Friday, May 30, 2008
To ensure a fast loading of our pages,
we've created a THIRD site which will be containing all our NEWLY ADDED resources from June 1, 2008.
http://mwfrc3.blogspot.com to browse new additions to our online resource collection.
Our other resource sites:
http://mwfrc2.blogspot.com to browse additions to our online resource collection from April 1, 2007 to May 31, 2008.
http://mwfrc.blogspot.com to browse additions to our online resource collection from March 2007 and before.
Make your search easy by browsing our RESOURCE INDEX site at:
This new resource index site contains ALL ( combined ) links to posted resources on ALL resource sites. Browse links to our resource titles per TOPIC/CATEGORY.
Also, use the SEARCH box at the bottom of our latest resource site:
This box will search for your topics or keywords across ALL our resources and resource site.
For ministry wives, we invite you to join our online care and resource group.
Just click the 'join' button at
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Pre-Conditions of a Church Leader
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he's talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry.
He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God's church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap. (1 Timothy 3:1-7, The Message)
Well-thought-of.Is this true of you? Be honest; don’t delude yourself.
1. Committed to your spouse. You may feel totally committed to your spouse, but does he/she know it?
2. Cool and collected. Have you blown your temper lately? All leaders come under pressure at times, but these times can truly test this particular leadership pre-condition.
3. Accessible. Is your office door open or closed right now? What does this tell you?
4. Hospitable. Is it important to you to provide a welcome environment for others?
5. Must know what you’re talking about. Do you faithfully and diligently do your homework?
6. Not be overfond of wine. If this happens to be an area of vulnerability, watch out.
7. Not pushy but gentle. Do you manipulate? Or do you lead?
8. Not thin-skinned. Count your blessings; ignore your blisters!
9. Not money-hungry. Money is never, ever more important than people.
10. Handle your own affairs well. Are any of your personal affairs in shambles?
11. Attentive to your children and having their respect. Don’t place your ministry ahead of your family.
12. Must not be a new believer. You probably satisfy this one.
13. Outsiders must think well of you. What is your reputation in your community?
Helpful Hints & Suggestions
10 Steps in Creating a Good Résumé
1. Choose a target job (also called a "job objective"). An actual job title works best.
2. Find out what skills, knowledge, and experience are needed to do that target job.
3. Make a list of your 2, 3, or 4 strongest skills, abilities, or knowledge that make you a good candidate for the target job.
4. For each key skill, think of several accomplishments from your past work history that illustrate that skill.
5. Describe each accomplishment in a simple, powerful action statement that emphasizes the benefit to your employer.
6. Make a list in chronological order of the primary jobs you've held. Include any unpaid work that fills a gap or shows you have the skills for the target job.
7. Make a list of your training and education related to the target job.
8. Choose a résumé format that fits your situation, either chronological or functional. Functional works best if you're changing fields; chronological works well if you're moving up in the same field.
9. Arrange your action statements according to the format you choose.
10. Summarize your key points at the top of your résumé.
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of David Timms' new book, Living the Lord's Prayer, (Bethany House, 2008).
The Lord's Prayer is much more than just a model of how best to pray. It's a statement of how to get to know God's heart. And when you live out those words, God will transform you completely.
Here's how you can live the Lord's Prayer:
Our: Realize that the journey to a deeper walk with God can only be fully lived in the company of God's people. Faith is not an individual pursuit; it's meant to be pursued within the context of community. Whenever you abandon the body of Christ, you're abandoning yourself. You can't grow in grace by withdrawing from others. Commit to long-term relationships with people. When you face a difficulty in any of your relationships, don't simply run or battle it out with the other person. Instead, resolve the issue and reconcile. Focus on people over productivity and on relationships over results. Instead of looking at people in terms of what they can do for you, seek to simply get to know them and love them. Don't place people in categories and distinguish between them. Ask God to help you view all people as He sees them -- equally valuable because they're all made in His image -- and to treat everyone with respect and kindness. Remember that you can truly love God if you don't love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't let anything divide the unity God wants you to have. Remain committed to each other, living in grace and forgiveness, just as God remains committed to you.
Father: Experience true love and security from your ultimate Father: God. Remember the Gospel's promise of freedom. Don't slip into a lifestyle of worrying about duties, obligations, rules, regulations, expectations, and demands when God wants you live freely. Instead of trying to live faithfully just because you'd feel guilty if you didn't, let your love for God and your gratitude for His grace motivate you to live faithfully. Rather than letting fear guide your decisions, make decisions with the confidence that God will love you no matter what and will always be there to help you.
In the heavens: Developing a cosmic perspective of God will nurture your faith and give you the hope you'll need to get through challenging circumstances. Recognize that the spiritual realm you can't see is just as much of a reality as the material world you can see. Just beyond what's visible lies a supernatural dimension that often intersects with the natural world in which you live. God transcends your human limitations, and He is present in all dimensions. God is as close to you as your next breath, yet as far-reaching as the most distant areas of the universe. Ask God to help you become fully aware of His constant presence with you, and of the work He is doing in the world around you. Change your lifestyle so you're not regularly distracted from noticing God at work. Learn how to be still, focus, wait, and listen.
Hallowed be your name: Seek to honor God by the way you live. Do more than just say words of adoration about Him. Surrender every part of your life to Him and do your best to obey what He calls you to do. Ask God to help you become aware of your own sinfulness. Acknowledge your failures, confess your sins, and repent. Then pursue holiness. Aim for higher standards -- God's standards. Let the knowledge of your sin show you how much you need God's grace and motivate you to draw closer to Him. Acknowledge that it's God's holiness that enables you to be fulfilled. His holiness empowers you to see the shortsightedness of secularism, the poverty of profanity, and the futility of immorality. As you hallow God's name, He confronts everything destructive and poisonous within you. Never allow yourself to become complacent; keep pursuing more holiness every day of your life.
Your kingdom come: Participate in God's kingdom rather than retreating into your own. Invite God not to partner with your life, but to come and rule your life. Let go of your own agenda and pursue God's plans for you, trusting that the One who created you knows what's best for you. Surrender your values to embrace God's values, submit your will to His, and cede your ambition in favor of God's purposes. Ask God to humble you so you can know Him better. Realize that you can't build your private empire and God's eternal kingdom at the same time. So hold loosely to your own achievements and allegiances. Remember that you don't work for yourself or by yourself; you serve God as He works through you.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven: Seek to do God's will rather than your own will when you make decisions every day. Ask God to transform your willfulness into willingness. Remember that God wants what's best for you. Tell Him that you want what He wants, and receive what He gives. Don't worry about trying to discover the details of the future God has planned for you. Entrust all the details to God and simply make a habit of following where God leads you every day. Discard your fantasies of perfect people and situations, and, instead, direct your energy to loving the people you actually know and working out the real situations you encounter. Affirm your desire for God's purposes instead of just your own fantasies. Don't be so preoccupied with your plans for the future that you don't notice God with you in each present moment. As you live in His presence, you live in His will. As you have the courage to pray for God's will to be done, your prayer will help you develop a purity of heart that will transform you into the person God wants you to become. If you're willing to undergo anything to know God more, your passion will lead to wonderful work that God will do in you, through you, and with you.
Give us this day our daily bread: Learning how to depend on God's unlimited power rather than your own limited efforts will draw you closer to Him. Recognize that the spiritual and the physical are inseparably connected, so everything you do in the physical realm relates to the spiritual realm. Whenever you have a physical need, it relates to a spiritual need in some way. No matter what problems you're facing -- from a broken relationship to financial troubles -- you'll find better solutions if you pray than if you if you try to tackle them on your own. Every kind of activity you do can be a spiritual act of service to the Lord -- not just studying your Bible or going to church, but helping a neighbor with yard work or visiting someone in the hospital. Whenever you misuse your physical body (such as through sexual immorality), you experience spiritual consequences. You can always count on God to provide what you need, both physically and spiritually. But you need to develop a habit of depending on Him every day, rather than trying to make things happen for yourself on your own. Give up your attempts to live a self-sufficient and comfortable life, and thank God that He provides all you need -- even the next breath you take. Simplify your demands and expectations, focusing on your true needs rather than extravagant desires. When you present your requests to God, ask for what you need, and be willing to share with others to become part of the answer to their prayers for what they need.
Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors: Nurture a culture of grace in your life by following God's call to forgive the people who hurt you. Choose to forgive, despite your feelings, and trust that God will help you to do so. Remember that forgiving doesn't mean condoning something wrong or forgetting it. It simply means releasing it. In the process, you'll experience freedom from bitterness that can poison your soul. Forgiveness will restore your soul and allow you to move on. Remember how much God has forgiven you, and let your gratitude motivate you to obey His command to forgive others. Keep in mind that grace is the opposite of what you deserve: You deserve punishment, but God has given you blessing; You deserve judgment, but God has adopted you; You deserve alienation, but God has welcomed you. Since you've accepted God's grace yourself, you need to extend that same grace to others. But don't take advantage of God's grace, but confessing your sin in a casual manner or repenting in a flippant way. Take your sin seriously, and express gratitude to God often for His forgiveness. Give God your love and respect, and freely offer to others that grace that He gives you.
Lead us not into testing, but deliver us from evil: Grow in faith and obedience to grow closer to God. Be alert to the possibility that God will test you in various ways, and keep in mind that if He does, the tests will be designed to help you and not to harm you. Constantly seek to deepen your faith. Recognize and identify the different types of evil that exist in your life. Then confront them to break their hold over your life. Ask God to deliver you from whatever sin is oppressing you: anger, lust, greed, jealousy, bitterness, lies, etc. Remember that God alone empowers you to overcome sin, and that deliverance arises from you choosing to obey Him. Trust God to use your failures to help you grow. The only failure that ultimately matters is the failure to have faith. If you do have faith, though, with God's help you can overcome any other failure.
Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory: Abandon your pursuit of control and fame for yourself and focus your efforts on glorifying the God who created you. Pursuing your own kingdom on earth inevitably produces conflict and discontent. But pursuing God's purposes for your life will lead to true fulfillment. Remember that all of history is about God, not just you. Ultimately, only God's power and glory matter. While pursuing your own agenda may temporarily lead to fame and influence, without God, it will all be in vain. Serving God, though, will lead to great and lasting significance. Even the smallest act of service for God is hugely important.
Amen: Live from a position of saying "Yes" to God each day. Look beyond your circumstances to God, and choose to live by faith in every situation, trusting God for the ultimate outcome. Find the hope you need in God's promises, and live with the expectation of Him keeping all of them.
Adapted from Living the Lord's Prayer, copyright 2008 by David Timms. Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bethanyhouse.com. David Timms teaches and chairs the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. David has been a church planter, pastor, and trainer of pastors for twenty-five years. His e-zine, In Hope, shares his reflections on Christian leadership and spiritual formation. He and his wife, Kim, have three sons and live in Fullerton, California.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Editor's Note: In October 2007, we ran Daniel Darling's article titled, "Is God Fair? Maybe Not, But He's Right." This article is a follow-up to that first one. The author writes: "I was surprised at how much reaction [the first] article generated. Mostly people agreed with my assessment that our expectations for life are wildly out of touch with biblical reality. However, there were a few who commented that perhaps the tone of my article was one of bitterness at life's disappointments. 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,' one person wrote. I agree, so I thought it good to write a follow-up on the unexpected joy Christians find in the midst of trials." Enjoy.
"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning"Psalm 30:5
When you first meet Linda Sullivan, my mother-in-law, you might think she has enjoyed a carefree, easygoing life. You might think she has never endured rejection, disappointment, or betrayal.
But you'd be wrong. As I chronicled in an earlier article, Linda has endured a gut-wrenching series of setbacks in her life, enough to make some Christians consider abandoning their faith.
Linda's not that way, however. Despite her hardship, Linda is full of joy. She has not only kept her faith, she's shared it with countless others. She wears a constant smile and is an encouragement to her family and her network of friends.
I've known Linda for six years and I've never seen her without a pen and a stack of note cards. There is always someone to encourage, someone's burden to help carry, someone to pray over. She has sent innumerable cards, bookmarks, and gifts to those who are hurting. And her cell phone is always dialed up with someone who needs a friend.
Linda's life is a great example of a biblical paradox: joy in the midst of suffering.
The world - and sadly, many in the church - have propagated the myth that happiness is found in prosperity, in promotion, in power. How often have you heard, "If you follow God, all your problems will go away"? Or, "God wants to make you rich"?
That doesn't quite square with Jesus words to his disciples in Matthew 16:24: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
Thus, American Christians, having been fed a steady diet of false expectations, are not conditioned for the hard times. When something comes along that threatens the good life, we throw our hands up and scream, "Wait, this isn't fair!"
Now is where real faith enters - faith that God knows what He is doing and has our best interests at heart. Faith that nothing we endure is outside of His will. Faith that looks for happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment in a relationship with God.
This is also where real joy begins. Joy in trials. Consider the words of James to the early church, which endured bitter persecution. He said, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations" (
Paul experienced that joy. Writing from prison, Paul encouraged the believers of Philippi with a letter whose theme is "Rejoice." He spoke as if joy were optional, a choice. Something you choose to do in spite of your circumstances.
Linda has made this choice throughout her life. And because of her testimony, her life has been a light to bring others into the Kingdom. It's akin to the testimony of Job, who said, "Though he slay me, yet I will trust him" (Job 13:15); the testimony of Joseph, who looked at his brothers, who had betrayed him, and said, "What you meant for evil, God meant for good" (Genesis 50:20); the testimony of the prophet Habakkuk, who surveyed his corrupt and crumbling nation and declared, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation" (Habakkuk 3:17).
The truth is that life isn't fair. You know it. I know it. Things happen that knock us off of our feet. But we have a God who promises to lead us by the hand, to wrap his arms around us, and to work out our life for His glory.
Daniel Darling is the author of
Teen People of the Bible. Visit him at danieldarling.com.
There is a time for everything, and a season to every activity under heaven. --Ecclesiastes 3:1
Like farming, raising livestock, gathering maple syrup, and the migrations of fish and birds, the raising of children is marked by seasons. These seasons were established by God; therefore, they cannot be altered at the whim of man.
Each of them is defined chronologically, and just as each of Earth's seasons requires of a farmer a unique set of tasks, so each of parenting's seasons requires a specific parental role and distinct parental responsibilities. A farmer who conforms his behavior to the unique characteristics of each of agriculture's seasons is all but assured a high yield.
Likewise, parents who conform their behavior to the unique requirements of each of the seasons of child rearing will be all but assured a "high yield" of reward and satisfaction out of seeing their children advance toward and eventually claim responsible maturity.
The Season of Service
The first of these, the Season of Service, begins at birth and lasts approximately two years. During this initial season parents function as servants to a child who cannot serve himself and cannot anticipate the consequences of his actions. His dependency and ignorance (not to be confused with lack of intelligence!) require that his parents place him at the center of their attention and orbit around him in a near-constant ministry of surveillance and "doing"--checking, feeding, carrying, changing, comforting, fixing, fetching, and so on.
The purposes of season one are threefold:
• To "root" the child securely in the world--to assure him that he is where he belongs, with people who love him and who will take good and proper care of him under any and all circumstances.
• To provide for the child's fundamental biological needs--put bluntly, to keep him alive and thriving. • To prevent, as much as is humanly possible, the child from hurting himself.
In all cultures and in all times, the mother has been and is the primary servant during season one. (There have been and are exceptions, but they are individual exceptions that have not significantly tilted the historical norm.) The father, even one who wants to be highly involved, stands slightly outside the periphery of his wife's busy orbiting. He is her "parenting aide." Like a teacher's aide's, the husband's job is to assist his wife and fill in for her when she needs a break. Consequent to this child centeredness, the marriage is "catch-as-catch-can" during season one. (To those of you who have noticed what may appear to be an inconsistency between what I say here and what I have earlier said about mothers orbiting around their children and fathers playing the role of "parenting aide," I will simply say [paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 3:1], "There is a time for everything . . . but it is not the entire time.")
Now, an infant or young toddler may not yet have well-developed language skills, but he is highly intelligent nonetheless. He is drawing inarticulate conclusions concerning the workings of things in his microcosm (which is the one-and-only world as far as he is concerned), one of which is that his mother is there to do his bidding and that he has power and authority over her. He verifies this by crying, at which his mother appears and does everything in her power to fix whatever it is that is causing his distress.
Grandma understood that whereas her ministry was a necessary one, she was slowly creating a monster. If she did not bring this first season to a close, she was in danger of raising a spoiled brat--a child who would believe that as his mother was continuing to do, so the world revolved around him. She realized that out of absolute necessity she had caused her child to believe that he had power over her, that she was his gofer; therefore, she had to step up to the plate and correct that impression. And so, around her child's second birthday, as he became more capable of doing basic things for himself, Grandma began to make the critical transition from the first of parenting's seasons to its second. Under normal circumstances, this transition takes about a year. It is, without question, the most significant and precedent-setting of all times in the parent-child relationship, the future of which hangs in the balance.
