September 2012

Peace in the Storm

When we first visited Kauai, Hawaii, where we now live, our daughter and son-in-law were stationed on the island. The area had recently experienced the ravages of Hurricane Iniki. As Jim and I drove around the island, we noticed not only the remaining evidence of destruction, but also the huge warning sirens on every beach and in every town. Having lived through a 6.7 earthquake in Southern California, we could well imagine something of the fear the islanders must have felt as those sirens wailed on that fateful day. But we could also imagine the peace they must have felt when those same devices finally sounded the all-clear signal.

Can you imagine having perfect peace when the sirens are signaling a storm or when the hurricane is actually roaring around you? That, my friend, is the kind of peace God makes available to you and me for the storms of life. Many people think of peace as the absence of problems, as the feeling that is experienced when all is well. But the peace of the Lord is not related to circumstances at all. In fact, God’s peace comes to us and endures…regardless of life’s circumstances.

Notice these truths about this peace that comes from God.

  • Our peace has nothing to do with daily challenges or crises, and everything to do with knowing that our times are in God’s hands.
  • Our peace has nothing to do with the conditions of our life, and everything to do with knowing that God is all-sufficient.
  • Our peace is an inward repose and serenity of soul that indicates a heart at rest — regardless of our cir­cumstances—as we place complete confidence in God minute by minute.

True spiritual peace comes with knowing that our heav­enly Father is continually with us — and indeed He is! God is omnipresent and therefore fully aware of every detail of our life — at every moment and in every place. He knows our needs—at all times and in every situation. As Psalm 139:7-12 teaches, we can never be anyplace — from the heights of heaven to the depths of the sea—where God is not present with us and available to us. Key to our peace, then, is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of God, no matter what the conflict.

Peace also comes with acknowledging that God will supply our every need as well as acknowledging His con­stant presence. The scriptures are filled with His promises that He is sufficient to face the circumstances challenge our peace.

Philippians 4:19 — “God [will] supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Do you realize what these promises mean to you and me? They mean that we will never have a real need, an imminent fear, or a challenging circumstance that God is not able to meet. What a reason for peace that truth is!

A Prayer to Pray: Lord, You lead me and you know what I need at every step along the way. Your peace is my refuge. I am blessed.

Life Management of the Heart

I’ve made a life-long study of time and life management. The reason this subject became so interesting to me is because the first 30 years of my life, and early stages of marriage, were characterized by miss-management, lack of direction, and frenzied frustration.

But, believe it or not this preliminary discussion will include nothing about day-planners or to-do lists. Surprised? No. It’s a matter of the heart that I discovered has the greatest impact on the way I prioritized the daily tasks in my life — contentment.

While not always, discontentment guides a lot of the activity and busyness in our lives. We are often working more, spending more, scheduling our kids for more, and pressuring others for more because of an insecurity or feeling of lack in our life. To better assess necessary versus unnecessary activities in our lives then we must look at what is driving our hearts.

The Apostle Paul, tells us in 1 Timothy 6:6 that “god­liness with contentment is great gain” and gives us these instructions on contentment from his own life:

“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” (Philippians 4:11)

Contentment is learned — Paul says he learned to be content! This gives us hope and encouragement. Contentment is not something that comes automatically with salvation. And con­tentment is not a fruit of the Spirit which we enjoy when we are walking in the Spirit. No, contentment is learned.

Contentment is not based on circum­stances, but on the person of Christ — You and I possess all the true riches of heaven, both here on earth, and held in trust for us in heaven to come. In God, precious one, you and I have all that we need both now and forever:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Contentment is required whether you have little or much — Do you think that having much would cause you to be content? Or do you ever erroneously think, “If I just had a tiny bit more, I’d be content?” Well, the answer is no. In fact, having much can breed a strong desire and lust to have even more. Our desire should be God’s provision of “just enough.”

“Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: …Give me neither poverty nor riches — but, give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

Contentment should guide our actions“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

These verses tell us where our priorities should lie. They also give us a guide to what our schedules should be full of—His every good work! In our busyness, we should be about the Lords business because we know He will provide for our every need rather than us scrambling to fill our every insecurity and discontent.

Better than the latest day-planner or iPhone app, God’s instruction for the heart is the best time-management advice ever!

Question: When you asses your priorities and desires do you find yourself operating out of contentment or discontent?

