Conntecting the Dots

Surrounded by God’s Presence

 

You, my friend, are surrounded by God’s presence. Some days, your thoughts might tell you otherwise, but don’t believe them. Instead, hold onto the promise found in Psalm 125:2—”Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people, both now and forever.”

The Cambridge English dictionary defines surround as “to be everywhere around something.” Isn’t that beautiful as it relates to the Christian life? The Lord surrounds His people both now and forever. He is everywhere around us at all times.

The thought of being surrounded by God’s presence calms my fears for today and my worries about tomorrow.

When I feel afraid or under spiritual attack, I imagine myself encircled by an impenetrable shield. It covers and keeps me from dangers above and below and on every side. I am safe in that place. Nothing touches me there without my Protector giving it the go-ahead.

surrounded by God's presence

When suffering enters that space within the shield, does it mean Psalm 125:2 is no longer true? No. The promise remains true, but it assumes another form: When we suffer, God surrounds us with compassion and strength. If injustice touches us, God surrounds us with assurance that He is our Defender and will someday set everything right. When unfair criticism touches us, God surrounds us with wisdom and compassion for the person who levied the criticism.

This reality of being surrounded by God also helps me pray with greater confidence and expectation.

When Sailor-Man and I face major decisions, we ask God to surround us with His protection lest we head a direction contrary to His.

When I pray for my kids and grandkids, I ask God to surround them with His lovingkindness.

When I pray for you, my readers, I ask God to surround you with His compassion and tangible evidence of His presence with you.

This has been a most difficult year in many ways, and I’ve breathed countless personal sentence prayers using surround:

  • “Father, surround me with Your wisdom.”
  • “God, surround me with hope.”
  • “Lord, surround me with protection from the evil one.”

Praying the truth of Psalm 125:2 floods me with peace.  How about you? What are you facing today? Stand on the truth of God’s Word and pray: “God, surround me with Your _______.”

#Biblestudy   #ChristianDevotions  #Psalms #bgbg2

5 Promises to Remember When Bad News Comes

5 Promises to Remember when Bad News Comes

Bad news came to my inbox this week: Someone’s 14-year-old daughter went missing. A husband relapsed into drug addiction. A personal friend landed in ICU on a ventilator. Another friend was diagnosed with dementia.

Jesus knows how easily we can lose heart when bad news comes our way. Perhaps that’s why He said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1 NLT). His words—“Don’t let your hearts be troubled”—imply that we have control over worry and fear’s role in our lives. We can choose to let them run rampant or we can choose to trust God instead when bad news comes our way.

Letting our hearts be troubled brings no benefit.

 

Worry can neither change what’s already happened nor resolve the current challenge. It will, however, encourage fear to take root. It makes it difficult for us to rest well at night and ties our stomach into knots.

I’ve let my heart be troubled too many times to count, and guess what? Doing so has never made my life easier. Corrie ten Boom summed it up with excellence when she said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Why live like that?

When bad news comes our way, we don’t have to let it disturb our inner peace. If we take Jesus seriously, then we can rest assured that trusting in God is the better way to respond.

 

Here are five promises to remember so we can conquer fear when bad news finds us:

  • God promises His presence. Imagine—the strong One who spoke the universe into being and split the Red Sea so His people could pass through on dry ground is the same One who walks with us and holds our hand. Why, then, should we be afraid or anxious? (Joshua 1:9)

  • God promises to give us wisdom, and lots of it. When we face circumstances that baffle us, we can ask Him for insight, and He will answer. He will bring clarity to our confusion. (James 1:5)

  • God promises victory. He’s on our side if we belong to Him. Who can stand against us? (Romans 8:31)

  • God promises to turn negative situations into something good. He specializes in transforming the bad into beauty, the sad into splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)

  • God promises joy. Sorrow may last for a night, He says, but joy comes in the morning. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. (Psalm 30:5)

When bad news comes our way, we needn’t cave into fear. As followers of Jesus Christ, we belong to the living God for whom nothing is impossible and who reigns sovereignly over every detail of our lives. Nothing takes Him by surprise. No challenge is too difficult for Him to overcome. Because of who He is and whose we are, we have every reason to face bad news with courage and hope for the very best outcome under His control.

Would you join me in doing something special today? Let’s list biblical promises that bring hope in the face of bad news. I suspect we could all use a dose of encouragement this week. If someone posts your verse before you get to doing it, go ahead and post yours anyway.

 

Take a few minutes to enjoy “I Will Fear No More” by The Afters. 

 

Have a great weekend, and know you are loved.

