There have been a handful of times in my life when I’ve been dog tired, that strange exhaustion where the brain starts to systematically shut down and the world spins. A few of those times were during college (thank you 40-page Greek exegetical paper). But oddly enough, a few of those times were after finishing up my last degree; a result of my own negligence. There have been times I could have prevented such fatigue, but I didn't understand the importance of rest.
In his new book Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes masterfully about the significance of our work. Consistent with my ever-growing expectations, Keller once again hit a home run. It’s a book that — much like everything he's written — should be read by everyone.
In the final chapter “New Power for Work,” I expected Keller to give examples of how he stays so productive — where he found the time to pastor a thriving Manhattan congregation and write nine significant books in the last five years. Perhaps he requires less sleep, has discovered a new energy drink (that won’t kill you) or has never heard of television. Surprisingly, Keller’s productivity chapter turns to the power of deep rest. Rest, what does rest have to do with work?
Keller discusses two types of rest: resting from the work of our hands and resting in the finished work of Christ. Both are crucial to our productivity. First, Keller reminds us that taking a Sabbath (mentioned in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15) is not only for believers, but part of the created nature of us all. The idea of taking a regular rest is something that started during God’s creation, when God himself rested on the seventh day. There is a work and rest rhythm that is built into our very human nature.
Keller describes rest as an act of trust:
To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward (p. 236).
Those times when we feel there aren’t enough hours in the week are times when we must remember God has given us enough time to do the work He’s called us to and get the rest we need. Another great point is that rest can come in many ways. It may come by consciously trusting God to provide all we need to do our work, or it may come through the ministry of other believers. Time resting doesn’t necessarily have to be "alone time," but may come to us through the encouragement and support of our Christian friends and loved ones.
Keller also emphasizes the sweetness of resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ:
In fact, the very definition of a Christian is someone who not only admires Jesus, emulates Jesus, and obeys Jesus, but who “rests in the finished work of Christ” instead of his or her own … a Christian is able to rest only because God’s redemptive work is likewise finished in Christ. When the work under the work has been satisfied by the Son, all that’s left for us to do is to serve the work we’ve been given by the Father (p. 238).
It is incredibly freeing to learn we don’t need to work to save our own souls. We only need to trust God to provide for our needs and prayerfully seek to use the gifts and opportunities He has given. We can let go of desires to be rich, powerful or successful in this world. God calls His people to a diversity of work, but extends a collective rest, a rest rooted in His own creation.
I now realize those times of deep exhaustion were times I was ignoring my physical, mental and spiritual need for rest. I was trying to do more than God required at the time. I wasn’t enjoying the gift of rest He offers and was running myself down. In our day of busyness, those who are most productive will be those who learn to rest well and rest often.
My small group
is studying Philippians, and recently we came to chapter 4, where Paul writes
about contentment: “I am not saying this because I
am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know
what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned
the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or
hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him
who gives me strength” (vs. 11-13).
These verses reminded me of how sometimes people
with good intentions offer advice to singles, but it isn’t actually biblical.
I’ve often heard people say, “When you’re content in the Lord then He’ll bring
you a spouse.” I remember in college there was a poem circulating about how
when a girl is content with not having
a boyfriend, then God will bring her one. Similarly, people often say it
happens when you’re not looking for it (as if the desire for a spouse is
something you can just switch on and off at will).
I know that when I’ve heard this advice it’s come
out of concern from friends and family who mean well, but I don’t actually
think this advice if helpful, especially if it reinforces the idea that God is
someone we can bargain with based on our behavior (i.e., "If I’m content, then God
will reward me with a spouse"). If God can be swayed by what we do or don’t do,
then why would we need faith?
Certainly, God sees our faith and He rewards our
obedience, but it can be dangerous to assume that there’s some level of contentment that once a single person achieves that level, then they are somehow worthy
or good enough to earn a spouse. I think it’s natural for singles to wonder
what’s wrong with them or what they can do to be marriable, but thinking they
can bargain with God for a spouse just isn’t biblical.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is
impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he
exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Maybe that reward will
be a spouse, or maybe not. It seems like our faith journey is always striving
for contentment and resting in the Lord, trusting His timing and being
obedient to His commands. And God
controls the outcome, not our behavior.
This contentment myth doesn’t seem to follow
other things we wait on in life. I’ve yet to hear someone say to a couple
trying to have a baby, “Just be content in the Lord, and He’ll give you a baby.”
No matter what reward God gives us for faithfully following His teaching and
loving Him with our whole hearts, I do know that He can be trusted. Every
married person isn’t somehow more content, and every single person isn’t somehow
discontent. So using that as a bargaining chip with God isn’t helpful to
I’d rather my advice-giving friends and family
offer instead to pray for contentment
for me, not because it will magically make a spouse appear in my life, but
because that's what God desires for all His children: that they would know and
trust in Him to strengthen them in every situation, no matter what.
While many of us may have been more aware of Valentine’s Day
this week, another significant day quietly preceded it: Ash Wednesday. In the
church’s liturgical calendar, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day
season of spiritual preparation before Easter that has historically involved
fasting and prayer as we intentionally seek to reflect upon Jesus’ sacrifice on
I grew up in a small, independent Bible church, and Lent was
not a spiritual practice that we observed. Until I got married and joined my
wife at her Presbyterian church nine years ago, I’d never had much experience with
Lent. Since then I’ve come to appreciate this annual opportunity to yield
something that my heart (and, sometimes, my body) hungers for to God, for the
purpose of drawing more closely to Him.
Observing Lent has traditionally involved abstaining from
certain foods, such as meat in the Catholic tradition, for instance. In more
recent decades, some Christians have broadened the scope of Lenten fasting to
include abstaining from anything that our hearts or bodies fixate upon or seek
to find satisfaction in. The goal, then, becomes one of yielding a particular
appetite to God and inviting Him into the void that abstaining from that thing
I’ve fasted from various things over the years, usually
related to some particular appetite. A couple of years ago, my wife and I gave
up Starbucks for Lent. (That was a tough year!) More recently, I’ve gravitated
toward giving up something related to technology and media, since those things
can seep so easily into every available crevice of my life, it seems.
This year, I’m giving up visiting one of my favorite
websites for Lent (a guitar oriented website, if you must know). And while that
may not seem a huge sacrifice, frankly, I go there too much, and I’m
occasionally aware that it reinforces my already strong materialistic impulses.
In moments where I might ordinarily take a quick “break” to see what’s
happening on that forum, I’m trying to talk to God and ask Him to fill me
instead of looking for something in the world to try to accomplish that
It turns out that I’m not alone in my 21st-century
approach to Lent. Since 2009, the social networking site Twitter (of all things!)
has kept track of what its members say they are relinquishing. The 2013 Twitter
Lent Tracker gathered information from more than a quarter of a million tweets
last week, and among the top 10 responses, there were some that were obviously
sarcastic (being pope, virginity) but a number of other ones that are likely
earnest Lenten resolutions, such as fasting from soda, social networking, alcohol, junk food,
fast food, Instagram, sweets, chocolate and smoking, among many others in the
While I think there’s real benefit in such fasts, whether
during a season such as Lent or simply because we feel convicted to cut back on
something, I also think we need to be clear about our motivations and what we
are hoping to accomplish.
Whatever we choose to abstain from during Lent doesn’t make
us more holy or acceptable to God. I think the real value of such a fast, be it
from food or anything else we have an appetite for, is that we begin to cultivate
a deeper sense of how much we rely on whatever we’ve given up to fill us, to
satisfy us, to help us cope or to give us hope.
These fasts, then, don’t make us more “saintly.” They may
not even make us become disciplined or self-controlled (though, perhaps they
might help in that area — another discussion for another time). Instead, they force
us into a posture of dependence upon God as we begin to
experience more viscerally how much we need Him and how we often choose something
other than Him to try to fill that hungry space inside all of us.
I promised I would visit some popular relationship topics during the month of February, and I have every intention of doing that. In fact, I have some romantic topics lined up for the coming days and weeks. But today I want to talk about something else.
Last Friday night, I attended a dinner event where I heard about J127 (named after James 1:27), a program for orphans in India, designed to teach them life skills, and bring emotional and spiritual healing. Children attend clubs three times a week to learn about many aspects of life from a Christ-centered perspective.
For the past year and a half, I've been writing lessons for J127, which is managed by a publisher in town. I've written on a range of topics from self-motivation to sexual purity to money management. So it was especially exciting to me to hear some of the stories of children who are being impacted by the clubs.
After the presentation was over, my husband, Kevin, and I had the opportunity to speak to Vijay, the Indian national who started the clubs. When he heard I was one of the writers, he invited us to sit down to talk. He began by saying that writing the lessons was not just a task, but that the curriculum was changing lives. I had expected to hear him say something like that. It was his next words that caught me off guard. He looked me right in the eye and said: "There are 10,000 people in Colorado Springs who could write these lessons better than you. But God chose you."
He let the words sink in. Then he continued: "Let that be your joy. Out of everyone who could do the task, God chose you."
Even though my husband told me later that 10,000 people in our town who could do it better seemed a bit high, I received Vijay's words as directly from the Lord. Such a reminder didn't hurt my pride — I'm very aware of my inadequacy — it filled me with awe and joy.
I recently wrote an article about joy. In that article, I listed a string of unfortunate things that occurred in a short space of time and threatened my joy. As life became a little more difficult, I struggled with self-pity and a "poor me" mentality. It was easy to think, Why is God allowing all of these things to happen to me? But Vijay (who suffered great personal loss for leaving Hinduism) reminded me of a positive spin on that question: Why is God allowing all of these things to happen to me? Why has He given me the work projects He's given me? Why has He given me the family and friends He's given me? When 10,000 (or more, in many cases) people could "do it better" or handle it better, why has He chosen me? It's an exhilarating question.
And he's right: Being chosen from among so many should bring me joy. I've always been a person who desires to see the deeper reason or purpose behind things that happen. Sometimes, as in the case of J127, God allows me to see some of the fruit of my labor. In other instances, I may never even know how He has used me. But as long as He has chosen me, I will be faithful and joyful in the privilege.
My dad died before I really started dating. That said, my older sisters benefited greatly from my dad's interest in their suitors. He got to know these guys (several of whom became sons-in-law), prayed for them, and gave advice and admonition as necessary.
One of my sisters had a habit of choosing less than suitable characters to date. My dad worked overtime to counsel and pray for her. My mom also took on this mission, and together, my parents coached my sister away from her string of ne'er-do-wells and into a marriage that has now lasted over 20 years.
What parents have to say about our dates and potential mates is not to be ignored. Even those of us without a strong bond to one or both parents should value and seek out the wisdom of an older, married mentor or two. This week's show gives you a few things to consider in that regard.
Parental Persuasion -- 00:00
Invite Mom and Dad into my love life? No way! Well, think again. Our parents tend to know us well, and if they're willing (especially if they are wise), should be given the right to speak into our dating decisions. This week's panel of parents dish on how they did it, and what they (and their sons and daughters) learned.
Better Than a Shotgun -- 25:31
Paul Friesen doesn't need a shotgun. He needs only to say that he wrote the book So You Want to Marry My Daughter? to instill fear in the hearts of every guy that walks into his girls' lives. But it's a role he takes seriously, and he and his wife, Virginia, join me to give their best tips on how parents and their young adult children can work together to screen potential dates. They also advise those who don't have a parental figure but want the accountability.
Mind the Gap -- 52:33
He's 27 and is seriously considering dating an 18 year old. Is that OK? His friends and family
say they wouldn't have any problems with it, but he wants some guidance. Candice weighs in.
You may not know this about me, but through the years, I have written a lot of articles about relationships. Many of them were written during my single years as an attempt to sort out my own angst. A few of them have been written since I got married with a more seasoned perspective "from the other side."
I know Valentine's Day can be a less-than-joyous occasion when you're single, but before you resort to celebrating S.A.D. (Singles Awareness Day) or "Gal-entine's Day" (just heard of that one), take hope! I've prepared a reading list for wherever you may find yourself today. Read one or two articles, and share them with a friend.
Consider this my Valentine's Day gift to you. It's more substantial than a Hallmark card and less fattening than chocolate. Wherever you are in the journey toward true love, know that God adores you (John 15:13). His love for you is deep and unfailing. Happy Valentine's Day!
On Sunday I woke up, as I always do, to a mostly oldies radio show. I mean really old oldies — lots of music from the '40s and '50s, with a smaller helping from the '60s, '70s and '80s thrown in. This time, they had a Valentine's Day theme. The beautiful old standards put me in a dreamy mood the first couple hours of my day. (Which, in turn, squelched my plans to get going fast that day and take a walk before church. Ah, well.)
Another thing that struck me was how often these were songs about long-term love — married-for-a-lifetime love. We may still get some of those today, but (it seems to me) not nearly as many as we used to. Listen to the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun" or Kenny Rogers' "Through the Years." That's as it should be, because that's what genuine love is: Not just a feeling for now, but a devotion for always.
I could go on linking to my favorites for a long time, but then you wouldn't have time to listen to them all (and do listen to them all; you'll be glad you did), much less time to share your own. What are some of your favorite love songs?
A few years ago I was going through a devotional with some
high school girls I was mentoring. I can’t remember the book, but I can remember
the chapter that changed my thought life.
As Christians we’re taught to “take every thought captive to
make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) so we can get really good at
recognizing the lies that we tell ourselves. And for us singles in the crowd,
we’re especially aware of what they are.
has forgotten about me.
I’m not _______________ enough to get married.
messed up so badly, who would want me?
Sometimes when it comes to my
thought life, recognizing and calling out the lies isn’t so much the problem.
Here’s where that chapter comes in: Recognizing the lies is
only half the battle. In the absence of the lies you have to fill your mind
with truth. When I learn to
identify false ideas about who God is, I can’t just leave that space in my mind
blank. If I do, it will get filled again with more lies. I have to fill up
that space with truth — truth about what the Bible has to say about God’s
character, His promises and His heart toward His children.