To bring about this transformation, a mother must begin:
• Teaching and expecting her child to do for himself what she has previously done for him--use the toilet instead of diapers, get his own cup of water and basic snacks, dress himself, pick up his toys, and so on. • Building a boundary between herself and her child, thus limiting his access to her--making him wait before she does something for him, refusing to pick him up (pointing out that she is involved with some¬thing else), instructing him to go elsewhere while she finishes a task.
• Backing slowly out of a state of high involvement with her child and re-establishing a state of high involvement with her husband, thus bringing his tenure as parenting aide to a close.
The Season of Leadership and Authority
As is so often the case when seasons change, this transitional year is marked by storms of protest from a child who wants season one to go on forever. Who can blame him? Who would not want a servant for life? But if the mother stays the course, then by the time her child has reached his third birthday, he will see her with new eyes: once a servant, now a formidable authority figure who is not to be trifled with. Where once he was at the center of her attention, she is now at the center of his. She insists that he do more and more things for himself, that he give her "space' to do what she needs and wants to do (including putting her feet up and doing nothing), and makes it perfectly clear that her relationship with his father trumps her relationship with him. And so begins the Season of Leadership and Authority, during which time the parents' job is to govern the child in such a way that he (1) consents to their government (becomes their willing disciple), and (2) internalizes their discipline and gradually develops the self-restraint necessary to govern himself responsibly.
This is not to say that parents should never serve a child who is in season two. There will, in fact, be times when service is absolutely necessary, but whereas service is the rule in season one, it should be the exception from that time on.
The Season of Mentoring
Season two lasts for ten years, from three to thirteen, at which point a second transition takes place (or should) that moves parent and child into season three, the Season of Mentoring. It is no coincidence that in traditional cultures, early adolescent rites of passage--Jewish bar and bat mitzvahs being extant ex-amples--occur when a child is thirteen. These rituals mark and celebrate a major transition in the parent-child relationship. They acknowledge that the child in question has completed the disciplinary "curriculum" of season two and is now regarded as self-governing. He no longer needs adults to tell him what and what not to do; rather, he needs adult mentors to help him acquire the practical skills he will need to emancipate successfully--how to apply for a job, balance a budget, plan for the future, and the like.
The Season of Friendship
The successful emancipation of the child marks the end of season three, the last season of active parenting, and the beginning of season four, the Season of Friendship. During this last and most rewarding of parenting's seasons, the child's parents are parents in the biological sense only; in reality, parents and child now regard one another as peers. The younger peer may seek guidance from one or both of the older peers, but that is no different from one friend seeking the counsel of another. In season three, guidance was provided largely at the parents' initiative; now, guidance is provided largely at the initiative of the biological child.
Within the framework of this seasonal approach to parenting, children emancipate relatively early. In Shakespeare's time, males were fully emancipated by age eighteen. As recently as 1970, the average age of successful emancipation was twenty.
From PARENTING BY THE BOOK by John Rosemond. Copyright (c) 2007 John K. Rosemond. Reprinted by permission of Howard Books, a Division of Simon & Shuster, Inc.
John Rosemond is a family psychologist who has both directed mental health programs and been in full-time private practice working with families and children. Since 1990. he has devoted his time to speaking and writing. John's weekly syndicated parenting column now appears in some 250 newspapers. Along the way, he's also managed to write eleven bestselling books on parenting and the family. As if that wasn't enough, he is one of the busiest and most popular speakers in his field, giving over 200 talks a year to parent and professional groups nationwide. He and his wife of 39 years, Willie, have two grown children and six well-behaved grandchildren. For more information visit www.rosemond.com and www.parentingbythebook.com.
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Christopher L. Heuertz's new book, Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World, (IVP Books, 2008).
God wants it to be simple for us to recognize Him at work in the world. But too often, we complicate our faith, obscuring our view of God.
If you want to see God more clearly, you can gain a better perspective by developing these simple yet profound qualities in your life:
Humility: Getting rid of pride and arrogance in your life and inviting God to humble you will wake you up to the reality of God's work all around you. Take ownership of your inadequacies, weaknesses, and needs. Acknowledge how much you depend on God's unconditional love for you, and express your gratitude for it. Get to know people who have endured humiliation -- the poor, the sick, the disabled, etc. -- and learn from their vulnerability. Serve them, and let them help you see what intimacy with God looks like as He meets their needs through you. Stop trying to limit or control God's work; accept that God will be God on His terms, not yours. Allow yourself to be made uncomfortable by God's work in your life, so you can be transformed by it. Remember that humility is the door through which you must enter to be welcomed into God's presence. Rather than trying to keep God at a safe distance, tell God that you want to surrender to Him completely so that you can come to truly know Him. Don't waste your time or energy on trying to impress God. Instead, know that it's enough simply to be yourself before God, and that God sees your humility as a beautiful response to His invitation to intimacy. Remember Jesus' ultimate sacrifice on the cross often, and let His great gift of salvation humble you. Understand that you're worthy of God's love only because He has made you so -- not because of anything you've done -- and He will treasure you forever, no matter what.
Community: Independence can blind you to the reality that you need God and other people. Participating in a community helps you discover who you truly are -- both the best and the worst of you. It exposes your sin and gives you a place for confession, acceptance, and grace. Realize that you'll get out of community what you put into it. So fully participate in community with others. Keep in mind that the sense of community in God's kingdom is different from the messages the word presents about community. Reject the world's lies: "I am what I have," "I am what other people say about me," and "I am what I do." Instead, embrace the reality that you're valuable because God has ascribed great worth to you, regardless of what you have, what others say about you, and what you do. Let the truth of God's unconditional love validate you and free you to enter into healthy relationships with other people whom God loves. Instead of trying to avoid relationships because they can get messy, open your heart to the experiences God wants you to have in community with others. Ask God to help you recognize Him when you encounter people in great need, and to motivate and empower you to reach out to them as He intends. Give generously to others as God lead you to share your time, talents, and money. Rather than just giving from your leftovers, try to give the best of what you have. Instead of just giving handouts, try to empower poor people. As you give, be sure to build genuine relationships with the people you're seeking to help. Befriend the poor, and learn from them, allowing them to give you wisdom as you give them the resources they need. As you help others, you'll receive help yourself.
Simplicity: Living in excess tells you lies about what you want and need. But embracing a simple lifestyle helps you see past all that can clutter your life so you can discover God's grace. Ask God to show you the specific ways your current lifestyle has complicated the faith He intends to be simple. Eliminate everything in your life that's distracting you from focusing on what God considers most important. Build your priorities around those core values to experience the freedom God wants for you. Don't make simplicity an end in itself, or it will only lead to legalism. Instead, simplify your life so that you can better pursue what God wants you to pursue -- including giving generously to others. Don't hold back any of your resources (time, energy, money, talents, etc.) from God. Make everything available to use as God calls you to use it to join His work on earth. Loosen your grasp on your hopes and dreams, trusting God to lead you into a better future than you can imagine on your own.
Submission: Whatever control and power you think you have is just an illusion. Recognize that God is ultimately in control of everything, and He alone gives you the power to do whatever you need to do. Resist the urge to assert yourself as God by trying to control your life. Instead, trust God with every part of your life, remembering His great love and kindness. Know that God truly wants the best for you. Let your gratitude for God's love and your love for Him -- not just a sense of obligation -- motivate you to submit to His will for your life. Remember that God's kingdom is a treasure that requires you to submit your life to His control in order to fully experience that treasure. Don't make the mistake of viewing the resources God has given you as being just for yourself alone. That will perpetuate an unjust balance between you and other people. Instead, realize that God wants you to use your resources for His kingdom work. As you evaluate all God has given you, seek to be fully submitted to His will so you can respond in the very best ways to His calling for you.
Brokenness: Defiance and resistance to God leads to serious spiritual blindness. But when you allow yourself to be broken by the weight of your sin, you can see how much you truly need Jesus. Then, when you come to Him, Jesus will fill the broken pieces of your life with Himself. Recognize your ultimate need for God and leave everything else behind to have your needs met in God. Stop picking through the many kinds of trash that can poison your soul: consumerism, a sense of entitlement, bitterness, gossip, lying, sexual impurity, etc. Instead, recognize all of that as the garbage it is, and pray for the strength to eliminate it from your life so you'll be free to start living the abundant life God wants for you. As God breaks sinful and destructive things in you, He redeems and restores you. God uses your brokenness to transform you personally, bringing you the healing you need. Then, He calls you into action to serve others, empowering you to transform the broken parts of the fallen world with His love flowing through you. So brokenness, with God, leads to wholeness.
