Tag Archives: wisdom

Be Authentic and Real

Photo of Steph's hubby, Dave, one of the most courageous people she knows.

Photo of Steph’s hubby, Dave, one of the most courageous people she knows.

Be Authentic and Real, by Steph Beth Nickel

Genuine. Authentic. Real.

Do these words describe you? Do they describe me?

I admire those who are courageous enough to be real.

“I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” While people may only utter these words on TV courtroom dramas, there’s a lot to be learned from this statement.

I believe being truthful goes hand-in-hand with being authentic and real. When my three were young, I stressed the importance of telling the truth, informing them that lies were the devil’s language. I also said that deliberately leading someone to a false conclusion was the same as lying.

My Heart’s Cry

My heart’s cry is that we, as Christians, would learn to walk as we’re instructed to in Ephesians 4:11-16:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (ESV).

As we see in this passage, “speaking the truth in love” is one of the evidences of spiritual maturity.

Asking for Help

Too often, for whatever reason, we are not open and honest with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t want to burden them with our problems. We don’t want to admit we’re struggling in a certain area. We figure we should be able to work it out—just between God and us. We assume the other person doesn’t really want to know what’s on our heart and mind. We don’t want them to think less of us.

I have found if we’re open and honest, others will feel more at ease opening up to us as well. I believe this goes a long way to bringing us to the unity in the faith the Bible refers to in this and other passages.

Offering a Listening Ear

And what if we must approach someone who is in the wrong—or someone we think may be in the wrong?

Most of us want to do all we can to avoid conflict and may be tempted to put off addressing issues that really shouldn’t be ignored. It’s one thing to speak the truth in love when we’re the ones dealing with issues, but what about when it’s the other person who is struggling. Are we willing to reach out to them, come alongside them, invest the time to see things from their perspective, and then, if appropriate, help them get back on the right track?

When we pray for the wisdom God promises to give if we’ll just ask, we can be genuine, authentic, real, and truthful without unduly burdening others, breaking confidences, or gossiping.

How are you seeking to mature in Christ this day? How are you seeking to be authentic, to be real?

[Leave your thoughts below!]

Photo of Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Picture by Sarah Grace Photography)

Stephanie is a freelance writer and editor. She writes under the pen name Steph Beth Nickel. She co-authored Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Among other places, it is available from Castle Quay Books and Amazon. Steph has been blogging since 2010 and is a regular guest on Kimberley Payne’s site (fitness tips) and Christian Editing Services (writing tips). She will also be writing and recording regularly for the newly-formed Hope Stream Radio. Stephanie is an active member of The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.

Steph invites you to pop by for a visit on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stephbethnickel or https://www.facebook.com/stephbnickel?ref=hl

You can also look her up on Twitter @StephBethNickel; her blog: http://stephseclecticinterests.wordpress.com; or her website (still a work in progress): http://stephbethnickel.com

Wisdom: More than Choices

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
James 3:17, NLT*

When we ask God for wisdom, it’s usually because we need to know what to do or what decision to make. Think of the stories and jokes about the guy who climbs the mountain to ask the wise man a question. It’s always about knowledge and choices.

Today’s verse, and I think the whole of James’ letter, says wisdom is about living wisely.

Living wisely as James defines it will result in wise choices because the wise Christian is living in obedience to the Master’s ways. This wisdom is the opposite of self-focused ambition and selfishness. It’s loyalty to God, following His path.

It’s bringing the human spirit in line under the Holy Spirit, submitting our wills to His and following Him instead of pushing ahead.

I think if we can live like this, we’ll find ourselves making the wise decisions we wanted in the first place, because we’ll be in tune with God.

God who is fully wise, Shepherd who is fully good, lead us in Your ways and train us in Your precepts. In You we find our wisdom, our health and our strength. We’re no good on our own. Help us stay in Your presence, where we can thrive.

Think about Matt Redman‘s song, “We Could Change the World.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Loyalty to God

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
James 1:27, NLT*

The more I read of James, the more I see his overall message is to accept God’s word and to let it change us from the inside out. It’s about loyalty to God and living life His way.

That unlocks a new level of understanding for me in this week’s verse. The most obvious meaning of “refusing to let the world corrupt you” is to not buy into, approve, or indulge in the many things society flaunts that God’s Word tells us to avoid.