For some reason the second half of the equation had never registered for me. So now when I find myself thinking something untrue, I
call it the lie that it is and then find Scripture that validates the truth.
Here’s what it might look like.
Another bouquet of roses gets delivered to the reception
desk at my work. (You didn’t think I’d fail to mention Feb. 14 on the
Boundless blog, did you?) Spending Thursday as a single, I start to think, Of course I don’t have anyone to send me
flowers. There’s obviously something fundamentally wrong with me, and I must be
unmarriable . . . or even
undateable, for that matter. I might as well succomb to my fate
as the Single Girl and stop hoping that marriage and motherhood is part of
God’s plan for my life.
Clearly, these are all lies
that I’ve believed at one time or another. So after I’ve called these what they
are, I’ll replace them with some of these truths from Scripture.
"The Lord your
God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He
will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
“And the God of all
grace, who called you to his eternal
glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will
himself restore you and make you strong, firm and
steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
“The Lord is faithful to all his promises and
loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up
all who are bowed down. The eye of all look to you, and you give them their
food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every
living thing” (Psalm 145:13-16).
“By faith Abraham, even though he was past
age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he
considered him faithful who had made the promise” (Hebrews 11:11).
If I find my thoughts consistently going to one
kind of false belief, I’ll make it a point to study Scripture for truths that counteract that belief.
In college I read the Psalms and circled the word good every time it
described God, because I started to look at my circumstances and doubt God’s
goodness to me. I often go back to Deuteronomy and Hebrews to be reminded of
the Lord’s faithfulness to the Israelites and to remember His hand of provision
at work in the lives of the great men and women whose faith was of great worth.
Sometimes music can help me fill in the gap once
I grab hold of the lies. Shane and Shane, Jeff Johnson Band, Audrey Assad, Gungor,
and Rich Mullins are a few that come to mind.
How do you
recognize lies, and what helps you replace that gap with truth?
I took a break from writing my thesis Sunday night in order to watch the Grammys. Because, you know, going from exegesis of the book of Exodus to seeing Taylor Swift doing an Alice in Wonderland-themed performance with people in rabbit costumes is a smooth transition.
As I was watching the show, I realized I'm not very in touch with the popular radio hits anymore. I didn't know who Frank Ocean was, but he is apparently quite a bit deal at the moment. Yet at the same time — confession, you guys — I don't know much about CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) radio hits anymore, either.
I used to listen to Christian radio a lot when I was in high school. DC Talk was (and always will be) my favorite band. I enjoyed Jennifer Knapp, Audio Adrenaline and MercyMe. But even at a younger age, I noticed that a lot of the other Christian bands I enjoyed (Bleach, Supertones, Waterdeep, Five Iron Frenzy) didn't get a lot of airtime on the Christian radio stations that advertised the idea that they were "safe for the whole family." I
don’t know how Christian stations choose their music, but it seemed like ska,
rap or too much electric guitar didn’t fit the standard in the same way
three-chord worship songs did.
This is why I was so interested when Axis started asking people to think about what makes a product "safe." What are the criteria for "safe" Christian content and why?
For example, Axis has pointed out that hearing that something on our radio station is safe might allow us to shut down and quit thinking. But sometimes the theology, even in the clearly-defined Christian songs, can be a bit off. I've heard "safe" songs that make Jesus sound more like a boyfriend than a holy God, and I've heard radio hits that take Bible verses completely out of their context. Christian stations play ads that promote consumerism, which is not a safe concept, especially in our debt-ridden society. And is all biblical content even acceptable according to our standards of safe? I recently read a blog post by a Christian radio host who got complaint emails when he quoted Jesus' words that prostitutes will inherit the kingdom before the chief priests and elders. The listeners said those things weren't appropriate for children to hear on their Christian radio station. The things that Jesus said weren't appropriate.
I'm not bashing Christian music or Christian radio stations. But I am wondering how and why we define things. What makes one Christian song or topic more "safe for the whole family" than another? Are these definitions biblical or just what we're comfortable with? Is it more right for me to listen to a song that says "Jesus" numerous times
than to choose a band like Mumford and Sons, whose lyrics are spiritual but a bit more
I don't have all the answers, but I think these are good questions for us to ask as we decide what to listen to, why we listen, and what standards are actually biblical versus what is cultural.
I'll begin by flashing back a few years. I arrived in a new
city fresh from the mission field, heart full of sadness from leaving, but of
hope in a new relationship — my first at the age of 29. When he decided shortly
thereafter that he wasn't sure enough to continue, I took a deep, tearful
breath and began learning that there were more reasons for my move than just my
The recovery, though, was not easy. I realized later that I
had thought that my reward for being faithful to the Lord — keeping pure, being
in ministry, dutifully following counsel, including that of Boundless — was a
successful first relationship and that God kind of owed it to me. He has taught
me, and teaches me still, what a wrong view this is, and to understand that not
just salvation, but every blessing afterward is a gift of grace that can never
Around the same time, I was introduced to a guy at church
who was a mechanic. When I realized he worked for a dealership specializing in
one kind of car and couldn’t help my urgent need for a reliable mechanic, I
dismissed him immediately. A year later, I sat with one of our elders, pouring
out my heart for ministry, yet my desire to be married and meet similarly
burdened men. His wise counsel was to set my face fully toward what God had for
me and only to be "distracted'' by a man passionately pursuing Jesus.
When that same month, the mechanic at my church (who also
happened to play the bass and have tattoos) asked me out, I accepted rather
unwillingly, thinking that surely our opposite personalities, his apparent lack
of drive for ministry and his fancy sports car made him not even a far-fetched
possibility. But I dusted off my ''one date if he's a Christian'' rule (which I
had actually never used in all my 30 years!) and went. No magic happened,
though it was nowhere near as terrible as my imagination dreamed it might be.
And that was it.
Rather surprisingly, though he had mentioned a second date,
he didn't actually ask, and relieved, I moved on — on to a season of
hospitalizations, surgery and illness, during the midst of which, I nearly
fainted in his arms in church. A sudden post-surgery weakness caused my legs to
buckle, and he was the nearest person besides my tiny Asian girlfriend to catch
Our relationship the next few months underwent a surprising,
yet subtle shift into a true friendship. But all the while, I tried to guard
his heart, frantically read Boundless articles and sought counsel many times. I
had never been on the "'less-interested'' side of a male-female
friendship, and it was an interesting challenge!
Despite all my attempts, I received a Facebook message early
one morning and read it in the hospital waiting room just before going in for
surgery. My friend expressed his interest and desire for a relationship, and
though I was impressed with his action and his overall behavior, I was quite
hesitant to move forward without being sure of my heart. Our DTR, then, was
more awkward on my part — wise counsel had encouraged me to at least allow a
season of more purposeful time spent together rather than slamming the door
shut. I did, and for three months, continued to wrestle with ideals,
expectations, personality differences, attraction, etc. Through it all, I held
on to my pastor's advice: "Don't sit and wait for attraction. Look for
character as God reveals it, and true, deep attraction can come from
Thanks to Boundless, which I have listened to and read since
at least 2008 (I was living and serving in the Dominican Republic when the
podcast began, and because it was online, rarely had to miss an episode!), I
was able to approach the entire process biblically and carefully. I prayed
through articles, read a lot about "must-have'' lists, grew in my
knowledge of what a godly spouse and marriage is, and above all, went to
Scripture, rather than emotions, as my guide. This wisdom sustained me during the
first phase of a relationship that I wasn't naturally desirous of, and kept me
careful when my heart did change and emotions and attraction soared high.
"And so, gentle reader (as Jane Eyre ends her book) I
married him." My gradual heart change became very real, and I realized
calmly that this was a man I could and wanted to marry. Three months after we
re-assessed our relationship, he dropped to one knee in my kitchen and asked me
to marry him. I said yes to forever, and just under five months later, donned
ivory lace and a radiant smile to become his wife.
Throughout our relationship and engagement, Boundless was a
primary source of help and wisdom as we discussed major issues and worked to
remain pure. Old habits die hard, and even a year later, I listen faithfully to
the podcast, read through most of the articles, and just yesterday, emailed my
husband a link to one containing helpful Bible-reading tips.
Thank you doesn't seem enough. I'm not a big Christmas-card
sender (sorry, Lisa and Martha!), but y'all would be top of my list if I were!
You have truly been used by God as a major shaping and molding tool over these
last several years of my life. And as I enter my early 30s and leave singleness
behind, I will continue to promote and support a ministry that is so very
needed and so much the opposite of the morass we live in.
Are you engaged or newly married? We'd love to hear your story! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. By sending your story to us, we're assuming that you're giving us permission to share it with other readers; please let us know if you want us to change your names or not publish your story.
The fine folks over at Wise Bread, one of my favorite
budgeting blogs, recently posted a list of affordable date ideas. I read
through the list and found some great suggestions. Planning fun and
interesting dates can be challenging for guys, but is still really important.
Anyway, here are a few of my favorites from the Wise Bread
2. Nostalgia movie night. Watch your favorite movies from
during your school years.
3. Watch a free improv show.
13. Have a book club date night. Choose a book to read
together, and hold an intimate book club meeting for two when you're both done
24. Bring $5 to the mall and see who ends up with the best
40. Walk around Ikea, and get a meal there after exploring.
100. Stick googly eyes on random objects around town.
101. Build a fort.
As I read through this list, I found myself thinking the
Boundless community could easily come up with another 99 affordable date ideas that are even better. So here’s your challenge, Boundless: Let’s see how many
unique ideas you can add to this list. If you have a story to go along with
your idea, even better!
As we know from Scripture (and from people incessantly correcting us), it's not money itself, but the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil. But can money actually be a force for good?
Yeah, it can.
Money is a currency, a commodity. It's transactionary. It has no moral value or judgment in itself. Sure, it can become an idol. It can be hoarded, spent foolishly, or even ignored altogether. But money can also be used for very good things. When treated properly, money opens doors, eases hardship — even saves lives. We face decisions each day that involve the use of money.
This week we'll talk about money as a blessing to ourselves and others, and how we can do great things with the cash in our pockets whether it's a vast sum or a few dollars here and there. We'll also see how our relationship with money affects our relationships with others. (What? Boundless is making even money about relationships?)
Enjoy the show.
A Cheerful Giver -- 00:00
We all can probably think of a time when we received an unexpected financial blessing. It came at just the right time and in a way we never would have predicted. Did we reflect on the goodness of God and His provision as a result, or did we let the moment pass? Likewise, have we taken the opportunity to bless others when it's in our means to do so, even if it's not comfortable?
Your Money Personality -- 23:36
Are you a saver, spender, security seeker, risk taker or flyer? The Money Couple can tell you. More importantly, they'll tell you what your money personality says when it comes to thinking about and using money. They'll also show how our attitudes about money affect our relationships, and how preparing for marriage involves thinking about money beyond just debt, budgets and retirement. Take the Money Personality Quiz before listening to this segment; it only takes about 10 minutes!
Too Poor to Serve? -- 1:01:21
She'd love to drop everything she's doing and serve the Lord, but debt and a job that barely pays the bills is holding her back. What can she do right where she is to make a difference? Boundless blogger and Focus Leadership Institute staffer Ivette Diaz weighs in.
Navigating friendships between singles and marrieds can be
tricky. And navigating friendships
between moms and non-moms (or dads and non-dads) adds another dynamic
that can be harder still. I’ve found that it can be an uphill battle when
adjusting to the changes that come when friends get married and have kids, but
I’ve also found that fighting for those friendships is worth it every time. I’d
been thinking about how to tackle this subject on a blog, but Annie Downs did
it way better than I could in her post “Moms and Me.”
Writing as a single to her friends who are married with
kids, she offers some tips. Here are a few I found particularly helpful:
1. I like being around your kids. But
I know you need to get away sometimes too. So
let’s balance: I wanna hang with your kids while you are there because I love
them. But when you need a break and want us to grab coffee, just say! [And
if you don't like being around kids, non-mom friends, that's totally fine! But
you need to communicate that lovingly and honestly.]
2. Tell me how I can help. If your baby just had a massive diaper blow-out and the big
brothers need to be entertained for forty minutes while you have a moment, call
me. Let me come over or bring dinner or grab that other kid from soccer. Don’t
assume I can’t/won’t/don’t want to help. I want to help. Trust that I will say
no if I have to/want to.
3. Can I meet some of your husband’s
single friends? Please? Because if y’all like him, I
4. Remember that I’m busy too. I almost burst a blood vessel in anger a few months ago when a
dad made an insensitive comment on twitter about how singles have no idea what
it is like to be busy. True, I have never been a parent. But here’s what else
is true — that guy has NO IDEA what it is like to be single in 2013. So to make
the assumption that I don’t get “busy” just because I don’t get busy birthing
is really hurtful. Be honest with me about your daily struggles and when you
feel overwhelmed, that’s not complaining. I want to hear about your life. I
promise I won’t assume what it is like to be a mom if you don’t assume what it
is like to be single today.
5. Tell me no. If I call and want to hang but you are pooped out or pooped on,
just say. I can handle it. [And dear non-moms, if your mom friend has to say
no, that's not your cue to write her off. Just try again another day.]
6. We’re gonna make it. You’re still you. I am still me. We picked each other. So no
matter what season of life, I want us to be in it. Together.
I especially love her last point: Friendships can survive different seasons
in life, so it’s important to remember what brought you together as friends in
the first place. In my experience, my friendships that have survived marriage
and mommyhood are ones where we treat each other as more than just a life stage
and offer lots of grace.
My friends Matt and Sonya are a great
example. I knew Sonya before she was married, and now she has a husband and two
adorable sons. We’ve stayed friends because we don’t just talk about the
obvious differences: her kids and my dating life. We talk about life: gym
memberships, politics, which cell phone plan is best, work struggles, church
sermons, and everything in between. Sonya relates to me as a whole person, and
not just a single person (although her and Matt are always on the look-out for
guys to set me up with!) and I relate to Sonya as a whole person, not just a
wife and a mom (though I do love to baby-sit for her and genuinely want to hear
about her kids).
