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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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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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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5 Unbeatable Exchanges Nobody Wants to Miss

5 Unbeatable Exchanges Nobody Wants to Miss

We can find far more than five unbeatable exchanges that nobody wants to miss — divine exchanges which bring immeasurable benefits. Today as I focus on these few (life, peace, beauty, joy, and praise) may we also discover the many other exchanges available to every believer.

Often things that once worked perfectly, begin to malfunction over time. Some companies even offer trade in discounts to exchange newer, upgraded products for older models. Usually, it’s a limited time offer to urge customers to purchase the latest, fastest, gadgets.

Our children, like everyone else’s, quickly grew out of their clothes as too much leg began to show beneath the hem of pants and tummies protruded from under shirt lines. Shoes also became too tight and developed holes. I smile as I remember how the new purchases seemed to make them stand taller and how they proudly showed off their new-found ability to run faster.

Purging closets and cupboards comes easier to me than loosening my grip on other things which I know I should get rid of — even when those things no longer serve a useful purpose.

An exchange means changes. With changes come challenges we would often rather avoid. But God offers everyone five unbeatable exchanges nobody wants to miss.

The Greatest Exchange

The most beautiful and powerful exchange comes when we surrender our old, temporary life for a new, eternal life in Christ. This divine exchange occurs not outside, but inside us — in the spirit — as we accept Christ’s payment for our sins through His sacrificial death on the cross.

No one dares to claim full understanding of such an exchange. We only receive it by faith. Jesus did for us what we could never do — bridging the gap of separation between us and God and bringing us into relationship with Him.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
Colossians 2:13

What a wonderful exchange … death for life … separation from God to being united with Him! Nothing compares to the freedom and joy found in this magnificent exchange.

 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
Colossians 3:3

Labor for Peace

Although we are all unique, we each feel the weight of responsibilities and concerns. But Jesus welcomes us to exchange our burdens for His perfect peace and rest.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Another version puts it this way: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Too often, life feels “heavy or ill-fitting.” These never come from God. Sickness, death, and pain were never God’s plan for us. But because we live in a fallen world, rampant with evil, we face trials. God stands with open arms, offering to carry the full weight for us. He teaches us His “unforced rhythms of grace” to walk through even the most difficult times.

Three Exchanges in One

Hundreds of years before Jesus walked the earth, Isaiah promised the unbeatable exchanges Jesus would one day bring.

“… to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Isaiah 61:3

Will we sometimes feel like our lives have disintegrated into ashes scattered by the wind? Sadly, yes. Will we face the heaviness of grief and mourning? Undoubtedly. Will we experience seasons of hopelessness and despair? Perhaps.

However, as we draw near to Jesus He promises to bring beauty from the ashes. Even in the midst of mourning, He pours healing oil into our wounded hearts. And out of the dust of despair, He can and will bring forth songs of praise — not for the circumstances, but for His Presence bringing us through those circumstances.

Jesus doesn’t stop there. Twice in verse seven of the same chapter, Isaiah tells us that Jesus will give us “a double portion” for any trouble we have experienced as we choose to place our weakness into His strength.

Unbeatable Exchanges

Even as I write, I sense the heaviness of what some of you are experiencing today. So, I write with tears of compassion. I feel the heart of God welcoming you to His divine exchange, surrendering your loss for great and eternal gain.

Please join in this simple prayer, accepting His divine exchange.

Lord Jesus, I am tired and worn out — tired of pretending I’m strong and have life together. My heart hurts and my emotions feel as scrambled as my thoughts. I give you my broken life and welcome Your whole one. I long for an intimate relationship with You as my loving Father God. Take my sins and failures, Lord. I believe You died for me. I receive the unbeatable exchange of life and fellowship in Christ. The burdens and pressures have become too much for me to carry, Lord. So, I lay them at Your feet. Teach me the “unforced rhythms” of walking in Your grace. I give you the heaviness of my heart — the burned ashes of dead hopes, the mourning over lost dreams, and the heavy spirit of despair. Today, Lord, I receive Your unbeatable exchanges of life, peace, beauty, joy, and praise. Only You can transform my life into something that will ultimately bring You glory and praise. And in that transformation, I know You will give me life eternal and immeasurable good.
Amen.