Lifted Toward the Light

One day my daughter Katherine received an unusual phone call from a business student at her college who was making a catalog of diamond rings. He had everything he needed to create his catalog — the dia­monds, a studio, a camera, the lights. But he needed one more thing — a pair of hands. A friend had told him, “Katherine George has the most beautiful hands I’ve ever seen.” Well, with that recommen­dation, Steve phoned Katherine.
When she arrived at the studio, Steve set up his camera and lights. Then he opened his suitcase and pulled out a piece of black velvet that was to serve as a backdrop for the diamonds. After turning on his studio lights, he removed the diamonds from his case, one by one for Katherine to model.

Instructing Katherine to slowly lift her hand up off the dark background toward the light as she modeled each ring, Steve explained, “When a diamond is placed against a dark background, the darkness makes it seem more bril­liant. And, when the diamond is lifted toward a light, all of its facets are revealed and allowed to sparkle. A diamond is pretty all by itself, but putting it against a black back­ground and lifting it up to the light enhances its radiance and glory.”

Oh, my friend! What a perfect picture of joy! True spir­itual joy shines brightest against the darkness of trials, tragedy, and testing! And the blacker the background, the greater the brilliance. Similarly, life’s dark struggles make Christian joy more intense and our heartfelt praise more glorious. As one writer has noted, God “setteth in pain the jewel of His joy.”

With that image in mind, I consider the sacrifice of praise a slogan that is helpful in cultivating the fruit of joy. Let me explain. When life is good, praise and thanksgiving flow auto­matically from my heart and lips. But when life turns black, praise and thanksgiving don’t flow quite so easily! Instead, I have to deliberately choose to follow God’s advice and “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Although I don’t feel like praising the Lord or thanking Him, I do what God says, and that effort makes my praise a sacrifice. When I’d rather bask in self-pity or stay stuck in my depression, choosing to look beyond my pain makes my praise to God sacrificial.

But, when I do lift such a sacrifice of praise to God out of the darkness of my trials, I find the Spirit’s joy magnified in my life — just as lifting a diamond to the light against a black background enhances its brilliance!

I need God’s joy — I admit it! And I (and probably you as well) most need His joy when things are black. We both need joy when we’re suffering and misunderstood, when we’re rejected and hated, and when we’re in emotional or physical pain. But our sacrifice of praise to God gives the Spirit room to touch us with His joy that overshadows these circumstances.

A Prayer to Pray: Lord, You provide a peace and joy that surpasses any happiness I receive from worldly pursuits and pleasures. It is lasting and true. I give you may sacrifice of praise today…and each day to follow. You are worthy, Lord, of such obedience.

A True Gentleman

During His years of ministry, Jesus saw firsthand the religious burdens the Jewish leaders were placing upon the people. Moved by their condition, Jesus offered to relieve the people of these bur­dens if they would come to Him. In contrast to the harsh demands of a religious works system, Jesus described Himself as gentle. He invited the downhearted masses to “come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Are you weary of shouldering the heavy burdens that have resulted from trying to do things on your own, or from following after the will and advice of others? Has your self-reliance yielded less-than-satisfying results? Are your bold, assertive methods of handling life and people backfiring? Whatever the burden, Jesus offers relief as you exchange your methods of managing life for the ease that comes from yoking yourself with Jesus.

When yoked together with Him, you will enjoy the peace of mind dependence on Him brings to your heart. When you make this exchange and join up with Jesus, you will find rest for your soul and from life’s burdens. To walk through life with Jesus and to love and serve Him is no burden, for He is gentle and His load is light.

Question: Is this the portrayal of God that you have in your mind. Do you need to ask the Lord and search in scripture for the evidence of His love, not judgment, toward you?

Gentleness – Great Worth in God’s Sight

While we live in a worldly culture that encourages self-absorption and prideful arrogance, we must be oh-so-careful not to give up the gentleness and meekness that God desires in us. The world views gentleness as a sign of weakness. But in reality, gentleness is like a two-sided coin.

One side conveys the idea of meekness, humility, or lowli­ness. It possesses patience, a wait-and-see attitude as it quietly and calmly looks at the facts of each situation in a cool-headed man­ner. Yet when we turn the coin over, we discover that gentleness requires the firmness of self-mastery, of strength under control. It demands steel-like self-discipline. Gentleness requires a reliance on God’s ways above all others. It is the powerful opposite of self-reliant arro­gance or brazen assertiveness.

Jesus spent three years gently and humbly ministering to the people in and around Palestine. In time the day finally arrived when He began moving toward Jerusalem and His death. As the King of kings and Lord of lords rode into Jerusalem, Matthew wrote, “Behold your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey” (Matthew 21:5). Christ appeared in Jerusalem, the city of Zion, not in His glory, but in meekness. Not to conquer, but to bring about salvation for sinners.

