Saturday, September 29, 2007

What Women Want

 Author: John and Stasi Eldredge and Jim Burns
source: HomeWord

Don't miss our HomeWord with Jim Burns 2-part broadcast on September 20 & 21, 2007, as Jim Burns talks with John & Stasi Eldredge about "What Women Want."  Listen online to these programs on or after the airing dates by accessing our broadcast webpage. To do so, click here.


What is it that women want? The pressures women face today from the culture (like "Do more" and "Be more") leave many wrestling with this question. This struggle too often results in women living with a constant sense of failure. The key to overcoming these feelings is found with getting back to the heart; of rediscovering and recapturing their core desires. Not long ago, I spoke with John and Stasi Eldridge, authors of the book, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul and they shared with me their insights into this critical issue.


Many women have suffered hurts and wounds to their hearts from childhood and as adults. These often lead to women losing the sense of who God has created them to be, and becomes a catalyst to conform to the culture's view of what a woman is. Women will strive to do more, be more and pursue shallow and fleeting ideals (like appearance and busyness.)  Yet, Jesus wants to give women their hearts back. He can heal the hurts and wounds that have negatively affected women's lives. He's in the heart-healing business. (The focus of his mission was foretold in Isaiah 61, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.")

God has given three core desires to women. He put these desires in a women's heart; they are her destiny. These core desires reflect what women are made for. As women allow Jesus to do His healing work to restore their hearts, he wants to reawaken these desires within.


1. To be romanced.

Women have been created with a desire to be romanced. Ultimately, this desire is fulfilled when women allow themselves to be loved by God. And, God is the Great Lover. Jeremiah 31:3 reads, "The Lord has appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love…" When a woman knows that she is loved passionately by God, she understands that she is safe in His love. She can risk offering her true heart, being vulnerable and tender, and invite others into deeper intimacy with and healing from Jesus.


Still, women desire romance from their husbands. They continually ask internal questions like, "Am I lovely? Do you enjoy me? Am I worth pursuing, worth fighting for? Am I captivating?" The wise husband will not let these questions go unanswered (or answered negatively.) Husbands ought to pay ongoing attention to his wife, know her, enjoy her and spend time with her.


2. To play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure.

Women don't want to be merely useful. They want to be irreplaceable in something epic and grand, something heroic. That's what women were made for.


Women should ask themselves, "What kind of calling has Jesus written on my heart?" God places desires in a woman's heart that reveal His adventure for your life. Consider how that might begin to play out in your life in relationship, parenting, career, and church? We read in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord ?and He will give you the desires of your heart."


And speaking of adventure, a desire for adventure comes naturally to men. It is one of their core desires. But men can easily tend to venture alone, leaving their wives behind. Rather, they should include their wives along on adventures that are appealing to both. They should share the grand adventure of life together. They should not leave their wives behind, while pursing adventure.


3. To unveil beauty.

Women are led to believe that beauty is a matter of external qualities alone and that the externals are of the utmost importance. Women also have a hard time believing that they possess any great beauty of their own. The truth is, that as image bearers of God, every woman possesses beauty. That beauty first, is a quality of soul. It is beauty that emerges and grows over time as a woman walks with God. Beauty makes itself known in the external as well. It expresses itself in the face, in the eyes, in the voice. Women want to make the world a more beautiful place through their lives. They inspire their husbands to become all that God created them to be.


For a fuller discussion of this topic, consider ordering John and Stasi Eldredge's important book, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul. For more information, click here.

Resource:Prayer as Breathing

Mike DeVries
source: Crosswalk

Pray continually.
1 Thessalonians 5:17

What we think about prayer has a lot to say about what we think about God.


For some, prayer is mainly an exercise in bringing our "list" before God, cluing Him into our needs (as if He somehow was not in tune with them in the first place). For others, prayer is our divine check-in with our Creator, informing Him of the day's goings on. While still others see prayer as a moment of holy reverence, filled with "thee" and "thou" and a whole host of other words we would never use in "regular" discussion with our friends.


But what if prayer was so much more?


More than our lists.


More than talking over our day.


More than addressing some far-off deity.


What if prayer were more like breathing? Just as breathing is pretty essential to our physical well-being, so is prayer to our soul. From very early on, our spiritual ancestors knew there was a connection between prayer and breathing. This is why prayer is likened to our breathing in so many writings. They knew that breathing is essential to our lives. It is something that provides life and vitality, and without it, we wouldn't live but for a few moments. Breathing is something we do almost unconsciously.


What if prayer were like that? I think this is essentially what Paul is getting at when he tells the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica to "pray continually." I doubt that he was telling them to walk around continually with their heads bowed and eyes closed. Rather, I think he was inviting them to see prayer as a connection, as a way of living and breathing, a way of being connected to and communing with the Creator.


Breathing is equal parts exhaling and inhaling. You can't inhale without exhaling. Likewise, you cannot exhale very long before inhaling.


I wonder if prayer is like that – equal parts exhaling and inhaling. The Scriptures are filled with people who exhaled, people who, from the depths of their souls, spoke words of honesty to God. Frustration. Doubt. Anxiety. Anger. Joy. Sorrow. Pain. Disappointment. Hope. Fear. Dreams. Brokenness. Just take some time to read through Psalms and you'll see these kinds of emotions and many more. Historically, the people of God knew one thing for certain: God is big enough for our emotions, good or bad. He knows about them anyway, so why not tell Him honestly?


The Scriptures are also filled with people who inhaled, people who sought for the Creator God to fill them with His presence, His goodness, with peace and wholeness. They sought God to fill their beings with His, to allow His Spirit to dwell with theirs. By inhaling, they were seeking to have their lives be more in rhythm with the way and life of God.


Take a few minutes today to breathe, really breathe. Allow yourself to inhale and exhale, to pray to God your Creator.


What do you need to exhale to God? What do you need to inhale?

Read More: Exodus 32:10-14; Psalm 106:19-23; Jeremiah 20:7; Matthew 6:9-11


Resource - Prayer 101: How You Can Strengthen Your Prayer Life

Dr. Ed Young
The Winning Walk
source: CrossWalk

Over the course of my life, there have been several times when I thought it might be the end. 


For instance, once when I was in college I had been very sick with chicken pox and then had to stay up all night studying before taking my mid-terms. And after my midterms I had to drive back home to my parents' house feeling just awful!


I'll never forget… it was pouring down rain, I was sleepy, and somehow I just dozed off. I remember waking up just in time to avoid hitting the car in front of me, and I swerved off the road not knowing what I would hit. In that moment I cried out, "Lord, help!" Needless to say, I made it through. 


Then there was the time a few years back when I was in a private plane flying back to Houston and we had a crash landing. We were fortunate to have a tremendous pilot and thankfully, no one was hurt. But on the way down in the plane, the prayer that overcame me was, "Thank You, Lord. Thank You for my family and my life."

