Conntecting the Dots

5 Promises God Keeps and Why

In the past four days, God has reminded me several times that He always keeps His promises. The first reminder came last weekend as I researched Hebrews 6:13-20 for a First 5 assignment.

 

Hebrews 6:13-15 refers to Abraham believing God’s promise to make him the father of countless descendants. Humanly speaking, this was an impossibility. He and his wife were old, and she was also barren. But impossibilities are possibilities for God, and He fulfilled His promise despite all odds.

 

Then the passage turns its attention to all believers. It encourages us to trust God to fulfill His promises to us, too. Here’s why.

 

First, God cannot lie. (Hebrews 6:18) If He says He will do something, He will do it. He can do nothing contrary to truth because He is truth by nature. But there’s another layer to why we can trust Him to keep  His word.

 

God made an oath to keep His promises, and He did so by swearing on His own name. If we were to swear by someone’s name, we’d choose a person with higher authority and more influence than ourselves, and we’d be inviting him to hold us to our word.

 

God swears by His name because there is no other name higher than His. He is the ultimate authority on earth and in heaven. He stands on His word and will see to it that it comes to pass.

Understanding that God layers His promises with an oath encourages me to trust Him. It encourages me to pray in faith and to kick doubt to the curb.

 

So, what are some promises that God will bring to pass for those who trust Him?

 

  • He will deliver us from fear. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
  • He will never leave us. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
  • He will guide us. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • He will forgive us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
  • He will give us everything we need to live godly lives. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” (1 Peter 1:3)

 

These are only a sampling of God’s promises to His children. Sometimes we read or recite them without giving serious thought to the serious commitment He puts behind them. We do well to remember that He cannot lie, and that He swears by His own name to stand by His word. We have no reason to doubt and every reason to be live in confident expectation, right?

 

Which of the five promises above resonates most with you today?

 

#Godspromises #GodKeepsHisWord #GodCannotLie  #Hope #Hopeful #BiblePromises #ChristianDevotions #devotions  

 

 

Prayer: What Works, What Doesn’t

 

God’s Word tells us to pray. Thankfully, it also gives us insights about what works and what doesn’t.

 

What Doesn’t Work?

Jesus has just finished telling the disciples about His immediate future: the Romans will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him with a whip, and kill Him. But three days later He will rise again.

 

You’d think their beloved Teacher’s words would stop the disciples dead in their sandals, but not so for James and John. Can you see these guys in your minds’ eye? “Pssst—Jesus!” they whisper. “We want You to do us a favor.”

 

“What is your request?” Jesus asks.

 

Then comes the bombshell. “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

 

Jesus responds with these words: “You don’t know what you are asking!…I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left.” (Mark 10:34-40 NLT) He not only refused to grant their request, but He pointed out their flawed thinking about leadership.

 

The moral of the story? Asking with selfish motives doesn’t work well.

 

What Works?

A blind beggar calls out to Jesus as He and the disciples pass through Jericho. “Son of David, have mercy on me!” he yells over and over.

 

Jesus stops and asks, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

 

“My Rabbi,” the blind man says, “I want to see!”

 

Jesus responds with favor. “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.” (Mark 10:46-52)

 

The moral of this story? Asking with humility, recognizing our needs and Christ’s ability to meet them, works. Jesus may or may not answer with an immediate yes as He did for Bartimaeus, but He recognizes humble faith when He sees it, and He honors it in the way He deems best.

 

I can recall times when I’ve prayed with wrong motives.

 

“God, I need You to do me a favor,” I’d say—but not aloud, of course. “I need You to help me win that contest, or land that new book contract, or gain a little more recognition.” Guess what happened? Nothing. Literally. And rightfully so. Jesus doesn’t owe me favors to satisfy my selfish heart. He’s already given me everything I need and topped it with a host of promises He intends to keep.

 

I can also recall times when I’ve cried to Jesus from a desperate state. Hurt and hopelessness had blinded me. I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel. “Jesus—help me see the way,” I cried. “Give me eyes to see this situation as You do!”

