September 2014

The Pruning Process

Are you worried you’re never going to get your act together? Do you wonder if life will ever go smoothly for you? Hang in there, dear friend. What is that saying? Oh yes! “God isn’t finished with me yet.” You are a masterpiece in process.

Remember the story of Sarah in Genesis? She was impatient, angry, manipulative, unbelieving. Her life with Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael was constant tension. But God used the failures, time, and even unhappiness to bring her to a mature faith in God. In fact, you’ll find her name in “God’s Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 as an example to us (verse 11).

Pruning is always painful, but it gives you an opportunity to love God by trusting He’s at work in your life. Take heart. God will bring about full beauty in you.

Lord, I’d love to see my name next to Sarah and Abraham and the other believers in Your “Hall of Faith.” They overcame tremendous obstacles through faith in You, Lord, prune me. Cause my faith to blossom. Amen.

From Jim’s Heart—Work as a Calling

What do you picture when you hear or read the word calling? Most people immediately think of some form of vocational ministry. We often hear a pastor or missionary say, “I was called into the ministry.” The apostle Paul spoke of himself as “called” to be an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:1).

But what if I told you that your vocation—the job you have right now—is a calling as well? Webster defines the word vocation as coming to us from the Latin vocatio, which means “a calling.” And the English word means “a call or summons”; specifically, “a calling to a particular state, business, or profession.” Just as pastors or missionaries passionately serve God because of their “calling”, so you too can be passionately serving God in your work—in your calling.

In my life I have had many “callings.” One of those included being called into the ministry. But, like the apostle Paul, who was a missionary and a tentmaker, I have also provided for my family as a pharmacist, an Army reservist, a pharmaceutical salesman, and a pastor. And, also like Paul, I viewed all of these as callings from God.

Your commitment to Christ does not mean you have to become a pastor or a missionary. That’s not the case. Work done for a church or a church organization doesn’t make anyone any more holy or spiritual than those whose work is done at a factory or in an office or in a private studio. Your place or type of work is not what matters to God. What does matter to Him is being in His will (Romans 12:2). You should approach your vocation, whether as a painter or a plumber, as a soldier or a mechanic, as a teacher or a “techie,” not merely as “just a job” but as a calling—a special calling from God.

Seasons of Life

“I noticed Mom could barely hear us at dinner this weekend. Since Dad died she’s never been quite the same.”

I can so identify with this woman. Can you? I’ve walked through several seasons of life myself. My dad died and my mother was institutionalized all within a few months. And yet during those days I also welcomed my first two grandbabies… one month apart!

Like you, I need God’s promises for the seasons I’m experiencing as well as those to come. Isn’t it wonderful that God’s care for us is unceasing? His love unending? His guidance unfailing? And His presence everlasting? Absolutely! He is with you, dear friend, every season. What a joy to know you are cared for by such a great God.

You are “the God who is there,” Lord. Right now I can’t see the end of this season in my life, but because You are here with me now, I can make it through today. Thank You! Amen.

From Jim’s Heart—Praying in the Midst of a Busy Life

The prayer life of the apostle Paul is most evident in the epistles he wrote while in prison. Some people assume that confinement in prison gave Paul little choice but to pray. They would imagine Paul saying something like, “Oh well, since I have nothing else to do, I guess I’ll pray.” Not true!

Busyness is often used as a favorite excuse not to pray. But in reality, it’s not our schedule that keeps us from praying. It’s our failure to understand the importance of prayer. When we don’t pray, it’s because we don’t believe it’s all that necessary. Instead of utilizing the power of prayer to make an impact, we try to have an influence through physical activity. We roll up our sleeves and get busy, turning to our own power instead of God’s power.

A commitment to prayer and some muscle are needed among Christians today. In fact, Paul himself would wholeheartedly agree. He definitely spent a lot of time “in the trenches” confronting sorcery, angry mobs, and hostile religious leaders. But that didn’t divert his thinking about the need for prayer. Martin Luther, the great church reformer, captured the essence of Paul’s prayer philosophy with this paraphrased quote: “My schedule is so busy today that I need to spend more time than usual in prayer.”