#bgbg2

Sitting in God’s Waiting Room

sitting in God's waiting room

Sitting in God’s waiting room is not an easy thing to do. Patience wears thin after a time, and our human bent starts tapping its toe. C’mon, c’mon already!

Bring my prodigal home.

Restore my marriage.

Provide finances to pay the bills.

Heal my body.

Give me clear direction for the big decision looming.

Fix what’s wrong with the world.

We are finite beings so we often view our circumstances as on a finite timeline. The clock ticks, and we grow restless and anxious. We begin to doubt whether God hears our prayers. We question whether He cares. We toy with the thought of yanking control from His hands, as though we could bring about the best outcome without His help.

When we find ourselves sitting in God’s waiting room and patience wears thin, let’s remember the Old Testament character, David.

 

David was anointed as king, but he had to wait until God gave the go-ahead to assume the throne (1 Samuel 16:13). In the meantime, the jealous King Saul hunted him. David ran for his life and hid in caves. When the opportunity came to retaliate, David resisted (1 Samuel 24:6-7). He waited on God to put him on the throne in His way and in His time. Now that’s patience and integrity, right?

 

Over and over, and throughout a variety of circumstances, the psalmist waited on God to answer his prayers and come to his rescue. Banking on God’s promises, he hoped for a good outcome without losing faith.

 

David compared himself to a night watchman scanning the horizon for the first glimmer of dawn. “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5 NIV) The watchmen didn’t know the exact moment the morning light would appear, but they knew beyond a doubt that it would crack the darkness. It was just a matter of time.

 

Wait on the Lord is a constant refrain in the Psalms,” wrote J.I. Packer in Knowing God, “and it is a necessary word, for God often keeps us waiting. He is not in such a hurry as we are, and it is not his way to give more light on the future than we need for action in the present, or to guide us more than one step at a time. When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come.”

To be clear, sitting in God’s waiting room is not a passive activity.

 

It may feel sometimes as though we’re doing nothing, but in reality, it takes our whole being to resist the temptation to rush ahead of God’s timing. It requires courage and strength and faith to remain patient and hopeful as we wait on the Lord to answer our prayers or rescue us.

 

Never give up, my friend. Sitting in God’s waiting room is not easy, but hang onto hope in knowing that God hears your prayers, and yes, He cares. As sure as the glimmer of dawn will come, so He will come. It’s just a matter of time.

 

Let’s encourage one another by answering this question: What inspires you to remain hopeful when the wait seems long?

 

Adapted from Fresh Hope for Today: Devotions for Joy on the Journey. Copyright © 2022 Grace Fox.

#bgbg2

Living in Awe of God

“Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.”

(Psalm 65:8 NLT).

Sailor-Man and I left home early Thursday morning for yet another road trip. The wind blew and the rain pelted our car for the first three hours or so. It seemed a dismal sort of day, not unusual for late October in southwest British Columbia, but dismal disappeared when a rainbow appeared. The sight left me in awe. So did the fact that it remained visible for nearly a half hour.living in awe of God

I took the rainbow’s lingering presence as a visible reminder of God’s unfailing promises to me, and I reveled in the joy this thought brought. One mile rolled into another with the arch growing more brilliant and my wonder at God’s splendor growing more profound.

This road trip took us north to my youngest daughter’s home where we’re enjoying time with two grandchildren. One is three years old, the other is almost seventeen months.

One of the things I enjoy most when spending time with little people is seeing life through their eyes. They notice things I don’t—things like a ladybug’s spots, a daisy’s petals, and an ant’s activity. Their delight reawakens my awareness of minute, easily-overlooked details in creation and renews my amazement at the Creator’s ingenuity.

Living in awe of God and experiencing a daily sense of wonder about who He is and what He does often fades in adulthood.

 

Work and worry blind us to the miracles that surround us. We rush through our days focused on silencing the tasks calling for our attention, and we miss the delights before us.

Pondering creation’s majesty and intricacies always leaves me speechless. Sometimes the only word I can muster is, “Wow!”—like when I saw the rainbow as we drove through the mountains. But here’s what leaves me even more amazed—the Creator’s love for us.

stand in awe of God

Think about it. The Almighty, limitless God whose handiwork inspires wonder and awe is the same God who loves us and wants relationship with us.

Incredible, right? I suspect the Psalmist felt the same way when he wrote these words:

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
    putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
    and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
    and everything that swims the ocean currents. (Psalm 8:3-8 NLT)

Let’s invite God to open our eyes to the wonders He’s created. Let’s celebrate His creative genius. Even more, let’s stand in awe of who He is and marvel that He loves us and wants relationship with us.

Now it’s your turn: What aspect of God’s creation or character inspires awe in your life?

