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Thursday, January 29, 2009

God Has a Mission for Your Family

Crosswalk/ Whitney Hopler

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ann Dunagan's book, The Mission-Minded Family: Releasing Your Family to God's Destiny, (Authentic Books, 2007).  


God's call to reach lost people with the Gospel is for all believers – adults and children alike. Your whole family can go on a lifelong mission together to share the hope found only in Christ. Answering God's call to focus your family outward can bless each of you as you all bless others.


Here's how you can pursue mission work as a family:


View your family as a vehicle for ministry. Your family isn't an obstacle to missions ministry work, and you don't have to neglect your family to pursue ministry. Your family can actually become stronger as all of your family members devote themselves as a team to serving others outside your family. Your family and missions work are compatible and mutually supportive of God's purposes. Your family can play a valuable role in helping to expand God's kingdom!


Seek God's plans rather than your own. Instead of asking God to bless your plans for your family, pray for God to show you His plans for your family. Then base your decisions on God's plans.


Release your kids. Let go of your own agendas for each of your kids' lives and be willing to accept whatever God wants for them, trusting that He knows what's best for them. Help your kids discover God's purposes for their lives, and encourage them to fulfill those purposes – no matter where God may take them in the process. Just as God released His Son for you, you need to release your kids daily to pursue His eternal purposes.


Focus on eternity. Rather than focusing on what you can accomplish in this world, focus on what you can accomplish that has eternal value. Be most concerned about pleasing God and preparing for the moment when you'll meet Him in heaven.


Live in submission. Submit yourself completely to God and His purposes for your lives. Trust and obey His guidance in every area of your lives – spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, etc.


Strategically aim your family in the right direction. Get to know the specific spiritual gifts and natural talents of every member of your family. Then ask questions to help discover God's direction for your family as a team. Consider such questions as: "Is your family called to hospitality?", "Is your family called to active leadership within your local church?", "Is your family called to specifically impact your neighborhood?", and "Taking into account your family's specific gifts, abilities, and resources, what are ways you can participate in God's Great Commission?". As your kids grow, pay attention to how they're developing spiritually, mentally, and physically. Challenge them to take risks to try serving in new ways whenever you sense they're ready to do so.



Pay attention to life's rhythms. Alternate between work, rest, and play so your family won't be stressed by an unhealthy lifestyle. Devote your time and energy to various activities whenever God leads you to do so, and your family will achieve a healthy balance appropriate for different seasons of your life together. Check in with God about your schedule daily, since He sees the whole picture and can guide you to what's best for all concerned.


Intercede effectively for people in prayer. Pray regularly as a family for God's purposes to be released and fulfilled on earth. Acknowledge your sin and the fact that you can stand before God as a righteous person only because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross for you. Come to God with an attitude of total surrender and humility, keeping your heart clean and open before Him. Avoid broad, general, and vague requests. Instead, make your prayers specific, knowledgeable, and on target. Learn as much information as you can about the people or situations about which you're praying. Search the Bible for God's will and seek His direction on how best to pray. Make your prayers fervent and intense. Pray for lost people as if they're depending on your prayers and you're the only one praying for them. Create a prayer list your family can use together, to pray for individuals (like unsaved loved ones, and government leaders), ministries/organizations (like your church and school), and geographic areas (like your city and other nations). Use a two-fold strategy for intercession: First, come against evil and its influence on the people or situations for which you're praying. Then, pray for God's power to flow to accomplish the work He wants done. Whenever you sense God calling you to intercede in on an emergency basis, be willing to stop and pray right then and keep praying hard until the burden leaves and you get a sense of peace.


Use international holidays to help your family pray. Study the many different holidays throughout the world and the traditions around them. Then use specific days of the year to target different groups of people for prayer.


Manage your money to support missions well. Teach your kids the reality that all of your family's money – just like your time and talents – ultimately belongs to God. Allow the Holy Spirit to challenge every aspect of your lifestyle so you can make wise financial decisions for your family. Give generously to support full-time missionaries you know, and hold creative fundraisers to help earn more money for missions. If you and your family decide to become full-time missionaries yourselves, trust God for the financial provision you'll need.


Prepare and share testimonies. Encourage each family member to write down his or her own story of coming to faith in Christ and share it with other people effectively.


Plan creative outreach events. Think and pray about some innovative ways to gather people together to hear the Gospel. Have your kids reach other kids and plan some fun events for them.


Make use of your family's skills. The ways God can use you in ministry work are as diverse as the talents He has given you and the skills each of your family members possess. Try to connect each of your family's skills to some ministry work. If you've got computer skills, conduct training seminars or teach full-time missionaries how to use a new software program. If you can build well, take a missions trip and help construct a new church or orphanage. If you've got teaching skills, hold some workshops.


Release your family to God's destiny. Every day, renew your commitment to fulfill God's purposes in your lives. Work together the best you can, relying on God's strength, and look forward to the new adventures He has in store for you each day.

Published January 9, 2009.

Adapted from The Mission-Minded Family: Releasing Your Family to God's Destiny, copyright 2007 by Ann Dunagan. Published by Authentic Books, a division of STL US, Colorado Springs, Co.,         

Ann Dunagan is a homeschooling mother of seven and an international minister alongside her husband, Jon Dunagan. In 1986, Jon & Ann Dunagan founded Harvest Ministry. Ann has personally ministered in more than 25 countries throughout the world and she enjoys teaching children, speaking to women, and encouraging parents and teachers. The Dunagan family is based in Hood River, Oregon.

Loving Your Spouse's God-Given Personality



Joe Beam,Founder, LovePath International

resource: from CWalk


Over the last few days I've witnessed the same marital phenomena on four occasions. In each situation the wife and the husband had very different personalities. Of course, there's nothing unusual about that in it of itself. While roughly 80% of people in the USA marry someone who is similar to them in ethnicity, age (within 5 years), physical attractiveness, socio-economic status, and values, a large number of people marry someone dissimilar to themselves in personality or temperament. Theoretically, by marrying someone of similar background we accomplish a degree of familiarity that gives us comfort, but by marrying someone different in personality we "balance" ourselves in some ways.


So, it's not unusual to see that mates are very different while being very much alike. In my business I try to notice both similarities and differences, but I especially pay attention to the differences. The simplest method for evaluating differences (there are many, as you might imagine) is by evaluating two aspects of behavior:  


1. Does the person tend to process before acting or act before processing?


2. Does the person seem reserved and a little more difficult to get to know or does s/he seem open, affable, and easy to get to know?


This methodology has existed from roughly 300 B.C. so it's nothing new or novel. It does, however, work rather well in most cases. With those four criteria we can derive four basic temperaments. I call them: Commander, Communicator, Completer, and Calculator.


It would take many more pages than I have here to describe these temperaments and interactions. But let me address one small but important matter. It has to do with a common marital pairing: The Commander and the Completer.


The Commander tends to be a competitive person who is bottom-line-driven with a direct, let's-fix-it-now approach to life and a strong ego. 


The Completer tends to be a laid-back person who likes to think things through before acting, avoid conflict when possible and can be described as family-oriented, traditional, and loyal. You likely already see that these two temperaments paired together can lead to some unhappy situations.


Commanders will take risks. Completers hate risk and want security. Commanders want to fix things now, directly and bluntly. Completers want to leave it alone for a while and, if forced into conflict they aren't ready for, will often resort to passive/aggressive behavior.


This pairing can bring about many problems when the husband is the Commander and the wife is the Completer. But, in all four situations I witnessed recently, the problems were exacerbated because the wife was the Commander and the husband was the Completer. She wanted to address things immediately, communicate her thoughts bluntly, and force her husband to solve everything right now which in her estimation could be done if he would just do what she asked. He, on the other hand, wanted to stay very calm, think things through for a while and in some cases ignore the problem long enough for it to take care of itself.


