May 2013

Choosing Friends Wisely

If you are a recent high-school graduate (or the parent of one) this week’s devotions are particularly for you. God, bless you in this new phase of life!

Choosing Friends Wisely

You may be one of those guys who’s never met a stranger. Maybe you can talk to just about anyone and make friends eas­ily. Or maybe you have a longtime childhood friend and the two of you are inseparable. But for a lot of guys it’s not easy to find a good friend. So whether you have many friends or a few, I’m sure you will agree that friendship is a two-way street. If you want a good friend, you have to be a good friend.

In the Bible, God gives guidelines on how to be a good friend:

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).

“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but who­ever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Prov­erbs 17:9).

“Do not forsake your friend” (Proverbs 27:10).

How can you choose friends that last? As I said earlier, devel­oping the right friendships starts with you—you need to be the right kind of friend. Here are some choices you’ll need to make if you want to be a top-notch friend.

1. Choose to Be Yourself

Don’t try to impress others by saying and doing things you think will make them like you. And this goes double if your ac­tions would be contrary to God’s Word in any way. Remember, you are looking for a friend who isn’t phony—who isn’t pretend­ing to be one person when he’s really someone else. So choose to be what God wants you to be. You will be genuine. And when you are comfortable with who you are, then others will also feel comfortable when they’re around you. They might not share your beliefs, but they will respect you for what you stand for.

2. Choose to Be Honest

Trust is essential in any relationship. If you want to have friends who are honest with you, then (you guessed it) you must be honest with them, even if it means having a difficult conversation. Honesty is one of the benefits of a true friendship. The Bible puts it this way: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted… and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel” (Proverbs 27:6, 9).

3. Choose to Be Loyal

Have you ever heard of a fair-weather friend? I’m sure you know exactly what this means. It’s a so-called friend who bails as soon as something goes wrong. They’re great friends as long as they are not challenged in any way. Usually the friendship is one-way. Loyalty is essential in any friendship. Therefore, you must become a loyal friend yourself. In the Bible, David and Jona­than’s friendship was characterized by loyalty even in the midst of severe adversity (1 Samuel 20:14-18).

As you read through these verses, think about your friendships and determine whether you are trying to be the kind of friend God describes. How genuine are you with your friends? How honest are you? How loyal are you? Are you “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) and don’t you want your friends to be the same!

A Young Man’s Guide to Making Right Choices by Jim George is the perfect gift for the graduate in your life. Young ladies will enjoy A Young Woman’s Guide to Making Right Choices by Elizabeth George.

God Is Available to You 24/7

If you are a recent high-school graduate (or the parent of one) this week’s devotions are particularly for you. God, bless you in this new phase of life!

God Is Available to You 24/7

We hear the sounds of cell phones ringing every day, don’t we? Everyone seems to have a cell, and there are very few places where you can’t receive a signal. In many ways prayer is like a cell phone. You can pray anytime you want, anywhere you want, for as long as you want. But unlike a cell, prayer has no fees. You also never have to scroll through a directory to find God’s number. You have a direct line to the God of the universe 24/7—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How’s that for technology? Divine tech­nology, that is!

Prayer is a spiritual activity, and it takes a heart decision and requires effort. So if you’re not praying—or not praying very much—run through this checklist:

Check your desire. Prayer will never become a wonderful habit or spiritual discipline if the main ingredient—desire—is missing. The verses below should help strengthen your desire. But, if there there’s something that’s quenching your desire or causing a barrier between you and God bow your heart and admit it to God. Ask Him to help you do whatever it takes to deal with the obstacles that stand between you and a loving, open relationship with Him.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know,” [says the Lord] (Jeremiah 33:3).

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with con­fidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God… and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray” (James 5:13).

Check your lifestyle. What… or who… is influencing you? Are you being influenced positively for the things of God? If not, it’s out! Nothing and no one is important enough to endanger your relationship with God and your willingness to talk to Him in prayer.

Check your schedule. Every action takes planning. And oftentimes our prayer time gets pushed to the end of our priority list. Or, it turns into nap-time! Sleep experts report that 85 percent of teens are chronically sleep-deprived. So, check your schedule and create a realistic “to do” list for the each day. Set out your Bible and prayer notebook in a place where you will have your quiet time the next day. And then go to bed—early—so you will be best prepared for your day and with your time with your heavenly Father.