#bgbg2

The Waggle Dance, Bowling, and Humanity’s Depravity

The waggle dance, bowling, and the depravity of mankind

Join me for a guest blog today by Kathy Howard, author of the newly released “Deep Rooted: Growing Through the Book of Romans.” She shares a biblical reminder about the scope of God’s love and the depth of man’s depravity.

 

I know more about bees than I need to. Our friend Stan, who our grandkids call “Stan the bee man,” is a veterinarian and a beekeeper. Whenever Stan harvests a new batch of honey, he brings taste samples to our small group Bible study. Stan also often shares fascinating bee facts with us. For instance, the worker bees – females that forage and gather pollen and nectar – perform an intricate series of moves called a “waggle dance” to communicate the location of a newly-found food source to other workers.

The bees’ built-in “GPS” is just one example of the order, intricacies, and beauty of creation that necessitates a powerful, intelligent Creator. Although we cannot see God, we can see concrete evidence of His existence. We smell the grass. We feel the sand between our toes and the wind on our face. We hear the relentless pounding of the surf and the sweet notes of the song bird. The evidence for God is overwhelming. Biblical scholars refer to this proof for God’s existence as “general revelation.” God wants mankind to know Him, so He has made Himself known.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  (Romans 1:20 ESV).

And yet many in our world ignore the proof and inexcusably reject the truth that God exists. According to a 2021 study by Pew Research Center, about 9% of Americans describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. Although that number may seem small, it has more than doubled since 2010. And many more reject God by practice if not by declaration.

How does God respond to this rejection?

 

He doesn’t force anyone to choose Him. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote that God “gives them up” to their choices (Romans 1:24). He removes all divine restraint from their lives, allowing them to fall deeper into sin.

When we bowl with our grandkids, the younger ones use the bumpers. On the ball’s journey down the lane, it ricochets from one side to the other, but it never drops into the gutter. The rest of us bowl without the extra protection of the bumper’s restraint. Likewise, God removes the protection of His guiding influence from those who rebelliously reject Him. As a result, they end up in the spiritual gutter.

This heartbreaking passage describes mankind’s depth of depravity apart from God. The injury incurred from the first fall into sin in the Garden of Eden has festered into an oozing wound. Apart from the gospel there is no cure. Spiritual and eternal death is the sure end.

We face a life and death situation and there’s just one cure. Unrighteous humanity desperately needs God’s righteousness and God graciously provides it through Christ. When we consider the depth of our need, the sheer scope of our sin, God’s offer of salvation seems miraculously inconceivable – that our holy God sent His Son to die for the likes of us. And yet He did.

This post was adapted from Kathy’s newly released devotional book “Deep Rooted: Growing through the Book of Romans.”

The Waggle Dance, Bowling, and the Depravity of Mankind

Book description:

Have you lost the wonder of your salvation? Maybe you’ve forgotten the abundant riches of God’s grace. The Gospel isn’t just a statement of faith. It is more than hope for eternity. The Gospel of Jesus is the power of God for your life today. Recapture the awe of your life in Christ with this 40-day pilgrimage through the book of Romans. Like the rest of the Deep Rooted devotional series, the Romans volume uses the 4-R Bible study framework to help you learn how to interact with and respond to Scripture, not simply read it. These meaty, daily devotions will increase your hunger for God’s Word, encourage spiritual growth and stability, and lay the groundwork for a life-long, spiritually-healthy habit.

 

 

Author bio:

Kathy Howard is a treasure hunter. She hunts for the creamiest chocolate, richest coffee, and cherished stories of faith. She also digs deep into Scripture, mining God’s eternal truths. Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and has taught the Bible for more than 30 years in a wide variety of venues. Kathy is the author of 12 books, including “Heirloom: Living and Leaving a Legacy of Faith” and the “meaty” devotional series “Deep Rooted.” Kathy and her husband live in north Texas. They have three married children, six grandchildren, and one accidental dog. Find free discipleship resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Choosing Joy on the Journey

Choosing joy is easier said than done when our life’s journey takes twists and turns as plentiful as the Rocky Mountain road on which Sailor-Man and I are traveling today.

We’ve covered these miles many times in the past 40 years. Today’s trip seems one of the easiest because the weather is more like summer than fall, so the roads are clear and driving is stress-free.

A Real-Life Difficult Journey

It’s much different than the December trip my sister and I took after Dad suffered two major strokes in a matter of weeks. His survival seemed unlikely, so we braved the snow-covered mountain passes in my Geo Metro to say our goodbyes and comfort Mom.

Fortunately, Dad defied the odds and rallied, so we packed our things and began the long trip back to the coast a week later. We were deep in the mountains when we rounded a bend on a particularly slippery section to see a sanding truck approach in the oncoming lane.

