Conntecting the Dots

Can We Count on God?

“I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word” (psalm 130:5).

What does it mean to count on someone? It means we place our trust in him. We have confidence that he will help us.

On Wednesday morning I counted on a particular friend to show up at our place at 7:30 AM. Gene and I needed a ride to the Vancouver airport, and we trusted him to fulfill his promise to drive us there. He showed up early, and he dropped us off at YVR in plenty of time to catch our flight.

I counted on pilots to fly us safely to Frankfurt and Berlin. They fulfilled my expectations and provided a boring flight. Boring is good on airplanes!

Today our team is preparing to receive about 100 campers. I’m counting on them to use their giftedness to make the program a success and to demonstrate Christ’s love to the campers. I have full confidence that they’ll exceed my expectations.

I’m so thankful for trustworthy people, for those who do what they say they’ll do. Not everyone’s like that. I’ve known people to shirk responsibility, pursue their own interests at others’ expense, and make promises they never intend to keep. They leave others in a lurch, hurt, disappointed, or frustrated.

But God never shirks His responsibility toward us. Neither does He make promises He doesn’t intend to keep. He is completely trustworthy. What He says He’ll do, He will do. We can put our hope and trust in His word. Here are a few things for which we can count on Him:

  • He forgives us when we confess our sins
  • He’ll never abandon us
  • He offers a fresh resource of faithfulness every morning
  • He gives us wisdom when we ask for it
  • He provides for our physical needs
  • He comforts us when we grieve
  • He honors us when we walk humbly before Him
  • He fills and controls us with His Holy Spirit
  • He’ll send Jesus back someday

What other things can you identify?

“Heavenly Father, we praise You because You are completely trustworthy. We’re counting on You to give us wisdom for today, to provide for our needs, and to protect us from the evil one. We’re counting on You to direct our steps and our conversations. We’re putting our hope in Your word because You are faithful. Amen.”

#bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions  #Wisdom  @CAN_AuthorNews  @biblegateway

Seeking Wisdom is Good, But Something Else is Even Better

How many “aha” moments can a person have in a short period of time? I feel as though they’re coming at me from every direction. Each time they hit me, I wonder why I haven’t noticed these truths earlier. Learning never stops, nor should it!

The speaker at the family Bible camp I attended earlier this month preached from the life of David. One day he compared David with his son Solomon and made this observation: David was a man who sought God, but his son Solomon sought wisdom. David was considered a man after God’s own heart, but Solomon was undone by his love for foreign women.

The speaker encouraged us to follow David’s example—to seek the Lord above all else. This morning I read David’s advice to Solomon when he commissioned him to build the Temple:

“Now my son, may the LORD be with you and give you success as you follow his directions in building the Temple of the LORD your God. And may the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, that you may obey the Law of the LORD your God as you rule over Israel. For you will be successful if you carefully obey the decrees and regulations that the LORD gave to Israel through Moses. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or lose heart…Now seek the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.”

(1 Chronicles 22:19 NLT)

Here’s my latest aha moment: David counseled Solomon to seek the Lord with all his heart and soul because he knew that wisdom, strength, and courage would be natural outcomes if he kept first things first.

I’m not saying that seeking wisdom isn’t a good thing. It is. Scripture commands us to be wise as serpents. We need to learn from others who have lived victorious and effective Christian lives. We need to learn from history’s mistakes lest we repeat them. Seeking wisdom is good. But it’s not as all-important as seeking intimacy with the Lord.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” says Mark 12:30. When we keep first things first, other things follow: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

When we make God our focus and give Him first place in our lives, then everything else falls into place. Loving and knowing Him is the key to wisdom, strength, and courage. It makes us ultra-sensitive to sin in our lives and to the Holy Spirit’s gentle promptings. It’s the source of peace, contentment, and joy.

Seek wisdom but sow time and effort into seeking the Lord’s face more. Delve into His Word, develop ongoing communication with Him, and allow His Spirit to fill and control you, and you’ll reap wisdom.

#bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions  #Wisdom  @CAN_AuthorNews  @biblegateway

3 Reasons to Live Grumble-Free

How easy it is to grumble! When winter hits, we complain about the snow or—where I live—the rain. When summer arrives, we whine about the heat and the watering restrictions.

If our workload overwhelms us, we might complain about having too much to do and not enough free time. But if we lose our jobs, we grumble about having too much time on our hands and not enough money to pay the bills.

If we live in cramped quarters, we might complain about not having enough space. But if we live in a large house, we whine about the amount of housework it requires to stay clean.

Please don’t ask me why I chose those specific examples. That’s far too personal! Anyway, as I thought about this topic today, I came up with three reasons for why believers should strive to lead a grumble-free life:

  • It’s our God-given mandate.

Philippians 2:14 says, “In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing.” Not much room for argument there.

  • It sets an example.

Philippians 2:14,15 continues, “… so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.”

A grumble-free life shows others that we’re content with God’s control over our circumstances. We convey the message that He is trustworthy.

  • It reflects God’s character.

1 Chronicles 17:6 reveals God’s words to King David via the prophet Nathan. “I have never lived in a house, from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until this very day. My home has always been a tent, moving from one place to another in a Tabernacle. Yet no matter where I have gone with the Israelites, I have never once complained to Israel’s leaders, the shepherds of my people. I have never asked them, ‘Why haven’t you built me a beautiful cedar house?’”

If anyone has reason to grumble and complain, God does, especially when He looks upon mankind and the manner in which we treat Him. And yet He refrains. Instead, He teaches us to develop contentment and to practice gratitude and praise.

The next time I catch myself grumbling, I’m going to call to mind these three reasons for not doing so. Better yet—I’ll try to remember these reasons so that catching myself won’t be an issue. Maybe I’ll even make a fridge note that says, “Grumble-Free Zone.”

#bbg2  #StopGrumbling  #GrumbleFreeZone

Let Jesus Teach You

This morning I read a familiar verse in my quiet time—“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls’” (Matthew 11:28,29). I’ve read this passage hundreds of times, but today the words Let me teach you fairly popped off the page and into my heart. Consider this…

When we don’t know how to pray, Jesus says, “Let me teach you.”

When we don’t know which path to choose, Jesus says, “Let me teach you.”

When we don’t know how to respond to a difficult person, Jesus says, “Let me teach you.”

When we don’t know how to tackle a God-given assignment, Jesus says, “Let me teach you.”

When we don’t know how to parent a strong-willed child or respect our spouse, Jesus says, “Let me teach you.”

When we feel like saying, “I just don’t know what to do,” let’s remember the promise Jesus made to those who follow Him: “But when the Father sends the Counselor as my representative—and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you” (John 14:26).

He teaches. We listen, receive His words, and then we obey.

Easy, right?

Well, maybe for some. For others, not so much. We might argue, throw a tizzy fit of sorts, and cling to whatever measure of control we think we own, but doing so gets us nowhere. Let’s be honest. God is God, and we are not. Why insist on relying on our own smarts when His knowledge and wisdom far surpass ours?

Jesus knows when we feel confused or at a loss. He says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens…let me teach you.” And then He makes a promise: “You will find rest for your souls.”

Rest. Sounds so, so good. No more striving to solve the problem. No more struggling to find the perfect strategy. No more straining to discover the ideal solution.

Jesus knows the answer to every question with which we wrestle. Let’s seek Him first before making a regrettable blunder. Let’s listen for His response, and let’s let Him teach us and then commit to doing whatever He says.

#bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions  #JesusKnowsTheAnswer

Let the Banquet Begin!