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Enjoy! Find Joy in Every Moment of Life

MaryAnn Ward - Find Joy in the Moments

Recently, one word invades my waking and dreaming hours, the word “enjoy”! I feel God prompting my heart to find joy in every moment of life.

The other day someone paid me an unexpected compliment, “You make everything more fun! You bring joy!”

I went away whispering a silent prayer of thanksgiving. Though it has taken awhile, God has turned my sadness into joy. Life hasn’t suddenly become carefree and wonderful. But despite what is or has happened, I’m discovering the secret of finding joy in even the smallest things.

I wish I would have learned these joy lessons earlier and found joy more often — in the hard moments, the easy moments, the weary moments, and even the mourning moments. God has given us all things to enjoy.

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.”
1 Timothy 6:17

To enjoy means to take delight, pleasure, and satisfaction in or have fun doing something. It also means to have for one’s use, benefit, or possession. Joy is not equivalent to happiness, however. Happiness is an emotion; while joy is a position of the heart.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Find Joy

Trust

We find the key to a lifestyle of joy by trusting in God. I’ve fretted over children and grandchildren, over finances and lack thereof, over health, over eternal souls of others, and innumerable other things. Trusting God replaces all unnecessary worry and fretting.

Can life be tough? Yes! Does it push us to our limits? Yes! But God gives us the capacity to find joy in little moments — in the weighty young mother moments loaded with responsibility, in the pressured moments of providing for the tangible needs of others, and even in the sorrowful moments of caring for a dying loved one.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life.”
Ecclesiastes 5:18

The level of our joy ultimately demonstrates the level of our trust in God.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Find Joy

Find Joy

Unfortunately, I wasted far too much of my life hoping to find joy and satisfaction in people or lesser things. Everything outside of God leads to disappointment and disillusionment. But as we rest our hearts in the goodness of God, joy flows naturally and freely.

What shall we fear when He holds us fast? He loves perfectly and desires the very best for each of us. The more we learn to linger in God’s presence, the freer we are to experience true fullness of joy.

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”
Psalm 16:11

Some of you may find this little message insensitive to the pressures and obligations currently pressing against you. Like precious jewels, God has deposited some of the greatest life lessons during my darkest most hopeless seasons. He has given joy in sorrow and suffering and has even refreshed my joy during loss and pain. The flickering beams of His Presence shine like prisms of color off His jewels of joy.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - FInd Joy

Prayer

For those of you who have discovered this treasure, rejoice! For those who feel neck deep in overwhelm, take courage.

“Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:4-5

But joy! Such beautiful words of hope and assurance. Lord, I ask for kingdom revelation over those who are weary and worn. Give them strength for today. May they trust You fully when life presses hard against them. Grant them a capacity to find joy in the fleeting moments of the season they are in. Though weeping has lasted through a very long night, may they discover renewed joy today. And may Your joy shine from their lives like beacons of hope to others caught in despair. May Your joy bring a sense of peace and the assurance of victory to all.
Saskatchewan-based acrylic artist MaryAnn Ward captures a serene outdoor scene featuring a reader engrossed in a bible passage, subtly highlighted by their pointing finger.

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First Corinthians 13 —The Way of Love

First Corinthians 13 —The Way of Love

What is the way of love? How do we truly love? By asking God these questions and seeking to understand love, we will continue to form a lifestyle of love.

And yet, I know I fall so far short of truly loving the people I am in contact with. Last night I fell asleep with these swirling thoughts and awoke this morning pondering them again. First Corinthians 13 echoed in my heart, reminding me that though faith, hope, and love eternally remain, the way of love is the greatest of all three.

Today instead of personal thoughts or perspectives, I offer you the pure word of God which speaks clearer than any words of my own. May the Holy Spirit highlight the portions that soothe your spirit, calm your concerns, and echo living hope to you.