Adapted from Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World, copyright 2008 by Christopher L. Heuertz. Published by IVP Books, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com. Christopher L. Heuertz is the international executive director of Word Made Flesh, an organization that exists to serve Jesus among the poorest of the world's poor. Teaching, writing, speaking and pastoring, Christopher's responsibilities have taken him to nearly 70 countries. He has also lived in Israel, India and Peru.
(includes facts on the complementary nature of mothers and fathers)
A learning season is upon us, and it's worth our time to heed its teaching.
This lesson is the difference between how we handle Mother's Day compared with Father's Day in church. If it's like in years past, it won't be pretty.
This Sunday we will extol the value and benefit of motherhood, which is great. But in some churches, this will be done by degrading Christian husbands, which is not great. "Our pastor makes us husbands get on our knees on Mother's Day and beg for forgiveness. I don't want to do it again this year," one reader tells me. Another writes, "Our minister makes husbands write on paper all the things we've done wrong. Then we're suppose to give it to our wives and pledge that we won't do them anymore."
Most preachers will not be this heavy-handed. They will wait till Father's Day (Sunday, June 18) to tell men how to be better fathers. Of course there's nothing wrong with this message when taken as an isolated event. But when compared with Mother's Day, we'll discover that for some reason many ministers believe that fathers need correction on Father's Day (and Mother's Day) but women don't. Why this double-standard?
Because much of the church sees men as a problem to be fixed when compared to women, not a gender to be appreciated. There's prejudice and bigotry against a man's nature in too many churches, Christian publishing, and on Christian radio (I was a program director of a Christian radio station--I was part of the problem too), all of which have been beating men up for decades.
For example, if there is a problem with their marriage, Christian men have been told by these sources that it is automatically their fault. Dr. James Dobson is one of a few authors brave enough to confront this false message.
He writes in Love Must Be Tough that men are saddled with the unrealistic expectation that "any sadness or depression that a woman might encounter is her husband's fault. At least he has the power to eradicate it if he cares enough. In other words, many American women come into marriage with unrealistically romantic expectations which are certain to be dashed. Not only does this orientation set up a bride for disappointment and agitation in the future, it also places enormous pressure on her husband to deliver the impossible...Marital conflict always involves an interaction between two imperfect human beings who share the responsibility to one degree or another." Sadly, Dobson's common sense is drowned out by other and more shrill voices.
I was told as an impressionable and young Christian man in church that I was "irresponsible, thoughtless, and selfish," when compared to women, who are innately more moral and spiritual. I don't know everything about the Bible. But I do know two profound truths: It says a lot about morality and spirituality. Nowhere does it state that women have a corner on both when compared to men. Instead, it tells us that both genders are uniquely and equally made in the image of God. It tells us that both are equally sinful and in need of redemption. There is no privileged gender in God's eyes.
Still, this rose-scented inequality will spread across our country this weekend, creating unintended consequences. Many will hear about the dark side of fatherhood in America, but few if any will hear about motherhood's dark side. How a child is more likely to be physically abused and killed by his mother, not his father. The statistics vary from 65% to more than 80%, which includes adjustments for single mothers. How wives over 40 and with children file for divorce more than husbands (around 66%), and their reason has little if anything to do with abuse or infidelity. How wives are more prone to begin a conversation more harshly than husbands. These aren't exactly family values. Listing these problematic facts of life will likely cause more shock than the facts themselves.
I could create an equally unflattering portrait of wayward fathering, which would include damning facts about fatherlessness and incarceration. But pointing out the ugly in each gender isn't the point of this article. The goal is to explode the myth of gender superiority, create a more biblically sound perspective, and implore today's ministers and lay people to treat each gender with respect and dignity during this important season by pointing out their unique value, which will foster genuine domestic harmony, among other blessings.
Here are some facts that can easily be worked into upcoming sermons about the importance and value of fatherhood. None is derogatory toward mothers but instead points out the complimentary nature of mothers and fathers.
1. Sociologist Brad Wilcox from the University of Virginia found that conservative evangelical fathers rank higher than other men in the United States in most every category. "Conservative evangelical fathers spend more time with their children, hug and praise them more, are less likely to yell at them, and commit the lowest levels of domestic violence than any other group in America," he writes in Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands.
2. These fathers are "also the most active, emotionally engaged husbands and fathers in America" whose wives report the highest levels of "happiness, love and affection." These superior fathers and husbands are also more likely to "discipline their children, monitor their viewing habits, and know where they are at any given time." This is why Wilcox refers to them as "soft patriarchs." They "balance their traditional, authority-minded approach to parenting with a large measure of involvement and affection."
3. Fathers excel when it comes to discipline, play, and challenging their children to embrace life's challenges. They are more likely to partake in physical play with children, which is more important than many realize. Play "promotes social skills, intellectual development, and a sense of self-control." The playful side to fathers teaches their children how to regulate their feelings and behavior as they interact with others. Children who roughhouse with fathers usually learn quickly that biting, kicking and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable.
4. Fathers are more likely than mothers to encourage their children to take up difficult tasks, to seek out fresh experiences, and to endure pain and hardship without yielding. Explains Wilcox, "The bottom line is that fathers excel in teaching their children the virtues of fortitude, temperance, and prudence for life outside their family."
5. Writes sociologist David Popenoe: "While mothers provide an important flexibility and sympathy in their discipline, fathers provide ultimate predictability and consistency. Both dimensions are critical for an efficient, balanced, and humane child-rearing regime."
6. The publication Child Development found that children of parents who engaged in sex-typical behavior, where the mother was more responsive/nurturing and the father was more challenging/firm, were more competent overall than children whose parents did not engage in sex-typical behavior.
7. The amount of time fathers devote to child rearing increased 170 percent between 1965 and 1998.
8. The largest factor in predicting whether a child will graduate from high school, attend college, avoid crime or drugs, and get pregnant before 18 is the presence of a father in the child's life.
9. According to a recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services, "Fathers play a unique role in fostering the well-being of their children, not only through providership, protection and guidance, but also through the way that they nurture the next generation." But there is a huge catch. "A father's involvement with his children...is powerfully contingent on the mother's attitude" toward him. Research consistently shows that the father-child relationship depends more on the quality of the parents' relationship than does the mother-child relationship. See the problem? If men continue to be denigrated from the pulpit during Mother's Day or Father's Day, wives will be encouraged to have a low view of them. This low view may well drive a wedge between a father and his children, darkening their future.
10. This same report from the Department of Health and Human Services states: "Girls with active dads demonstrate higher levels of mathematical competence, and boys with more nurturing fathers display higher levels of verbal acumen. It is worth noting, of course, that girls tend to struggle more with math and boys tend to struggle more with language. Having an active, emotionally invested father appears to help children overcome the intellectual weaknesses typically associated with their sex."
11. Fathers are more likely to foster independent, exploratory behavior on the part of their children, compared to mothers.
12. Children raised by engaged fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them.
13. A playful, challenging, and nurturing approach to fatherhood is associated with more self-control and pro-social behavior among children throughout the course of their lives.
14. One study of seventh graders found that boys who had close relationships with their fathers were more likely to control their feelings and impulses, to obey rules at school and home, and to make good moral judgment.
15. This same study found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had more self-esteem.
16. Boys and girls who are exposed to the nurture of a father, and who see a father being nurturing to their mother and other adults, are much less likely to associate masculinity with predatory sexual behavior and hyper-aggressiveness.
17. Fathers help their children, especially their daughters, develop the self-control and the sense of self-worth that protects them from premature sexual intercourse and teenage pregnancy.-------
If you have additional information about the importance of fatherhood, let us know so that we can create an even better resource list for ministers and others who want to change Mother's Day vs. Father's Day to Mother's Day And Father's Day. If your minister treats both mothers and fathers with the respect and dignity they deserve, we want to know so we can give them the kudos they deserve. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll put it on our website, Christianniceguy.com
Paul Coughlin is the author of No More Christian Nice Guy, and the upcoming, No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps: Raising Secure, Assertive Kids in a Tough World (June 2007). He is the co-author along with his wife Sandy of Married But Not Engaged. He's also a founding member of GodMen (www.godmen.com). To have Paul speak at your men's event, contact him at www.christianniceguy.com.
** 1 Corinthians 13 for Moms **
I can read bedtime stories till the cow jumps over the moon and sing "Ten Little Monkeys" until I want to call the doctor... but if I don't have love, I'm as annoying as a ringing phone.