We've all had those moments when we've prayed prayers like the ones I prayed.  But that's not really praying, is it? Those prayers are crisis prayers. They're last-second, desperation prayers!


As a pastor, I can tell you that most of the Christian men and women I talk to would like their prayer life to be more than just random outbursts to God in the midst of desperation. They would like to improve their prayer life. They want a real, intimate, interactive prayer life. Like the kind of prayer life Jesus had.


The apostles studied Jesus' lifestyle. They saw Him go off by Himself to pray at all hours of the day. And they would see Jesus come back from these prayer times with the Father invigorated, alive, refreshed, and motivated. So they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray!


Jesus gives them a model prayer in Luke 11:


"Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation."


Now, this is not the Lord's Prayer, but a model prayer. It is an outline for prayer, a pattern for prayer. And there are six basic ingredients in this prayer that I want to share with you today.


I have formed these six factors around the acronym CHRIST.


C stands for concentrate. The first word in the model prayer is "Father." Almighty God says that His children are to go to Him and call Him Father. We are to concentrate on Him as God, Father, His nature, His character, His dominion, His omnipresence. That's the first ingredient.


H stands for hallowed. "Hallowed be Your name." The name of God is not to be used in a pedestrian or profane sense. It is to be set aside, it is unique, it is holy. It is to be separate from all other names.


R stands for ruler. "Your kingdom come." It is His kingdom. His agenda in heaven is the same agenda He has for earth. We should not pray for God to bless our kingdom and agendas, but rather that we may be in the middle of His plan and kingdom…which is anywhere Jesus is Lord. Anywhere God's will rules and reigns is where you will find the kingdom of God.


I stands for I need. "Give us each day our daily bread." This is where the pattern of prayer changes. We are simply to pray for the needs of today… not tomorrow. And it's not what we want or what we desire, but what we need.


S stands for sin. "And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us." We are to ask forgiveness for our sin. This is a prayer for believers, not for unbelievers. If we forgive those who have sinned against us, we too will be forgiven.


T stands for temptation. "And lead us not into temptation." This does not mean, "God, do not try to trick or tempt me," but rather, "Lord, please make sure I do not get entrapped by the world.  Keep me away from the wrong crowd."


Remember, this is not a rote prayer. This is simply an outline. A model for communication with the Lord our God.


Prayer can be as ordinary as picking up the telephone…but as awesome and incredulous as discovering that almighty God is on the other end of the call!


It's my prayer that you will remember the word CHRIST in your prayer time this week and in the weeks to come. I hope this powerful tool will help strengthen your prayer time…and your relationship with Him!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Health Resource:Secrets to Revving Up Your Metabolism

By Jennifer Gruenemay, ACE-Certified, LifeScript Staff Writer

Is there anything you can do to jumpstart a sluggish metabolism? Absolutely! Your body may not be burning calories quickly due to poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Fortunately, you can provide the tools it needs to boost your metabolism back to normal. Use these tips to rev up your inner engine and unlock your true weight loss potential.

Simply put, if there are things you are doing to slow your metabolism down, then there must be things you can do to speed it back up again.
That said, if your body's engine is already running at full-speed, there's little you can do to boost your fat-burning potential – you're already at your peak. But if your tank is continually running on half-empty, you definitely have room for improvement. Use these seven tips to rev up your metabolism. 
Ladies, start your engines!

Secret #1: Early to bed makes you a slim girl.
Believe it or not, the number of zzz's you catch can have a big effect on your waistline. Research shows that sleep-deprivation can put your hunger and appetite hormones out of whack. Leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, decreases in adults who are sleep-deprived while ghrelin, a hunger-increasing hormone, spikes.

This means double trouble for your fat cells: You end up eating more than you really need, leaving you with extra pounds to show for it.

How much sleep do you need to avoid this frustrating problem? While some people swear they can get by on just a few hours, experts recommend that you get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Just in case you're one of those people who swear they thrive on less sleep, take heed: A four-year joint study by the University of Wisconsin and Stanford University found that adults who regularly slept for only five hours a night increased their levels of hunger-inducing ghrelin by 14.9% and lowered their levels of appetite-suppressing leptin by 15.5%.

Getting into a good sleep routine may take a little work, but it's worth the effort.

Secret #2: Early to rise starts your metabolism off right.
Does your morning ritual consist solely of showering, brushing your teeth and getting dressed? If so, you're skipping two very important things that could boost your metabolism.

The first is to eat breakfast… and coffee doesn't count. Skipping that bowl of oatmeal might sound harmless, but you're missing the first opportunity of the day to jumpstart your metabolism. Think of it in literal terms: Breakfast is "breaking" the overnight "fast" your body was in to conserve calories. Eating – especially a balanced breakfast – stimulates your metabolism. Translation: Eat breakfast each and every day.

The second key to starting your morning off right is exercise. Sure, you might struggle to pull off those cozy sheets (who doesn't?), but it's a battle worth winning. Why? Exercising in the morning boosts your metabolism. As a result, you'll burn more calories throughout the day simply doing the same old stuff you always do – who wouldn't want that? Even a 20-minute walk or jog will make a difference. So skip that second cup 'o joe and strap on your walking shoes instead.

Secret #3: The more you move, the more you'll lose.
Speaking of exercise, you should do it every day. Cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming, aerobics, walking) stimulates your metabolism, helps you burn tons of calories and can even temporarily suppress your appetite post-workout.

But don't let cardio get all the metabolic-boosting glory. Weight-training is very important, too, since it tones your muscles and boosts lean tissue mass, which burns more calories per pound than fat. The more lean muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn each day.

Also, don't be afraid to exercise more than once a day. Breaking up a 60-minute workout into two 30-minute (or three 20-minute) sessions is not only convenient, but according to recent research, it may help you burn more fat.

Secret #4: Eat all day to keep weight gain at bay.
Not to be taken literally, "eat all day" means that you should be eating more snacks or smaller meals instead of gorging on large meals. Eating five or six small meals throughout the day keeps a steady stream of energy available to your body. This boosts both your metabolism and your brain power. Keep healthy snacks (fruits, veggies, nuts, yogurt) with you and graze throughout the day as needed. Just be sure your main meals are smaller to accommodate all this snacking, or you'll load up on extra calories you don't need.

A big weight-loss no-no is skipping meals. Dieters often try to get that extra weight loss edge by cutting entire meals instead of just cutting calories throughout the day. However, this is actually counterproductive. Skipping meals forces your metabolism to slow down and conserve calories to compensate for the lack of food. When you finally do eat, your body remembers that it went for a long time without food and will store more calories in preparation for the next time you're going to starve it. Stay off this roller-coaster by eating at regular intervals throughout the entire day.

Secret #5: Raise a glass to drinking yourself skinny.
Dehydration is a funny thing. While the number on the scale may be favorable when you haven't had enough water, you're actually risking major weight gain by not drinking enough. The problem is that being dehydrated can actually trick your brain into thinking you're hungry, so instead of reaching for a cold one (water, that is) you reach for whatever snack is nearby.