I have chosen The Message Bible1 (perhaps a less common version) so that His voice would speak in a fresh tone and resonate to us in a new way.

First Corinthians 13

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.”
First Corinthians 13:1-3


“So, no matter what I say,

what I believe,

and what I do,

I’m bankrupt without love.”

Love In Motion

“Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut.
Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Doesn’t force itself on others.
Isn’t always, “me first.”
Doesn’t fly off the handle.
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.
Puts up with anything.
Trusts God always.
Always looks for the best.
Never looks back.
But keeps going to the end.”
First Corinthians 13:4-7

Eternal Love

“Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like an infant. When I grew up, I left those infants ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”
First Corinthians 13:8-12


But for right now,
until that completeness,

we have three things to do …

trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.”

Such perfect love we find only in and through God. Rather than seeing our failures as a source of shame, the imperfection of our love drives us continually toward His grace, leading us to love Him, ourselves, and others in life-giving ways. May we all carefully consider His Word and grow in the way of love — God’s love!

  1. The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson ↩︎

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The Cheering Squad – A Huge Crowd of Witnesses

The Cheering Squad – A Huge Crowd of Witnesses

This past weekend our family gathered, forming a cheering squad for our granddaughter’s volleyball team. We were a loud and ruckus group! Dignity was cast to the wind as we applauded every good move they made — despite points scored. As it turned out, they lost most of their games. Nevertheless, we were proud of this small-town team as they faced league champions without flinching or bowing.

After two days of leaping to my feet and cheering, this grandmother felt more than a little hoarse and weary. But my heart rejoiced at my granddaughter’s accomplishments. That evening as I rested, I felt the nudge of God, “Do you think you cheer for someone you love more than I do?”

I was instantly brought to tears with the realization of how much God loves us and cheers for us. Whether we “score” points in our Christian walk or “fumble the ball,” He is for us and not against us. And when He is for us, who can stand against us?

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
Romans 8:31

A Huge Crowd

A recent scientific study examined the effects of cheering on sports team. When crowds couldn’t gather to cheer for their teams during covid, they found that the points scored had significantly diminished.

Oh course, God knew the advantage of applauding crowds long before human studies proved the point. I’m not sure how this all works, but I believe the Bible when it says,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Hebrews 12:1

If you believe this great throng consists of negative naysayers waiting for us to fumble and fail, think again! These people have already experienced how tough life becomes. They know what it is like to fight the same battles and face off with the same enemy we fight and face every day. Because they understand our struggle and know our pain, they cheer for us all the louder.

Let’s close our eyes for a moment and open our hearts to envision this heavenly cheering squad, rising to their feet in thunderous applause as we lunge for the ball? Whether we make the save or not, they roar on our behalf. Whether we spike the ball into enemy turf or not, their hands are raised in victory.

I love the way the Message Bible describes the scene, “Do you see what this means — all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on …” (Hebrews 12:1). WOW!

Keep Going

Several times during a match, our beloved team would be down by a few points. Our frantic cheering from the sidelines kept their spirits high and hopes elevated. As a result, so many on our team demonstrated their best performances ever.

Casting aside any discouragement, they refused to quit and fought for the win!

What a wonderful example of what God calls us to do.

“It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running — and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.”
Hebrews 12:1b MSG

It’s time to give our cheering squad, that huge crowd of witnesses, reason to leap to feet. Let’s strip off everything that limits us from running our best race and effectively fighting against the enemies strategies. Is there known sin? By quickly confessing and renouncing it, we refuse to allow shame and condemnation to sideline us. Let’s shake it off and get back into action. Those things that has drag us down or hold us back don’t belong to us. We can break free for the win!

A huge crowd watches in anticipation of our victory.

The Champion

Perhaps we feel much like our small-town team facing athletic giants, who boldly display their victory banners from previous wins. We may feel weak against the strong.

The tables are about to turn! Victory is ours! How do I know? “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

May we never forget The Champion of all champions, Jesus Christ, lives in us and stands for us. We rise victorious by keeping our eyes on Him.

