“I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” (Psalm 16:8)
  3. Our physical needs—“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
  4. Peace—“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.” (John 14:27)
  5. Comfort—”He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
  6. Strength—”I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
  7. Forgiveness—”But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” (1 John 1:9)
  8. Joy—“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” (Psalm 16:11)
  9. Direction—“You will see the teacher with your own eyes, and you will hear a voice say, ‘This is the way; turn around and walk here.’” (Isaiah 30:21)
  10. Everything we need for godly living—“As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life.” (2 Peter 1:3)

 

No doubt this list is only the beginning. What do you need today, friend? If you’re following the Good Shepherd, then everything you need is at your disposal. Just ask.

 

#JesusOurShepherd  #bgbg2  #devotions  #Psalm23

 

 

How our Thoughts Determine our Destiny

 

Our thoughts determine our destiny. Seriously. Here’s how it works: The thoughts we habitually think shape our beliefs. Our beliefs influence our behaviors. And our behaviors determine our outcome or destiny.

 

I reflect on my life experiences and see how it’s proven true both negatively and positively. Take, for example, the summer of 2017 when Gene and I sensed God tell us to purge our belongings and move aboard a sailboat.

 

Our thoughts: Moving aboard a sailboat is a huge life transition and not to be made on a whim. It sounds a bit crazy, but If God is indeed nudging us, then we’ll move forward because He will help us.

 

Our beliefs: Because God will help us, we can move forward with confidence. He will protect us in this. He is bigger than any obstacle we might face. He is the way-maker.

 

Our behavior: We searched for the right boat and looked for a place to moor it. Spoke with our kids to see what their thoughts were about this idea. Crunched numbers to determine financial feasibility. Bathed every step in prayer and thanksgiving.

 

Our outcome: Found the ideal boat, bought it for a ridiculously low price, and watched as God provided moorage despite there being a seven-year waiting list for liveaboard space in the Vancouver area. Our joy cup overflows.

 

 

Let’s flip this and see how it might have looked based on different thoughts.

 

Our thoughts: Move onto a sailboat? Who does that? Give up our stuff? This is ridiculous, God.

 

Our beliefs: God is asking us to do something completely unrealistic. He’s harsh. He doesn’t really care about our wants and needs.

 

Our behavior: Ignore God’s whispers. Go about life as usual. Never take the first step toward obedience.

 

Our outcome: We’d still be living in our former house, likely feeling dissatisfied and wondering what life might have been like on a sailboat. We might be struggling with a dry spiritual journey.

 

Here’s a biblical example of the same principle, found in Psalm 106:24-27. It says, “The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them. Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord. Therefore, he solemnly swore that he would kill them in the wilderness, that he would scatter their descendants  among the nations, exiling them to distant lands.”

 

Their thoughts: Move into the Promised Land? Are you kidding? The people there will kill us. Besides, God brought us out here to die. We should have stayed in Egypt where we had lots of good food.

 

Their beliefs: God doesn’t have our best interest in mind. He can’ be trusted. He doesn’t really care about our wants and needs.

 

Their behavior: They grumbled in their tents and refused to obey God.

 

Their outcome: They died without seeing the Promised Land.

 

How easy it is to fall into negative thinking about our circumstances. When we dwell on those thoughts, we develop inaccurate beliefs. Those beliefs lead us to behaviors that are not-so-good, and bam—we end up in a not-so-good outcome. Thankfully it works in the positive sense, too.

 

Perhaps you feel frustrated or afraid over this pandemic and its fallout. Maybe you’re anxious about what your new normal might look like. There’s nothing wrong with those emotions, but you want to be aware that the enemy is out there looking for someone to devour. Know that he’ll go for your thoughts first in his attempt to bring you down. He will plant seeds of doubt about God’s intent toward you just as he did with Eve in the garden.

 

The moment you realize your thoughts are going to an unhealthy place, ask the Holy Spirit to replace them with truth. Fix them on what’s right and good and honorable using Philippians 4:8 as your guide. Make a list of things for which you can be thankful, and praise God for who He is—sovereign, wise, loving, and faithful.

 

Take control over your thoughts rather than letting them control you.  Fix them on the truth, and then walk out that truth for an outcome that will bring blessing rather than regret.

 

#Overcoming fear  #bgbg2  #devotions  #ControlYourThoughts

 

How to Spread Contagious Joy

 

We’ve heard the word “contagious” more times than we can count in the past few weeks. We all know that COVID-19 is easily spread from one person to another, so we wear masks to prevent droplets from escaping our mouths. We wash our hands multiple times a day. We wear gloves at the gas pumps. And we maintain appropriate social distancing rules even if our regions are beginning to open up. We do all these things because the disease is easily passed from one person to another.

 

COVID-19 isn’t the only negative thing that’s contagious. Fear spreads easily, too. During this time of media saturation, we read or hear the news that scares us, and we tell others about it. Trouble is, the news might not be accurate, or we hear only part of it and assume the rest. Nonetheless, we pass it on to others believing it’s fact, and fear grows.

 

So I’ve been thinking…

 

If COVID-19 and all things negative surrounding it can spread easily, then why not reframe the word “contagious” and spread something positive instead? How about spreading contagious joy? Doing so means we must be infected with it first.

 

At a time like this, joy is a choice we make. James 1:2-4 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

 

COVID-19 has brought troubles of every kind to our world. The weight of this hit me full force on the weekend when I learned that my hometown is now the virus hotspot for its province. My elderly mother still lives there. So do my brother and his entire family. His youngest daughter, the mother of three young children, is a nurse.

 

Troubles we’d never anticipated have hit our entire world. We can let those troubles terrorize us, keep us awake at night, drive us to drink (liquor stores are doing a booming business now) or push us into a pit of despair. Or—we can do what Scripture says and look at those troubles with different eyes.

 

We can choose to view this very strange time with joy. Great joy. This doesn’t happen naturally when we don’t know how we’re going to pay the bills, or when we can’t be with a loved one who’s deathly ill, or when homeschooling the kids is pushing us to the brink. It happens only when we allow God to transform our thinking (Romans 12:2). Instead of focusing on the what-ifs, we focus on Truth.

 

The truth is—yes, there’s a worldwide pandemic going on but…

  • God is with us.
  • God is in control.
  • God is our provider.
  • God loves us.
  • God will be faithful. Always.

 

Keeping our focus on the truth about God helps us rise above fear. And keeping our focus on the truth of James 1:2-4 helps us understand that our pain has a purpose. Hardship and suffering build endurance into our character. We grow stronger, deeper, more mature in our faith. We move from the darkness of despair into the light of hope.

 

Choosing joy amidst the most difficult circumstances benefits us and blesses others. Our attitudes, words, and actions no longer breed fear. Now they speak encouragement and spark hope. With a smile, an encouraging email, a handwritten note, or a listening ear, we spread joy to those who feel lonely or at a loss.

 

Imagine how different our world might look if everyone spread contagious joy during this time. What’s one action you can take to start a “Contagious Joy” movement in your home, neighborhood, and beyond?

 

#ContagiousJoy  #bgbg2  #Joy