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Bloom Where You’re Planted

I want you to know, brethren, that the things
which happened to me have actually turned out
for the furtherance of the Gospel, so that it has become
evident to the whole palace guard, and
to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.

Philippians 1:12-13

Do you complain about your circumstances at times? Wish you lived in a different state or neighborhood or had a different job? Lament decisions you made or mourn trials that resulted in where you stand today? We’ve all done these things at one time or another. But we can follow Paul’s example and choose to bloom where we’re planted. He did—even when he was in prison.

Paul saw—and used—the blessings of his situation. From prison he could serve God as a witness to the Roman guards who watched over him day in and day out. He wrote letters to inspire and teach others. He was an example of boldness and faithfulness to those who feared persecution.

My friend, are you chained to something? Or, to put it another way, what are your divinely appointed circumstances? Are you a wife, a mom, a single woman, a widow, a homemaker, an employee? Consider how your situation is a blessing, and how your circumstances can help you serve Christ and further His cause.

When we choose to bloom where our all-wise God plants us, we will one day be able to declare with Paul, “I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”

God, help me accept where I am now and see the blessings and opportunities that are right here. May I embrace what You’re doing in my life so I can share with others the wonders of Your great purposes. Amen.

From Jim’s Heart—Ways to Influence Your Children

When it comes to shaping the entire future of a child’s life and influencing his or her eternal destiny, I hope you feel the gravity of your obligation to God… and to your children. Here are some steps for getting started. They’re simple, and they will require a lot from you, but the rewards are well worth it!

Start by loving your spouse—God designed parents to be partners, and a key essential to caring for your children is showing a godly love for your spouse.

Start by taking your family to church—The simple act of getting your family to church is a giant step toward boosting the spiritual growth of your family.

Start by growing spiritually—A parent after God’s own heart constantly desires to grow spiritually, always striving to be where he or she needs to be.

Start by spending more time with your children—This one’s obvious. A closer relationship with your children comes only with time.

Start by making a commitment—Commit yourself afresh to make every sacrifice necessary to point your children toward God. Do all you can. Don’t procrastinate! Do your part and point them toward God.

Laugh and Smile a Lot

Your home should be an absolute joy for every family member! I’ve learned to smile—and laugh—a lot. When my girls were little, we’d check out silly riddle books from the library and then laugh and roll on the floor as we read them. Try it!

I also use the words “I love” freely. “I love Saturdays.” “I love the Lord’s Day.” “I love everything—and especially I love you!” I say those very words to my husband, Jim, my two daughters and their husbands, and now my grandkids every time I see them, tell them goodbye, or talk to them on the phone. Ask God to fill your heart with love and give you plenty of opportunities to laugh and play!

Lord, I imagine Your smile and joy as the children came up to You and You took them into Your arms and blessed them. What love and acceptance You showed them! Help me do the same for my precious ones. Amen.

From Jim’s Heart—Successful Application of God’s Word

Application of the truths in the Bible comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes your application will require you to do one specific thing, like returning a book you borrowed a month ago. It could require you to apologize to a family member for giving them a hard time. At other times your application will require time and effort, like breaking a habit.

Applications that deal with external actions (like lying, yelling, overeating) can be carried out at any time with an act of obedience, an act of your will. But applications that deal with heart attitudes and motives can be harder to carry out because they require internal change—change in your mind and heart. This kind of change goes deeper and calls for you to make right choices in obedience to God’s instructions.

Whether you are trying to change your actions or attitudes, here are some suggestions for successful application of God’s Word to your life:

  1. Write out the issue or problem on an index card and carry it with you as a reminder of what you want to change.
  1. Ask God for His help as you work on making that change happen.
  1. Memorize key Bible verses that deal with your issue, and obey them.

From Jim’s Heart—How to Read Your Bible

Here are some quick tips to increase your understanding of the Bible. Enjoy!

  1. Choose a translation you can understand. There are many good modern translations you can use without having to stumble over difficult terms or archaic language.
  1. Don’t try to see how fast you can read your Bible. Read at your normal rate or even slower. Don’t read just to see how fast you can turn the pages or finish a chapter. Read to have your life changed. Read for wisdom and encouragement. Read for greater understanding. Read so that tomorrow or maybe even a year from now, you’ll remember what you read today. Be a thoughtful reader, and not just a quick skimmer.
  1. Read with a pen or pencil in hand. Underline passages or words that stand out to you. If you don’t understand something, put a question mark beside it so you can research it later. Write an exclamation point in the margin for something that excites you, or a star next to verses you want to remember or read again. If you are nervous about marking your Bible, don’t be. It’s not the physical ink and paper that’s sacred, but God’s message itself. God wants you to understand your Bible, so go ahead and mark it! All your interaction with a pen or pencil will help you to better grasp God’s message to you.
  1. Always read Bible verses with the surrounding passages in mind. Keep asking, what happened in the section before the passage you are currently reading. If you have a study Bible, read the explanatory notes and comments. If the book of the Bible you are reading has an introduction, read what it says.
  1. Check a dictionary for words you don’t understand. Or use your cell phone or computer to check out the words you’re unsure of. This will build your vocabulary and help you better understand what you are reading.
  1. Stop at the end of each paragraph and pinpoint the main idea. It takes only a few seconds to ask yourself, “What was this paragraph about?” Then as you string the paragraphs together and determine what each one is about, you’ll get a better sense for the main message of the passage you are reading.

