The Importance of Apologies — Respect, Caring & Trust

The Importance of Apologies — Respect, Caring & Trust

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

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

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

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

Repent

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

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

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

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

Acknowledge

An effective apology not only owns personal responsibility but also

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

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

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

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

Respond

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Wait

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

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

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

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

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

5 Steps — Wisdom to Handle Insults and Accusations 

Mistakes Eat at Us: Dealing with our Faults and Flaws

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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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)

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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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Psalm 84 — When All Else Fails God Doesn’t

Psalm 84 — When All Else Fails God Doesn’t

People fail, economies collapse, and nations fall, but when all else fails God never will. He remains constant through everything. How comforting to know that there is One who will never be shaken, who remains consistent and faithful. Jesus spoke of a time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken. Perhaps, He was describing our incredibly insecure global climate.

A few months ago, I felt a “call” from God to write things which I never intended to permanently set in ink. I wept and struggled as I felt the shaking of my comfortable rhythm. His ask meant opening the gates of my heart in incredibly vulnerable ways. Then I turned to Psalm 84,

“LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.”
Psalm 84:12

Only one path leads to His blessing — the path of humble obedience and radical trust. The Amplified Bible verbalizes this trust as “leaning and believing on (God), committing and confidently looking to (God) without fear or misgiving.” I’m leaning and believing as I commit myself to trust Him in a new way. It would be a stretch to say that my obedience came without fear or misgiving, however.

In these moments, we discover in greater measure that when all else fails God doesn’t!

LORD of Angel Armies

In Psalm 84, the psalmist appeals to the LORD Almighty or the LORD of Angel Armies, just one of many names for God we find within the Scriptures. This name, however, stood apart from the others in that it was understood most deeply when God’s people had fallen away from Him and failed to stand strong in faith.

“In a word, we do not know this name, the ‘LORD of Hosts,’ till we have learnt the Church’s fall … are bitterly divided and destroying one another. But though (we) fail, God ever remains … when His elect have no other helper … God is and must be ever sufficient, for a ruined church as for a ruined world.”
Andrew Jukes1

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
Psalm 84:5-7

We each know valleys of pain and tears. When our trust is in the LORD of Hosts, or the LORD of Angel Armies, those valleys become pools of refreshing, not just to us but to others who follow the same path.

When all else fails God doesn’t!

During our hardest times, God promises to take us from “strength to strength” (NIV) or “increasing in victorious power” (AMP). Only by trusting God in the valley of weeping does the fulfillment of this promise come true. Strength to strength! Increasing in victorious power!

God’s Presence

The writer of Psalm 84 expresses His constant desire to be in God’s Presence.

“I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Psalm 84:2

Or,

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
Psalm 84:10

Do these words reflect my heart when I feel the conflicting emotions of weeping in the valley and shouting joyfully in His Presence? How clearly do I recognize my weakness apart from God? Do I long to be close to Him more than anything else — forfeiting everything for even one moment with Him? Or have I grown complacent and indifferent to the open door of access to the Father which Jesus provided?

One Step

The LORD of Angel Armies stands ready to receive us. No matter how far we have fallen or how great our failure, He welcomes us into into His courts, into His house, and into His arms of grace and mercy. One step takes us from where we are to where we could be with Him. We are only one step away!

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; He [presents] grace and favor and [future] glory, honor, splendor, and heavenly bliss; no good thing will He withhold …”
Psalm 84:11

When all else fails God doesn’t! His promise to us stands firm!

As we take that one step toward Him in obedience and trust, He carries us the rest of the distance. Our fears of being rejected or falling short dissolve in His love and grace. Even our flawed efforts become radiant with His glorious touch over our lives.

If we choose to trust Him, my story, your story, all our stories become testimonies for the LORD of Angel Armies. He is the Lord Almighty who saves and restores the undeserving.

Your present point of trust may far surpass mine and your valley deeper and darker. But let’s move together in our fragile trusting, moving closer to our God who never fails.

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  1. The Names of God: Discovering God as He Desires to be Known, Andrew Jukes, (Kregel,Grand Rapids, 1967), pg 157 ↩︎

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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Rooted and Grounded in Christ

Rooted and Grounded in Christ

Are you rooted and grounded? Planting takes only moments, but roots develop and spread over a lifetime. Fruit appears last of all. By allowing God time to send our roots outward, we will flourish wherever He plants us. But lately, I’ve been a little frustrated with my personal growth and progress — feeling stagnant and unproductive.

