A Personal Testimony: Facing Our Fears: Whom Shall I Fear

MaryAnn Ward, Blog Post, Facing Our Fears

Facing our fears presents unique challenges for us all. We try to bury, deny, and wrangle fears into corners of avoidance. Sooner or later, however, God graciously leads us into bravely facing and dethroning them.

My Amplified Bible calls out the heading for Psalm 27 as “A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.” Oh, if only I might claim such a constant position of faith. Isn’t that what we all seek? A fearless trust, not in ourselves but in Omnipotent God.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the refuge and fortress of my life—Whom shall I dread?”

Psalm 27:1

When it comes to most things, I have more nerve than a toothache, naively going where others dread or doing what some prefer to shy away from. But lately, I’ve been facing more than a tad of fear. Only I didn’t recognize it until some close friends discreetly called it out. For that, I am most grateful.

Please, let me explain.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Fearless

The Origin

Last September at an InScribe Writer’s Conference, I felt God compelling me to write my memoir. Though I have shared snippets of my life story, I panicked at the thought of exposing the ugliness of my former life for all to see. “No, Lord,” I pleaded through tears.

I’ve never yet won an argument with God. After all, long ago my story became His story woven through the bright and glorious as well as the dark and ominous segments of life. Could His story in and through me possibly bring hope and help to others?

Grudgingly, I consented. “I give you thirty days,” I conceded, fearing the intensity of the emotional cost.

“Yes,” I felt God counter in my Spirit, “and you will paint thirty pictures in those thirty days — thirty pictures of roses.”

I laughed. To write “His story” in thirty days seemed more than an impossibility. To add another thirty day challenge felt outrageous. And roses! As a fairly new painter I’ve never once tried to paint roses.

For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:37

But here we were, God and I, co-laboring to do something that would expose every raw piece of emotional flesh and disrobe every protective covering I’d invented. Numbly, I mass dumped memory after memory onto the pages until I was too exhausted to continue. Then, I’d paint, finding soul healing in the brush strokes. After thirty days of writing and painting, the rough draft and paintings were complete.

Facing my fears, God carried me through.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Father

God Intervention

But God had more proof that this little memoir was of His choosing. The first editor waved all her fees and asked to use the book, in combination with her resources, to bring healing to many others.

The second person to read the draft had the most to risk with the publication, but he found the contents entirely redemptive and healing. “This needs to be published. It will help many people,” he said.

The second professional editor also waved her fees. Without request, she offered this review:

“… Readers will come away with a renewed sense of hope, because through this writer’s experience they will discover that no one is too lost, too broken, or too far gone to have their lives restored beyond what they could even ask or imagine…” – Michele H.

“Do it afraid!” the slogan declares, regarding facing our fears.

But God provided even more assurance. Ordering the first shipment of books, I charged them to my credit card. Since my business account had funds to cover the cost, I neither worried nor prayed about finances. However, before the credit card payment came due, God stirred the hearts of people to donate money to my ministry efforts. (Something never done before!) No one knew the pending costs. I hadn’t expressed a need. But God picked up the full tab, providing more than enough to pay the entire bill!

Through God’s provision, He stamped, “MINE!” over this little memoir. “This is My story!”

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Father's Love

Thursday’s Child

So, I now present to everyone Thursday’s Child Has Far to Go — a book I never chose to write and never paid for. I lay it down as a humble example of facing our fears.

“…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaian 43:1-2

Has there been fear? Yes, many times. Have I completely overcome fears of rejection, exposure, shame, and criticism? No, not at all. But this is and always will be God’s story of healing, deliverance, and redemption. A story to bring hope to others.

If you aren’t brave, please don’t read it. But if you would like to be brave, please read it. I’m sorry that it is a hard read. But I’m not sorry that it will make the road easier for others. Far too many people will relate to the painful experiences written within its pages. But far more people will hear God’s redemptive voice speak courage and life into their personal experiences.

Available to Order:

Overcome

As God leads, may we overcome our fears together. His love exceeds all other loves. Facing our fears, we focus on Jesus Christ who casts out all fear.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.
1 John 4:18

I welcome you to take a few moments to rest in His cascading love and to meditate on these few Bible verses to bring comfort and strength.

  • Isaiah 41:10 — “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  • Psalm 34:4 —“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears
  • Psalm 23:4 — “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
  • Deuteronomy 31:6 — “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I’ve also included this play list of songs that has encouraged me, as one more resource that might help you.

Psalm 34 - Taste and See - by Shane & Shane (Lyric Video) | Christian Worship Music
Chris Tomlin - Whom Shall I Fear [God Of Angel Armies] (Lyric Video)
Zach Williams - No Longer Slaves (Live from Harding Prison)

**********

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 ↩︎

**********

The Unexpected Way to Hope

The Unexpected Way to Hope

We all hold expectations of who we hope to become and how we plan to get there. Often, however, we discover an unexpected way to hope.

