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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.

From Jim’s Heart—It Really Does Matter

Sometimes we do an act of service and then get the feeling that it wasn’t a valuable enough contribution to the church, or that nobody noticed or cared. Therefore we feel like what we did was a failure. It didn’t really matter.

But no service that is done for God is a failure. Though from a human standpoint your labors might be overlooked or under-appreciated, from a divine standpoint, that’s never the case. God knows everything you do, and He will bless and reward you accordingly.

While recognition and thank-you’s are nice to receive, they’re not the reason you serve the Lord. You serve to please and honor Him. And the joy that comes from serving Him well will satisfy you more than any human applause could.

Father, thank You for seeing everything—even what is done in secret. As I find opportunities to serve others today, help me remember that my reward comes from You. Amen.

Abraham and Sarah

The life studies of Abraham and Sarah, a couple after God’s own heart, comprise an extraordinary portrait! No other marriage in the Bible is given as much space. In the 13 chapters that detail their lives up until Sarah’s death, we get a glimpse of the epic tale of their love, their trials, their partnership, and their adventures. Let’s look at the three basic elements needed to build a marriage that lasts.

What was the foundation of their marriage—and their lives? There’s no doubt it was faith. Abraham was a man of faith and Sarah was a woman of faith—God’s perfect combination! They each possessed strong individual trust in God, which made them partners in faith.

And they followed God’s blueprint for their lives. What God said, they did. Like master builders—whether of an edifice or a marriage—they followed the specs and regulations set down by God. They had faith in Him and in His plans for them.

And the tools Abraham and Sarah used to build a marriage worthy to be mentioned in God’s Hall of Faith? First, we see their heavy use of and reliance on the promises of God. We can imagine the two of them continually and constantly reminding each other of God’s sure promises. We see patience as a tool for trusting and living for God. For example, they waited and waited…and waited—for 25 years—for a child.

As you work on building your marriage, no matter what circumstances slam you, or how ridiculously stupid your mistakes are, or how much you must forgive each other, or how tough it gets to trust God and wait patiently on Him, pull out these words spoken by the Lord, face-to-face with Abraham, when He repeated His promise of a son through Sarah: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14).

The answer? No, of course not.

From Jim’s Heart—Being All There

The mind is an amazing thing. It can carry on thousands of functions at the same time. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s not so good. For instance, when your mind thinks of someone or something else while your wife is talking to you… that’s bad! There you are, looking right at your wife while she’s pouring her heart out to you, and yet you’re thinking about something miles or weeks away.

What’s even more amazing than the mind’s capacity to wander is that your wife can tell when you’re not listening! How does she do that?! We men think we are so clever. We nod at what we think is the right moment. We even make approving noises at obvious intervals. And yet our wives still catch us with our minds somewhere else.

When you’re with your wife, especially if the two of you are alone, the loving thing to do is focus all your attention on her and be all there, both mentally and physically. This will take some concentration and effort on your part. For me, developing this kind of focused attention took some training. As a salesman I had to make myself focus on the person I was trying to sell. And your wife is much more important than “making a sale”! Train yourself to devote your full attention on your wife when you are with her. The results of being all there will be better than any salesman could imagine.

Not Feeling the Love

More than a billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year. And yet a lot of moms aren’t feeling the love. Sadly, love is a quality often misunderstood. It’s easy to confuse it with a physical desire for your spouse or a lavish covering of praise by your children or friends. Yet those versions can occur without any feelings of real love or affection. God’s kind of love is as different as day is from night. God’s kind of love isn’t selfish, conditional, or self-gratifying—it’s directed toward others. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that “love never fails.” But loving requires an act of the will. A choice to love your neighbor, your husband, your children, your enemies. Examine your heart. Is there ample evidence of God’s love?

Lord, I must be honest. Sometimes I don’t feel loved. And I base my worth on false versions of what love is. Grant me a giver’s heart so that I love others without conditions or expectation… beginning right under my own roof. Grant me Your heart, Lord.

