Category: <span>thoughts by Mike Woodard</span>

What map are you using for your life journey? Is it an old map that seems to be putting you in difficult, even dangerous situations? Is it time for a new map?


When my daughter was 16, she and I decided to do a 7 day backpacking trip on the West Coast Trail of Vancouver Island.  I had a very old map of the trail, and being very frugal, I decided that the cost of a new edition of the map was not a necessary expense. What I did not know was that since the last printing of the map, several parts of the trail along the ocean had changed!

On the second day, we found ourselves in difficult, if not dangerous situations two different times, because the old map we were using was not accurate. At one point, we had to climb a rock face to get off the beach to escape the rising tide. As we described our day and showed the cuts and bruises we had to show for our climb to another hiker he commented, “Your map is putting you in danger!” He and his friend had two current maps, so they insisted we take one. They in fact, ended up joining us for the rest of the hike. I’m not sure if it was because they liked our company or were worried about our safety? I’m happy to report that with the new map, we successfully completed the trail and created many memorable moments.

What map are you using for your life journey? Is it an old map that seems to be putting you in difficult, even dangerous situations? Is it time for a new map? Maybe it’s also time to find someone to walk part of the trail with you!

The Bible is a wonderful blue print for life. When one become a Christ follower, God gives his Spirit to direct and empower his followers. I have become convinced that success in life is only really possible by knowing the author of life who designed us in the first place and who knows all the secrets of life.  Following His loving direction is a good choice. The path is far too complicated to complete on my own without a good map and guide.

A person’s steps are made secure by the Lord when they delight in his way.  Though they trip up, they won’t be thrown down, because the Lord holds their hand.” – Psalms 37:22-24 (CEB)

By Mike Woodard
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Brevity of Life

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Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” By this He spoke of the Spirit.John 7:37-39a (NASB)

I drove through an arid and dry landscape marked with sagebrush. A large and swift river ran through it. All that water! But the land remained parched. Then, in the distance I could see blocks of green like the squares of a giant patchwork quilt. As I got closer it became clear that irrigation lines were giving life to otherwise barren fields.

What a vivid picture of our lives! Every person has a deep thirst for health, purpose, and meaning. Yet there is a void, a dryness that touches the remote regions of each person. Just as the spring rain brings some level of relief, a project or a goal might bring life for a season. But a shower of self-effort will only bring temporary results. The dryness and thirst return. The cry of the heart resurfaces: There must be more to life than this.

Only when we are connected to God, the ultimate source, is our deep thirst satisfied and rich fruitfulness the result.

God’s Spirit in the believer brings “rivers of living water” that are unlimited and give abundant and eternal life. Just as the river runs through a dry and thirsty land with little noticeable impact, in the same way, the Spirit in our lives can have limited impact without our daily yielding to His power and influence. The rich fruitfulness of God’s Spirit in someone who yields to Jesus daily is in stark contrast to the barrenness of the Christian who lives a dry and self-reliant existence.

Lord Jesus, I yield each area of my life to You and confess my self-effort as pride. Direct and empower my actions today. May your Spirit create a profound transformation in my life resulting in the fruit of Your Spirit being displayed in my life. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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•   Count your Blessings
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“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!: 2 Corinthians 5:17

December 1967, history was made when surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant in South Africa. Since then, science has advanced and the list of transplant options has grown. The science of and frequency of joint replacement has also advanced. What’s next?

What if you could have a character transplant? Who in history would you like to emulate? I’ve always been drawn to strong leaders: Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Moses and Jesus. I admire each of these men.

But wait, a character transplant is not something of the future, it already exists! This is the real nature of being a Christ-follower. It’s not an attempt to emulate Christ through self-effort but it is a spiritual relationship with God where the Spirit of Christ comes to dwell in persons who place their faith in Christ. This character transplant happens as we allow God’s Spirit, the master surgeon, to remove our anxiety and replace it with peace, take our sadness and replace it with joy. The Bible has a list of transplant options. They are described as the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Just as in physical surgery, our part is realizing our need, being willing to change and trusting the surgeon’s skill. A difference is that we have 24-hour, 7-day-a-week access to the master transplant specialist, who responds to our willingness immediately. He promises to continue the work of transformation till we see him face to face!

Lord Jesus, I want to be like you. I know I need your skilled work in my life to transform my character to be like yours. Thank you that you are not only capable of doing so, but love me and desire to grant me the blessing of your continual attention each day, each moment. Thank you! Amen.