Several years ago, on a trip to the west coast, we decided to be a bit adventurous and try a different road which was clearly marked on our map. The wide paved highway gave way to a narrower paved road, which led to a gravel road and finally a logging trail through the mountains. We crossed embedded grated gateways through cattle pastures and discovered herds of wildlife. Eventually, the road led us to our destination but in an unexpected way.

Often life resembles our mountain trail adventure. We never quite knew what was over the next ridge or around the next corner. Would we have to turn around? Would we reach a dead end? We had never travelled this way before. At times, it was terrifying. We simply had to keep going trusting the maker of the map.

“…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
Romans 5:3-4

Sufferings? Perseverance? Character development? None of these even places in my list of favorite experiences. But all are necessary. They lead us along the unexpected way to hope.

Suffering

As I counsel people of all ages, I hear far too many stories of unthinkable suffering, pain, and loss. I have wept with those who weep and mourned with those who mourn, feeling the depth of their pain. Suffering lashes against the deep roots of faith with a tenacious fierceness.

Often, the rawness of suffering thrusts us into the cavern of disappointment with God. Why didn’t He heal, save, or deliver? Where was He when we needed Him most? Questions swirl relentless and unanswered.

In Unmasking Myths: Is This Prayer?, those who have confronted their circumstances, bypassing disappointment with God, advise:

“God allows us to go through things to strengthen our faith and relationship with Him. Sometimes that thing is a desert; sometimes it is suffering.” (Lowell)

“The Lord is close to all whose hearts are crushed by pain, and he is always ready to restore the repentant one.”
Psalm 34:18 TPT

Perseverance

“Everyone needs to know God answers prayer, and that He is unquestionably good and faithful. Sometimes for reasons we don’t understand, however, we don’t see the answers we hope and believe for. When we fail to teach others about both God’s goodness and faithfulness along with the knowledge that He works beyond our understanding, we may hinder people’s faith … Circumstantial faith lacks the deep roots of knowing God’s goodness and faithfulness even if circumstances never change … Is our practice of prayer based on answers to prayer, or based on the character of God?” (Allison)

Along the unexpected path to hope, we discover God’s unchanging character — His love and absolute faithfulness in, through, and despite circumstances. He strengthens us in our weakness as we develop the perseverance necessary to walk through difficult seasons.

“In the hard places, He shows Himself as our everything.” (Emily)

When we least feel His presence, He draws near.

“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”
Psalm 145:18

“One of the first things I heard God say to me was, ‘This was never the life I had for you. I have cried so many tears for you.’ That shook me!” (Shelly)

Hope

Out of perseverance, our character becomes strong and more like His. Then in the most unexpected way hope rises, like the fresh growth of spring after a long, cold winter.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

I’m not sure where each of you are along the journey of faith toward hope, but I would like to assist you in any way I can. God desires for each of us to “overflow with hope.” Though it may feel impossible today, God holds a better tomorrow for you.

Please forgive me for not following my “normal” blog format. As I prayed not only for these simple writings, but for each of you who would read them, I sensed an urgency in my spirit on your behalf.

First, let’s pray:

“God, You seem silent and distant. My emotions feel raw, and my heart torn open. I ask You to circle me with Your love. Open the eyes of my heart to sense Your Presence again and the ears of my spirit to hear the words You are speaking as I grope along the unexpected way to hope. I give You the brokenness of all I am. May I become increasingly sensitive to Your nearness. I declare my love for You. Show me how to rest waiting for Your love to cocoon me in this season, drawing me toward hope.”

Help On the Way

Second, I would like to offer you one or both of my books on prayer at half price

Enter the code “2023PRAYER” to receive the 50% discount. Then click the “Apply Coupon” button beside it.

Third, if you know someone who may also appreciate these books, please pass on the details. Too many around us have been suffering for too long without hope. Perhaps, this unexpected way will bring fresh and living hope to others.

Blessings!

**********

Suffering and the Hope of Resurrection

Suffering and the Hope of Resurrection

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul shares both the hope of resurrection and how painfully raw suffering for faith can become. In various degrees, we all face suffering as followers of Christ. Both external and internal pressures resist God’s purposes being fulfilled in and through us. Through the centuries, people have felt dragged beneath the tsunami waves of oppression as they have attempted to stand strong in their faith.

Without the hope of resurrection, we would be destroyed!

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:7

The more clearly we understand this truth the more secure we become. Yes! We are only “fragile clay jars.” But praise be to God, within these clay pots we hold the greatest treasure, Jesus Christ. His great and glorious power dwells within us.

God transforms the fiery trials into a kiln to perfect these humble “jars.”