 

Praying in faith made me well. God recognized humility and blessed me for it. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

 

Asking God for favors from a selfish heart never works. Asking Him for help from a humble heart always works. Lesson learned.

 

How have you found this to be true in your own life?

 

#bgbg2 #prayer  #prayingeffectively  #Christiandevotions #howtopraysoGodanswers

 

 

 

Why Our Thoughts About God Matter

 

The older I get and the more life experience I gather, the more I’m fascinated by the power of the thoughts we habitually entertain. In short, they influence our behaviors, and those behaviors determine our destiny or outcome. Let me give you a personal example of what this looks like.

 

When Sailor-Man and I first sensed God nudge us to move aboard a sailboat, I thought, Seriously? That’s a massive life transition. Then my thoughts split in two directions like a fork in the road. One said, That’s nuts. You’ll regret it. The other said, If this is truly God nudging, then He’s got our backs. The only response is yes. Trust Him to guide and provide. In my heart, I knew to focus my thoughts on the latter.

 

As Sailor-Man and I began to move forward, I focused my thoughts on truth about who God is. He’s faithful and good to His children. He doesn’t jerk us around or play with our emotions. He promises to give wisdom and to lead us along the right path. He promises to surround us with His unfailing love and to see to it that our needs are met.

 

The more I filled my mind with truth and meditated on it, the more assured I became that God would not let us make the wrong decision. A sense of confident anticipation overrode fear.

 

The outcome?

 

We said yes and watched in awe as God put every detail in place. That was three years ago. His sovereignty over our lives has been so obvious that we’ve never looked back. We’ve never had regrets. We know we’re here by His design, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Imagine the outcome if I’d focused my thoughts on That’s nuts. You’ll regret it. Without a doubt, I would never have had the courage to make this transition. I would have missed a ton of blessings and a heap of joy that comes from obedience.

 

My heart breaks for the people who lived in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.

 

When Jesus showed up and began teaching in their synagogue, many were amazed at His wisdom and His power to perform miracles. But then they let their thoughts wander into doubt. They tried to explain the inexplicable, and that didn’t go well. “Then they scoffed, ‘He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.’” (Mark 6:2-3)

 

The people’s thoughts influenced their behavior: “They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.” (Mark 6:3) Their behavior determined their outcome: “And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6)

 

Sadly, the people in Nazareth missed a ton of blessings and a heap of joy. It all started when they let their thoughts dwell on doubts rather than the truth about who Jesus was.

 

You and I are living in difficult times.

 

So many have suffered loss and disappointment. Let’s be alert to the enemy’s tactics in these days, okay? Satan knows that the battle for our souls begins in our minds. That’s where he’ll plant seeds of doubt about God’s sovereignty, wisdom, goodness, and power. Just like he did with Eve, he’ll use these doubts to cause us to question God’s intent toward us.

 

We’re faced with a choice.

 

We can either camp our thoughts on lies or we can secure them on truth. Our choice will influence our behaviors and determine our destiny. We’ll either topple to fear and seek to alleviate it through a means that will only make matters worse, or we’ll turn to the Lord and find His strength to help us stand firm amidst the storm winds.

 

I don’t want to miss what God has in store, and I’m confident you feel the same way.

We’d do well to ask the Holy Spirit to show us whether we’re believing lies about who God is, and if so, to help us identify them. Then let’s invite Him to help us understand what the truth is and to walk it out.

 

Read the story about how God led us to live on a sailboat.

 

I’ll be teaching an eight-week women’s Bible study via Zoom beginning Tuesday, March 9 at 4 PM (Pacific Time). The topic: “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life”. Click here for details and registration.

 

 

#WhoIsGod  #BelieveTheTruth  #DailyDevotions  #Faith #ChristianLiving #bgbg2

 

 

 

Learning to Say No

The devil will do anything to derail our devotion for the Lord. One of his tactics is busyness. If running from one thing to the next to the next eliminates quiet time spent in God’s Word and presence, then we become more vulnerable to temptation, discouragement, and self-deception. Satan knows this, so he wastes no energy trying to get us to buy into busyness as a way of life and proof of our importance. Some personalities are more prone to this than others. Can you see my raised hand? I’ve learned a few things the hard way after spending nearly 30 years in career ministry.

