Category: Wisdom

Easy Errors

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By Paula Marolewski, April 1, 2010 3:19 pm

It has been said that the best lie is 99% truth. It’s that 1% of error that trips us up – often with ramifications hugely out of proportion to the lie itself.

I’m concerned that, as Christians, we have swallowed some lies. I call them “easy errors” … they all have an aspect of truth, but without qualification they become dangerous lies:

Easy Error #1: God can change people.

True, God can change people. That is, after all, the essence of the gospel message! But here’s what’s missing, and why this can become an easy error: God can only change people who want to change. God will never force a person to change against their will. He does not command holiness by jerking our strings like a divine puppeteer.

What’s the ramification of believing only the first statement, that “God can change people”? Here’s one dangerous result: we may be praying for someone whose life is out-of-sync with God’s will, and then become hopeless and blame God when they don’t change. It is imperative to remember that change is a partnership between God and the human soul. When we are willing – and only when we are willing – he will work miracles.

Easy Error #2: God can change me.

Yes, this is a variant on the first easy error. This is when we pray that God would change our heart, remove temptation from us, stop us from sinning … but we aren’t willing to put forth the effort to seek God, we don’t love him with all our heart, we continually place ourselves in temptation’s path, and we really enjoy sinning. Just as God can’t change others unless they want to change, God can’t change me unless I want to change. He is always willing – he’s waiting on me.

Easy Error #3: God is sovereign, so why pray?

This error acknowledges the sovereignty of God, but forgets that God has chosen to work in partnership with the human race. God commands us time and time again to pray. Why? Because many times, God will not act unless we pray.

Won’t God always accomplish what he wants? Isn’t that what sovereignty is all about? Well … yes and no. The book of Revelations demonstrates conclusively that God is in control over all. But the fact that we live now in a world rife with sin shows that God takes our free will very seriously.

We can look at it this way: God’s sovereignty is like a broad brushstroke over a huge canvas. It provides the background for everything else. Our prayers are like the fine lines that create the details of the painting. If we fail to pray, the picture will come out very differently than if we spend time on our knees.

Easy Error #4: God will open and close doors to direct my life.

My answer to this would be: sometimes. And sometimes not. Certainly, if we are seeking God’s will for our life, he will on many occasions use circumstances to help guide us. Doors open, doors close.

But that is not always the case. After all, if God always used circumstances to open and close doors, we would never have to reason out whether a decision was wise or not. We would simply wait to see what circumstances dictated.

Instead, we see throughout Scripture that we are encouraged to pray for wisdom, discernment, understanding, and knowledge. That is why I firmly believe that God sometimes purposefully leaves multiple doors open … some of which may lead to positive ends, some of which may be deadly. Why? Because he wants us to be able to make a mature decision using the other tools he has given us, such as our reason, his Word, his Spirit, and the counsel of others.

Think of it in terms of raising a child. Is a child mature if he always sits on his hands and waits to “see what will happen”? Or is a child mature when he can weigh real alternatives, make a wise decision, and move boldly forward?

The Common Denominator

As you look at the above easy errors, you will see a common denominator. In each case, the error has at its core a desire to forego personal initiative and responsibility. We ignore the interaction between free will and the grace of God. We disregard the responsibility we have to pray. We abdicate our responsibility to make choices.

Basically, we want life handed to us on a silver platter. We’re not willing to do our part.

Easy errors? Yes.

But with serious consequences.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Seedling: Wisdom and Reproof

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By Paula Marolewski, March 25, 2010 11:42 am

“Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” – Proverbs 9:8

We all want to be wise. But here’s an interesting point: we tend to think that people who are wise are pretty much perfect. Certainly they don’t act in ways that deserve reproof, correction, or discipline! Isn’t that the essence of being wise?

That is true in the abstract: perfect wisdom would indeed yield perfect action and be a sign of perfect character. In fact, that describes God himself: he is Wisdom personified.

But we are humans – and as such, sinners. So though we may attain a level of wisdom, we are hampered by human limitations and human failings. No matter how wise we may be, we can fall into sin. (Remember Solomon and his wives and idols?)

It is then that Proverbs 9:8 comes into play: when we are wise, we will recognize, accept, and be thankful for the reproof of others that calls our sinful actions to account. Only by doing so will we continue to grow in wisdom.

  • What is your first reaction when someone reproves you for something you said or did?
  • Why can it be difficult to recognize that we have sinned?
  • Why can it be difficult to accept our personal responsibility when we have sinned?
  • Why can it be difficult to be thankful when someone corrects us?


Copyright © 2010, Paula J. Marolewski. All rights reserved.