Suffering

Paul’s first-hand-experience qualified him to exhort and encourage anyone suffering through oppression and opposition.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-12

Waves of hostility and resistance strike swift and hard, but God is with us! And in a supernatural way, suffering connects us more fully to the death and greater suffering of our Saviour. He endured more than any human — rejected at every level and brutally disfigured before being crucified.

That wasn’t the end for Jesus. This is NOT the end for us either. Because of the hope of resurrection we stay the course, pressing toward the finish line.

Faith

“But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you.” 
2 Corinthians 4:13-14

Oh, what hope! What assurance!

Jesus conquered every foe. He defeated the enemy — even our last enemy, death. Because Jesus rose from the grave we live, knowing that God “will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself.”

Shout the victory! The hope of resurrection strengthens and empowers us to live each day in confident assurance. Assurance placed not in “fragile clay jars” but in the great power of God.

Life will not always be as it is today. You will conqueror because He came and conquered. You will rise victorious, because He rose victorious. Let God’s truth penetrate every cell of your being. Though you may feel pressed, perplexed, and knocked down, God walks with you — lifting you up and carrying you in your weakness.

Hope of Resurrection

Because we hold fast to the hope of resurrection, we possess the courage and tenacity to keep going. Despite the daily pressing of world systems, our corrupted flesh, and evil spiritual forces, we set our faces as flint, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. We do not lose heart, holding fast the hope of resurrection.

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Daily, we choose our focal point. The more we look at something, the larger it becomes in our hearts and minds. Will we focus on “present troubles?” Or will we “fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen” and the future glory that “vastly outweighs” every trouble and trial we endure.

The more we focus on this world, the more confused, frustrated, and defeated we will become. But the more we fix our gaze to eternal things, the more strength and encouragement we gain from the hope of resurrection.

May God’s promise settle firmly within us. May His truth anchor us through every season.

Blessing

Father may the hope of resurrection seep deeply into each one of Your precious children today. You see us and know us intimately and personally. Set a guard around our hearts, still the storms within our minds, and heal every area of brokenness. Breathe Your resurrection life into faded dreams and forgotten destinies. For too long, the enemy has run rough-shod over the ones You love. Come gentle Spirit and pour the oil of Your mercy into every wound. Empower us as we engage in battle. May the same power that raised Christ from the dead work mightily in us. May we drink deep of Your grace and rejoice in Your goodness, knowing we hold both a great treasure and a great power within us. Grant us fresh vision — eagle eyes — to see clearly from eternal perspective. Equip us and sustain us. Bless us, Lord, holding us steadfast in the faith.

**********

Confident and Fully Convinced of God’s Perfect Love

Confident and Fully Convinced of God’s Perfect Love

What, if anything, are you confident and fully convinced of? How long did it take for such conviction to become established? In our ever-changing world such confidence might appear to be a rarity. Yet, we continually place our confidence in a variety of practices, places, and beliefs.

Many years ago, as the snow melted and small ponds dotted the land, my older brother and I would enthusiastically fashion make-shift rafts from dead tree limbs strung together by remnants of old baler twine. We would confidently push off from shore into the icy waters believing our rickety rafts would support us. More often than not, our expeditions failed. Drenched, but undaunted, we would pull our frail craft back to the water’s edge. After adding more logs and twine, we would try again and again. Spurred on by each other, we convinced ourselves that we would eventually sail open waters.

After a series of failed attempts of his own, Paul tells us of something he became fully confident of — the love of God.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:35,37-39

A Pharisee

In Philippians 3, Paul gives us a personal perspective of his former life. I say “former” because the convictions he once held were proved just as frail as the wooden rafts my brother and I made. He says,

” … though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.”
Philippians 3:4-6

As a Pharisee, Paul taught and obeyed every law with faultless precision. Or at least, he attempted to. He believed that obedience earned him the love of God. If one did enough, obeyed enough, tried hard enough, then God would love and accept you. Only then would anyone earn God’s favor. Zealous pursuit and faultless obedience ultimately proved less than reliable, even futile.

Most of us might identify on some level with this belief system. We relate to the repetitive cycle of trying harder and harder to earn or merit love.

The Encounter

At the most unexpected moment, radical love, bold and strong, confronted Paul (or Saul as he was still called then).

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”
Acts 9:1

He sounds like an unlikely candidate to experience God’s love. Yet, in this space, God entered Paul’s life, turning his direction and conviction around.

I, too, can relate to his experience. God blasted into my messed up and broken life with persistent grace. When anyone meets Jesus, nothing remains the same.

God saw something in Paul — something more than another zealous Pharisee.