In a couple of weeks I’ll board a Boeing 747 and fly to Eastern Europe again: Vancouver—Frankfurt—Berlin, followed by a five-hour ride to our final destination in Poland. My husband and I will lead a team of volunteers to host an evangelistic English-learning family camp. Each day consists of a conversational English class, a Bible study based on the parables of Jesus, an afternoon workshop, and lots of relationship-building activities including sports, skits, crafts, hikes, games, and lots of casual conversations over coffee.

The week climaxes on the last evening. Everyone dons their finest outfit. The children perform songs they’ve learned during camp, and each adult and teen camper receives a certificate to acknowledge participation in the English classes. But that’s not all.

The evening begins with a banquet. Platters of thinly sliced meats and cheeses adorn a buffet table. Bowls containing vegetable and potato salads add to the menu. Baskets containing breads and rolls, dishes filled with berry jam, and plates heaping with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers await their plunder. And then comes dessert: trays laden with watermelon, grapes and oranges, and three-tiered serving dishes stacked with delicacies baked with lemon, chocolate, coconut, vanilla custard, and more.

The banquet’s a highlight for all. An air of joy and celebration fills the hall. Festivity rules.

A feast of a different sort comes to mind when I think about the Polish banquet. Psalm 23:5 says, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”

Imagine—the Lord prepares a feast for those who love and trust Him, and He does so in the presence of our enemies. What enemies might those be? Well, perhaps they’re the enemies of our soul. Maybe they’re the forces that threaten to sink us or knock the wind from us. Forces such as fear, grief and disappointment, insecurity, shame and guilt.

God spreads a banquet for His kids, and He forbids our enemies to ruin the fun. Envision Him standing at the entrance to the hall, arm extended with His hand like a stop sign in the enemy’s face. “Don’t even think about it,” He says. “You’re not invited. You’re not welcome here.”

I enjoy the Polish banquet once each year, but the Lord’s banquet begins afresh every morning. The table’s laden with forgiveness, peace, joy, love, and purpose. I open my mouth and He fills it with these good things. He satisfies my hunger and quenches my thirst. Every day, day after day after day…the supply of divine delicacies never ends. Surely my cup overflows with blessings.

Will you partake of the banquet with me?

#bgbg2   #GodPreparesABanquet  #Psalm23

Relearning a Faith Lesson–and Needing Craft Suggestions!

Do you ever feel as though life is one l-o-n-g lesson in learning? If so, welcome to the club.

Just when we think we’ve mastered the art of trusting God for finances, bam! A situation lands in our lap that reveals how much we still need to learn.

Just when we feel like we’re the poster child for patience, we grow tired of waiting for God to act in answer to our prayers and succumb to the temptation of lending Him a hand.

Just when we feel as though we’ve surrendered our family’s well-being into God’s care once for all, circumstances arise that strike fear into our hearts yet again.

And so it goes. We learn faith lessons. Then we learn them again. And then we relearn.

Learning is a good thing when we grow from the lessons. Acknowledging that we don’t know it all is also good. When we’re honest with others about our current learning curve, we can then offer mutual encouragement and pray for one another.

Let’s be honest with God, too, humbly admitting that we don’t know it all. Let’s be open and teachable. Let’s place ourselves at the Master’s feet and invite Him to teach us whatever we need to learn.

Let’s maintain a heart like David’s when he wrote, “Show me the path where I should walk O LORD; point out the right road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you” (Psalm 25:4,5).

That’s a good prayer for me today as I (re)learn the need to trust God for the details of an upcoming mission trip to Poland. Specifically—planning women’s crafts. I just learned that the Polish gal who’d planned to lead this activity cannot come to our camp after all. That puts the responsibility on our team, and we leave in less than three weeks. We’ll have to do last-minute research, buy, and pack supplies. And we won’t know the actual number of women for whom to plan until a couple of days prior to departure.

I’ve done more than 15 mission trips. Planning crafts is not my forte, and I always find this stressful, especially when other women on the team admit the same thing. And yet, despite our weakness, craft activities have always gone well. Why, then, do I worry?

