Get Ready! We Have Something to Celebrate!

Get Ready! We Have Something to Celebrate!

Our granddaughter’s recent wedding reminded me not to wait for the big life events, but to celebrate the everyday moments as well. As family and friends, we all gathered to share their happiness at an outdoor ceremony under the vast prairie skies.

Our East India friends miss how their culture celebrates every occasion with feasts. Any measure of success becomes reason enough for them to congratulate and acknowledge God’s goodness. The birth of a baby, a new car, the purchase of a home, a promotion and many other successes present a worthy excuse to rejoice together.

Here in North America, marked by competition and comparison, we often withhold such back-slapping, hand-shaking applause of others. What would happen if we set aside our largely self-centered independence and showed admiration for each other, celebrating their accomplishments?

I often advise those I mentor to celebrate every win! Whether almost imperceptibly tiny or massive, a win is a win worth acknowledging. Celebrating confirms we are making progress and inspires us to keep moving ahead. Above all, our wonderful Lord, who brings us success, is most worthy of celebrating.

“Come, let’s shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let’s march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!
Psalm 95:2 MSG

Celebrate Others

Let’s applaud the efforts of others even before we see the positive results.

While very young we learn to hide our hurts and mask disappointments. We are unaware of the load people carry under the surface — how many applications they have submitted before they landed a position, how many sleepless nights with a new baby or waiting for a teenager to return home, or how many failures it took to achieve even a minor success.

Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:23-24

The Father in this story represents God and we are like His lost sons and daughters returning to Him. He saw the son’s return as an opportunity to celebrate with great liberty. The Father didn’t care how many mistakes his child made in the past. He made provision for everyone to share His joy!

May we see each other with the same grace and compassion, looking past weary faces and the stains of life. One act of kindness can turn someone’s day around. Let’s celebrate in tangible ways by

  • complimenting the person filling our tank with fuel
  • tipping the server with cash in hand, acknowledging something well done
  • telling our young children and aging parents how much we appreciate them
  • writing a note of encouragement to someone who has made a difference in our lives

There are hundreds of ways to celebrate those around us. It usually only takes a moment and a few sincerely spoken words. We always have something to celebrate.

Preparation

The greatest celebration on earth pales compared to what is occurring in Heaven.

Celebrate with me! … Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” Luke 15:7

Reports from literally every nation around the world are declaring an increased spiritual hunger and receptivity to confess and repent of sin, turn to Jesus Christ and profess Him as Lord of their lives. The tumultuous times of recent years have only propelled God’s desire to reach the nations.

Can you feel the jubilation of Heaven or imagine the thunderous celebration every time someone gives their life to Jesus Christ? Our hearts are being tuned to the sound of this glorious celebration as sinners find their way to a Savior.

Armies can’t stop Him; borders can’t keep Him out. The mighty Name of Jesus resounds in streets and villages globally as He rescues and redeems. Oh, may the sound of jubilation resonate within us as we join Heaven’s joyous throng. Oh, my beautiful friends, we have something to celebrate.

 “Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
    praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
    praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
    praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
    Hallelujah!”

Psalm 150 MSG

Indeed, it is true! We have Someone and something to celebrate!

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John 14:27 — “Don’t be Troubled or Afraid”

John 14:27 — “Don’t be Troubled or Afraid”

When the Bible says, “Don’t be troubled or afraid” we already know it refers to someone who was both troubled and afraid. John remembers hearing Jesus speak these words to him and the rest of the disciples. They were all more than a little “troubled” by His insistence that He would soon leave them.

Summer storm season causes many people in our area to feel troubled and fearful — and for just cause. Almost daily, warnings and reports of storm activity, severe hail, and even funnel clouds fill our weather feeds.

Recently, a group of us ladies were sharing our responses to extreme weather. A couple of us appreciate a good thunder-banger (the prairie term for thunderstorms) and the extra nitrogen it infuses into the soil. Some ladies thought we were foolishly disregarding danger. Wisely, they preferred the take cover approach. Storm chasers go a step further, seeking the thrill of tracking super cells for the perfect photo. These uncontrollable beasts of the air cause me to tremble in awe at the all-powerful God who holds everything in the palm of His hand.

“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

I ponder these words, acknowledging the things that trouble my heart. Storms take many forms — unsaved loved ones, terminal illnesses, severed family relationships, and on the list goes.

What about you? What brings fear to your heart and mind?

Peace

We must remember the context of Jesus’ words. On the eve of His own cruel, undeserved death, and raging storm, He assures others. Hours before His arrest, trial, and execution, He gives those He loves a most precious gift — peace of mind and heart.

