Conntecting the Dots

How’s Your Heart Today?

 

I wish I could chat with each of you over a cup of coffee or tea and hear your answer to this question: “How’s your heart today?”

 

Are you feeling like you’ve been through the wringer? Like you’ve been doing battle too long? Like your faith has been stretched as far as it can go, and now it’s being stretched further? Believe me when I say, “I empathize.”

 

Thankfully the pandemic restrictions are lifting, but pressures of other sorts continue. Not the least of these is the prospect of sorting, packing, and moving our office in the same month I’d reserved to write my next devotional under deadline. I wish I could say we have a new location secured, but alas, there’s nothing on the horizon yet. Only God knows how this is going to work so I can meet my obligation.

 

As I prayed about my concerns this morning, the Holy Spirit brought these words to mind:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

 

I remind myself that nothing comes into the lives of God’s children without His permission.

He is either sovereign over all or not at all. His intent toward us is always good and never meant to harm or destroy. We find rest for our souls when we rest in Jesus.

 

I’m also reminded that God deserves thanksgiving and praise not only when circumstances are easy or stress-free. He deserves our worship at all times, but it’s in the hard places—when we sacrifice our questions and our wills on the altar of surrender—that our worship honors Him most. In that place, worship moves our focus from our circumstances to Him. In that place, worship changes us.

 

Our Creator knows our tendency to worry and crave control, so He gives us the keys to freedom.

Christ’s invitation, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” is one of them.

 

Developing a thankful attitude for God’s promises, for all He’s done in the past, and for all He will do in the future, is another.

 

A third is praising God for who He is. He isn’t some ego-centric god needing our affirmation. He’s the living and true God who’s faithful and good all the time. Because He is who He is, we  bring Him our prayer concerns but we preface them with thanks and praise. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4-5 NLT)

 

So, my friend, how’s your heart today? If you feel more than a tad battle-weary, you’re not alone. I pray you’ll find rest and renewal for your soul as you walk in these truths with me.

 

Know you are loved,

Grace

 

#SoulWeary  #JesusCares  #ThankfulHeart  #PraiseGod #JesusGivesStrength  #FaithJourney  #StronginGod  #overcomeworry  #overcomefear  #GodisBigger 

 

Dependent Like a Baby

Our family has grown by two in the past month—a granddaughter and a grandson born only nineteen days apart. I haven’t been able to meet my granddaughter yet; I’m hoping that will happen in July. I have, however, been blessed to be living in the same household as my new grandbaby boy.

 

Josh is a week old. I marvel at the miracle he is. I also marvel at his complete dependency on others. Like all newborns, he can do absolutely nothing for himself. His mommy feeds, changes, bathes, and clothes him. Other willing hands hold him and pitch in to help as needed, and we all consider it pure joy.

Josh’s helpless state reminds me of humanity. Seriously, we can do nothing on our own. We are completely dependent on God. We can’t even take our next breath without His go-ahead. Why, then, do we think we can handle some of life’s issues without Him?

 

Robert Lowry nailed it when he wrote the refrain, “I need Thee, oh I need Thee; Ev’ry hour I need Thee; Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.”

Every moment of every day we need God’s presence in our lives. And every moment of every day our heavenly Father hears our sighs and cries. He never withholds His help from us when we call on Him from a pure heart. (Psalm 66:16-20) Just as Josh’s family cares for him, so our heavenly Father cares for us. He encourages us to call on Him, and He never considers meeting our needs a hardship. (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 23:1)

 

I cradle week-old Josh and thank God for this reminder of how He cradles me.

I don’t have to try to figure out life on my own. I don’t have to let fear control me. I don’t have to panic over whether or not my needs will be met. I’m dependent on God, and He loves me. There’s no better position in which to be.

 

Take a few moments to listen to “I Need Thee Every Hour” sung by Fernando Ortega. Embrace it as a fresh reminder of your dependency on God our Father for all things, and offer Him a prayer of thanksgiving for being present for you.  

 

#bgbg2  #ChristianDevotions  #Psalm23  #HeavenlyFather  #GodMeetsOurNeeds  #ChristianFaith #FaithJourney  #ChristianLife

Fighting our Battles by Focusing on Truth

 

When I wrapped up my Zoom Bible study last Tuesday, I encouraged the participants to be on their guard. “We’ve just studied five names of God,” I said. “Don’t be surprised if a test comes along in the not too distant future. Be watchful but don’t be afraid. It will give you opportunity to practice what you’ve learned.” I had no way of knowing that my test was waiting around the corner.

 

The next evening, I learned that someone dear to me has received a cancer diagnosis. This news came out of nowhere. I still find it hard to fathom.