In these situations the Commander gets frustrated and perhaps even feels vulnerable because her Completer won't stand up in face-to-face combat to resolve matters. In turn, the Completer feels disrespected, badly treated, and walked on. Usually, the Commander gets more forceful and strident as a problem remains unresolved while the Completer gets quieter and more reserved as he starts building a wall to protect himself from the Commander's intensity. Sound familiar?


Why is this interaction between husband and wife particularly problematic when the husband is the Completer and the wife the Commander? I'm not familiar with all the cultures in the world, but I've lived long enough in this country to understand ours. Americans tend to react negatively to strong, intense women because our culture expects the man to be the leader and the woman to be the follower. Yes, that is changing but it's still true in many situations. And Biblically-speaking, husbands are indeed called to be the spiritual heads of the family.


So, as much as it hurts for either partner to be forceful toward the one who doesn't share the same forceful temperament, it seems to be much more painful if it is the husband experiencing force from his wife. Culturally, even religiously, he sees himself as the leader and feels somewhat emasculated if he perceives she is usurping his responsibility. 


In each situation, I experienced great difficulty counseling the wife to stop degrading her husband through verbal attacks, countenance, and tone of voice. It appeared that at least in these four cases, each wife had lost respect for her husband because he wouldn't stand up to her strong personality and deal bluntly and directly with their problems. When I tried to explain that this forceful approach didn't fit his temperament, she replied that it should.


Does this mean that these Commander wives are insensitive? Well, it depends. Commanders can be insensitive to the effect their words have on others but extremely sensitive to anything said in reply and are prone to anger.


Does this sound like woman bashing? I hope not because that's not my goal. It usually takes two to create marital discord. And I've seen some of the very same problems with Commander husbands and Completer wives. It just seems that when the roles are reversed, the problems often intensify.


So what does a couple in this situation do to become happy? While no one can fix marital discord in one, brief article here are some basic truths that apply to all couples when dealing with their differences:


1. Understand your own temperament and the temperament of your spouse.

2. Understand what not to do when communicating with your spouse.  

3. Understand what to do when communicating with your spouse.

4. Learn and use a system of compromise that leads each of you to receive what makes you happy.

5. Follow through on this new understanding and methodology for the rest of your life.  

If these truths are properly understood and applied, couples typically won't end up in therapy or counseling. Often, all it takes is some careful study of your spouse to figure out what works best. And those who do find themselves in counseling can rectify their problems through an educational process. I know. I've seen it work repeatedly over the last decade.  


The bottom line: It's important to realize why your spouse reacts the way s/he does in certain situations. Is she feeling attacked? Is he? Is he feeling disrespected? Is she feeling unheard? Is one feeling overwhelmed with details and just wants the bottom line?


When we put ourselves in the place of the other in an attempt to understand, we often will find the best way to interact and negotiate so that feelings aren't hurt and misunderstandings don't take place. So strive to know why your spouse reacts in certain ways to what you say so that you can communicate in new ways that show respect, love and kindness.


Not only is it a more effective way to communicate, it is a more Christ-like way to communicate.

" a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5: 2

Read about more about the four temperemants in Joe's new book Your LovePath (to be released in Jan. '09).

Joe Beam is a best selling author and an internationally known marriage expert. He founded LovePath International, an organization that works to save marriage relationships from separation, divorce and relationship problems. If your marriage needs help, please visit

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Find Rest for your family" ( with 1 Question survey :) please respond

Read the article and see which problem areas you may have.
Afterwards, we invite you to respond to the 1 Question survey (no names needed, just  answers) found on this link:
The following is a report on the practical applications of Tim Kimmel's book, Little House on the Freeway: Help for the Hurried Home, (Multnomah Books, 2008).  
source: Crosswalk

How fast is your family running through life? If you always seem to be in a hurry and struggling to keep up with your activities, it's time to slow down. That's easier said than done, though.

Real rest can only be found in Jesus, through the peace that He alone can give you and your family. Here's how you can find the rest you need:

Diagnose the problems. Figure out what kind of hurriedness is afflicting your home. Is your family so busy that you all can't relax? Are you uncomfortable with quiet? Are you seldom satisfied with what you have? Do you live according to shifting moral standards -- sometimes going against your convictions when it's more convenient to do so? Are you overworked and underappreciated? Do you worry about things you can't control? Are you only happy when you're successful according to how the world defines success? Do you often doubt God's power, grace, or sufficiency? Are you discontent? Do you lack genuinely intimate relationships? Do you have a tendency to try to control your life?

Look internally, not externally. It's unrealistic to expect that the external stresses in your life will just magically go away. But you can experience real rest inside your soul no matter what kind of stressful circumstances you're going through in your life.  Realize that rest is a choice make in any situation. Ask God to help you learn how to be calm even in the middle of a storm. Remember that He loves you, made you with a purpose, and guarantees you hope. Let those realities sink into your soul and give you peace.

Forgive. Your soul can't truly rest until you forgive as God calls you to forgive. Take an inventory of the people in your life to determine who you may still need to forgive for hurting you in the past. Then rely on the help God promises to forgive each of them. Once you give others the gift of forgiveness, you get a valuable gift in return: rest for your soul.

Live within the limits. Choose to live within the limits of biblical standards that God has created for people's protection from harm. The more you live by what the Bible says, the less you'll struggle with fear and regrets, and the more rest you'll enjoy. Whenever you experience guilt, consider honestly if it's alerting you to sin in your life. If so, be quick to confess the sin and repent, turning away from the sin and toward God. Every day, do your best to align your actions with your beliefs. Make sure that what you say you believe is what you're actually doing, consistently. Give every part of your life -- your work, relationships, etc. -- to God, without holding anything back. When every aspect of your lifestyle reflects faithful living, you can experience genuine rest.

Look at life with an eternal perspective. Ask God to give you His perspective on your life so you won't waste time or energy on pursuits that don't really matter. Recognize that people are more important than personal gain. Invest in relationships first and foremost, since love is eternal. Never sacrifice what's permanent on the altar of what's immediate. Don't let each day's urgent issues that come up distract you from pursuing what's most important. Instead of fearing death, accept it as an inevitable part of your future, and prepare for it by making the most of every day God gives you on earth. Rather than trying to avoid aging, learn all you can as you grow more mature. Keep in mind that time will move forward quickly for you no matter how well you do or don't use it. Every day, thank God for the gift of the time He has given you, and do your best to invest it well.

Serve while you're suffering. Whenever you're suffering in some way, your relief may come not from the problem suddenly disappearing, but from the strength you develop from serving in spite of it. Instead of just waiting for the problem to go away, decide to serve others while you're dealing with the problem, and God will give you rest in the process. When you accept what you can't change and choose to serve anyway, you'll be transformed as you serve into a stronger and more peaceful person.

Manage your expectations well. Live to please God, not other people. The more you measure your significance by other people's expectations of you or by how well you think you compare to their accomplishments and possessions, the less rest you'll experience in your life. Discipline your desires by pursuing legitimate goals and making the most of your current circumstances. Ask God to help you develop priorities that will sustain you well and give you peace both now and in the future.

Steward your strengths well. Discover your God-given talents and spiritual gifts, develop them, and use them to the fullest. When you're a good steward of the strengths God has given you, you'll feel calm inside and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you're contributing well to the world. Read and study the Bible often so its principles will soak into your soul and you can consistently make the best choices about how to use your talents and gifts. Aim to use your time well, too, investing it generously into what has eternal significance.

Balance technology with the rest of your life. Use technology for your benefit rather than allowing it to overtake your life. Pray for the discernment to know when to check your e-mail or listen to your IPod, and when to log off and turn off so you can interact with other people face to face. Choose carefully which sites you visit on the Internet and which TV shows and other media you watch; make sure you only spend time on what's worthwhile. Give yourself adequate time for quiet reflection each day.

Bring rest to your marriage. No matter what pressures or uncertainties you and your spouse are currently dealing with, you both can enjoy a restful relationship if you remained committed to each other's needs and best interests regardless of the cost. Every day, pray for God to help you express unconditional love to each other. Learn how to use your differences to complement each other and enrich the life you share together.

