March 2013

From Jim’s heart… Peter’s First Sermon

A study of the life and character of Peter reveals many noble qualities. His enthusiasm and boldness are traits every Christian should desire. Yes, some of Jesus’ sharpest rebukes were aimed at Peter’s misdirected enthusiasm. But Peter’s intense devotion and commitment to Jesus was demonstrated by his willingness to walk on the stormy waters of the Sea of Galilee to be near Jesus, and by his fearless use of his sword to protect Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

So it should come as no surprise that Peter, called the rock of church, boldly delivered the first sermon ever preached about Christ, the risen Messiah. Acts 2:14-41 records this first sermon.  Do you know what resulted from the first sermon ever preached? 3,000 people believed and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ!

Here are the six life transforming truths in Peter’s first sermon:

You, who are lost, can be saved.

Acts 2:21 – “…and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Jesus is a real person.

verse 22 – “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”

Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.

verses 23-24 – “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

His death and resurrection were predicted in the Bible.

verses 25-35 –  “And David said about him… ‘Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay.'”

Jesus was the long awaited Messiah.

verses 36 – “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Repent from your sinful nature and be baptized.

verses 37-38 – “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The simplicity of this message is just as powerful today. Evangelism is simply introducing people to Christ and letting the Holy Spirit do the rest!

Find more challenges and insights into the salvation, strength, and satisfaction that can be yours pick up a copy of my book, A Man After God’s Own Heart.

The Message of the CROSS

cross

“It’s time, girls! It’s Good Friday! Today is the day we bake our cross-shaped cookies for our neighbors. First we’ll mix the dough and roll it out. Then we’ll cut out the cookies with our cross cookie cutter. And after the cookies are baked, we’ll wrap up a plateful for each neighbor and decorate the package. Then when Dad gets home, we’ll deliver them together to our neighbors for Easter!”

“And don’t forget the cards, Mom,” either Katherine or Courtney would remind me, “the special cross-shaped Easter cards about the cross that we always sign and take with the cookies!”

For years this was the scene in our kitchen each Eastertime as my two daughters and I sought ways for our family to share the Easter message – the good news of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, the good news of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death, and the good news of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ – with our oh-so-needy neighbors.

Oh, our cookie-cutter collection included the shapes of a baby chick, a bunny rabbit, and even an Easter egg. But we chose the cross. Why? Until my daughters “got it,” they invariably asked me this same question: “Why the cross? Why not the chick or the bunny or the egg?”

Always, and in the simplest of terms, using the acrostic C-R-O-S-S, I tried to answer this question in a way that would teach my girls the meaning of the cross, the longtime symbol of Christianity and the death of Jesus Christ.

C– hrist, God-in-flesh, gave His life (Philippians 2:8) as a
R– ansom, a payment, for our sins (Matthew 20:28),
O– ffering up His life as a sinless sacrifice (Hebrews 10:14),
S– uffering unto death (Hebrews 12:2) to secure our
S– alvation from sin and death (Colossians 2:13-14).

Now, my friend, I have three questions for you.

  • Have you embraced the Christ of the cross as your Savior?
  • Are you teaching your children about the cross?
  • Are you reaching out to others with the message of the cross?

Easter blessings, dear friend, from Jim and Elizabeth

“Live Your Life After God’s Own Heart”

 

Mary, Did You Know?

“Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:22-35).

Mary’s path as the mother of Jesus had many precious moments and held many sacred memories. But that path had its pain, too, as she witnessed people’s violent reactions to Jesus and His message. And in the fullness of time – God’s preordained, appointed time – Mary found herself standing at the foot of Jesus’ cross watching her firstborn son die a criminal’s torturous death (John 19:25). A sword was indeed piercing her soul.

Then, in the horrible quiet, Mary heard the clear voice of Jesus speaking to His disciple John. And He was speaking about her: “Behold your mother” (verse 27). No. She wasn’t being forgotten or overlooked. God was taking care of her! Having loved His own, Jesus loved them to the end (John 13:1), and “His own” included His mother Mary!

She isn’t mentioned again in the Bible after this Scripture passage in Acts 1:14: “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Let’s ponder the significance of her final appearance.

Mary is in the upper room. Perhaps the very spot where Jesus shared His last meal with His disciples, this room became the meeting place for His followers after His glorious resurrection.

Mary is among Jesus’ faithful followers. No single believer in Christ is ever more important than another. Here we see Mary and others who followed Jesus standing on equal ground.

Mary is praying. Kneeling shoulder-to-shoulder with the other saints, Mary joins with the group, persisting in prayer for the much needed strength and grace to carry on without Jesus’ physical presence.

Mary is with other women. Jesus’ followers included a small band of women who supported His ministry, as well as the wives of some of the disciples.