Is there an area that you would like to see God’s Spirit change? An area you know needs the touch of his skilful hands? Invite him to do a transplant. Read The Spirit Filled Life.

By Mike Woodard
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•  A Bible Study on Waiting on God
•  Hearing God’s Voice – a Study by Charles Stanley
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Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen” Ephesians 3:20-21

“The Christian Life is the supernatural life, a life where we live beyond our natural limits.” I heard these words during university about 45 years ago; they still inspire me. Think about it! The God of the universe lives inside each Christ-follower. The moment we embrace Christ through faith, God’s Spirit comes to dwell in us. In fact, Jesus told his disciples that it was good that he was leaving them because the Spirit would replace him in their lives (John 16:7-15). 

I remember, as a student, how easy it was to call out to God when an exam was coming. But I was convinced I could manage my dating relationships without God’s assistance. Very quickly, I realized inviting God into each area of my life was a good decision. God provides resources I do not have. No matter how good I am in any area of life, God is better, WAY better!

God does not push his way into the center; we have to allow him access. I realized I can only step into the realm of the “beyond my limits” life when I am willing to trust God and put my confidence in his unlimited resources. I often picture myself approaching God with a box in my arms. I declare, “God, please take charge of this. I have been so foolish to attempt this on my own.” At that moment, I begin to anticipate that God will do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within me, to his glory.

Father God, I invite you to show me any area of my life where I’m not fully trusting in your presence and power. Thank you that you can do immeasurably more than I can in any area of my life. I desire to live in the realm of your supernatural resources today. Thank you for your Spirit’s presence in my life. Amen.  

What areas of life are you finding hard to entrust to God? Ask yourself why. Think about how big or difficult the challenge is. Now reflect on God’s power, wisdom, and love. Can he handle it better than you can?

By Mike Woodard
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•  God Knows Everything
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Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”  Philippians 2:14-16a

The decision did not make sense to me. “What were these people thinking? They’re leaders; they should start acting like it!”

It was a time in my life when I was not happy with the decisions that were being made around me.

I had a grumbly heart!

In an early morning prayer group someone started to pray about the very situation that was giving me a grumbly heart. As I listened to that prayer, I was so convicted by an attitude of faith and obedience. In that moment, it was as if God gave me a glimpse of what was in my heart. My grumbling was taking me down a path of discontent, irritation, anxiety, and criticism. The prayer of my friend reminded me of another path; a path that would lead to peace beyond human understanding.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians says,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

I suddenly realized if I chose a path of prayerful trust instead of grumbling that I would not only experience God’s peace but also a transformation toward becoming a “blameless and pure child of God, shining like a star in the night sky!”

I made a decision. I chose the path to peace.

Father God, thank you for your Spirit’s convicting work in my life. I give you my grumbling and complaining. I long to walk the path of humble prayer in faith and obedience that leads to your perfect peace and transformative work in my life. Amen.

Ask God to reveal to you what’s going on in your heart. Is there grumbling and complaining? Can you trust God to work in and through today’s circumstances for his purposes? If not, invite the Spirit to change your heart.

By Mike Woodard
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“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Recently I got a package notice from the post office. Because I was not expecting a package, I thought, “Oh no, it’s probably a package from some company that I will not want, so I will have to go to the trouble of sending it back …”

Later that day a good friend mentioned to me that I should be getting something in the mail from him. Well, my attitude about the package waiting for me at the post office changed immediately because I now knew who had sent it! I was excited to see what it was, so I went expectantly to the post office as soon as I could. I was delighted to get a set of stainless steel pots for backpacking as a thank you from some friends I had recently taken on a backpacking trip! I fired off a thank you note that night.

Later that evening I had a thought … In life there are many unexpected packages. Some I like and others I don’t. I have come to realize that no matter what comes, God is in control.

Even in moments of bewilderment or despair in the past, when I would have loved to have written, “RETURN TO SENDER”, I have survived and even come to a point of anticipating the future because I chose to focus on the Sender, and on the knowledge that God does love me and really does know and care about my life’s circumstances. Sometimes I have doubted but in those moments I always come back to the cross as the ultimate proof of God’s love. Jesus died for me, he proved his love. The words of Romans 8:28 are profound: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”

What are the packages you hold today? Can you trust that God does have a plan? The nation of Israel was dealing with the reality of being in captivity, and in Jeremiah 29:11 God reassures them by saying,

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Question: Can you trust Him? What about writing Him a thank you note?

by Mike Woodard
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My do it!” were the words he repeated over and over.