“The peace Christ leaves is power to hold the wildest fear in pause, to still a clamor or hush a cry — it is the coming of mercy to a sense of sin, of life to the fear of death.”
– Pulpit Commentary

We tend to more readily receive advice from those who have weathered similar circumstances and know the hazards we face. Jesus doesn’t just offer advice, He gives them (and us) exactly what they (and we) need to endure any and every trial — His perfect peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…”
John 14:27 

The perfect peace Jesus offers is unlike peace found anywhere else or in anything else. No one but Jesus can give us lasting peace. Through Him and in Him, we never need to be troubled or afraid.

A Choice

My mom was terrified of storms. She would pull the drapes, unplug appliances, and refuse to allow anyone to use the telephone or run water in the house. Much to her frustration, my dad followed behind her pulling the curtains open again, waiting with a full coffee mug to watch the pending light show.

We tend toward one extreme or another when it comes to storms — tremble in fear or settle in our secure position. Dad had built our farmhouse to withstand the force of prairie storms. He wasn’t foolish, but he rested under the safety of a solid roof and strong walls. He also knew when wisdom called for a concrete basement to create the safest haven.

The peace Jesus gives protects us — not from danger, but during it. With His peace, we can rest when fierce winds come against us.

“…So don’t be troubled or afraid.
John 14:27

Another version says, “Do not let.” The words imply a choice on our part. Such admonish would be utterly cruel if He had not first given us provision. Trouble and afraid can also be translated as “disturb, agitate, stir up, to shrink, be fearful, timid, or cowardly.”

I have battled my own fears in response to various storms — when death came knocking, when pain denied rest day and night, when money was scarce and bills were plentiful …

Fearless

During Jesus’ trial and execution, fear overcame His disciples, too. Later, they stood unwavering in their devotion to Him. What changed? How did they fearlessly face life-threatening storms?

The Holy Spirit made all the difference in their lives! The Book of Acts records an almost perpetual infilling of the Spirit.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
Acts 2:2-4

In Acts 4:31, they were filled again. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit came to others in Acts 8:14-17. Then again in Acts 10:44 and 19:5 we see the Holy Spirit coming on even more people. With the Spirit came a fearlessness.

The same holds true today. Jesus has not left us helpless, to be overwhelmed by fear. He has given His perfect peace to us as well. So, may we have confidence. May our hearts not be troubled or afraid no matter what storms come our way.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I bring to You each weary warrior. Before one storm subsides another looms on the horizon — each one threatening more devastation than the one before. May Your gift of peace be more than words on a page, bringing enduring strength and hope. May we find true rest and comfort in the perfect peace You provide. In the words of Psalm 112:7, may we not fear any bad news, but may our hearts be steadfast, trusting, confidently relying, and believing in You, our Lord and God. We place our confidence and hope in You alone. Fill us, again and again, with the fullness of Your abiding presence. Lord, hold us secure during the storms ahead — never troubled or afraid. Amen.

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We All Need Wisdom for Life and Conduct

We All Need Wisdom for Life and Conduct

Because I struggle to know how to speak and act wisely in most situations. I often pray for wisdom to direct my life and conduct. Can you relate? The need for more wisdom never seems to grow old.

I laughed as I read these quotes of “wisdom” from the lips of children:

  • “If you want a kitten, start out by asking for a horse.”
  • “Never try to baptize a cat.”
  • “You should not throw baseballs up when the ceiling fan is on. A ceiling fan can hit a baseball a long way. The glass in windows doesn’t stop a baseball hit by a ceiling fan.”
  • “The spin cycle on the washing machine does not make earthworms dizzy. It will make cats dizzy.”
  • “Never trust a dog to watch your food.”
  • (Mother) “Son, your shoes are on the wrong feet.” (Son) “Don’t kid me, Mom. They’re the only feet I got!”

Most dictionaries define wisdom as “the capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; a soundness of judgement in the choice of means and ends.” Even though these humorous quotes carry a tad of wisdom for any child, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words uttered long ago.

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike.”
Matthew 11:25

Sometimes children show even more sound judgement than some adults. Let’s look at a few childlike qualities which may enable us to gain true wisdom that will serve us for a lifetime.

Humility

God called and anointed Moses to lead an entire nation — a position which required an extreme amount of godly wisdom. Yet, Moses was wearing himself thin, attempting to single-handedly meet the needs of the people and unable to think of a better solution.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, immediately recognized the problem and boldly shared a solution.

What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”
Exodus 18:14

We’ve all been like Moses at some point — too busy working to see our way around a difficulty. Moses needed someone to tell him about the benefits of delegated leadership.

Moses could have objected, pointing to his high and anointed calling. He could have disqualified Jethro’s advice as beneath him or become offended, refusing to change his leadership style. Thankfully, he humbly received Jethro’s advice and immediately trained several trustworthy men to help carry the load of responsibility. Humility opened the door for wisdom to enter — wisdom for life and conduct.

May we learn from Moses and be humble enough to receive wisdom from unexpected sources.