Give your kids the gift of rest. You can pass on an heritage of rest to your kids if you make it a high priority to invest in their lives. Deliberately make choices every day to spend as much time as possible with your children. Be willing to make sacrifices in other areas of your life -- like your career and volunteer work -- in order to be there for your kids as often as you can. Do all you can to help meet their inner needs for secure love, significant purpose, and strong hope. Raise them in an environment designed to produce a sense of calm confidence that will prepare them well for adulthood. Give them rest for their bodies by making sure they eat a nutritious diet and get enough sleep every day. Give them rest for their emotions by giving them plenty of affection (meaningful touch and affirming words), teaching them to express their emotions in healthy ways, and helping them learn to base their decisions on unchanging biblical truth rather than on their changing emotions. Give them rest for their minds by helping them use their creativity to overcome restlessness and solve problems.

Instead of isolating your kids from exposure to different value systems, teach them the critical thinking skills they need to make their own decisions about values, which will ultimately help them make their faith their own. Give them spiritual rest by letting them know that they are deeply loved by a personal God. Help them rest in the eternal security found in a personal relationship with Jesus. Pray with them and for them, help them read the Bible, and participate in church together. Give them grace, just as God gives grace to you.

Bring rest to your work. Pray for the courage you need to reject the world's view of success and focus on efforts that are significant from God's perspective. Never pursue success as a goal in itself. Instead, expect it to come sometimes as a natural outcome from working hard and being fair. Ask God help you be satisfied with your current lifestyle instead of constantly trying to consume more, which will rob you of the rest that's more valuable than anything you could buy. Live on a budget. Get out of debt and stay out. Observe a weekly Sabbath day of rest. If your current work schedule is too stressful, have the courage to cut back to find get the rest you need. Choose time over money when you have the choice to make.

Bring rest to your relationships. Healthy relationships will help give you a restful life. Surround yourself with good friends who will support you and hold you accountable. Aim to be the best friend you can be to others -- someone who is loyal, honest, and sensitive. Find a good church -- a place that focuses on Jesus, respects the Bible's authority, helps people develop healthy family lives, and functions through the power of God's grace.

Adapted from Little House on the Freeway: Help for the Hurried Home, copyright 2008, 1994, and 1987 by Tim Kimmel, Ph.D. Published by Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc., Colorado Springs, Co.,

Dr. Tim Kimmel is the Executive Director of Family Matters® whose goal is to equip families for every age and stage of life. A national speaker with organizations that include Promise Keepers and Focus on the Family, Tim has shared his message with millions of people. He is the author of several books, including Raising Kids for True Greatness and Grace-Based Parenting. All together, there are more than 800,000 books in print. Tim and his wife live in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

10 Ways to Tell You're Slipping

Joe McKeever


It's surprising how God's people awaken one day and suddenly realize they have fallen away from the closeness they used to enjoy with the Lord. The signs have been there all along, but they were not paying attention.


Here are some tests I have discovered for spotting signs of slippage in my own walk with the Lord, evidence that I'm losing the intimacy with Him that always meant so much in my personal life.


10. You know you're slipping when the big thing you look forward to on a Sunday is a football game.


9. You know you're slipping when reading the Bible no longer excites you, angers you, or challenges you.


8. You know you're slipping when you finally get up off the couch and get involved in some ministry the Lord has been laying on your heart and the first thing you do is start criticizing all the other couch potatoes who are only doing the same thing you have been doing all this time.


7. You know you're slipping when, after slacking off in your tithing over the past year, instead of feeling guilty, you find yourself criticizing the regular tithers for their self-righteous and legalistic attitudes.


6. You know you're slipping when you can read the Ten Commandments and give yourself a passing grade on all of them.


5. You know you're slipping when you can go a whole day without praying and it not bother you one bit.


4. You know you're slipping when you can have a dirty thought and justify it as "what normal humans do."


3. You know you're slipping when you feel a nudging from the Holy Spirit to speak to that person or give to this one or make a phone call to another and you squelch it.


2. You know you're slipping when you decide to reward yourself for doing well by skipping your Bible reading and prayer for that day.


1. You know you're really, really slipping when the problem of slipping doesn't cause you great concern.


Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.

What Drains Your Energies? (MUST READ :) )

Joe McKeever

source: Cwalk

Rebellious children sap the energies of parents, leaving them with no will, no time, and no strength for outside interests or ministries. The question before the class today, students, is: "What depletes your energies for God?"
As usual, I'll get us started. At the end, leave your own contributions to the list. Our hope is that someone will see himself in this and learn that a certain practice has been robbing them of their service to the Lord and will return to the Father. Luke 15:18 comes to mind. "I will arise and go to my Father."
Here are my top ten energy-depleters:

10. Compromise.

You're doing something displeasing to the Lord and you know it. The guilt lingers and weighs you down. When you try to read your Bible, pray, or worship, the fog is so thick you could cut it. God seems far away, and you know without being told it's because you moved. You're being torn down the middle and it's a miserable feeling.
Isaiah 59:1-2 comes to mind. "Your sins have separated you." Confess them and move back closer.

9. Nay-sayers.

The discouragers around you are constantly pointing out that you cannot do this, you are not the Christian you ought to be, the Bible cannot be understood, your prayers never go beyond the ceiling, and your pitiful offering amounts to nothing. To make matters worse, sometimes that negative voice hounding us is our own. You lose heart and want to give up.
Psalm 103:1-5 comes to mind. "Bless the Lord, O my soul." Speak to yourself words of faith. Believe your faith and doubt your doubts.

8. Nit-pickers.

A family member, a colleague in the office, or a so-called friend has taken it as their personal calling to remind you of your failures in living up to the standards you claim. Your clothes do not match, you need a haircut, why do you waste your time on those books or that writer or that church, why aren't you exercising more, you're putting on weight, and I don't think you're right for this. Of course, he tells you this for your own good. You leave your friend's presence feeling worthless and hopeless.
Philippians 4:8 comes to mind. "Whatsoever things are true, think on these things." Choose where your mind will land and come to rest and what it will feed upon.

7. Time-wasters.

A few years ago, we would have named television as the biggest time-waster. It still is for many, but these days, the tube has lots of competition: the computer, computer games, the telephone, worthless reading materials, shopping, mall-crawling, and such. Each person has his own battlefield in this regard. But it's not just the time; the problem is that it robs you of your energy for God or doing good or relating to other people.

Luke 18:1 comes to mind. "We ought always to pray and not to lose heart." The old hymn told us to "Take Time to Be Holy." It takes time.



6. Starvation.

When you're really hungry, instead of pausing for dinner, you gulp down a soft drink and a bag of chips. Now, you have stopped the hunger but you're starving your body. A few minutes later, your wife or mother calls you to dinner. You beg off; you're not hungry. You dare not admit what you just did. That foolish scenario happens spiritually, too.


Try this experiment. After watching two hours of television--especially sitcoms of the type the networks are running these nights--get up and go get your Bible and read a couple of chapters. You'll have to make yourself do it. After a steady diet of mental junk food, you have no appetite for real nourishment.


Matthew 4:4 comes to mind. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." And Psalm 34:8 "O taste and see that the Lord is good." You need to feed your soul if you expect to have any energy for God.



5. Fatigue.

You're doing good work; you're just doing so much of it that you're exhausted. When tired, you get irritable and are no fun to be around. You end up having to force yourself to do your spiritual activities. It's not an admission of weakness to confess you have physical limitations, that you need 8 hours of sleep at night and maybe a little rest in the daytime and a vacation once in a while.


Mark 6:31 comes to mind. "Come ye apart and rest for a while." And Matthew 11:28-30: "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden."



4. Depression.

You are a Christian, one who believes your Bible and has the Holy Spirit, so how could you be depressed? Ever say that to yourself? The roots of depression (mental, emotional, whatever) are many and complex. You might need to remind yourself that some of the finest Christians ever to walk the planet have battled depression. You have good company. Those believers made the same discovery you have made, that sometimes you just have to get up and go on with your day while depressed, that you don't dare give in to it. Missionary leader and inspirational writer Elisabeth Elliot has said that when she's depressed, her method for dealing with it is: "Do the next thing." She does not make a long list of tasks to accomplish that day, but does the next thing before her, then she looks around and decides what is next, and so forth.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 comes to mind. "Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines... yet I will exult in the Lord." Praise Him anyway.