As a long-time gardener, I have gained experience in rooting and planting annuals, perennials, and trees. Though I experimented with newer species, my gardens often contained tried-and-true varieties, originally passed from my mother’s or grandmother’s gardens. In our northern climates, the extreme heat of summer and cold of winter offers a more limited palette of vegetation than in other parts of the world. But no matter where you live, a healthy root system is the key to any plant’s longevity and growth.

What holds true in the natural holds true to our spiritual condition as well.

“Having been deeply rooted [in Him] and now being continually built up in Him and [becoming increasingly more] established in your faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing in it with gratitude.”
Colossians 2:7

Planted

Each plant thrives in a specific location and environment. And so do we. While shade loving plants wilt in dry sunny locations, the reverse is also true. But even when planted in the perfect location, a gardener focuses on root development. Trees need to be staked for the first few years until their roots spread far enough to support them against even the cruelest winds. Weekly watering routines become essential, as well.

Where has God planted or perhaps transplanted you? Do you feel fragile? Are you fearful that the winds of adversity may topple you?

As we give God time to expand our spiritual roots, we gain greater stability in our lives. Shuffling from one thing to another hinders spiritual progress. We may look healthy on the surface, but it is the hidden strength of being rooted and grounded that helps us to withstand the storms of life.

God says of the righteous,

“He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
Psalm 1:3

Cut Down

Without success, I have attempted to “trick” certain plants to grow where they weren’t designed to flourish. But when I followed instructions and planted the seedling in their preferred location, the resulting growth was stunningly obvious.

We have all felt my tender roots pulled up from soft fertile soils, only to be pushed into one restriction or another — without room or stability. We have felt the stretch and strain of being “planted” in unfavorable and unfamiliar territory, including hard and rocky circumstances. I, and perhaps you, have resisted God’s choices, believing we could never grow in such adverse conditions. Yet, God knows where our roots of faith and trust in Him would grow the best.

Job felt it, too.

“For there is hope for a tree. When it is cut down, that it will sprout again. And its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant.”
Job 14:7-9

Where roots grow, hope remains. And we, my friends, have been rooted and grounded in Christ. Every external circumstance must bow to Him.

Trust

Jeremiah encourages us to trust “in the LORD,” because our trust “is the LORD.”

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

God birthed within us the desire to reflect such vitality, growth, and maturity. But, it takes time. Spring, summer, fall, and winter repeated year after year. Some seasons kind. Other seasons harsh.

Yet, as we trust in the Lord, and our trust is the Lord, seasons pass as strength builds and and we become rooted and grounded.

Rest

We can either resist God’s process or rest in it. Resisting comes easy. Rest takes courage and faith to remain rooted and grounded.

A tree never strives to grow. It rests while growth naturally occurs. God has formed us the same way. The more we strive, the more we pull apart our fragile roots. But as we rest in His goodness and sovereignty, our roots push ever deeper and wider.

May God give us the courage to stay, wait, and rest. Unlike a tree, we can pull ourselves out and force ourselves into something we believe more conducive and comfortable. Shade sounds good. Shelter invites.

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
Psalm 92:12-13

Gratitude

As I look back over the seasons of my life, I feel a sense of equal gratitude for both the easy and trying seasons. The seasons of apparent spiritual drought, dis-ease, pruning, and struggle have caused a deeper maturing as sin has been exposed and confessed, ungodly attitudes have been unearthed and removed, patience has been tried and pressed, and Christlikeness has been refined.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Peter 1:5-8

God directs us to places we don’t understand and to circumstances we might resist. When people damage us, abuse us, use us, wound us, rob us, or mistreat us, may we send our roots of trust in God deeper, knowing somehow, some way He will use it all for our good. Richer fruit will come from our lives.

Just like a tree goes through a season of dormancy before sending out new blossoms and shoots, so must we. The season of fruitfulness will come. Each season prepares us to produce greater and better fruit.

If you are in your fruitful season, be grateful. If not, rejoice! Your time will come, if you remain rooted and grounded.

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Dare to Try — Explore the God Possibilities

Dare to Try — Explore the God Possibilities

Are you adventuresome? Do you dare to try what others hesitate to do? Are you the first to step into the water, or do you wait and watch?