There’s certainly a lot going on in the life of any young person. So, remember, something is better than nothing. Any prayer is better than no prayer. Some prayer is better than none. Start with a choice to pray a few minutes each morning. Graduate little by little to more time spent in prayer, and you will be on the path to making right choices in your life.

Give a copy to a graduate in your life of A Young Woman Who Reflects the Heart of Jesus or A Young Man After God’s Own Heart to help them choose for themselves a life of faith and maturity. Younger students will enjoy A Young Woman’s Guide to Making Right Choices and A Young Man’s Guide to Making Right Choices.

Be Purposeful in Every Season

The Memorial Day weekend often heralds the beginning of summer. And most importantly to students, it begins the single-digit countdown to – summer vacation!  Oftentimes, summer schedules are hectic with family members shooting like fire-works in every direction for sports, camps, social activities, or college preparation. But, don’t let your summer get away from you!

Whether you stay at home or plan a vacation, set aside a special time for your family to slow down, reflect, and connect. Give everyone plenty of notice, especially if teens are involved. If you’re not a parent, get friends together. When the time comes around, prepare a festive meal, cook-out, go out to dinner, or order in!

Later, gather around and have everyone share what they’ve done in the past three months that was fun and meaningful. Share what plans they have for the next three months.  Encourage each person to share a goal or a dream… and be supportive. Dreams aren’t always based on current reality.

Talk about the childhood antics of the kids, how you grew up and spent your summers. Share your faith experience… and let others share theirs. End your time together by drawing people’s names out of a hat and committing to doing two nice things for that person this summer.

Time keeps on ticking, and seasons seem to go by in an instant! Be purposeful to pause and develop the relationships that will last a lifetime!

A Prayer to Pray:

Lord, You’ve given me a wonderful family and awesome friends. I delight in being with these people You’ve given me to cherish…and I especially delight in You. Amen.

To discover more insights into experiencing the peace and purpose of a committed and enduring faith, pick up a copy of my One-Minute Inspirations for Women.

God Wants You… to Pray!

The Memorial Day holiday this year truly brings out the emotion and thankfulness that I feel for those who have served and are currently serving in our armed forces. My husband Jim served as an Army Reservist for 30 years and one of my sons-in-law is a career Navy nuclear submariner. Therefore, I have a peek into the world of what it means to be a soldier.

I also know that the men and women who serve you and me in this way have each answered a “call” to serve, protect, and defend their country. With a lot at stake and with tremendous sacrifices, they have raised a hand, signed on, stepped across a line, all in order to fight for us and for our country.

Well, my dear sister-in-Christ, God is asking you to answer His call and join His army of prayer “warriors.” No, He’s not asking us to give our phys­ical lives… but He is asking us to give our spiritual lives in the service of prayer in order to fight for and serve, protect, and defend our families, friends, churches, nations, and His people on the battle line of prayer.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God… and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:10-18).”

God is asking us to answer His call to pray. He is asking us to make a deep, serious, spiritual commitment to pray, to raise our hand, to sign on, to step across a line, to fight for Him and His causes… through prayer.

God speaks in His Word of your “sacrifice” of “service” (Romans 12:1). And just as a soldier does not allow anything to hinder his or her commitment to serve, neither can you. That means that world­liness, busyness, or laziness must all be dealt with. These deterrents to prayer must not be allowed to come between you and your “service” of prayer to God and for your loved ones and others.

Prayer is a high calling, for sure. And remem­ber, our greatest service will come with the great­est sacrifice. But oh, what a high calling it is! Now, what will your answer to God’s call to prayer be?

A Question to Consider: What is something that you can sacrifice this week in order to commit a special time of prayer? Perhaps, you can forgo an hour of extra sleep in the morning, a favorite television show, or the musical entertainment you usually listen to while commuting or exercising. Use this redeemed time as a consecrated time of prayer for those in our military and “for all the Lord’s people.”

If you want to learn more about prayer, you will find a helpful guide in my book, The Heart of a Woman Who Prays.

Recognizing God’s Purpose for You – Part 2

“Reaching forward to those things which are ahead…” Philippians 3:13

As Paul states in Philippians 3:13, purpose is paramount! I know I can’t do anything, including getting out of bed on time(!), without having a sense of God’s purpose for my life. Knowing my purpose— knowing that I am here to give my life in service to God and His people—is a driving motivator that keeps me keeping on in this race toward Christ-likeness called life.

