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From Jim’s Heart – Restoring Hope

When worry strikes, if we’re not careful we can often get discouraged or even depressed. We can respond to life negatively, and take our eyes off God and His promises to take care of us. The next time worry strikes, here’s how you can restore your hope:

Pray-“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Trust-“Trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5). Refuse to worry about circumstances beyond your control. Remember, God is always in control.

Give thanks-“In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When you thank God even for the hard things in life, you are saying, “Lord, I am confident You will use this for my good.”

Lord, it’s so easy for me to focus on the negatives. Help me redeem my worried thoughts by using them as reminders to pray, to express my trust in You, and to give thanks. Amen.

Managing Life’s Pressures

In Him we have redemption through His blood,
the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

Ephesians 1:7

Perhaps because our family lived in Southern California for 30-plus years, I dearly love the ocean. Surprisingly, every time I read God’s Word, I think of the Pacific Ocean. I recall the many times I reveled in the sights and sounds of its surf, with the incessant splashing, crashing, sloshing-on-the-shore waves following one after another and another and another and another.

Reading Ephesians 1:7 is like that repeating and splashing ocean. This verse is powerful, thrilling, and breathtaking – so spectacular it’s hard to imagine another verse as exhilarating. And yet God delights in continuing to bestow His grace and His favor on us through His Son. The blessings just keep rolling in!

Another gift rolls in when we read verses 9 and 10. It’s the fact of God’s will and management of our lives. You’ve probably experienced managing a household, making a master plan, and creating a time line for achieving or finishing a project. Well, my friend, God is the Master Manager, and He is organizing everything according to His timing, culminating in the ultimate blessing when everything in heaven and on earth is united in Christ.

Aren’t you thankful for God’s blessings, for His hand on your life? Your life is not hapless and purposeless. God has a plan for every step of your way. And He offers you truth and a solution for everything life throws at you, beginning with today’s challenges.

Lord, as I look into Your Word, I want to thank You for Your concern and care for the details of my life. Today has its difficulties and stress. May I be faithful to trust in Your perfect and personal management of the world around me and of me! Amen.

From Jim’s Heart – The Power of Obedience

When you consider the extraordinary ways God worked through men such as Moses and Paul, you may think, I can’t measure up to people like them. I don’t have what they had.

But you must realize that these “heroes” of the faith were just common, ordinary people. It was their obedience — their complete yieldedness to God — that gave them uncommon strength and faith. They submitted their lives to God, and God worked through them.

I don’t know about you, but the “heroes” in the Bible inspire me to re-evaluate my own obedience to God. Am I reluctant to listen to God because I think He is asking the impossible? Am I failing to make myself available to Him because I’m doubtful or afraid? Our part is to simply obey, and God will do His part.

God, I see now that You can do anything through me if I will simply yield myself to You. Help me to make myself more available to you today. Amen.

Under the Surface

Alaskan fishermen will tell you that only one-seventh of an iceberg is visible above the surface. Remember the Titanic? It crashed into an iceberg because the majority of it was hidden underneath. An iceberg is an awesome force in nature and should be held in great respect. And in a way, that’s exactly what you and I should want for our lives. The public part of our lives should stir up awe and wonder. And our strength should be explained by what goes on in private between us and God.

I don’t know about you, but I want people to marvel at what they do see of me. I want them to witness qualities and strength in me that can only be explained by what God accomplishes in me when I spend time alone with Him out of sight, beneath the surface, and away from people.

Lord, help me draw closer to You every day. I want to be a living testimony of Your grace and transforming power. I want Your light to shine so brightly that people will be drawn to Your love. Amen.

From Jim’s Heart – God Is Looking for a Few Good Men

The Marine Corps is made up of an elite band of men who have volunteered their services for many tough responsibilities. The desire to be a Marine prompts many young men to become part of this select group. They are truly special and have been called upon many times for missions that are beyond the capabilities of other military units.

God too is looking for men who want to be special. He’s on the lookout for those who desire to be part of His elite team and are willing to do what is necessary to qualify. How can you be this kind of man? By making sure you are growing spiritually strong. Want it, desire it, and do it! This means you need to make a few decisions.

  1. Choose to read your Bible. Why? Because this is where you meet with God.
  2.  

  3. Choose to talk to God. Simply stated, prayer is talking to God and keeping the lines of communication open between you and your heavenly Father.
  4.  

  5. Choose to confess your sin. Confessing sin is admitting you did something wrong and restores your relationship with God.
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  7. Choose to make some sacrifices. Nothing of substance happens without effort.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Are you up for a greater level of commitment? For making some sacrifices so you can follow Jesus? If you are, then you are just the kind of guy God is looking for!

Responding to Crisis As a Couple

Crisis is a fact of life. It’s not a matter of if, but when the next one will hit. This is not morbid introspection; it’s just the reality of living in a sinful and chaotic world. So the question you as a couple need to address is this: How are you going to respond to each new crisis as it comes?

Roman 8:28 comes to your rescue: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Knowing that God is in control of all things allows you to trust Him for all things.

Wherever you are in your marriage — whether you are newlyweds or seasoned veterans — resolve together to turn your next crisis over to God as soon as it hits. Believe in God’s promise that He will produce good out of that crisis. Refuse to cave in, give up, or run away. Unite your hearts, grasp hold of each other’s hands, pray, stand shoulder to shoulder, and face the crisis. Together, do whatever is necessary. And trust God fully, knowing that He is working out His plan for you and your marriage. In the end, you’ll be blessed with a stronger marriage because you did it together.