Desire

Picking her son up from school, a mother asked, “What did you learn today?”

“Not enough,” her child responded. “I have to go back tomorrow!”

No matter how much wisdom we have gained today, we need to go back tomorrow to learn more. When we desire and ask for wisdom with the openness of a young child, God will liberally grant our request.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
James 1:5

Children ask unashamedly. If there is no response, they ask again. Often, they ask tenaciously and tearfully. They ask persuasively. They ask when it is convenient and when it isn’t.

Perhaps our Heavenly Father anxiously waits for us, His children, to ask far more than we presently do. He will allow us to wear ourselves out like Moses, spinning in the circles of human effort and reasoning.

Indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:3-5

This sounds a lot like the way a child asks — calling out, crying aloud, and looking for what we desire.

Go to the Source

I can relate to this child’s ask: “I’m not kidding! I’m not joking! I really, really, really NEED chocolate!” Another child expressed something similar, “All you need is a good friend who has chocolate.” I tend to agree.

Honestly, I’m not always wise enough to even know what I need much of the time. However, we can all know where to look to find wisdom.

For the Lord gives wisdom. Much learning and understanding come from His mouth.
Proverbs 2:6

The Bible shows us the heart and mind of our all-wise, all-knowing God. As we read and mediate on the content, we gain a heart of wisdom for life and conduct. We may not always find a direct verse addressing a specific situation, but we will discover precepts and concepts that apply to any and every circumstance we encounter.

The Law of the Lord is perfect, giving new strength to the soul. The Law He has made known is sure, making the child-like wise.
Psalm 19:7

Have you noticed how children not only know how to ask, they also know who to ask to have their needs met? As we develop a similar childlike trust in our Father, we look to His Word and seek His Presence to find the counsel and direction we need.

Always More

No matter how wise we become, God always has more available for us. Like children, let’s never quit asking Him for increased wisdom for life and conduct.

We started today with a laugh. Let’s end with humor as we consider additional “wisdom” from the young.

  • “Puppies still have bad breath even after eating a Tic Tac.”
  • “You can’t hide broccoli in a glass of milk.”
  • “Stay away from prunes.”
  • “If your dog doesn’t like someone, maybe you shouldn’t either.”
  • “Sometimes you just need to take a nap and get over it.”

These witty pieces of advice probably won’t come in handy for most adults, but wisdom, like so many other things, is a process, not a destination. May we enjoy our journey toward wisdom with a smile, even in our struggle. Moses, Jesus, and the wise among us notice the wisdom God plants even in the hearts of children. Since even they possess a measure of wisdom for life and conduct, we can trust that God has even more for us.

Happy, blessed day everyone, as we grow in wisdom together.

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The Importance of Apologies — Respect, Caring & Trust

The Importance of Apologies — Respect, Caring & Trust

More than ever before we see the importance of apologies to restore respect, caring, and trust where deep divisions once dominated. We hope such expressions are rooted with pure motives and the sincere desire to reconcile relationships. But has the presence of so many public expressions caused us to somehow become complacent toward the necessity of apologies?

In a dream, I saw a small machine shed. A small tractor that once fit neatly inside the shed now had to be disassembled into three parts in order to fit. The farmer thought it normal to reassemble the tractor before each use. The shed had been made to fit the tractor, but now the shed had become the storage space for various sized pieces of junk metal. One by one, the farmer had thrown each small piece on a pile in the shed, hiding them from public view, until the shed was rendered useless. He had considered each small piece insignificant and developed a habit of ignoring how huge the pile had grown, adjusting his life to accommodate the ever-expanding pile of scrap metal.

The Holy Spirit seemed to whisper to me, “Each small piece is an offense. Apologies remove offenses and keep the floor of your heart clean.”

When I awoke, I thought of the times when sincere apologies restored key relationships. Each apology brought deeper respect, caring, and trust, allowing the relationship to grow stronger than before. The Bible offers a clear guide on how to apologize and respond to apologies.

Repent

Repentance refers to the action of simultaneously turning toward God (or someone else) and away from hurtful actions and words to restore relationship.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
James 5:16

James highlights the importance of taking personal responsibility for our wrongs, humbling ourselves, and confessing our failures. In one word, we call this an apology. After the apology comes healing — personally and relationally.

When we repent, we demonstrate regret for failing to value others (whether intentionally or unintentionally). Taking personal responsibility moves the relationship toward reconciliation and trust.

Acknowledge

An effective apology not only owns personal responsibility but also

  • shows a clear understanding of the hurtful, rude, or wrong behavior done through previous actions or words,
  • validates the depth of embarrassment or pain caused,
  • includes a statement of regret, such as “I am sorry,” and
  • contains a plan of action to change the behavior.