3. Rebellion.

Compromise is one thing; you rationalize a sin and turn a blind eye toward a practice you know is not wise and is hindering your spiritual life. But rebellion is another matter altogether. In rebellion, you drop all pretense about wanting to do the right thing. You enthrone your self and devote your life to pleasing only you. This really gets scary when you're in the Lord's service and draw a paycheck from a church or religious organization and yet are in rebellion against the Lord. I've been there; I know. People are looking to you for spiritual direction and expecting to hear God's voice through you, but what they are receiving is shallowness and staleness, negativism and putdowns, all bubbling up from the acid eating away at your soul.


Revelation 3:4-5 comes to mind. "I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember... and repent." The prodigal son story of Luke 15 applies.


2. Laziness.

Sloth. Idleness. Lethargy. Listlessness. Dullness. Slackness. Find yourself in any of these? You just can't make yourself get up and do anything spiritual such as reading the Bible or praying meaningfully or volunteering for a service project. You "just don't feel like it." Sound familiar? There's a law of physics you may be familiar with. Inertia is the tendency of an object at rest to remain there, and a moving object to continue moving. Now, it takes energy to get the object moving and it takes energy to stop it once it's in motion. Like priming a pump, we use energy to get energy. This pertains, whether speaking of the physical or the spiritual.


Proverbs 6:6-11 comes to mind. "How long wilt thou sleep, O thou sluggard?" Wake up. Get up.


1. Satan. The enemy himself.

You wondered if we would get to that? The unholy trinity of the world-the-flesh-and-the-devil are always at work to discourage believers from living the life Christ commands and we profess. The devil has had longer to study human nature than we, so he knows methods we have yet to discover. He uses detours, overloads, and even good works to keep us from doing the best things. He uses our diversions to sap our time, people to sap our joy, and work to sap our energies. Our time gone, our spirits depleted, and our energies sapped, we decide not to read our Bible tonight, to skip on our prayer time, and to get our rest tomorrow by sleeping late and skipping church. Chalk up another victory for the roaring lion who walks about.


I Peter 5:6-9 comes to mind. You know what it says. "We are not ignorant of his devices." 2 Corinthians 2:11


Now... take a moment and give us your energy-for-God sappers. What have you found that depletes your desire to get up and serve the Lord?


Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Focus of Ministry is Focus

Ron Walters
source: Crosswa;l
fo-cus (fo-kus) noun, [Latin, hearth] 1. A focal point. 2. To concentrate. 3. A center of interest or activity. 4. To sharpen or clearly define. 5. The point at which an object is most clearly seen.
To the casual observer it might appear that Jesus was nomadic, wandering the dusty roads from village to village, dispensing his humanitarian miracles and pithy sayings. A first century Johnny Appleseed who scattered goodness seeds and golden rules like confetti. A kind of half-Houdini, half-Gandhi. A utilitarian genie who attracted disciples like stray cats.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was the most focused leader and strategic planner of all time. He was a genius in organizational development and human resources. He specialized in visionary management. The world has never known a better synergist, the church being exhibit A. His methods, though ministerial, have been the model for industry and commerce for hundreds of years.
His focus was constantly challenged, but he never wavered. He was harassed by the religious: "The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him." His disciples volunteered new ideas: "...Command fire to come down from heaven to consume them." Even His family questioned his actions: "Why have you treated us this way?" His hometown friends, the ones who had watched Him grow up, "took offense at Him." Satan, too, took his best shot. "All the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, will I give you if you fall down and worship me." But Jesus was resolute with focus.
Though simple, Jesus' ministerial focus was profound and permanent. It has served as the template for every true disciple since.
First, Jesus focused His mission in doing God's will. Nothing was more important to Him. "My priority is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work." John Stott, in The Preacher's Portrait wrote, "I can't help wondering if this is why there are so few preachers God is using today. There are plenty of popular preachers but not many who preach in the power of the Holy Spirit." Stott wonders if preaching God's will is too costly for the preacher. It was costly for Jesus, too. But He remained focused.
Second, Jesus focused His topics of conversations. Every dialogue was deliberate. No words were wasted or lost; they were customized for each audience. "The words which you gave to me, I have given to them." His material was fresh and applicable. To the hurting, He spoke of hope. At a funeral, He spoke of life. To the blind, he spoke of light. To the leper, He offered His touch. To the theologians, He spoke theology. To normal people, He sounded normal. For everyone he put the cookies on the bottom shelf. And they loved Him for it.
Third, Jesus focused His message to a target audience. "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." He gravitated to the needy and the growing. He did not seek out the comfortable or stagnant. His ministry was one of depth, not breadth. He would hideaway with His students for in-depth training. He commanded others to "tell no one." He was unshaken when thousands walked out during His message claiming "this is too difficult." On the night before the crucifixion, Jesus had an audience with numerous Jewish and Roman power brokers "yet He opened not His mouth."
Finally, Jesus focused His energies toward His replacements. "As you have sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world." He chose an even-dozen from hundreds of candidates. For three years they stopped, looked, and listened. They heard it all, saw it all, and were involved in dozens of miraculous works. Jesus held nothing back from them. He schooled them in every phase of ministry. They saw him laugh, weep, teach, pray, challenge, rest, serve, heal, answer, and lead. When it was their turn they never asked "How?" They were focused.
Our work is demanding but the model of our Teacher is simple: Focus.

Ron Walters
Vice President of Church Relations

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Speak Your Spouse's Language