 

I’ve learned to ask myself a few questions before saying yes to others’ requests for my commitment to their cause:

  • Saying yes to this request means saying no to something else. To what am I saying no?
  • Am I tempted to say yes because I’m afraid of missing out on an opportunity that might not come again?
  • Am I tempted to say yes because I think I’m the only one capable of doing this assignment?
  • Am I tempted to say yes because I’m afraid to disappoint others by saying no?
  • Am I tempted to say yes because I want to impress others with my abilities?

 

Using this grid helps me evaluate my motives. But the most important question of all is this: Is God asking me to do this? If so, then the only appropriate answer is yes. If not, then the answer is no, and I’m learning to say it without feeling guilty.

 

Even Jesus said no at times.

The morning after He healed Simon’s mother-in-law and many sick and demon-possessed people in her town, He rose early to pray alone. The disciples found him and said, “Everyone is looking for You.”

 

A weaker personality might have responded, “Okay—let’s go and see what they need.” But not Jesus. “Jesus replied, ‘We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.’” (Mark 1:35-38 NLT)

 

Jesus didn’t say no to those who wanted to see Him for lack of love. He embodied compassion, after all. (Mark 1:41) He said no because He knew His God-given purpose. He understood God’s plan to redeem mankind and His place in that plan. Other than being One with God, what gave Him such certainty? Scroll back to Mark 1:35—” Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.”

 

Jesus spent His days serving, teaching, and walking from region to region to serve and teach more. He was a busy man but He made time with His Father a priority. The depth of that relationship gave Him the wisdom He needed to know His purpose and to stay on task.

 

God has given us gifts of time and talents, and He wants us to steward them wisely.

Even more, He wants us to flourish in relationship with Him. To spend time in His presence. To  quiet ourselves so we can hear His voice. To make friendship with Him a greater priority than service for Him.

 

The practical outworking of such a relationship changes from person to person and season to season, but one truth remains constant: If we’re too busy to acknowledge God’s presence, then we’re too busy. Let’s be alert to the devil’s efforts to derail us using busyness as his weapon of choice. Let’s learn to say no when necessary so we can wisely steward the time and talents God has given us and stay focused on His purpose for our lives.

 

Question: Do you find it difficult to say no? If so, reread my grid questions. Which one resonates with you most?

 

#Learningtosayno  #EvenJesussaidno  #DailyDevotions  #priorities #spiritualpriorities  #bgbg2

How to Respond to Unmet Expectations

Relationships can be testy sometimes, right?

Conflict happens for various reasons, but common unmet expectations is a common cause. That is—one party places expectations upon another and responds negatively when the second party fails to perform according to those expectations. Sometimes they’ve been verbalized; other times, not. Sometimes they’re reasonable; other times, not. It’s complicated.

 

Our human bent leans toward disappointment, frustration, anger, or even withdrawal when our expectations go unmet. We feel slighted or disrespected. Conflict results when we hang onto our grievances and refuse to discuss, evaluate, or adjust those expectations.

 

Remember the WWJD bracelets and other do-dads that trended once upon a time? The initials reminded us to ask,  “What would Jesus do?” before saying or doing something regrettable. If we’re in a testy relationship right now, we’d do well to ask WWJD.

 

As the time for Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion grew near, He went to the olive grove called Gethsemane to pray. He took Peter, James, and John with Him. He told them what He expected from them: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Then He went off alone and pleaded with God to remove the cup of suffering from Him. (Matthew 26:36-39)

 

Jesus returned to the disciples and found them asleep.

He expressed disappointment and verbalized His expectations again: “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:40-41)

 

Jesus battled in prayer a second time, and then He returned to the disciples only to find them asleep again. He didn’t bother waking them up. After praying a third time and then finding His friends still asleep, He spoke words worthy of attention: “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going! Look, my betrayer is here!” (Matthew 26:42-46)

 

This was one of the darkest moments of Jesus’ life.