 “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Hebrews 12:1-2

Often when one of our girls missed a move, they instinctively looked toward their coaches who watched from the sidelines. Without fail, their coaches smiled, applauded, and gave them a thumbs up, while cheering, “Great job! You have the right idea! Yeah, keep going!”

Our Champion and Coach, Jesus Christ offers us far more. Yes, He points where we can and should improve. Yes, He gives us wisdom and direction. But no one cheers us on more than He does. He dwarfs the thunderous cheer of the great crowd of witnesses with His victorious roar!

We Win

As we work together, we become an unbeatable team. We have no time for backbiting and criticizing each another. Some have taken a hit to the face. Others have fallen and injured themselves. Not everyone senses the great crowd of witnesses cheering them on to victory.

Let’s be the one patting them on the back and encouraging them to the finish. Let’s step forward, helping them back to their feet. May we, like Jesus, whisper in their ears, “Great job! You have the right idea! Yeah, keep going!” By the grace of God, we can become a one-person cheering squad wherever we go.

Together we win!

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Be Fruitful and Multiply — A Promise and a Command

Be Fruitful and Multiply — A Promise and a Command

We read the words “be fruitful and multiply” at least seven times in God’s Word. We find a similar message many times more. Prior to each command, God first gives a promise. Included with His promise comes an invitation to act.

It is January on the Canadian prairies and we are locked in a deep freeze. While snow swirls outside, gardeners huddle inside under fluffy blankets, flipping the pages of picturesque, seed catalogues and dreaming of spring. Gardening won’t be in my foreseeable future. Nevertheless, my thoughts turn to sunny days and warmer temperatures, inviting me to remember the potential hidden within the dormant form of long-dry seeds.

In the beginning, God planted within us His seed of desire to “be fruitful and multiply” — a fruitfulness beyond fields and flowers. With His call to action, He has already provided the means to carry it out.

“So God created human beings in his own image ... Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it …”
Genesis 1:27-28

A Seed

For many weeks, my heart has been stirring with this theme. Every blessing and promise God gives comes in the infant form of a seed. The fulfilment of His promise waits in our hands. Will we receive it to plant and nurture in our hearts — treasuring and investing in it. Or will we fail to value the seeds of promise God offers.

To Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the promise and command came.

Then God said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply …
Genesis 35:11

The root meaning of El Shaddai is “The Overpowerer,” meaning God will do what He purposes to do, overpowering all opposition. Many others translate shaddai as “sufficient. Throughout the ages, God has shown Himself to be more than enough — all-sufficient for every need.

As God calls us to be “fruitful and multiply,” He also promises to be with us, enabling us to fulfil the command.

In Our Hands

Think of the many promises God gives in His Word. Each one comes to us as a seed to be received by grace and intentionally planted in our hearts. There we water it by faith and nurture it through action.

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

  • What seed do we hold in our hands?
  • What talents, abilities, opportunities, or resources do we have?
  • More importantly, what am I doing with them?

We may believe the seed to be worthless or dead. But as we place it into the fertile ground of faith, it will grow in ways we don’t understand. Only God knows the full potential we hold in our hands.

In Matthew 25:14-30, we read the parable of the talents. The Master called his servants together and “entrusted his wealth to them.” Wow! I’m not sure I would entrust all I own to someone like me. That is exactly what God continually does.

He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities …”
Matthew 25:15 

With trust comes responsibility!

Fruitful and Multiply

Most of you are familiar with the story. Two of the servants invested time and energy into what was put into their hands and doubled what had been given to them. The final servant attempted to blame the Master for his failure to be fruitful and multiply what he had received.

Of course, the Master, representing God, saw through the excuses, calling the servant “wicked and lazy.” He took back the “seed” of talent the unfaithful servant had been given and offered it to those who had already proved their ability to bring increase.

I can’t help but apply this warning to my own life. What excuses and self-justification keep me from planting the seeds of promise God has given to me?

Don’t we all desire to hear the Master’s commendation to the two faithful servants?

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”
Matthew 25:23

“Well done! Let’s celebrate together!”

