Saturday, October 27, 2007

Carefully Considering Our Relationships

by Carolyn Mahaney
source: CW

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16


This verse could well be the theme verse for our series: "The Disciplined Woman ." It's not a verse, however, that we might initially connect with Habit #3: "She focuses on right relational priorities for every season."


Relationships. A highly important topic to us as women, is it not? We are, by nature, relational creatures. We thrive on interaction with others and wither apart from it. Our world is often centered on our family and friends. The people in our lives usually consume a majority of our time and thoughts.


Yet, we are often more passive and receptive than we are intentional and purposeful in our relationships. We may allow people to drift in and out of our lives. We don't usually pause to consider our motives for developing a certain friendship or neglecting another. Emotions and feelings sometimes play far too significant a role in why and how we go about relationships.


Scripture would call us to "look carefully then how you walk" and whom we walk with! We must prayerfully consider our relational priorities in the light of God's priorities. Do our relationships -- the people we choose to interact with, the time we spend, the content of our interactions -- bring glory to God?


Over the years, I have used a simple exercise to help me evaluate my own relationships. Approximately twice a year I set aside time for planning and evaluation (we'll talk more about this when we hit habit #4). Among many other topics, I consider my relationships.


It's pretty straightforward really. I make a list of all the people in my life at present. Beginning with my husband, I list all the members of my family. After family, I write out the names of the people in my small group at church, followed by other friendships, both local and out of town. Finally, I consider and list those people who I am seeking to reach out to for the purpose of evangelism.


When I've finished my relational catalog, I begin by thanking God for the many people who are such a blessing in my life. I don't deserve family and friends like this! But thanking God for the blessing of relationships is only the first step. 


Carefully Considering Your List

So you've got your "Relationship List" in hand. Are you ready to proceed with our little exercise?

After we've thanked God for the blessing of family and friends we are ready to evaluate our relationships in light of Scripture.

First of all, let's consider the following two questions:


Is there anyone not on this list who should be?

For example, if we're not cultivating evangelistic relationships (Col. 4:5-6 ), or seeking to encourage younger women ( Titus 2:3), or reaching out to new people ( Heb. 13:2), then God would have us make such relationships a priority.



Is there anyone on this list who should not be?

If, for instance, someone is an ungodly influence, we need to graciously sever that friendship ( 1 Cor. 15:33). Or if there are an excessive number of friends on our list ( Prov. 18:24), then maybe we need to consider focusing our attention on fewer godly relationships.

Priority relationships shouldn't primarily be based on whom we "click with" or enjoy hanging out with the most, or even those who "need" us the most. Rather, our relationships should spring primarily from a desire to grow in godliness, encourage godliness in others, and share the gospel with the lost.

So, after we have the priority people on our list, let's evaluate these relationships a little more closely by considering two more questions:


Does our involvement and investment with each person reflect the priority this relationship should be at present?

For wives and mothers: does our investment of time reflect that our husband and children are our greatest priority? ( Prov 31:10-31, Titus 2:3-5)

Does our relational network indicate that we place the highest value on friendships in the church? ( Gal 6:10)

Do our relational priorities reveal a lifestyle of evangelism? ( Col. 4:5-6)


What specific, practical changes do we need to make in our relationships so that we are involved with and investing in the right people for the right amount of time?

Finally, let me encourage you to show this list to your husband (where applicable) or another godly woman. Let's not assume we can figure this out on our own! And if you are a mother of a teenage girl, carve out some time to take her through this exercise.

Evaluating my relationships on a regular basis, in accordance with God's Word, has never failed to yield insight. I usually become aware of specific changes that reap God-glorifying results as I put them in place.

I pray God will bless you as you seek to bring honor to Him -- not only in the way that you walk, but also with whom you walk!


For a more in-depth read on this topic, check out the Mahaney's newest book:  Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and NOT be Overwhelmed (Crossway, 2007)

This article was adapted from "Girl Talk" - a  blog kept by Carolyn and her three daughters for women in all seasons of life.

Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and the author of Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother , Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood and  Shopping for Time: How To Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed (written with her daughters) due out in July. During her more than 30 years as a pastor's wife, Carolyn has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which her husband, C.J., leads. C.J. and Carolyn have three married daughters and one fourteen-year-old son, Chad.

Nicole Whitacre is the oldest daughter of C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, as well as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal, and is the co-author of Girl Talk . Nicole and her husband Steve--who is a youth pastor at Sovereign Grace Church--have one son Jack, 4 and a newborn daughter Tori.

Kristin Chesemore and her husband Brian are the busy parents of three boys. Andrew is seven, Liam is four, and Owen is three. In the little spare time she does have, Kristin supports Brian in his role as a pastor in Family Life Ministries at Covenant Life Church.

Janelle Bradshaw has been married to her husband Mike for four years and they have a beautiful daughter Caly, 1. Mike serves as a pastor in Children's Ministry at Covenant Life Church.  

Healthy Recipe: Beef Enchilada Casserole Recipe


Recipe Brought to you by FoodFit

This recipe serves: 6    
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 poblano or jalapeño chili pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
1 pinch sugar
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
For the enchiladas:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound skirt steak, cut into small strips
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large Idaho potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden
8 chopped green olives
12 small corn tortillas
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
Cooking Instructions
For the sauce:
1. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Puree the sauce in a blender or food processor.
For the enchiladas:
1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Season the steak with salt and pepper and brown it in the hot pan. Transfer the steak to a plate and set aside.
2. Using the same skillet, reduce the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add the potato, tomato, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Add the steak, raisins and olives and stir to combine.
4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
5. Fill the corn tortillas with the steak mixture and arrange them in a single layer in a large baking dish. Cover the enchiladas with the sauce and sprinkle with cheese.
6. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 2 enchiladas
Calories 383
Total Fat 14 g
Saturated Fat 4 g
Protein 23 g
Total Carbohydrate 46 g
Dietary Fiber 6 g
Sodium 309 mg
Percent Calories from Fat 31%
Percent Calories from Protein 23%
Percent Calories from Carbohydrate 46%

The Prayer Every Mother Must Pray

By Rebekah Montgomery
*Ministry Tips to Help Parents of Prodigals (POPs) at the end of the article

I don't think I ever truly loved anyone so absolutely unreservedly
until the doctor placed a squirming little morsel of humanity on my
chest and the nurses lifted my head so I could see my newborn. It was
as if the spirits of every mother from Eve to the present gathered
around the head of the delivery table and said, "Now you are really
going to learn about unconditional love!"

True. Too true. The slog through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
required to birth a baby is a cakewalk compared to the rigors of
childrearing. Like all mothers, I have needed to draw heavily on that
God-given reserve of love for patience, wisdom, and endurance for that
trek. But even childrearing is a stroll-in-the-park compared to the
hand-to-hand combat with Satan for the souls of each of our four

This was never truer than for our youngest son. After the tragic loss
of a son and several miscarriages, my husband and I were blessed to
adopt to complete our family.

Some children are born with sunny dispositions and eager to please, but
our last son came into the world indignant about the cold hands of
delivery room nurse, the doctor's bad breath, and slow service in
getting him a bottle. He was angry and opinionated for the next 20
years and adolescence was all-out warfare. The school actually had my
phone number on speed dial. We tried everything and later discovered
that he had some contributing medical problems. None of this changed
our love for and commitment to our son, but it certainly tested it.

There were literally hundreds of nights when all I did was pray,
begging God for wisdom and to heal and save our wayward son. I felt
like I was trailing the Good Shepherd through the darkness, edging
sheer cliffs, fighting wolves, as we searched for this lost lamb.

I'll admit it: I very often felt discouraged. Yet, like the persistent
mother Jesus encountered (Matthew 15, Mark 7), I had just enough
stubborn faith to keep begging God to help and heal.

From my perspective, the story of the persistent mother is a tragic
comedy with a happy ending. In the story, Jesus is visiting Tyre on the
seacoast. The Scriptures don't say what He is doing there—resting,
preaching, shopping—but a mother attaches herself to Him, begging for
mercy for her demon-possessed child and refuses to leave His side. The
disciples are peeved. They don't care about the suffering of the child
or the mother. They want peace and quiet!