I was hiking on a very challenging trail along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island. My almost three year old grandson was with me.

At least one section of the trail could possibly be described as dangerous, but it definitely was a combination of easy and difficult stretches. I carried him on some of the easier sections of our 8 kilometre hike but for some reason along this particularly dangerous section, he was determined to walk on his own.

I was very vigilant in my coaching. At times I would pick him up and lift him over difficult sections. Each time his response was, “My do it.” At one point some other hikers passed us. For some reason he was convinced that he should try to keep up with them and started going faster. I glanced behind me for a split second and when I turned back to look at him, my heart missed a beat!

My small apprentice had slipped, and was hanging over the ocean,  holding onto a tree root while his feet were swinging in the air.  A 5-meter drop to the water and rocks below awaited him, if he let go of that root. I grabbed his arms and lifted him to the trail.

He had no idea of the danger that he had just faced. He simply said, “Thanks, Papa.” and on he went. I, on the other hand, have relived that moment many times since!

As humbling as it might seem, we are all like a two year old in our strength, knowledge and wisdom when compared to God. Just as it is dangerous for a two year old to be on his own, even for a split second sometimes, because they just do not understand the dangers, so it is with us. Just as we don’t allow a two year old to hike a challenging trail on their own, we also were never intended to go through life without someone to watch over us. We are invited, but not forced, to journey with God.

There are areas of my life where I like to say, “My do it!”  When I try to do it on my own, I miss out on God’s strength and wisdom. Here is a prayer from the writer of Psalms 139 that helps to motivate me to move from self-reliance to God dependence.

Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me,  get a clear picture of what I’m about;  See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong, then guide me on the road to eternal life.” Psalm 139:23-24 (The Message)

By Mike Woodard
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Ingredients are important!

My daughter once attempted to make a cake with a cup of baking soda rather than a cup of flour. Needless to say the result was disappointing. Good relationships have several ingredients in the recipe. One ingredient that seems to come to the top of the list by many relationship experts is kindness. They suggest simple acts of kindness can build a strong fabric in a relationship.

Let’s start with a definition:

Kindness the tendency to be sympathetic and compassionate, an act that shows consideration and caring. (Encarta Dictionary)

I’m sure we all can remember a simple kindness that meant a lot.  I was on a trip, working in a coffee shop between appointments. The waiter went out of his way for me. All I bought was a cup coffee and a danish but I left him a $20 tip. Why? It was because that day his simple kindness touched me. (I have never left a $20 tip before or since.)

Today think of ways you could add kindness to the fabric of your relationships. Maybe it is an expression of appreciation through a simple thank you. Maybe it’s a helping hand. It could be a small but thoughtful gift. Coffee or chocolate always works for me.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  St. Paul – Ephesians 4:32

By Mike Woodard
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Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  Ephesians 4:29

You are a good boy.”

These words caught my attention because they were new words. I don’t remember if I verbalized it, but in my mind, I thought, “Really, am I really good?” You see, no one had ever described me in this way. My parents had few words of affirmation for me.  For my teacher, an important adult in my world, to describe me in this way, made a significant impact on how I viewed myself!

Every day we send and receive many messages that shape how we view ourselves and the world around us. What does God say about me? He says I’m loved, forgiven, valuable, and created by him for a purpose. And there is more.  He sent his Son to die for me, and he invites me to be part of his family.

Understanding “God’s words” has made an important impact in two ways. It has given me the ability to be confident when faced with messages that were not true. Secondly, this knowledge has allowed me to bring words of healing to others. I can look in a mirror and repeat what God says:

I am God’s workmanship, and I’m fearfully and wonderfully made for a special purpose that God has determined for me” (Psalm 139:14 and Ephesians 2:10)!

An added benefit is that God’s Spirit lives in me to give me wisdom and insight on how to speak in a way that pleases him and is a blessing to others!

Father, may the words of my mouth and the thoughts in my heart be acceptable to you. Plant your words in my speech so that I can bring encouragement and hope to others. May I have a deep understanding of what is true about me and about everyone in my world. Thank you for your love and work in my life. Amen.