Obviously there’s another side to
this, but since I’m single, I can’t speak to what tips a married person would
offer to singles. So you married folks, chime in!
This guy is probably
the tallest man I have ever met! read my thought balloon. Daren stood up when
he saw me enter the hotel lobby and then shook my hand. He flew thousands of miles,
from the U.S. to the Philippines, to see me one November day in 2010. He wanted
to meet me even earlier since we had met on ChristianCafe.com, but
I needed God's go-signal first. Let me tell you how I asked....
I packed my bags and made the six-hour road trip to Baguio,
Philippines. For three days I was cocooned in a rented room where I spent time
alone with God. "Lord, should I continue with this friendship with a man I
met online?" I didn't want to lead Daren on. The Lord,
through His Word, circumstances and the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit,
answered my question. In my heart I heard Him whisper, "You have nothing
to fear, My child." That's all I needed to know.
After Daren's initial eight-day visit to my country, our
long-distance friendship continued. But although emails, chats, texts, calls
and video calls helped, these modes of communication weren't enough. Four
months after his Philippine adventure, it was my turn to see his own world up
close. My flight to the U.S. was already booked when a tragedy struck his
family. His 82-year-old dad died. The original plan of Daren picking me up from
my sister's place in New Jersey was scrapped. Instead, I flew to North Carolina
to be with him and his family for his dad's funeral.
In the quiet town of Mebane, N.C., we learned more about each other. We
attended his church where he serves as a deacon and a Sunday School teacher,
and I saw for myself how he taught Maddie and Jace, middle-schoolers, about the
Bible. His having a big heart for God and people was evident in the way he served
people inside and outside of his family and church.
My first visit to North Carolina also coincided with our
first time to experience a wreck. A sedan rammed through the side of his Ford
Taurus, instantly inflating the airbag that saved our faces from getting
smashed. After checking if all of his passengers — his sister, niece and me — were
OK, he talked to the reckless driver. To me, his incredible display of patience
made a huge impact. No tongue-lashing happened. What a gentleman!
A bit shaken and bruised, we left the scene of the accident
thankful. In my blog I reflected: "Ultimately, there really are no
accidents. Everything that crosses our path — people, circumstances, even
heartbreaks — have been placed there by God. And only time can tell for what
reason. But I have come to the point in my life where almost nothing worries me
anymore. No credit to me though. It’s all about God. The more I realize how
great He is, the more I realize how miniscule I am. He can take me to wherever
He wants me to be, and I can depend on Him being the same: sovereign, loving,
Aside from God, we have technology to thank for the growth
of our relationship. By its wonders, the distance between two continents is
being bridged at the click of a mouse. Every day, we talk about anything and
everything. Our laptops serve as witnesses to thoughts expressed, conversations
enjoyed and prayers for each other said out loud.
The second time he visited me, in September 2011, 13 months
after our first online chat, Daren uttered the three words I've been longing to
hear. Our budding relationship might have been nurtured virtually, yet he
wanted to say "I love you" personally. For something as important as
a declaration of love, he didn't trust Skype. Prior to this crucial moment, I
was silently waiting and actively praying for the DTR (Define The Relationship)
to happen. I've read enough books by Elisabeth Elliot and Boundless articles to
hold on to this principle: Men take the initiative; women respond. Both trust
Three months later, in December 2011, during my second visit
to the U.S., Daren proposed. Of course, I said yes! Since February 2012, our application for fiancee visa is being
processed (the waiting time is stretching our patience — 12 months and counting
as of this writing! — but our trust in God is growing muscles). Last November
2012, I flew to the U.S. for his birthday, and he returned the favor less than
a month afterward and experienced Christmas, Filipino-style. To recap, each of
us made three visits to the other's country. The airline industry owes us big time.
In faith and with great anticipation, we are waiting for the
day when we can finally unplug the router and talk to each other, day after
day, with no computer screen needed. But even while waiting, we know that more
than the Wi-Fi signal is keeping us connected. The God who brought us together
online is the same God who can keep us together offline. And from us, this
truth deserves an infinite number of likes.
Are you engaged or newly married? We'd love to
hear your story! Email us at email@example.com. By sending your story to us, we're
assuming that you're giving us permission to share it with other readers; please let us know if you want us to change
your names or not publish your story.
Well, it's February once again. The month of love and groundhogs.
I don't know much about the latter, except that we're supposedly getting six more weeks of winter this year, but I enjoy talking about love — specifically good and godly relationships. This month, I hope to provide several blogs on the topic of romance.
The first question I want to address is one I run into a lot with Christian singles, "What should be the role of feelings in a relationship?" Particularly, how much should I trust my instincts or "gut" feeling on a relationship?
An emphasis on — or even obsession with — romantic feelings in relationships has been present in our culture (and others) for decades. Gone With the Wind, with its famous passionate kiss, came out in 1939, proving that Hollywood's fixation with romance has been around for a long time. It seems everyone's a sucker for a good love story.
I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but sometime during the past decade, I started believing an interesting, counter-cultural message about feelings and marriage. This message said that because our culture elevates romantic feelings above their proper place — and I had probably unwittingly absorbed some strange "fairytale princess" idea of what love should be like — that I should set feelings and attraction aside when looking for a life partner and focus exclusively on the person's virtue and suitability.
Eventually, this thinking led me to stay in a relationship that didn't "feel" right (though the guy I was dating loved the Lord and was interested in marriage) a lot longer than I would have, had I let my feelings guide me.
There's a balance, of course. Women, in particular, can build up an unrealistic view of what romance is that no flesh-and-blood male could ever live up to. And too-high expectations for "the spark" or a fairytale love story may cause us to overlook someone who could be a great match. On the other hand, sometimes you have to trust your instincts. Feelings are not evil. They are a critical piece of the human nature.
Why is it then, that the longer I wait, the more inclined I am to believe I must leave romance out of the mix? Michael Lawrence and I have both downplayed the importance of attraction. Addressing this issue is a fine line, simply because the way the world defines "romance" is different from the committed and sacrificial romantic love advocated by the Creator.
We can be easily tricked into believing attraction is eyes meeting across the room in an electric jolt. When, in actuality, romance is more in line with Boaz hearing of Ruth's outstanding character, noticing her in the field, pouring out special favor on her, protecting her from his men and ultimately becoming her kinsman redeemer. As you can see, the second romantic scenario contains far more substance than the first.
I believe Christian singles should trust their instincts and invite their feelings into every area of their lives, including their dating pursuits. There is a common-sense element here. You shouldn't marry someone you don't like or truly enjoy being around. As I heard it described recently, marriage is inviting someone whose not you into your personal space for life. That's a big deal.
At the same time, it's important to develop the spiritual fruit of self-control in how you manage your feelings. I think the most important key is to understand and aspire to the Creator's (not Hollywood's or Disney's) intent for love. He designed love to be committed, sacrificial, unfailing (for a complete list see 1 Corinthians 13). But love is also about joy and mutual delight. A proper understanding of and admiration of biblical love provides a good gauge as you evaluate potential relationships.
In addition, Christian singles should bathe every relationship in prayer and take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Our most powerful tools in the pursuit of a life partner are spiritual ones. When I was engaging in relationships that didn't feel right, I prayed a lot, asking the Lord to give me clarity. He always did. When I was in a relationship with Kevin, where I felt deeply attracted and at ease, I also prayed — that the Holy Spirit would guide me to His best and keep my feelings from clouding my judgment.
I think it's fair to say that, when it comes to Christian dating advice, feelings have received a bad rap in recent years. But God created us with feelings, so why wouldn't He allow us to use them to make some of life's most important decisions? When our "instincts" are under the Holy Spirit's control, they can be trusted. Not sure if your instincts are based on truth or just feelings? Ask the Lord to make it clear — to give you peace where peace needs to be. Feelings may not always be trustworthy, but our loving, personal God always is.
Two weeks ago, I shared some thoughts about how we can begin
to combat lust if that’s something we struggle with. After that particular blog
was published, my wife, Jennifer, and I continued to talk about the process of growing
spiritually, specifically the role that community and relationships with other
believers play when we struggle with sin of any kind.
Jennifer noted — rightly — that my thoughts about overcoming
lust were primarily focused on an individual’s
personal responsibility, i.e., what a person wrestling with this sin could do about it. And while that’s critically
important, she also observed that our pilgrimage toward Christlikeness is
deeply shaped by our connections with other Christians. Specifically, she
identified four other relational areas that can also positively impact our struggles
with sin: community, calling, caring and worship.
start with community. Obviously, this phrase has been a huge buzzword for a
couple of decades now in the Christian church. Still, there’s a reason for
that: The Christian life was not meant to be lived in isolation. Rather, God
has called us (more on that in a minute) and equipped us to live and love and
serve for His glory in the body of Christ. As we discover how He’s wired us and
use those gifts for the good of others, it pulls us out of self-absorption and
And while I know from experience that not everyone
experiences that sense of community quickly or easily, I also believe that when
we commit to doing life with a group of other believers (be it in a local
church or perhaps a parachurch community), it gives us a chance to know others,
to be known, and to share our weaknesses and struggles in a safe environment — all
of which are key to growing spiritually and finding freedom from the shackles
Calling. The idea
of calling, as I hinted at above, involves developing an understanding of the
specific contribution that God has equipped each of us to make. When we commit
to a specific community, it gives us a context to discover what we’re wired to
do best. For example, I’ve participated in any number of ministry initiatives
in several different churches over the years, and gradually I’ve learned where
I can make the best contribution to a given effort. With the singles ministries
I was involved in before getting married, I spent quite a bit of time teaching
and facilitating small groups, and I’ve consistently gotten feedback that God
has used me in that arena. But you don’t want me administrating details for,
say, an annual retreat, as that’s not something I’m going to excel at.
When we seek to discern our calling and giftedness, then serve
others out of that calling, it affords a sense of purpose, direction and
fulfillment that’s critical if we’re to grow in our relationship with God. I
grappled with plenty of loneliness and unmet desires during my single years,
but giving myself to the ministries that God had called me to yielded a deep sense
of forward progress in my life, even if I still struggled deeply in some areas.
Caring. This area
could be seen as a subset of calling, I suppose, as God gives some people a
deeply compassionate heart for those who are vulnerable and in need. That said,
there’s something about serving those in need (alongside others in our
community) that expands our hearts and serves to take our eyes off ourselves,
regardless of whether caring service is our primary spiritual gift. In our
church, for example, we’ve regularly been involved in a variety of caring and
service-oriented outreaches, from serving soup at the local homeless shelter,
to helping with a ministry that houses single mothers in dire straits, among
other things. Caring can also encompass mission trips (both domestic ally and
internationally) in which the primary focus is on meeting basic physical needs as
we share the love of Christ. In all of these things, our perspective on who God
is and how He’s at work in the world — and in our own lives — is enlarged.
regular participation in worship with other believers refreshes and restores
our souls. A worship service gives us a chance to pour out our hearts to God,
to confess, and to receive His grace in the moment through songs, prayer, the
sacrament of communion and through teaching from the pulpit. Many times in my
life I’ve struggled to find the motivation to make it to church each week. But
I’ve rarely, if ever, gotten done worshipping with my friends in church and
thought, Well, that was a complete waste of time. The discipline of
participating in worship resets and reshapes my perspective on God, on myself,
on others and on the things that I struggle with.
Each of these areas, then, plays an important role in our
ongoing spiritual growth and in dealing with sinful struggles. They take our
eyes off of ourselves and focus them on serving and loving God and other
people, both those in the body of Christ and those who don’t know Him. And as
that happens, we’re gifted with a renewed sense of hope and possibility that
our lives matter, that our relationships matter, that God is at work and that
our battles with sin do not have to have the final word.
Martha popped over to my desk to inform me that she just ate a Dove Promise (Valentine's Edition), and the promise inside read: Be your own Valentine.
Fortunately for her, my compassionate heart led me to tell her to "stop reading those dumb promises, and just eat the chocolate." I also told her to start baking cookies (she's a great baker) and bring them into the office. As you can see, I'm full of ideas.
Are you battening down the hatches in preparation for the "love month"? We have a better idea. Join us this month in choosing to be joyful by taking the focus off ourselves and putting it on others (and God).This week's show will give us some inspiration as we discuss valuing others, showing love, rediscovering wonder, and trusting God with big and little things.
Don't be your own Valentine; be someone else's. Chocolate optional.
Selfless Love -- 00:00
Many of us approach February with a groan, but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, this year we're challenging the Boundless community to go beyond ourselves (and the general Valentine's Day moping and malaise) to intentionally show love to those around us. Listen in for some ideas on how to get started, then let us know below how YOU'LL take the challenge.
God of Wonders -- 27:43
Life gets busy, and before we know it, we're in a rut. Author Margaret Feinberg blames it on losing our sense of wonder. And the source of wonder? God himself. In this segment, Margaret shares how to cultivate wonder in everyday moments. See what you think; then check out her book Wonderstruck for the full scoop.
Give God Time -- 47:09
Are you wondering why your love life's at a standstill, while those around you seem to effortlessly find their perfect match? This week's question addresses a listener with that very concern. Candice offers encouragement to hang in there and look ahead with expectation.
Last weekend I attended my grandfather's memorial service. He was 93. He was incredibly proud of his 11 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren, and lived a life of generosity. Indicative of that, three days before he passed away, I received a birthday card and check for my son, Josiah, with "Happy Birthday!" scrawled on the memo line.
The day after the memorial, I had coffee with my two younger sisters. They asked me how I was doing after having a baby in August and going through Josiah's hospitalization and eventual diagnosis of a childhood illness in December. "I've just felt really sad recently," I said, a few tears sliding out. "It's a lot to deal with."