In the choice between human ways and God’s, wisdom always follows God. After all, we humans can get ourselves into a heap of trouble.

But I think the implication here, the deeper level, is one of allegiance: of loyalty.

We may abstain from harmful behaviour and thoughts, but if we allow society and those around us to hold a greater influence over our thoughts, decisions or actions, we’re giving “the world” an authority in our lives that rightfully belongs to God.

We need to be considerate of others’ feelings, and God often speaks through the people in our lives whether they know Him or not, but our loyalty belongs to God.

He’s the one we need to go to first, because of His authority, His wisdom, and His genuine care for us.

God who is our Good Shepherd, forgive us for so often living a divided loyalty that makes us unstable in all we do. Help us focus on You in love and in worship. Work Your Word and Your way in and through us, so that we become more like Your Son. Grow us into loyal citizens of Your Kingdom.

A good song to keep our focus straight is Robin Mark‘s “Jesus, All for Jesus.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Is Your Loyalty Divided?

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you … But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty … should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
James 1:5-8, NLT* (emphasis mine)

Reading these verses in other translations, I always thought “do not waver” meant “don’t doubt” and it always left me a bit uncertain. Despite our best efforts, doubt can flicker in our prayers.

God knows that. Remember the father with the demon-possessed son? “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24, NLT*)

The KJV uses “wavering” but the NIV actually says “you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave…” Both call the person “double minded.”

But this translation makes the real issue clear. Are we asking God for wisdom, leading, direction, but still holding onto worldly wisdom as a backup? No wonder it doesn’t work. If our loyalty is divided between God and the world, we’re sunk. (Click to tweet.)

That’s not to say God doesn’t want us to use our common sense, any more than He doesn’t want us to avail ourselves of doctors or other resources. But He does want us to look first to Him, to His power and His ways, and to go “all in” with what He says even if it’s counter-intuitive from a natural human perspective.

Remember His instruction for the Israelites to march around the walls of Jericho? God’s way works, because He works.

The context in today’s verses is wisdom, but I think the loyalty—which worldview we espouse and obey, where we look for our strength and encouragement—underpins everything we do.

In this light, I can understand “double-minded” to be like the man serving two masters. Of course it won’t succeed. We need to trust. And to commit.

Holy and all-powerful God, help us to fully embrace You as our source of all help and resources. Grow our faith so we can trust and obey You—fully and completely.

This week’s song is a hymn I love: “Be Thou My Vision.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Quiet Times with God

My child, eat honey, for it is good,
and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste.
In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul.
If you find it, you will have a bright future,
and your hopes will not be cut short.
Proverbs 24:13-14, NLT*

I love the invitations to wisdom we find in the Bible, and how they’re free to those who will seek God and draw near to Him. They’re not conditional on our latent intelligence or on our spotless pasts, but they’re based on God and His love for us.

In these verses we’re encouraged to look for wisdom rather than waiting for it to magically appear. The honeycomb illustration implies an eager, childlike search for something we know we’ll like.

Where do we find wisdom?

From God, and through His Book. We need a daily quiet time with Him, to read, pray, listen and learn. It’s not enough to know about Him. We need to know Him.

Daily quiet times are hard habits to get into, and easy habits to break. There’s no point getting legalistic over them or guilting ourselves, but if we can find even five minutes to get alone with God, we’ll be the richer for it.

Morning, after lunch, bedtime, whenever works best for you. Consistency helps, but some schedules won’t allow it. I heard of one person who linked his devotional moments to his morning coffee time—something he looked forward to and something he made sure happened each day.

Often we don’t have time to stop and pray, but I find as I get myself out of bed a bit earlier for my quiet time, the rest of the day goes smoother. We can’t bribe God into giving us pleasant days, but if we’re aligned with His Spirit, we’re better prepared to face what comes.

Father God, what a privilege it is to spend time with You. It’s more than our minds can grasp, but You invite us and You enjoy us. Help us make this a priority in our daily lives, not as an obligation but as a respite, a delight, and a time of refreshing and nourishing. Thank You for Your grace and Your love for us.