Throughout the day, invite the Spirit to show you if your thoughts about yourself and those around you are consistent with God’s Word. Ask him to show you how your words could bring grace and blessing to others today.

By Mike Woodard
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Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24-25

The thought behind the expression, “inconvenient truth,” is that truth can be conflictual to our desires and plans to the point of stirring up feelings of discomfort. Regardless of how we feel, it is still the truth.

An inconvenient truth to an impatient teenager seeking freedom is that until they reach a certain age, they cannot legally drive a car. For an aging adult, the inconvenient truth is that their body may no longer have the strength to accomplish what it once did. The mind can make commitments that the body cannot keep!

Spiritually we can also grapple with some inconvenient truth issues. Throughout the Bible, a principle that seems to be consistently communicated is that people who follow God’s wisdom will experience his blessings. As suggested in the verses today, their lives will stand against the storms of this life.

I recently heard someone expressing anger toward God because they were charged with a DUI for drinking and driving. They commented in anger, “Couldn’t God have given me a break?” God says, Don’t drink too much wine, for many evils lie along that path” (Ephesians 5:18 TLB). Here’s another way to think about it — is the policeman at fault for ticketing someone for breaking the law?

God gives us his commands for two positive reasons — to protect us and provide for us. He loves us! The inconvenient truth is that God is not at fault when we disregard his wisdom.

Dear Father, I know you are good and you do love me. I want to trust you, and do what you ask. Please give me the strength to resist temptation. I want to apply your wisdom to my life and be like the person whose life is built on the rock. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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When I was putting my grandson to bed, I asked him if he would like to pray. In a distressed voice he said, “All I know how to say is thank you!” We prayed together, and I kissed him good night. Walking away, I could not get his words out of my head. Such a simple thought but so profound. We have so much for which to thank God every day.

The Bible encourages us to be thankful in our prayers:

Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)

A thankful attitude emerges when we’re grounded in faith. If I really believe that God is in control, I can indeed thank God always, even in the middle of circumstances that are not to my liking. I must trust that He loves me and I must rely on His promise to make “all things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28)

When I choose to thank God for every circumstance in my life, good or bad, it causes me to anticipate the future positively—to look forward to how God will work through the situation rather than vex over the problem at hand. Praying with thankfulness also leads to peace! Some poor souls have spent their whole lives and fortunes, but have not found the peace for which they have longed. God offers His peace freely if we are willing to trust Him.

‘Only knowing how to say “THANK YOU!” is not a bad place to be!

Lord, help me to be thankful in all circumstances that You walk me through in this life. Help me to continually have gratitude upon my lips. Thank You for all You have done and all that You are doing. Amen.

Question: Are you practicing thankfulness today?

by Mike Woodard
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When I was about ten years old, my older brother and I were riding our bikes on a trail that was the “back way” to a small store in order to avoid the main route that was along a busy highway. One section of the trail was a narrow path that ran along the edge of the bank of a river.

My bike had the old-fashioned saddle bag wire baskets on either side of the back wheel. I had a six pack of pop in one basket that gave me a slight sensation of being off balance. The path that ran so close along the river made me nervous without this added challenge of weighty cargo in my basket.

Well, as you may have guessed, the bike, pop and I ended up sliding off the path and falling over the bank into the river. The drop down to the water was about a meter and a half. My bike got caught on a root so did not get washed away.

I had also landed in the water and was thrashing around yelling, “Help, I’m drowning!” My brother yelled back at me, “Stand up.”

While I had fallen into deep water that was over my head, through my thrashing I had moved to a place that was not. To this day I wonder if I could have drowned in the shallower water if my brother had not told me to stand up.

Words are powerful for good or for destruction. Words can bless or wound deeply.

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.”   Proverbs 25:11-12. (NIV)

There may be someone around you who is thrashing in the currents of life and is in need of some life giving words today, a word of encouragement to help them see how to extricate themselves from an overwhelming situation. Or, you, yourself may need a life giving word from someone close to you, who sees a bigger picture than you do.

For all who wrestle with seemingly life threatening challenges, God’s word, the Bible is his love letter to us. Open it often and listen to God’s instructions, drinking deep because it is the source of true and life giving words.

By Mike Woodard
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Reading the Bible – Where to Start?