Whitney Hopler
source: Cw 
Your husband seems to say one thing yet do another. Your wife seems to expect you to read her mind. You and your spouse are frustrated that what you heard each other say wasn't what was meant. Sometimes it can be like your spouse is speaking a different language from yours -- one you don't understand.
But you can learn to speak your spouse's language when you work on communication skills in your marriage. Here's how:
Make your marriage a covenant, not just a contract. God intended marriage to be much more than the contractual relationship it typically is in our society. Viewed as a contract, marriage is simply about what and your spouse agree to do for each other (and if either of you fail, the relationship can be canceled). But God designed marriage to be a covenant, a permanent relationship that's built on unconditional love. The first step in effectively communicating with your spouse is for both of you to view your marriage as a covenant. Be willing to love your spouse with a steadfast love. Decide to focus on what you can do for your spouse, instead of on what you want your spouse to do for you.
Realize that communication leads to intimacy. The better you and your spouse communicate, the closer your relationship will become. Aim to build intimacy by focusing on your communication skills. Think of how loved you each will feel in a truly intimate marriage, and let that thought motivate you to improve the way you communicate.
Plan a daily sharing time with your spouse. Schedule a time each day or night to give each other a few minutes of undivided attention.
Take turns asking each other to share three experiences that happened in your lives today and how you feel about them.
Change unhealthy communication patterns. Instead of trying to achieve peace at any price, recognize that conflict is necessary to deal with issues and find solutions to problems. Rather than blaming your spouse for everything, ask God to show you how you've contributed to problems. Then take responsibility for your own failures, confess them to God, and ask for His help to change. Instead of expressing only your reasonable thoughts and hiding your feelings, realize that you must share your emotions as well as your logic if you're going to build true intimacy with your spouse. Rather than ignoring your spouse's offensive actions or comments, hoping that they'll go away, realize that the problems between you will never go away on their own. The only way to get them to go away is to work together to solve them.
Raise the level of your communication. Get to know the five different levels of communication. Then aim to go to the highest level -- level five -- with your spouse. Level one is hallway talk like "Fine, how are you?". Level two is reporter talk like "Just give me the facts." Level three is intellectual talk like "Do you know what I think?". Level four is emotional talk like "Do you know how I feel?". Level five is the most intimate -- loving, genuine truth talk like "Let's be honest." On this level, you can speak the truth in love to each other. You can be honest but not condemning, and open but not demanding. You can give each other the freedom to think and feel differently about issues, situations, and people. You work to understand each other's thoughts and feelings, looking for ways to grow together in spite of your differences.
Get to know yourself well. You must know yourself before you can share yourself with your spouse. Train yourself to become more attentive to your five senses (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting) to be able to fully experience situations. Pay closer attention to the way you interpret your experiences. Notice how the way you interpret experiences affects your emotions and your behavior. Consider what your spouse may have said or done lately that you interpreted in a wrong way.  Ask God to help you avoid jumping to conclusions about situations in your marriage, and instead take the time to find out what truly motivated your spouse to speak or act in certain ways. Get to know your emotions, what triggers them, and how the way you feel affects the way you behave.
Recognize your desires, and the different values you place on each of them. Consider whether your desires are good or bad, loving or selfish -- and how those desires and their varying intensities are affecting your marriage. Then come to understand how your behavior reveals the reality of your choices. When you act a certain way toward your spouse, you're making a choice, whether you're fully aware of it or not. If you pay more attention to the choices you're making -- even at the subconscious level -- you can change your behavior by changing your choices. Ask God to help you integrate your feelings and desires with your intellect and your will. Instead of letting your changing emotions rule your life, decide to live by the timeless truths of the Bible. Pray for the strength you need to deal with your emotions maturely, so you can remain committed to your marriage even during tough times.
Learn the art of self-revelation. Once you discover who you truly are, be willing to share yourself with your spouse in order to build intimacy in your marriage. Practice telling your spouse about your experiences, interpretations, feelings, desires, and behavior. The more you reveal about yourself, the less your spouse has to guess, and the better he or she can understand you -- which will draw the two of your closer together.
Clarify your priorities and goals. Aim to work with your spouse to grow together into the people God wants you become. Think and pray about your current priorities in life: your faith, family, friends, work, church, personal enrichment, etc.  Consider whether or not each one reflects what's important to God. A successful marriage depends on both you and your spouse bringing your priorities in line with God's priorities. Once you and your spouse agree with God and each other about priorities, it's time to set goals to help you accomplish your priorities. Be sure to make your goals specific, realistic, and measurable. Set goals for the growth you'd like to see happen in your marriage, and keep in mind that growth usually happens gradually, so be patient with each other as long as you're making some progress. Discuss your goals with your spouse regularly to keep each other motivated and on track.
Make time for what's most important. You and your spouse may be very busy, but how much are you actually accomplishing? Examine the ways you're currently using your time. Write down how you spend your time over the course of a week; then analyze the information to decide what to eliminate. Delegate some of your responsibilities, such as by having your children take over certain household chores or hiring someone to help with tasks like doing your taxes or mowing your lawn. Schedule time to be your spouse in focused ways, rather than hoping that you can do so spontaneously and having other activities take over. Encourage each other to take time regularly to be alone, and use that time to think, pray, and reflect on life.
Identify your differences and make them assets. Notice the many differences between your personality and that of your spouse: one of you likes to stay up late and one likes to get up early, one likes to save money and one likes to spend, one talks a lot and the other is quiet, one is neat and one is messy, etc. Remember that God has created each of you to be unique. No matter how much your spouse's different approach to life may irritate you, decide not to view your differences as liabilities. If you work together to discover how your differences complement each other, those differences can become assets, strengthening your marriage. Don't condemn each other for being different. Instead, ask God to help you make the most of your differences so that they'll enhance your lives together. Whenever you and your spouse notice how one of your strengths is helping the other in an area in which he or she is weak, thank each other.
Change defensive attitudes. Remember that your spouse is not your enemy; he or she is your ally. Figure out what's causing you to feel defensive in your marriage: perhaps self-esteem issues, unresolved conflict, or physical deprivation. Understand how you usually express defensiveness: through verbal retaliation, withdrawal, or speaking to your spouse through your children instead of directly. Whenever you catch yourself reacting defensively, learn from the experience by asking yourself: "What emotions did I feel when I responded defensively?", "What message did my spouse's statement communicate to me?", "What did my response, verbally or behaviorally, communicate to my spouse?", and "What did my response reveal about me?". Also consider how larger issues in your marriage may be contributing to your defensiveness, and discuss those issues with your spouse. Then explore ways of relating to each other more constructively. For example, when you want your spouse to do something, approach him or her with a request instead of a demand. Also, rather than saying "You should ..." or "You ought ..." say "In my opinion ...".  The more you and your spouse feel that you value and believe in each other, the less defensive you'll each become.
Build intimacy. Ask God to help both you and your spouse be transparent and open with one another so you'll enjoy the freedom to know and be known. Make sure you're each experiencing intimacy with God, since you can't be experience intimacy with each other until you each are close to God first. Communicate with God often through prayer, and communicate with your spouse honestly and openly each day. Confess your own selfishness whenever you recognize it and ask for mercy and forgiveness whenever you need it.
Ask God to pour out His love for your spouse through you and make you an agent of positive change in your spouse's life. Over time, work to regain trust that has been lost in your relationship. Develop stronger emotional intimacy by expressing love, respect, and appreciation to your spouse more often. Build stronger intellectual intimacy by learning how to listen to each other well and discussing ideas in ways that respect each other when your opinions differ. Develop stronger sexual intimacy by working together until you both find mutual fulfillment in your physical relationship. Stay committed to each other, refraining from looking outside your marriage for sexual fulfillment. Communicate often and openly about your sexual needs and desires. Look out for your spouse's best interests in other areas of your lives, too, to grow the kind of love you need to fuel a healthy sexual connection. Build stronger spiritual intimacy by encouraging each other to become more like Christ every day. Pray together, talk about what God is doing in each of your lives, study the Bible together, and serve God together through your local church and in other ways as He leads you. Dream together about the future, and ask God to make His dreams for your marriage come true.
Published January 14, 2008

Adapted from Now You're Speaking My Language, copyright 2007 by Gary Chapman. Published by B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tn.,           
Gary Chapman has traveled extensively around the world challenging couples to pursue healthy, growing marriages. Since 1979, Gary has written more than 20 books. His book The Five Love Languages has sold 4 million copies in English alone and has been translated into 36 languages. He has also appeared on several television and radio programs and has his own daily radio program called "A Love Language Minute" that can be heard on more than 100 radio stations across the United States. In addition to his busy writing and seminar schedule, Gary Chapman is a senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he has served for 36 years. Gary and his wife, Karolyn, have been married for 45 years, have two adult children, and two grandchildren.

Friday, January 16, 2009

How to Live for the Greatest Cause

Whitney Hopler Contributing Writer

cause – you'll find meaning and satisfaction. 

Living your life just for yourself will ultimately leave you unfulfilled. But if you choose to live for something bigger than yourself – a cause – you'll find meaning and satisfaction. 

The greatest cause of all is the cause of Christ. That's the cause God created you for, and when you devote your life to it, everything you do takes on eternal significance.


Here's how you can live for the greatest cause of all:


Discover your purpose. Your appearance on this planet at this time in history isn't just by chance. God planned for you to be here, and He hopes you'll fulfill a specific purpose during your lifetime. Reject any notion that your life is merely a random happening, and set out to understand more about God's kingdom and the unique part you're meant to play in it. Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you. Instead of looking at your life in terms of what you think you lack, consider the amazing reality that you've been born for the greatest cause of all, and trust God to empower you to do whatever He is calling you to do.


Plant yourself in a church that will nourish you. Find a healthy church in your area and get fully involved in it. Don't just attend casually; develop close friendships with the people there, participate in the activities, and serve wholeheartedly. As you do, God will release more and more of your potential as a person. You'll grow in vital ways that will help you fulfill your purpose. The church is the vehicle through which God's kingdom will take hold in your life and move you forward into what God wants you to do.


