Conntecting the Dots

The Tough Question of Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

#bgbg2 #devotions  #Suffering  #GodCares

Eager to Do What’s Right

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

Isaiah 16:5 NLT

“Aw, Mom—do I have to?”

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

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

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

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

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

#bgbg2 #devotions  #DoWhatIsRight  #NoReluctance  #YesGod

Lessons Learned from a Starfish

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

 Psalm 63:8 NLT

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

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

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

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

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

#bgbg2 #devotions  #ClingToGod  #JesusBringsHope #StarfishLessons

Awesome God

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

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

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

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

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

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

#bgbg2 #devotions  #GodIsAwesome  #PraiseGod

Canceled Flights, Bedbugs, and Giving Thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#bgbg2 #devotions  #gratitude  #Thankfulness

Never Lose Heart

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. (1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)

Your daily routine might feel boring or monotonous compared to others whose lives seem exciting and glamorous. Perhaps you feel stuck and wonder if your tasks really matter or your life makes a difference.

God has placed you where you are for this season of life. He wants you to be faithful there, even in the little things that seem mundane and often go unnoticed. Fulfill your obligations not as mere duties to be done but as acts of worship and holy service.

Rest assured, God sees you and will reward you for labors done with love.

Question: What task will you try to reframe not as a duty to be done but as an act of worship?

“Father, I offer You the work of my hands as an act of worship. Strengthen me and fill me with joy as I serve You in this way. Amen.”

#bgbg2 #devotions  #ServingGod

Lacking Nothing

Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry,

but those who trust in the LORD will lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:10 NLT)

Last week, my flight from Vancouver to Toronto was canceled moments before boarding began. What if I miss my connection from Toronto to Budapest?I thought. What if goofed-up flights cause my suitcases to go missing?

Circumstances were a universe beyond my control. I faced a choice: Worry about the what-ifs, or trust God to provide everything needed to fulfill my overseas commitment. I summoned prayer backup and chose the latter. God would get me to Budapest that day, suitcases in tow, if I needed to be there with those ministry supplies (and He did despite His method looking vastly different than my plans).

The LORD promises to provide every good thing we need, and He knows best what those things are. Trust Him to keep His word, choose to rest in His sovereignty, and watch Him work on your behalf.

Question: What good thing do you need today? Remind God of His promise to provide.

“Father, thank You for promising that I’ll lack no good thing. I trust You to keep Your word. Amen.”

#bgbg2 #devotions  #GodPromises

Nighttime Thoughts

I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night.

I think of how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings. (Psalm 63:6,7 NLT)

I wake up several times every night. I usually fall back to sleep fairly quickly, but occasionally I’m awake for an hour or more. During that time, my thoughts flit here and there, landing first on recent frustrations and then on tomorrow’s to-do list. Stress mounts and sleeplessness increases unless I cage my thoughts and pray over them.

The psalmist experienced sleeplessness too. He utilized those hours by meditating on God, specifically on how much He’d helped him. The result? Joy, and a deeper sense of God’s presence and protection. I think I could learn a thing or two by following his example.

How about you? Where do your thoughts take you when you can’t sleep at night? How might focusing on how God’s helped you in the past change things for you?

“Father, You know our weaknesses and that our minds don’t naturally gravitate toward You. When we can’t sleep at night, please help us focus our thoughts on You. You deserve our attention. Amen.”

#bgbg2 #devotions  #NighttimeThoughts

What Does Our Face Say?

Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;

no shadow of shame will darken their faces. (Psalm 34:5 NLT)

I was deep in thought while walking in a local park when a stranger approached from the front.  “Smile! Life’s not half as bad as you think it is,” he said. I don’t remember what my thoughts were at the time, but I do remember his words shocking me. I had no idea that my expression resembled a sour lemon. 

The stranger’s words remain with me today, and for good reason. They remind me that our faces convey a message to those around us even when we’re unaware.

Do our faces tell others that we’re angry or bitter inside? That we feel like we’re fighting a losing battle? Or do they say we’re content, hopeful, and joy-filled?

When we focus our eyes on Jesus and His love for us, our countenance conveys a message for which the world longs. Without our saying a word, others will see peace and love in our faces—a message that cannot be counterfeited.

Question: What does your face say when others look at you?

“Father, fill me with Your Spirit so others see You when they look at me.”

#bgbg2 #FacialExpression  #Radiance

Why We Can Face the Future with Confidence

But I am trusting you, O LORD, saying, “You are my God!” My future is in your hands.

Psalm 31:14,15

“Doctors suspect I have Parkinson’s disease,” a friend said as we washed and dried dishes after a recent dinner party. Her hands noticeably trembled.

Hands are an interesting study. Some are youthful and strong. Others, like my friend’s, grow weak, stiff, or gnarled with illness or age. How different from God’s hands!

The Bible describes them as mighty (Psalm 89:13). They hold the depths of the earth (Psalm 95:4). They measure the waters of the whole world (Isaiah 40:12). They’re filled with justice (Deuteronomy 32:41). They’re also filled with power and might, and they strengthen everyone (1 Chronicles 29:12). Best, they contain the nail scars that prove His infinite love for us.

God’s hands never age or weaken. They lead us, provide for us, and hold us close to His heart. Why should we ever worry about the future, when our future rests in hands like this?

Question: What challenges face you at this time? How does meditating on God’s hands fill you with confidence as you consider the future?

“God, thank You for holding me in Your almighty hand. Such knowledge fills me with unspeakable joy!”

#bgbg2 #GodHoldsMe  #NotAfraid