Gentleness and outward poverty were the identifying qualities of Christ and characterized His ministry. Jesus could have asserted Himself at any point. He could have demanded respect, allegiance, and royal treatment. Yet Jesus chose to make His entrance into Jerusalem in meekness.

As you take a further look at what the Bible says about gentleness, I think you’ll agree that when you exhibit gentleness, or humility, you reflect Jesus.

Gentleness is a key to abundant living“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

Gentleness can bring peace instead of strife“A soft [gentle] answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs. 15:1).

Gentleness seeks restoration“If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness” (Gala­tians 6:1).

Gentleness is a reflection of love“With all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, [bear] with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

Gentleness is confident yet respectful“Be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

Gentleness in a woman is precious to God“your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

No matter how those around you in society regard gentleness, it is an exquisite, powerful, and lofty Christ-like attitude. To reflect this precious-in-the-sight-of-God quality, first desire it with all your heart. Then allow every opportunity of mistreatment or misun­derstanding to reflect Christ’s tranquility. Fall on your face before God and wait for His action on your behalf. In prayer, seek His wisdom for your every move. Trust in the Lord to protect you and guide you, to empower you with His grace to respond to trials with Jesus’ gentleness.

A Prayer to Pray: God, you are the source of love. When I am too tired, too agitated, or too self-focused to temper my response, allow Your Word and gentleness toward me guide me back to the priority of love.

An Absence of Peace

It’s true confession time. I’m a worrywart from way back. As a woman who once worried big-time, I suffered from an ulcer, stomach pains, and a nervous rash on both my arms. Yes, I went to doctors, and yes, I took medication. There was improvement in the symptoms. But doctors and pills and salves couldn’t remedy my worry.

So I turned to God. I read my Bible and prayed for God’s help with my worry problem. Praise God, I’m now a recovering worrier, thanks to His guiding Spirit. Through it all, I have learned some shocking truths about worry.

The term worry encompasses many things:

To feel uneasy, troubled
To be overcome with a nagging concern
To be plagued with doubts
Worry is a response to something that is going on in a person’s life.
Worry is a condition produced when no solution is seen.
Worry is an action that has no legitimate basis.
Worry is a condition that affects everyone.
Worry is a reaction that produces no positive results.
Worry is the absence of peace.
Worry is a sin that denies the power of God.

In the biblical sense, worry means to have a sinful, willful distraction that pulls your trust away from God. (That’s troubling!) But, in a personal sense it means to have an anxiety that you need to unload to God. (That’s comforting.)

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul tells believers:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The original Greek word used here for “anxious” or worry describes being pulled in different directions. The way the apostle Paul used this phrase, “Be anxious for nothing” meant to stop a practice that had been going on habitually. Evidently his readers were worrying on a routine basis. This adds to our definitions above that worry is a bad habit that can be broken. It’s not an emotion; it’s not uncontrollable. Another conclusion to realize that when you and I worry, we are dismissing God’s presence in our life.

But, Paul gives us 5 components for the antidote to worry:

“Prayer” — speaks of adoration addressed to God as an act of worship and devotion.
“Supplication” — this comes from a word that means to humbly ask for one’s needs.
“Thanksgiving” — this refers to expressing appreciation and gratitude.
“Requests” — this emphasizes specific requests versus asking in generalities.

And finally the most important component:

“The Recipient” – God is the recipient of our prayers and the basis of our hope in all circumstances. The Lord is always present at your side. His Son’s death has provided for your sins, and you are now His child. God is watching over you, and He will never leave you. And He is always working for your best (Romans 8:28). So we have no excuses to worry in the face of these totally trustworthy promises!

We can exhale now. Peace is ours. As you are faithful to pray and cast your cares upon Jesus, He provides assuring peace. His peace is powerful, like a sentinel who stands guard and patrols in front of your heart’s door, keeping worry out. This peace does not mean the absence of trials in your life. But it does mean experiencing a quiet confidence in your spirit regardless of whatever difficult circumstances, people, or events you are facing.

Question: What other sources do you sometimes look to for peace rather than to God? Why is God a better recipient of our requests for peace than anyone or anything else?

From Jim’s heart for men…Accept the Challenge to Live Boldly

I’m not much of a student of the laws of physics, but it doesn’t take much of a student to understand that where there is no resistance, there is no pressure. And that same law could apply to our spiritual lives as well — where there is no resistance to sin (that is, when we disobey), there is no challenge to obedience. There are no challenges…

…when you allow fear to immobilize you
…when you allow peer pressure to compromise you
…when you allow your culture to conform you
…when you allow ignorance to stupefy you
…when you allow apathy to pacify you.