I can chase a naked toddler through the house while cooking dinner and listening to voice mail. I can fix the best cookies and Kool-Aid in the neighborhood and I can tell a sick child's temperature with one touch of my finger... but if I don't have love, I am nothing.
Love is patient while watching and praying by the front window when it's 30 minutes past curfew.
Love is kind when my teen says, "I hate you!"
Love does not envy the neighbors' swimming pool or their brand-new mini van, but trusts the Lord to provide every need.
Love does not brag when other parents share their disappointments and insecurities, and love rejoices when other families succeed.
Love doesn't boast, even when I've multi-tasked all day long and my husband can't do more than one thing at a time.
Love is not rude when my spouse innocently asks, "What have you done today?"
Love does not immediately seek after glory when we see talent in our children, but encourages them to get training and make wise choices.
Love is not easily angered, even when my 15-year-old acts like the world revolves around her.
Love does not delight in evil (is not self-righteous) when I remind my 17-year-old that he's going 83 in a 55-mph zone, but rejoices in the truth.
Love does not give up hope.
Love always protects our children's self-esteem and spirit, even while doling out discipline.
Love always trusts God to protect our children when we cannot.
Love always perseveres, through blue nail polish, burps and other bodily functions, rolled eyes and crossed arms, messy rooms and sleepovers.
Love never fails.
But where there are memories of thousands of diaper changes and painful labor, they will fade away.
Where there is talking back, it will (eventually) cease.
Where there is a teenager who thinks she knows everything, there will one day be an adult who knows you did your best.For we know we fail our children, and we pray they don't end up in therapy, but when we get to heaven, our imperfect parenting will disappear.(Thank you, God!)
When we were children, we needed a parent to love and protect us. Now that we're parents ourselves, we have a heavenly Father who adores, shelters us and holds us when we need to cry.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these*is* love!!
Somebody said it takes about six weeks to get back to normal after you've had a baby
...that somebody doesn't know that once you're a mother, "normal", is history.
Somebody said you learn how to be a mother by instinct
... that somebody never took a three-year-old shopping.
Somebody said being a mother is boring
... that somebody never rode in a car driven by a teenager with a driver's permit.
Somebody said if you're a "good" mother, your child will "turn out good"
...that somebody thinks a child comes with directions and a guarantee.
Somebody said "good" mothers never raise their voices
... that somebody never came out the back door just in time to see her child hit a golf ball through the neighbor's kitchen window.
Somebody said you don't need an education to be a mother
... that somebody never helped a fourth grader with his math.
Somebody said you can't love the fifth child as much as you love the first
... that somebody doesn't have five children.
Somebody said a mother can find all the answers to her child-rearing questions in the books
... that somebody never had a child stuff beans up his nose or in his ears.
Somebody said the hardest part of being a mother is labor and delivery
...that somebody never watched her "baby" get on the bus for the first day of kindergarten... or on a plane headed for military "boot camp"
Somebody said a mother can do her job with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back
... that somebody never organized seven giggling Brownies to sell cookies.
Somebody said a mother can stop worrying after her child gets married
... that somebody doesn't know that marriage adds a new son or daughter-in-law to a mother's heartstrings.
Somebody said a mother's job is done when her last child leaves home
... that somebody never had grandchildren.
Somebody said your mother knows you love her, so you don't need to tell her
... that somebody isn't a mother.
Love You.... Mom
After 21 years of marriage, I went out with another woman, but it was really my wife's idea."I know that you love her," my wife said one day, taking me by surprise."But I love YOU," I protested."I know, but you also love her."
The other woman that my wife wanted me to visit was my mother.Mom had been a widow for 19 years and the demands of my work and my three children had made it possible to visit her only occasionally.So that night my wife suggested I call to invite her to go out for dinner and a movie.
"What's wrong, aren't you well?" Mom asked when I phoned.My mother was always the type of woman who suspects that a late night call or a surprise invitation is a sign of bad news."No, I'm fine. I just thought that it would be pleasant to pass some time with you," I responded."Just the two of us?" She thought about it for a moment, then said, "I would like that very much."
That Friday after work, as I drove over to pick her up I was a bit nervous.When I arrived at her house, I noticed that she, too, seemed to be nervous about our date.She waited in the door with her coat on.She had curled her hair and was wearing the dress that she had worn to celebrate her last wedding anniversary.She smiled from a face that was as radiant as an angel's."I told my friends that I was going to go out with my son, and they were impressed," she said, as she got into the car. "They can't wait to hear about our meeting".
We went to a restaurant that, although not elegant, was very nice and cozy.My mother took my arm as if she were the First Lady.After we sat down, I had to read the menu. Her eyes could only read large print.Halfway through the entrées, I lifted my eyes and saw Mom sitting there staring at me. A nostalgic smile was on her lips.
"It was I who used to have to read the menu when you were small," she said."Then it's time that you relax and let me return the favor," I responded.During the dinner we had an agreeable conversation, nothing extraordinary - but catching up on recent events of each others life.In fact, we talked so much that we missed the movie.
As we arrived at her house later, she said, "I'll go out with you again, but only if you let me invite you".I agreed."How was your dinner date?" asked my wife when I got home."Very nice. Much more so than I could have imagined," I answered.
A few days later my mother died of a massive heart attack. It happened so suddenly that I didn't have a chance to do anything for her.Sometime later I received an envelope with a copy of a restaurant receipt from the same place mother and I had dined.An attached note said: "I paid this bill in advance. I was almost sure that I couldn't be there but, nevertheless, I paid for two plates - one for you and the other for your wife.You will never know what that night out with you meant for me.I love you. Mom "
At that moment I understood the importance of saying, in time: "I LOVE YOU" and to give our loved ones the time that they deserve.Nothing in life is more important than God and your family.Give them the time they deserve, because these things cannot be put off till "some other time".--Author Unknown
Having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. --Mark 1:35
"Worship is something we do. Studying the theology of worship and debating the forms of worship are all good, but by themselves they are inadequate. In the final analysis we learn to worship by worshiping."
Willingly offer yourself to the Lord as an instrument for worship. Learn to let go of your agenda, your concerns, your being blessed, and your hearing of the Word of God. The language of the gathered fellowship is not "I," but "we." Surrender to the ways of God; submit to others in the Christian fellowship; desire that God's life will rise up in the group, not just within you. Seek to become of one mind, of one accord. Cultivate a life of complete spiritual dependency—completely dependent upon God for anything significant to happen. The work is God's and not yours. Start this by praying before you do anything; invite the Lord's presence, blessing, and guidance. Then give Him all the credit for anything good that happens.
Guard yourself from exposure to harmful influences that will kill worship. Cultivating worship also involves dealing with all the weeds that grow and choke the growth of your crop, as well as the pests that try to steal the harvest. For example, some of us are in the high-risk category for skin cancer. So what should we do? We should stay away from exposure to those deadly UV rays. Since all of us are prone to soul cancer that eats away at our worship, we should avoid having a lot of exposure to TV rays because they distract, deaden, and deflate the welling up of our souls in worship to God! If you cannot fast from TV, newspapers, and magazines for even a week, then you are a very weak Christian, and at risk spiritually.
Part of learning to cultivate worship is learning how to drown out distractions through prayers of gratefulness to God. Rather than feeling that distractions somehow deter us from worshiping God, we should learn to simply receive whatever happens at home, in a gathered worship experience, or other places of private worship, as God tests our spirit. Grumbling and complaining cannot be successfully partnered with a spirit of adoration and worship!
The Fruits of Worship Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. --Hebrews 13:15
Did you know that there will be many times that you will not "feel" like worshiping? Perhaps you have had so many disappointing experiences in the past that you think it is hardly worth it because there is such a low sense of the power of God. Even so, you still need to offer the sacrifice of worship to God.
The sacrifice of worship gets offered to God himself. It is vital that you join other saints to amplify your worship. When we are gathered for genuine worship, we are like a heap of burning coals encouraging one another to warmth of love and devotion. One log by itself cannot burn for very long, but when many logs are put together, even if they are poor logs, they can make quite a fire. Remember the counsel of Proverbs 27:17 that iron sharpens iron. Even rather dull lives can help each other if they are willing to try.
Go to church...
even if you do not feel like it
even if worship has been discouraging and dry before
looking for God to do a new and living work among you as His family.
The sacrifice of worship deepens repentance. Resentments cannot be held with the same tenacity when we enter His gracious light. As Jesus says, if we have broken fellowship with another person, we need to leave our gift at the altar and go set the matter straight. God is very explicit about this: "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24).