Here is just one of the heartbreaks experienced by the parents of
wayward children: Not only are their children at risk, their Christian
friends may not be very supportive. They may not know what to say. Or
they are full of those irritating pat answers. Often, my husband and I
found comfort and help at Al-Anon that we did not find at church. That
should not and need not be the case.

Fortunately, Jesus never tired of our neediness. Nor did He tire of the
pleading of the relentless mother.

The comedy portion takes place in the clever, almost playful repartee
between Jesus and the persistent mother. He says (paraphrase), "I can't
help you. I'm sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

"Help me anyway," the mother begs.

"It's not right to take the children's meat and give it to the dogs."

"True. But even dogs gets crumbs."

At this point, you can almost here Jesus laugh with delight at her
stubborn confidence in His goodness and grace. "You have great faith!
Your daughter is healed!"

And joy of joys, she was!

Regardless of the attitude of the disciples, prevailing religious
snobbery, or any discouragement, the mother trusted and doggedly
pursued the compassionate heart of Jesus. Every despairing parent can,

One night, when the situation with my son looked hopeless, I had a
vision. In it, I was carrying my son through a dark, foggy night over
rocky terrain. He was heavy and the way was difficult but I would not
set him down. I carried him uphill until I could go no farther. I
looked up and before me was the cross and Jesus hanging upon it, His
blood dripping down. In wonder and awe, I touched His blood and
immediately, I felt stronger, hopeful, empowered, wiser.

And I knew what to do: I prayed the prayer every mother must pray for
her child whether that child is prodigal or not: "By the power of the
blood of Jesus Christ, bring every thought and imagination of my
child's mind, every emotion of his heart, every deed of his hands, and
every step that he takes under Your Lordship. Lead him to love You with
all of his heart, mind, and soul, and his neighbor as himself."

With that, I touched him with the blood of Jesus. Then I asked the
Lord, "What now?"

He said, "Leave him with Me."

I laid my son at the foot of the cross. Although the vision ended, in
my heart, there my son remains.

I still pray for my son, but I pray in confidence now rather than out
of desperation and fear. Like the persistent mother, I have laid him at
Jesus' feet. His love is healing him. Jesus wants my son to be well,

I have prayed the prayer of the persistent mother with many mothers and
grandmothers struggling to bring their children to mental and spiritual
health in a world where Satan actively seeks to destroy them. We will
stay on our knees pleading for the healing of our children's souls
until we receive what we seek, all the while believing in the powerful
love of Jesus whose crumbs heal.

Ministry Tips to Help Parents of Prodigals (POPs)

By Rebekah Montgomery

  1. Acknowledge that prodigals happen despite the best efforts of
    parents. After all, God had two perfect children in a perfect world and
    was the perfect Parent but wound up with two prodigals (Adam and Eve).
  2. Pray God's protection over the children of POPs. The terror of every
    POPs is that their children will not only miss out on the peace and joy
    of knowing Christ now, but also eternally live separated from Him.
  3. Encourage POPs to let the Holy Spirit do His work and for them to
    cultivate a joyous relationship with their children. It is tempting for
    many POPs to focus only on the state of their children's eternal souls
    and drive them further away from God.
  4. Pray that God will give POPs special wisdom and sensitivity to their
    children's needs. The parent-child bond needs to be strengthened
    regardless of the state of the child's soul. As it is strengthened, the
    child is drawn away from his rebellion against the Lord.

    © Rebekah Montgomery 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Resource: What does God Sound Like?

Dr. Dan Raunikar
New Life Clinics
source: Crosswalk
God speaks in all sorts of ways. Sometimes He reveals His will to us by an impression. Sometimes He speaks by an inner voice. Sometimes we can hear Him speaking through the voice of a stranger, a friend, the words of a song, a thought from a book, or a verse of Scripture. God has no special formula or method for communicating with His people, but His guidance can be broken down into three general categories: personal, corporeal, and supernatural.


