From Our Hearts to Yours

The First Choice of the Day

Are you looking for help on how to make every day a great day? Well, here is a “can’t miss first choice” — getting up! Maybe you’re thinking, What’s the big deal about that? Everyone eventually wakes up. And everyone gets up sooner or later in the day.

Yet, it’s hard, isn’t it? Waking up with anticipating It is something I struggle with every morning. Do you? Well, I find there are a few things that increase my ability to get up and attempting to shine.

Plan Your Priorities – There is nothing more practical than a prioritized plan. Prior to putting my head on my pillow, I make a plan for a fresh, new, successful day — a plan that will work only if I get up when I planned to get up. It helps me recall, somewhere in the dullness of waking that my plan was made because of thought through priorities, a passionate desire for things I think are significant, and a dream or two of some accomplishments. Then I have a motive. There is nothing more powerful than a motive.

Identify the Need – It’s easy to forget the urgency of the needs of the day when you are still semi-conscious. But, reflect on the real needs that might not be met if you aren’t around to meet them. You are important! Others need and are depending on you…for food to fuel their day, for transportation, for encouragement, for enhanced productivity, for vital communication…On and on goes the list of crucial needs that I meet to take care of myself, my work, and others. There’s nothing more persuasive than a need.

And finally, it’s a matter of will — Willpower is revealed every time you make a conscious choice. As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Both Titus 2:4 and Galatians 5:23 speak of the freedom and blessings that come from exercising self-control. There’s nothing more productive than willpower.

Whew! All of this…just to get out of bed in the morning. But this one first and primary daily right choice requires a plan, a motive or dream or desire, a purpose, a need, a schedule, and loads of will. Then, once you’re up, you begin to live out one of my favorite sayings, “Life begins when you get moving.”

Question: What most motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

The Generosity in Your Heart

Like all of the character traits Jesus embodied, generosity is a matter of the heart. The Pharisees, a sect of religious leaders in Jesus’ day, made a great show of giv­ing to the needy, both in the synagogues and on the streets. They thought this proved how righteous and spiritual they were.

However, Jesus taught just the opposite regarding generosity. He said giving should be done in secret. He instructed us to “take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.” Instead, you are to not even “let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Why? “That…your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:1,2-4).

Giving God’s way demonstrates true righteousness before God, not in front of others, And the result? God in turn rewards the giver. In other words, you cannot look for your blessings and rewards from both man and God.

Giving is a matter between you and God and not you and another person or cause, no matter how impor­tant it is. It’s a matter of the heart. Giving is to be an act of worship. Just as you prepare yourself for wor­ship and ministry, you are to prepare yourself for acts of generosity (2 Corinthians 9:7). Where’s your heart? A guiding truth teaches that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

We know generosity is not necessarily an indicator of a relationship with Jesus. There are many charitable people in the world who are not Christians. But those who have a heart for Jesus and sincerely desire to follow Him are generous — like Him! He instructed us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteous­ness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Unfortunately we tend to get this backward. We seek “things” first and add Jesus on as an afterthought.

If you’re feeling the need for a priority makeover, a look at your checkbook or your monthly credit card statement will shout out what you are seeking — things, or the things of God. Take a peek. It’s a lit­tle like taking your temperature. See what it reveals about the level of your commitment to possessions versus the things Jesus values. What does it disclose about your heart-attitude toward money and possessions and generosity?

We also need to asses the generosity of our time and attitudes. Are we available and free with our time for others’ concerns. Do we secretly avoid or seek to help those in need?

Jesus did not make it a secret that a life of faith in Him will look differently than the world. But, let make sure that the secret of your heart is genuine generosity that reflects the genuine goodness of God.

Question: What surprise did you find when you first took the temperature of your generosity by observing your checkbook? Did something stand out in particular that you wish to remedy?

The Smartest Move is to Stop

Picture this. You are merrily going through your day. So far, so good. For a patch of time, it’s been smooth waters. Maybe you’re thinking, Wow, look at me go! See me sail! There’s not even been a speed bump. Life is sweet!