Connect your vision to God's cause. Make sure the vision that guides your life supports the cause of Christ. Surrender your own agenda to God and pursue His plans for your life. Base all your decisions on what's most important to Christ rather than just on what seems like a good idea to you. As exciting as your own vision might be, it will lack power unless you connect it to God's cause. Once your own vision aligns with the cause, however, you'll be able to accomplish much more than you could ever imagine.


Unite with others around the cause. Work with other people who are single-minded in their vision to serve Christ and His church. Confront and overcome division, wrong motives, disloyalty, and disunity. Do all you can to promote unity so God's purposes can stand and His kingdom can advance on earth.


Approach life from an eternal perspective. Keep in mind that your life can impact the future in powerful ways. If you're living faithfully, everything about you can provoke people to think about eternity. And if you're serving as God leads you, all of your efforts have eternal significance. Consider what kind of legacy you want to leave on earth. Every day, invest your time and energy into what matters most and don't let lesser pursuits distract you from what's most important.


Live as someone who has been called, not just saved. God has saved you not just to spend an eternity with Him in heaven, but also to make a positive difference on earth. Every situation and every person you encounter presents a fresh opportunity to live out your God-given calling. Let your gratitude for the salvation God has given you motivate you to reach out to others who need salvation. Be as active as you can in serving as God calls you to serve.


Use what God has given you. Discover, develop, and fully use your natural talents and spiritual gifts. God has given them to you to help you fulfill specific purposes in His kingdom. No matter what you're especially good at doing – comforting hurting people, working with numbers, creating art, etc. – decide to do it for God's glory as often as you can. Don't underestimate the power of your abilities. Seize each opportunity God presents to use them and look forward to what God will do as a result. If you're not serving much already, start out being faithful in small acts of service, and expect God to eventually open doors to larger opportunities to serve.


Work hard. Hard work can serve as the launching pad for God's purpose for your life to take off to great heights. Instead of taking the easy road, commit to working hard every day so that others will notice your dedication to serving God. Whatever kind of work you do, do it wholeheartedly, knowing that it has eternal significance since God has called you to do it. Ask God to help you get rid of stress, striving, emptiness, and anxiety related to your work and approach it with joy instead. Pray for God to use your work as a conduit through which to pour His love into people's lives. Look beyond your work tasks themselves to the results they can accomplish – making the world a better place. Enjoy the blessings that come about because of your hard work.


Stay focused on your purpose. Focusing on God's purpose for your life will propel you into effective action every day and prevent wasting precious time and energy on distractions. Keep in mind that your life isn't meant to be a to-do list of competing priorities; it's meant to a unified life that's centered on God, with everything you do flowing naturally from your relationship with Him. Don't let your perceived shortcomings hold you back from the future God has for you. Trust God to help you do absolutely anything He calls you to do. No matter how busy you are, if you focus on God's purpose for your life, He will replenish your energy and give you peace. No matter what struggles you've gone through in the past, pursuing God's purpose will bring you the healing you need to overcome your wounds and limitations.


Use your time well. It will take time to build a life powerfully lived for the cause of Christ, so don't give up when you get frustrated about something in your life not progressing as well as you'd like. Every day, freshly devote yourself to the cause. Recognize that each new day is a gift from God that is valuable in shaping your destiny and contributions to the world. Expect different seasons of time to bring different experiences into your life. Rejoice during the good times, and lean into God during the hard times, learning how to trust Him more. Notice the extraordinary things God is doing in the ordinary moments of your life and seek to join Him in His work. Remain committed to fulfilling God's purpose in your life at all times.


Use your money well. If you use your money just for yourself, it will come to master you by stealing your affections away from everything else. But if you use it to help you pursue God's plans for your life, it will serve you as a valuable tool to accomplish what matters most. Be generous when you give and wise when you invest, so you won't squander any of the potential you have to achieve great results for God's kingdom with your money. Remember that God is the one who has given you the ability to earn money; thank Him by managing it as well as you possibly can.


Get rid of selfishness. Live beyond your personal desires by surrendering your will daily to God. Trust in God's plans for your life rather than trying to force your own agenda. Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you, and derive confidence from that so you won't be preoccupied with your own desires and will be able to accomplish much more than you could ever imagine yourself.


Stand on your convictions. Hold steadfastly to your beliefs, refusing to give in to the world's pressures to compromise. Rather making yourself vulnerable to having others change you, pray for God to give you the strength to lead others to change. Become an agent of positive change in the world, shining Christ's light into dark places. Get to know the Bible well, letting its truths soak into your soul so they'll be there when you need them for encouragement. Pray often for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so you'll be thinking according to truth instead of the world's confused patterns.


Remain committed. Whatever challenges you face – from health issues to financial problems – if you consistently make your relationship with God your top priority, He will give you the strength you need to get through it all well. Devote yourself to God daily. Seek His healing for internal issues that can interfere with your ability to grow, confront evil, confess your sins, be reconciled to other people, and make whatever sacrifices you need to keep serving God wholeheartedly.


Adapted from For This I Was Born: Aligning Your Vision to God's Cause, copyright 2008 by Brian Houston. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., 
Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie, are the senior pastors of Australia's largest church, Hillsong Church in Sydney, which has a growing congregation of more than twenty-one thousand people. They also oversee the extended ministries that include Hillsong Music Australia, Hillsong Conference, and the Hillsong International Leadership College. Hillsong Television is also broadcast in more than 180 nations.

Submission: Insights from a Strong-Willed Wife

Debbie L. Cherry, Ph.D

Author, The Strong-Willed Wife
source: Crosswalk

"My husband is just not the leader type.  It takes him forever to make a decision.  If he won't lead then I guess I have to."


"I know my husband can lead because he's great at it at work.  But at home he just lets me do it all."


"I wouldn't mind letting my husband lead our family…as long as he does it the way I would."


Have you ever found yourself making comments like those?  If so, it's very likely that you are a strong-willed wife.  There are some amazingly wonderful things about being blessed with a strong-willed personality.  And as long as those traits are controlled by the Holy Spirit we strong-willed wives can bring changes to the world around us and do amazing things for the kingdom of heaven.  But those same traits can cause some serious difficulties as we are trying to have a marriage that follows God's ordained authority structure in our marriages.  As strong-willed women, we struggle to let go of control and really allow our husbands to take their God given role in our homes.  But it is something that we really have to learn to do if we want a marriage that God continues to bless.


Strong willed women think fast, move fast and make decisions fast, and expect others to do the same.  But when our husbands don't meet these expectations we tend to step in and do it for them.  What if your husband would be willing to make more decisions but you don't allow him the time he needs to do so?  And what if the decision he makes isn't the same one you would have made?  Would you still let his decision stand?  Many husbands may be more cautious and slow in their decision making but that doesn't mean they won't or can't lead.  A husband who has never taken the lead may need to take on this responsibility in stages, just as you will likely need to release your responsibility and control in stages.  


So if you are ready to start letting your strong willed personality work in your favor and really start using your personality to honor God and your husband, here's some things to help get you started as you learn to let go of control and let your husband lead:


1.      Talk openly with your husband about what you plan to work on:    This will help your husband know where to join you in prayer about the changes you are going to be making.  It will also help him be aware of the areas you are working on and be available to give praise and encouragement along the way.  And finally, open communication is necessary so the two of you together can identify what areas you are going to start handing the reigns over to him in first.  If you don't discuss this and you just decide to release the reigns without him knowing it's his turn to pick them up and lead, then the whole family could go running out of control with no one in the leadership role.   



2.      Stop doing everything:  Once you and your husband have talked about the areas where you both want to start making changes, then it's time to step back in those areas and give him the space and time he needs to take the lead.  As you back off, remember that over time your husband has probably become dependent on you to do it all because you always have.  So be patient and wait for him to do what he has said he will do.  How far you have to back off will be different for every marriage.  But I assure you it will be further than you are comfortable with.