Unfortunately, the sand the truck deposited on the road moments before we passed was the size of pea-sized gravel. It hit the road, bounced up, and pummeled my car’s hood and roof, leaving dozens of tiny dents. It broke one headlight and pockmarked the windshield.

That was one of several scary scenarios on the fifteen-hour journey. By the time we reached our destination, my neck was stiff, my back was sore, and my fingernails were embedded in the steering wheel.

How is Choosing Joy Possible?

When life’s journey takes a difficult turn, our emotions want to cry, “Unfair!” or “Why me?” But God’s Word directs us to take a different approach—“Dear brothers and sisters,  when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” (James 1:2 NLT)

Choosing joy is easy when our life’s journey is stress-free. Not so much when circumstances leave our fingernails embedded in the steering wheel, right? But here’s the thing: No matter what our journey looks like, we can be certain, and thankful, that we’re not making the trip alone.

The all-powerful, all-wise God goes before us and behind us (Psalm 23). He surrounds us with His lovingkindness. (Psalm 33:22) He strengthens us, and He holds our hand. (Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 73:23)

As sure as the Rocky Mountain road on which I’m traveling is filled with twists and turns, so goes our life’s journey. Some of those bends in the road bring unexpected delights. Others bring questions and tears, sorrow and sleepless nights. Some produce smiles while others produce knots in our neck. But this we know—no matter where the road leads us, God loves us and journeys with us. Therein lies the reason to choose joy.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse or meaningful quote that helps you choose joy when your journey takes a difficult turn? If so, what is it?

Enjoy “Joy” by New Wine Worship.

#bgbg2

Little is Much in God’s Hands

Little is much in God’s hands. Do you believe it? I do! Here’s why.

 

The day before I flew to Florida to attend my first writers conference back in 1999, I sat at the kitchen table and cried. I had no idea what God had in mind, but I knew He wanted me there, and I sensed this venture was bigger than me.

After I returned from that conference, I walked a couple miles nearly every morning and prayed about where and how to begin writing for publication. I felt woefully inadequate, but I envisioned myself like the boy who offered his five loaves and two fish to feed the thousands gathered to hear Jesus teach. (John 6:9-12) “God, here’s my lunch,” I’d say. “Take my best efforts, multiply them, and use them for Your glory.”

Thirteen books and hundreds of articles, First 5 Bible studies, and podcast episodes later, I still feel woefully inadequate, but I stand amazed at what God has done. I marvel at how He takes a little and multiplies it to accomplish something of eternal value. Little is much in God's hands

 

“This journey is a chance to lay out what you have, what you know, and hand it up to God. I should mention: we have no idea what he will say to do with it, but we begin by laying it out and handing it over,” says Jennie Allen, author of Restless: Because You Were Made for More.

 

So, my friend. What’s in your hands? What offering can you give God? What can you hand up to Him.

Maybe you enjoy baking. Offer it to the Lord and ask Him to use that skill for His glory.

Perhaps you have a green thumb and can coax the tiniest seed to grow.

Maybe you love to sing, or care for children, or pray for others.

Go ahead—give the Lord your five small barley loaves and two small fish. There’s no telling what He might do with them, for little is much in God’s hands.

Little is Much in God's Hands

Fresh Hope for Today: Devotions for Joy on the Journey will make its debut on Tuesday, October 4th. If you’ve enjoyed my other books, would you help me spread the word about this one? Here are some things you can do:

  • Join the celebration on FB live on Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 5-5:30 PM (Pacific time). https://www.fb.com/gracefox.author
  • Order your copy and a copy for a friend from Amazon on Tuesday.
  • When your copy arrives, post a selfie with the book and use the tag #freshhopefortodaybook
  • Post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and Christianbook.com. This is the most valuable thing you can do to help spread the word about Fresh Hope for Today.

Thank you in advance! Have a great day, and know you are loved.

#bgbg2

Becoming Visible

Cheri Strange connected with me recently online and asked me to consider endorsing her new book, Can You See Me, Now? Good news for the lonely, left out, and less than. 

becoming visible

I read it from cover to cover, and I loved it. I could totally relate to the reality of feeling overlooked and invisible, and I found her approach down-to-earth, wise, and insightful. Cheri’s book has just released, and it’s a pleasure to help her spread the word to others who might be struggling with feeling invisible. Welcome her today and find encouragement in her words to us today.

