Why Our Thoughts About God Matter

by Grace Fox

Where I live in British Columbia, winter is marked by overcast skies and rain. It’s already upon us. The marina dock is slick, and carrying groceries or suitcases from the parking lot to our boat isn’t exactly a ton of fun. The memory of falling face-first while pulling a suitcase and wearing a 25-pound backpack still haunts me.

I could quickly fall into complaining about the damp cold and the dangers of walking on a wet dock, except that I know God placed me and my husband here. I also know that God is wise and good. He makes no mistakes. He has my best interest in mind. He uses circumstances to refine my character and make me more like Jesus. He has purposes beyond my understanding for placing us here, and He’s given me the privilege of playing a role in seeing those purposes fulfilled.

If I start second-guessing God’s goodness and wisdom (ie: “What was He thinking when He told us to move aboard a sailboat? This is ‘way too hard for a woman my age!”), then I will soon resent living here. I’ll envy my friends who live in houses—especially if they have attached garages—and discontentment will eat me alive.

In contrast, focusing my mind on truth about God brings peace. Because He’s wise and good and makes no mistakes, I know He is completely trustworthy. He’s got my back and will give me everything needed to thrive through another winter as liveaboards. I can trust and not be afraid.

John 8:12-25 tells the story of Jesus addressing a group of unbelievers:

“That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”

“Who are you?” they demanded.

Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be” (vv.24-25 NLT).

When Jesus walked this earth, He taught that people’s thoughts about Him mattered. Unless they believed the truth about who He said He was—the Savior sent to cleanse them from sin and restore them to a right relationship with God—they would die in their sins.

The same principle holds true in our thoughts about God the Father. They matter. They matter a great deal. If they’re not based on truth, we develop a skewed understanding of who He is and His role in our lives. We develop a distorted perspective and start living according to our own truth. Eventually we sacrifice peace and joy for envy, discontentment, and fear.

Our human tendency is to make God into something our finite minds can grasp. We make Him into something we want Him to be so we can excuse sinful behaviors. We misconstrue His character by over-emphasizing one attribute at the expense of another.

Let’s guard against doing this, okay? Let’s ask God to reveal any inaccurate thoughts about Him and to replace them with truth.

Our thoughts about God ultimately determine our destiny both in this life and in the hereafter. They’re the most important thing about us, so let’s strive to ensure they’re based on truth.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her new devotional Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos won the Golden Scroll “Devotional Book of the Year” award and is available wherever Christian books are sold.

Join the conversation: Have you been tempted to give God human limitations in your understanding of Him?

5 Promises That Will Never Be Broken

by Grace Fox

The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over. Psalm 12:6 NLT

Someone once said that promises are made to be broken. Sadly, we live in a society where many people believe this is true.

Some break their vow to love and honor their spouse until death. Others break their promise to pay for receiving a service or product. Some fail to meet someone at an agreed time and place. Many of us fail to keep our word to pray for someone who’s shared a prayer request with us.

Sometimes people break promises intentionally. They agree to do something knowing full well they won’t follow through. Others do it accidentally. A couple of years ago, one of my grandsons reminded me about a toy watch I’d bought him several years prior. “It broke, Grandma, and you said you’d buy me a new one, but you never did.” Seriously, I had no recollection of saying such a thing, but I trust his memory more than mine. To say I was mortified is an understatement.

No matter what anyone says, promises are not made to be broken. They’re made to keep. That’s the point, right? The definition of a promise is “a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen.”

We’ve all been on the receiving end of a broken promise. We’ve felt the disappointment or sting. We’ve asked ourselves the question, “Should I ask this person for an explanation, or should I just let it go?” Depending on the nature and circumstances of the promise broken, we may have enjoyed a hearty laugh or conversely wrestled with anger and unforgiveness.

People break promises all the time. Know it will happen. But know this—God always keeps His word.

Psalm 12:6 says, “The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over.” Sometimes those promises don’t happen as soon as we wish. When they finally come to pass, they might look different than we’d hoped. They might come with a condition that we have to fulfill first.

Regardless, God will never make a promise and then forget to honor it. He’ll never commit to doing something and then procrastinate or fail to follow through. God always keeps His word. Here are five promises on which we can rely when facing uncertainty.