” … This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
Acts 9:15

Through His redeeming love, God turned an enemy of the cross into a megaphone for His praise. God’s “chosen instrument” came disguised as a murderous, over-zealous, religious elitist. But God views us through the lens of His perfect love. He recognizes potential no one else sees.

Fully Convinced

The initial encounter with God’s perfect love formed the starting point. What would follow, only God Himself could have orchestrated.

Under God’s instruction a brave Jesus follower by the name of Ananias courageously looked for Paul. He placed his hands on him and healed him. After Paul received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he sealed his faith with water baptism before heading into the desert.

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.”
Galatians 1:15-17

At what point did Paul’s faith become conviction? Was it upon His dramatic conversion? Or did it take three years of Holy Spirit teaching to erase the bombardment of religious persuasions. Was it in the quiet desert places, alone with God, that an iron-clad confidence in Jesus took form?

For each of us, our eternity security rests by faith on the perfect, unfailing love of God through Jesus Christ.

Whatever the process, Paul spoke with absolute clarity, announcing to all who will grasp the truth that nothing — absolutely nothing — can separate us from God’s love.

God’s Perfect Love

Just as nothing could cause God to love us more, nothing could ever cause Him to love us less. Yes, we can choose to roam outside of His perfect will and plan, but nothing (and no human effort) can in any way elevate or diminish His love for us.

So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!
Romans 8:38-39 TPT

The Amplified Bible says, “I am convinced [and continue to be convinced — beyond any doubt].” Now that’s conviction — fully convinced that no one and no power could ever separate or diminish God’s unlimited love toward us.

Though my brother and I enjoyed brief moments of rafting success, we never became fully confident of our raft making skills. But through decades of my own desert times with the Lord, I know, that I know, that I know, His love is enough. His perfect love never fails. May you experience for yourself His unfailing, unending, unfading, perfect love.

**********

Healing for Broken Hearts: How to Heal a Broken Heart

Healing for Broken Hearts: How to Heal a Broken Heart

We often think of healing in the contest of physical or mental conditions, but Jesus came to also heal broken hearts. Today, I would like to acknowledge the importance of all three aspects of healing — physical, psychological, and emotional. All three aspects are inseparably interwoven framing who we are and how we respond to various situations and circumstances.

Several years ago, a young hockey player who we knew well received a sharp blow to his chest from a fast-moving hockey puck. The impact instantly stopped his heart, depriving his brain of oxygen. At twenty-years of age and in the prime of life, he died.

We have all faced sudden blows that have caused damage to otherwise healthy hearts. Most of us, have never fully recovered. We all live with a measure of broken heart syndrome — wounds of sorrow from the death of a loved one, wounds of rejection or betrayal, wounds of abandonment or separation. Brokenness often results from harmful things done to us or from unmet needs withheld from us.

We have good news, however. Jesus came to heal the broken hearted.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, healing for the brokenhearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.”
Luke 4:18 TPT

Brokenness

Brokenness leads us to self-protect or to live artificial lives. Many of us adapt to our fragmented conditions, emotionally pushing people away while pacifying our pain through addictions or other artificial means. But God loves us too much to leave us in permanent denial and pain. Sadly, we may choose to improvise and normalize what Jesus came to forever heal.

Luke records Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah, making this declaration about Himself.

” … He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted …”
Isaiah 61:1

The Hebrew words Isaiah used here mean “to wrap firmly the break, or to stop the breaking in pieces.” Jesus intends to do for us what we cannot accomplish through self-effort.. He came to wrap our broken hearts with His healing love and to stop the continuous breaking.

Using the same words as Isaiah, the psalmist understood this deeply personal ministry of God’s restorative love.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Psalm 147:3

“Praise the Lord,” the psalmist says, “God heals. He has the cure! He mends even the deepest recesses of our being, bringing us to complete wholeness.”

Closer Than You Think

As I flip through the tattered pages of my life, I now see what I missed then — God’s consistent nearness. In my brokenness, feeling distant from Him, He came close. Like a skilled surgeon, He gently and compassionately removed each numbed layer of scar tissue, softening my heart little by little.

Over an extended period of time, I prayed for God to soften my heart. He did. And He still does. He continues to do His miraculous healing in me and the dozens of others I have opportunity to walk beside and minister to.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

We can all identify, at a certain level, with broken hearts and crushed spirits. Jesus Christ, our hope and our help, comes low to where we are. He bends down to the level of our deepest pain and breathes life, restoring and renewing.

God Speaks

Through the Bible and by His Spirit, God speaks His message of hope to each of us.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Today, let’s welcome the peace He offers. Whatever the “trouble” imposed upon us, let’s choose to yield it to Jesus, welcoming His healing to areas of our brokenness. Pastors and Christian counsellors are available to also help you. Often, the healing of broken hearts requires a process (similar to mine) of allowing God to expose and mend hearts — piece by piece and little by little.

