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

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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?

Who is My Behaviour Affecting?

What is Your Measuring Stick?

Why is What I say So Important?

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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
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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
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“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you.’”   Ezekiel 3:10

He had all the answers to every question, and he had the right answers. At least he thought he did, and even when there was no question he still had the right opinion. I didn’t like his “know it all” attitude and didn’t want to listen to him. This annoying city boy was visiting our family farm. He was 13 years old and I was 12.

But what if there was someone who really did have all the answers? Would I listen? After all, I go to a mechanic to get my car fixed. I visit a doctor with my health questions. I ask an architect for design plans. So, yes, I do seek and listen to the opinions of experts. Why? Because I realize I need help in these areas.

Wouldn’t it be superb if there was an expert on life, someone who knew all the secrets that we don’t? It would only make sense to seek out this person for answers.

These very thoughts have pushed me into the spiritual realm to seek the creator God who knows the very secrets of the universe. He not only knows me, but he has declared his love for me. He’s truly the benevolent expert, but the question is, “Am I listening to him?”

Ask yourself that question. Do you seek the answers from the Source of everything, or try to figure it all out on your own? And when he responds, be it through examples in nature, Scripture, sermons, hymns or whatever, are you listening?

Father God, I find it hard to listen because of my pride, self-reliance, busyness, and doubt. You truly are the expert on life, and you know me. You know everything about my life. I confess my foolishness when I attempt to fix things on my own. Your wisdom is far superior to my best ideas. I’m listening. Guide me! Amen.

Go Deeper — What do you worry about the most? God can bring wisdom and resources beyond your own to these situations if you trust him.

By Mike Woodard
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“God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.”  Philippians 1:6 (CEV)

Saint John the Divine, now nicknamed Saint John the Unfinished, is one of the largest churches in the world and an iconic feature in Manhattan. Construction began in 1892, but surprisingly, it has remained unfinished, prompting its nickname. For over a century, the cathedral has been plagued by financial woes, labor disputes, engineering problems, wars, and fires.

Differences of opinion between management and the workforce can slow transformation. In my spiritual journey, the issues of disagreement or discouragement bring work to a stop. Disagreement happens when I look at the plan and refuse to cooperate either because of mistrust or unmet desires. I ultimately think my plan is better. Discouragement also hits when I consider my failures or what seems to be the slow pace of change. Sometimes I want to give up and quit. But God’s response is always, “Be patient, I’m not finished yet.”

As followers of Christ, we are still under construction. It should bring a great deal of comfort knowing that although we are not yet finished, our Architect is all-wise, all-powerful, has no lack of resources, and has good plans for us. His promise is to continue the work and to complete it on the day we see him.

God’s ultimate goal is that we would be conformed to the image of his Son (Roman 8:29), that we would look like Jesus! He has given us the mind of Christ and the Spirit of Christ. So why is it that so often I do not look or act like Christ? Could it be a labor dispute on my part?

Father, thank you for your work in my life. You are good and I know in my heart that you love me and have the best plan, yet at times you know I doubt and become fearful, discouraged, or angry. I confess my failure to trust you. Thank you for being faithful to the plan and your commitment to conform me to the image of your son. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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The summer between my 3rd and 4th year of university I worked at Yellowstone National Park.

It was a great summer, full of adventures and new experiences.

On a day off, I had signed up for a day long class in rock climbing. I was successfully making my way up the side of a mountain when the instructor surprised me with an unexpected challenge, when he said,

I want you to push yourself off and fall on the rope!”

Questioning why he would ask me to do this, I hesitated, and he wisely pointed out that,

You will never be a good rock climber until you can trust that the rope will hold you. Push yourself off and fall on the rope.”

I was afraid.

Obviously, my trust was in my ability to use my hands and feet to scale the mountain. The rope was a secondary source of security, in case I slipped (which I did not plan to do!). I eventually did let go my hand holds, and I’m here to tell you that the rope held!

There are times when God seems to say the same thing to me as my instructor did that day. “Take the step, release your hands on what you are holding and see that I’m trustworthy.” The writer of the Psalms wrote,

O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Just as I would never be a good rock climber without experiencing that the rope will hold. The same is true of my spiritual life. I will never be a responsive Christ follower if I am unwilling to let go of whatever I am grasping when God says, “Let go, trust me.”

Are you willing to let go of the things that give you security?

We can only experience God’s goodness when we take those, sometimes scary steps that take faith. Do you trust God is able to hold you securely when you let go of the things that provide comfort or security? What step is God asking you to take? Could it be he is asking you to let go of a relationship, finances or a position … A thought that comforts me is God holds the universe together it is likely he can provide all I need to hold life together … Enjoy the adventure!

Question: Do you believe your rope, God, will hold you during tough times?

By Mike Woodard
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“You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

I was in total darkness! It was a thick, complete blackness that swallowed up all markers of my world. I could see absolutely nothing deep inside the cave I was exploring. But one thing kept me from panic — the flashlight in my pocket. As I rested my hand on it, I knew that with one slight touch, I would have light again. That brought me peace.