But, I think better of you. I believe you are ready to accept the challenges that come with obedience. I believe you want your life to have a bold impact for God…and that you want to become a man of godly influence. With God’s help (and that’s what it will take) you are ready to be used in powerful ways by God.

Here then are a few suggestions that will definitely help you develop a life of influence and lasting impact. And forgive me if I repeat myself, but you and I can never be reminded enough of these simple steps!

Step 1: Realize that God’s Word is God’s Word to you. As an excuse for disobedience, some people say, “If God would speak to me in a vision like He did to Paul and Ananias, or like He did with Moses, then I would obey.” But friend, God has revealed Himself to us! God has revealed Himself to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in His Word, the Bible. Let’s stop making excuses and start obeying God’s Word.

Step 2: Realize what God’s commands are and obey them.
What kind of commands? Commands like…
“Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians 5:25).
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1).
“Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully” (Ephesians 4:25).
“Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Step 3: Constantly seek God’s strength to follow through on His commands. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10 nasb). What God expects you to do, He also enables you to do. The strength comes from Him. You just need a willing heart.

Step 4: Repent when you have disobeyed God’s standards. God is not asking you to be perfect, but He is asking you to progress and grow in maturity. God uses pure vessels. So…

…keep a clean slate with God,
…acknowledge your sin,
…accept the forgiveness God offers, and
…move on boldly for God.

Step 5: Rejoice in even the smallest victories. No war is ever won in one battle. And neither is your war against the challenge to obedience. Spiritual growth happens one step at a time, one victory at a time. So thank God even for the smallest of victories in Jesus Christ (Romans 7:24).

Your outcome in life doesn’t depend on your income, but on how you overcome.

As I’ve said before, it all comes down to this: An influential life for God is dependent on an obedient life to God.

Question: What challenge are you ready to embrace this week knowing that God enables you to overcome?

1,440 Minutes a Day

Have you thought much about time? The 24 hours, the 1,440 minutes of your each and every day? During the years of youth, didn’t it seemed that time couldn’t go fast enough for the next milestone you were anticipating? But, I am sure you, like me, now find that time has accelerated to warp speed. I feel like it’s whizzing by so fast that I’m breathless and wrung out just trying to hold on to all that’s taking place around me.

Now, obviously all this talk of time slowing down or speeding up is only perception. There are principles regarding the reality of time that I’ve come to realize over the years:

  • Time is measured out to each person each day in the same amount.
  • Time can never be stored for future use.
  • Time happens only once and then is gone forever.
  • Time is something that is always in short supply.
  • Time, when managed and focused properly, produces significant results.
  • Time is a commodity that can either be redeemed or squandered.

Time is a perishable commodity. And with this commodity, you have only two choices. You can let it slip through your fingers, wasting it. Or there is the Bible’s option: You can redeem it. This idea of redeeming time is found in Ephesians 5:15-16: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Friend, in these few verses we are exposed to the ultimate wisdom needed to use our time for the greatest purpose and impact:

Guard your walk — Paul warns believers to “see then that you walk circumspectly” (verse 15). The word “circumspectly” is not familiar to most vocabularies, and it basically means being careful, calculated, or, as the verse says, “wise.” The secret of making the most of each day is to train yourself to have foresight about what’s ahead or around the next corner. This kind of preparation will help steer your choices throughout your day and enable you to use your time for profitable results.

Change your attitude — Paul tells us to think and act “not as fools.” A foolish woman takes off in all directions at once. She has no plan. She hasn’t thought about the day, about how God wants her to live out His will. So, she doesn’t make the most of her time. She squanders it, kills it, and has little of value to show for her day. It’s a good idea to pray each morning, “Lord, I don’t want to be a fool today. Help me to remember how important my time is today.”

Know the reason — God even supplies the reason for redeeming your time. He says it’s necessary to do this because “the days are evil.” You are to walk wisely and with care because of the evil days we live in. Many are living in sin, and the time is short. So God wants you to make full use of your time to serve as many as possible and to warn others.

When you misuse time through lost opportunities, that time can never be regained; those golden minutes with their golden opportunities are gone forever. God is cautioning you to pray, “Oh, Lord! Please help me to use my time wisely — just for today.” Then pray this again every day!

Question: Don’t forget that some activities feel like time wasters, but are actually valuable service to you family and others. But, what other time-wasters do you need to seek God’s help in removing from your day?

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?

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George

Made with ♥ by Guild & MCP