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13

As in my dream, hiding offenses never helps. Although we may try to function around the “inconveniences” we have caused, we will never prosper in our relationships when issues remain unresolved. But as we confess to each other and purposefully turn from our selfish and insensitive ways, we will be shown mercy and kindness. Honesty opens the door to deeper respect, caring, and trust.

Not every apology follows a carbon copy procedure. A wise pastor once told me that a public offense requires a public apology, while a private offense merits a private apology. May God give us wisdom for each situation.

Respond

Many factors may limit a person’s ability to offer a clear apology. Perhaps, they view the relationship as too divided or unworthy of making amends. The offender may be in a position of power and feel like an apology will undermine his/her position of authority. The offender may view an apology as a sign of weakness, rather than the strength it really demonstrates. None of these excuses warrant the serious consequences of leaving wounds unresolved.

However, when we value our relationships as significant, we will seek the path of reconciliation and forgiveness. The importance of apologies cannot be overstated.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:14-15

How we receive an apology is as important as the apology presented. Matthew shares this instruction from Jesus to forgive those who have offended us. Forgiveness is the first step to restoring relationships. The second way to respond would be to show appreciation for the apology, while asking for more time to heal from the offense. The third appropriate way to respond is to seek forgiveness for any offense on our part.

The main reason for and importance of apologies is to move relationships closer together. How we respond to the apology will effect that movement as much as the apology itself.

Don’t Wait

In my dream, the famer waited and waited and waited to seek forgiveness. Soon the pile of offenses had built so high he became oblivious to the negative impact it had on his life. Every delayed apology forfeits the opportunity for restoration and reconciliation.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:23-24

Only when we make things right with each other will our relationship with God be in right standing. Let’s keep short accounts by quickly seeking forgiveness and showing honor to each other. Apologies demonstrate the highest level of humility, while proving respect, caring, and trust.

Oh, may we not forget the importance of apologies. A genuine apology expresses value to others and a sincere appreciation to God for how much He has forgiven us.

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If you find seeking and offering forgiveness difficult, perhaps these additional blogs may offer helpful tools and insight

5 Steps — Wisdom to Handle Insults and Accusations 

Mistakes Eat at Us: Dealing with our Faults and Flaws

Psalm 20:4 — May God Grant Your Heart’s Desires

Psalm 20:4 — May God Grant Your Heart’s Desires

The other morning, I read, “May he (God) grant your heart’s desires.” Scribbled in the margin was a date, “Nov 9/2014.” I paused for a moment, considering why I found this verse significant a decade earlier. In the subsequent years, many areas of my life have dramatically changed. What caused me to highlight the verse? What desires were stirring in my heart at that time?

I honestly couldn’t remember, and the notation revealed no clues. The verse stood alone. It needed no additional merit.

“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.”
Psalm 20:4

For much of my Christian life, I subconsciously included any fleeting desires of the moment. Good health, peace-filled home, and loving relationships usually topped the list. Periodically, new things would move to the forefront, but these remained.

https://pixabay.com/photos/candy-sweetmeats-jar-candy-jar-1961538/

The Desires of Your Heart

Perhaps more often than I’d like to admit, my desires might resemble a young child in a candy shop — fleeting from one colorful treat to another. I find it interesting that in the original Hebrew the reference to “desires” is completely absent. Perhaps, the verse might more accurately be translated as, “May he (God) make your “inner man, mind, will, and heart full.”

What truly fills our inner man? What is it that makes our hearts “full”?

Years later, I realize that by removing the “me, myself, and I” from the quotation and replacing it with “Him and His,” my heart is more apt to become full in every sense.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
Psalm 37:4

In turning our focus and attention to Him, our heart’s desires are fulfilled.

https://pixabay.com/photos/candies-jars-candy-jars-539695/

Your Plans Succeed

The scope of my plans on “Nov 9/2014” included very little of what I am experiencing today. My limited vision couldn’t see the things that are bringing the most success and fulfillment now.

Consider how your life has changed in the last decade. Are you livng the plan you formed ten years ago? Or have you, like me, experienced radical and unexpected shifts?

I am discovering that my greatest pleasure comes from a well within — set in place by the Master Craftsman, God Himself. Before I was born, He planted within my “inner man, mind, will, and heart” longings I have been largely unaware of. Only as they come to pass do I finally realize how intrinsic they are to living a satisfying and full life — not through “my” plans or “my” desires but His.

Only when our hearts become united with God, and we adopt His desires as our own may we enjoy the fullness of what we were created to be and to do. Until then, we experience a faint shadow of what could be.

Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed … We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”
Proverbs 16:3,9

https://pixabay.com/photos/cake-pops-pastries-food-dessert-693645/

Heart’s Desires

The seeds of unknown desire
lay buried in each heart —
hidden in sacred seclusion.
Until He breathes each into existence,
reviving what we deemed dead,
restoring what we thought lost.
Gift, upon gift, upon gift,
until hearts sing and
joy leaps upon the
hills of desire,
meeting, at last, the Sower
of sacred seed..
The union of Creator with created
to the tune of heart’s desires,
blending color and dimension
inviting to dream, believe,
and trust in the Maker
of all things good.

https://pixabay.com/photos/sweets-heart-heart-candy-yummy-2087625/

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5 Steps — Wisdom to Handle Insults and Accusations

5 Steps — Wisdom to Handle Insults and Accusations

We all face insults or accusations — sometimes justified and at other times unjustified. How do we handle such situations?

I recently noticed two young children engaged in verbal combat. I’m not sure how the disagreement began, but these little preschoolers flung harsh words back and forth with stealth accuracy. Feelings were hurt. Tears flowed. Watchful adults intervened to ease the situation and calm the chaos. My heart ached for them to resolve the conflict.

Insults and accusations appear to naturally ooze from human brokenness. As much as I don’t like to admit it, often the afront aimed in my direction has been to some degree justifiable. But not always.

Either way, I struggle for wisdom to deal with these situations. The peacemaker side of me wants to overlook the conduct altogether, placing the higher value on the relationship. While the justice side on me demands righteousness and truth to prevail. One forces an eruption of words (much like the playground confrontation); the other compels me to retreat in silence, feeling victimized.

But what does God say about such matters?

Job

Most of us know Job’s story. After loosing his entire family and every source of security, Job sat in rags among the ashes, scraping the painful, oozing sores which covered his body. His friends sat with him, offering support. All too soon, their words turned into insults and accusations. They believed Job deserved punishment from God. One false claim led to another — each progressively worse. When he needed the comfort of good friends, he received critical judgment instead.

At first Job tried to reason with them.

Teach me, and I will keep quiet. Show me what I have done wrong. Honest words can be painful, but what do your criticisms amount to? Do you think your words are convincing when you disregard my cry of desperation?”
Job 6:24-26

Finally, he lashed back!

I will never concede that you are right; I will defend my integrity until I die. I will maintain my innocence without wavering. My conscience is clear for as long as I live.
Job 27:5-6

Joseph & David

For David and Joseph, the greatest insults and accusations came from their jealous brothers! Perhaps the old saying carries truth, “Hurting people hurt people!”

God had given Joseph dreams of one day ruling over his father and siblings (Genesis 37:5-10). In the same way, David’s brothers watched Samuel anoint him, the youngest son, king of their nation (1 Samuel 16:13). Rather, than applaud their younger brothers’ successes, they fumed with jealousy, desiring the favor and blessing for themselves (Genesis 37:17-20; 1 Samuel 17:28).

“Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?”
1 Samuel 17:29

Both Joseph and David attempted to speak up. Their words, however, landed on deaf ears. They both faced unbelievable insults and accusations from those closest to them. In fact, many years passed before God fulfilled His promise and brought these men to positions of honor. Eventually, Joseph became second only to pharaoh in Egypt and David did become king of Israel.

Jesus

We witness this pattern of insults and accusations toward God’s people throughout history. Jesus faced them both continually. He rebutted such conduct with truth — sometimes gently through a parable, sometimes through open rebuke. But somehow most advice we receive for our situations stems from Jesus’ final hours. As many lies and slander were hurled His way, He remained silent.

“Many testified falsely against him … some stood up and gave this false testimony … But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.”
Mark 14:56-61

Jesus warned His followers that they, too, would be despised and rejected for following Him. He predicted not just insults and accusations but imprisonment and death awaited them.

After Jesus’ resurrection, we see His followers defending both themselves and Jesus at the cost of their lives. Rarely, if ever do we see them stand before their accusers in silence. They took advantage of extremely tense situations to re-present Christ to even their accusers.

A Pattern

Throughout Scripture, many valiant men and women demonstrate wisdom by standing their ground in the face of insults and accusations. A familiar pattern emerges from their examples.

#1 – They all spoke the truth of God’s word to them and over them.
#2 – They used each opportunity to pray for and to seek the good of their accusers.
#3 – Each one forgave their adversaries.
#4 – As a result, they blessed their accusers and received a overflow of blessing themselves.
#5 – In an attitude of surrender to the Father’s will, their trust was completely in God for both present circumstances and future outcomes.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing. because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
1 Peter 3:9

They never positioned themselves in silence as sulking victims. Rather, they challenged their accusers by their radical trust in the righteousness, justice, and faithfulness of God.

Oh! May this pattern become mine! May it become yours, also! May our Heavenly Father intervene in our disputes just as the parents of these two young children did during their playground conflict. May He show us His way — the way of wisdom — the way of truth, honor, forgiveness, and blessing as we continually trust in Him, our good, good Father.