December began an unanticipated season of sorrow for me. We all go through them for various reasons. It wasn't the first time I'd experienced such a valley, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Interestingly enough, I had already selected the topic of joy for today's featured article, "Joy Elusive," when all of this started. I had wanted to write the article to highlight what I believe is a secret ingredient for a satisfying and beautiful life, regardless of circumstances.
And so my faith in the power of joy was put to the test as I turned to Scripture to discover how to take hold of joy in all circumstances. Something that came to me during the process is that no one is immune from feeling a lack of joy: single, married, childless, child-full — we all face threats to our joy all the time.
When I was single, I sometimes felt a lack of joy because of being unmarried and not having a life partner. Something I desired deeply, and had dreamed of for years, was not happening for me. And I had no assurances that it ever would.
Now, four years later, I am married and have two children. I can't describe how thankful I am for God's wonderful gifts. Still, at times, I have found joy to be just as elusive as before. In fact, some of my greatest trials have come this side of marriage. And the more trials I experience, the more I am forced to come to terms with whether I believe God is good and whether I can trust Him.
It may seem like the quantity of one's joy is based on the quality of one's life, but, as I discuss in the article, God reveals just the opposite. It it based unconditionally on Him.
Maybe you need some joy today. The good news is, it's not as elusive as you might think. We are invited into relationship with a God in whose presence is "fullness of joy."
Last week the Obama administration lifted the longstanding military ban on women in combat. There's no shortage of reasons why this is a very bad idea. Many are very practical considerations — physical strength, natural aggression, unit cohesion.
They're all very good arguments, but I never needed to hear any of them. I already knew the answer in my gut. I can't imagine not knowing. Any man should. His every instinct should shout at him: You do not choose to send women to fight a war when you have any other option. Never, ever, ever. Forget whether it's practical. It's just wrong.
Which is why the thing that's most disturbing to me is not the policy change itself, bad as it is. It's that, if a Gallup poll is to be believed, most Americans say they agree with it. Men agree in almost as large a number (73 percent) as women (76 percent). And relatively young people (18-49) do so in the largest numbers of all (84 percent).
Maybe they're just clueless about real war, and they've been fed too many Hollywood fables about butt-kicking women warriors — cops, secret agents, soldiers, superheroines. Maybe they've got the notion that feminism or "fairness" demands this answer, lest military career opportunities for women be limited (as if the purpose of the armed forces were to fulfill personal career ambitions). Maybe they think it's just the only answer they're allowed to give any more.
Whatever the reason, it's a sad day when most men, especially, either favor sending women into combat or are afraid to say that they don't. They're abdicating a central part of their identity as men — the identity God meant them to have.
There are red lines a civilization can cross which lead it ineluctably away from deserving to be called civilized at all. This is one of them.
"If the enemy is all around you — and you need every available person — that is one set of circumstances," columnist Kathleen Parker writes in a powerful column, "Combat puts women at unique risk." "To ask women to engage vicious men and risk capture under any other is beyond understanding. This is not a movie or a game. Every objective study has argued against women in direct combat for reasons that haven’t changed." Then she closes:
The threat to unit cohesion should require no elaboration. But let’s leave that obvious point to pedants and cross into enemy territory where somebody’s 18-year-old daughter has been captured. No one wants to imagine a son in these circumstances either, obviously, but women face special tortures. ...
We can train our men to ignore the screams of their female comrades, but is this the society we want to create? And though some female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have endured remarkable suffering, their ability to withstand or survive violent circumstances is no rational argument for putting American girls and women in the hands of enemy men.
It will kill us in the end.
Amen, Ms. Parker. Those words are a wake-up call. Here's hoping and praying that a lot of people hear it — and heed it.
In response to last week’s post "Praying for Those Who Fight for Abortion," some commenters suggested
the Bible doesn’t give us a definitive word on abortion. They raised the
question of whether a fetus is really a person. One commenter brought up the
fact that many Christians even support a woman’s right to choose. This simply
is not a biblical position. Here are a few of the strongest biblical reasons God
1. The Bible describes God as active in creating human beings
from the moment of conception, as Psalm 139 says:
For you formed my inward parts; you
knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and
wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My
frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately
woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your
book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as
yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:13-16).
This Psalm describes God’s active, creative work within the
womb. Conception and pregnancy are not merely complicated biological processes,
but a work God has designed and is presently involved in. The Psalmist worships
God as active Creator every time a person is conceived. If you are
pregnant, God is knitting together a person in your womb.
2. Jesus Christ was incarnated through conception. It is
fascinating that Jesus Christ first came to this world as a zygote. He could
have arrived as a baby, child or even as a fully grown adult, but God ordained
that He would come through conception. Jesus Christ existed as a zygote,
embryo and fetus before He was born. When Jesus’ mother visited Elizabeth, the
unborn John the Baptist leapt in her womb. In a fascinating scene, the unborn
Jesus causes the unborn John to act in a way that sparked His mother Elisabeth,
filled with the Holy Spirit, to cry out:
Blessed are you among women, and
blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the
mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your
greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy (Luke 1:42-44).
Elizabeth describes the unborn Jesus as her Lord. Not only
was He already a person, He was already her Lord. Charles Scobie said it
well, “The Bible depicts the fetus as the work of God and the object of his
knowledge, love, and care, and hence its destruction must be considered
contrary to the will of God.”
3. God demonstrates personal knowledge and calling of the unborn.
The Lord says to the Prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew
you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to
the nations” (1:5). Before he was born, God knew Jeremiah, consecrated him and
appointed him as a prophet of the nations. God set apart Jeremiah from the womb.
For God, who a person will become is never something that remains to be seen.
God knows who a person will be and what a person will do. It
follows, then, that a person is a person as soon as God knows them; at
conception and not a second later.
4. The Old Testament Law significantly protected the unborn.
In the Old Testament, God provided several moral, civic and ceremonial laws to
govern the people of Israel. These laws showed the people how they ought to
handle judicial disputes and punish those who violate God’s laws. In Exodus, the Lord
specifically addresses the unborn:
When men strive together and hit a
pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one
who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him,
and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall
pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe (Exodus 21:22-25).
Causing a pregnant woman to prematurely give birth was to be
punished with a fine. Causing harm to that unborn child was a crime punishable
by death. In this command, God’s law clearly puts the same value on the unborn
and on the born.
5. Children are consistently described as a blessing from
God. In fact, Jesus was so counter-cultural in His acceptance of small
children, even the disciples were caught off guard:
And they were bringing children to
him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus
saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not
hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you,
whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them (Mark
The disciples assumed Jesus didn’t have time for or interest
in children, but Jesus not only affirmed their value, but regarded them as
closer to the kingdom than the adults present. In a sense, Jesus said you
need to become like these children in the way you relate to God. Psalm 127 also
demonstrates the same value of children:
Behold, children are a heritage
from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a
warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his
quiver with them! (Psalm 127:3-5)
Many in our culture have begun to think of children as a nuisance
or an inconvenience. The Bible
consistently calls them a blessing and reward from God, describing the mothers
and fathers of many children as richly blessed by God.
One thing is clear from God’s Word: God creates and
loves every human life and never authorizes the killing of the preborn. Many
debate whether abortion should be legal, but a more important question is
whether it’s offensive to the Creator. From this short list, we must conclude,
it certainly is. In fact, abortion destroys what Scripture tells us God is
presently knitting together.
I realize many have been deceived on this issue, had
abortions, and continue to struggle with the pain, guilt and shame of that
mistake. The good news is that Jesus Christ died to pay for the sin of abortion.
The Bible tells us Jesus “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put
away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
Jesus wants every person to come to Him for forgiveness and freedom
from sin. He doesn’t want us to get hung up on our sin, but rather believe that
His death and resurrection was powerful enough to take it all away. In fact,
the Bible promises that Jesus will ultimately put an end to all sin. As John
wrote, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the
devil” (1 John 3:8).
I write as one who has received this forgiveness. Christ has
forgiven my sins and given me a new heart. As a result, I increasingly love
righteousness and hate sin. When I write about abortion, it’s not in a spirit of judgment or condemnation, but with the sincere hope that
those who are deceived would enjoy the same forgiveness and freedom I do. I want all to know the sweetness of forgiveness.
If you support abortion, know that I’m praying for you, not primarily that you
would change your mind on this particular issue, but that God would change your
heart and draw you into a saving knowledge of himself.
If you’re reading this and you’ve found yourself single for
longer than you thought, chances are you’ve gone through a breakup. Whether it
was a few dates and then the “slow fade” or whether you had looked at rings and
the next day suddenly found yourself with a very different view of the future,
it still means the end of a relationship. And even when you date in a way that
honors God, and in the best-case scenario you both feel like it’s not the right
match, breaking up can still be tricky. And when a breakup happens in the
context of Christian community, well, things can get even trickier.
But if we invite God into our dating relationships, we
should also invite Him into our breakups. And when we do, it means that we
treat each other as fellow believers, as part of the body of Christ, with
respect and integrity. It definitely isn’t easy, and most often it’s not
something we can do in our own strength. But with God’s help, I really do think
it’s possible to break up well. Here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. Don’t talk badly
about your ex. Ever. Breakups can involve a lot of hurt, pain and
confusion, and the natural way to deal with this is to talk about that person
to friends and family. Ever heard someone make a snide comment about their
ex-boyfriend? Not attractive, is it? Instead, try venting about it in your
journal or talking with a counselor. But not to other people in your social
circle who know your ex.
Girls, if a guy from your small group has the courage
to ask you out, don’t ruin his reputation with every other girl in the group by
bashing him. And guys, if you date the girl in your economics class, don’t
share the personal details she entrusted to you with everyone else in the
class. Not talking badly about an ex, no matter how painful the breakup, is
good training for not talking badly about your spouse once you’re married.
2. Allow your ex to
grieve, even if it’s different than how you grieve. When you make space in
your life and heart for someone, you get used to having them there. But a
breakup means adjusting to the new normal, and all the space your significant
other used to take up is now empty. That’s a hard adjustment, and everyone
deals with it differently. Your ex might want to maintain some sort of
friendship, but you just want to move on. One of you might be angry, while the
other is sad. There’s a wide range of emotions and a wide range of how to deal
with them. Give your ex space, and don’t try to force something that might not
be helpful in the long run.
communicate the end, whether you’re the one initiating or the one responding. A
few years ago I was set up with a guy who lived out of state, so our
initial contact was via the phone. When we finally met and went on a date, it
just wasn’t a fit. Our phone conversations didn’t translate into a face-to-face
relationship. We both felt the same way, but he still sent me a quick email
letting me know he wouldn’t be pursuing me any longer. It wasn’t a breakup,
but it still left me feeling respected and cared for because he was willing to
be upfront and clearly communicate his intentions, even when it was hard or
Guys, if you know you want to break up with your girlfriend or you
don’t want to keep pursuing the girl you’ve been getting to know, it’s nice
when you communicate that to her. Girls, if you know the guy you’re dating
isn’t someone you could marry, or you aren’t interested in going out with a guy
after your last date, be honest and let him know. It doesn’t have to be a list
of five reasons why you aren’t interested, but when emotions are involved,
clear communication of a relationship ending is usually best. It’s easier to just stop emailing or texting
or calling, but that’s not helpful to either person because it lacks clarity and
a definitive end.
These suggestions assume you both are committed Christians,
and there isn’t any abuse, violence or serious spiritual issues that would
need to be addressed by a counselor or pastor. If that’s the case, then with
maturity, much prayer, and the intent to extend respect and kindness to your
ex, it can be possible to break up well.
I’m not sure how I originally discovered Boundless
as a 21-year-old college graduate, but I was always excited to read the articles.
I sympathized with the frustration that many young women felt in attempting to
honor the Lord with their singleness, while waiting for the right man to come
along. Having never had a boyfriend at that point, I was comforted to know I
wasn’t the only one.
Although my walk with the Lord would ebb and flow in
my immediate post-college years, I continued to read Boundless and was
ultimately convicted through it to end my first relationship with someone who
had claimed to be a believer but helped contribute to my spiritual decline at
the time. I recognized how far I had turned from the Lord, feeling hopeless, broken,
discouraged and shameful.
Amidst these feelings, I knew the Lord had in mind a
better plan for me. I had read articles on Boundless regarding waiting on God’s
best, commitment before intimacy and focusing on serving God, and that if it
was within His will to bring me a mate, it would happen in His timing and not
mine. I gave up friends, certain social activities and devoted myself to
purity, praying that God would reveal to me a man that would not pressure me in
Feeling unworthy of Christian fellowship yet hoping
to restore my faith, I headed to the young adults group at my church. That's
where I met David, who volunteered as the worship leader. Although I was
immediately attracted to his dashing good looks (he claims this was the case
for him, too), I appreciated his ability to be forthright and express his
interest in me.
The next week at our church’s beach baptisms, David
led worship. Once that was over, we had a long, heart-to-heart conversation
regarding our experience with letting past dating relationships sidetrack us
from our relationship with God. We mourned together for the time we had spent
distant from God, but also encouraged each other that God would use our stories
in a great way, hopefully in our next relationship. We felt an instant
connection, and David asked me out that night.
A month later, I was feeling that our relationship
was progressing and wanted to know where we stood. David and I discussed what
God’s purpose was for us, and even though we both knew we wanted to be
boyfriend/girlfriend, we wanted to clearly discern whether that was His will
for us. After much prayer and conversation, we felt at that point it was more
glorifying to God to serve Him together than apart.
We faced our share of challenges through our
relationship — David’s dad passing suddenly two months later being the largest.