 

Forty-eight hours later, I learned that we’re losing the facility that houses our ministry office, a few personal possessions that survived our purge in 2018, and all my ministry resources. The last time this happened, we spent five months searching for a suitable space. All the office equipment and my resources stayed in our basement interim. This time, we live on a boat—enough said. We have to vacate by July 31, and we’re in the far north helping our youngest daughter through a difficult pregnancy until July 1 which means we can’t look at potential places in-person.

 

My next book manuscript is due on September 1, and I’d planned to spend July writing it. Now my time will be divided packing and moving our office.

 

I’ll admit that my thoughts tug me towards worry and what-ifs. I have to intentionally lasso them and reel them back where they belong—in captivity to Jesus. Having a better grasp on the names of God and their relevancy to my life is a big help.

 

God helps us understand who He is through His names.

For instance, “Jehovah Sabaoth” tells us that He is the Lord of hosts. He commands the armies of men, millions of angels, and the stars in the sky. He’s the One who goes to battle on our behalf. Amazing, right?

 

We fight our battles by focusing on truth. The truth is, Almighty God is on our side. The enemy of our soul wants us to believe otherwise, so he whispers lies intended to lead us to believe defeat is imminent. In most cases, those lies come from within. In some cases, they come from those around us. David wrote about this when fleeing from Absalom: “So many are saying, ‘God will never rescue him!’” (Psalm 3:2 NLT))

 

David refused to listen to the voices. He focused on truth instead: “But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.” (Psalm 3:3-4) He ended his prayer with, “Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.” (Psalm 3:8

 

While we do our part, victory ultimately comes from Jehovah Sabaoth. With that in mind, I’m viewing these challenges not as reasons to worry but as opportunities to practice what I preach and to see Jehovah Sabaoth work. That said, I’d sure appreciate your prayers.

 

What test are you facing today? What are the voices telling you? What’s the truth?

 

#faith #faithoverfear  #NamesofGod  #JehovahSabaoth  #hope #findinghopeincrisis #FocusonTruth #LordOfHosts  #GodFightsOurBattles  #Christianjourney  #faithjourney 

 

 

Self-Talk

Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions. Psalm 119:29 (NLT)

 

Pause

Have you ever listened to the self-talk that runs through your mind? Losing my mobility for several months while living in a three-storey townhouse meant having to hoist myself backwards up fifteen stairs to my bedroom every night. One night I caught myself saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” That became a defining moment for me.

I’d spoken a lie over myself. If I believed those words, I would lose hope.

I’d quit trying to regain my health, and I’d suffer the consequences physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. From that moment forward, I chose to be more intentional about my self-talk, choosing words that reflected God’s heart for me.

I encourage you to do the same. Become attentive to the words you talk to yourself in your thoughts. Measure you words against God’s truth. If you catch yourself saying, “I can’t do this anymore,” readily acknowledge this as a lie. Then speak the truth: “I can do this in God’s strength.”

 

Ponder

Describe your usual self-talk. Do you unintentionally speak lies, or do you speak truth?

 

Pray

Father, make me aware of the words I speak in my thoughts and align them with your truth.

 

“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking. When we hope, it is an activity of the mind that changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.”

–Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health  

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(Excerpt from Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos © 2021 Grace Fox)

#hope #findinghopeincrisis #ChristianDevotions #DevotionalBooks #SelfTalk #GuardYourSelfTalk #RosePublishing #findinghope #faith #faithjourney #faithinGod

Choosing Joy in Life’s Hard Places

An oldie goldie song says, ‘The beat goes on, and the beat goes on.” I feel as though the lyrics describe the pandemic lockdown. I’m ready to listen to a new song, but this one hasn’t finished playing yet, and I can’t change it. What to do?

 

On the days when I feel like enough’s enough, I find encouragement in the apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Thessalonica. Their situation was much worse than the one we currently face. These men and women had come to faith in Christ believing their lives would get better. Imagine their feelings of disillusionment when things headed the opposite direction and persecution began.

 

Paul encouraged them stand strong and commended them for their response: “So you received the message with joy from the Holy Spirit in spite of the severe suffering it brought you.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6 NLT)

 

It’s easy to glaze over a verse like that because it doesn’t pop off the page with a promise to us, or so it seems. But wait.

The Greek word used for “suffering” (thlipsis) is a strong word that implies intense afflictions. According to Bible teacher Rick Renner, it conveys the idea of a heavy-pressure situation. Imagine tying a victim with ropes, placing him on his back on the ground, and then placing a huge boulder on his chest. The boulder slowly crushes the life from him. This is the word picture that describes the emotional and mental suffering these believers were experiencing.