And then…everything goes sideways. The phone rings. The mail arrives. An accident occurs. Your boss reprimands you. The kids get home from school whining. Or your husband home from work complaining. And everything — all that peace and order and well-being and control that had you soaring through your perfect day — falls apart. It’s like out of nowhere someone shot a torpedo into your beautiful little boat.

What is the general first response most people make when something like this occurs? In a word, reaction. Your natural tendency is to strike back, talk back, react, blow up, defend yourself, fall apart, cry, throw your hands in the air, or just give up. Well, right here, at this very juncture, your first choice has got to be to stop. I think of it as coming to a screeeeeching halt! Just put the brakes on—on your emotions, on your mouth, on your actions. Just stop! And might I say, stop quickly!

Why? Because the surest way to make a wrong choice is to rush before reasoning. To fail to stop and think before acting. To make a quick or snap or emotional decision without making sure you know the right way to handle a situation, or before you know the right decision to make. You can see it right in your Bible: “He sins who hastens with his feet” (Proverbs 19:2). You can also read that in contrast “the heart of the righteous studies how to answer” (Proverbs 15:28).

Poor decisions leading to failure can happen oh so quickly! It’s like lightning. One minute all is well, and the next brings the crash and the devastation. All you have to do is fail to stop before you do anything, fail to stop before you act, fail to stop before you move, fail to stop before you speak. Once again, just stop.

Sure, there are some decisions that have to be made instantaneously. But even if your house is on fire, or there’s a terrible accident or medical emergency, or the baby’s on the way now, you can still stop even for a millisecond and take a breath, and blitz through some options, and shoot up a “Help, Lord!” That one or two split-second stop can help you form a plan on the go while zooming onward to handle a crisis.

So, the first step toward any good decision begins the same. Stop…then you can begin to look and listen. Then you can look for help. Then you can look for solutions. Then you can look for answers. And then you can listen to the wise counsel of others, and most of all, to the still, small voice of God guiding and instructing you about how to handle your problem His way – the wise, the best, and the right way.

Question: I have friend who tells herself to “stop, drop, and pray” before reacting. What phrase or verse from the bible can you use to remind yourself to stop, and think before acting?

Joy is Mine

John 3:29 – …joy is mine, and it is now complete.

One year on a beautiful autumn Sunday, Jim and I drove to from our California home to Sequoia National Park to see the fall leaves. Driving to and through the park, we enjoyed the spectacular colors and God’s striking handi­work. We also found a rustic stone lodge perched on the edge of a stream. As we crossed over a little bridge, we stopped and looked at the brook that flowed beneath it and sounded so pleasant and refreshing. It sounded like a lovely place to just jump in and splash around.

But, peering over the rail, we were surprised to discover the cause of the water’s sweet sound. We saw piles of large, jagged rocks that were impeding the water’s surface, even redirecting its path. This was certainly not the place for wading. It was even quite perilous. Nevertheless, the little brook gave forth utterly joyful sounds! Both Jim and I marveled that some­thing so traumatic could cause something so lovely!

Yet isn’t this stream a picture of what real life is like— or at least of what the Christian life should be like? Our lives are filled with disappointments, crises, tragedies, heart­aches, affliction, and struggles—just as Jesus said (John 16:33)! But the good news is, that as you and I encounter disquieting rocks that impede our progress, disturb our tranquility, break the surface, and redirect our path, God can give us the joy we need to produce sounds of praise to Him.

Beloved, Jesus desired that our joy might be full (John 16:24), but affliction, loss, stress, and pain can too easily rob us of any sense of joy. But, when we turn our gaze upon God in the midst of our suffering, we suddenly find the power we need to praise Him despite the pain and to give thanks for His goodness…even when things are not so good. Thanks to the working of His Spirit in us, you and I can experience joy that transcends circumstances and trans­forms something traumatic into something truly lovely.

A Prayer to Pray: Jesus help me remember that Your joy is my joy and nothing in this world can take that away. Guide me through my circumstances and challenges so that my joy might be complete, rather than diminished.

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George

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