I personally discovered God’s purpose for me—His call on my life—in a very special way when a woman handed me a small, flat package wrapped in muted pastels. The card read, “Thank you for your class on prayer,” and the package contained a leather-bound, silver-edged book that soon broadened my prayer life.

Unfortunately that tiny prayer volume is now out of print, but here’s what changed my life and polished up my purpose. Four questions were posed about our identity in Christ. Puzzled, I paused long enough to scratch my head and then went on. But the questions haunted me until one day I reluctantly tackled the questions—

Who am I?
Where did I come from?
Why am I here?
Where am I going?

The beautiful little book changed my prayers and my prayer life. But, dear friend, answering these four questions changed my life! Before I answered them, I was greatly influenced by other people’s ideas about what I should do with my life and what my Christian faith should look like.

As “movement” follower and a “program” participant, I allowed other people to determine my purpose. But, praise God, these four questions helped me recognize the pur­pose of my life and gave me life goals to focus on. Today I know…

Who I am—I am a Christian woman, wife, mother, and grandmother;
Where I came from—I was “in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Ephe­sians 1:4);
Why I am here—I am here to give my life in service to God, my family, and His people;
Where I am going—by God’s amazing grace and love, I am going to heaven!

Please take a few minutes to answer these four ques­tions for yourself. Your answers won’t be identical to mine. But they will help you grasp God’s great purpose for your life. They will give you a sense of direction as you set your goals and plan your activities.

You may be awed like I was by the realization that God has a specific purpose for you. For me, that realization has given me a better sense of mission (I am definitely more focused as a result of glimpsing God’s purpose for my life), a clearer understanding of my job assignment (I am to spend myself and be spent in service to Christ and His people), and an urgency as I go about my tasks (knowing that my time on earth is limited, I am frightfully aware of time wasted and time passing). I want to use my time and energy to achieve God’s purposes and, along the way, find rest and refreshment in Him. After all, it is He who ulti­mately makes things happen for the kingdom. I am just thankful that He has chosen to use me in the process!

A Prayer to Pray:
Lord, present to me a vision for what I am accomplishing as your child and servant. Pare away the unnecessary pursuits so that I can discern what is most important in Your eyes.

For more encouragement in answering these questions for yourself, read Loving God with All Your Mind.

Recognizing God’s Purpose for You – Part 1

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Do you ever have what I call doubtful days—days when the dull routine of duty weighs you down? Or days when the curve balls of surprise, disappointment, and tragedy leave you feeling like you’re striking out?

I remember when my life had no purpose. As an average woman with an average marriage, two average preschool daughters, and an average house, I shook my fist at the kitchen ceiling one average and desperate day and cried, “There has to be more to life than this!” My lack of purpose caused me to wonder, to doubt, and to rage.

But, praise God, He used my search for pur­pose to help me recognize that I needed Jesus Christ! I became a Christian several months later. And suddenly I saw the purpose of everything in my life because I saw that God had a purpose for me!

Knowing that God has a purpose for my life and for my salvation brings me great joy and hope. You see, now that I know there is a use and a reason for my life… and days… and minutes, I also know I can no longer live my life according to my own desires, plans, dreams, or whims. I am to live totally for God’s purposes. Therefore, I am not to make decisions based on pleasing people. No, I must please God! You see, I exist to serve Him and His people according to the gifts He has given me and in the situations where He places me.

One evening while looking at pictures of English garden mazes in a coffee-table book at a friend’s home I thought, “Why, this is the way life is!” These intriguing puzzles, created by six- or seven-foot hedges, were used initially to provide people with some entertaining exercise after their meals. Similarly, we follow along the maze of life, randomly making turns and choosing our paths.

Then we come to know Christ as our Lord and Savior. From that point on, we have purpose—to serve God. We’re still traversing the maze of life, but now we have direction. God keeps us moving forward as we pray and dedicate our lives to serving Him, becoming more Christ like, and spreading the Gospel.

While we’re in the maze, we never know who or what we’ll encounter. Why, we don’t even know exactly where we’re going! But we do know that we are to keep moving. And as we continue on according to God’s will and His leading, He fulfills His purpose for us. God doesn’t ask us to understand the twists and turns, the why’s and the how’s of life. He asks only that we trust that He is working His pur­pose in us as we live out our purpose of serving Him.