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Avoid Distractions to Focus Our Attention — Devotion

Avoid Distractions to Focus Our Attention — Devotion

Our traffic laws forbid distractions while driving, Vehicles may quickly become lethal weapons under the control of distracted drivers. Distractions intrude from every angle, dividing our attention. For the most part the consequences of such interruptions are minor, but not always.

A couple weeks ago, one appointment ran into another with only a small break to run errands before the next meeting. My phone vibrated with yet another message just as I was entering the elevator to go to our fourth-floor condo. I pressed the elevator button while responding to the text. When the door opened, I followed the hallway around the corner, while simultaneously retrieving my keys and responding to the test message. At “my” door, I was surprised when the key refused to fit the lock. Looking up, I was horrified to realize I was on the wrong floor, attempting to open someone else’s door. Yikes!!! I quickly turned back to escape notice and embarrassment, correcting my steps. Distractions had led me down the wrong path, to the wrong door!

Later, I admitted my error to my adult children. “Mom, forget about distracted driving,” they laughed, “you can’t even do distracted walking!” They are right.

It is no wonder God calls us away from double-mindedness and into undivided loyalty.

 “But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
James 1:6-8

Divided Hearts and Minds

The word for divided loyalty or double-mindedness, in Greek dipsychos, means to have “two souls, or two selves, to be wavering, two-spirited, or vacillating.

At times, we all waver between opinions and struggle to choose the best option. Usually, like my walking while texting experience, the consequences are minor. But at other times, such distractions result in something much more serious.

Psalm 12:2 tells us that “double-talk” flows from a “double heart.” Many relationships have been irreparably damaged by flattery and double talk. Double minds and double talk will always lead to trouble.

““These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it, I’m going to step in and shock them awake, astonish them, stand them on their ears. The wise ones who had it all figured out will be exposed as fools. The smart people who thought they knew everything will turn out to know nothing.”
Isaiah 29:13-14 MSG

In the New Testament, Paul advised Timothy to choose leadership who were not “double-tongued” (1 Timothy 3:8).

Distractions

Distractions of texting while walking caused me nothing more than embarrassment, inconvenience, and a waste valuable time. I recently read that people check their cell phones between 100-150 times a day. If each distraction averaged only one minute, that totals a staggering two hours of interruptions daily.

Long before the invention of cell phones, people were prone to distraction — especially the distraction from focused attention and devotion to God.

“Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word.”
1 Kings 18:21

The divided focus of Elijah’s day included the worship of many other gods. Today perhaps, it is different things that draw us away from worshiping God with all our hearts. The distraction by many things takes various forms. Elijah asked, “How long will you hesitate…?” Every distraction creates a hesitation. We, like they, can’t find a reasonable excuse..

Do you feel the pull of distractions as much as I do?

When I go to pray — distractions! As I try to focus and read the Bible — more distractions! When I plan to serve God with my whole heart — even more distractions!

Throughout the ages, the battle for whole-hearted devotion with undivided hearts has remained the same.

Focused Love and Devotion

God knows and understands our struggle better than we do. He knows the enemy who tries to keep us from focused love and devotion to God. It’s a battle we will win by intentionally drawing close to God.

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”
James 4:7

As we acknowledge our weakness to the lure of distractions and seek God, He immediately comes to our rescue.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4:10

God was teaching me a far greater lesson through my distracted walking. He doesn’t want me, or anyone else, to follow the wrong path and end up at the wrong eternal door. By avoiding distractions, we will each accomplish our full potential and reach our intended destination. May we not stand before Him speechless, but may He receive our full attention and undivided devotion.

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The Love of God — The Greatest Love — A Personal Testimony

The Love of God — The Greatest Love — A Personal Testimony

What compares to the love of God — the greatest love? Our lives are a journey, discovering and nurturing this love which comes from God. We all possess this most basic need to love and be loved. At the end of our lives, when we enter eternity, the only thing that will matter is who we loved and how well we loved. After all is said and done, the love of God reigns supreme.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8

Lovelessness

For most of my life, a warped concept of love defined my relationships. Although, I grew up in a very loving and supportive family, I struggled to replicate that pattern of living and loving. A false self-identity labelled me as a misfit and insignificant. Due to a low value of myself, I found it impossible to truly love and value others.

“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39

My inability to love originated from that poor self-identity and feelings of worthlessness. I thought I could escape the realm of lovelessness and enter the domain of true love through marriage. This placed unrealistic expectations on my husband to fill the internal void made only for God.

The Encounter

I first encountered the love of God at a Bible camp as a preteen. Counselors explained through Scripture how Jesus was born the perfect Son of God, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as payment for my sins (which even then were many), and He rose from the grave to give me life.