Mary’s other sons are present. We can imagine Mary’s joy. Her other sons had never believed in Jesus before His death (John 5:7), but they were brought to faith by His resurrection. Finally all her sons were united in faith!

What a beautiful – and remarkable! – portrait of godly devotion we find in the life of Jesus’ beloved mother. Mary worshiped and fellowshipped with other believers, persevered in prayer, spent time with sisters in the faith, and valued her family’s faith.

Never forget that Mary’s was a soul drawn upward! She loved God’s Word, faithfully hid it away in her heart as a precious treasure, verbalized it as she magnified the Lord, and exuberantly worshipped the God of her salvation.

Questions to Consider:

Do these phrases describe your life too? If not, which areas to you need to develop so that your life reflects your devotion to God just as precious Mary’s did?

Please read my book A Woman After God’s Own Heart for more insight and encouragement in choosing to be, like Mary, a wonderful woman of God.

Living with Heaven in View

A small child once wrote, “Dear God, what is it like when you die? Nobody will tell me. I just want to know because I don’t want to do it!”

From the outside looking in, the celebration of Easter might seem to be about Christ’s suffering, death, and payment for our sins. But, for those of us who believe in the truth of His resurrection we know that it is really all about life – abundant and eternal life. But sometimes this can be easy to lose sight of. We grown-ups are often focused on the how-to’s of the good life in the here and now.

But, my fellow believers in Christ, God’s suffering servant Paul gives us both answers. In Philippians 1:18-25 Paul shows us not only how to live, but also how to die. In both life… and death… Paul is a “saint,” one dedicated to the service of the Lord – to Him and to His people. It is very likely that Paul thought about death each and every day in prison as he waited for a verdict that could be a death sentence. And yet he wrote:

18“Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance… 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose?

23I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith…”

Oh, how Paul loved the Lord! And, oh how Paul yearned to be with the Lord he loved! Yet, he subordinated his personal desire to his pastoral responsibility. He chose to use his days on earth so others might know Christ.

The Bible tells us that Christ is exalted in our body as long as we live (verse 20). It also tells us “for if we live, we live for the Lord” (Romans 14:8). Life for Paul, above all, meant more ministry, more time to teach and serve others, and more time for fruitful labor. May that be so for us! Life is more than planning for success, saving money, seeking personal goals, early retirement, living in leisure, and living it up. Let us live with Heaven and our Lord and Savior in our view!

Question:
Won’t you join with countless others and make this key verse to Philippians, verse 21, your creed… for life and death? Will you join with fellow believers who live and lived by these inspired words? Those martyrs who are among us and came before us, as with John the Baptist and Paul are part of the great cloud of witnesses who show us how to live and to die.

For more encouragement for your soul see my book, Loving God with all Your Mind.

From Jim’s Heart… Waiting on the Lord

It’s obvious, that Nehemiah was a passionate man. He could not have risen to such an exalted position unless he had been dedicated and passionate about his service to the king.

But now, with a new purpose in his heart, he wanted – and needed – to focus his passion on one thing, on a new and more worthy passion – on rebuilding Jerusalem, the city of God. He spent months and months planning what was needed, planning on what to say, planning on what to ask for. Yet, he chose to harness his emotions and wait and pray patiently for God’s timing. He didn’t try to break down any doors. He didn’t try to push himself into the king’s presence. He didn’t try to rush the process by manipulation. But once God opened the door and created the opportunity, Nehemiah was thoroughly prepared to unveil his perfected plans with genuine passion and forceful and powerful persuasion.

How are you at balancing your passion while waiting on God’s sovereign timing? How do you handle your great idea, dream, or noble cause with grace and patience, when you’ve done your homework, done your planning, and are eager to persuade others to get on board?

Follow Nehemiah’s example. Temper your passion with an absolute confidence in God’s ability to produce the desired outcome… in His time.

“Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14)

Proclaim His Coming

The savior of the world certainly did come to earth in an unexpected way. He came as a servant of God to sacrifice himself for us. It wasn’t immediately apparent to others that Jesus was the Messiah, the King, they were waiting for.

But, God had prepared a way. Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, was very popular among the people of Israel. Large crowds followed him, heard him preach, and submitted to his call for repentance from their sinful lifestyle. At the peak of John’s popularity, Jesus came to the Jordan River, where John was con­ducting his ministry. John recognized Him and humbly told his followers, “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent ahead of Him… He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28,30).

Yet, even John the Baptist wasn’t entirely enlightened about Jesus’ full mission. John the Baptist had introduced Jesus to the people as the One who would bring judgment with His coming (Matthew 3:11-12). Later, when John was put in prison, he heard that Jesus was heal­ing the sick, not bringing judgment as John had thought. He wondered was Jesus really the One?