I’m relearning to trust God even in the little things. And I’m praying, “Lead me by your truth [the truth is—He is faithful]. Teach me to trust and to rest in You, for You are the God who saves me [and who knows how many women will attend the camp and what crafts they’ll enjoy most]. All day long I put my hope in you.”

What lesson are you learning—or relearning at this time?

Do you have any nifty craft ideas for about 30 women? Crafts need to be completed in less than two hours. Or one craft could take up to four hours, over two afternoons. Supplies need to be lightweight. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

#bgbg2  #RelearningFaithLessons  #ChristianDevotions

3 Ways to Make Your Life Consistent with God’s Standard

The word align seems to be coming at me in various forms these days particularly as it relates to spiritual matters. It came to me again this morning via Ecclesiastes 7:8a—“Notice the way God does things; then fall into line.”

So what might the Holy Spirit be telling me? Here are my thoughts.

  • As Christ followers, we ought to align our behaviors with His. For example, if we treat others in a matter contrary to the manner in which He treated them—with respect and compassion—then our behaviors are out of line and change needs to happen. We need to realign them to make them consistent with our Master’s teaching and role model.
  • As Christ followers, we ought to align our thoughts with His. Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Thoughts that dwell on what is untrue, critical, impure, and dishonest fall short of God’s standard—they’re misaligned and need an adjustment.
  • As Christ followers, we ought to align our values with His. For instance, He cares for orphans and widows, therefore we ought to do the same (James 1:27). He says we’re to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, therefore we ought to pay our taxes with integrity (Mark 12:17). He says we’re to gather with other believers for fellowship, therefore we ought to be involved with a local body of Christians (Hebrews 10:25).

I find the word align so helpful in evaluating my spiritual well-being. It helps in the physical realm too. For instance, I know what weight I want to maintain for the rest of my life assuming I’ll stay healthy. In order to achieve my goal, I need to align my behaviors with that goal. Anything less destines me for failure.

How does the word align resonate with you? What behaviors or attitudes could use a realignment in your life either to line up with God’s standard or to reach personal goals?

#bgbg2   #ChristianDevotions

How to Have Confidence for Whatever This Week Holds

It’s Monday—the start of a new week. I wonder what it holds for you and me.

Depending on your life season, you might be feeling overwhelmed with graduation festivities, or weddings, or year-end baseball games and dance recitals and the like. Perhaps you’re in the throes of planning a summer vacation or raising funds for a mission trip. Or maybe you’re feeling more than a tad stressed with work demands, caring for a senior parent, or trying to hold a difficult marriage together.

Personally, I’m feverishly writing the first two weeks of a Bible study for a ministry in the USA. When done, I’ll send it to a committee that will either accept it, reject it, or offer suggestions for tweaking it. If the former, I’ll tell you all about it in future blogs!

If you’re beginning your week feeling swamped, you might be tempted to forego your quiet time with the Lord. The enemy will whisper, “You’re so busy with other things right now—you don’t have time to read the Bible or pray.” Guess what will happen if you listen to those whispers? Your stress will only increase. Been there, done that.

I encourage you to keep your quiet time with the Lord as first priority. He’ll honor you for doing so. His presence will be real and sweet, and He’ll bless you with the strength you need.

When my workload stresses me, I respond by filling my mind with God’s Word. Here’s a passage that’s blessing me today. It reminds me that the One who created the universe holds me in His hands. He’s infinite, therefore the supply of all I need for this day is infinite too.

“Listen to me, O family of Jacob, Israel my chosen one! I alone am God, the First and the Last. It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth. The palm of my right hand spread out the heavens above. I spoke, and they came into being” (Isaiah 48:12,13 NLT).

No matter what you face this week, remember this: There’s no need to fear. God, who created the universe and holds it in His hand is the One who holds you. He’s got it covered. All is well.

#bgbg2  #GodIsStrong  #ChristianDevotions

Help! I’m Looking for Peace!