A simple exercise in math may help illustrate the importance of hydration:

8 ounces of water = 0 calories
1 candy bar from the office vending machine = 270 calories
Swapping that candy bar for a glass of water, then waiting 20 minutes to see if you were really hungry in the first place = priceless

Give your body a break from processing all those fatty calories and grab a glass of ice-cold water instead. Some experts even claim that your body burns extra calories as it works to raise the temperature of that icy water up to your internal body temperature. It's a controversial claim and one that we may be bickering over for only a few extra calories, but I say why not? It's refreshing, it's hydrating and you'll burn calories on your walk over to the water cooler.

Secret #6: Set your metabolism on fire with spicy foods.
Spicing up your meals may do more than just add great flavor. "Hot" foods, such as jalapeƱos, chile peppers and spices (like curry and cayenne), may actually increase body temperature. Body temperature and metabolism are directly related: As you burn energy, heat is released. As the theory goes, by increasing your internal body temperature, spicy foods may temporarily raise your metabolism and stimulate the use of stored fat as energy. Experts go back and forth on this theory, stating that it's not enough of a boost to make a difference.

However, researchers do agree that eating spicy foods can increase feelings of satiety. And the sooner you're satisfied at a meal, the quicker you'll stop eating. You can easily save yourself 100 calories at a meal by taking a few less bites, so pile on the hot sauce. (See related story: Boost Your Metabolism with Spicy Foods)

Secret #7: You can count on calcium for an extra boost.
A large body of research shows that calcium, an essential mineral, can actually boost your basal metabolic rate, which in turn can help tremendously with your weight loss efforts. In a National Dairy Council-funded study, researchers found that a high-calcium, low-calorie diet can boost fat loss by 42%, compared to only 8% for a solely low-calorie diet.

In addition to safeguarding your waistline, studies also show that dairy lovers are less likely to suffer from metabolic syndrome. The hallmarks of this condition include high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as poor blood sugar control and increased abdominal obesity – all factors that increase risk of diabetes and heart disease.

If you don't eat enough calcium-rich dairy foods, such as yogurt, skim milk and low-fat cheeses, you should either start adding them to your diet or consider taking a daily calcium supplement.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another Look at Lust: A Christian View

Albert Mohler
President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
source: CW

Joshua Harris takes lust very seriously--so seriously in fact that he has written a book that takes the issue head-on. In Not Even a Hint: Guarding Your Heart Against Lust, Harris provides a candid appraisal of lust as a challenge for the Christian believer.


According to Harris, lust is wrongly directed desire. "To lust is to want what you don't have and weren't meant to have," he explains. "Lust goes beyond attraction, and appreciation of beauty, or even a healthy desire for sex—it makes these desires more important than God. Lust wants to go outside God's guidelines to find satisfaction."


Joshua Harris' approach is counter-cultural from the start. Most Americans reject the very notion that there are any pleasures that we are not "meant to have." Our society has institutionalized lust, weaving the patterns of illicit sexual desire throughout the culture's interplay of media, entertainment, status and advertising. Lust is now part and parcel of the modern vision of the good life.


Harris argues that "lust may be the defining struggle for this generation." Previous generations faced the moral challenges of war, poverty and pestilence, but this generation is absorbed in a continual cycle of lust and sexual gratification.


A best-selling author, Harris is known to many young Christians through his works on biblical courtship and marriage. In I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl, he helped to educate a generation of evangelicals about the biblical notion of courtship as preparation for marriage.


A pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., Harris combines pastoral experience with keen spiritual insight. In his earlier works, he focused on the dangers inherent in the conventional pattern of dating that has become the norm among young Americans. This system of one-on-one dating between young men and women is morally suspect because it places the couple in a context of premature sexual intimacy.

The escalating rate of premarital sex among young Americans—including many who claim to be Christians—is sufficient evidence to give Harris' arguments credence. Furthermore, he roots his argument in a more biblical vision of courtship as intentional preparation for marriage.


Why choose now to write on lust? "Writing two books on the topic of dating and courtship in the last five years has helped me to see just how serious this problem is for a broad spectrum of believers," Harris explains. "I've received thousands of letters and e-mails from people of all ages around the world who are struggling with sexual impurity." As Harris sees it, the problem is deadly serious. "The stories are heartbreaking and they're from both women and men. They're stories of small compromises that lead to serous sin and regret. They're stories of secret and anguishing battles with premarital sex, with pornography, and with homosexuality. They're stories from those who once swore to remain pure and now can't believe the depths of impurity to which they've descended."

God's Standard

With lust now standing at the center of American culture, celebrated as a vital part of the good life, Harris sounds like an absolute extremist when it comes to the seriousness of lust. What is God's standard when it comes to lust? How much lust is allowable in the Christian life? Harris' answer is the essence of simplicity: "Nada. Zip. Zero." Just in case you missed his point, Harris goes on to insist that lust has no place at all in the Christian life— not even a hint

Why such a high standard? "I'm not saying this to be dramatic," Harris insists. "I really believe it's what God calls each Christian to regardless of what kind of culture we live in or how old we are. And its not because God is heavy-handed, or strict for the sake of strictness. Its because He loves us—and because we are His." Joshua Harris is an honest man, and he brings that honesty to Not Even a Hint. He confesses his own struggle with lust as a young man, and allows readers—both male and female—to identify with the depth of his moral and spiritual struggle.


When addressing lust, defined as an illicit sexual desire, the chief difficulty we face is in defining the distinction between lust and a healthy sexual desire. Harris admits the difficulty, and he attempts to draw the distinction by insisting that lust is not being attracted to someone nor is it a sudden eruption of sexual temptation. The essence of lust is the enjoyment of the illicit desire, the pleasure of temptation prolonged.


Nevertheless, even innocent desire can turn into lust if given the slightest invitation. As Harris explains, "A sexual thought that pops into your mind isn't necessarily lust, but it can quickly become lust if it's entertained and dwelled on. An excitement for sex in marriage isn't sin, but it can be tainted by lust if it's not tempered with patience and restraint." Clear enough?

By Design

The human sex drive is not the product of biological evolution or cosmic accident. Our Creator made us sexual beings and put a strong sex drive within us in order to drive us toward marriage and all the goods that are united in the marital union. As fallen creatures, we need the guiding assistance of the sex drive to pull us out of lethargy and self-centeredness into a fruitful and faithful relationship with a spouse.


In making us male and female, God intended for men to be sexually attracted to women and for women to be sexually attracted to men, but this attraction is not merely a matter of mutuality between two genders, but is intended to direct us toward a mutuality of two persons, united in the covenant of marriage.


Within marriage, sexual pleasure and sexual passion are essential parts of the relational glue that holds the union together, points towards procreation, and establishes an intimacy described in the Bible as a one-flesh relationship. Joshua Harris understands this, and he affirms that "God gave us our drives so that we would drive toward something."