Some of John’s disciples were sent to ask Jesus to confirm that He was the Messiah. In response, Jesus confirmed John’s message that He was the Messiah and sent them back with the confirmation of many miracles and fulfilled prophecies.

Rather than reprimanding John for his unbelief Jesus spoke of his cousin that he was “more than a prophet,” and that “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Mat­thew 11:9,11). Using Old Testament scriptures, Jesus shared God’s description of John: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.”

Jesus wanted the people to know how unique John was. Jesus was grateful that the Father had sent John as His herald, His messenger. Unless someone preceded the King to tell people of His arrival, how would they know that the King was coming?  Jesus’ words conveyed how thankful He was for John. And He wanted to ensure that John was never forgotten. Jesus also must have been considering His own future suffering when He encouraged John that his suffering and humble service were for the greater purpose of offering redemption and eternal life for all.

Question:
Are you proclaiming Jesus as the savior of the world to the people in your world? This is a wonderful week to thank God for the gift of His Son, our savior, and those saints who came before us proclaiming the Gospel. Take time consider who you could proclaim the gospel to or invite to church this Easter Sunday.

There are so many fascinating and inspirational characters and stories in the Bible. If you’d like to gain a complete understanding of how all of the books of the Bible come together as one grand story of salvation, you will find the Bare Bones Bible Handbook the perfect tool. This resource by Jim is a fast and friendly overview of every book of the Bible.

The Servant Shall Be Exalted

Isaiah is considered among the greatest of the Old Testament prophets because of his many predictions of the Messiah. For instance, you’ve probably heard this one during the Christmas season:

­For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

What most people don’t notice is that Isaiah uses the word servant several times to describe the nature of Jesus’ earthly ministry. For example, He wrote, “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!” and “Behold, My Servant… shall be exalted and extolled and be very high” (42:1; 52:13).

Jesus was the son of God, yet he was the ultimate servant. Perhaps my favorite verse about our Lord is Matthew 20:28: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” One thing that touches my heart about this truth is that it is written in the book of Matthew. And Matthew is the Gospel that also most exalts Jesus, as Messiah, the King! And yet we read that serving was a strong quality in King Jesus’ life—a priority and a way of life for Him.

The Bible tells us that Jesus, very early in His ministry, was “tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1-11). With each temptation, Jesus resisted Satan by quoting Scripture. Satan’s last enticement was a trade-off of power and glory if Jesus would fall down and worship Satan. Jesus replied to the devil, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (verse 10).

For most women, the role of serving others is a given. If you’re married, you have a husband to serve and care for. If you have children, well, add them to your list of those whom you serve. And don’t forget your parents and in-laws… and on and on your list goes!

It’s easy to get distracted in the course of helping others. But if you’re not careful, your service can become focused on people. Then one day, you realize you’ve forgotten about your call to serve God. Jesus spoke to this priority when He said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment” (22:37-38). Lov­ing and serving God first, is the most important thing a Christian can do.

As you consider the character quality of service, give praise to God that Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior of the World, came first as a lowly servant. Then open your heart and behold how the greatest man—and servant—who ever lived modeled what it means to serve and sacrifice.

Something to Consider:
As a believer in Christ, each and every day gives an opportunity to love the Lord with all your heart. But, especially in these weeks before Easter take time to read again story of His servant-hood and sacrifice for you in Luke 22, 23, 24.

Please read my book A Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus for more insight and encouragement in choosing to be a woman of God.

From Jim’s heart for men… Becoming a Man of Excellence

Vince Lom­bardi said, “The quality of your life will be determined by the depth of your com­mitment to excellence, no matter what your chosen field.” Excellence is a vital key to anyone who desires to live a life of impact. The secret work of excellence will eventually give outward evidence of a life of internal vitality.

The view of Mount Rainier from our home in Washington illustrates this well. Mount Rainier was created when hot molten lava was pushed from the depths beneath the earth and shot upward toward the sur­face. As I see it, the force of the underground pressure of our inner life pushes our character upward and onward until we too stand tall like a mighty mountain that all can see.

What others see will be the payoff for the time and care you take with your private life with God and your endeavors to become the best you can be. And that, of course, is going to take commitment to excellence.

I’m sure your desire is to do well and be that man of excellence and integrity – to be an all-out man of influence who makes a lasting impact. With that desire in mind, here are some ways you can improve on making and keeping your commitments to excellence.

Determine the areas of your life where greater commitment is needed – How you spend your time and money are the two greatest indica­tors of your focus and interest. So take a look at your calendar and your checkbook and determine what you’ve been committing your­self to. And, ask yourself if these are the right priorities for you as a Christian man. Maybe you need to readjust your priorities. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).

Determine whether you are willing to make a higher level of commit­ment – it costs to be a growing Christian man of influence. It costs to be a man of God. It costs to be the kind of husband the Bible calls you to be. It costs to be a good parent and to be the best at work. And it costs to serve in your church. Commitment to excellence always comes at a cost!