From Jim’s Heart—Everyone Needs Encouragement

When it comes to cheering people on, we tend to think in terms of coaches, cheerleaders, pep squads, and fans rooting for a favorite athletic team. But everyone needs encouragement. You and I need encouragement from others, and others need it from us. Consider, for example, the following scenario:

You wake up to a new day, filled with all the hope and promise of joy, accomplishment, and fulfillment. Why? Because you’ve been working long and hard on a really big project, and you’re almost done. You worked late the night before, came home late to catch a few hours of sleep, and then quickly showered this morning before going to work to present the results of your labors to your boss. You have poured your heart into this project, and you are finally satisfied that you had done your best.

But when you present your work to your boss, rather than thank you or give you any words of encouragement, your boss quickly glances at what you’ve done and dismisses you without even a comment. You know you’re expected to perform well for your job, but your boss’s lack of even a bit of appreciation for your hard work is devastating. Talk about sticking a pin in your balloon!

There are other scenarios that can bring discouragement your way as well. For example, keeping up with the care of a child who has a disability. Dealing with a parent whose health is rapidly declining. The threat of being laid off because of budget cuts within your company. Don’t tell me at times you couldn’t use a little encouragement!

Well, the same is true of your children. Even though the difficulties they face may be of a smaller scale, still, to them, their problems can seem overwhelming. When they are struggling, a hug or word of encouragement can go a long way toward giving them much-needed confidence and hope.

Got Problems?

Believe me, I know from my own growing-up years and from raising two daughters that the teen years are challenging ones! Often it seems like everything in your life is spinning and constantly changing, and it’s hard to get your feet and emotions grounded—and then the next big change comes along! At other times it seems like the whole world has stopped turning on its axis. Every day is the same old, same old. Nothing ever changes, and it doesn’t look like it ever will. Day after day is the same repeated day. Time is standing still.

I’ve heard the heart-cries of thousands of teen girls, and here are just a few of their questions and issues—many of which apply to everyone at one time or another:

  • “What am I going to do about this problem?”
  • “My problem hurts so much I’m not sure I can make it through another day.”
  • “Why is it so hard to find a friend? Is something wrong with me?”
  • “I hate my life. It’s the same thing day after day—family, chores, school, homework.”
  • “I feel so stifled. I can’t go anywhere or do anything without my parents’ permission and involvement.”

These are very personal and painful problems and yet, at the same time, they are “common” problems (says 1 Corinthians 10:13). Thank goodness, because that means there’s hope!

No matter what your life situation is, God has help and answers. No matter how bad things seem or become, when you are faithful to dig into the treasure of God’s Word each day and look for His help with your problems, as well as His instructions on how to live the way He wants you to live, you will enjoy life more. Day by day, God comes to your aid with encouragement, comfort, guidelines, and wisdom for handling your difficult and stressful situations.

And best of all, you have Him—all of Him one-on-one—when you read His Word. Enjoy!

From Jim’s Heart—Little Choices, Big Decisions

There are a myriad of thoughts penned on the importance of choices. You’ve probably heard this one:

Little choices determine habit;
Habit carves and molds character,
Which makes the big decisions.

What does this tell you? That even the little things count! If ever you’re tempted to cut corners and do things the easy way, or do your work halfheartedly because others aren’t watching, eventually your little choices are going to become habits that affect the bigger decisions you make in life. This is especially true with regard to sin. Taking it lightly can lead to poor decision-making down the road. So consider every choice carefully, no matter how small, for it will affect the bigger decisions you make.

God, help me to pay attention to my activities today and to consider the importance of the small choices I will make. May each one be a reflection of my one big choice—to follow You with all my heart. Amen.

“Seek Ye First”

If you’re like us, you want your children to have some of the things you didn’t have when you were growing up. And you certainly don’t want them to make the same mistakes you did. Put another way, you want them to have a better life, to live a better life.

Do you worry about the social and financial status of your children? Many parents worry about their children going to the “best” schools, living in the “best” neighborhood, meeting the “right” people for the connections needed to get ahead. Dreaming about bettering your children’s lives is not a bad thing. You definitely should want to make sure your children are properly educated and develop self-discipline and self-motivation. And you should want your children to succeed and contribute positively to society and their future families. But you should never desire these things at the expense of godly principles.

Focus your attention on living for God and trusting in His care. Then train your children in righteousness. Show them the way—and the why—of making choices that please God. In the words of Jesus,

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33 NIV).

Lord, remind us daily that when we put You first, You will take care of everything else—including our children.