So far, so good. The deadly problem of lust arises when the sex drive is directed toward something less than or other than the purity of marriage. As philosopher Simon Blackburn argues, lust is sexual passion and pleasure defined as an end in itself. Blackburn's secular argument leads to an open embrace of lust as an act of self-definition. Harris's Christian understanding leads him to see lust as a reminder of the believer's need for self-denial. He understands the fact that we live in a pornographic age and in a society driven by lust.

A Plan

Given these realities, he proposes a "custom-tailored plan" for every individual. With the complex and immediately available seductions of pornography and sexual enticement, Harris understands that every individual is likely to be faced with a different pattern of temptation. As he acknowledges, "there can be no 'one size fits all' approach to combating lust." That being the case, the Christian is required to be honest about the pattern of temptation he or she faces. Harris deals with lust as packaged and presented in books, the Internet, the mailbox, and the general context of everyday life. He points to the need for accountability and ruthless honesty about lust and its consequences.


Having been there himself, Joshua also knows that the struggle against lust cannot be won by mere personal determination and the application of self-control. Furthermore, legalism is no antidote to lust. "We can't save ourselves and we can't change ourselves," Joshua explains. "Only faith in Christ can rescue us from the prison of our sin. And only the Spirit can transform us. Our job is to invite His work, participate with it, and submit more and more of our thoughts, actions, and desires to Him."


Not Even a Hint is a ground-breaking book of Christian candor and biblical honesty. Once again, Joshua Harris has given young Christians a great gift—a book that combines scriptural wisdom with a sense of deep urgency. He writes with passion and credibility, and this author does not duck the hardest issues.


Simon Blackburn thinks that lust is a virtue, and many Christians fool themselves into thinking that lust is no real problem. Joshua Harris has offered an antidote to those tragic misperceptions. Lust is not only a vice, it is a sin that ignites yet other sins. Not Even a Hint is a sober-minded antidote to this sex-saturated age.


Albert Mohler is an author, speaker and President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on's Weblog page.

Keeping Up Appearances

byChip Ingram
Living on the Edge
source: CW

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? When you catch your reflection in a storefront window, what do you think? Do you see a beautiful, or handsome person, full of potential and endowed by God to do wonderful things? Or do you tend to see that crooked tooth, those crows' feet, those extra few pounds around the middle?


Maybe you don't like to look in the mirror much at all, because it reminds you of all the things that need to be "fixed." Or maybe, you spend lots of time at the tanning booth or in the gym striving for improvement, trying to reach "good looking" status as it is prescribed by our culture.


We live in a culture obsessed with bodies. That's the bottom line (pardon the pun!). We can't grow old gracefully anymore; we have to have buns of steel and ageless skin. In fact, we are told that we can find beauty in an 8 oz. jar and youth in a vitamin pill. Television, magazines, advertisements, all bombard us daily with the faulty insistence that we just aren't good enough the way we are. Even though we may like the way we look, and desire to be content with how we are made, we are constantly reminded of our physical imperfections.


I believe it's part of our humanness, particularly for women, to walk into a group, take a look around, and begin comparing ourselves to everyone else. A little tape measure pulls out of our head (whether we are aware of it or not), and we size up ourselves, how we fit in, how we look alongside others.


But if we can, let's set aside all those messages and impressions from our culture, and hear what God has to say about our physical appearance. When God looks at you and me, what does He see?


Interestingly, the Bible doesn't waste a lot of ink describing people's appearances. We don't even know what Adam and Eve looked like, who were the original specimens of human perfection. We don't know what color Eve's hair was, how she wore it, or what shape her nose was. We don't know if Adam had a moustache or goatee, or what his body structure was. What we do know is that man and women were made in the image of God, to reflect who He is, to take care of the earth and to multiply and fill it.


In fact, many times when beauty and physical attractiveness is mentioned in Scripture, it's connected with the sinfulness of man! Sarai's beauty got her in trouble with Pharoah ( Gen. 12:10-13), Bathsheba's beauty ignited the moral downfall of Israel's greatest king (2 Sam. 11:1-2). David's appearance was discounted altogether by Samuel, who pointed out that "God looks at the heart," and although we don't know exactly what Jesus looked like, Isaiah's prophecies tell us He wasn't particularly attractive.


On the other hand, God at times used the physical beauty of someone to bring about good, as in the case of Esther, and the Song of Solomon shows what a good thing it is for a husband and wife to be attracted to one another.


What we need to understand is this: Your physical appearance is attractive to God because He designed you and created you exactly the way He wanted you to be.


I've never known a mother who didn't think her newborn baby wasn't absolutely beautiful in every way. Years ago, I worked as a secretary on a college campus, and many of the women who worked there were in the "growing family" stage of their lives; every time a new baby was born, the mother would bring her baby up to the campus and show it off. One day, Sue brought her baby in, radiant with pride. Her child had been born with a severe cleft palate, and wasn't as cute to look at as all the other babies had been. In fact, many surgeries were required before the birth defect was totally corrected. But that didn't matter to Sue. She loved her baby; it was hers, it was part of her, and was the most beautiful little girl in the world to her. That's how it is with God. That's how He sees us. We are His, we are a part of Him because we were created in His image. He loves us, and we are beautiful in His sight. He made us in all shapes, sizes, and colors, with characteristics unique to us because we are one of a kind, and wonderful to Him.

Secondly, your value as a person, your innate worth, is not determined by your physical appearance. True, lasting attractiveness is that which flows from a heart filled with God. Many of us think that wearing the right clothes, being the right weight, having a certain haircut or body type makes us valuable. But this is false. Why? Because our outward appearance doesn't reveal what we are truly like inside, or what our true value is. Have you ever met someone whose outward appearance is not very attractive initially, but the more time you spend with them, the more you get to know them, the more beautiful or handsome they become?


The true us, the lasting part, is inside. The outer shell, the temporary part, is fading away. How backwards it is that we, as a culture, should become so fixated on what is so fragile and often bears so little resemblance to the "real" us! Our true selves, rather than deteriorating with time, grow richer, deeper, and more beautiful as we walk with the Lord and let Him form us.


Paul wrote, "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). He called our earthly bodies a "tent," that would one day be torn down. One day, through disease or mishap or malfunction, our tents will fold. But our true selves, which dwell for about seventy or eighty years within this tent, will continue to live for eternity, if indeed we belong to Christ.


Until that day comes, this is the tent we have. It may look different than other people's tents, but we need to take care of it and allow God to use it, regardless of its shape or form. After all, it no longer belongs to us alone. When God Himself purchased you with the death of His Son, he moved in with you, and turned your tent into His temple. It is important that we cherish and care for our physical bodies because He has chosen us, and wants us to communicate His character through the way we live.