3.      Set realistic expectations for you and your husband:  If you expect perfection (as most of us strong willed wives do) from either yourself or your husband then you are setting both of you up for disappointment.  Not only will husband not be perfect as he tries to learn about godly headship, but you also won't be perfect in your attempts to let go and let him lead.  If you set realistic expectations you will be able to see your successes as steps forward and your failures as learning experiences.


4.      Take ownership of your behaviors:  This means that you will have to stop blaming others, stop denying the behaviors, and stop avoiding responsibility for your behaviors.  All three of these are things that we strong-willed wives often do.  We have to learn how to take ownership of our part of the problems that come up in our relationships and when we do we need to learn to apologize and seek forgiveness for them.


5.      Stop criticizing:  We strong-willed wives tend to focus on our way of doing things and saying things as the right way (and sometimes the only way).  When people do it differently we feel it necessary to correct them.  But learning to control our tongue will make a huge difference in our relationship with our husbands.  The key to this step is to learn to accept your husband's differences and to understand that different does NOT mean wrong.  If you continue to criticize your husband or redo what he's done, you undermine your attempts to let him lead. 


6.      Praise often:  The other side of controlling your tongue is learning to give praise on a regular basis.  You need to learn to look for the good in this man that God has blessed you with, and be open with your praise.  Make a conscious effort to look for things that he does or traits that you see in him that are praiseworthy and shower him with these comments.  Say things that let him know that you trust and respect him and his ability to lead your household.  These statements will make him start to feel like the man of the house again and like the man God created him to be.


7.      Strive toward unity:  Biblical submission has as its ultimate goal a stronger and more intimate marital relationship.  It's about blending into one flesh and setting aside our selfish desires.  We are on the same team and working toward the same goal.  So when it comes to decisions within your home, the ultimate goal needs to be unity.  To experience this unity you will need a plan of action that the two of you have agreed upon and that keeps you moving in the same direction.  The plan can take several different forms as long as you come up with it together, both agree that it is a workable solution and then follow through with it. 

Debbie L. Cherry, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the CEO of Today's Family Treasures.

Article is adapted from her book:  The Strong-Willed Wife:  Using your personality to honor God and your husband.  NavPress, 2007.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Four Benefits of Putting Margin in Your Life

by Rick Warren
source: RWMT

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)
*** *** *** ***

Here are four immediate benefits you'll receive by building margin into your life:

1. Peace of mind. When you're not always hurrying and worrying, you have time to think, time to relax, time to enjoy life. We had a bird come into the building one evening before service. He started singing, and it was just like we'd been given an invitation: "Just relax. Everybody except those sitting directly under the bird, relax."

2. Better health. Unrelenting stress harms our bodies. We all know that, yet we let it continue day after day after day. Many times we only build margin in our lives after the heart attack almost happens or does happen, or the blood pressure skyrockets. Why do we wait until our health plummets before we make this decision? Why not realize thatwe need to build some margin intoour lives now? The truth is your body needs downtime in order to heal. Race cars make pit stops occasionally in order to get repaired. You can't fix anything going 200 miles an hour. Yet, we try to repair ourselves while we're still racing through life. Margin builds in time for better health.

3. Stronger relationships. Lack of margin is one big reason for the collapse of the American family today. When we don't make relationships a priority and make time for each other, our relationships suffer. Relationships take time; and margin provides the time to sit and talk, to listen and enjoy one another, and to provide the comfort we each need.

4. Usefulness in ministry. When you're overloaded by activity, you can only think of yourself. You're in survival mode, just trying to make it through another day. But being available to God for his use makes all the difference in this world.

When you have no margin in your life and God taps you on the shoulder, saying, "I'd like you to do this for me," your first response isn't joy. Your first response is, "Oh, no! Another thing to do! Sorry, God – I'd like to do that, but I'm just too busy."

We end up resenting the great opportunities God brings into our lives. But when you have margin, you're available for God to use.
You don't have to live on overload. You don't have to live in survival mode. Begin today to build a buffer around your schedule. Then enjoy the benefits of margin and see what God does next!

© 2008 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for ministers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Become a Wife of Goodwill


Sandy Coughlin Contributing Writer

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2: 14

"Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright." Proverbs 14: 9

After seventeen years of marriage, I can look back and say that it was my job to love my husband, Paul. Not to change him. It's God's job to make him good and my responsibility to express goodwill – not condemnation.

Was I a woman of goodwill?

I was tested by this "goodwill" question when I married a Christian Nice Guy (CNG) seventeen years ago.  A CNG, you might ask?  Let me explain. I didn't realize that the daily abuse my husband suffered as a child would affect our everyday life together. What I thought were such "nice" Christian qualities in my husband when we married turned into frustrations and fireworks because of my husband's passive approach to life. Oh, don't get me wrong.  My husband had amazing qualities, so that to this day I have never looked back. 

What exactly is goodwill in a marriage?

Goodwill is a tangible, practical expression of love. Helpfulness, concern, care, friendly disposition – are all related to goodwill and all lead to intimacy.  It is the willingness to act in a spirit of cooperation, instead of trying to win arguments. It is proactive, alive, and dynamic. Goodwill is not a passive attribute. Goodwill is among the most concrete ways of expressing love and fostering intimacy, yet when we think about this word, we think of used clothing. 

How do you know if you have it?

The "will to do good" toward your spouse is more than having good feelings for him (thank goodness). Though good feelings are important, goodwill also includes kindness, consideration, thoughtfulness, and practical support. This is wonderful news for CNG wives, because controlling how we feel is often harder than exerting our will to determine our good actions. 

It's okay and even normal to have mixed feelings about your husband at times. For me, being an assertive woman, I found myself frustrated in this passive marriage. My husband lived under the radar of life. He felt that if he lived life safely, his problems would be few. And this affected the intimacy between us, though we both yearned for more depth in our relationship.

Intimacy is a choice, and you have to be available, present and vulnerable with one another. My CNG didn't always feel safe with me, so it was easier for him to not always "show up."  It was difficult for him to make his wants and needs known and he didn't always come clean with how he felt.  In turn, I often found myself walking on eggshells - not a fun way to live.


How do you lose goodwill?

Goodwill, present in most marriages when vows are exchanged, can become virtually buried under the rubble of anger, resentment and dwindling respect that builds over time.  Coming to terms with these emotions is vital if you're going to give your efforts toward helping intimacy grow.

If you lack goodwill, take up the task of becoming a worthy steward of your husband's heart. It worked for me. I learned to be more supportive and understanding of my husband's wacky past, and I started pulling out my secret weapon – empathy.  I became a woman of goodwill when I made an effort to understand Paul more, and I stopped the nagging, coercing, attacking and shaming which only pushed him further from me.

I came to the understanding that passive people are made (through life's experiences), and not born.  As I  started becoming more empathetic toward Paul, my respect strengthened. I increasingly was able to see his struggles in a healthier light. My respect for him was enhanced even more once he started being more open and honest and he began to exert his will and express his feelings. 

When it comes to love and intimacy, goodwill is like silverware: Almost everyone can learn how to use it, even though we weren't born knowing how, and even though some of us took a long time to try it. Goodwill is remarkably practical and beneficial for those who produce it and receive it.

(excerpts taken from Married but Not Engaged, Bethany House, 2006)

Sandy Coughlin is a wife and mother of 3. She loves her family and loves blessing other people's lives by entertaining in her home. Sandy's husband, Paul, (who used to be the reluctant entertainer) has come on board, and they often offer hospitality together. Sandy and Paul co-authored a book called Married but Not Engaged(Bethany House, Aug. 2006). It's written to women who are married to "checked out" or emotionally absent men and who want to create a more satisfying, intimate relationship. This article was adapted from Sandy's regularly updated blog "4 Reluctant Entertainers," which you can visit at Get more information on Married but Not Engaged by clicking here. Visit Paul's website at:

Have a 'Clean Slate' Marriage in '09

April Motl 
source: CW
Have you ever noticed how no one ever starts a new diet on a Friday?  Nope. We all know that Monday is the day to start a new diet. Along that same vein, most of us "know" the first of the month is the time to begin a new financial habit and the New Year is the time we wipe the slate clean and start fresh in just about every area of our lives. There isn't anything magical about January 1st but we seem to honor it as the day of new beginnings. 