We mourned his loss, but I was thoroughly impressed by David’s response — being
strong, courageous and seeing God’s purpose in it all. He was so filled with
joy for where his dad was and was proud of the faithful life he had lived. As I
observed him on the stage [at the funeral] giving the speech about his dad, I
recognized just how strong, faithful and devoted he was, and I knew I wanted to
Our relationship went through other changes: my
moving twice, switching jobs twice, helping my family get to know David long
distance, David starting a new business, taking on new responsibilities at
church, and planning for our future. We remained intentional about our
relationship, including meeting with mentors and going through pre-engagement
questions, and making sure to focus our relationship on studying the Bible and
serving together through the young adults group, worship and working with the junior
After 10-and-a-half months of dating, David flew up
to San Francisco (where I was visiting my family) from our area (Los Angeles)
to surprise me with a proposal. He explained how he was looking forward to
serving the Lord together and placing my needs before his. David had also written
a thoughtful letter to my parents, explaining his responsibility as a future
husband and son-in-law, and asking for accountability in fulfilling those
promises. And we shared our first kiss that we had saved for our engagement
We are looking forward to our wedding day on May 4,
2013. The most exciting part of our relationship has been the way God has used
the two of us to sanctify each other. I have grown in a lot of ways, including
being able to trust God more fully; learning to start establishing independence
from my parents; and breaking free of the strongholds of anxiety, worry and
fear. David has learned how to be more intentional with his time, along with
welcoming people to church and growing deeper through his interactions with
fellow Christians. We are excited about the years ahead of us and how God will
continue to use our relationship to become more like Him.
We look back and reflect on the simple prayers we
prayed and the steps of faith it took to bring the right person in His timing;
I was fortunate in feeling like I didn’t have to wait too long, while David
felt that he had to wait forever! We know that our relationship and future
marriage was completely orchestrated by God for His glory. We hope He can use
our story to encourage others to know that God’s timing is always perfect.
Are you engaged or newly married? We'd love to hear your story! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. By sending your story to us, we're assuming that you're giving us permission to share it with other readers; please let us know if you want us to change your names or not publish your story.
If you’re on social media at all, you’ve surely come across an image of a
Victoria’s Secretesque model accompanied by a quote like, "Nothing
tastes as good as skinny feels."
At first blush, it’s easy to dismiss the images as nothing more than a
motivational poster, but Fitspo (fitness inspiration) and its cousin Thinspo have
caused quite a bit of concern on the World Wide Web, and for good reason. For
many, social media channels have become convening platforms to share tips and
motivation for sustaining eating disorders. In response to that perilous trend,
Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest made policies to
ban images that promote self-harm.
While that action is commendable, I fear the ongoing dissemination of
sensual, hard bodies and get-your-butt-off-the-couch quotes subtly damage even those
not suffering from eating disorders. In fact, the images perpetuated online
often have less to do with health and more to do with sensuality and a drive
for perfection our culture deems desirable.
I know we have an epidemic of obesity in our country and that we are called
to be good stewards of our bodies, but I’m concerned that we are consuming the
wrong inspiration without even a second thought. Scantily clad models online
should not be the standard by which we measure our worth or inspire our health.
To adopt those standards would be nothing more than bondage.
So what is a Christian woman to do at the start of a new year with health
and fitness goals at the top of her resolution list?
1. Take the Gospel with you.
I spent years believing a lie that if only I was strong enough, disciplined
enough, self-controlled enough, I could have the body of Giselle Bundchen.
Anything but perfection would be failure. I fear too many of us have bought
that lie as well. How can we be grace-proclaiming people while demanding
perfection in our bodies?
The truth is even when I reach every fitness goal I set, my body will be
mine — airbrush-free and imperfectly mine. I must have grace for that. Friends,
of all the things we take with us to the gym, let's not forget to take the
Gospel with us.
2. Make it about virtue.
When I read blogger Kristen Howerton’s piece on what
fit looks like, I had to come to terms with the fact that good nutrition
and physical activity must be rewards in and of themselves. Sure, there will be
physical and emotional benefits to getting in shape, but perfection a-la
Pinterest is not guaranteed. What is guaranteed is improved health, stamina,
active adventures, increased self-control and discipline that will benefit me
even when the scale doesn’t budge.
3. Find value in what
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the
LORD is to be praised" (Proverbs 31:30).
This verse is so refreshingly realistic. Bodies are important. God fashioned
them (Psalm 139:19), His
Spirit dwells in them (1 Corinthians 6:19), as
His children He made us of body, mind and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23),
but our bodies are fading (2 Corinthians 4:16). Our
culture fights the realities of muffin-tops and wrinkles with boot camps and BOTOX,
but in the end, true beauty isn’t informed by your jean size, but in your heart
toward the Lord.
4. Find healthy role models.
Instead of idolizing Kate Moss, let's find godly role models who are
pursuing health as a matter of good stewardship and not pride or insecurity.
Learn from women who have made nutrition and fitness a practical reality in
their homes and with their families. Be courageous and ask them to teach you,
and join them in these endeavors. These kinds of women have done more for me in
working toward victory in my health than any skinny post online.
5. Think before you post.
Are your fitness posts linking to anything beneficial? The Internet is
filled with wonderful resources like workout videos, nutritious recipes,
creative fitness routines, etc. If your posts are nothing more than a wish list
of tiny waists and chiseled abs, you may want to evaluate your motives for
health. Purpose to post images and tips that are helpful and encouraging,
instead of images that only echo guilt and shame or further the comparison game
we are prone to play when looking at svelte celebrities.
6. Let the Lord redefine your
For years we’ve blamed the media for promoting unrealistic standards for
women, but online mediums like Pinterest and Tumblr are evidence that we have
now adopted those images as our standards. We desperately need our mind to be
renewed by the Word of God and prayer. Condemnation is not of the Lord (Romans
8:1). Remember that He sees you as the righteousness of Christ, without
blemish (1 Corinthians 5:21).
Listen to His voice. It delights in you (Zephaniah 3:17) and then be
As we pursue health goals this year, let's prioritize spending time at Jesus'
feet and let Him show us what He calls beautiful. Let's be redemptive in our
pursuit of good health and be mindful of the "inspiration" we consume.
And again, let's not forget to preach the Gospel of Christ’s grace to
ourselves, even as we Zumba.
I don't do many music artist interviews anymore, but when I got the chance to interview Peter Furler, former lead singer of the Newsboys, and now solo artist (his latest album, On Fire, is playing nonstop in my car), I had to take it.
Ever since I got my hands on a cassette of Not Ashamed back in the early '90s, I was a fan of the Newsboys' sound. Moreover, I was a fan of their unapologetic treatment of the Gospel.
Peter's really the "flavor" of the former Newsboys, and it's reflected in his current music. He played a concert last weekend following the Nuggets game in Denver. I brought some friends who have been Peter groupies for a long time, and we met him in a club room sometime after the second quarter. We chatted, took some photos, he signed some stuff for us, and we finished out the game, then settled in for the concert. Yeah, I sang "Shine" along with everyone else.
I hope you enjoy the interview!
In Your Grill -- 00:00
Ever rejected someone's advice, then wished you hadn't? Ever been ignorant of your own blind spots? Or maybe you humbly took counsel and were glad you did. This week's panel talks from personal experience about giving others authority in our lives (or not), and what happened as a result.
Oi, Boy! -- 31:04
If you were alive in the '90s, you witnessed the meteoric rise of Christian pop group the Newsboys. I sat down with songwriter, front man and now solo artist Peter Furler to talk about why he left the group, what he wishes he'd learned in his 20s, and what he's hoping the new year holds.
Time to Tell -- 54:38
She's grateful for her boyfriend and is pretty sure she's going to marry him. But she has a sexual past and needs to know when to talk about it with him and how much she should share. Counselor Geremy Keeton has some advice.
Music this week is by — you guessed it — Peter Furler.
When I was 10 years
old, I dreamed about a man walking toward me on a beach at sunrise. As he
walked toward me, I was walking toward him. It seemed like forever, but when we
finally met in the middle, his hand reached out to me. In his hand was a single
red rose. I reached for the rose — and then I woke up. I knew the man in my
dream was my future husband.
From that day to age 16,
I would have that same dream from time to time. I prayed for my future husband
regularly; not that he would be revealed to me, but that he would be safe, have
peace and walk in the favor of God.
At 16, it was time to
decide where to go to college. When I prayed every morning, I asked God to show
me the university where He wanted me to be. I prayed that I would go to the
right place, the place where my
future husband was so that I would be sure to meet him.
One day I was praying,
and I heard in my mind, Look at that
paper under your nightstand. I reached over to pick it up, and it was the
results for this long test we had taken at the end of the previous school year
to determine the best college fit for us. Out of five schools, the last four
were in California, where I was currently living. But the only school that fit
everything I wanted in a school was NC State University. I thought to myself, What? I don't even know where that is. How did
this school get on the list? But I felt that God said it was the right school.
I finally arrived at
NCSU in Raleigh, N.C., at age 17. By this time, I wanted to "live,"
so I was kind of out there partying. I had a couple of serious relationships,
too, but nothing ever came of them. By the time I was a senior I had
rededicated my life to God, but given up all hope of meeting the man of my
dreams due to guilt. Nonetheless, I had fallen hopelessly in love with Raleigh,
so much so that after graduating I moved into a townhouse with my best friend
and got a job. Things were not working out financially, however, and I was
incredibly disappointed that God had not sent my husband into my life.
Eventually I moved back
to California for my parents' support. Three years passed, and things were
beginning to look up. My parents moved back to North Carolina. I was on my own,
working, in graduate school, and very active in my church music ministry. The
end of graduate school was fast approaching, and I was planning to move back to
North Carolina to be closer to my family. Life was good, and I was truly
enjoying every moment of it. But I still longed to be married.
During those three
years I read anything I could get my hands on regarding marriage. When I found Boundless, I knew I’d hit
gold. I would return weekly to gobble
down the latest articles, anxiously awaiting the next piece by Candice Watters
or Prof. Theophilus. Boundless
recommended the very book that rekindled my hope while waiting in celibacy:
Marriable by Hayley and Michael
DiMarco. With my faith set ablaze, I continued to pray, fast and sow seeds for
my future marriage regularly, feeling confident that God would answer.
One day my mom called. She
said her beautician (Laddina, whom I had met once during my Christmas visit
three months prior) had someone she wanted me to meet. I didn't think much
about it, but for weeks my mom kept calling to tell me more about this
"mystery man." It turns out that man was Laddina's brother! Upon
learning this, I started praying, This
woman does hair for a living! She sees women all day, every day. But she chose
me, someone whom she only met once, to introduce to her own brother? God, what are you up to?
We were introduced and
exchanged contact information. For over two months we talked on the phone daily
for hours on end, even though we'd never seen each other face to face. I
learned that Tamaro moved to Raleigh in 2002, less than a year before I started
school at NCSU, and he lived a few streets over on Avent Ferry Road while I
attended. And remember that townhouse my best friend and I moved into after I
graduated? Well, that was all of two minutes from Tamaro's current address. So
we had lived within a short walk from one another for over two years. Tamaro
even had friends who lived three doors down from me, so he would visit my very
street on a regular basis. God has such a sense of humor, but He does answer prayer, even when we don't
So now I'm living in a
dream every day. I am truly amazed at God; at the beginning of this year I had
no idea Tamaro existed, but in just a few weeks I'll be his wife! Sometimes I
think, This can't be real! But it
is ... he is. Tamaro is the best man in
the world to me, and I love him with every fiber of my being. He often asks me,
"Where have you been all my life?" And I always reply, "Well I
was right up the street..." Then we laugh!
The Lord has blown my
mind with this blessing. I'm so humbled and elated about becoming Mrs. Johnson!
Are you engaged or newly married? We'd love to hear your story! Email us at email@example.com. By sending your story to us, we're assuming that you're giving us permission to share it with other readers; please let us know if you want us to change your names or not publish your story.
When it comes to public debates over issues like abortion,
it’s all too easy to become discouraged with the strongest proponents. We
consider the millions of lives lost and wonder how someone could possibly think
the world is a better place with legalized abortion. So we go to work. We think
and prepare, making our case against abortion with strong, valid arguments. Many
remain unconvinced and unmoved, and abortion becomes more common. Are our labors in
Forty years after Roe v. Wade, we would be wise to remember
that strong arguments have never been the most powerful tool in the Christian’s
arsenal. Christ’s admonitions for change always focused more on prayer than on reasoning.
Certainly both are important and biblical, but we must never neglect prayer.
Rather, it’s often in prayer that our best arguments are forged and empowered.
Several times throughout Christ’s ministry, He called people
to constant prayer. Jesus' heart was that people “ought always to pray and not
lose heart” (Luke 18:1). After Christ’s ascension, the disciples' instinct was
to devote “themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14). Even Paul, the early church’s
greatest thinker, placed strong emphasis on prayer, encouraging the church in
And so, from the day we heard, we
have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the
knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk
in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every
good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10).
Even a strong intellect like Paul considered, “knowledge of
God’s will, spiritual wisdom and understanding, and the knowledge of God” a
fruit of their unceasing prayer. As we labor to think well, make strong arguments
and contend for the innocent, we must never ignore or forget the power of
prayer. Prayer strengthens our reasoning, empowers our message and changes the
hearts of our listeners.
If you have friends or loved ones who disagree with you on issues like
abortion, season your conversations with prayer. Ask God:
that He would “open [their] eyes,
that [they] may behold wonderful things from [His] law” (Psalm 119:18)
that they would “walk in a manner
worthy of the Lord . . . bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the
knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10)
that those “living in darkness [would
see] a great light” (Matthew 4:16)
I believe Christians should also lock arms and pray for those
leaders who strongly work to keep abortion legal. Below are just a few leaders
whom we should pray for in the ways listed above. Perhaps, the God who saved a
murderer like Saul, might do a similar work in these four women. It wouldn't be the first time. Won’t you join
me in praying that these also would see the great light, Jesus Christ?
myself spending less time on Facebook these days, and I’ve been struggling to
figure out exactly why. I still log on and breeze quickly through my newsfeed
at least once or twice a day, but where before I would think of funny or random
things to craft into a status update on a daily basis, I’m not posting updates
as frequently as I once did. Suzanne Hadley Gosselin captured a lot of what I was struggling
with in her post “Facebook Wars.” I identified with the comparison that can
breed envy and jealousy. I, too, have been guilty of posting things to seek
validation from my online community, instead of finding my contentment and
value in the Lord.