From Jim’s Heart – Watching Takes Time

I remember a particular time when Elizabeth and I had concerns about how things were going in our daughters’ lives. The issues that caused our concern weren’t big ones, but they were quickly recognized because we had been watching as part of our duty as parents. We worked through the minor issues, but it still took time — lots of time! Not an hour or two, but more like a month or two. Looking back, we are so glad we were on alert, noticed the problems, sounded the alarm, and took the required time to find solutions. That’s what kept those small problems from escalating.

Watching takes time and attention. If you see an issue developing with any of your kids, you need to devote attention to it. Don’t let your life become so busy you can’t help your children in their time of need.

What should you be looking for? Questions like these will help you keep watch over your children and know what’s going on in their lives:

  • Who are their friends, and how well do you know them?
  • Have you noticed negative changes in their attitudes and moods?
  • Are there signs of rebellion toward you or your wife’s authority?
  • Are there subtle changes in their appearance or the clothes they want to wear?
  • Has their attitude about spiritual things changed?

I’m sure you can think of other questions as well. The point is, take time to observe your children. Know the condition of your flock. Be wise and follow this advice from Proverbs 27:23: “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.” In other words, pay attention as a good watchman.

From Jim’s Heart – Commit to Spiritual Growth

I have to say that my wife, Elizabeth, truly understands and lives her roles and responsibilities as a wife. And I thank God that she desires to be a woman and wife after God’s own heart. But still, I can’t force her to read her Bible, pray, go to church, or be part of a Bible study. Although she loves doing all these things, I realized a long time ago she must make decisions herself. Sure, if she occasionally bogs down, I can pray, hint, suggest, and encourage her, but in the end, Elizabeth must have the inner desire to grow.

And the same applies regarding me. Elizabeth can’t make me grow as a Christian man, husband, or spiritual leader. I have to want to grow.

My friend, the same applies to you and your wife. Neither of you can make the other grow or want to grow in the things of the Lord. So what can a couple do?

First, Talk! Talk about it. Just as communication is the key to your marriage, it is a key to setting a plan for growth.

—Talk about what kinds of materials you could study individually and as a couple.

—Talk about the possibilities of maybe purchasing matching Bibles that have study notes, working through a Bible reading plan, or sharing a devotional book on the names or attributes of God or the life of Christ. You are a unique couple, so aim for a plan that works well for the two of you.

Your ultimate goal is that both of you — as husband and wife — be growing spiritually. Do whatever it takes to encourage each other. Consider making a pact.

Do whatever it takes to solidify your mutual desire to grow spiritually. Your decision and commitment to focus on growing in Christ will be a major step that moves you forward in your quest to become a couple after God’s own heart.

From Jim’s Heart—The Role of a Watchman

A dad who is the spiritual leader of his family is both a shepherd and a watchman. The main function of a shepherd is to feed and lead his flock, and an additional duty he has is that of a watchman—he is to watch over his flock to protect it against predators. In Bible times, a watchman’s responsibility was to keep a vigil at the city walls and warn the inhabitants when an enemy approached or some other kind of trouble threatened.

So, what must he do to keep himself vigilant?

A watchman keeps himself prepared. The apostle Paul had spent three years in Ephesus shepherding a band of new believers. He had been a faithful watchman who paid careful attention to the enemy’s tactics and warned his flock, “After my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29).  Paul told the Ephesian church leaders, “Take heed to yourselves” (Acts 20:28a). Paul reminded these leaders to first watch over their own spiritual condition. The same is true for a dad.

A watchman keeps himself informed. He knows what to look for. In World War II, spotters were placed on remote islands in the South Pacific along the flight path of Japanese planes and warships. To prepare them for their mission, the spotters were trained to identify each enemy plane and warship. This information would help them convey appropriate warnings to others. Likewise, a father learns what to watch for so he can protect his family.

When you consider your role as a watchman over your family, you need to watch over your own spiritual condition. And you need to develop the “spiritual eyes” that enable you to spot potential spiritual attacks of the enemy on you and your family. If your spiritual eyes are dull or dimmed, you won’t be able to recognize the devil’s schemes against you and your children. The apostle Peter describes the devil as a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). A watchman knows what is required of him and what he is watching for.

Jacob and Rachel

The union of two people in marriage is potentially fraught with challenges—an understatement in the case of Jacob and Rachel! Their joining together was thwarted by a lying, conniving father-in-law, two wives, two concubines, and 12 sons generally marked by jealousy and aggressive, warlike behavior. No soap opera could ever even come close to duplicating all the angst, emotions, heartaches, and drama this clan lived with on a daily basis.

Even in a marriage absent of such problems, two individuals who think they know each other before the wedding suddenly find themselves living with a different person—a stranger. After the marriage vows are exchanged and the lovey-dovey thrill of the ceremony and honeymoon are over, everyday life seems to have a way of unearthing the real person behind those starry eyes.

Unlike you, Jacob woke up every day to two wives and two concubines. And, unlike you, after marrying Leah through Laban’s trickery, he finally married Rachel, the woman he wanted. God’s design is one woman plus one man in a marriage.

Surely Jacob could have learned to love Leah. According to God’s Word, you are to unconditionally love your partner in marriage and work at being God’s kind of husband or wife. Once you are married, the real work of maintaining the relationship begins. Think of your marriage as a gift-wrapped present from the Lord. Its true value and appreciation comes after the gift is opened and you take time to enjoy it.