Finally, we can do all we want to to improve our appearance. But what is most important to God and for eternity, is hidden within our hearts. Peter wrote "And let not your adornment be merely external, braiding the hair and wearing gold jewelry [and sculpting your body with a 24-hour fitness pass and dressing like Ralph Lauren?]; but let it be the hidden person of the heart" ( 1 Peter 3:3-4, paraphrase in brackets mine). Our directive is not that we should avoid looking good. We need to dress and look appropriate to the culture within which God has placed us. But we must not be deceived into thinking that our outward appearance is a source of genuine attractiveness. Our value has already been determined because of our relationship with Christ; no one, nothing, can ever add to or take away from that value.


We have a choice to make. We can either look at the reflection of ourselves in the "distorted mirrors" the world provides, or we can choose to look at ourselves through the lens of God's Word.


How about it? Tomorrow morning, will you see yourself there in the mirror, or stand there on the bathroom scale, and thank God for the way He has made you? That means all of you, the things you like, and the things you don't. Then ask Him to grow you, the real you, into the kind of person that reflects His magnificence to the world around you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Four Ways Husbands Can Improve Their Marriages

by: The Smalley Relationship Center

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:21


Over the years we have interviewed hundreds of wives, and many of them communicated at least three areas where they desired to see change in their husbands before they would believe their husband's commitment:


• Careful Listening without Justification or Argument


It is often difficult for a man to converse with his wife without challenging the meaning of various words she uses to explain how she feels inside. If a husband can overlook the actual words his wife uses to express herself and instead, actively pursue what she means, fewer arguments will take place. One man I know finds it almost impossible to do this. When his wife says, "You never do this," or "Your always do that," he will inevitably say, "Now, dear, I don't always do that," or "Did I do it yesterday?" or he begins to analyze her statement to prove it false.

If we can stop justifying our actions and quit arguing about the words our wives use, we can get to the heart of the matter. We can try rephrasing our wives statements, "Is this what you were trying to say?" or "Is this what I'm hearing?" It is essential in communication to look past the surface words to the real meaning behind the words.


• Quickness to Admit Error


Countless wives and children have told me how their family relationships have been weakened because of a husband's or father's unwillingness to admit his errors. Though husbands sometimes think admission of errors reveals their weaknesses, the opposite is true.


A humble admission of wrong produces positive results. When a husband admits he has hurt his wife, she feels better just knowing he understands. Not only that, it demonstrates that he is a wise man because the Scriptures tell us that only the wise seek counsel.


• Patience When She is Reluctant to Believe You've Changed


What if you've been doing everything within your power to let your wife know she has first place in your life, and she still doesn't believe you've changed? Do you throw up your arms in disgust? Or do you gently persuade her over a period of time? Her initial respect for you wasn't lost overnight, and it can't be regained in a day. Show her that no matter how long it takes, you want to earn her respect.


For Wives - A Gentle Answer Turns Away Wrath


"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1


No one likes to be criticized, regardless of how much truth lies behind the criticism. Whether we are male or female, six or sixty, when someone corrects us, we automatically become defensive. Yet honest communication is vital to marriage. These two basic truths appear contradictory. How do you honestly tell the one you love about something you find displeasing or aggravating without prompting that familiar, defensive glare or indifferent shrug?


The following four principles outline the indirect approach. This is especially beneficial for wives when they are wanting to comment on their husband's insensitivity.


1. Learn to express your feelings through three loving attitudes:


a. Warmth is the friendly acceptance of a person. It's considering a person to be important enough to give your time and resources to—to share his concerns, not because he has earned it, but simply because he's a human being.

b. Empathy is the ability to understand and identify with a person's feelings.

c. Sincerity is showing a genuine concern for a person without changing your attitude toward him when circumstances change.


2. Learn to share your feelings without using "you" statements. For example, the statement, "You're never home on time" or "Can't you get up earlier and take care of the kids just once?" "You" statements usually cause a man to either dig in and fight or to promptly leave your presence without resolving the issue. Either way, it makes him more determined to have his own way.

3. When you've cooled off, replace the "you" statements with "I" messages. Instead of confronting your tardy husband as he walks through the door with,"You never come home on time," creatively share your feelings in a positive context. For example, "You know, there are some things you do that really make me feel loved and appreciated, like coming home for dinner on time or letting me know if you'll be late. Those are ways that you show your love for me. I really need that."


4. Abandon "I told you so" statements. Such statements can take many forms and should be eliminated completely. Her are some examples: "Just like I thought," "I knew it!" or "You never listen, do you?"


As you begin to apply some of these principles, you will encounter a bit of frustration and failure, but don't give up. If you persist in developing and expressing these qualities, you will ultimately see those same qualities developed in your husband.


A Wife's 4th Need – To Feel Protected


"For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church." Ephesians 5:29


What are ways in which you can protect your wife and make her feel secure? Before a husband can begin to protect his wife, he needs to discover areas where his wife feels vulnerable. Through informal discussions and observation on your part, you can compile mental lists of the major and minor areas where she feels frustrated or fearful.


Driving a car is one of my wife's vulnerable areas. Because she was involved in a serious auto accident in which some good friends were killed, she is naturally very alert to any possible danger when she is driving or even riding in a car. Since I am aware of this fear, I am sensitive to her driving needs.


Here are some of the areas which I consider to be important in protecting your wives:


1.  Her physical limits. Many times a man treats his wife too roughly. He is unaware that his wife's physical make-up keeps her from enjoying roughness even when being playful. This could include wrestling, being rowdy, or thinking that she is able to move around the same amount of weight that you can.


2.  Financial pressures. A man also needs to protect his wife from unnecessary financial stress. Many wives endure a tremendous amount of pressure because of a husband's irresponsibility with finances. When a wife has to face angry bill collectors, juggle figures in a checkbook that won't balance, cope with mounting pressures resulting from insufficient money, and other financial pressures, the burden can become physically and emotionally too much for some wives.


3.  Expecting her to do all the cooking. So many men treat their wives as objects to be used. They don't verbalize it, but they maintain the inward conviction that women should remain in the kitchen cooking and cleaning while they play golf, hunt, or watch the game on TV. We as men need to take a close look at our traditional roles and choose what is best based on genuine love and the commitment to cherish our mates.


4.  The pressure of the children. My wife used to say how much she appreciated the times I took charge of the kids when I came home from work. She was grateful for the time alone. I would take them outside to play, into another room to read, or just talked to them about whatever topic they chose. Thoughtful, creative ideas on your part are worth much more than the time and energy they cost. They strengthen your marriage and lift your wife's spirit.


We as husbands need to be aware of the amount of stress our wives face daily. To aid your wife with stress, you must first be aware of the situations that cause her the most anxiety. Purpose to protect your wife in all areas where she feels fearful and vulnerable. That's the first way to show how much you cherish her.


(c) 2003 Smalley Relationship Center.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Story is God Writing for You?

by Betsy St. Amant
source: crosswalk

Throughout my journey as an author, I've come to realize that writers need many things. None, however, as important as these two: A broken watch. And a giant piece of chocolate.