But there’s something else I’ve struggled with in the social
media world. And that’s the humble brag. In her article “Sooo Grateful for My Awesome Hubbie and Life!” Leslie
Sebek Miller describes her own struggle after logging on to Facebook on
Mother’s Day and feeling like her day didn’t compare to all of her friends
posting the wonderful things their husbands did. She writes,
American Christians have our own version of the humble brag. Instead of
prefacing our brag with phony humility, we sometimes soften it with expressions
of blessing and gratitude. We want, like everyone else, to show that our life
is good, happy, and exciting, but we also don't want to seem self-important. So
we append our posts with praise to God. This is not to say that all online
praise is unauthentic—some is, absolutely. But I suspect that some of our
expressions of praise are also motivated by a desire to display our life in
only a positive light.
Guilty as charged. On a recent vacation, I uploaded a
sunset photo with the caption, "Grateful for God's creation." I
certainly was grateful, and our Creator deserves such praise. But one primary
reason for posting the photo was to show everyone in my Instagram feed that I
was having a great time in Hawaii. A lot of Christians in my online communities
use this kind of language when sharing exciting moments in their lives, whether
it's announcing a new baby, a new car, an engagement, or an exotic vacation.
The question I ask of myself and other Christian social media users is a
question of motive: Am I sharing this news/photo/announcement because I am
truly grateful, or because I feel more accepted, loved, and important when I
talk about it?
Ouch. I’ve definitely found myself posting things
because I feel more important when I talk about it. When a lot of Facebook
friends are posting wedding photos and creative baby announcements, I can start
to feel bad about myself and as though I don’t have anything fun or exciting to
share. So to prove to myself that I’m not just a lame single 30 year old, I
make sure all of my Facebook friends know about my fun and exciting life.
I’m not anti-social media at all. I love keeping up with
my friends all across the country by watching their updates. Social media can
be a way to get to know someone you’re interested in (I could write an entire
blog post on the pros and cons of this, so please don’t miss the point by
commenting on this one sentence). I appreciate when friends share encouraging
verses or post interesting articles. These are all ways social media can be
But is our motivation in why we’re posting just as important as what we’re posting? I like how Miller
shares a few questions to ask ourselves as Christian social media creators:
will question his/her own motives before publishing content. Ask
yourself if the content you're posting is God-glorifying or self-glorifying.
—Thou will praise God privately
before praising publicly. If you witness a beautiful
sunset, sit in the moment before turning to your phone. Sometimes you might
realize there's no one better to share it with than the Creator himself.
—Thou will post the good and the bad,
within reason. There are natural boundaries for what to share on
Facebook, and trying to articulate pain, grief, sadness, or simply boredom to
an online audience is trickier than uploading photos from a trip to Barbados.
Give thought to how your pictures and words might contribute to healthy
I think it’s
important to recognize that our social media use affects other people. While we
can’t be responsible for how others might respond, either positively or
negatively, we can be thoughtful about our own motives and how we contribute to
the online conversation.
Do motives matter
when posting online? How can we avoid the humble brag and honestly glorify God
in what we post?
My friend Matthew recently tagged me in a post on Facebook that linked to a RELEVANT article titled, "Why Aren't Christians Funny?" Matthew disagreed — he said he had lots of funny Christian friends, including me. (This is true. I'm quite hilarious.)
The article actually addressed the idea that evangelical Christian culture doesn't have much of a funny bone. There are a few Christians known for their humor, but overall, evangelical culture produces music, fiction, self-help books, cultural commentaries, but not much laughter. The article outlines a few reasons for this, including the fact that in order to be funny, you sometimes have to push boundaries and be in danger of offending. The article also talked about how many Christians (especially in America) have embraced the idea of the culture war. When you're at war with an enemy, you cannot be seen as weak or lacking. But "humor requires the ability to admit weakness and a willingness to laugh at it."
The article also outlined the "Protestant work ethic," which values results and a seriousness about getting things done. People stopping to laugh can seem lazy and frivolous. And there's the old discussion about what makes something "Christian." Does a Christian song need to mention Jesus a certain number of times? Does a Christian book need to resolve with everyone getting saved? Does a Christian joke need a punchline that solves the predestination/free will debate?
This is an interesting discussion to me because I love humor. I love funny things. I love laughing. I appreciate people like Jon Acuff, a man who loves Jesus but is also willing to poke fun at Christian culture. (Listen to him on episode 231 of The Boundless Show.) Humor is a gift from God and something that Christians should do with excellence. But because we sometimes take ourselves so seriously, we find it difficult to laugh at our mistakes. But, as the article pointed out, sometimes laughing along the way is what will lead us toward being a more humble community.
What do you think? Do you think the article has a point, or is it just being mean and unfunny?
It’s a supercharged word, one with power to stir up all
sorts of things in our hearts when we hear it. That’s because for Christians
who are seeking to submit our sexual desires to God, struggle and/or failure in
this deeply personal, deeply significant area often brings with it an equally penetrating
sense of shame and, at times, futility.
And let’s face it: Living a self-controlled and godly life
in our hyper-sexualized culture is no small thing. We live in an era in which
the idea of restraint, of reining in our sexual desire for some higher purpose — whether living
chastely as singles or living faithfully as marrieds — seems a quaint throwback
to a bygone age.
Old-fashioned as self-control and purity may seem to those
outside the faith, however, Scripture clearly teaches that what happens in our hearts,
sexually speaking, matters to God. In Ephesians 5:3, Paul exhorts, “But among
you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of greed, because
these are improper for God’s holy people.” Two verses earlier, he’s given us an
alternative vision: “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and
live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a
fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
So what does it take to experience consistent obedience in
this thorny area?
That’s a question I’ve grappled with for 25 years. My battle
with lust began in college, when I submitted my life to Christ and began for
the first time to combat this temptation. And even though I’ve been happily
married for eight years, marriage doesn’t automatically mean that skirmishes
with this wily temptation are forever a thing of the past. What I offer here is
not a silver bullet, then, but a distillation of several decades of thought on
If we hope to experience lasting freedom, we need a strategy
that deals with our behavior in the
moment, one that deals theologically
with our hearts, one that’s relationally
grounded and one that seeks to deal holistically
with our appetites.
Lust happens when we notice the sexual attractiveness of
another person’s body and then choose
to fixate on it. I don’t believe the initial noticing is, generally speaking,
where lust is born. It’s in the second
thought, the second moment in which
we choose to indulge our eyes that we
cross the threshold into sinful thinking. So, at the most basic level, the
first thing we need is something that helps us redirect our eyes and our
thoughts — to change our behavior — between
those first and second moments.
Pragmatically speaking, nothing helps me do that better than
Scripture. In college, I had to walk
through an expansive lawn to classes each day. In late summer and late spring,
students — lots of students — sunbathed there. It felt like a spiritual minefield. Early
on, I memorized Proverbs 4:25: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your
gaze directly before you.” I would literally recite that verse mentally dozens
of times daily, and it strengthened my resolve not to capitulate the
omnipresent temptation of lust.
Second, we need a theology that invites us to submit our
hearts honestly to God in moments of lust (and in moments after we’ve fallen
short). That includes confessing (“Lord, I realize my gaze lingered on that
person too long just now”), honest acknowledgement of our desires (“Father, I
long for intimacy and pleasure and a sense of connection with another person”),
asking God to help us see others as He does (“Lord, please help me not to lust,
but to see that person as You do”) and asking for strength to resist (“Father,
please help me not to choose to look lustfully at someone else”). Those are all
prayers that can be prayed in the moment, as well as after the fact as we seek — and
keep seeking — to submit our sexuality to God.
Third, the battle against lust is by its very nature an
isolating one. That makes talking about it with a trusted friend critically important.
The aftermath of lust is always shame, because in our hearts we intuitively
know it’s a damaging, ugly thing to objectify another person. So we need to
talk about it with others who are on the road and in the battle with us. Confessing
our sins opens the door to receive God’s abundant grace through another person.
Proverbs 28:13 tells us, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but
whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Confession in close
relationship enables us to experience mercy and grace, I believe, in a way that
confessing to God privately, on our own, may not. Those relationships are also
the place where we pray together for resolve to resist temptation the next
Finally, I’ve increasingly realized as I’ve gotten older
that our appetites are holistically related to each other. Put simply, if my
appetite for food or material things or passive media consumption is out of
control, there’s a pretty good chance that my appetite for sexual things may be
disordered as well. Conversely, to the extent that I’m trying to purposefully
live within healthy limits when it comes to those other appetites, that
discipline tends to spill over, in a positive way, when it comes to resisting inappropriate
Lust can be a pesky, unwanted interloper in our spiritual
lives. There’s no easy, foolproof or quick
fix. But I believe that progress and consistent obedience in this area is possible, to the extent that we’re
willing to combat it with the four-pronged approach I’ve outlined above.
There was a day not too long ago when Christian men and Christian women were at a church for life. In that same church, they were born, raised, married,
and eventually raised their own children. But times have changed. These days,
Christians who’ve been in the same church their entire lives are rare indeed. We
are far more transient nowadays and, in many places, have a whole smorgasbord
of churches to choose from. The pressure is on our pastors and their staffs to
make our church experiences as pleasant as possible, because at the first
twinge of distress, the Lord may lead us to try something a little more amiable. Please forgive my sarcasm.
I do lament the loss of rugged commitment and steadfastness
these days. It seems the sting and embarrassment of breaking an oath or making
a change has all but slipped away. I must admit, however, there are times when it is appropriate to
leave your church. It is not something we should decide hastily or alone, but with tested
motives. Transitioning churches is something the Lord may lead us to do, but it
can be a challenge to determine whether we are leaving for the right or wrong
For those thinking about leaving, first consider the gifts you’ve
been given to edify the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul taught the church in Corinth
that they each had been given different spiritual gifts to build up the body of
Christ. He taught them to “strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians
14:12). Every Christian should focus on using the gifts they've been given to
serve and bless the church. You’ve been given gifts the community of believers
needs. As you consider leaving your church, think about the use of your gifts.
Second, be honest about what you don’t like about your
current church and what may be drawing you to a different one. There are some
issues that are worth leaving over, but most issues can be worked through. If
your church doesn’t preach Christ crucified as the only way of salvation that
is a big issue. But if your church is going through a change and you miss the
old days, that's less serious. Write down the reasons you want to leave, and ask someone
you respect if your reasons are worth leaving over.
Third, leave with love. The church community can sometimes
be messy. There are times when others will disappoint us, and we will disappoint
others. This has always been the case. Even Paul and Peter had disagreements. But
Christ’s people are a loving, forgiving people. Like a strong family, we work
through issues. We love as God first loved us and are quick to forgive. There
are times when leaving may be the selfless, loving thing to do and times when
leaving may be the selfish, self-loving thing to do. Jesus is familiar with the
failures of His followers, yet He promises, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). If our Lord refuses to leave us, shouldn't we also be slow to leave each other? If you do leave your church, seek to love the body of Christ as you
If and when you do decide to leave, Kevin DeYoung offers
great advice on how to leave well. I do believe God calls us to sink our roots deep within our faith communities, guarding against the temptation to habitually uproot and replant ourselves. But there will be times to leave, and at those times, we must
keep loving and serving the people of God as our highest priority.
Ah, emotions. We all have them, but sometimes they get the best of us. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves; others are accused of being cold and distant. When provoked, emotions cause us to do some crazy things. And few things can get us more worked up than defending our own emotions and dispositions.
This week we bare our souls to share the good, bad, unbridled and repressed aspects of relating, empathizing, fighting and forgiving in the worlds of heart, mind and soul. Get ready to open yourself up to a different perspective.
Oh, and while you're at it, like our page on Facebook so you can get bits and pieces of the everyday joys and triumphs at Boundless. This is where we let you into our day-to-day world. Besides, if you don't, Martha and I may cry. And that's not right.
Thinkers and Feelers -- 00:00
How do you first take in and judge information — through your head or heart? And do you think those who do it the other way are difficult to understand? One of the keys to relational success is embracing the very different but legitimate ways our minds and temperaments work. This panel of both types gets down to the basics of what it means for all of us to be heard, understood and valued in the ways we're wired.
Constructive Conflict -- 24:01
You've had that feeling before: the feeling that the last straw has been placed on the camel's back, something's gotta give, and it probably won't be pretty. Usually this shows up in conflict with another person, and according to Lysa TerKeurst, author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, most people either "stuff" or "explode." In her book Unglued, she argues that our emotions should be indicators, not dictators, and in our interview, she walks through a healthy process for making that happen.
Lysa and Lisa
She Said "No" -- 51:27
A guy can do all he can do to step up and ask a girl out. But what if she says "No, thanks"? Focus counselor Geremy Keeton offers practical advice for guys in responding outwardly and processing inwardly such a refusal, and weighs in on whether "no" means "no, forever" or "not right now."
In church last Sunday, I found myself sitting behind a single mother with a couple of kids who were, together, a bit of a handful: a girl, maybe age 2, and a boy, perhaps age 4. Once in a while I'd try to help her out, making eye contact with one of the kids or the other, engaging them in quiet, gentle interaction to give her a moment's break while steering them away from more, shall we say, rambunctious activities. (Let's pet your stuffed doggie, not drop it on the floor.)
I wasn't doing that much, that often: I didn't want to become a big focus of their attention, which would have defeated the purpose of keeping them settled down for Mom's sake. Still, the kids ate it up. The girl delighted every time I took notice of her, and after the service ended, the boy (whose craftsmanship in putting a toy car together had earlier drawn my whispered compliment "cool car," to his pleasure) spontaneously came back to my pew and half-hugged, half-tackled me. As well as Mom had handled them — and as far as I could tell, she'd done everything right the past hour-plus — both of them needed male attention. For the duration of the service, I'd been something of a stand-in father.