Maybe my zany attitude for the thrill of attempting new things comes from remnant trauma. My older brother often “pushed” me into doing things I wasn’t quite ready for but was too stubborn to back down from. Can anyone else relate? I can’t tell you how many times I sucked in my fear, held my breath, and stepped into the unknown — sometimes with painful consequences. He rarely led the way, but followed if I successfully survived the test!

Or maybe I cast the blame on my brother too quickly. Perhaps God designed me as a curious explorer.

Sometimes, the greatest wisdom rests with those who wait and watch, allowing others to break new terrain. But how many experiences would I have missed if I would have been too afraid to dare to try? Too late I realized the foolishness of always trusting my brother. But I know that I can completely trust the Lord’s lead.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Dare or Faith

God never pushes or dares! Rather, He invites us to a journey of faith — a journey that may lead to unexpected places and opportunities.

Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, inspires me. These pioneers held enough faith in God to dare to try the unexpected and step into the unknown. Exploring options only possible through God, they each heard the whisper of His invitation and responded.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1

Noah wasted no time trying to convince God an ark would be useless since not a single drop of rain had yet ot fall on the earth. He just started building this thing called an ark. Abraham uprooted his family and headed toward a yet to be revealed destination. Joseph refused to allow a prison cell lock up His faith. Moses, the failed prince, may have stuttered at God’s invitation, but he willingly stepped into unknown waters.

Some achieved earthly success. Others never witnessed the full reward of their faith until they entered heaven’s realms. But they each explored the faith possibilities.

Faith or Fear

Fear of the unknown attempts to keep us from venturing into the realms of unlimited faith. Choosing the path of faith leaves no regret. Bowing to fear or comfortable predictability often does.

Their circumstances will never shake them and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, ever secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe … ”
Psalm 112:6-8 TPT

We discover many aspects of God’s character only through the path of faith. We all desire hearts that are firm, security in our faith, and a steadiness and strength of character. These by-products of following God’s leading develop best in the soil of faith.

Fear or Love

The power of God’s love for us and in us propels us to explore previously unknown pathways.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18

The Passion Translation of John 14:15 reads, “Loving me (Jesus) empowers you to obey my commands.” Love empowers! How wonderful!

The awareness of the immeasurable love of God over us empowers us to step into whatever He invites us into. Whether new territory or untested ground, He leads with perfect love. God’s love enables, empowers, and encourages us to dare to try.

Fear evaporates in the face of such pure love.

Invitation

Where you are going is not where you are right now. Who you are now is not the fullness of who you are becoming. What you have had is not what you are going to have. God always has more for us than we could ever imagine.

Nothing limits what God can and will do through a yielded life. Where is God’s love welcoming us to venture? How is He inviting us to yield to His transformational love? What faith steps is He calling us to move into?

Father God, I sense Your invitation to dare to step into a new level of my calling and destiny. I receive the fulness of Your love for me. You have greater and better things for me than I am experiencing right now. There are areas of my life hungering for the impact of Your Presence. I thank You for Your faithfulness in the past. I turn my heart toward You for the faith to step boldly into today and the days to come. May I look to the examples of other faith-walkers while becoming an example for still more. Trusting not in my own understanding but leaning totally into You, I draw the courage, tenacity, and boldness I need to explore the impossibilities You place before me. May past experiences and failures not limit future prospects or diminish hope. You are a good and loving Father.
Amen.

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Confidence Well Placed — Without Fear or Worry

Confidence Well Placed — Without Fear or Worry

We all seek to have our confidence well placed. Who can we trust? I mean really trust. Shaking markets and shady deals abound. Enticing offers bombard us at every turn, tempting us to try and buy the latest, greatest products. The internet has created a haven for scam artists. We answer phone calls with apprehension, not knowing if the caller is legitimate.

My granddaughter stood with her toes curled over the edge of the pool. I waited below with my arms outstretched, prepared to catch her when she jumped. She leaned forward. Her quivering legs contradicted the smile on her face. It took more than a little persuasion to convince her to trust me. After several more jumps and successful catches, her confidence in me grew. Finally, she jumped with complete abandon. Confidence well place replaced her initial fear.

We have all taken turns at being the jumper or the catcher. We have learned through experience who we can and cannot trust. No one has proven more trustworthy than our God.

“Blessed [with spiritual security] is the man who believes and trusts in and relies on the Lord and whose hope and confident expectation is the Lord.”
Jeremiah 17:7 AMP

How wonderful! We may have perfect hope and confident expectation in the Lord.