And now we’re right back to the incredible promise of Romans 8:28! We know God has a purpose for us. That’s yet another sparkling reason why we can have joy and hope in Him each day…no matter what happens in that day. And knowing that God has a purpose for us makes every day significant.

A Prayer to Pray:
Jesus, lead me through this maze of life. I want to leap with faith. Jump with Your joy. And with every surprise, twist, and turn I want to believe in Your supernatural guidance.

For more encouragement for finding your purpose, read Loving God with All Your Mind.

Giving God Our Love

The promise of Romans 8:28 serves as a lens through which you (and I) can have a godly perspective on your life, from birth to death:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

Because of the words in this scripture, you can know that your good God is working the miracle of using the bad—everything, from the most minor of incidents to the greatest of tragedies—for good. Counting on the fact that the end of all things will be good gives us hope. It also helps us to be faith oriented—not feeling oriented—about our present pain.

Feel­ings distort our vision. And today’s obstacles often prevent a hopeful and faith-filled view of the end. But by responding to God’s love, by loving Him with all your mind and trusting in Him, you will be blessed with hope in His promise that He works in everything to bring about what is good.

But, the words “to those who love God” are important because the promise of Romans 8:28 is not for everybody. It can be claimed only by those who love God. How do we show God our love for Him? Christ answered this question in just seven words: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Another ver­sion of the Bible succinctly says, “If you love me, obey me.”

It’s obvious that our love for God is measured by our obedience. So take a few minutes—now and regularly—to look at your life and evaluate how closely you are fol­lowing God. When I do this, I take a pen and paper and run a check of the elements of my entire life. I ask myself, “Is there anything wrong in my relationship with God?” and I write down my answer.

I then ask the same question regarding my husband, my children, my parents, my in-laws, my siblings, my home, my spiritual and personal growth, my areas of service to the Lord, and my relation­ships with other people. I write down whatever comes to my mind and then have a time of prayer. I spend time asking God’s forgiveness for where I have been disobe­dient, unloving, or unfaithful. As 1 John 1:9 tells us, when­ever we confess our sins, our good God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrigh­teousness.”

A Challenge for Today:
You might want to take some time each day to mentally examine the priority areas of your life. Evaluate your relationship with God and with your family members, how things are at home, your spiritual growth, the challenges you face as you serve God, the demands of the workplace, and your involvement with people. Look for areas where you have not obeyed God and His Word. Then purpose to give God greater devotion and obedience… to love Him.

For more encouragement for you soul, read Loving God with All Your Mind.

I’m Late, I’m Late…

Anything and everything can be seen as an inconve­nience if you want it to be. You can justify and ratio­nalize all day long about why you don’t have time for people. There will always be reasons, and some of them good ones, why others shouldn’t expect your time and assistance.

But be careful not to put up bar­riers between you and those you might be able to help. Be flexible. Who knows? Maybe your Plan A might become God’s better Plan B as you help some­one with a need. To become more like Jesus, pur­pose and pray to be approachable, available, and gracious like He was… and still is to you today and every day.

Find further study of God’s priorities for women in my book, A Woman’s Guide to Making Right Choices.

From Jim’s Heart… Praying for Others

Paul knew the importance of strategic prayer in his own life and the lives of other. And he knew what to pray for. His prayers focused on spiritual issues. He knew that if those he was praying for were spiritu­ally mature, they could handle anything. We, however, sometimes have it backward. We pray about physical matters, not realizing that the real battles are fought in the spiritual realm, not the physical. That’s why Paul stated that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). That’s also why Paul urged believers to take up the full spiritual armor of God (verse 13).

How can your prayers impact the lives of others? First, realize you may be the only one praying for a specific person. If this is the case, then your prayers to God for that individual become extremely important.

Also realize that your impact is limited only by the length of your prayer list. Just think about how many people are drawn into the plan of God as you include them in your prayers. Your life can touch and impact countless other lives when you pray. You can do what Paul did, according to Colossians 1:9-12:

  • Ask God to help others know what He wants them to do with their lives (verse 9).
  • Ask God to give others a desire for a deeper spiritual un­derstanding (verse 9)
  • Ask God to help others live life in a way that pleases Him (verse 10).
  • Ask God to help others understand their spiritual gifts and exhibit the fruit of ministry (verse 10). Ask God to give others strength to endure life’s trials (verse 11).
  • Ask God to give others patience when dealing with trying people (verse 11).
  • Ask God to fill others with joyful thanks as they live for Him (verse 12).