The sacrifice of worship bears the fruit of obedience. Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change: Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).
How would you evaluate your worship? Are you sensing that God is preparing you to serve anywhere, anytime, anyhow, or anyway as He directs? Are you willing to submit to that will?
Worship Christ through Your Service
For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. --Philippians 3:3
Even our very acts of ministry should be acts of worship that reveal His "worthship," or just how much Christ is worth to us! Only what is done out of adoration for Christ and love for others will last.
We can serve Christ in any place. John was isolated on Patmos, far from anyone but God. And yet he was serving God right where he was. Revelation 1:10a says, I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day.
We can serve Christ at any time, in any condition. John was at least eighty years old and near death. He was suffering loneliness, pain, discouragement, deprivation, and abuse. He had not seen Jesus for sixty years and was deprived of his scrolls, church, freedom, and health but he was not defeated. He was still serving Christ.
We can serve Christ in any way. We can still serve God regardless of how hard the times might be. There are no limits to what God can do through us, no matter what age we happen to be. There is no mandatory retirement from serving the Lord.
Make a choice to live in hope. You can decide today to emulate John's attitude by asking God to give you this spirit:
"It does not matter where I am: I am going to serve Christ in any place. It does not matter how old I am: I am going to serve Christ at any time of life, even at the very end. It does not matter what my circumstances are: I am going to serve Christ in any way I can, no matter what they take out of my life. It does not matter how I am, even if I am suffering: I am going to serve Christ anyhow. This is my way to worship the glorious ever-present Christ—to show Him just how much He's worth to me!"
Ask God to use you anywhere you go, any time He wants to—and He will. Like Isaiah, tell Him: "Here I am, Lord! Send me!"
For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit discoverthebook.org
Lust makes us think that having some person we don't presently have would make us happier. Often that person is simply a figment of our imagination. Even if the person is real, we often attach character traits to him or her that are not real. Usually our lust focuses on sexual involvement. We imagine someone who is terribly fond of us and who prefers our presence and intimacy over anyone else's. We imagine that if we had such a person to hold in our arms, it would be exciting and wonderfully fulfilling. This is a terrible deception, for we forget or ignore the devastating consequences of living out our imaginations.
imaginations reveal our selfish desire for stimulation. Unchecked, sensual stimulation actually increases the desire. We see this exhibited in several ways. For example, one of the primary reasons people smoke or consume alcohol or drugs is to stimulate their physical senses. As a person continues in this selfish frame of mind, the desire grows until he or she needs regular and increasing doses of stimulation.
Psychiatrist Gerald May observes that God created us to attach to him. All humans have a God-given, built-in need to attach to God in a meaningful way. When we ignore God, we instead try to attach to his creation--people, things, and career. This is where all types of addictions are formed.
Even if we feel we've conquered lust, the emotion can strike when we least expect it. One friend discovered this when he spoke at a Christian conference. Dick's wife was in the final months of pregnancy, so they were not as sexually active as usual. While several hundred miles away from home, Dick suddenly found himself infatuated with a woman attending the conference. She was attractive and seemed to enjoy his company. But while admitting his normal sexual drive was heating up, he also knew that yielding to that desire would bring at best only a very temporary satisfaction. He came face-to-face with his own selfish desire to be stimulated and realized that the devastating long-term consequences to his ministry, to his wife and kids, and to his relationship with God would far outweigh any momentary pleasure. That knowledge helped him control his physical drive, which took about forty-eight hours to subside.
The motivation behind extramarital affairs seems to be very different for men and women. Men tend to lust for physical release or conquest, viewing women as challenges for satisfying their sexual drives. Women, on the other hand, tend to involve themselves in affairs because of their deep need for communication and a meaningful relationship--a deep need that is not being met.
Recently we've seen a huge increase in affairs on the Internet. These affairs don't need to be consummated to cause a serious threat to a marriage. Many women find themselves more comfortable talking with a stranger in a chat room than to their own husbands. Many men enjoy the power they seem to have counseling a woman by means of an impersonal computer rather than face-to-face. In too many cases, men and women let their imaginations go wild in these relationships.
How can we use lust to strengthen our relationship with God?
First, by recognizing the basic motive behind this emotion. Lust is not serving a person in love; it is viewing a person as an object to be used. This happens even within the marriage relationship. With Norma, I had to realize that I was violating God's law by trying to use her for my own happiness rather than loving her by serving her needs.
Second, lust can reconfirm our awareness that God -- not another's body, not even our mate's -- is the source of our fulfillment. As pleasurable as sex can be, it can never substitute for the lasting joy and satisfaction of knowing God.
Third, in the midst of lustful thoughts, as an act of our will, we can pray something like this: Lord, I know there are times when I wish my mate acted sexier. And there are even times I have entertained thoughts about being in the arms of another person. All the advertisements on TV have tried to convince me it would be exciting. But right here and now I continue to trust you to energize my life and provide all I need. I am willing to rest and wait in your faithfulness. I don't even know all I'm trying to gain from these lustful thoughts, but you know, and I know you'll meet my needs as you always have.
Because God knows our thoughts, we can share them with him and admit that we don't understand. That's what Paul instructs us to do in Romans: Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but ... he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will (Romans 8:26-27).
practical help can we offer those stuck in the quicksand of lustful desire?
Some try to struggle out of the grip it has on their lives through visualization, masturbation, or regular participation in sexual activity. But the more we struggle, the deeper we sink. If no one is available to pull us out, the one way to escape from quicksand is to relax, lie back in the sand, take a deep breath, fill your lungs with air, and allow your limbs to float to the top. We can take similar action with lust by not fighting our thoughts and desires and instead ask Jesus to perform what he promises to do release us from bondage. He can supernaturally pull us out as we rest in him.
If no one is available to pull you out of quicksand, you can still escape by slowly moving your arms above your head, putting them slightly into the sand, and swimming slowly to the edge, as if doing a slow-motion backstroke. Experts say it may take several hours to swim just a few feet. But freedom is as close as the bank. When battling lust, we can do the same thing by persistently looking to Jesus for strength and patience.
I have known men stuck in the mire of lust who didn't make it to freedom for several months. It may take a year or more for some to swim to freedom. Day after day we must reconfirm truths given to us by Jesus. God promises he is faithful to answer the requests of his children. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24). And, If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you (John 15:7). Real freedom comes from abiding in a close relationship with God and from allowing God's Word to become alive in us. The Bible urges us to live a life of love .... But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality (Ephesians 5:2-3). And, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). It is God's will that we experience freedom from lust, so we can stand in his line daily, knowing it is just a matter of time before he will bring us freedom from sexual slavery.
Once we're free from the quicksand, we're usually weak from the effort. Here are four ways to regain strength and remain strong so we don't fall back into the mire:
First, rehearse the negative consequences of sexual involvement, even in the midst of lustful thoughts. Remember what it feels like to be trapped. The consequences are far more than we can mention here, but they include enslavement to passion (see Galatians 5:1); reinforcement of our self-centered tendency that diminishes genuine expression of love; callousness of our soul (see Ephesians 4:19); and, of course, the possibility of catching a sexual disease. In other words, the truth and life of God are darkened within us when we engage in unrighteousness (see Romans 1:18-32).
Second, memorize sections of Scripture that deal specifically with sexual freedom. After memorizing them, persistently ask God to make your life consistent with these verses. Start with Galatians 5:1-14, Ephesians 5:1-6, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.
Remember, when we read God's Word, we don't read it for what we can do by our own efforts. Don't think, I need to start living more by this or that law. Rather, read God's Word and see his commandments as what you'll look like as you continue to abide in Christ. If you love me, you will obey what I command, the Lord says (John 14:15). Keep your focus on loving, knowing, and abiding in him and watch him enrich and strengthen your life.
Third, for men especially, beware of the anger/lust cycle that often develops. Many men experience their most severe times of lust after a struggle or problem at home or at work. If we fail to make things right after a disagreement or confrontation, we may be setting ourselves up for temptation, because such encounters leave us feeling depressed and inadequate. Because none of us likes to feel bad about ourselves, we look for something to perk us up, to make us feel powerful and important again.
Sexual stimulation can have a temporary euphoric effect. Like alcohol or drugs, it can bring about a heightened sense of self-worth until the shame and reality of our actions bring us crashing down. Some men who never take a drink or try drugs submit to a life of erotic escapades that is every bit as addictive and deadly. Sin always takes you further down the path of destruction than you want to go.