New beginnings are great, but there is a whole lot more to wiping the slate clean than just turning the page on the calendar. Take our marriages for example.

Marriage is a complex and wonderful relationship that at its best reflects a constant state of "clean slate" thinking and interaction.  God's design for marriage was to mirror His love for us -- a love that is constantly faithful to forgive us and freely invites us into His loving presence to experience a deeper relationship with Him. Despite our calling to imitate God's "clean slate" love, it is easy to fall short in our marriages. And over time, failing to love each other as God loves us can become "just the way things are" in our marriages. 

Maintaining a clean slate marriage is not simply about having an absence of offenses in your relationship. It is having a fresh stream of living water running through the heart of your relationship at all times. As we formulate New Year's resolutions to shed pounds, get organized and send birthday cards to all our friends and family on time this year (I always mess that one up!), we ought to also evaluate the state of our marriage. What is the fuel our relationship runs on? Where is our marriage headed? How are we growing? What is great about us as a couple? What isn't? 

If we want to have marriages with streams of Living Water running through the center, we need to honestly assess a few things:
1. Have you asked Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior?  He promises Living Water to spring up in the dry places in your heart when you accept His sacrifice and invite Him into your life (John 4:14).  If your spouse has not begun a relationship with Jesus, don't give up hope.  Pray for them diligently!

2. Do you seek Him daily through His Word?  When we read, believe and act on the Bible the broken places in us as individuals and in our marriages can be washed clean (Ephesians 5:26, Romans 12:2).  How much time do you read the Bible or Christian books together as a couple?  It has taken my husband and I a lot of energy and focus to maintain a habit of reading together (and we don't do it perfectly) but the blessings are incalculable.  It draws us together, gives us perspective and grows us.

3. Do you pray together everyday?  Studies have shown that couples who pray together, stay together!  When my husband and I pray together we are drawn near to each other in honesty as we come before our Lord and all the worries and concerns are openly discussed with our Father.  Sometimes busyness, tone of voice and all sorts of little daily things can cloud how we perceive our spouse's love and support.  When I hear my husband petition the Father on my behalf I see his love for me clearly.  When I hear him lift up a weakness or mistake I can perceive his heart on the matter more plainly than I might in a discussion or just watching him go about life.  Prayer is for us to communicate with God; not each other.  But it can bless us to be prayed with and for by our spouse. 

4. Do you regularly forgive your spouse?  Bitter water can spring up between you when harsh words are exchanged, when confidences are broken and offenses racked up.  Forgiving and asking for forgiveness will clean away the junk that can pile up between you and your spouse (1 John 1:9).

5. Are the things you devote your time and attention to constructive to your marriage?  My husband and I have to fight the "demands of the daily" to take our weekly date nights (which might consist of staying home and just enjoying each other's company without interruption instead of an expensive night on the town).  Things like TV, video games, the phone, internet, etc can steal away hours that could have been spent in something that would bear fruit.  These things are not bad in and of themselves, but they can distract and eventually dry up that abundant stream that is supposed to flow through the heart of a marriage. 

Having a clean slate in marriage isn't about dates on a calendar.  It is about the attitude we carry in our hearts toward one another and the things we allow to flow through the center of our relationship.  It is about treasuring your relationship enough to devote the energy and purpose to guard the quality of your marriage.  May rivers of abundant love, joy and peace flow through the heart of your marriage in 2009!

For a free list of 31 ways to cultivate a "clean slate marriage" contact us at
April Motl and her husband, Eric, minister at their church in Southern California where he is a pastor on staff.  April is the founder of In His Eyes Ministries; a teaching ministry devoted to helping women see their life from God's perspective. For more information about the ministry visit

How to make your church guest-friendly

y RW
A guest's first 12 minutes dramatically influence whether they're coming back or not. You never get a second chance to make
a first impression.
There are a lot of reasons a church might grow. Sometimes people come because of the preaching. Sometimes people come because of the music. Some people like the great programs for kids and youth.
But I'm convinced there's an often overlooked factor in church growth: Growing churches are friendly to guests. All churches think they're friendly, but when you take a good look at them, you often discover they're friendly to people who have been attending for 15 years or more – not to new people.
A guest's first 12 minutes dramatically influence whether they're coming back or not. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. When non-Christians come to your church for the first time, their number one emotion is fear. What will people think? What are they going to do? Am I going to have to sign something, sing something, sacrifice something, or say something? They don't know what's going on, and they're scared to death.
Your first goal with guests (and by the way, I never call them visitors) is to get them to relax. Then you can communicate with them. When people are afraid, their barriers are up and it's like, "I dare you to teach me something!" No matter how good your sermon is, they won't listen to the Good News about Jesus until they get past those fears. You need to put guests at ease.
How do you do that? Here are some ideas:
Reserve your best parking spots for guests. It just shows you're thinking about them. If you had guests for dinner at your house, you'd probably do whatever it took to make them feel more comfortable. You'd give them your best silverware and your best dishes. You might ask them about food preferences before you plan the meal. You should show the same type of courtesies to guests at your church.
Station greeters outside your building. You need people strategically placed around your campus to greet guests. At Saddleback, we used to play a game. I would dare people to get into the building without having their hand shaken at least three times. We place greeters way out in the parking lot. Why? We've found that people hate to be greeted publicly during the service, but they love to be greeted personally.
Set up an information table. Put all sorts of information on the table that might help people find their way around. Put maps out with classrooms and restrooms easily marked. Put out brochures about the church that give people information they can take home and read at their convenience. Most importantly, have hosts stationed there to help people find their way around. Make sure your hosts know where the restrooms are and where the children should go!
Have taped music playing when people enter. In America almost every public building has music playing. Even in the elevator, music is playing. You go into the restroom and music is playing. You go into a restaurant and music is playing. Why? Because people expect to hear music. If you walked into a church right now and everyone was dead silent when you walked in, you'd probably be uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you heard fairly loud praise music playing, you'd feel much more comfortable.
Here's something interesting I've found: If you play soft music, people talk softly. But if you play loud music, people talk louder. When non-Christians come into your church, they want it to be noisy. They want to hear what's going on.
Allow guests to remain anonymous in the service. Please don't make guests stand up. The three greatest fears people have are going to a party with strangers, having to speak before a crowd, and being asked personal questions in public. So when we ask our guests to tell us their name and where they are from in front of everyone, we subject them to all three of their greatest fears at one time. Bad idea.
How do you identify guests if you don't have them stand up? Have them fill out a welcome card. Then someone from the church can connect with them later.
Offer a warm, casual public welcome that relaxes people. If you want to make guests feel welcome, you've got to be at ease yourself. That's what most people expect – just watch the late-night TV shows. Like it or not, how the pastor and the worship leader interact with each other sets the tone for good or for bad in a service.
In early years at Saddleback we used to say, "If this is your first time at Saddleback, we're glad you're here. We want you take a deep breath, sit back, relax, and enjoy the service." You know where I got that? I heard someone say it on an airline once! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. All we're trying to do is help them relax and then make them feel comfortable.
Begin and end each service by having people greet each other. Five times in the New Testament Christians are told to greet one another and share affection. I'll say during the service, "Turn around and give somebody a hug. Turn around and give somebody a handshake." I've been told by some that's the only physical touch they get all week. And human beings need touch. It's a great way to help lower the barriers of your guests.
Offer a refreshment table at each service. Today in our society, it's not appropriate to just stand in a crowd doing nothing. You have to have something in your hand. That's why they have cocktail parties. People like to have something in their hand when they're hanging out and mingling. Out on the patio, I'll see a 300-pound guy who thinks he's hiding behind a Styrofoam cup! He's very comfortable as long as he has something in his hand if somebody looks at him and he's not talking.
You have to break down the fear barriers before people will ever open up to your message and consider coming back to your church. Try these guest-friendly tips in coming weeks, and help your church grow in 2009.