Elsewhere in the New Testament we see other ways Paul prayed for people and had an influence on them:

  • He prayed for their purity (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
  • He prayed for righteous living that would produce fruit that would glorify God (Philippians 1:11).
  • He prayed that they would experience the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). He prayed that they would be united in spirit with one an­other (Romans 15:5).

When we pray for others, we should ask God to help them grow spiritually mature. Without spiritual maturity, people will crumble at the first signs of adversity. As we just noted, Paul prayed for maturity for his friends at Colossae (1:9-12).

As we pray for the maturity of others, as Paul did, we should also pray for our own strength and power. What does Paul say this power will enable us to do? It’s not the kind of power that enables you to do exceptional feats of strength. Its spiritual power that enables you to have “great endurance and patience… joyfully giving thanks to the Fa­ther” (verse 11). Your influence can’t help but be felt if you have…

  • the endurance to cope with difficult circumstances.
  • the patience to live and function around difficult people.
  • the joy to respond to all forms of trials with thankfulness.

Wow—now that’s spiritual maturity!

Question to Consider:
Do you pray more often for the physical and circumstantial comforts of others (and yourself!) or for the spiritual growth and maturity that God desires?

For more insight into navigating the choices before you as a man, read my book, The Man Who Makes a Difference.

“Better Still the Work Will Thrive…”

Moms ask me regularly if such-and-such age is too soon to begin telling little ones about Jesus. And my answer (as you know by now!) is always the same—it’s never too early to start. In fact, may your children never remember a day when you didn’t talk to them about Jesus, your Best Friend and Savior!

Consider, too, these survey results reported by Elizabeth Eliot in her book, The Shaping of a Christian Family: “People are much more likely to accept Christ as their Savior when they are young. Absorption of biblical information and principles typically peaks during the preteen years… Habits related to the practice of one’s faith develop when one is young and change surprisingly little over time.”

Your goal, then, as a Christian mom is to teach and teach and teach your children about Jesus. To share and share and share with them about Him! To talk and talk and talk about the Savior. English preacher and evangelist C.H. Spurgeon rhymed it this way:

Ere a child has reached to seven
Teach him all the way to heaven;
Better still the work will thrive
If he learns before he’s five.

Is your child older than five? Or seven? Or the preteens? Don’t despair! Instead check your heart (and emotions!) and do the following:

Remember—salvation is God’s job, His work in your older child’s heart.

Pray—fervently for your older son or daughter and faithfully to “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). And pray for him or her until you die. Aim the arrows of your prayers for any wayward or lagging children heavenward until your last dying breath. It’s never too late to pray! And it’s never too late for the miracle of salvation!

Talk—to your teens and young adults about Christ. Point the issues in their lives back to Jesus—His teachings, His life, His wisdom, and His ability to help…and to save. Even if they say, “Oh, mom, there you go again!” go right ahead and talk about Jesus. They act like they couldn’t care less but, believe me, it’s going in! And they are having to process it. I ask you, if they are not going to hear it from you, the one who lives with them and loves them most, then who? You, dear faithful mom, are the one closest to any of your children who desperately need to hear and know about Jesus.

I’ve shared before in one of my books about Augustine, cited to be one of the greatest of the Church Fathers. For 33 years Augustine scorned the Christian teaching and prayers of his mother, Monica. And yet Monica never gave up. She preached. She prayed. She pursued… until one day, at age 33, Augustine cried out in agony to God, “How long? Remember not the sins of my youth!” When he told his mom he had at last embraced the Savior, Monica said, “Now I can die in peace.” Her son’s salvation was the only thing on earth she had desired. Monica died five days later, and her son went on from having been a prodigal to becoming a pillar in the church.

Never give up!

A Prayer to Pray:
God, I thank You for my life, my family, my children, and my faith. When I find myself focusing on my difficulties, may I lift up my hope to Your light and let it cover me in Your radiance.

For more encouragement for a mother’s soul, read my book A Mom After God’s Own Heart.

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George

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