But that process can begin right now through prayer. The sudden and often brutal heart-impacts we have endured don’t need to rob us of life, love, and hope. Jesus came to heal and restore no matter how deep the blow or how extensive the damage to our broken hearts.

“Lord Jesus, areas of personal brokenness show in my inability to love as You love. Sometimes, my broken heart makes it difficult to live honestly and openly before others. As I acknowledge my need for healing, I welcome You to touch those deeply fragmented areas of my heart. I ask You to reverse trauma and brokenness, restoring wholeness to every part of my being. Please soften the layers where I have become calloused and uncaring. Mend and heal every area where I have been crushed in spirit so that I may live fully and freely. Thank You, Lord Jesus for beginning to heal and my broken heart, restoring hope, joy, and purpose. Amen.”

**********

Jesus Christ, The Source of All Hope

Jesus Christ, The Source of All Hope

Without hope the human soul withers and dies. The Source of all hope waits with open arms, whispering to the faint and weary, “Come to Me.” The need for hope rivals the basic necessities for food, water, and shelter.

These last few years have drained so many people of aspirations, expectations, and ambitions. A loss of confidence in once reliable systems of government, justice, education, and medicine has created a deep void in many people’s lives. Hope has become a rare commodity for a vast segment of our population. The things once believed possible now appear as a cruel mirage.

We have all faced significant losses. Loved ones have gone through the portal of death, businesses have collapsed, and deep divisions have formed within families. The societal cost cannot be overstated.

We have learned again that confidence placed in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ will produce disappointment and discouragement. He alone is the Source of all hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

I have overcome the crushing feelings of hopelessness and despair. For many years, they were my constant companions of gloom. Not anymore!

Lost Hope

Recently, someone commented on a post I had written a few years ago. He felt the suffocating reality of hopelessness. On the verge of ending his life, God led him to read the words within the post that pointed Him to faith in Christ. As a result, he prayed, accepting Jesus as His Lord and Savior, and turned his life over to God. The hopelessness lifted as he found his Source of all hope in Jesus.

This morning, another young man contacted me. A short time ago, he too received Jesus as Savior, but he has gradually turned back to old and harmful ways of living and thinking. The hope he once felt has become distant and illusive. God is shining His light on this young man’s path and calling him to return. Both the choice and the consequences of his choice are his.

A long time ago, I too experienced enough of God’s love and grace to embrace it. Yet, the overwhelming circumstances of life and the nagging voices of shame seemed too strong to endure. I too turned from God, attempting to find another way. The choice of going my way led to decades of depression, suicidal thoughts, and deep spiritual darkness.

“May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.”
Psalm 33:22

The moment I turned back to God, surrendering completely to Him, His light broke through the fog of despair. He will do the same for you.

Healing Hope

As we turn our lives over to Jesus Christ, the Source of all hope, aspirations, expectations, and ambitions become re-centered around and in Him. Renewed hope becomes an unshakable anchor that holds fast through even the most difficult life circumstances.

May Holy Spirit open our eyes wide to know this hope!

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
Ephesians 1:18

The road to hopelessness turns steeply into an abyss. The path out usually takes time, effort, and grace. While there may be an instantaneous and supernatural lightening of grief and despair, at the same time persevering faith will bring us fully through.

Path of Hope

For me, and many others, strategic steps propel us to solid ground where renewed joy and anticipation reign.

” ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’ “
Lamentations 3:24

  1. Consistent prayer, Bible reading, and mediation — There is no substitute for a healthy, vibrant, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as we talk with Him and He talks with us.
  2. Supportive Christian community — The potential to thrive exists within a body of believers where honest, open relationships develop. Healthy churches produce healthy people, growing in faith through discipleship training and prayer support.
  3. Forgiveness toward others and the relinquishing of judgment — Past wounds heal only through forgiveness. As we forgive, we will also be able to abandon any thoughts of judging those who have hurt us.
  4. Practice humility — Pride will continually hold us in shame and guilt. As we humbly acknowledge our needs before God and other believers, we gain freedom. The supportive structures within church community help us overcome.
  5. Serve — Even those new in their faith will reap the benefits of volunteering in the local church. Others need us as much as we need them. Through acts of service, we develop strong mutual friendships, grow in areas of gifting, and become a vital part of a faith community.

Each one of these steps may initially appear overwhelming, but one at a time, little-by-little, they empower us, enabling us to believe and hope again.

Always Hope

With Jesus, hope always wins.

“But those who wait for the LORD [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] will gain new strength and renew their power; they will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]. They will run and not become weary (and) walk and not grow tired.”
Isaiah 40:31 AMP

At first, the truth of this verse may sound like a far reach. The more we allow it to seep into our spirit, the more it becomes our practical experience. Today, God extends renewed strength and promise to us. In Him, broken wings are mended, becoming strong enough to soar. Weariness falls away and faint hearts find courage to hope again.