Broken Trust

The wounds of broken trust pierce deep. When we have trusted someone to love, but they wouldn’t. When we have trusted someone to protect, but they didn’t. Broken trust makes it difficult for us to fully trust again.

Each time we trust a little less and then even less. Until finally, we trust only ourselves. Eventually, we realize we are as untrustworthy as everyone else. In the most complete sense of the word, there is only One deserving our complete confidence.

The Hebrew word for man in Jeremiah 17:7 means someone who is valiant, like a warrior. It represents a person of courage and determination. Confidence well placed in God for our security requires a measure of courage and determination to overcome the broken trust in people. But it is worth it!

“For he will be [nourished] like a tree planted by the waters,
That spreads out its roots by the river
…”
Jeremiah 17:8

When we have confidence well placed in God, we become like this tree — fully nourished and satisfied. Planted by an ever-flowing stream as God completely sustains us.

No Fear

Recovering from broken trust drains every fibre of our being. The pain of severed relationships cuts deep. Jagged wounds that refuse healing often become infected with rejection. Rejection oozes out through fear.

Only God’s perfect love brings lasting relief and complete healing.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.”
1 John 4:18 NLT

With confidence well placed in our loving Father, fear holds no ground. Jeremiah continues to paint a word picture for us.

“… And will not fear the heat when it comes; but its leaves will be green and moist. And it will not be anxious and concerned in a year of drought nor stop bearing fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:8 AMP

Moving Forward

I know beyond a doubt I can trust God with every aspect of my life. I have full confidence that He will never fail.

Unfortunately, in the day-to-day struggles, I resemble my granddaughter far too much. I stand on the edge of the pool of relational trust, holding tight with all ten toes. I lean toward God with every ounce of courage I can muster, but will others reciprocate my love “this time?” Will that person value our relationship “this time?” Or will repeat offenders surround me forever?

That is the human dilemma. Confidence well place in a God who stands apart from all human control requires every valiant warrior portion of this heart. Trusting my frail humanity into the hands of other frail humans sounds foolish at best.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
John 13:34

Yet, God calls, even commands, us to love each other completely, regardless of the outcome. He desires us to become a similar life-giving stream for others as He is for us. He longs for us to love others so absolutely that it releases them, too.

The Call

God calls each of us to love. The love of God washes over us like a river to live worry free. His love flowing through us provides space for others to grow in faith — without fear or worry even in the toughest times.

When Jeremiah talks about a tree “planted” by the water. It literally means to be transplanted. No matter where we began, He has repositioned us, transplanting us by the stream of His grace and mercy.

We were planted in brokenness and rejection. We have been transplanted into Christ and He into us. Once we held misplaced trust in people, finances, positions of authority, and possessions. Firmly transplanted, we now maintain confidence well placed in Him.

Transplanted ones experience not only God’s blessing, they also

“… never fail to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:8

As we obey the call to receive and express love, continuous spiritual “fruit” comes through our lives.

Confidence Well Placed

Honestly, this process stretches me. Maybe, it stretches you too. Only with confidence well place in the love of God will we dare to risk loving and being loved.

Yes, people will fail us. But secure in the Father’s love, our roots spread wide and strong, nourishing us at every level, sustaining us through dry seasons, and securing us through every storm.

The more we trust Him, the more we confidently jump with childlike faith into His arms, willing to abandon ourselves to love others fully and deeply — with or without love in return.

A love that reflects Him will always make a difference. Always!

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Making Adjustments to Stay on Course

Making Adjustments to Stay on Course

The constant changes and transitions of life require the adjustment and tweaking of priorities and schedules to stay on course. During the last two weeks, I’ve been reminded in various ways about the importance of maintaining godly priorities. Misalignment, especially in the area of work, has been causing me to veer off course.

My daughter-in-law mentioned that during a flight the plane’s internal systems continually make adjustments to keep the plane on course. Wreckages throughout history give us ample evidence of the dangers of veering even slightly off track.

Samson blindly believed he was on course to walk out his destiny.

“Then she called, ‘Samson, the Philistines are upon your!’ He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had left him.”
Judges 16:20

Too late, he realized his error. His spiritual blindness led to physical blindness when his enemies gouged out his eyes and turned him into a human mule to grind their grain.

Following our own life track might appear to work for a while. But when we take God’s Word and His call on our lives casually, be aware. We are heading for a crash.