The broken watch is to represent the fact that in the publishing industry, time doesn't just crawl. Sometimes, it ceases to exist altogether. If you write, you know that an author might actually spend more time waiting to hear back from an editor or agent on her proposal or manuscript than she did writing the entire book in the first place.

Which is, of course, where the chocolate comes in.

For me, I've needed chocolate since day one. I was creating and making up stories before I even hit the second grade Sunday school room at my church. Reading and writing have always been in my blood. I remember sitting in my house as a little girl, surrounded by books on all sides and crying because I couldn't read them yet! My mom used to laugh at me (gently, of course) because I would get so worked up about something that wasn't ready to happen. But in my little-girl opinion, I was so ready to read that I would pretend to do so anyway (stubbornness, also, might be in my blood) and I began to make up what the foreign words meant on the page. A head-start to my creativity? Only God knows for sure.

And only God knew when I was truly ready to begin my journey. I remember the day my dad brought home our first computer. I stared in awe at the complicated gadgets before me, totally overwhelmed. With all my seven-year-old genius, I pecked on the keys as if they might bite me. Little did I know this strange contraption would later become of one my best friends. Slowly but surely, I began hacking out poems and short stories on those intimidating keys. Most of the time, I didn't finish them--I lost interest halfway through and started a new project. But it was progress, a taste of what would come in my future. I also started a diary, won awards in elementary school for reading the most books of the entire class and placed in my school spelling bee. Words always meant a lot to me, in a variety of forms. Later, I fell in love with young adult books, and even tried writing my own version of a Baby-Sitters Club story. (which is one book no one will ever read, trust me!)

All along, looking back, I can clearly see God's fingerprints on my life, lovingly guiding me in the right direction. I picture Him smiling down in amusement at my attempts to write over the years, shaking His head and saying "Oh, just wait. You have no idea the plans I have for you." God had a specific path for me all along, and when I was ready, the pieces began falling into place.

I got serious about my writing when I turned eighteen. I joined writers groups, started building friendships with other authors, and attended conferences--quite the step from a shy little girl hiding behind her books! Basically, God lifted me straight out of my comfort zone and plopped me down in the middle of my biggest fear--and my biggest dream-come-true. My first Christian fiction novel, a romantic suspense titled Midnight Angel, was published last January by The Wild Rose Press.

It's been an exciting journey so far--a stressful, scary, nerve-wracking, exhilarating journey--but the best part is, I've only just begun to understand how the world of publishing works. I continue to grow every day in my craft, and continue to stretch myself to new limits. I've learned that staying in my comfort zone might indeed be comfortable, but it won't get me anywhere. I don't believe God ever calls any of us to stand still, but rather to keep a death-grip on His hand and walk by His side wherever He leads.

One of my favorite quotes is by E. L. Doctorow. "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia."  If you think my characters don't talk to me, ask my husband. He's heard me talk back! Reassuring my characters that the house that just exploded is actually a good thing, and that the bad guy chasing them won't catch up and they're safe (for now! Heh heh) and that the love interest they wish would pursue them will do so in due time. In the same way I pictured God smiling down at me over the years, I often smile at my characters. "Just wait... you have no idea what I have planned for you."

But just as my characters often talk back to me, how many times have we talked back to God? You see, it's not my character's job to figure out story length, or watch for grammar and punctuation mistakes. It's not my character's job to create that important plot line or to mind their point-of-view or incorporate conflict or any of those things that I as the author must deal with. That's my job. And in our lives, it's God's job. He sees the entire picture. He knows the end of the story, and how many pages are in the book.

Sometimes, I feel that as Christian women, we get so caught up in the details of the every day that we forget that our job is to simply live out the story God has placed in our hearts.

When I was in elementary school, I was part of an honors class called Discoveries. One of my assignments was to pick a partner and together, act out a scene from any story we chose. My friend, Sarah, and I chose a BabySitters Club book (what else?!) and we got to work recreating a scene from one of our favorites. It wasn't easy. We had to have a ton of props, and memorize a lot of dialogue. The scene involved a tunnel and a house. Basically, we couldn't have picked a harder scene to perform in a classroom! But we thought it was "The One", and we were determined. We practiced several times and then finally acted out the scene for the class the next week. Even though it was hard, we had a blast and got a good grade! (though looking back, maybe the teacher felt sorry for us!)

In that same sense, we often feel that our chosen assignment is too hard. God asks us to do something and we immediately think "no way, that's too complicated. I could never do that!" In doing so, we miss out on the fun and the rewards of obedience. Just like Sarah and I were determined to do our best, regardless of the hardship and the embarrassment of acting before our classmates, we as Christian women should do the same--face our fears and trust God is leading us in the direction He intended. Sure, we might need some props. We might worry our location is not ideal. But He'll make a way. (Hey, if Sarah and I could figure out how to pantomime a tunnel and a house inside an elementary school T-building, I figure nothing is impossible!)

The truth is, we are all characters in God's ultimate novel. Sometimes we might feel as if we play a leading role, that we really are making a difference for the Kingdom. Other times we might feel like we're just a secondary character, and not really needed. But as an author, let me assure you: every single character is important to the story. The hero, the heroine, the best friend, the boss, the coworker, the salesman, etc. All of the characters play a vital role and fill in gaps that would otherwise stay empty.

Keep in mind that the characters don't choose which part they play, rather, I do. I have an outline. I know where they need to be and what they need to do, and I try my best to make sure they get there.

In that regard, God has the Master Outline for us. He knows where we need to be and when we need to get there. He's right beside us, offering his hand of strength and encouragement. He's there to lift us up when we fall and steer us back on track when we veer off the path. He has an ultimate goal to reach and as Christians, we all play a part in achieving it. If you are still on this Earth, it's for a reason. God will never write "The End" across your page before your story is fulfilled.

Some of you might be thinking: That sounds good, but what if I don't know what my story is? What if I don't know where the plot is going or what my role involves?

That's the best part! God will tell you. In His timing. Your journey is already charted out; God just needs you to be willing to start walking. (or in some situations, start writing!)

God never promised us that obedience would be easy. Throughout my journey as an author, I've received multiple rejections. My published novel was rejected by many agents and editors before it found its home. There were days I was so frustrated I wanted to quit, days my self-esteem was beat down to nothing and I felt sure I had misunderstood God's calling, sure He had the wrong girl! But I kept writing. I had to. Another quote I often use is by Sir Issac Asimov. "I write for the same reason I breathe, because if I didn't, I would die."

I have to write. I have to tell my story. It's a part of who I am. Despite the rejections and self doubt, it would actually be more painful for me not to write. The good news is, none of my rejections or hardships took God by surprise. I had a lesson to learn through each disappointment, and now that I'm on the other side of that particular valley, I see it clearly. It was all for a reason, and each step has contributed toward making me a better writer, and therefore, enabling me to better tell my story.