 

But in the midst of thlipsis, these believers knew joy. How is that possible?  The Greek word for “joy” infers a supernatural gift of God’s grace. It has nothing to do with hilarity or giggles or raucous laughter. It has everything to do with experiencing a superhuman infilling of God’s power and presence and peace.  They walked out this realization, and they knew joy as a result.

 

Joy shines brightest in the dark.

When we can’t see our way through a tough situation, joy is there for the asking. When weariness drains us dry, joy is ours if we want it. When burdens threaten to crush the life from us, joy is available as a supernatural gift of God’s grace.

 

If the believers in Thessalonica could experience joy in the midst of thlipsis, we can experience joy in the midst of ongoing lockdowns. God’s supernatural gift of grace still applies.

 

The beat goes on. And I choose joy. How about you? Will you choose joy with me?

 

“Father, thank You for the joy that is ours no matter what our circumstances look like. Thank You for the supernatural gift of Your grace. When we feel overwhelmed, remind us that joy is ours for the asking because of Your presence and overcoming power in our lives. In Jesus’ s name, amen.”

 

#bgbg2  #devotions #TrueJoy #JoyinCovid  #joyover circumstances #joyinsuffering #faithinGod  #GodRules #JesusBringsJoy  #JoyinJesus

A Truth to Claim When Facing Our Giants

 

I’ve spent the past two months developing and teaching Bible study curriculum about the names of God. My oh my, what a fascinating and faith-building journey.

 

I’m wrapping up the study with Jehovah Sabaoth. Simply put, this name tells us that God is the Lord of hosts—the Commander-in-Chief over millions of angels, armies of men, and the heavenly host (sun, moon, and stars).

 

David used it when he confronted Goliath. “David replied to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’” (1 Samuel 17:45 NLT)

 

Understanding God’s power and authority as revealed in “Jehovah Sabaoth” gave the shepherd boy combat confidence that the Israelite soldiers lacked.

David refused to wear the king’s armor and carry his sword for self-defense. Instead, he armed himself with a shepherd’s staff, a sling, and five smooth stones. Talk about defying human logic!

As the sneer-faced giant strode toward him yelling curses, David shouted, “Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:46-48 NLT)

 

Goliath loomed large, but David refused to retreat. Instead, he ran toward the giant, hurled the infamous stone, and toppled him.

 

We’ve all faced giants in the past year.

Uncertainty, fear, financial struggles, and relationship issues loom large and cast a shadow over our lives. We can either let them intimidate us, or we can choose to believe and live from the truth that the Lord of heaven’s armies rescues His people. Often He uses strategies that defy logic, and faith calls us to trust His wisdom and timing.

 

When we say our battles belong to the Lord, this doesn’t mean we sit idly by and wait for Him to do it all. It means we take appropriate action and trust His power and sovereignty for the outcome. David killed the Philistine, but God conquered him. (1 Samuel 17:46, 1 Samuel 17:50).

 

So be encouraged, my friend.

You may be facing a giant today, but know that the Lord of heaven’s armies is on your side. Take action to topple it, and God will conquer it.

 

 

Good Father

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

Pause

The story’s told of a king who called a meeting with his advisors. In the middle of their discussion, he noticed his daughter peering through the ajar door. Without a moment’s hesitation, he opened his arms and she came running. Such is the welcome our heavenly Father extends to us.

We might hesitate to approach him if we believe he doesn’t really care about our concerns or that they’re too trivial for him to take notice. Our pain might seem paltry to someone who deals with global pandemics, wars, and famine, right? Wrong. Nothing’s further from the truth.

God cares deeply about what concerns me and you, and he invites us to come to his throne room anytime day or night. We needn’t fear interrupting him. No matter what our need is, he promises to extend mercy and favor to help us through it.

Go ahead—run to him today. He can hardly wait to hold you.

 

Ponder

Do you feel free to approach God at any time? If not, why?

 

Pray

Father, help me picture you with arms open waiting for me to run into them.

 

“That’s the way it is with our Father in Heaven. When you became a son or a daughter, when you were adopted into His family, He opened up for you through His Son’s death on the cross a way of fellowship and relationship that makes it possible for you to bypass the temple and its animal sacrifices. You don’t have to talk to God through a priest. You can go right into the presence of God Almighty and He will hear you.”

–David Jeremiah, Prayer, the Great Adventure

 

 

Excerpt from Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos. ©2021 Grace Fox

Published by Aspire Press.

 

 

#prayer  #TalkingWithGod  #faith  #Christianfaith  #GodLovesYou  #ChildofGod  #RosePublishing  #FaithJourney  #GrowinginFaith  #GodCares

Do You Have a Hidden Strength?

Several years ago, a ruptured Achilles tendon landed me in a knee-high non-weightbearing cast. A few days later, my opposite leg suffered a knee injury. Those injuries combined ruled out crutches and put me in a wheelchair for three months. But that wasn’t all. Insomnia hit me, too.