Personal guidance:  

  • God communicates through His Word. He sometimes communicates to you when you meditate on His Word - gradually breaking a thought down, working it over and over in your mind. His word has basic principles you can follow for guidance and direction in determining His will for you. If you receive a message that does not agree with the Word of God, disregard it because God never contradicts His Word (Ps. 119:4-5, 24).  
  • God communicates through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will tell you whatever He hears from the Father and He will glorify Jesus (John 16:13-14). In the Old Testament, the presence of the Holy Spirit was selective and temporary. The anointing was given as a temporary gift to provide God's powers and direction in some area of service. After Pentecost, however, the Holy Spirit became a universal and permanent dwelling in believers.  
  • God communicates by engineering your circumstances. He often speaks to you in the language of your circumstances, but it takes discernment and wisdom to determine if these circumstances are intended to give godly direction. Prayer, Scripture, circumstances, and the counsel of other believers must agree in the direction you sense God leading you.  
  • God communicates through godly men and women. Counsel from those you know to have a pure and trustworthy walk with God is invaluable when you're moving toward a major decision (Prov. 12:15, 15:22). Advice from mature Christians should confirm a message God has already given you, not send you off in a new direction.  
  • God communicates through His servants in the ministry. He has called certain people today to speak for Him. Sometimes He will use a message or sermon to bring needed light when you are facing a difficult decision (Is. 6:8-10) These messages should confirm what you already think the Lord is saying to you.  


Supernatural Communication:  

  • God communicates audibly. Just as He spoke to Saul on the road to Damascus, God's voice can come as an audible sound, not just a mental impression. Peter Marshall, the Scottish preacher who later became chaplain of the U.S. Senate, said he heard God's audible voice call out his name twice on a dark night.  
  • God communicates through visions and dreams. If you believe that God may be trying to speak to you in one of these ways, prayerfully consider the details of your dreams or vision and remember they may represent symbols or principles, not necessarily absolutes.  

Note: Remember that God's communication will leave you with a sense of spiritual uplift, as it stills you, leads you, reassures you, enlightens you, encourages you, comforts you and convicts you to His truth.


Taken from Choosing God's Best by Don Raunikar. Copyright (c) 1998. Used by permission of Multnomah (r) Publishers, Inc., Sisters, Ore. Contact your local bookstore to order.
Dr. Dan Raunikar is director of New Life Clinics in Houston, Texas, where he works as a psychotherapist specializing in singles issues. He leads Christian singles seminars nationwide and oversees Lifehouse, a home for young women experiencing crisis pregnancies. He and his wife, Kimberley, live in Houston.

Resource: Living with Less

Leader's Insight: Living with Less
Leading believers to embrace a simpler life (and 3 key questions to get us there).
by Chad Hall, Leadership guest columnist

Everywhere I go these days, big is in. My combo meal is super-sized, my SUV is third row, and the TV of my dreams is 62-inch plasma. We Americans are big eaters, big spenders, and big wasters. Even our churches are into big, owning big malls and even bigger coliseums in order to accommodate big crowds and enable big growth. Like the population at large, we Christians seem to have a growing acceptance of the bigger is better credo.

But all this growth might be creating some big problems.