Writing in the book of Proverbs, Solomon has sobering words for those who use any form of lust actual sexual encounters, fantasy, or pornographic pictures to make up for feelings of anger or low self-worth: For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword (Proverbs 5:3-4).
Giving in to lust does not break the anger/lust cycle; it only intensifies it. Now we are not only angry and depressed about our problem at work or at home, but we are also angry about our lack of self-control. And on top of our shame, those of us who are Christians also have the Holy Spirit convicting us of sin.
repentance is a biblical solution, but getting furious with ourselves and vowing it will never happen again do little good. In fact, when we browbeat ourselves (a way of punishing ourselves so that God won't, or so that he will let us off the hook), we actually dig a deeper rut for ourselves and set ourselves up for our next lust fix.
Unless we truthfully deal with the anger/lust cycle and admit it is signaling that a relationship needs repair or that we need the help of a Christian friend or counselor, we may continue in the downward spiral for years. This vicious circle of sin can cause even Christians to spin so fast that right seems wrong and wrong seems right. But returning to Christ's healing is always the answer.
Finally, realize that for most people the gaining of freedom from lust is a long-term process, especially for those who have developed a habit of immoral thoughts and actions.
You might consider starting or joining a support group for those who struggle in this area. This can be a men-only or women-only group who testify as to how God has produced freedom and who encourage and support one another in memorizing and meditating on Scripture. These folks also hold each other accountable, pray with each other, and talk honestly about their entrapment. Much healing can come just by confessing our weakness and praying for each other: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).
Al meets regularly with several other men in a discipleship group. Once he returned from a business trip and reported that his hotel room had a cable movie station. He watched a PG-rated movie, then started to watch a sexually explicit film but caught himself and turned it off. However, he expressed concern about handling temptation on an upcoming ten-day trip. One of the members asked Al to develop a plan for using any of the time that was not being spent in meetings, which he did.
On his return Al had to give a report. Near the end of the trip he had found himself seated next to a single woman at an athletic event. The thought entered his mind, You could take her out for dinner and no one would ever know. Rather than allow time to entertain the thought any further, he left the game early. Knowing he was accountable to men back home helped him resist temptation because he knew they would ask him how he did. Accountability is good, but remember that it doesn't replace the most important solution God's grace doing its work in us.
I have focused on the sexual aspects of lust because it is so out-of-control in our society. But other forms of lust such as craving sweets, overeating, and stimulating the senses through drugs and alcohol can be just as damaging. The thoughts I've shared can apply in any area of sensual temptation that robs us of life.
error messages appear most frequently in your life? Jealousy, envy, or lust? Take the time necessary to deal with those emotions.
from the book Joy that Lasts.
© Copyright 2003 Smalley Relationship Center
Last winter I was killing time at Baton Rouge Airport before heading home. The airport is designed with a large central glass dome and some trees in the middle of the atrium. The early morning rush was over and the airport was surprisingly quiet. I heard something that caught my attention.
Not some bozo on a cell phone. Actual bird chirping. I looked up and saw what looked like a couple of sparrows flitting about near the top of the atrium. Somehow these wild birds had found their way inside the airport terminal. I watched them for awhile and I thought about how cold it was outside that day. I reflected on how "lucky" those birds were to be in a climate controlled atrium and not have to brave the elements. They could pick amongst the left over food of the travelers. Airport food might be wretched for humans but it was a feast for foragers. What a life!
And then it hit me. That is what I tend to seek in my Christian life. Peferring comfort over challenge. Safety over risk. I looked at that bird in his artificial and safe environment and I incorrectly surmised that was a good life for those birds. Perhaps it was but that was not what birds were created to be. Those sparrows were created to fly freely. They were designed to soar without hitting the glass ceiling of safety.
God did not not create me to live in a climate controlled atrium of safety. Living that kind of Christian life is so easy in America. There is a safe path of least resistance to be a Christian in this country. No resistance just might mean you aren't doing anything that threatens Satan. In basketball you don't guard the players that aren't doing anything. They pose no threat to your goal of winning the game. Sometimes I suspect I am unguarded by Satan's defense for a reason. I choose the bench instead of the arena.
Comfy Christianity is epidemic in America. We encounter a store that won't say Merry Christmas and we think we are persecuted. God help us.
We send checks instead of serving. But according to most giving research we don't even do that very well.
God has called me (and you) to give and to serve. In the Civil War the wealthy paid poor men to go "serve" for them. I remember having such disdain when I read that bit of history. But don't I do the same thing in my Christian journey? I feel really good if I pay a missionary to go reach the world with the message of Jesus. I feel like I am godly if I give to the church so the "professionals" can do ministry. But God is asking me to do both. Give and serve. Maybe not to be a missionary but certainly to reach out to my neighbor and my community. I was not created to live in a safe dome of climate controlled Christianity. Jesus is not safe. Following Him will take you out of the comfort zone and into the messy world of ministry. How did the early church explode against all odds? The Church History Institute makes these points in an article on the early church history.
After the Apostle Paul, we do not run across many "big names" as missionaries in the first few hundred years of Christian history. Instead the faith spread through a multitude of humble, ordinary believers whose names have been long forgotten. Early Christianity was primarily an urban faith, establishing itself in the city centers of the Roman Empire. Most of the people lived close together in crowded tenements. There were few secrets in such a setting. The faith spread as neighbors saw the lives of the believers close-up, on a daily basis.
It is too often a tragic occurance that careful observation of modern Christians on a close-up, daily basis is a reason to turn away from faith, not toward it. The article goes on...
And what kind of lives did they lead? Justin Martyr, a noted early Christian theologian, wrote to Emperor Antoninus Pius and described the believers: "We formerly rejoiced in uncleanness of life, but now love only chastity; before we used the magic arts, but now dedicate ourselves to the true and unbegotten God; before we loved money and possessions more than anything, but now we share what we have and to everyone who is in need; before we hated one another and killed one another and would not eat with those of another race, but now since the manifestation of Christ, we have come to a common life and pray for our enemies and try to win over those who hate us without just cause."
In another place Justin points out how those opposed to Christianity were sometimes won over as they saw the consistency in the lives of believers, noting their extraordinary forbearance when cheated and their honesty in business dealings.
Perhaps the main reason the early church exploded is contained in the lyric of a simple song we used to sing while we were on staff with Campus Crusade.
They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. They will know we are Christians by our love.
Will they? Those exposed to the early church knew the people called Christians were different. Very different. The article continues.
Christians became known as those who cared for the sick. Many were known for the healings that resulted from their prayers. Christians also started the first "Meals on Wheels." By the year 250, they were feeding more than 1500 of the hungry and destitute in Rome every day.
When Emperor Julian ("the Apostate") wanted to revive pagan religion in the mid-300s, he gave a most helpful insight into how the church spread. This opponent of the faith said that Christianity "has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers and through their care of the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar and that the [Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help we should render them."
Oh that we could adopt a "scandalous" faith that would not overlook a beggar or turn away from those who need care. Those who labor in love serving the AID's victims in Africa are following that tradition. Is it a surprise that Christianity is growing so rapidly in Africa? God bless you. The brave followers of Jesus who carry the gospel to countries where persecution is real are following the example of the early church. God protect you.
For the rest of us the questions are uncomfortable. Are we willing to leave the climate controlled Christianity that is so comfy and fly outside where it is risky and dangerous? That is what we were created to be as followers of Jesus. Do we dare trust Him enough to take the chance?
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy. ~ Proverbs 13:12 (NLT)
"I'm soooooooo excited!"
I grinned a big, ole happy fill-your-face-up smile as I read my friend's words.
After years of working hard to learn the craft of writing, receiving rejections on her books, and being tempted to let go of the dream, it finally happened. She had her first book contract.
]I've experienced this before. The first time was with my friend, Pam. She and I had critiqued each other's projects for a couple of years. I'd watched her grow as a writer, pray her heart out, surrender to God's plans, and secure an agent.
Then it happened. My heart soared with hers and our joy bouncing back in forth in our emails. Every time I saw her book at the Christian bookstore or in Wal-mart my heart leapt again.
Seeing my friends' dreams come true brought us all joy and helped me hang onto my own dreams of that first book sale.
The New Living Translation of the Bible says, in Proverbs 113:12, "when dreams come true there is life and joy." The New International Reader's Version says it this way. "A longing that is met is like a tree of life."
It isn't only writers who dream. If you're a mother, you and I may share a similar "tree of life" experience, the birth of that first child. Even after 17 hours of hard labor, little sleep, and an aching, postpartum body, I was ALIVE—excited, strong, and full of joy. I couldn't wait to show off my little girl and couldn't sleep for looking at her. I clutched her to my heart singing to her. I held her when she slept, when she was awake, and when she nursed.