A good, soul-quieting song is “Draw Me Close to You,” sung here by Hillsong.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Wisdom is a Choice

And this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
to forsake evil is real understanding.’
Job 28:28, NLT*

The Book of Proverbs spends a lot of time looking at the thoughts, actions, and ultimate ends of the wise and the foolish, the godly and the wicked.

Wise and foolish, here, aren’t about intelligence. They’re not natural temperaments or personality attributes. They’re choices and learned behaviour.

They begin with our choice to seek or to ignore God.

Growing in relationship with God, learning to trust, obey and love Him—and developing a healthy respect and reverence for the one who adopts us as His own but who is the all-powerful God and Judge of all creation—is the way to wisdom.

The Book of James promises, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5, NLT*)

Wisdom isn’t always about specific guidance about the best thing to do or say in a given situation, although God can give us that. I like how Carolyn Watts puts it: “God promises to give us His wisdom, but the wisdom that He gives is sometimes more about learning to trust Him with the questions than about receiving specific answers.” [Rational Worship, p. 16]

Foolishness and wickedness are choices, and we don’t seem to need much help to excel at them. I’m so glad that wisdom and godliness are valid choices too, and that God offers all the help we’ll need to grow in them.

God who formed the universe, You are wiser than we’ll ever be. Thank You for inviting us into relationship with You. Thank You for the promise of wisdom if we’ll give our hearts to You and follow Your ways.

Since wisdom is a daily choice, our song is Brian Doerksen‘s “Today“. 

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Review: Chasing the Wind, by Robert White

Chasing the Wind, by Robert White (Word Alive Press, 2011)

This attractive gift book is subtitled “Finding Meaningful Answers from Ancient Wisdom,” and it’s a look at the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.

What does a small book written hundreds of years ago have to do with us today? Author Robert White says it looks at a lot of the same issues we face now:

“… the meaninglessness of wisdom, wishes and work; the futility—or chasing the wind—of desire and deeds; and the eternal and temporal curses and joys of toil, treasures and termination. As pessimistic as Ecclesiastes seems, the Teacher leaves us with hope. Only once we’ve chased after the wind and become weary of the meaninglessness found under the sun do we come to the end of the matter.” (p. 10)

The end of the matter, in the words of Ecclesiastes, is to “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Ecclesiastes 12:13b, NIV*.

As such, the book takes an honest look at some of our questions and struggles, and works them through to a perspective that seeks God first.

Chasing the Wind is a short book, only 100 pages long, and it’s an easy read. I appreciated the references to the song “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, and I loved the way Robert illustrated Ecclesiastes’ “all is meaningless” lament with a quote from the original Star Trek series. (Bonus for geek readers!)

This is a book for readers of all ages and experiences (the Star Trek illustration is explained, so everyone will get it). Each short chapter ends with a handful of questions for personal reflection. The aim is to leave us with a perspective of hope and a focus on God rather than on self.

The unpublished manuscript of Chasing the Wind won the Word Alive Press 2010 publishing contest in the non-fiction category, and was published in March 2011.

Robert White is the editor of ChristianWeek Ontario and writes the “A Matter of Faith” column in the Guelph Mercury. You can find Robert on the Great Canadian Authors site, or watch his interview on 100 Huntley Street: part 1 and part 2.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Pray Before Giving

Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.’”
2 Samuel 7:5-6, NIV*

King David’s desire to build a temple for God came from a good heart. He wanted to honour God, not to live in an elaborate palace while God’s dwelling was a tent.

David loved God, and God had given him so much. I wonder if David saw a chance to do something for Him as a gift. Good heart, good idea, wrong timing.

We get love-born impulses too, to do things for God or for others. These verses remind me we need to pray before acting.

God may want us to bless Him with our hearts’ attitudes but to not act—or to not act yet. In His plan, timing matters.

Sometimes the very things we long to do for others are the things that would undermine what God is doing in their hearts. Oswald Chambers says, “It takes a long time to realize the danger of being an amateur providence, that is, interfering with God’s order for others.” (“What is that to Thee?” Nov. 15)

Father God, we want to give back to You out of the love You’ve given us. Impress on our hearts how best to please You—and how to show love to those around us. Help us to always come first to You for wisdom. Make us sensitive to Your prompting to act or to not act. Keep us in the centre of Your will.

The gift God wants most is our hearts. Here’s my favourite Third Day song: “Offering.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.