He faced crucifixion, and He hoped His best friends would at least pray Him through it. But they couldn’t keep their eyes open. They snoozed while He sweat drops of blood. His expectations were both expressed and reasonable, but His friends let Him down. How did He respond? With grace. He acknowledged their human weaknesses and then focused on matters at hand.

Let’s face it. No matter how reasonable our expectations might be, friends and family will let us down. They might have our best intentions at heart, but they’re human. And the truth is—we do the same thing to others, often without knowing it.

Life is too short and fragile to hang onto disappointments and grievances.

Granted, sometimes an offense cuts to the core and needs to be addressed appropriately by all parties, if possible, to bring understanding, healing, and closure to a situation. But when it comes to petty grievances, let’s not waste time. The world’s filled with hurting people who need Jesus. If He could respond with grace to the friends who failed Him miserably in His deepest moment of need, then surely we—who have the power of the risen Christ within us—can do the same.

 

“Up, let’s be going!” Let’s take the high road. Let’s follow Christ’s example. And let’s get on with the work at hand—the work of sharing Jesus love with others as He sacrificially shared it with us.

 

5 Ways to Find Calm in Crisis

I receive several emails every day from people in crisis. Circumstances vary, of course, and so does severity, but the crises fall into categories: illness—their own or a loved one’s, spousal betrayal, a child’s struggle with addictions, a breakdown in family relationships, job layoffs, losses from a natural disaster, and more. Isolation is a big one nowadays.

 

Crisis changes life in a nanosecond. It can rob us of routine, ruin our ability to sleep well, and remove our capability to think straight. Sometimes we forget appointments we’ve made, or we can’t recall what day of the week it is.

 

In the midst of the storm, we can sometimes empathize with the psalmist who describes his soul as downcast and disturbed. His tone changes when he speaks truth to himself: “Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11 NIV).

 

The psalmist reminds us that the key to calm doesn’t lie solely in our circumstances changing for the better. If it did, then our hopes would be dashed if our circumstances worsened. Calm even in the midst of crisis comes when we place our confidence in our unchanging God. Choosing to trust His wisdom, sovereignty, power, and goodness soothes the soul that is downcast and disturbed.

 

From personal experience, I’ve discovered a few practical actions I can take, too. Here are five ways I find calm in crisis:

 

Ask for Help

No one should have to face crisis alone. Ask others to pray for you. If they can lend a hand in practical ways, say so. All too often, we assume that others don’t really care to get involved, or we expect them to know what we need. Let’s guard against making wrong assumptions and, instead, believe the best about others and their desire to help.

 

Remember the Truth

The human bent tends to focus on what-ifs and fears. Counteract that tendency by focusing on God’s promises instead. Here’s a good one: You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3NKJV). Write this on a recipe card and post it where you’ll see it often. Better yet, memorize it so you can recall it even in the night when it’s difficult to sleep.

  

Engage in Worship

Fill your mind and your home with praise and worship music. Listen—really listen—to the lyrics and the truths they contain. What do they say about who God is and how does that apply to your situation? Let those lyrics wash away doubts and fears.

 

Take a Walk

Exercise is a good remedy for stress. It increases blood flow, supplies the body with fresh oxygen, and stimulates positive hormones. Coupling it with prayer or listening to worship music refreshes us in every way—mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

 

Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God issues this command because He created us and knows that expressing gratitude releases hormones associated with pleasure and contentment. The darker our circumstances, then, the more vital it is that we give thanks. This doesn’t mean giving thanks for whatever constitutes our crisis. It means we give thanks to God for being with us in the middle of it, for being our source of wisdom and strength, and for promising to use it for our good and His glory.

 

Sooner or later, everyone experiences a crisis. Some folks find themselves completely unraveled. Others experience calm. Where we place our hope and how we choose to respond makes all the difference.