Mount Erebus Tragedy

Though the crash of TE901 occurred almost fifty years ago, it remains New Zealand’s worst peacetime disaster. The air cruise over the Antarctic turned fatal because the navigation system was off by two degrees. Yes! Two degrees! In the scheme of life, we may easily dismiss two degrees as inconsequential. But if we don’t remain “on target,” we, too, may be heading for disaster.

Each person on board trusted the pilot to take them on the scenic flight to McMurdo Sound and back. The pilot trusted the navigation system to guide him as he made two familiar loops, descending through the clouds to about 2,000 feet to give his passengers a better view. He saw the ice and snow through the cockpit window, but only seconds before impact did he realize it was the side of Mount Erebus.

No one was more blinded by pure zeal for God than Saul of Tarsus. Trained as a Pharisee of Pharisees, he expended immeasurable time and energy to eradicate the radical Christian sect that contradicted his understanding of God’s laws and ways. He headed straight for a crash.

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked . . . My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.”
Acts 22:6-11

Zeal counts for nothing when you are off course!

Blinding Light

Even moments before impact, tourists walked around, drank their chosen beverages, and took pictures inside the cabin and outside the window. Until . . .

Air NZ flight TE901 before it crashed into Mt Erebus. Warning: content may be upsetting.

Every one of us walks around doing life as usual. None of us know the moment of impact — that millisecond between this life and the next. It is a sobering reality waiting us all.

Thanks to previous prompting by the Holy Spirit, encouragement from my pastor, and an extra nudge from my daughter-in-law, I’ve been making adjustments to stay on course to reach the destination God desires for me. Honestly, I’ve been further off than a few degrees.

Usually, it’s the demanding pressures of work which lure me off track. For others, it might be positions of power or the praise of people. Even one of Jesus’ disciples became confused.

“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'”
Matthew 16:23

Jesus warns Peter and us, that whenever human concerns outweigh our concern for God, we have switched allegiance, joining enemy ranks. There is no such thing as neutral ground.

Jesus went on to explain that discipleship costs. Maintaining healthy boundaries around godly priorities will always cost.

Stay on Course

Forfeiting God’s best for a pat on the back or a few more dollars in the bank amounts to nothing in the end.

With Samson, Saul, and Peter, God gracious confronted them, redirecting their course. Their lives impacted multitudes of people. What we do today influences and affects generations as well. May we choose wisely.

The carnage from TE901 that still liters the side of Mount Erebus compares little to the painful aftermath of the crash. After many years and multiple investigations, the blame first placed upon the pilot shifted to the airlines. God won’t need further explanation or investigation. He already knows both the obvious and hidden reasons for our losing sight of what is most important. Excuses and self-justification will disintegrate and fall like ashes before Him.

To stay on course means to continue until something is finished or until we achieve something we planned to do. It means to not vary from a predetermined plan. God has a predetermined plan for every life, in which, as Brother Andrew said,

“The joy gets bigger and life gets better.”

We all plan to finish our life’s journey well. We all plan to please our Heavenly Father and hear Him say,

“. . . ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'”
Matthew 25:23

Take Action

The deceptive blindness of this world too often pulls us from eternal perspectives. The counsel of others will forewarn us when we are shifting off track, whether by two degrees or more. Here are other steps to help us stay on course:

  • Listen to Holy Spirit.
    • Push the “Pause” button on busyness and rest.
    • Ask God to show us when and how we are getting off track.
    • Ask ourselves if we have set a godly destination?
  • Listen to wise counsel.
    • What are those who love us saying? (e.g. spouses, family, pastors, counselors)
  • Soul search.
    • What unmet need am I trying to satisfy through things other than God?
    • Why is it easier for me to trust in my own ability and efforts rather than in God?
    • Why am I willing to sacrifice the most important things for temporary satisfaction?

Ouch! Though difficult, the answers may save our lives and the lives of those around us before we crash against the mountain of our own doing.

When not corrected, small things always become big things.

God may not provide a blinding light to stop us in our deviant tracks. Failure to realign ourselves may cost us our physical and emotionally health, our closest relationships, and, more importantly, ministry effectiveness.

A minor course adjustment and a little rise in altitude would have been enough to save everyone aboard TE901. In the same way, a few simple personal course adjustments and a small rise in our spiritual altitude may be the preventative measures we need to avoid disastrous consequences.

Let’s heed the warnings and move toward a life where “the joy gets bigger and life gets better.” Blessings, my friends.

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Want More?

You might appreciate this message about setting priorities.

Godly Priorities | Pastor Rob Reimer | September 25, 2022