  • “…Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV). We are not alone even when we feel lonely because God’s presence goes with us everywhere, day and night.
  • “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8:26 NLT). What a relief to know the Holy Spirit covers our concerns when we haven’t got a clue how to put them into words.
  • No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” (Romans 8:37 NLT). The One who conquered death works in us to conquer all things that stand against us.
  • “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27 NLT). Jesus has provided a gift that money can’t buy, and He even gives instructions so we can maximize it.  (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4 NLT). Heaven. I can only imagine.

God will always keep these promises. Which one is most relevant to you today?

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the First 5 writing team (P31 Ministries). Her new devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos is available wherever Christian books are sold. Connect with Grace on her websiteblog, or on Facebook.

Join the conversation: What of God’s promises are most meaningful to you?

Orca Whales and Overcoming Fatigue

by Grace Fox – grace@gracefox.com

My husband and I had just completed a busy season of ministry overseas. Our bodies yearned for  rest, and our spirits longed for renewal, but one more commitment beckoned before we could take a break.

A lifelong friend and former ministry coworker had passed away, and we considered attending his funeral a non-negotiable. Doing so was no small ordeal. It meant making a day-long trip that involved two ferry rides with the likelihood of high-volume summer traffic and subsequent lengthy waits between sailings. The prospect held zero appeal for us in our weary state. But there was one other option: do the trip in our sailboat-home. Allowing a week for the round-trip could transform our journey into a vacation.

We left the marina with sunshine overhead and gentle breezes at our back. On the second morning, I was sitting in the cockpit when unusual movement in the water caught my eye. It was a fin about five feet high, heading straight toward our starboard side. Suddenly another fin appeared. And then a third.

Moments later, a pod of approximately thirty orca whales surrounded us. Some disappeared under our boat. Others swam across the bow. One leaped from the air off the stern and landed with a tremendous ker-splash! Their movements mesmerized me. I gazed in awe at these sea creatures diving and dancing, and I felt enveloped by the presence of their Creator and mine.

The whales’ path crossing ours in that massive expanse of water was no coincidence. Only God could have orchestrated such a nature show and given us the once-in-lifetime opportunity to sit in its audience. I embraced it as a gift, a unique and not-so-little expression of His love for us and His presence in our lives. The experience rejuvenated our spirits and filled our emotional, mental, and spiritual sails with fresh wind.

We all experience seasons—some long, some short—when fatigue settles in and feels impossible to shake off. Reasons for exhaustion vary. I have several friends who are providing care for aging parents suffering from dementia. Others are helping to raise their grandchildren. Some are investing significant energy trying to understand and resolve relationship issues within their family. Others are dealing with workplace conflict, financial loss, or health concerns. On a global scale, we’re coming through a season that knocked the wind out of our sails for so many reasons—loss and disappointment being one of them.

Fatigue makes us vulnerable to negative thinking. When I returned from overseas that summer, I caught myself entertaining thoughts like, “I feel overworked and underappreciated” and “Our ministry doesn’t make a difference.” I realized that allowing such thoughts to dwell in my mind would put me into a downward spiral of discouragement. I turned things around by meditating on and praying truths such as Psalm 23:1-2: “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength” (NLT).

God invites us to cast our cares on Him, so go ahead—tell Him your need for renewal and expect Him to answer (1 Peter 5:7). He might send restoration through a timely Scripture or email, through a friend who comes alongside to help shoulder your burden, or through an unexpected opportunity to get away for a physical rest. He knows your need and how to best meet it. If He can send a pod of orca whales to renew me, He can do whatever’s necessary to restore you, too, my friend.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the First 5 writing team (P31 Ministries). Her new devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos is available wherever Christian books are sold. Connect with Grace on her websiteblog, or on Facebook.

Join the conversation: Do you need renewal today?

Holding onto Hope When Winter Lingers

by Grace Fox

Winters are long, gray, and soggy where I live in southwestern British Columbia. Lack of sunshine for extended times can lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) characterized by depression, lethargy, and irritability. Those who struggle with it find October through April particularly difficult.

I haven’t experienced SAD, but winter brings challenges of a different sort my way, because I live on a sailboat. For instance, condensation is a problem despite our running a dehumidifier around-the-clock. As a result, I’m constantly on a seek-and-destroy mission against mildew inside cupboards and around our mattresses. Doing the laundry means backpacking our dirty wash to the marina facilities a city block away—in the rain. And walking on slippery docks and steep ramps requires extra caution. Twisting my ankle and doing a face plant taught me that lesson.