 

#hope  #findinghopeincrisis #givethanks  #fightstress  #bgbg2

 

Here’s an interview I did with Debbie Chavez. She refers to specific devotions in my new book, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos and we talked about practical ways to apply the truths they contain. Enjoy!

https://thedebbiechavezshow.com/2021/02/02/finding-calm-hope-in-crisis-podcast/

 

Buy Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos here.

Finding Hope In Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos

Bad News, Good News, and Hope

I recently read an article in which an author admitted never reading reviews about her books. Her reason? One negative review could send her into a downward spiral, cause her to question her calling as a writer, and make her feel as though she had nothing of value to say. She may have received a dozen positive reviews, but in her mind, one critical comment outweighed them all.

 

Our human bent wants to pull us toward the bad news and keep us stuck there, in the place where shame and guilt and fear reign. Even the disciples found this to be true. Check out Matthew 17:22-23.

 

“After they gathered again in Galilee, Jesus told them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.’ And the disciples were filled with grief.”

 

Jesus wanted to prepare the twelve for the days ahead so He gave them the full scoop in abbreviated form. The bad news was that He would die. The good news was that He would rise from the dead three days later

 

It seems the disciples camped on the bad news. They felt more than a little sad; they were filled with grief even though their beloved Jesus said He would do the impossible and rise from the dead.

 

I so “get” the disciples’ thinking process.

 

For instance, I hear about rising pandemic numbers, concerns about variants, and frustrations with vaccine rollouts. The bad news is that no one really knows what the future holds. My thoughts could camp there and throw me into despair.But…there’s good news, and it changes everything.

 

The good news is that our present suffering is nothing compared to the glory God will reveal to us someday. (Romans 8:17-18) That truth alone should be enough to help us readjust our focus. But wait—there’s more!

 

Scripture says “…be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT)

 

My friend, we don’t have to let bad news suck us into a dark place of despair.

 

Reality is—life is really hard sometimes. But the truth remains—suffering is temporary. Let’s neither  run from it nor resist it because it serves a purpose—it refines us and strengthens our faith. But in the midst of it and the pain it brings, let’s choose to camp on the good news. As sure as Jesus rose from the dead, we can rest assured that eternity’s coming, and it’s bringing glory and joy beyond anything we can imagine. No matter what bad news the day might bring, our hope remains sure because it’s based on truth that remains steadfast.

 

#bgbg2  #hope  #findinghopeincrisis  #devotions #JesusLives  #BadNewsGoodNews 

 

 

When God’s Love Doesn’t Look Like Love

 

A familiar Sunday school song reminds us that Jesus loves us. That’s an easy truth to believe when all is well and life brings blessing upon blessing. But what about when life takes an unexpected turn and heads a direction we did not choose?

 

Joseph’s life is a prime example. He was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, and served a prison sentence for a crime he did not commit. Psalm 105:17-19 gives a brief description of his experience behind bars: They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.”

 

In the midst of Joseph’s suffering, we find this nugget of encouragement: But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:21 NLT).

 

We can understand favor in the warden’s eyes as evidence of God’s love, right? But what about the fetters and bruises? Our human bent might be tempted to say, “Seriously? Letting the bad guys mistreat Joseph doesn’t look like love.” Let’s remember that God’s perspective is always, always different than ours: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

 

Suffering refined Joseph’s character and prepared him to become an effective national leader. Joseph himself came to this realization years later, after Pharaoh appointed him as second-in-command. He said to the same brothers who’d betrayed him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)

 

So How Does This Apply to Us?

We might be tempted to look at our current circumstances and say, “Seriously? Allowing a global pandemic to rock the world off its axis, confine us in lockdowns, and cause irreparable fallout doesn’t look like love.” But let’s remember that God’s perspective is different than ours.

 

Suffering can refine our characters and make us more like Jesus. Getting rid of the junk in our lives and exchanging it for qualities such as joy, peace, compassion, and selflessness—that looks like love, doesn’t it?

 

Using a global pandemic to turn people’s hearts toward Jesus for hope, comfort, and healing—that looks like love, doesn’t it?

 

Using lockdown restrictions to help us, as believers, appreciate religious freedom and teach us greater compassion for persecuted brothers and sisters worldwide—that looks like love, doesn’t it?