Paul’s—and Martin Luther’s—message to us is, “Don’t let a busy life keep you from prayer. You need it!” And, like the people Paul prayed for, others need your prayers as well. And who knows? Maybe the reason your own life is so busy and often out of control is because you haven’t taken time to stop and pray to discern God’s priorities in your life.

Trust in God’s Help with Prayer

Through the act of prayer you can seek the heart and mind of God in your difficult situations. God gives us help and answers when we pray. He gives us this assurance in difficult times:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered… He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

In picturesque words we learn that God Himself gives us help… and hope! The Holy Spirit literally comes to our “rescue” in our trouble. He ministers to us by lending His helping hand in pleading and interceding to God in our behalf. In simple language, He groans and sighs for us in prayer.

What good news! When you don’t know what to pray for, how to pray, or what words to use, the Holy Spirit does! And He takes over and expresses your requests for you. He intercedes for you by appealing to the only Person who can help you—God Himself. The Spirit’s “groaning” or “sighing” in prayer to God the Father for you becomes effective intercession on your behalf.

Thank God that you are not left to your own resources to cope with your problems.

From Jim’s Heart—At the Center of God’s Will

Do you know what I believe is the icing on the cake of obedience? What I believe to be one of the most compelling reasons for choosing to obey God? It is this: Obedience leads to a powerful, confident life. When you are obedient, and when you allow yourself to be led by God through the unexpected, you then have a confidence based on the fact that you know you are exactly where God wants you to be. You won’t find yourself doubting the circumstances in your life or the direction things are going. You will have the inner peace and joy that come from knowing you are at the center of God’s will!

Lord, thank You for leading me to the center of Your will. Help me to see Your hand in everything that comes my way as I follow You today. Amen.

Don’t Lose Your Mind

I don’t want to oversimplify this, but how we use our mind is our choice. To decide to use your mind to know God, learn His Word, study His truths, and trust His promises requires perseverance and discipline. Living out God’s plan for your life requires that you use godly thinking, wisdom, and guidelines. Matthew speaks to that very issue in 12:34…

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

The question is, “What fills your heart?” And I’m asking myself that same question. If you want to live a godly life, you have to put godly things in your mind. The Bible says the peace of God will guard your heart and mind through Christ (Philippians 4:7). Seek God. Seek His peace. And give your thoughts to God’s control and influence. Feed your mind; don’t lose it!

Jesus, Your peace is like nothing else. It is everything. Protect my heart and mind so that I can walk and talk as a believer who speaks out of the abundance of a godly heart. Amen.

From Jim’s Heart—Prayer Is an Act of Faith

When you pray to God, you are talking to someone you can’t see. So prayer is the purest form of faith, which is described as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Yet the faith of prayer is not based on vivid imagination or wishful thinking. It is based on the promises of God found in the Bible.

When the apostle Paul was arrested and taken by ship to Rome, he was chained to a Roman soldier the entire way. When a severe storm hit their small boat in the Mediterranean Sea, all hope seemed to be lost. But Paul stood before the wet and discouraged passengers and crew and reported that an angel of God had appeared to him declaring that he, Paul, would go on to stand before Caesar. With confidence Paul exhorted, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (Acts 27:25).

We don’t have angels standing beside us today to reassure us when things get rough, but we do have the assurances in the Bible, which are 100 percent faithful and true. Therefore, you can pray with confidence and in complete faith that God will keep the promises He has made to you.

Pray for Wisdom

One of my passions is the small-but-powerful book of Proverbs. That’s because Proverbs is considered to be “the wisdom book” of the Bible. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve already made enough mistakes to last a lifetime. Frankly, I would like to make as few as possible between now and my last days on this earth. So I can use all the wisdom I can get!

Proverbs 1 reminds us that you and I can…

…attain wisdom and discipline,
…understand words of insight,
…acquire a disciplined and prudent life,
…learn what is right and just and fair,
…gain prudence, and
…increase in knowledge and discretion.

How can this be? Because all of these elements of wisdom are available from the book of Proverbs and from the whole of God’s Word. We can also gain wisdom from wise people, teachers, and counselors, and from experience. Please take advantage of all of these means for increasing in wisdom.

Do you want a surefire, wide-open, readily accessible avenue for getting wisdom? All you have to do is ask God for wisdom through prayer. It’s as simple and straightforward as that.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).

© Copyright 2017
Elizabeth & Jim George

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