My parents’ example of love made receiving God’s love an easy step. Though loving, they didn’t understand or believe in the need for confessing one’s faith in Jesus Christ or for salvation, however.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

As a young girl, isolated in my faith and lacking other Christian support, I was unable to successful maneuver the opposition I felt. And as a result, I unfortunately made a deliberate choice to abandon faith in Jesus.

No Other Love

Almost immediately, addiction and mental illness opened it’s gaping mouth, devouring all hope and life from me. I was naive to believe that there could be love apart from God who is the very essence of true, enduring love. The battle with depression ravaged my mind and soul.

When one tastes the sweet love of God, no other love suffices. In denying the One who truly loves, nothing else satisfied my longing. The journey back to the Lord took ten long and pain-filled years.

Though I had abandoned Him, He never abandoned me. By His grace, He pursued me with the greatest love.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not of works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 

First Love

Jesus’ words directly applied to me,

“Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first . . .”
Revelation 2:4,5

As I knelt in repentance and committed my life back to Jesus Christ, I uttered one additional prayer, “Lord, teach me to love!” For too long, I had failed to offer genuine, unconditional, and selfless love to those around me.

As God draws us into intimate relationship with Himself, through His love, we learn to love. Then, He renews our minds and transforms our hearts by the truth of the Bible. Then, the Holy Spirit fills us and leads us to the greatest love. We learn to love best through relationship with others who are themselves learning the lessons of love.

The Love of God

When we allow God to become our pre-eminent love everything else falls into place — not instantaneously, but as we consistently follow His example of love.

He begins to become the first One we talk to in the morning and the last One we spend time with at night. We increasingly value prayer, meditation of Scripture, and worship. And we learn to submit to His authority, allowing Him to interrupt and redirect us, as we prioritize time and focus for and with Him.

Not everyone will understand such devotion and commitment. Yet, we realize that we only have the capacity to give to others what we first receive in the presence of His love. As we embrace the greatest love from the One who is love, we gradually obtain the ability to love those around us.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
John 15:12

Oh! May we all learn to follow in the way of the love of God. Then our love for each other will become unhindered and unpolluted. The love of God, the greatest love, continues to make a huge difference in my life and in the lives of multiple others who experienced it. His love transforms us from the inside out.

This life-long process of learning to love as God loves brings life and fulfillment through authentic relationships with others. We all have a story — a personal testimony of learning how to walk in the love of God. What is your story?

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The full story of God’s grace and love over my life can be found here — Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go. Available on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com.

In MaryAnn Ward's  personal testimony through addictions, depression, and sexual molestation.

Mistakes Eat at Us: Dealing with our Faults and Flaws

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Faults, Flaws, and Mistakes

We all make mistakes. By ignoring and internalizing them, these faults, flaws, and mistakes eat at us from the inside out.

Today, I made a fresh batch of breakfast muffins, but I didn’t add quite enough butter to the mix. The first batch revealed my error, but after adding a bit more, the second lot baked to perfection. Either way, I will still eat my mistakes.

We all make mistakes every day — some (like my baking) are inconsequential but others are far more damaging. We don’t always do good, and we know it.

Last night as I prayed, I remembered the first two kings of Israel. They both had faults and flaws. Their different patterns of dealing with those mistakes caused me to consider the two paths mistakes may lead us.

The Path of Saul

One of the first and perhaps most revealing indicators of Saul’s character comes at his inauguration as king.

“So they asked the Lord, ‘Where is he?’ And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.‘”
1 Samuel 10:22

Hiding among the baggage of life always causes our mistakes to eat at us. We all tend to wander down the Saul path of dealing with our faults and failures. We:

  • Self-protect, justifying oneself for poor behavior, which leads to strained relationships (1 Samuel 13:8-13; 15:9, 15, 20-24, 30).
  • Externalize, blaming others to protect fragile our egos and deny personal responsibility (1 Samuel 15:16-23; 19:9-17; 20:30).
  • Become jealous and controlling to prove our own worth, which only leads to more anxiety and irritability (1 Samuel 18:7-9).
  • Internalize through negative self-talk plagued with guilt and shame (1 Samuel 16:14).
  • Withdraw from matters of faith and publicly disobeying God (1 Samuel 13 & 15)

Though remorseful, Saul refused to turn to God in repentance. Sadly, the freedom God provided remained out of his reach. Instead of being victorious, he remained dark, moody, and sullen, until he ultimately took his own life (1 Samuel 31).

“But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”
1 Samuel 13:14

The Path of David

Through a quick comparison of the faults and failures of these two kings, we could easily assume that David’s adulterous affair far surpassed any crime Saul committed. But David didn’t respond like Saul. He acknowledged his weaknesses and understood the key principles to effectively deal with his faults and flaws.