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Beware of Pleasant Indoctrination

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By Paula Marolewski, December 28, 2009 8:46 am

We think of indoctrination or brainwashing as a horrible, negative event. And, oftentimes, it is. But in many circumstances, indoctrination can be extremely pleasant.

Consider Daniel – a Hebrew captive in Babylon:

“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abednego” (Daniel 1:3-7).

Don’t kid yourself – the king, Nebuchadnezzar – had in mind one thing: to indoctrinate these Jewish lads into Babylonian (Chaldean) culture so that they would be useful to him. What did it look like to Daniel and his friends?

  • A new name.
  • Good food. 
  • Shelter.
  • Education.
  • Authority.

If you were a captive in a foreign land, fully expecting a life of menial and perhaps painful slavery, this list would sound heavenly.

But Daniel saw immediately that this was a program of indoctrination. He was fully willing to serve in his new home and to honor his new king, but he would not compromise his convictions – and that started with protesting the food, since it had most likely been offered to idols on an altar prior to being set on the table as dinner.

His convictions carried the day … as they did throughout his life, culminating in a night spent in the lions’ den for refusing to worship anyone other than the LORD God.

Of all the many, many lessons we can learn from Daniel, spend some time considering this one today: is our culture and are the people around us trying to give us a pleasant indoctrination into beliefs, attitudes, and actions that are contrary to our convictions? (Phrases like, “Appearances are everything,” “The one with the most toys wins,” and “If it feels good, do it” come to mind …)

Remember – indoctrination can be a very enjoyable experience. It’s the final exam that can prove fatal.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Wisdom and Courage

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By Paula Marolewski, October 6, 2009 9:20 am

As I was praying for a friend, the chorus to an old hymn came to mind:

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of these days…”

It summed up what I was praying, but it made me think: how often do we pray just the opposite? How often are our prayers really composed of the plea:

“Answer my questions and get me out of this problem!”

Praying for wisdom is not the same as praying for answers. When we pray for wisdom, we are asking God to grant us the discernment to make wise choices. When we pray for answers, we are asking God to simply “tell us what to do.” Children need to be told what to do. Adults understand the necessity and accept the responsibility of making wise choices.

Again, praying for courage is not the same as praying for God to take the problem away. It is certainly appropriate to pray for deliverance (the psalms are full of such prayers), but we have to recognize with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that:

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

These three men knew that God could deliver, but they also drew on courage, knowing that God might not choose to deliver them. And in fact, they needed that courage, because while God did finally deliver them, they were first bound and thrown into the fire!

Let us learn to pray for ourselves and others that God will truly:

“Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the facing of these days…”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Training the Next Generation

By Paula Marolewski, October 1, 2009 8:12 am

Sometimes I wonder if we are failing to give the next generation – particularly our teens and young adults – all they need in order to accomplish God’s calling in their life. Here are some of the lessons I fear that we aren’t passing down:

  • How to recognize God’s purpose and calling.
  • How to hold even God-given dreams and aspirations and goals with an open hand, allowing those dreams and aspirations and goals to mature and change over time. 
  • How to distinguish between their identity (who they are) and their gift or purpose or calling (what they do).
  • How to trust God entirely, even if he calls them to “give up their Isaac.”
  • How to persevere when God seems silent and everything in life comes crashing down around them.
  • How to endure rejection, scorn, and persecution.
  • How to sacrifice for a greater good.
  • How to get up one more time than you fall down.

If we want to raise a generation of men and women who will stand firm in their faith and accomplish great things for the kingdom of God, these lessons aren’t optional – they’re essential.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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The Abdication of Responsibility

By Paula Marolewski, September 29, 2009 7:06 am

Frequently, I hear people praying something like this:

“God, if this isn’t your will, then shut the door. Just take it away.”

I challenge that type of prayer as a spiritual abdication of responsibility. We are not praying in that instance for wisdom to make a right choice about the situation. Instead, we are praying that God would remove the possibility of making a wrong choice about the situation. And that, to me, is passing the buck, and is the antithesis of spiritual maturity.

Will God sometimes close doors that aren’t his will? Yes. But should we count on him always to do so? Emphatically “No!”

Think of it in terms of raising a child. When the child is very young and toddling around the house, you do remove him from harm’s way. You literally shut doors on danger. He doesn’t know any better, and he can’t know any better. You don’t expect him to. He’s too young.

Now fast forward eighteen years. The child is now a young man. Would you consider him mature if you continued to remove all possibility of him getting into trouble or making a foolish decision? No. He is only considered mature when he is able to make a wise decision with all options open to him.

Don’t pray that God will remove the need for you to make a decision. Pray that you will have the wisdom to make the right decision.

© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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