Conntecting the Dots

The Importance of Consulting God First

A couple of years ago, a ministry in the Middle East asked me to come and teach a week of discipleship training. I’d been there once before and had loved connecting with the people, so I immediately said yes. Never mind that my calendar was already booked with teaching in Nepal for three weeks the month prior, followed by speaking at a Canadian women’s retreat.

Accepting the Middle Eastern invitation would mean flying halfway around the world twice in five days: Nepal – Canada – Egypt. I know, I know—saying yes was a bad idea, but I didn’t think so at the time. After all, my heart was in the right place. I wanted to encourage new believers in their faith journey, and I believed God would give me the strength necessary to travel thousands of miles to do it.

 There was only one problem: I didn’t ask God for His opinion before I said yes.

King David did the same thing. He felt badly that he was living in a cedar palace while the Ark of the Lord’s covenant sat outside in a tent. He felt that God deserved better so he thought about building a magnificent temple where He could dwell.

David’s heart was in the right place. He loved God and wanted to honor Him. He even talked to Nathan the prophet about his idea and received his blessing to proceed. But God had other plans. He’d chosen David to lead His people for a time, and He’d appointed Solomon to build the temple (1 Chronicles 17:1-15). Using Nathan as a mouthpiece, God put a stop to David’s good intentions.

God put a stop to my well-meaning plans too. Security issues in the Middle East became a concern two weeks before my scheduled flight, and the discipleship training was put on hold.

The sudden turn of events meant canceling my airline ticket, and doing so cost several hundred dollars. In retrospect, I believe I could have saved myself a lot of unnecessary stress and expense if only I’d taken the time to consult God before making my own plans.

Proverbs 19:21 says, “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” This verse has become foundational for me since my Middle Eastern experience. Now I understand the importance of talking with God before making decisions no matter how honorable they seem.

Have you ever done something like that? Your heart was in the right place. You meant well. You truly wanted to honor the Lord, so you stepped into something that seemed like a good idea at the time but neglected to talk to God about it first. If so, did God step in and thwart your plans or did He allow you to move forward with them? What happened?

#bgbg2  #PrayFirst  #ChristianDevotions

God’s Heart and Hard-to-Love People

I’ve kept my head low for the past month, preparing new materials for October’s speaking engagements. Those weekends are now behind me, and I’m coming up for air. I’m grateful for time to catch up on tasks in my office as well as routine household chores, but I’m also thankful for time to reflect and write about the truths I’ve been teaching.

Here’s the one on my mind today: God’s heart for His children is that they grow in holiness.

God wants us to become more like Him, untainted by sin and its consequences. How does this happen? Well, I believe that growth in holiness often takes place in community. That is, within human relationships.

No one’s perfect. People disappoint and hurt each other—sometimes on purpose but often unintentionally. Regardless of evil intent or lack thereof, relationships fracture and fall apart. When we’re feeling angry, frustrated, betrayed or disappointed, we can either withdraw and walk away from others, or we can choose to view them as God-ordained opportunities to grow us in holiness.

Relationships, especially with difficult or wounded people, reveal our shortcomings—impatience, selfishness, and pride. It’s humbling to recognize these things in ourselves, but we ought to be encouraged in knowing that change is possible as we allow the Holy Spirit to mature us.

Colossians 3:12 says that God has chosen us to be holy people. Thankfully He gives us instructions for how we can partner with Him as He works in us. He says we’re to clothe ourselves “with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” We’re to make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive those who offend us because, after all, He forgives us. The most important piece of clothing we’re to put on is love.

Putting on these character qualities means taking off others such as jealousy, anger, envy, suspicion, and bitterness. The old nature is removed as the new nature takes hold.

Let’s not resent or resist the difficult people in our lives. Rather, let’s see them as tools in God’s hands to fulfill His heart’s desire for us. They’re not meant to make our lives difficult; they’re one of God’s means of making us holy.

What are your thoughts?

#bgbg2  #Holiness

Today’s a Gift

Lord, thank You for this and every day.

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it,” says Psalm 118:24. These words resonate with us some days more than others. Do you agree?

Our family recently vacationed at a lakefront cabin. Waking up to waterski and play on the beach made it easy to rejoice. Returning home to chores—not so much.

Regardless of our feelings, the truth remains—today’s a gift not to be wished away for tomorrow or overlooked with yearnings for yesterday. Open it with anticipation. Expect to experience God’s presence and love.

I start each morning with this Scripture. Before I roll from bed, I say, “This is the day You’ve made, Lord. I’ll rejoice and be glad in it.” This sets me in a healthy place where I’m more apt to respond in a God-honoring way come what may.

Consider adopting my habit unless you already have a similar one that works for you. Whatever you do, regard today as God’s gift. Embrace it, for it will never pass this way again.

Take Action:

Say aloud, “This is the day You’ve made, Lord. I will rejoice and celebrate!”