I've written more books since the one I had published, and am once again in that waiting game of hoping to hear something back, and wondering what I'll do if I don't! But it's all about trust. My characters can understand that concept--because just like I can't see the future, they don't get to know the end of the story before I write it. They go where I tell them to; trusting things will work out for the best. 

 Well, guess what? God promises us the same thing in Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." We can trust him--the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Through out my journey as a woman, I've come to realize there are two things every Christian girl must have. A broken watch. And a giant piece of chocolate.

The broken watch is to remind us that we're working off God's timing, not our own. He's writing your story, and you're living it for Him, not the other way around.

And the chocolate, of course--well, you know what to do.

Betsy Ann St. Amant resides in northern Louisiana with her husband, Brandon. Betsy has a bachelor's degree in Christian Communications from Louisiana Baptist University and is actively pursuing a career in inspirational writing. Her first published Christian Fiction novel, Midnight Angel, is now available on You can contact her at

Monday, September 10, 2007

REsource:Safeguard Against Workplace Temptations

by Nancy C. Anderson
source: Crosswalk

If you work with a Flirty Frank or Tempting Tina, there are some ways you can stand strong against temptation.


Coworkers often are required to work on projects or solve problems together, and the resulting closeness can build teamwork -- but it can also build a feeling of intimacy. Be honest with yourself. If you're dressing to please someone at work or lingering in the parking lot hoping that person will ask you to lunch, stop now, before you've gone too far.


If you're in doubt as to what conduct is inappropriate, ask yourself, Would I do this in front of my spouse? And if you're still not sure, ask yourself, Would I do it in front of the Lord? (You are, you know.) Here is a simple rule to keep you on the straight and narrow: If you'd have to lie about it -- don't do it!


If you feel an attraction to someone in your office and have romantic or sexual thoughts about them, consider a transfer to a different department, a different site, or maybe you should quit. No job is more valuable than your marriage


I wish I would have followed that advice. Because I didn't resist the temptation 25 years ago, I had an affair with a coworker. My relationship with Jake started innocently. I noticed that he laughed at the same things I laughed at, and he noticed that we both liked similar music, so we started to sit together in the lunchroom. We were just friends. . . until we weren't.


I remember the first time we went out of the friendship zone and into the danger zone. We were sitting next to each other at a sales meeting when his leg brushed up against mine. I felt a spark at the contact point and was a bit disappointed when he moved it. A few minutes later, he shifted slightly in his chair and his leg, from knee to thigh, pressed gently against mine. I liked it, and didn't pull away.


I should have. I sent him a signal that I was unguarded. If I'd moved my leg and not responded to his flirtations, I'd have avoided the biggest regret of my life.


After a few months, I "came to my senses" and confessed my adultery to God. I knew that I could not continue to work with Jake without being tempted, so I quit my job.  My husband forgave me and we rebuilt our marriage. However, the damage was devastating, and our recovery took several years.

Many Christian companies have codes of conduct that are safeguards against the temptations of emotional or physical affairs with coworkers. Here are some examples: 

1. People of the opposite sex should not ride in a car together without a third party present.

2. Don't make personal (non-work related) phone calls to a coworker of the opposite sex.

3. Don't have lunch with the same person every day. Move around the lunchroom or break-room and if you go out to a restaurant, go in a group.

4. Make sure that your e-mails and other correspondence are not suggestive, inappropriate, or flirtatious.

5. Talk about your spouse in positive terms, making it clear that you're married and intend to stay that way.

6. Be careful not to make any lingering eye contact.

7. The only appropriate touch between business associates of the opposite sex is a handshake.

And here are a few guarding hedges to plant around your business travel:

1. If your job requires traveling with another employee of the opposite sex, do not get adjoining hotel rooms. If possible, request a room on a different floor.

2. If you have to meet with that person, offer to get together in the coffee shop or the lobby.

3. Call your spouse every night at a designated time and give him or her full permission to call your cell phone -- anytime.

4. Ask the hotel clerk to block out all adult TV channels.

Discuss these lists with your spouse and add any other things you feel are necessary. Then, give your mate permission to correct you if you go out-of-bounds. Also, know that the best defense against an office affair is a healthy marriage. Be aware of other ways your workplace or career could be a stumbling point for the general health of your marriage and then resolve to address those potential areas of weakness.

According to an Orange County Register article titled "Workplace a Hazard to Marriage" (11/24/03) working with people of the opposite sex can be hazardous to your marriage.  If you, as a woman, worked with all women, your chances for a divorce would be much lower than if you worked with mostly men. If, however, you're a married woman and you work with mostly single or newly divorced females, your divorce risk is much higher than if your coworkers were married.


If you're in a workplace that's a landmine of temptation or if many of your coworkers are swingin' singles, be on guard.


Many years ago, my husband worked for a company that was rife with temptations. The owner hired receptionists and secretaries who were usually beautiful, young, and single; consequently, it was not a healthy environment for married men. In addition, some of Ron's male coworkers ate lunch at a "gentlemen's club"--a fancy term for a topless bar.


They often asked Ron to go with them, and even though he was tempted, he never went. They'd try to entice him by saying, "We won't tell your wife. What she doesn't know won't hurt her." He would politely decline and say, "No thanks, I have a deal with my wife. I don't go to female strip clubs and she doesn't go to male strip clubs. They're dangerous places." These co-workers all knew that Ron was a Christian, and if he'd gone, they may have discounted his faith and labeled him as a hypocrite. I know that several men admired Ron's commitment to me, because they privately asked him for advice about their marriages.

Your relationship could be an excellent example to other married coworkers if you stand strong. So be bold and fearless when you're defending your marriage at your workplace. Resist and flee temptation before it overtakes you.

1 Cor. 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it .

Adapted from Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to Grow Affair Proof Hedges Around Your Marriage (Kregel Publications 2004)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

How healthy is your vineyard?

by Buddy Owens
source: RWMT

God is not looking for servants. He is looking for sons who will join him in the family business.

Buddy Owens, pastor of spiritual growth at Saddleback



Not long ago I had two separate conversations with two different people who said the same thing. One is a man, the other is a woman. One is Presbyterian, the other is Assemblies of God. They each were worship leaders in churches that were experiencing great renewal. And they each said to me: "I wish what is happening in my church was happening in my life." Sad to say, their sentiment is not uncommon in the ministry.

In Song of Songs 1:6, the beloved laments: "My brothers have made me tend their vineyards, but I have neglected my own." Her words ring so true, and remind me of my two friends – and of myself.

If I'm not careful, the joy of service turns so easily into the drudgery of duty, and before I know it, I have replaced intimacy with responsibility. I fill my life with activities when God wants to fill it with himself. More meetings, more projects, more hours spent at work serving my master. All of these things are worthy of my time and effort. But as I learned from the Parable of the Prodigal, God is not looking for servants. He is looking for sons who will join him in the family business.