Good observation isn’t just about the simple mechanics of reading the words themselves. It’s about reading for understanding.

Pray for Your Children

Praying for your children is the most powerful way you can care for them. Most times your heart will naturally overflow in prayer for them. And even when they’re causing trouble or your patience is wearing thin, a quick prayer will calm your nerves and soothe your children. You’ll be amazed at the huge difference prayer will make in the lives of your little—and big—ones. Ask God to show you how to let your precious children know that after Him and your husband, they are more important than all the other people in your life.

Be ready to show love. Set aside time each day to pray for your kiddos. And don’t forget to pray for them when they’re around. That lets them know you and God love them. It also helps them feel more secure and models prayer.

Praying for your kids is some of the best time you’ll ever invest. Prayer is a powerful privilege!

Jesus, protect these young lives You’ve placed in my care. Help me be patient, calm, loving, and supportive. Open their hearts to You. Amen.

The In-law Factor

Let’s talk about your relationship with your parents and in-laws. The Bible is full of teachings about the respect and honor parents are due. Ephesians 6:2-3 says, “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise; that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” It’s not optional—it’s a command!

There are no excuses. As a Christian you are to honor your parents, and you are to show this same respect to your in-laws. You reveal the level of your spiritual maturity in these important relationships. God has given you all the grace and all the character resources you need to get along with anyone—including your parents and in-laws. And don’t forget you are modeling to your children how they should treat you and their future relatives.

Father, give me a heart for my parents and my spouse’s parents. Help me work on deepening our relationships. Encourage me to lead my children to nurture these important connections to family and to their heritage—in life and in faith! Amen.

From Jim’s Heart—Too Busy to Pray?

Often when you fail to pray, you say it’s because you’re super busy. But in reality, it’s not your schedule that keeps you from praying. It’s your failure to realize the importance of prayer and make the time to pray. So, instead of relying upon the power of prayer for all you do, you roll up your sleeves and turn to yourself and your own power instead of God’s.

If your life is so busy you can’t pray, is it possible you haven’t taken time to ask God for help with your priorities? Turn to Him. He will give you the discernment that enables you to use your time well—so you will be able to pray!

God, show me—what have I prioritized above my time with You? What have I depended on instead of You? Help me assess my priorities today and keep prayer at the top of the list. Amen.

Rest

For almost 30 years we lived in Los Angeles—a city that never sleeps. It doesn’t matter what time you are out and about, the roads, the streets, and the freeways are always packed with cars and people. This dark-to-dark scenario is repeated for millions of people in cities around the world. Whether we like it or not, or choose it or not, we are all to some degree members of the “Busyness Club”. Men, women, and even children are having less time to rest. How can anyone find any rest in this hectic life? Jesus has the answer:

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28 NASB).

Jesus invited His audience—and you, too—to “Come to Me…and I will give you rest”. His summons was to come participate in the promise of rest…which only He can give. Obviously, rest is supremely important to God and is part of His plan for you. Therefore, it should be important to you to ensure that you rest your body, refresh your soul, and worship God.

There’s no reason to be “weary and heavy-laden” when you heed Christ’s call to “Come to Me”. In Him you will find relief and refreshment.

Lord, so often I am weary. Help me remember Your offer of rest—real rest. Thank you, Lord!

From Jim’s Heart—All Ear

Have you ever tried to define obedience? That’s the challenge a missionary ran up against as he was translating the Bible into a foreign language. Taking a break from his search for a meaning, he called to his dog. When the dog came running, a tribal observer said, “Your dog was all ear.” Instantly the missionary had the words he needed to define obedience—”to be all ear.”

How about you? Are you “all ear” when it comes to hearing what God says in His Word?

Ask the Lord to help you respond with eagerness to Scripture. You’ll find this easier to do when you follow the example set by King David: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

Father, as I hide Your Word in my heart, help me to listen to its prompting and hear its life-giving message. And then, give me strength to obey—to be all ear. Amen.