God’s love never guarantees an easy life. It does, however, promise that He will be with us in our hard place just as He was with Joseph, and He will be faithful.

 

What evidence of God’s love do you see in your difficult circumstances?

 

#bgbg2  #LifeHasHardPlaces  #GodIsWithUs  #GodLovesUs 

 

 

 

The Significance of an Overlooked 3-Letter Word

 

I find it’s easy to blow past little words when reading my Bible. One of those words is “all.”

Several times in the past week, it jumped off the page at me as if to say, “I’m small but significant. Pay attention to me!”

 

One encounter with this wee word was in Proverbs 3:5-6—“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

 

“All” shows up here not once, but twice, and it carries a message of profound importance. In the midst of these crazy, chaotic days, God calls us to trust Him with our entire heart. We’re to acknowledge Him as faithful, wise, and sovereign even when circumstances don’t make sense or suit our fancy. Leaving wiggle room for control or manipulation in hopes of achieving the outcome we deem best never works well. We’re to trust Him and His ways with all our heart, not just a part.

 

“All” also tells us to seek God’s will in everything we do. Our human bent is to seek our own will, to secure our own personal interest in everything we do. When we do so, we allow our emotions to rule our decisions and we end up saying or doing something we later regret. We avoid a lot of self-inflicted pain when we ask God to show us the direction He wants to take in a particular situation and follow His lead.  

 

“All” is only a three-letter word but it carries life-changing ramifications. May I offer a prayer to help us learn to pay attention to it and apply it to our lives?

 

“Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us wise instruction so we can flourish. Thank You for this little word “all.” Help us to pay attention to it and to live by its truth. Teach us how to trust You with every part of our heart, not leaving wiggle room for doubt or fear or manipulation. Teach us how to seek Your direction in every endeavor, not allowing our emotions to dictate what we do. We love You and are grateful for the privilege of being children of the living God—the One who is good in all His ways. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

#TrustGodWithAllYourHeart  #bgbg2  #GodsInstructions

How Having a Focus-Word Helps Us Grow

 

At the start of each year, I ask the Lord to give me a focus word. A couple of years ago, my word was “joy.” It reminded me to reframe the way I viewed difficulties. I learned to see them not as hindrances but as opportunities to experience God’s presence and promises in new ways.

 

Last year, my word was “listen.” It encouraged me to keep an ear open for the Holy Spirit’s whispers during the course of the day. It also prompted me to listen more intentionally to other people—to hear the true heart behind the words they were speaking.

 

This year, the word “praise” jumped off the page as I read Psalm 146. The chapter begins, “Praise the LORD. Let all that I am praise the LORD.” (Psalm 146:1) It closes with, “Praise the LORD.” Here are a few thoughts that have come to mind as I’ve pondered it over the past few days.

  • Psalm 146 begins and ends with the same instruction. Just as these three words bookend the chapter, so I will bookend my days by intentionally beginning and ending them with praise.
  • The first word of this command is “praise,” meaning I’m to acknowledge God for who He is. This is different than thanking Him for what He’s done. It focuses on the characteristics that describe Him—wisdom, compassion, holiness, justice, sovereignty, and more.
  • The last word of this command is “LORD.” Beyond any doubt, it tells me who the focus of my praise ought to be—the almighty, self-existent, sovereign Creator. He is above all gods. None can compare to Him.
  • Praising the Lord involves my whole-hearted self. “Let all that I am praise the LORD” means everything about me acknowledges His kingship and authority. He rules over my spiritual life, of course. But He also sits as King over my mind, my emotions, and my body.
  • Praising the Lord ought to be my practice regardless of my circumstances. “I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath,” says Psalm 146:2. God remains God and deserves praise even if my life takes an unexpected and painful turn.

 

I’m looking forward to implementing praise even more intentionally than I already have and to seeing its effect in my life.

 

Do you ask God to give you a focus word at the start of a new year? If so, what’s your word for 2021?

 

#bgbg2  #oneword  #Powerofpraise  #Goddeservespraise