I don't have children, and alas, I'm probably well past the age when I will. But I was reminded of how I used to view my occasional interactions with other people's children: as parenting practice. I didn't want to be just the fun grownup who plays with them, gets them worked up, then turns them over to Mom and Dad, who have to settle them down. I'd try to be more like an extension of their parents, having fun playing with the children while also trying to keep them from getting too over-excited and reinforcing whatever rules and guidelines their parents had established. If they were old enough to take an interest in reading or learning, I'd look for opportunities to encourage that.
Do you ever look at the time you spend with other people's children as practice parenting? If so, what are you learning? Do you watch how parents do their job and look at them as role models, drawing lessons about what to do or (sometimes) what not to do? Who — in addition to your own parents — are your parental role models today, and what are you learning while watching them?
Before Kevin I began dating, we started texting. Three weeks after we had started getting to know one another, I began receiving several daily texts from Kevin. He'd ask how I was doing or tell me an idea he had for our Bible study. By Valentine's Day, we were texting frequently throughout the day.
That weekend, I was on a business trip and returned on Valentine's Day. I joined up with some girlfriends (what else do you do as a single girl on the holiday of love) to decorate cookies and watch a movie. While I was there, I received this text message from Kevin: "Some friends and I are playing laser tag tonight."
Me: "Sounds like fun!"
Him: "You should join us."
I thanked him for the invitation and explained that I was spending the evening with some friends. "Maybe next time," he texted. But that may have been my first official "date" invitation. (We went on our first official date a few weeks later.)
"The End of Courtship?" an article in The New York Times, points out that the dating culture has changed and that courtship, as we have known it, may be fading away. The article quotes a single 30-year-old woman who explains it this way:
“The word ‘date’ should almost be stricken from the dictionary,” Ms. Silver said. “Dating culture has evolved to a cycle of text messages, each one requiring the code-breaking skills of a cold war spy to interpret.”
“It’s one step below a date, and one step above a high-five,” she added. Dinner at a romantic new bistro? Forget it. Women in their 20s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along. Raised in the age of so-called “hookup culture,” millennials — who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down — are subverting the rules of courtship.
Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend.
The new method (or non-method) centers around hanging out and hooking up. The article points out that because of social networking and Google, young people know more about each other than ever before, making those first "get-to-know-you" dates obsolete.
Technology coupled with what the article calls "fear of missing out" (FOMO) is drastically changing the way young people approach relationships with the opposite sex. Add to that financial limitations in a poor economy, and you can say goodbye to the old-fashioned "dinner and movie" model of dating.
Many of the comments following the article said "good riddance" to the old dating rules, claiming they can seem artificial and manipulative — like you're playing a game.
I agree that it's good to turn a critical eye to the "old ways" now and then to see if they're worth holding onto or need to be replaced with something better. But as one of my friends pointed out, embracing the hookup culture isn't an option for the Christian. Still, if we make dates using Facebook and text messaging instead of the phone, is there anything wrong with that?
The article concludes with the example of a young woman who is still regularly going on traditional dates. She refuses to accept anything less. It seems part of the change to dating is inevitable, simply because of the culture in which we live. But I would be sad to see the complete loss of the traditional date. What do you think?
Our story is a powerful reminder to us of God’s love and
how He works all things out for our good. Here's what happened from both of our perspectives. First, from Dave:
Over five and a half
years ago I saw the girl of my dreams in a humanities class in college, but at
the time I didn’t know it. Her name was Mary.
We didn’t start talking
much until junior year, but by senior year we had become pretty good friends.
Though I realized we were pretty compatible, I didn’t feel attracted to her. I
could tell she liked me, but I wasn’t so sure.
We kept talking after
graduation, because for some reason I just couldn’t let her go. For over a
year, Facebook messages made the virtual trek between her grad school in Iowa
and my apartment in Albany. That following summer we met again at a mutual friend’s
wedding, after which I (finally) asked her out. Not six months later (Jan. 4,
2013) I asked her to marry me — it was one of the best days of my life.
During that long interim
between graduation and when we started dating, I had sent a message to
Boundless Answers (found here) admitting the struggle I was having. I struggled with the idea of
pursuing her in spite of not ever having felt an initial attraction or spark
when I was with her. The distance was also an issue. In all other aspects she
seemed like the right girl for me, but I was hesitant to commit myself to
something that might not work out.
God showed me through
this whole situation just how much of a barrier my own sin was. It wasn’t
really a lack of attraction that kept me from Mary; it was the sins of lust and
selfish pride. Once I let Christ work in my heart, I was able to see her for
how beautiful she really was. It wasn’t really hesitancy to commitment; it was
a trend of passivity and a fear of change. Only after God’s wake up call did I
realize what true Christ-like courage really was and how wrong it was to lead
her on without stating my intentions.
Looking back, it’s hard
to believe how I could have let such a wonderful woman go for so long. But God’s
timing is perfect. Through this journey (and Mary’s forgiveness), I’ve grown so
much and gained a better picture of the kind of man God wants me to be. —Dave
I noticed Dave our freshman year of
college, and it wasn’t long before I had a crush on him. By junior year I was
absolutely hooked and thought that he liked me, too, even though he had never said
anything. During those years I did two things that girls are really good at: 1)
reading into every single action and 2) making excuses for why a guy I liked wasn't asking me out. In the process, though, I learned a lot about trusting
in God and putting my ultimate hope in Him, not in my relationship status.
I thought that my waiting had paid off when Dave kept in contact with me after
graduation. I was so afraid that things would be over, especially because I had
decided to attend a graduate school many states away. I'm so glad I trusted God
enough to go to school away from Dave; He’s used my time there to grow me
deeper in relationship with Him, mature me and prepare me more for Dave.
Eventually, though, I came to the point where I was really hurt and frustrated
because I didn't know what Dave’s intentions were. People told me I should
confront him and ask him where he was going with it. But because I read Candice
Watters' comments on her own experience, I knew I didn't, as a woman, want to
set the precedent of clarifying our relationship. I wanted him to do that, even
if it meant a longer period of uncertainty. So, I waited, but I did set a
deadline for the end of summer to move on from Dave if nothing had changed, and
by God's grace, it did!
There was a point, though, before our
relationship began when I knew I had to forgive Dave, and it was hard at
first. I think that was partly because I had to admit that Dave hadn’t always
liked me like I thought he had, which hurt my pride. Plus, my ideal “story” was
that the guy I liked would have liked me from day one. But God’s story for us
is so much better than any I ever imagined because He used our mistakes to
bring us both to a place of humility, trust and awe of Him. I’m so glad God
gave me the grace to move past my pride and forgive Dave; if I hadn’t, I would
have missed out on His greatest gift to me besides my salvation. It was
completely worth the wait. —Mary
Are you engaged or newly married? We'd love to hear your story! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. By sending your story to us, we're assuming that you're giving us permission to share it with other readers; please let us know if you want us to change your names or not publish your story.
Lately I’ve been on a biography kick when it comes to my
reading list. So over my Christmas vacation I read Dearie, the biography of
Julia Child by Bob Spitzer. I’ve had a keen interest in Julia Child ever since
the movie Julie and Julia came out, and Julia’s story just fascinates me. (I
even have her instructional DVDs, and I’ve been working on making the perfect
omelet!) But as I read the story
of this woman who came of age in the 1930s and was involved in the war effort
in the 1940s, I found I identified with her more than I thought I would, and
found unexpected encouragement from her story.
But first a brief overview of Julia Child, according to her
Julia Child was a directionless, gawky young woman who ran off
halfway around the world to join a spy agency during World War II. She
eventually settled in Paris, where she learned to cook and collaborated on the
writing of what would become Mastering
the Art of French Cooking, a book that changed the food culture of America.
She was already fifty when The French
Chef went on the air—at a time in our history when women weren’t making
those leaps. Julia became the first educational TV star, virtually launching
PBS as we know it today.
But more than her accomplishments in changing the way
America cooks, Julia’s story is even more remarkable because she was an
unlikely candidate for the job. Writes Bob Spitzer:
It’s rare for someone to
emerge in America who can change our attitudes, our beliefs, and our very
culture. It’s even rarer when that someone is a middle-aged, six-foot
three-inch woman whose first exposure to an unsuspecting public is cooking an
omelet on a hot plate on a local TV station.
Several parts of Julia’s story stand out to me, the first
being that she felt adrift after graduating from college, moving from one
secretarial job to another, but never quite finding her passion. Can anyone relate? She ended up joining
a spy agency during WWII, serving in China, India and Sri Lanka. At a time
when being a single working woman and traveling the world was not the norm,
Julia did it and did it well. As she entered her 30s, Julia was single, even
though she desired marriage and family. Sound familiar? During her foreign
service, she met and fell in love with Paul Child. They were married when she
was 34 — well past the average age, especially for a woman in the 1940s.
Sometimes the pressure to have life figured out while in
your 20s can be overwhelming, but Julia’s story encourages me because for her,
the best was yet to come. The time she spent traveling and striving to find her
place in the world was all preparation for the second half of her life, when
she would become a cultural icon. If your life doesn’t look like what you
thought it would, take heart! It could be that your best days, when you’ll hit
your stride and find your life’s calling, are still ahead of you.
In fact, Julia spent her 30s and 40s perfecting her
passion — cooking. When her husband’s
job took them to Paris, Julia struggled to find something of interest her.
After several failed attempts, she landed on a cooking school, and the rest,
they say, is history.
After years of living abroad, Julia and Paul moved back to the
U.S., and her cookbook was published. As part of the publicity for the book, Julia
did a cooking demonstration on the local public access channel in
Massachusetts. This launched a decades-long national TV career and more
best-selling cookbooks. Julia was 50 she first appeared on TV. She was well into
middle-age when she found success as a chef and author. Looking at Julia’s
story reminds me it’s OK to not have it all figured out. This season could be
preparing me for the next calling God has for me. It’s freeing to think that if
I haven’t yet found my life’s calling, it’s doesn’t mean I never will.
Most of us won’t be called to the influence of
someone like Julia Child, but whether we influence millions or a few, there’s
hope that maybe the best is yet to come.
The cover and the article refer to the 40th
anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the two Supreme Court
decisions that made abortion legal for virtually any reason throughout the full
nine months of pregnancy; pro-abortionists hailed this as an accomplishment for
While abortion remains legal throughout pregnancy — a
horrifying fact that many have sought to change over the last 40 years — the
pro-life movement has seen steady gains over the last four decades.
In fact, according to the Guttmacher Institute (Planned Parenthood’s research arm), 2012
was the second highest year for pro-life legislation passed at the state level — surpassed only by 2011. There were
more than 40 provisions enacted across 19 states that helped in the effort to
decrease life-destroying abortions. Some
states like Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin enacted
three or more pro-life laws while Arizona led the charge by passing seven
Some of these laws ensure that women now have a chance to
see an ultrasound of their preborn baby before choosing to give birth or abort. Other laws ensure that abortion sellers have
hospital admitting privileges which helps make sure they’re held to the same
standard as other medical clinics — abortion clinics shouldn’t be allowed to
maintain a lower standard of care when there is the health and safety of women
The reality is that abortion is a dangerous business — not
only is the life of the preborn child at stake, but the women often suffer
severe, life-altering physical, emotional and psychological complications from
an abortion. So anything that we can do
to encourage the reduction of abortions is a victory for women.
I hated middle school. I remember it as the worst time of my
life. I didn’t struggle academically or get into much trouble, but I hated it.
I hated feeling like a perpetual outsider, like I would never fit in. I
remember one morning before school, I perceived people laughing behind me and looked
back. Oh, no. They are laughing at me. I asked what they were laughing about and got
blank stares. Soon people were bringing their friends by. I went to the
bathroom and discovered I had left a tag on the back of my new jeans. Better
than a hole, I guess.
I don’t thank God enough for the brevity of those days. I
have rarely felt such strong desire to find friendships and community as I felt
in those days. However, the desires for community have lingered. My community
has changed and shifted hundreds of times since middle school. Friends have
come, and friends have gone. There have been seasons of rich community and seasons
that felt more like a dry spell.
I’ve recently been learning about one way we can hamstring
our community from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his classic work Life Together, Bonhoeffer explains that striving
for perfection in community can be harmful:
Every human wish dream that is
injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and
must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of
a community more that the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the
latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest
This was a convicting word for me. Too often, I’ve had a
vision for what I wanted my community to become. I’ve imagined people I’d like
to be in community with: their interests, their talents and their lack of
problems. I missed out on the community God had provided because I was chasing what Bonhoeffer called a wish dream. I believe there are times I've pushed my
community toward some personal expectation and it has — just as Bonhoeffer predicted — been
Instead of coming to my community with a heart ready to
encourage and serve, I have at times come with complaints and protests. I’ve
let my dissatisfaction with my community hurt my community. Like all good
teachers, Bonhoeffer offers wise counsel to those struggling with similar feelings.
If you are currently frustrated with your community, listen to this advice:
In the Christian community
thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he
who gives thanks for little things receives the big things … If we do not give
thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even
where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness,
small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to
God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then
we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and
riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
One of the healing balms for our frustrations with community is gratitude to God for providing that community. Just as my middle school self had to learn to overcome the insecurities and challenges of that time, we also must learn to thank God for the imperfections and difficulties of our particular community relationships. We need to learn that the Christian community
is not a gift God curtails to some particular dream or ideal, but rather a
diverse group of growing people God brings together for mutual edification. God alone knows how
much we need our communities and how much they need us. If you’ve been
frustrated with your community or lack thereof, reinforce your efforts in thanksgiving and
service. We must learn to let go of our ideals and graciously let Christ build His church.
Some of our best shows are ones that began as listener suggestions. Such is the case with this week's show.