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Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.Ephesians 5:17-19

On the Friday night before my final exams, I got drunk. As a first-year university student, I had avoided alcohol. But my roommate picked up some bottles of wine and we started drinking. Very quickly, the alcohol in my blood changed the way I talked, the way I walked, and my perception of the world around me. It controlled me.

It is interesting that God’s Word contrasts “drunk with wine” and “filled with God’s Spirit.” The issue is control. It’s clear that being controlled by alcohol is unwise and, many times, leads to foolish destructive actions. Being filled, directed and empowered by God’s Spirit, on the other hand, allows God to change the way we respond to the world around us. The Bible describes these changes as fruit: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

As a student, I gladly invited God into my academic world but was more resistant to his involvement in my social life. I soon realized God is better at every area of life than I am. If I really wanted the best in life, it meant allowing God’s Spirit to be in control so he could direct and empower each area of my life.

From the moment of our spiritual birth, God’s Spirit lives in us, but we can limit his work in and through us. The key is to allow God to direct and empower each area of our lives by allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us. What are you being filled with?

Father, I realize that I have been attempting to be in control and my self-effort has robbed me of your wisdom and power. I confess my need for your Spirit to direct and empower each area of my life. I long to see the fruit of your Spirit produced in my life. Thank you for your love and forgiveness. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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Domonic, our two and a half year old grandson was “helping” Papa (Grandpa) do some much needed spring cleanup in the back yard. Our backyard is terraced, so when we went to the second layer he started to cry. I asked him why he was crying, and he said, “Me Scared”.  It turned out he was scared because he had seen the wild deer wander across that part of the yard in the past, and he was afraid that they might come while we were there. I sat down and enfolded him in my arms, then asked, “Do you think Papa can take care of you? Do you think your Papa can chase the deer away?” He calmed down and seemed to like the idea that Papa could chase the “scary” deer away.

I realized I am not so different than Domonic. I have fears, too. I attempt to deal with fears in a variety of ways. I don’t tend to cry like Domonic did, but I get mad, worried, withdrawn, defensive, over analytical or immobilized, just to mention a few. In the same way that I enfolded Domonic in my arms and assured him I could take care of him, I need to experience God’s embrace in moments of fear and be reassured.

I remember one dark star-filled night walking alone, perplexed and with tears running down my face, crying out to God for help. His response was not verbal but it was so clear. It was as if God was saying to me, His child, “Who made these stars and put them in place? Do you think I’m big enough to handle your problems and fears?” In that moment my fears seemed to shrink, and in a fresh way I understood God’s presence and power. The problem did not go away but I had confidence to move forward knowing God would take care of me.

In a world that has many uncertainties the words from Psalm 147 can bring comfort. God is big enough to comfort His child in the midst of all possible fears!

1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant and praise is becoming. 2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.
5 Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. 6 The LORD supports the afflicted;
He brings down the wicked to the ground.
Psalm 147:1-6 (NIV)

Questions: How do you respond in the face of fear? What steps can you start to take to help you face the future positively and without fear?

by Mike Woodard
Used by Permission

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“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

He squealed with delight, “Papa thank you! These are perfect, thank you!” Who would have guessed a pair of super hero pyjamas would generate such appreciation and delight? It warmed my heart.

Isn’t it a special treat to bring joy into the lives of others we love?

Sometimes it is so simple, like knowing my grandson was into super heroes. At other times, knowing how to bring happiness to someone’s life is a little more complicated. It’s really helpful when they simply let you know what gives them pleasure.

As satisfying as it was to see my grandson’s pleasure at my choice of a birthday gift, I know pleasing God as an act of love is even more rewarding. God states very clearly in the passage above what gives him pleasure. He delights in seeing the people, who love him, mirror his character through kindness, justice, and righteousness to others. It brings God pleasure to see us live a life that reflects his Spirit to our world, which desperately needs to experience the aroma of God’s love and justice in their lives.

When we strive to act as God would, we fulfill the exhortation,

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God  1 Corinthians 10:31

Then our lives point other people to God and they find the true source for all their deep longings. The bonus is we have that special treat of seeing people transformed as they come to know God’s loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on the earth through us. It’s truly just what they wanted in the first place.

Father in Heaven, I long to know you deeply and that you are delighted in me because I know you and reflect your kindness, justice and righteousness to the world around me. I desire that more and more people would find their deep longings met in you! Amen.

By Mike Woodard
Used by Permission

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Thoughts by Men thoughts by Mike Woodard