Whether the loss of hope originated through broken relationships, addictive behaviors, financial pressures or any other cause, Jesus is the Source of renewed hope. In every area, He brings us to victory.

I pray that today a fresh wind of hope sweeps into your soul, dissipating every lie of the enemy that speaks contrary to God’s truth. May you hear the whisper of God calling you to Himself. It is not too late. You haven’t roamed too far from Him. His good plans for you haven’t changed.

” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”
Jeremiah 29:11

Jesus Christ, the Source of all hope, holds a future filled with hope for you. May God give you the courage to reach out and receive it.

Blessings, my friend.

**********

Fresh Air! A Fresh Wind Is Blowing

Fresh Air! A Fresh Wind Is Blowing

What memory or image most clearly represents “fresh air” to you? Is it mountains, forests, or laying in a hammock beside a lake? Developers and marketers attempt to package and advertise their latest scent to entice you into buying everything from laundry detergent to shoes. Why? Our nose knows!

When I close my eyes asking God for alert spiritual senses, I “smell” a shifting aroma that excites my spirit. I smell a fresh wind blowing, swooping across the nations of the world. It is starting almost imperceptibly, building strength, riding the prayers of God’s people of all nationalities, disrespecting political boundaries or earthly terrain. Like a powerful stallion sent from heaven, it comes — unbridled and free.

Long ago, in another land, a wind blew.

“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

“Suddenly” they ALL heard and saw things they had neither seen nor heard before. Perhaps, God again is repositioning us for new things previously unseen and unheard — times of refreshing, times of revival, times of awakening.

Hope

I invite you today to close your eyes for a moment and turn your heart heavenward toward the One upon His eternal throne. May you commune heart to heart with Him who loves you, knows you intimately, and sees your situation.

Neither distant nor distracted, He waits, listening for your voice. Like a loving Father, arms outstretched, welcoming you to come.

You are not abandoned! You are not forsaken! God has not forgotten your name.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
Ephesians 1:18

Oh, that we each may “know the hope to which (God) has called” us! Renewed hope breathes fresh air upon us. Do you smell it?

Courage

The fresh breeze blowing rides upon the wings of courage.

“But Jesus immediately said to them, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Matthew 14:27

We take courage, grabbing hold of it. We all possess the potential to choose courage. Courage shines strongest in the face of fierce circumstances. Courage disarms fear, exposing its faulty system.

It may be -30 degrees Celsius outside, but today I unlocked the door and stepped onto my balcony with slippered feet. I shouted long and loud, laughing (literally) at fear. This simple gesture created a powerful inward move, refusing to entertain fear. The fresh air made me cough, pause, then breathe a glorious deep breath.

I smelled again the scent of newness, of God invading this earthly realm in ways my heart yearned to see.

Faith

Have you ever smelled the humusy aroma of fresh turned earth after a long winter’s rest? It is one of my favorite things, reminding me the old is gone and a new season has come. Faith smells just like that! Faith dares to turn over the moldy remnants of growth long dead, preparing for the planting of new seeds.

We enjoy the fruit of whatever we willingly sow, both in the natural and the spiritual.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22-23

Sow the seeds! Reap the fruit! Breathe in the aroma of the fresh air of God’s Spirit rising.

In prayer, I saw an eagle, rising, circling upon a fresh wind. It rose higher and higher until I could no longer see it, but I knew it was there — powerful, strong, and free. Suddenly, the eagle swooped taking captive what needed to be taken captive. Then flaming arrows came from heaven, lighting fires all over my nation of Canada. Not destroying fire, but fire that lights and warms — inviting fires, needed fires, holy fires.

The fresh air of Holy Spirit ignites flames of passionate worship, surrendered hearts, and yielded wills. I smell it, though I don’t yet see it.

Prayer

Yes, Lord! Bring in the fresh air of Your Presence. Blow across this and all nations with hope, courage, and faith. Release over the earth the wind of Your doing. May Your church be ready! May she be waiting and watching — anticipating the newness of this day and hour. Turn over and overturn all that is dead and dying. Prepare the soil for Your harvest.
May Your people unite in perfect unity and harmony, declaring Your unfailing Word, without shame, throughout the streets and roadways, to neighbors, family, friends, and strangers.
May the winds of revival and restoration come! Remove what must be removed. Ignite holy fires. Shoot Your powerful arrows restoring Your purposes and plans. Light the path for those who have wandered far to find their way safely home.
This is a season of renewed hope! A time of great courage! Unwavering faith stirs among Your church — young and old, male, and female. She is beautiful and strong. She will not be diminished! Through the burning fire of oppression, she comes — radiant and unashamed.
She is learning to love as You love. She carries with her the fruit of Your Spirit, scattering it abroad. Lavishly generous, she freely receives and gives with open hands.
Awaken us, Lord! Awaken our senses to know the tremendous season upon us. It smells like fresh air, turning us toward You.
Amen.”