Life sometimes presents dark moments when all the normal markers that guide us seem to disappear. In those moments, what is it that will provide an unshakable grounding? What will pierce the darkness? If only there was a flashlight for these moments….

God is the source of light in these dark moments. God, who is good, wise and all-powerful, invites us to steady ourselves in his trustworthy embrace. In the shadowy moments, the sureness of his presence and love provides a peace not based on our circumstances.

American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had such moments. He wrote,

“And in despair I bowed my head;

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said.

‘For hate is strong,

and mocks the song

of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail,

the Right prevail,

with peace on earth, good-will to men!’”

Let God be your flashlight of peace. Trust in his good and perfect plan, even in darkness where the reality of that plan seems fleeting.

God, thank you for the light of your presence and the perfect peace that comes as I trust in you. As my mind lingers on the truth of your love, wisdom and power, may I be released from the grip of any darkness and move into the realm of your light and peace. Thank you. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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“‘Father,” he prayed, ‘my Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.’ Mark 14:36 (GMT)

Recently I arranged an overnight visit with a longtime friend. Our lives had gone in two very different directions. He went down a road of addiction and broken relationships, yet we have kept in touch.

Clutter and the odour of cigarette smoke greeted me as I stepped into his home. It made me feel very uncomfortable. After reminiscing about our shared history, it was time for bed. My lodging was a dishevelled bedroom. Piles of boxes and clothing surrounded a bed with a broken leg. The stained mattress had no sheets and a well-used pillow had no case. I did not want to sleep in this room, but in that moment, I decided I valued the relationship more than I valued comfort. It was not one of my most restful nights. The tilt of the bed landed me on the floor in the middle of the night. Yet, I knew I had made the right decision.

Comfort is of high value! For some, comfort is the determining factor for decisions. Jesus did not live in that world. It is clear from today’s verse that he wanted discomfort removed but he had a higher priority — to do the will of his Father. This value caused him to step from heaven to earth, to be mocked, beaten, and die on a cross. His motivating desire was obedience to his Father and a desire for a relationship with us. His death on the cross declares his love for God and for us even though it was extremely uncomfortable!

Father, I surrender my desire for comfort. May the beauty of your plan and purpose be reflected in and through my life. Jesus thank you; your love and obedience have given me the gift of forgiveness and a relationship with God. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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“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

It was winter and the buses were on strike. I picked up a student who wanted a ride on this cold day. He was from Africa and this was his first experience with a Canadian winter. As we talked, I noticed he didn’t have gloves. In that moment, it seemed that God prompted me, “Give him your gloves and tell him I love him.” I hesitated, not because I had a special attachment to my gloves, but what would the student think? How would he respond? As we approached his destination, I surrendered my fears and gave him my gloves. I told him I was doing this because God loves him. He thanked me, took my gloves and got out of the car.

Shortly after I got home, the phone rang. A friend was phoning with a question. “Do you need a pair of gloves?” Before I could answer, she explained she had purchased a pair of gloves for her son but they didn’t fit. For some reason she thought of me. Amazing.

God knows all things — the number of stars, the hairs on our heads and even when a sparrow falls to the ground (Luke 12:6-8). In his knowledge, he can guide us to special places in order to touch lives if we will listen and act on his direction! We may never know the results. I never saw that student again. But we can know our simple obedience will fit in God’s good plan!

Lord, I confess that so often I trust in my own thoughts and perceptions. I want your spirit to guide me in each area of my life. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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Thoughts by Men thoughts by Mike Woodard

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So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is — what is good and pleasing and mature.” Romans 12:1-2 (CEV)

Yes.

The answer was not someone yelling or even speaking loudly. In fact, it was not even audible. But it was clear and my answer in response was “Yes.”

I was in my last year of university. Like most forth year students, I was asking, “Now what?” I had my list: grad school, seminary, teacher, student ministry, naturalist…. I prayed and went through a list of pros and cons, considering the options as they related to my passions, desires, and giftedness. I attempted to hold all the options with an open hand: “God I trust You. I know You love me and have the best plan for my life.

The discernment process involved talking to friends, reading the Bible, seeking wisdom from others, and asking God for direction. After a few months, I was alone in a prayer room:

God it seems You want me to be in ministry; is that what You want?

The answer came clear and simple, with deep conviction:

“Yes.”

But more than a call to a specific ministry assignment, God’s call was an invitation to surrender to His love and plan, and to have a deep, intimate, moment-by-moment relationship with Him.

This close relational connection is the secret to direction. Our surrender will be the soil from which God directs. His direction becomes clear as we gain a deep wisdom and understanding of who He created us to be.

Since God’s call is primarily to have a relationship with Him characterized by daily surrender, what we do vocationally or ministry-related is an expression and over flow of God in us.

Father, I surrender. I rest in Your perfect love, wisdom, and plan for my life. I present myself as a living sacrifice. I hold this day and all I desire before You with an open hand. I trust you. Amen

By Mike Woodard
Used by permission

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Comments: If you don’t see our response form, please go to https://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/mike-woodard_yes-god/

 

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Thoughts by Men thoughts by Mike Woodard