The frustration mounts. The emptiness deepens. I become restless and dissatisfied. I occupy myself with more activity – but that's just digging the hole deeper. Like the older brother in Jesus' parable who cried out, All these years I have been slaving for you!, my "being" is soon overshadowed by my "doing."

When I center my spiritual identity on the work of the ministry rather than centering myself in the presence of the Father, my passions change. My old passion for God is replaced by a new passion for service. Its rewards are more measurable and often more gratifying: acclaim, a sense of achievement and importance. I feed this new passion, and by doing so, starve the old one. The result is that I begin to measure my spiritual maturity by the load I carry rather than the freedom I enjoy.

But when religious activity takes the place of spiritual intimacy, my heart begins to harden and I end up – as the beloved lamented – having spent my energies tending my brothers' vineyards while my own vineyard has been neglected. The result is burnout, jealousy for the spiritual intimacy that others experience, and a longing for a taste from the spiritual feast that others have enjoyed at Jesus' feet while I was slaving away in the kitchen.

I justify my negligence with a Martha mentality that if someone else isn't working as hard as I am, then what they need is a good swift kick in the pants from the Lord – when what I really want is to be sitting at Jesus' feet myself. The fear is that if I sit at his feet, nothing will get done. But the truth is that if I don't sit at his feet, nothing I do will matter in the long run. Like my two friends, I will miss out on the blessing of God's presence, and God will miss out on the pleasure of my company.

Sounds audacious, doesn't it? That God would miss out on the pleasure of anybody's company? But think about this: Why would God invite you into his presence if he didn't want to be in yours? He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden" (Matt. 11:28), and "Come to me that your soul may live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you" (Isa. 55:3). Is his invitation only for our benefit, or is it also somehow for God's benefit? After all, the Bible says, "The Lord delights in those who fear him" (Ps. 147:11).

The dilemma is this: the "God-shaped void" that Pascal wrote about does not disappear. It gets larger. It's an appetite that, once awakened, grows into an all-consuming passion. We cannot get enough of God's presence because God continually makes more room for himself. He expands his sphere of influence with each encounter. Our capacity for true spiritual fulfillment enlarges with every fulfilling experience, until we reach the place where we say with the psalmist: "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere" (Ps. 84:2, 10).
The fear is that if I sit at Jesus' feet, nothing will get done. But the truth is that if I don't sit at his feet, nothing I do will matter in the long run.

Buddy Owens, pastor of spiritual growth at Saddleback


It is then that we are ready for ministry because we are driven not by our talents, or our need for recognition, or even our sense of duty, but by our desperation for more of God and his glory.

The question I must ask is: What pleasure am I denying myself, and God for that matter, by allowing other, lesser pursuits to occupy my time? What God-encounters am I missing?

Some of our dearest friends whom we love the most live 10 minutes away, but we see them only once or twice a year. Why? Because there is always something else: something pressing, something necessary, something other. So the friendship gets moved to the back-burner. After all, they're only 10 minutes away – there will be other times. But you and I know that those other times grow fewer and farther between. And we suffer the loss of joy-filled moments that could have been.  

How many moments have I missed with the Father because something else was more pressing? How many memories will never be created? How many appointments with God have I missed because "something came up"?

So let me ask you a couple of questions: When was the last time you talked to God, not because you needed something, but simply out of friendship? When was the last time you spent time in the Word, not for the sake of public ministry, but for the sake of personal renewal? What is your identity in Christ? Do you see yourself as a servant working for your master, or as a son working with your father? Your point of view will make all the difference in the world.

As you go about the business of tending your brothers' vineyards this week, don't forget to tend your own.


  Article by Buddy Owens
Buddy Owens is pastor of spiritual growth at Saddleback Church in California. He is also the author of The Way of a Worshiper: Discover the Secret to Friendship with God.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Resource: Two Couples, Two Ways of Handling Money

by Cheryl Gochnauer
source: CrossWalk

Danny and Tricia's combined income places them firmly in the upper
middle class, so most of us would assume their financial problems are
over. Not so. Though they bring in a substantial amount each week,
Danny and Tricia have never learned to effectively handle their

Like many couples, Danny and Tricia don't keep close track of where
their money is going. They have separate accounts, since each respects
the other's right to "their own money." Tricia likes not having to
answer to Danny for every penny she spends. Unfortunately, she doesn't
answer to herself for every penny she spends, either. Dollars flow
into their three checking accounts - hers, his and theirs -- then flow
right out again without hanging around long enough to draw interest.

With all the activity in their accounts, Danny and Tricia figure they
are doing okay. Bills are usually paid on time, and when the checking
account balances disappear, they always have their good credit to draw
on. When they receive their charge card statements each month, a
fleeting discomfort sets in while reading the multiplying totals. But
they've never had a problem making the minimum payments. After all,
two more checks are coming in next week.

At least, they assume so.

Tim and Rhonda make half of what Danny and Tricia bring home, and yet
are in better financial shape. That's because they regularly do the
math to see exactly where they stand, money-wise, using a loose budget
that guides their spending decisions without hog-tying them

Early in their marriage, Rhonda and Tim pledged to openly discuss all
money issues. Together, they planned and identified mutual goals. They
use credit sparingly, and postpone big purchases until they can pay
cash or at least make significant down payments. That doesn't mean
they don't enjoy the occasional financial fling. It's just that those
sprees are planned for, not regretted in a resulting 21 percent APR

Because they know where the funds are flowing, this couple knew
exactly where they could cut when Rhonda decided to become a
stay-at-home mom. Budget modifications were minor, since they had
never delved into serious debt. Freedom from monetary strangleholds
enabled them to make family, not finance, focused choices.

Tim and Rhonda understand the fundamental difference between "wants"
and "needs". You can bet this young couple can visualize themselves in
the same luxury car their friends drive, and would savor the same
5-star meals and costly vacations that launch Danny and Tricia's
account balances into the stratosphere.

Sure, Tim would look great in that car. But the paid-off one he
already drives is dependable and economical. Yes, Rhonda needs a new
outfit. But is she really getting twice as much quality by spending
$100 on that dress, instead of $50? And though a special meal is nice
every once in a while, how often should they spend $40 for dinners
they could fix at home for $7?

Free-spiritedly riding the financial wave from week to week is both
risky and restrictive. The most glaring potential peril is losing
everything due to an unforeseen layoff or illness. But it isn't a
prospective catastrophe that poses the most danger to a couple's
emotional bottom line. Instead, it's the strain accompanying financial
uncertainty and consistently living beyond their means.

To positively approach marital money management:

* Review finances together.
* Agree on spending priorities.
* Identify mutual goals.
* Make a budget.
* Regularly review the budget, tweaking it to reflect your current situation.
* Stay in tune financially with your partner.

It'll nurture the kind of money-handling relationship you each want and need.

Cheryl is the COO of the Gochnauer family, the captain of a
cottage-writing industry and the author of So You Want to Be a
Stay-at-Home Mom (IVP). Copyright 2000 Cheryl Gochnauer