Promise

Each seed a farmer or gardener plants he sows with expectation. Planting begins a process of tilling the soil, pulling weeds, watering, fertilizing, and protecting the crop from damage. Only a foolish gardener would plant seeds and leave them unattended but still expect to later reap a full harvest.

Yet, in the realm of spiritual fruit, are we as vigilant? Are we worthy of the title “good and faithful” with everything God has put in our hands?

Though this may feel hard-hitting to some of you, these are the challenges God presses on my heart. The window of opportunity to plant what God has entrusted to us is limited. The Master will return. He fully expects that the promises He has given and the abilities He has entrusted to us will be used to produce a bounty.

El Shaddai, God Almighty, the Overpowerer, and All-Sufficient One is with us. He breathes promise upon the seeds He places in our hands. As we move into action cooperating with Him, we will see success.

With God, we can do it! Let’s be fruitful and multiply.

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Know Which Path to Take — God Leads the Way

Know Which Path to Take — God Leads the Way

Are you sensing a change in direction or feeling uncertain which path to take in business, ministry, or your personal life? There is no better way to begin our search for direction than by seeking God and allowing Him to lead the way. As we do, He frees us to make those decisions with greater confidence and peace of heart and mind.

God has promised to lead us, to teach us His way, and to guide us in the right path to take. Today, let’s look at a few Bible verses to encourage each other in this season of change and transition.

Trust

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.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

In the familiarity of this verse, we might easily loose the significance of the beautiful promise contained within. God calls us to purposefully reposition our hearts and minds to trust in Him rather than our own “understanding.” Human perception limits the possibilities of what can or will be.

How valuable to seek His will in everything! As we do, God promises — yes promises — to show us “which path to take” in every area of our lives. Only He knows the possibilities available to us!

Surrender

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”

Psalm 32:8

I often wonder how many times I miss the leading of God because of my stubborn resistance to His voice. Perhaps, it happens more times than I would admit.

Though He promises to “instruct and teach” us, any refusal to listen will lead us down paths in direct opposition to His perfect plan for us. After this promise, God warns us not to be like a horse or mule, needing a bit to control their direction.

Do I consistently surrender my heart and mind to God’s direction even when it doesn’t make sense or feels frightening? God has been prompting me in this area. Though I am willing, He desires my willingness without conditions.

Pay Attention

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.”

Isaiah 48:17

The following verses remind all who will listen to “pay attention.” What signals of change should we give our attention?

  • Are doors opening that used to be closed? Or closed that were once open?
  • Where is God’s favor resting on our talents, abilities, skills, or expertise?
  • Do you feel God’s peace about a specific direction?

Allow yourself time to reflect and ask God to reveal the answers to these and other questions. The answers may reveal which path God desires you to take. He constantly speaks, teaching and directing us “in the way” we should go.

Prayer

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.”

Psalm 25:4-5

Without God’s help we may swing from over-confidence to insecurity while making decisions. Prayer turns our hearts and minds in tune with His heart and desires for us. Whatever decision we may be facing He promises to teach us which path to take.

The Path to Take

In the place of prayer God gives “flashes” of vision which our natural minds could never conjure. These God directed insights often ignite excitement and passion. At other times, prayer prepares us. The path He leads us toward may be difficult, requiring wisdom and strength beyond our present ability.

In whatever direction He leads, we know that He is with us, guiding us with His loving eye. We need never fear! It is only when we deliberately step away from His path that we should be concerned and make course adjustments back toward Him.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;”

Psalm 37:23

“Father, we come seeking not only direction for the decisions ahead, but Your Presence above everything else. Hide us under the shelter of Your wings, near to Your heart. May we sense the fullness of the good things You have awaiting us — whether we are three- or ninety-three-years-old.
We wait for your direction. Search our hearts and examine our motives. Reveal the secret things which may attempt to lead us outside your will.
May we rest in the knowledge and security of Your promise to lead, teach, direct, and establish us in Your ways. We know and are assured that You will establish us in Your perfect path, now and always. So, we rest in the goodness of Your grace and the protection or Your love.
Amen.

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