Perhaps the joy was more pronounced because of the months the dream was deferred. I'll never forget the fear, disappointment, and even anger I felt each time I realized I wasn't pregnant during the season we tried to have a baby. The Message says our verse this way. "Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around."
My husband and I have lived both ends of this verse in the recent startup of his own business. Perhaps you've been through something like this. We sacrificed to buy territories, build them up, and market our product. Before the cash flow started we were beginning to feel heartsick—but, after a few good breaks, when our product began to sell, we rejoiced. Later, problems with the parent company slowed down production and cost us sales and we felt that old heartsick feeling return.
Life is full of both the devastation of "unrelenting disappointment" and the wild joy of dreams coming true. We need to be patient with ourselves in the hard stuff. It's natural to shed tears and cry out to God for mercy. Sometimes we find deep blessing in the disappointments, as we allow them to help us press closer into the arms of our Father, but it's never fun.
Thank God, weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning!** Sometimes the bud of hope we hold onto blossoms into flowers of fulfillment. Other times God gives us different dreams.
In the hard times, it's good to remember there are also seasons of celebration.
Father, comfort me and give me patience and hope in seasons of disappointment. And when the dreams are fulfilled, may I rejoice in You.**(Paraphrase of Psalm 30:5)
A home schooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God's grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website offers home schooling hints, book reviews, and a free weekly devotional, Soul Scents. Subscribe to Soul Scents at www.soulscents.us. You can contact Paula at Paula@soulscents.us.
"Negative Thinking" (also called false or irrational beliefs, unrealistic expectations, self-defeating attitudes, unjustified negative explanations, or illogical conclusions) is powerful because how a partner perceives and interprets what the other does can be far more important in determining marital satisfaction than those actions themselves.
Negative thinking occurs when a spouse consistently believes that the motives of the other are more negative than is really the case. In other words, a husband or wife interprets the behavior of his or her spouse to be much more negative than the spouse intended. Basically, it's the belief that your partner is trying to ruin or weaken the marriage on purpose. For example:
"You're always including your family. They've been between us our whole married life!""You don't see it do you? You're too negative and it's driving me away!""You say you're sorry, but you keep doing the same mean things over and over. You'll never change!"
Why Negative Thinking is so Destructive in a Relationship
Positive Bias. During courtship and early married life, almost everything the fiancé says or does is interpreted in a positive light. He or she can do no wrong. Even unpleasant behavior can be turned around and made positive. This produces a "perfect" image of the loved one that emphasizes the appealing features and conceals the undesirable one. In a sense, this perspective becomes "closed," so that almost no unpleasant elements can enter the picture.
Negative Bias. But if the marriage runs into trouble, the repeated disappointments, arguments, and frustrations lead to a change in perspective. For example, a wife may shift from a positive to a negative bias. Her attitude changes from one of admiration to faultfinding. Then, much of what he does is interpreted in a negative light. He can do no right. The bottom line is that when the relationship runs into persistent problems, we have a tendency to switch "lenses" and see our partner differently — negatively.
The Problem with Having a Negative Bias
1. Confirmation Bias. The major problem with negative thinking is that human beings tend to see and hear what they believe about another even if it isn't true. In other words, what you believe about another person (positive or negative), you will find evidence of that belief in everything he or she says or does.
2. Self-fulfilling Prophecy. The case whereby individuals (a) have an expectation about what their partner is like, which (b) influences how they act toward their partner, which (c) causes that partner to behave in a way consistent with the individual's original expectations. People tend to live up or down to our beliefs about them.
3. Learned Hopelessness. When negative thinking consistently invades the relationship, it produces an environment of hopelessness and demoralization. The negatively framed partner is robbed of motivation and action.
How To Fight Negative Thinking
We are not advocating some kind of unrealistic "Pollyanna" mentality. We cannot sit around wishing or hoping that our partner will change truly negative behaviors. However, we need to consider that our partner's motives are more positive than we are willing to acknowledge.
Step 1: "Could I Be Wrong?" We must ask ourselves if we might overly negative in our interpretation of our mate's actions. Or we might have misunderstandings stemming from differences in their perspectives — and is not the result of some negative trait.
Step 2: Check Out the Accuracy of Your Negative Thinking. Consider alternative explanations for what your mate does. Look for supporting evidence, contradictory evidence, alternative explanations, and more logical conclusions. We must push ourselves to look for evidence that is contrary to the negative interpretation we usually take. We can accomplish this by either asking directly or by making further observations of our partner's actions.
Step 3: Substitute More Reasonable Responses for the Negative Thought
Step 4: Keeping Track of Positive Behavior. It's important for couples to be aware of what their partner's do and to respond accordingly. A partner may already be doing some of these things, but you may not be totally aware of them. For a start, try to notice methodically what your mate already does that pleases you. In order to note pleasing actions, spouses begin to really look at each other. This will force you to break through the barriers that obstruct your vision of your partner's good deeds.
© Copyright 2003 Smalley Relationship Center
It was a mistake. I knew it then and I admit it now.
I was in Atlanta attending a conference where I didn't know hardly anyone. Lonely, I decided to telephone an old friend living there. He came down to my hotel, picked me up, and you can guess what happened next: He fed me barbecue. We talked over old times. Laughed a lot. Then he dropped me back at my hotel about 9:30. No romance. No attraction. Not even a peck on the cheek.
But it was wrong, not because I am a married woman - my husband knew and approved the dinner - but because I am Bible teacher. The Scriptures are clear: God Himself holds those who teach the Word to higher standard. By the way, so do the world and our students. (James 3:1) For this reason as well as others, I take the privilege of teaching the Word very seriously.
As women who minister, our mistakes can be more dangerous than physician malpractice. If a doctor blunders, the patient may die. If we goof up, someone could go to hell to die forever - and take her family with her. As Jesus commented, we would be better off dead than cause someone to sin. (Matthew 18:6)
So I have adopted a Code of Honor for my ministry and I want to share the condensed version with you. It is not meant to restrict as much as protect the Lord's reputation, my reputation, and those who are new believers or seekers from being offended. It is a dynamic document. As I learn, either by instruction or from a mistake, I amend it. But I share it with you now, and perhaps it will serve as a pattern for a Code of Honor for your ministry, too.
A Women's Ministry Code of Honor
When I quote Scripture in a teaching, I will look it up in context to be certain that I am not twisting it to make my point. I will try to memorize the passage so I quote it correctly.
I will make sure that any teaching showcases Jesus and His truth, not me or my pet subject.
When I speak, I will not tell anecdotes about my children or husband without their permission.
When I am a guest at a church, I will not publicly dispute doctrinal issues with which I disagree. I will conform to their social and religious customs provided they do not disagree with my basic faith tenets.
I will dress modestly in public at all times.
When I am teaching the Word, I will dress in such as way as to not call undue attention to myself or be distracting.
I will not be alone or meet privately with a member of the opposite sex who is not a close family member. If I do have a meeting, it will be in a public place or with someone else present.
I will not pray with or privately counsel a member of the opposite sex who is not a close relative.
I will not flirt in any way with a member of the opposite sex. (Except my hubby, and then watch the sparks!)
I absolutely will not discuss anything of a private sexual nature with a member of the opposite sex. I will not laugh at suggestive stories or jokes.
I will love and treat others as I wish to be treated, considering everyone as beloved by God regardless of their sexual orientation, social status, race, religion, criminal record, addiction, or lifestyle.
I am a servant, not a master. I wash feet, not stand on a pedestal.
I will not take money to pray for or with someone. Since I am not a trained counselor, I will not take money to counsel someone.
What someone tells me in confidence remains private unless he/she has committed a crime that by law I have to report.
I will not pretend to be perfect. But neither will I strip down to my emotional underwear for the purpose of attention.
I will be transparent and accountable. When I'm wrong or hurt, I'll admit it. If I make a public mistake, I'll admit it publicly.
I will be quick to apologize. I will seek restoration.
I will be scrupulously honest in any area that deals with money. I will take a loss rather than allow any suspicion of financial mishandling.
I will avoid personal habits (use of alcohol, smoking, gambling, etc.) that might cause others to sin.
I do not publicly discuss my own political views, but if someone asks privately, I will share my opinion.
Whether I am in public or private, I will be aware that I am a representative of Christ, and because He has entrusted me to teach His Word, my actions have greater repercussions.
© Rebekah Montgomery 2008