This year, amidst damp cold and increasingly tight pandemic restrictions, I began feeling as though winter came with no expiration date. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered pink blossoms on a leafless tree in early February. The sight lifted my spirits. I stood and stared at the flowers in awe and wonder. I couldn’t resist posting a picture on Facebook. “This is not fake news,” I wrote. “Spring is on the way. There is hope after all!”

Sadly, an Arctic blast swept through our province a couple weeks later. Temperatures plunged and the flowers froze. But despite their sad demise, my anticipation of spring lingered. Their presence had reminded me of warmer, sunnier, longer days ahead. They’d given me hope, and an Arctic freeze could not take that from me.

Life occasionally hands us seasons that resemble long, dreary winters. We begin to wonder whether our circumstances will ever improve. We spend our energy trying to persevere and praying for what feels like forever without seeing progress or change, and we begin to lose heart.

Sometimes we experience an Arctic blast. Winds of sudden change blow, bad news chills us to the bone, and we wonder whether we’ll survive to see warmer days ahead.

No matter how difficult our situation, the truth remains: God’s presence and promises bring hope.  

The apostle Paul knew what it meant to suffer. As a minister of the Gospel of Christ, he’d experienced slander, criticism, beatings, and imprisonment. He’d learned how to thrive despite the storms, and he shared his insights with the Corinthian believers so they might learn to do the same.

Paul encouraged them to not lose heart, and then wrote, “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV).

Paul’s words still apply to us today. Our difficulties—our winter of the soul—might linger longer than we wish, but the Holy Spirit’s presence within us renews us and gives us strength to persevere. Our troubles might appear to have no expiration date, but rest assured, they will eventually pass. The purposes that Christ is achieving through them, however, will last forever. Therein lies hope.

Like the pink blossoms in mid-winter lifted my spirits, so God’s truth brings hope in seasons of hardship. Hold on, my friend. An eternal glory that exceeds imagination lies ahead.

Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the “First 5” writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her new devotional Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos is available wherever Christian books are sold. Connect with Grace on her website, blog, or on Facebook.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Grace Fox co-directs an international missionary sending agency, speaks at women’s events overseas and across North America, and has authored ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the First 5 writing team (P31 Ministries). Her new devotional, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos is available wherever Christian books are sold. Connect with Grace on her website, blog, or on Facebook.

Join the conversation: Have you seen God at work within you during these difficult times?

Holding on to Hope

by Grace Fox

Last year at this time, my husband and I held high hopes for the future. As co-directors of a missionary sending organization, we looked forward to seeing how God would raise up more workers for the harvest at home and abroad. We anticipated attending our annual staff conference in Poland, leading short-term teams to Eastern Europe, and training Middle Eastern nationals for career ministry. As a Bible teacher, I busied myself writing materials for upcoming women’s retreats. We’d booked our calendar and bought airline tickets.

Then the pandemic struck. Countries closed their borders, airlines grounded their flights, and authorities banned public gatherings.

Saying that 2020 propelled us into unfamiliar territory is an understatement. It stretched and tested us, and it brought Isaiah 42:16 to life. “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”  (ESV)

As our usual ministry doors closed, we asked God to guide us in a new direction. He led us down the Zoom road to stay connected with our international staff. Becoming more comfortable with virtual communication paved the way for us to host an evangelistic outreach to Poland, complete with translators and breakout rooms for Bible study. After my speaking events were canceled, He directed me to develop and host two online Bible studies—truly a modern-day miracle for a techie-challenged person like me.

God shone light into our darkness and leveled rough ground before us within the context of ministry.

He did the same for our family when my 88-year-old mother’s health failed. She’d always been strong and independent. One morning, an unexpected diagnosis propelled us into foreign territory. Suddenly we were sitting vigil by Mom’s bedside in a hospital with relaxed but confusing COVID restrictions. But God once again fulfilled His promise to lead us along a path new to us. He guided our decisions about Mom’s care until she passed from our presence into His, and He continues to walk with us as we journey this road called grief.  

Here we are, my friend, at the beginning of 2021. Last year at this time, we may have looked forward to the unknown with eager anticipation. This year, skepticism or fear might cloud our perspective. Vaccines can end the pandemic but they can’t fix political strife, restore lost income, or bring back those whom we loved and lost. They can’t heal the hurt that 2020 inflicted on our hearts in so many ways. A little voice in our head warns us not to hold high hopes lest circumstances beyond our control dash them again.