  • From young shepherd to an aged king, David put God first, developing a heart of worship (1 Samuel 16:18-23; Psalm 63:1-5; 2 Samuel 6:12-15)
  • He valued spiritual leadership and sought godly counsel and direction (1 Samuel 23:1-3, 4-5, 12-14; 30:8-9: 2 Samuel 2:1-2; 5:17-21, 22-25; 21:1).
  • He honored even corrupt political leaders (1 Samuel 24 & 26)
  • He was quick to repent and fully turn back to God (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51)

David did not allow remorse to shackle him. He pushed past ego and pride, humbling himself before God and those he sinned against. By valuing his relationship with God and others, David earned the title of a man after God’s own heart.

“…acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever….”
1 Chronicles 28:9

The Godly Path of God

David demonstrated the path of God for us. But talk comes easy; doing comes hard.

Without godly counsel and accountability David may never have confronted his sin patterns. In a safe and productive way, Godly counsel freed him to acknowledge and leave his baggage behind.

First Samuel 30:6-8 tells us that when David was in deep distress, he “encouraged himself in the Lord.” Not only did he submit to others, he also knew how to personally connect with God in a sustaining and life-giving way.

Though Saul often allowed “friends” to sway him, David consistently chose to obey God rather than the poor advice of his comrades to seek his own revenge (1 Samuel 24:4-9).

We are no longer talking about baking ingredients and muffins that don’t turn out quite right. The paths we take dictate life choices with far reaching consequences. Taking the God-path leads to turning our hearts fully to God and humbling ourselves before Him and others. Through seeking and honoring godly counsel, God gives us the capacity to leave our hiding places and dusty baggage. He gives us ample courage to face our responsibility regarding our mistakes, faults, and flaws, not in shame but as victorious overcomers.

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A Few Seconds Can Change a Life: Use Your Time Wisely

A Few Seconds Can Change a Life: Use Your Time Wisely

As I look back, I realize more than ever how often a few seconds can change a life. I am still learning the art of using my time wisely by valuing the days, moments, and even seconds God has given to me. The results, or fruit, of these moments become the seeds that influence many other moments of our lives.

I have often told others, “I can not afford to have one negative thought toward anyone.” Why? Because the thought I harbor will influence my actions, my actions will form patterns of behavior, and those patterns will ultimately dictate the course of my life.

Does this sound too dramatic or overstated? Perhaps, but not likely!

God continues to challenge me with the reality of making the most of this moment of time — to reevaluate and refocus.

Procrastination

Procrastination robs us of any future reward for present effort. It deceives us into believing we have unlimited time to do the things we know we should do, and to think the way we know we should think. In the deception, we are hindered from moving forward.

“I know I should forgive, but …” “I should invest in that relationship, but …” “I shouldn’t think this way, but …”

We muse, buried in excuses and self-absorption — unmoved and unchanged. It’s a sad representation of far too many lives.

In a Few Seconds

In a few seconds, we have the power to change both our thoughts and actions.

  • “There’s nothing I can do about it,” can become “I can’t do everything, but I can do something.”
  • “Someone else will do a better job of that,” can become “I may not be the best, but I can make a difference.”
  • “It’s not my problem,” can become “Whether I’m the source of the problem or not, I am responsible to do my part.”
  • “I tried, but nothing changed,” can become “This relationship means too much to quit now. I will do everything I can to bring change.”

These changes of attitude demonstrate single moment re-thinks capable of transforming the lives of more people than we realize. A few seconds can change a life. Even mine!

The Seeds of Change

What is it today? What is God asking us to do right now? Les Parrott speaks of six impulses that keep us from improving:

  • Giving up before trying … because we feel helpless.
  • Shunning a challenge … because it seems daunting.
  • Settling for the statue quo … because we lack vision.
  • Shirking responsibility … because its easier to shift blame.
  • Doing the bare minimum … because that is all that’s expected.
  • Avoiding taking action … because we fear failure.

We don’t need to lose momentum, robbed of time and opportunity. By God’s grace, we can move beyond limitations into a lifestyle of wise time management. A few seconds can change a life!

May we be bold, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal any areas which are keeping us from living to our full potential. We have all faced similar challenges.

Truth to Hold on To

Instead of focusing on the problem, God offers us living truth:

  • We are not helpless!

 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness…”
Romans 8:26

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

For we are each responsible for our own conduct.
Galatians 6:5

  • I will do my best in every situation.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

  • God defines me, not failure!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”
2 Timothy 1:7

A Few Seconds Can Change a Life

Let’s take a few seconds to consider these truths God declares about us — seconds that may change our lives. Hopefully, these seeds of change will produce the fruit of change in others.

“Lord Jesus, show me the paralysing lies that keep me from transformational change. May the truth You declare about me become stronger than the belief systems that have bound me. May I use the time You have given me wisely, bringing life, love, and hope to others. May I accomplish the full purpose and design You have declared for me. Today, Lord, I turn from wasted moments. I know that what You have ahead of me is greater than I can imagine. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.”

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