Excerpt from Morning Moments with God (c) 2014 Grace Fox

Published by Harvest House

Making Plans

Lord, help me keep You foremost in my decision-making.

My husband and I built our dream house. More accurately, an architect translated our ideas into blueprints and a team of skilled laborers constructed it.

These men possessed skill and knowledge we lacked. Employing them resulted in a lovely home that satisfied building codes. Imagine the fiasco if we’d attempted the project without seeking the experts. 

Sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it? Sometimes we develop our own ideas about personal dreams and plans. God’s word instructs us to commit those ideas to the Lord, to ask Him to oversee them with His expertise. “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this…” (Psalm 37:5). Another version says, “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you” (NLT).

We can create a fiasco if we plunge headlong into our plans without first consulting the Expert and giving Him the freedom to do with them whatever He knows is best. Let’s save ourselves trouble by inviting His involvement from the get-go.

Take Action:

What dreams are in your heart? Commit them to God today.

Excerpt from Morning Moments With God © 2014 by Grace Fox

Published by Harvest House

#bgbg2  #OurPlansGodsPlans

Thanksgiving: Here’s What’s on My Gratitude List

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to my Canadian readers! How will you spend it?

I look forward to having my daughters and one son-in-law visit. Eight friends will join us on Saturday for a traditional dinner—turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, stuffing, and everything else yummy. We’ll eat, play table games, and talk about the things for which we’re grateful.

This week’s tragedy in Las Vegas has caused me to realize afresh that life is precious and that I am immeasurably blessed. Here are a few things for which I’m grateful today:

  • I’m alive.
  • My family and friends. They’re alive too. What’s sweeter than to love and be loved?
  • My husband—a man of integrity and prayer.
  • My house—a safe, dry, warm place in which to live and practice hospitality.
  • My health, and an affordable gym nearby where I can exercise rain or shine.
  • The godly women with whom I participate in a weekly Bible study. Their transparency and love for Jesus inspires me.
  • My Bible and the freedom to read it openly.
  • God’s promises. They’re my anchor, hope, and light.
  • God reigns. It seems the world’s gone mad, but I need not fear because He is in control. Nothing can thwart His purposes. Nothin I agree with Kay Arthur who said, “God is in control, and therefore in everything I can give thanks – not because of the situation but because of the One who directs and rules over it.”

I thought you might enjoy several other quotes about gratitude by well-known Christian leaders. Take a few minutes this weekend to ponder their truth.

  • C.S. Lewis – “We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good, if bad, because it works in us patience, humility and the contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”
  • Ravi Zacharias – “’Gratitude’ comes from the same word as freedom (gratis = free). Gratitude is the freeing expression of a free heart toward one who freely gave.”
  • A.W. Tozer—“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”

Do you have a quote you’d like to share?

For what are you grateful this weekend?

#Thanksgiving  #gratitude

To What Voices Do You Listen? Part 2

In the last blog, I wrote about negative voices and how we must choose whether to listen to them or ignore them. Isaiah 36 tells of an official Hebrew trio driven to despair through an enemy’s threats. When they relayed his words to King Hezekiah, he, too responded with despair. But then he took action.

First, he went into the Temple of the Lord (Isaiah 37:1). He knelt before God and sought His wisdom. Second, he sought help by sending his assistants to speak with the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 37:2).

When we’re dealing with a negative voice—whether an actual person verbalizing his opinion or the enemy whispering lies in our heads—it’s easy to become discouraged. We can turn it around by doing what the king did—take our concerns directly to God. Ask for His perspective. Ask Him to help identify the lies and for the ability to tune them out. Then,  solicit the help of godly friends. It’s okay to ask for wise counsel, and it’s always good to ask others to pray for us when we’re feeling undone. We don’t have to fight our battles alone.

God responded to Hezekiah through Isaiah with these words: “Do not be disturbed by this blasphemous speech (emphasis mine) against me from the Assyrian king’s messengers. Listen! I myself will move against him, and the king will receive a message that he is needed at home. So he will return to his land, where I will have him killed with a sword” (vv. 6,7).

The negative voice had thrown Hezekiah and the official trio into a royal tailspin, but God told them not to worry about it. He reminded them that He was in control and aware of the words that were spoken. He would hold that person accountable for the message spoken against Him and His people.

Likewise, negative voices can intimidate us, make us feel as though there’s something wrong with us, or steal our joy and enthusiasm for what we believe God has called us to do. But we can overcome by remembering that, when we’re living according to His pleasure and purposes, God takes responsibility for us. He is our Defender.

Our job is to fix our eyes and ears on the One who’s called us into His family and service. As we tune our ear to hear His voice of truth, we’ll grow more adept at recognizing the lies and tuning out the naysayer.

What practical advice can you offer re: rising above negative voices?

#bbg2  #ChristianDevotions

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