 

Several months prior, I’d accepted a speaking invitation for a women’s conference about 12 hours’ drive from home. As the weekend for that event approached, I chose to do my utmost to honor my commitment. I sat at my desk the day before departure and prayed, “God, I haven’t got a clue how I’m going to do this. I need Your help.”

 

My gaze fell on a piece of scrap paper on my desk. It contained words scrawled in my handwriting:  Go in the strength you have. I will be with you. Gideon. Judges 6:14-16.

At the time, I understood those words to mean I was to go in the physical strength I had no matter how limited, and God’s presence would be my sufficiency. I went, and it was.

 

Yesterday I spent several hours writing Bible study curriculum focused on Gideon’s life. I returned to Judges 6:14-16, and this time I saw these verses through a different lens.

 

God spoke these words to Gideon when He tasked him with rescuing the Israelites from the Midianites. Gideon argued that his clan was the weakest in the tribe of Manasseh and he was the least in his entire family. How could he possibly rescue the Israelites?

 

It appears that, like me, Gideon also assumed God was referring to his physical strength. But maybe that’s not what God meant. Could it be that He had other strengths in mind? If so, what might they be? Humility, perhaps. The willingness to do whatever God said even if it meant doing it afraid? A repentant heart? (Judges 6:22-24)

 

Sometimes God sees strengths in us that we fail to recognize. He gives us an assignment, and what do we do? Focus on our inadequacies, on those qualities we consider weaknesses.

 

Maybe we need to reframe the way we see ourselves. Perhaps we need to ask the Lord to help us view ourselves as He does. What strengths does He see in us that we fail to recognize? Here are a couple of examples.

 

God tasks believers with making disciples of Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20) We respond, “Who am I to do that? I ‘m not a preacher or Bible study leader.” But God sees in us an extraordinary ability to listen well—an important skill in building relationships that could eventually lead to conversations over coffee about Jesus and faith journeys.

 

God might ask us to show His love to a difficult neighbor or family member. We say, “I can’t do that. I don’t have patience for prickly people.” But He sees in us the ability to discern when someone has a practical need and the willingness to meet that need. Perhaps performing an act of service is the key to unlocking that person’s heart.

 

God saw something in Gideon that Gideon didn’t see in himself. I’m certain the same is true for us.

 

Think for a few minutes about how this applies to your life. Ask God to show you a strength He sees in you—one you’ve either never noticed or have seen but not considered a strength. Then post that strength in the comment section. Share with us what He shows you, okay?

 

#PersonalStrengths #FaithJourney  #faith #ChristianWalk #GrowingInFaith  #GideonsFaith  #Devotions  #Christiandevotions  #OvercomingFear

God is Always on Time

Last evening, the women in my Zoom Bible study talked briefly about the timing of God’s provision for our needs. Based on personal experience and Biblical accounts, we all came to the same conclusion: He always provides for us. And that provision always comes at just the right time—not a moment too late, and never too soon. He rescues us at the midnight hour.

 

Perhaps you’re waiting for God to provide for a particular need today. Maybe you’re waiting for Him to answer a prayer. If so, then I pray that today’s post will encourage and inspire you. It’s an excerpt from Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos.

 

Always on Time

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire… Psalm 40:1-2 (NLT)

 

Pause

I was kindergarten-age when I tried crossing a muddy road. My feet became stuck in the muck, and I yelled for help. I yelled louder upon seeing a concrete truck rumble toward me. A neighbor rushed to my rescue, and, in my opinion, not a moment too soon.

Sometimes I feel like my child-self mired in tough circumstances about to get worse. I cry to God for help, and I cry again—louder—if rescue doesn’t come immediately. Patience and panic don’t dwell in the same heart.

I suspect that the psalmist exercised patience because he understood God’s nature. Having a good grasp on his wisdom, sovereignty, and love enabled him to trust his timing. He knew God would respond not a moment too soon or too late.

Such is our Rescuer God. Wise. Sovereign. Loving. He hears our cries, and he comes at just the right time.

 

Ponder

Identify one blessing you’ve received while waiting for God to answer your cries for help.

 

Pray

Lord, I know you will rescue me. Help me wait patiently.

 

“Have you entrusted everything concerning your case to Jesus? If you have, then the entire matter is sealed and delivered—in His resurrection. The message is this: As surely as Jesus rose on time, your triumph will be on schedule also. Lazarus’s schedule probably seemed a day late to him, too.” –Jack Hayford, Moments with Majesty

 

#bgbg2 #GodsTiming  #GodsTimingIsPerfect  #GodIsNeverLate  #ChristianDevotions #Faith  #TrustInGod #GodNeverFails  #ChristianLife  #WaitingOnGod