**********

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Glory to God in the Highest Heaven, And on Earth Peace

On Earth Peace

Long ago an angelic chorus announced to a band of shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The occasion, of course, was the birth of Jesus. When the angels ascended into heaven, both the sound of their voices and the glorious brilliance which shone around them dissipated. Their message did not.

The shepherds, like many of us today, struggled with the profound simplicity of their promise. Those far-reaching, never-achieving words, “favor” and “peace,” echoed like hollow rhetoric in their ears. But now the message came, not through prophets or teachers, but through angels.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Luke 2:9-12

The validation of the angelic message slept, as only babies sleep, in a manger.

Prince of Peace

Look around! Can you see it? Feel it? Hear it in the air? This message of peace for all the people?

While tornados rip apart communities, homes, and families, where do we find peace? We silently watch as military giants set siege to defenseless nations and ask again, “How will peace be found?” Floods destroy. Fires consume. Addictions devastate. Yet, God’s Word echoes eternally,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those o whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:14

Peace, illusive peace, embodied the paramount blessing Israel looked for with the coming Messiah. The shepherds, like us, desired this state of tranquility, freedom from civil disturbance, security and order, as well as harmony in personal relationships.

The peace which God offered reached beyond the natural realms. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to extend peace within, dispelling confusion and discord, first in the hidden recesses of hearts and minds.

Isaiah spoke,

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government
and peace there will be no end . . .”
Isaiah 9:6,7

My heart longs for such good news, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace!”

Peace and Hope

Hope within the humble band of shepherds latched on to these words! Hope of peace spurred them into the streets of Bethlehem until they found Him.

When they looked into the face of the Christ Child, what did they see? Did they recognize the Holy Lamb of God who would pay a horrific price for their peace? This Gospel of peace declared first to them, would one day echo through the hills of Galilea, and eventually reach even us!

The message reached me when I was over twenty years old — my mind filled with confusion — suicidal and broken. As broken as the family, my internal peacelessness helped to break. Lost and without hope. Needing a Savior, I didn’t know. A Redeemer. An Advocate.

In a last ditch effort to take my life, He came to my ditch. He offered what no man could offer. He gave what no human could give. Peace with God! The peace of God.

In a single moment, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, not the Baby in a manger, but rather the glorified Lord, reached down to me, the worst of sinners, granting indescribable peace. Faith arose. Knowledge of Jesus bearing the sins of the world, even my sins, burst through disillusionment and despair. I believed Jesus died for my sins and was bruised for my iniquities to arise from the grave three days, all to give life. I knew in that instant the offer extended to me, to you, to all . . .

Not through angels, but Holy Spirit breathed words,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27

Shalom

The most common Old Testament word translated into “peace” is shalom. It embodies a sense of wholeness, soundness, health, well-being, and prosperity.

Though none of these immediately became outwardly evident, inwardly my heart filled with shalom! Why? God, the Author and giver of peace became my peace.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
Romans 5:1

When we experience peace with God, nothing and no one can rob us! The peace and hope flowing from Him surpasses anything. Vertical peace — peace with God — inevitably becomes horizontal peace — peace with others. The evidence of internal peace expressed to others resounds the loudest,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rest.”
Luke 2:14

Let Peace Rule

Paul wrote to the church in Colosse,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
Colossians 3:15

God grants peace to us, but we cooperate by letting His peace work and rule through us. With me, it is impossible. But God makes a way through His indwelling Spirit!

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8:6

Jesus intends for the enduring “greatness of his government and peace” to operate consistently and continuously through us as we surrender the control of our minds (and hearts) to Him.

As we follow the path of peace, we ultimately follow the way of God, yielding our minds and motives to Him and purpose.

Jesus knew how much we would need to live at peace within an unpeaceful world. Three times after His ressurection, He says, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19, 21, 26) Co-incidence? Not at all!

On Earth Peace

This earth, the broken, aching world, knows no peace. But it longs for it!

Our neighbors and communities, our friends and our families wait as the shepherds waited. They wait for someone, anyone, to bring them “good news that will cause great joy for all.”

God strategically places you and me to be His voices to herald the Good News, sharing the message of peace to those around us. Peace, perhaps greater than anything else, remains the most desired gift of this and every generation.

“When they had seen him (Jesus), they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
Luke 2:19

When we see Him, we want to tell others about Him!

May we all follow the example of the shepherds, spreading the Good News. Jesus makes Himself as available to all people as He was to the shepherds long ago. May the message of peace and hope be loudly and broadly proclaimed, not just at Christmas, but every day.

“Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! For there is peace and a good hope given to the sons (and daughters) of men.”
Luke 2:14 TPT

**********

Focus on the Greatest: Faith, Hope, and Love

Faith, Hope, Love

Can you imagine the impact upon us as individuals and upon our society if everyone would turn their focus toward faith, hope, and love? These are undoubtably the greatest and best assets anyone could possess and share with others, not just now but for eternity.

Many people live frivolously, even selfishly, expecting unending tomorrows in which to “eat, drink and be merry.” But what if we knew our time was short, our opportunities limited? Would the flow and direction of our lives change? Would an eternal perspective help us refocus our priorities and energies?

“And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.’ ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you . . . ” ‘ ”
Luke 12:19-20

It is all too easy to become distracted by the trivial and consumed with the mundane. Too often the responsibilities of life dictate our agendas and demand our time. The urgent pushes ahead of the necessary. Re-evaluating our focus helps to center us, pulling us toward far-reaching eternal goals and targets.

Whether I speak, write, teach, mentor or encourage, I’m continually brought back to the motivation behind it all — faith, hope, and love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

“These three remain,” existing for eternity!

Faith

Paul commends the church in Corinth for their effective use of spiritual gifts. He asks them to remember and honor each individual, valuing their uniqueness. Like us, the Corinthian church struggled to maintain unity within diversity. Like us, they elevated the minor and diminished the major. They found it easy to focus on the external functioning of gifts and ignore the deeper issues of the heart. They faced these challenges — sometimes well, sometimes not.

Faith, Hope, Love

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:2

That’s an impressive list, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t want a faith to move mountains or the gift of prophecy? What about an ability to understand the deep secrets and mysteries of God? Many people pursue these gifts and receive them. God, speaking through Paul, clearly states that these things don’t impress or please Him. Unless, of course, they spill from a heart overflowing with love.

Unbelief, scepticism, cynicism, and doubt permeate our culture. But there’s good news. they are all temporary ailments of a society in which God is absent. Every negative will come to an end. Faith leads the list of eternal qualities, replacing all negative undercurrents.

Hope

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Proverbs 13:12

Never before have people become so connected yet disconnected at the same time. The bombardment of information and influence serves only to amplify our loneliness. People feel incredibly isolated and ignored while their social media “friend” lists explode and expand.

Hopelessness in various forms pervades. Hope defers. Heartsickness abounds.

The Greatest Things

The longing within us refuses to be quenched and screams for more faith, hope, and love. For a while people hope; often, they give up. Like the faint scent of rain swept away by the harsh winds of reality, hearts lie barren and dry — hopeless in a world without significant hope.

Jesus restores hope!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.”
1 Peter 1:3-4

No matter how hopeless your situation appears, it lasts for a season. Jesus Christ grants each one of us an eternal and living hope. Receive your inheritance of hope, securely kept for you. Hope floods your eternal future! Nothing and no one can stop it!

Love

We have all experienced frail, fickle, and faltering love. Genuine love, never fails or falters. We all crave a love that endures. It is a basic need of all humanity.

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease, where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
1 Corinthians 13:8

Even in Christian circles, we easily major on the minors and overlook the major or greatest qualities within God’s Kingdom. No attribute outweighs the significance of love.

I don’t need to look outside myself to find a discrepancy between belief and action. Oh, how frail, fickle, and faltering my own love often becomes!

Jesus Love

Many people feel rejected, abandoned, and unloved. Maybe, you know the feeling all too well. Listen to the following verse and allow God to speak directly to your heart,

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
Isaiah 54:10

It’s possible for mountains to shake and crumble, but impossible for God’s love to be shaken, let alone cease. I find it comforting to know that hatred will end, but God’s love remains eternally secure.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Since God’s Word is true, enduring forever, how should we respond? Since everything else will eventually pass away, how can we nurture faith, hope and love, first in our lives and then in others?

God has given to each of us a measure of these qualities in seed form. When we plant and nurture them (activating them), they will grow and increase. The principle of sowing and reaping runs throughout God’s Word.

  • “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy” Psalm 126:5.
  • “A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” Proverbs 11:18.
  • “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” 2 Corinthians 9:6.
Sharing Faith

Together, let’s aim to live our lives in the best way possible. Let’s pursue the eternal qualities of faith, hope, and love, both in ourselves and in others. May we commit ourselves to inspire faith, instill hope, and ignite love. How we each accomplish the task will look different, but every one of us possesses the ability to make a difference.

May we focus on these greatest and enduring qualities of faith, hope, and love, receiving them fully, and then just as freely, giving them away. Let’s stop for a moment to ask God how we might spread these attributes further.

**********