Becoming Visible

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

James 1:1 ESV

Childhood recess can leave a mark. Where I grew up, unless your teeth were in jeopardy, or you broke a bone, the adults didnt pay attention to fairness, feelings, or failings. It was the kind of environment where thicker skins developed and existing hurts became more ingrained. Exclusion from a game with the popular girls, vicious name calling, or the humiliation of being the last resort when teams divided could be painful pricks, especially when reinforced through the years. Maybe you can relate. The dread of recognizing all you are not can be debilitating to the point we find ourselves in the corner, once again, questioning Gods purpose for our lives.

Know to Whom We Belong

From the opening lines of his book, James, if he had any, left that dread on the playground. In one sentence, the man declared his clear sense of Gods purpose for his life. The victory is not making a smart choice about whether to become a plumber as opposed to the expected carpenter but knowing to whom he belongs and how that should play out in his life.

Paul describes this knowing to the Corinthians, asking them to consider who God calls” (1 Corinthians 28:30). You see, these individuals leaned toward obscurity. Here Paul rightly reminds them of Gods strange work of the Gospel in them so that Jesus might get the glory, rather than man.

You can see the potential problems if we were left in charge. The prettiest people would get the gifts and blessings. The smartest would be privy to the truth. We would reserve all other offices for those possessing charisma, leaving the rest of humanity out of luck.

God’s Gospel Gives Us Purpose

Thankfully, its not my Gospel. Its not the Gospel Paul preaches, nor the one James writes about. God chooses the weak, those with no pedigree, who are unworthy of notice. Non-essentials. The nothings of this world. He chooses them on purpose. There is room for you and for me.

Has God found you in all your obscurity, like James? Your God specializes in calling the things that are not, as if they are. Although James holds a place of prominence, leading the Christian church in Jerusalem, he calls himself the servant of God and Jesus Christ. What if you took on this same calling? Consider one difference you could make today toward this goal.

 

Cheri Strange is a national speaker, visionary of She Yearns Ministries, and holds a Ph.D. from Baylor University. She lives in Houston with her husband, Chad, their eight children, and her Maine Coon cat. Find her on the YouVersion app, her website www.sheyearns.com, or Instagram. Cheri Strange

Life’s Storms Linger but Won’t Last Forever

life's storms linger but they don't last forever

Life’s storms linger but won’t last forever.

 

A friend clung to this truth when one hardship after another struck her. First, her infant son became ill and died. She was still reeling when life-threatening illnesses hit several extended family members, and her husband lost his job. She felt like she was living in Job’s shadow. She says despair would have overwhelmed her but knowing that Job’s hardships eventually came to an end renewed her hope.

The knowledge that life’s storms linger but won’t last forever throws us a lifeline, especially when hardships roll over us like waves, one after another after another. But unlike the ocean waves that never stop breaking on shore, our troubles will come to an end.

God works at all times and through every difficulty we face. We can’t begin to understand His purposes for our pain, but we can rest assured that He is doing something good in His eternal plan. In His time, He will bring those purposes to pass, and He will bring our trials to an end. In the meantime, let’s choose to trust Him.

Today, I’m including a sample from Fresh Hope for Today: Devotions for Joy on the Journey, scheduled for release on October 4. Using an anecdote from a sailing journey off BC’s coast, it demonstrates this life-giving, hope-renewing truth: life’s storms linger but won’t last forever.

I pray that you’ll find it a blessing, my friend. Know you are loved.

Fresh Hope for Today: Devotions for Joy on the Journey

The Rain Will Stop

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

Psalm 107:28 (ESV)

Pause

Sailor-Man and I woke to the sound of rain pelting our boat. We were anchored far from shore, and the nearest town was at least two hours away—too far to motor across sloppy seas for no other reason than to escape our confined space. Riding out the storm was our only option, so we hunkered down inside and hoped the weather would clear.

Morning rolled into afternoon. A couple more hours passed and then, finally, the sunshine poked through the clouds. Its warmth wooed us, grateful, from our mini-ark.

Life’s storms come and go like rainstorms. When they’re present, they might feel as though they’re here to stay. But this we know—the clouds will part and the sun will shine in God’s good time. He’s working in ways we can neither see nor understand, and he will deliver us from our distress when he has fulfilled his purposes.

Be patient. Hang onto hope as you hunker down. He hears your cries for help, and he will bring this rainy day—or season—to an end.

Ponder

What’s your attitude as you wait for the rain to stop?

Pray

God, teach me to hunker down with a hope-filled heart until the rain stops.

“He knows when we go into the storm, He watches over us in the storm, and He can bring us out of the storm when His purposes have been fulfilled.” – Warren W. Wiersbe, Looking Up When Life Gets You Down

Excerpt from Fresh Hope for Today: Devotions for Joy on the Journey, available for pre-order now.

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