Several years ago, I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to get involved with business women in my community. That mere thought scared me. I don’t speak their language. This is way beyond my comfort zone, I argued.

The Holy Spirit continued to prod. I caved and began tiptoeing into the business community by attending their monthly luncheons. Months passed, and then He told me to host a weekend retreat for these gals, most of whom were unbelievers.

“You’re kidding me, right?” I asked.

I stalled for months, waiting for the Spirit to write His marching orders on the wall. Either that or change His mind and give me an easier assignment. My plan failed. The only thing that happened was this—I lost my peace.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, Isaiah 48:17-18 says, “The LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, says, ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good and leads you along the paths you should follow. Oh, that you had listened to my commands! Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river and righteousness rolling like waves.’”

God is good. He’s also wise. Loving. Holy. Faithful. Sovereign. Omnipotent. He knows everything about us, and He’s developed unique plans—good plans—for each of us. Because of who He is, we can trust Him to fulfill them for our good and His glory.

Sometimes, however, we choose to follow our own path. We doubt His integrity and intent toward us. What happens?

We end up striving to make things happen the way we want, and that never goes well. Ultimately, we lose our peace. I speak from experience.

My daily quiet time became a chore rather than a delight.

I lost the sense of God’s nearness.

I lost my ability to hear His whispers throughout the day.

My peace had taken flight, and I knew why—I was walking in disobedience. The only way to restore peace was to change my direction and walk on the path God had placed before me.

How’s your peace quotient today? Is it flowing like a gentle river through your soul? Or has it dried up like a stream in summer drought? If the latter, ask the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and show you what needs to change. If He reveals disobedience in your life—an unconfessed sin, a refusal to accept a God-given assignment, unforgiveness toward someone who’s hurt you, a sin of omission—then don’t waste another second.

Change your direction. Listen to what God’s saying, and do it.

#InnerPeace  #ChristianDevotions  #bgbg2

Content Like a Baby

I spent the weekend babysitting the grandkids. How fun! We played board games, enjoyed a movie and popcorn, and engaged in their favorite activities—things like collecting and washing their chickens’ eggs, playing with their 70-pound Great Pyrenes puppy, climbing trees, building a make-believe airplane from a toy lawnmower and a wheelbarrow, and more.

My youngest grandchild will turn two next month. At one point this weekend, Ruthie dragged her blankie across the living room floor and climbed onto my lap. “Do you want to snuggle?” I asked. She nodded. I wrapped her in that blankie and cuddled her, and she smiled. I could feel her body relax in my arms.

Oh, that I’d become more like my granddaughter and learn to rest in the arms of my heavenly Father as she rested in mine.

The Psalmist moved beyond desire to experience. He wrote, “God, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content” (Psalm 131:1-2 The Message).

How easy it is to whine when circumstances don’t go as we wish, or when we feel misunderstood and overlooked, or when someone utters an unkind word. But then—if God is who He says He is, and if His promises are true, and if He never fails to fulfill them—why do we worry or assume the worst? Why do we think He needs our assistance to fix a situation that seems all wrong, at least from our perspective? Why prevents us from resting in the love that envelops us?

I suspect it’s because we allow our humanity rather than the Holy Spirit to fill and control our minds. When that happens, contentment flies the coop and we succumb to negative emotions.

Cultivating a quiet heart is a much better option, don’t you think?

Personally, I strive to do this by spending time alone with the Lord daily. I talk with Him about everything throughout my day. When I catch myself complaining about something, I reframe my thoughts by finding something for which to be thankful. I often pray, “Search my heart and show me anything that grieves You. Give me a heart that runs the way of Your commands.” Keeping my heart aligned daily with God’s heart calms me. It helps me nestle, not wrestle.

How grateful I am for my grandchildren. And how thankful I am for the lessons they teach me. Like a baby content, so I want my soul to be content, relaxed, satisfied, and completely comfortable in my Father’s arms.

#bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions  #Contentment