Determine what it will take to keep your commitments to excellence – ask God to help you follow through on the commitments you want to make for His glory and the good of others. And ask someone to hold you accountable to those commitments. Others are looking to you to keep your commitments for the long haul and to provide a model of excellence.

It can be a wonderful thing to be like Mount Rainier, a solid picture of character and consistency, based upon the diligence of excellence applied to the things that matter to God!

A Prayer for Excellence: “Lord, I want to thank You for Your commitment in secur­ing my salvation in Jesus Christ. I ask that You help me stay committed to the standards of Your Word. Please give me wisdom as I determine my priorities. I ask for Your Holy Spirit to strengthen my resolve to follow through on these priorities. May I accept the challenge of living a life committed to You and to excellence. From this day forward, as I seek to become a man of impact, may I be known as one who strives for excellence and the keeping of my commitments, regardless of the cost.”

Find the real keys to having a lasting impact for the Lord, in my book, The Man Who Makes a Difference.

From Jim’s heart…Your Secret Life Illustrated

Several years ago on a trip to Alaska, a commercial fisherman treated me to a trip around Petersburg Bay. What a thrill! We saw sea lions, seals, eagles, and even several whales. But what inspired the greatest awe in me were the icebergs. The captain of the boat, exercising great caution, steered well clear of them.

He explained that icebergs are so feared and respected because seven-eighths of the mass of an iceberg is be­low the surface. How far out did the ice extend under the water that could snag and sink a boat in minutes? The captain couldn’t know. All we could do was view its ominous presence with great respect… and from a great distance!

Friend, what’s true about icebergs is true about your life. Your secret life, your inner life, is much like the mass of an iceberg, which is largely below the surface, away from the public eye. Just as an iceberg’s strength and power comes largely from the unseen portion, it’s the secret part of your life that gives you the power to live a holy life and have an outward and awesome impact.

The “inner man” is what the Bible calls it. So, why is the qual­ity of your secret life so vital? Because this is where life’s battles are fought… and won. The inner life encompasses your mind – what you think and think on. It includes your will – what you decide you will and won’t do. And it centers on your heart. As the Bible says, “as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

What will godly desires, obedience, and a carefully nurtured secret life produce in you? What are the traits you will nurture in your inner life that will equip you to make a difference in the lives of others?

  • You will develop deep personal convictions. These con­victions will come from your desire to be obedient in all areas of your life to your Lord Jesus Christ.
  • You will subordinate all of your life under a set of God-centered goals – goals that embrace all the major areas of a person’s life.
  • You will establish and maintain a personal life of disci­pline – understanding that spiritual discipline and phys­ical discipline are bound as one.
  • You will make wiser decisions. Why? Because you are beginning to understand that the essence of the Christian life resides in the will.
  • You will accept the challenge of living a godly life – a life that will have an influence on others.
  • You will embrace the concept of serving others. There can be no impact without contact – contact that desires to give with no expectation.
  • You will understand that to have an influence on people you must establish the right priorities in your life… and people must be one of your top priorities.
  • You will sense that your life has purpose and destiny.

My encounter with those large icebergs in Alaska left me impressed and awed with their power. And, my friend, that’s the way it can be with your life and mine… if we settle once and for all the issue of the necessity of nur­turing our secret life according to God’s Word. Once we make that decision and act on it, the results of our inner change will emerge above the surface to leave a breathtaking and lasting impact on others.

Question: Is your secret life one of trust and obedience to God, bringing His confidence and power? Or is your secret life filled with fear, faithlessness, and fruitlessness?

The Pattern of Prayer

Jim’s recent post spoke of reflecting on the pattern of your life. One pattern that is consistently linked to a life of faith and successful living is the pattern of prayer.

I believe in prayer. I just have such a hard time doing it. Prayer isn’t as intimidating as we think, but like any­ thing worthwhile, it takes effort. There’s so much to be accomplished, and prayer is your source of help. James 5:16 reminds us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Let’s follow in the foot­steps of so many Bible heroes. When Solomon prayed, God made Him the wisest man ever. Elijah prayed, and God sent rain and fire. Daniel prayed, and God locked the lions’ jaws.

Take heart – the fervent prayer of the righteous accomplishes much! Make Ephesians 6:18 the goal: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance.”

A Prayer to Pray: “Lord, I believe in the effectiveness of prayer. I am grateful that You listen when I lift up my needs, dreams, and praises. Right now I commit myself to the practice of prayer with renewed conviction.”

I am excited to tell you about my new devotional book, A Woman’s Daily Walk with God. Pick up a copy for yourself or a friend for more daily inspiration for a woman’s busy life.

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George


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