Let’s silence that voice.

You and I don’t have a clue about what this year holds. But this we do know—God promises to lead us on paths we have not yet known. This One who sees everything from beginning to end will guide us. The Light of the world will illumine our darkness. Almighty God for whom nothing is impossible will level the rough places before us. Therein lies our reason for hope.

Let’s face 2021 with confident expectation of a good outcome. That’s not to say everything will turn out as we wish or expect. It’s saying that, whatever happens, God is still in control. We hang onto hope because we’re in the hands of almighty God who loves us more than words can say. And there’s no better place to be.

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Grace Fox is a career global worker and the author of ten books. She’s a regular contributor to Mornings with Jesus (Guideposts) and a member of the First 5 writing team (P31 Ministries). She and her husband of 39 years live on a sailboat. Together they celebrate three married kids and nine grandchildren. Her new book, Finding Hope in Crisis: Devotions for Calm in Chaos (Rose Publishing) offers bite-sized nuggets of encouragement for those whose minds are on overload.

Learn more about Grace and her books at gracefox.com.

Join the conversation: How have you been staying positive in these difficult times?

The Importance of Thinking Truth About Who God Is

by Grace Fox @gracelfox

Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.                                                                                                                                                               Philippians 4:8

Human artists can paint a canvas, but only God can sweep and blend colors across the heavens. Every time I see the sky ablaze with red, pink, orange, and yellow, my mind is filled with awe and wonder and my heart is moved to worship. If I’m feeling discouraged about something, my heaviness lifts at the thought of this amazing God cradling me and caring about every aspect of my life.

The thoughts we think about God are the most important thing about us. That’s because they shape our beliefs. Our beliefs then influence our behaviors, and our behaviors determine our destiny.

For example, imagine facing a tough situation. A cancer diagnosis, perhaps. Or an unexpected job layoff. If we think God is truly good, then we’ll believe He cares about every detail of our circumstances. Our beliefs cause us to turn to Him for help and to trust that He hears our cries. We pray in faith believing His answer is the best answer. Even though we might not understand why He allows these circumstances, we experience inner peace for which there’s no human explanation.

Now imagine facing the same situation thinking God doesn’t give a rip. Those beliefs result in our feeling anxious, angry, and abandoned. We make fear-based decisions believing the outcome rests solely on us because, after all, God doesn’t care. Or so we think.

The Bible story about the twelve spies demonstrates this principle (Numbers 13:25-14:25). Upon their return from scoping out the Promised Land, ten spies focused on the fortified cities and the powerful giants who occupied them. “We can’t go against them!” they cried. “They’re stronger than we are!” Their discouraging reports spread throughout the Israelites who, in turn, wept all night, spoke about returning to Egypt, and plotted to stone the other two spies, Joshua and Caleb.

These spies’ thoughts about God were small. This mindset led them to believe He would allow their enemies to crush them, so they refused to do battle. Their destiny? Death.

Joshua and Caleb demonstrated a different mentality. “We can conquer the land!” they said. They believed God would fight for them and give them victory. They were eager to obey and encouraged the Israelites to do likewise. Their destiny? They entered the Promised Land.

I can identify countless situations when my behaviors reflected inaccurate thoughts about God. Like when our family entered career missions and I stressed big-time over financial uncertainty. Or when He called me to write Moving from Fear to Freedom and I argued with Him for a year because I doubted His ability to equip me for the task. Or when I gossiped, ignoring the fact that He could hear every word and knew I was dishonoring Him. Goodness, my list could go on forever.

By human nature, our thoughts about God are often small and inaccurate. Those thoughts influence our beliefs and behaviors and ultimately determine our destiny. If we want God’s blessing, then we need to fill our minds with the truth about who He is and live from that truth.

TWEETABLE
The Importance of Thinking Truth About Who God Is – insight from @GraceLFox on @AriseDailyDevo (click to Tweet)

Grace FoxAbout the author: Grace Fox is the author of nine books. She’s an annual contributor to Mornings With Jesus (Guideposts Books) and a member of the writing team for “First 5”—a Bible study app produced by Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Grace’s book, Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation, will not only show you how to face your fears but to actually let fear be a catalyst for change. Learn how to stop hiding from God develop a deeper relationship with Him by experiencing Him in new ways.

Join the conversation: What is the most meaningful thing about God that you know?