Our society and systems seem unable of handling the never-ceasing expansion of want and need. Our souls are groaning and the planet is buckling beneath the collateral damage of growth. Landfills are full, the air is thick, and we cannot drink from many of our streams.
In light of our growing problems, maybe the church should give small a chance. I propose that ministry leaders are just the ones to help Christ followers exchange big for small. After all, leaders are supposed to help usher others toward something better (not just something bigger), so maybe we should start ushering folks toward living lives that are less hectic, less cluttered, less selfish and less toxic. And maybe instead of a big ad campaign advertising "LESS!" we should start living with less ourselves. Instead of the pulpit, maybe some personal choices would help slow down the growth, bring some sanity to our lives and make the world more livable.
Give less a chance.
Our family recently decided to sell our riding mower because its impact on the environment was not offset by its necessity. Shortly after, my wife quipped, "I think we're becoming tree-huggers."
How had it come to this? After all, I have a strong dislike of Birkenstocks, I think Michael Moore is a narcissist, and I appreciate creature comforts every bit as much as the next guy. So why is my family choosing to push-mow the lawn, ditch the extra television, and experiment with line-drying our clothes? I'm not sure how it all began or where it's going, but we've adopted a series of small questions that are redirecting our souls and may be benefiting the world around us.
Three small questions
Not to cast blame, but my journey toward less started with Randy Frazee. Prior to a conference in 2003, Randy and I had a dinner conversation during which he shared with me the somewhat radical lifestyle changes his family had made in order to make room for real relationships.
A few months later Randy wrote the book Making Room for Life. When my wife and I read that book, we started talking and eventually began asking the question of simplification , "Even though something is commonplace, do we really need it in our lives?"
With that question in mind, all sorts of things were up for grabs: buying a house in the "right" school district, needing two incomes, cell phones, minivans, and even (hold your breath!) signing our kids up for soccer. It was like a little compact fluorescent light bulb turned on to illuminate some of the chains of conformity we had allowed to make our decisions for us. We began to see how deeply we'd bought into culture's code of success being equated with more and more. The results of all this "more" were clutter and confusion and so we decided to simplify our lives. Removing some of the typical suburban clutter was a bit scary, but over the course of a few years, it really has begun to make room for life.
We soon discovered the joy of having fewer bills to pay, fewer trips to make, fewer calendars to juggle, and fewer agendas to manage. Lurking amidst the resource of free time, we discovered the pleasure of not just having neighbors, but of knowing our neighbors. Our lives soon began to revolve more and more around the half dozen or so families we considered to be our neighbors.
We soon recognized that our role as good neighbors meant significantly other than trying to get someone to attend this or that church. As we experienced the inherent value of people and place, we began to ask, "How can we live so that when Christ returns he won't have to work so hard to redeem our neighborhood?" This became our family's question of significance. We want to add kingdom value to the relational, spiritual and even physical environment we inhabit. Our interactions with neighbors have gone from enjoying their company to co-laboring with them for the good of our little corner of creation. Campfires in the backyard, pizza on Sunday nights, and building a tree house all took on kingdom significance because we were contributing to making things in our acres of earth a little more as they are in heaven.
From significance we took the small step to stewardship. A couple of months ago we picked up a book by medical doctor Matthew Sleeth entitles Serve God, Save the Planet. We've read with wide wonder about the ways his family scaled back their "quality of life" in order to have less impact on the planet. They got rid of their dishwasher and clothes dryer. They traded down to a house the size of their former garage. They produce a small bag of garbage every other week. Wow.
Reading such stories helps us see how a radical lifestyle aligns with living God's way. Now our family is asking the question of stewardship, "Will this choice make the world more like heaven or more like hell?" Our neighborhood of concern has expanded dramatically. Landfills, toxins, and making choices based on our own wants: these are the ingredients of hell. The new heaven and new earth will include none of these things, so why should we add them to this world now? When we choose concern over convenience and less over more, we are being kind to neighbors we have never met and honoring creatures God thought worthy of life.
Go thou and do likewise
I don't think our family is unique. We fight consumerism and selfishness and choices of convenience perhaps more than does the typical family of five. But small realizations are leading to simple questions that force important decisions in our everyday life (including which mower to use). All of this matters not because the environment is suddenly a hot topic, or because we worship Mother Earth, or think our spit will fill the ocean, but because the dots suddenly connect: when I live a gospel life I desire less stuff for myself, which frees up time and space for heavenly community, and this community includes places and people far away and even in the future.
So what does living and leading with less look like for you? What about your congregation? What if those you lead followed your example in removing the clutter, focusing on community and caring for creation? My hunch is that God would be pleased, you would find life more livable and the planet would breath a deep sigh of gratitude.
Chad Hall is a coach/consultant living in Cary, North Carolina, and the co-author of Coaching for Christian Leaders: A Practical Guide .