One listener wrote in with the following:
I’m an African-American female, and I always appreciate it when the show interviews someone
from my background. Maybe you guys can get a Christian African-American couple (or a couple of another race) to speak about how they met and
honor God in their marriage? So often marriage is referred to as a “white
thing,” which obviously isn’t true because God gave the gift of marriage to all
His children — so it’s so encouraging to hear from godly couples of different
also think that doing this will help show people how diverse the body of Christ
Well, we're happy to oblige in the form of this week's roundtable. We know our audience is diverse, and we're always trying to add varied perspectives and backgrounds to our conversations. We appreciate your suggestions; in light of that, what other avenues should we explore?
Against All Odds -- 00:00
Dr. Kneeland Brown, executive director of the Focus Leadership Institute, had one mandate from his father before leaving for college: to find a godly "chocolate sister" to marry. He rose to the challenge, but it wasn't easy. He had to buck stereotypes, define his vision for marriage, overcome socio-economic challenges and then win the heart of his now-wife, Tearrah, who had her own ideas about marriage and carried the baggage of growing up with an alcoholic father. They learned a lot in their journey, which they share quite candidly here.
The Sacred Search -- 28:31
You know that he wrote Sacred Marriage. Now Gary Thomas is back with The Sacred Search, an application of biblical principles when it comes specifically to finding a spouse. What if it's not about who you marry, but why? This is the question Gary dismantles for us in this in-studio interview.
One -- 51:35
It's one thing to be a good roommate, and there's a lot you can learn relationally from that experience. But a marriage relationship is more. How can you transition into marriage with a goal to actually "become one" with your spouse and not just someone who shares the bathroom sink? Candice Watters contributes her thoughts.
I remember having friend problems in middle school.
My neighbor, a girl my age, loved spending time with me when it was convenient, but she'd dump me the moment her friends from school (especially if they included boys) came along. I spent a lot of time crying and talking things through with my mom in those days (Thank the Lord for a wise and compassionate mother!). I guess friend problems are the substance of life for middle school girls, but as I've gotten older I've realized that friendship problems can occur at any time throughout your life — with a college roommate, a friend at work, someone in your Bible study. Friendships can be fragile.
In the beginning, when he felt unsuccessful in finding true friends, he suspected the problem lay with the other people. But he soon turned the pointing finger back on himself.
I realized that if I was going to have good friends, it required me to focus on what I could do to be a better friend. With that in mind, I decided that I was simply going to have to get comfortable with being the primary initiator — even if other people didn't do a very good job of reciprocating.
Although I found that most people responded well to my new approach, there were a few others who continually failed to get back in touch or regularly declined my invitations. And eventually, I realized that I had to respect myself enough to recognize their lack of interest and move on. The hard part was doing it without resentment or bitterness; however, as my genuine friendships grew, the loss of those "friendships" didn't seem like such a big deal.
I know I have had to make similar choices with letting friendships go or allowing the other person the freedom to have a less intense friendship than I desire. By focusing on my own behavior and keeping my expectations of others modest, I have enjoyed a variety of friendships throughout the years. (You can read some of my thoughts on female friendships in "Girls Need Girls.")
If you're feeling frustrated in friendship a good place to start is with yourself. Rogers writes:
I had always judged friendships based upon how much others initiated. It occurred to me that my focus might be in the wrong place. Perhaps, if I wanted better friendships, it made more sense to focus on the behavior of the only person I could control: me.
When it comes to friendship, that's really all you can do. And pray. Pray for quality friends, look for ways to be a good friend and take initiative. Even if your efforts only pay off with one good friend, it will be worth it.
Isn’t that slogan annoying? I can't count how many times I have heard that
over the years from different advertisers and motivational jargon in general.
Yeah, sure sounds nice, but in reality, we all know that when the clock strikes
midnight, we don't turn into a new person or find the road map to our future on
our laps. And most likely, when the calendar flipped to 2013, you were still
single, overweight, unhappy, in debt, messy, unorganized or lazy. Nothing
magical happened, and your goals for the year ahead seem difficult and
has shown that the third week in January is the most depressing week of the year.
Some have even nailed it down to a day — Blue Monday.
Christmas is over, you are back at work, and you have already traded in your
carrot sticks for waffle fries. Ba hum bug.
We do this to ourselves, you see. We allow the media to take us on a rollercoaster
of emotions from Halloween to New Year's Eve. They set us up for “The Most
Wonderful Time of the Year” and then dump us off our holiday high on Jan. 2.
Then they want us to purchase gym memberships and diet plans, sign up for
dating services, and buy books about organization. Before you know it, you are
exhausted of trying, working and not getting anywhere. It is the third week of
January, and you are burnt out.
OK, tangent over.
I know I sound like the Grinch, but this Christmas I was more annoyed than
usual as I watched our culture get directed like a herd of cattle in and out of
stores for gifts, then to the grocery stores for all the food. Not only does media
influence our behaviors, but it also manipulates our emotions. I don't know
about you, but I would rather not be treated like a robot, especially since I
am not a resident here.
If this is how the world wants to act, fine, but I don't want to follow
suit. We are aliens,
remember? And because we are children of the King, we have the right to live
Instead of spending your January down in the dumps, title January "Celebration
Month." Christ has come, my friends! He left His perfect, heavenly home to
come into this world and save us from the eternal damnation we deserve. Harsh,
but true. Isn't that good news? He has come to free us from the law we could
never keep and offered us grace we could never afford. Let's celebrate!
He has personally allowed you to participate with Him in His kingdom, and
has placed you on this earth for a time to help bring others to Him. There is
no time for Blue Mondays, a day where we wallow in our self-pity. We could
maybe, if this life was about us, but it's not.
Instead of making an array of resolutions you can't keep, make it a goal to
pray for the year ahead. 1) What does God require of you? 2) How can you act on
that? Ask God for His help as you try to make personal improvements and changes
in the year ahead. We can only achieve these goals with His help — we are too
weak to do it alone. Instead of the normal resolutions, meditate on Galatians
5:22-26. Pray that God helps you personify these characteristics. Pray He
shows you how to truly die to yourself.
I'm right there with you, friends. Let’s make 2013 different! Instead of
trying to create a new “you,” let's shoot to be a more Christ-like version of
I owe my marriage to Boundless. Kinda. I'm sure God could
have worked in other ways, but Boundless has played a big part! Let me
When I was 15 years old my church was doing a series on spiritual gifts. When I
took the "spiritual gifts" test, I tested highest by far for the gift of celibacy. Seeing
that I didn't have a strong desire to get married, I wasn't too bothered. Though
I was a little disgusted with the test — the questions were not appropriate for
a 15 year old!
In college, I became highly involved with Cru and felt
called to go on missions with them when I graduated. I went to Japan from
2006-2008 and came back to the States to join full-time staff with Cru in Japan
(there's a yearlong process you have to go through to get prepared). Tons of my
friends were getting married (in Japan and in the States) and I had thought
about marriage, but so many of the people I really, really admired were single
older women, and in a way, I was encouraged to put ministry first and not worry
about marriage. Even when I was pursued in Japan by a fellow Cru staffer, I was
so focused on ministry that I didn't give him a chance, which I was convinced
was the right thing to do (1 Corinthians 7:34).
But while browsing through a local Christian bookstore at
home in the States later on that same year, the book title Get
Marriedby Candice Watters (one of the founders of Boundless) caught my
eye. I was embarrassed to pick it up, but I did, and once I started reading I
knew I wanted to read more. I also knew I didn't want to be seen with the book!
So I bought it hoping the guy at the register would think I was buying it for a
As I read Candice's book, I realized I did
want to get married, and that was something I never wanted to admit to God. In
a way, marriage was something out of my control, and to admit I wanted
something out of my control was scary. I had a lot of pride in being an independent,
strong, accomplished single woman, and God was gently molding, breaking and
shaping me to let go and give Him full
control of my life. This was scary, because every time I had done that in the
past I didn't necessarily get what I originally wanted, but it would always work out for the best.
Around the same time of buying the book, I started "coincidentally"
running into a guy named Tien from my church — everywhere: at church, the post
office, prayer meetings at other churches, on the soccer field, on campus (we
both did international student ministry), at youth group outings. He was definitely on my "friend"
radar because after surrendering to God, I had only two requirements for the
guy I was going to marry: Christian and taller. No way would God ask me to
surrender the "taller" part, right?
Tien was missions-minded, worked with international
students, was growing in his relationship with Christ and someone that I really
respected. Of course he wasn't perfect; I knew that fully since my sister's the
one who had brought him to our church two years earlier right after he had
become a Christian through prison ministry (yes, he was in jail) and my parents
were mentoring him. But in the two years that I was gone in Japan, he had
matured a lot, and when he eventually asked me on a date I said yes. This was
the first real date I had ever been on in my 25 years of existence, so I was
pretty freaked out, especially since I was going to Japan indefinitely!
During the process of dating/getting to know each other and
finally defining our relationship, I prayed, fasted (involuntarily!), read
Scripture, read articles on Boundless, listened to Mark Driscoll sermons and
wrote to Candice who graciously responded. (Much to my shock!)
Going back to Japan was never a serious question, even when we were in a
relationship, because I had already made a commitment to go. I just didn't know
how long I would be there. To make our relationship work though, Tien and I made
a commitment to head toward marriage. So two years of Skype
dates, fights, pre-engagement counseling, prayers, tears, him visiting Japan, me
visiting home, an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster later ... we were
both finally ready to make it official. I flew back to the States for my good
friend's wedding, and the day after, he proposed on a bridge to symbolize Jesus
being our bridge to God, each other and our foundation, because without Him we wouldn't
Tien flew to Japan to have our engagement ceremony (since you're not really
considered engaged until the ceremony in Japan!) and I came home to the States
a month later to prepare for my sister's wedding and then my own.
We got married Aug. 12, 2012, and I am SOOOOOO happy we did.
Our first dance song was "Dancing in the Minefields" by Andrew
Peterson (a song I first heard on Boundless) and I love that it's the song for
our wedding video, too, because our wedding video makes everything look perfect
and "happily ever after," but we know that marriage can be a "minefield," but we
don't need to fear with Jesus walking with us. So far, though, it's been great,
and we highly recommend marriage!
Are you engaged or newly married? We'd love to hear your story! Email us at email@example.com. By sending your story to us, we're assuming that you're giving us permission to share it with other readers; please let us know if you want us to change your names or not publish your story.
I’m not a fearful person by nature; in fact, I love adventure
and have the attitude of “I’ll try anything (most anything!) once." But in December I was in a really scary car accident,
and as a result, I’ve been a little fearful about driving. My car was totaled
when I spun on an icy highway, hit the median and ended up facing on-coming
traffic ... so it’s not surprising that I would be less than eager to drive,
especially on the highway at night. Of course, feeling a little shaken up after
such an experience is natural, but my fear went even deeper than getting behind
Though I was fortunate to walk away from the accident with
nothing more than a few scrapes from the airbag, the thought of what could have happened was perhaps the
scariest part. I very easily could have been hit head-on by the cars behind me.
In fact, this accident has been the first time I’ve really been aware of my own
mortality and how easily my life could have ended that night.
Not wanting to let this fear rule my life, I’ve been asking
the Lord to help me not be afraid. The Bible has a lot to tell us about fear,
so I’ve been reminding myself of a few Scriptures. But more than that, I’m reminding myself that God can be trusted
with everything, even my very life. This idea is so basic to Christianity, yet
often my faith is not tested in such a way that I really have to act on this
It seems to me
that when God tells us to “fear not” in the Bible, it’s followed by some
promise of His presence. Isaiah 41:10, for example: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I
will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right
hand.” I know this truth in my head,
but really believing it and letting the truth take root in my heart has been
the challenge. But His presence is enough. Enough for whatever I may face, no
Now before I go all Debbie Downer in this post, there
is a positive result of being reminded how fragile our lives are. It’s a
reminder that this world is not our home — that something better, something right is on the other side. The fear,
the pain, the struggles that we each face will be no more. The promise of
heaven really does mean we don’t have to fear anything, not even death.
So tomorrow I’ll get in my car, take a deep
breath, and remember that God is with me, and because He is enough, I don’t have
to be afraid. I’m so glad I can rest in this security, aren’t you?
You might think that making friends and maintaining friendships should get easier as we age. After all, we know ourselves better, and we've had lots of time to "practice" being friends. Some evidence, however, suggests that cultivating friendships after age 30 is perhaps more difficult — for both singles and marrieds.
Personally, I've found this to be true. By the time I get done taking care of my family's most basic needs and discharging my full-time work responsibilities, there's often not much time left to invest in friendships. I had chalked it up to the intense realities of this season, but it seems I'm not the only one who's struggled to maintain friendships in his 30s and 40s.
Wesley Hill, who serves as an assistant professor of biblical studies at the evangelical Anglican seminary Trinity School for Ministry, recently reflected in the Catholic journal First Things on some reasons why maintaining friendships as we get older is more difficult, as well as offering some down-to-earth suggestions for how singles and marrieds might form and sustain meaningful, life-giving connections.
In studies of peer groups, Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California, observed that people tended to interact with fewer people as they moved toward midlife, but that they grew closer to the friends they already had. Basically, she suggests, this is because people have an internal alarm clock that goes off at big life events, like turning 30. It reminds them that time horizons are shrinking, so it is a point to pull back on exploration and concentrate on the here and now. … As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.
Hill says that there may still be seasons in which those three conditions for friendships flourish (such as in academic settings, for instance). But when they don't, what do we do?
First, I appreciate the fact that Hill, who's single, doesn't automatically accept the accidental demographic division that often separates singles and marrieds into relational ghettos. Instead, he talks about how he's intentionally sought to cultivate relationships with married people.
My post-college friendships with married people have each involved frequent planned interactions. I think of the middle-aged couple with teenage children at my church in Minnesota with whom I had lunch (that stretched into dinner) every Sunday afternoon. I think of the couple my age who lived next door to me in England. We attended the same church, and we had a standing Wednesday dinner appointment. Throughout the week, there would be other spontaneous times of seeing one another, but we always knew that on Wednesday at least, we’d be together. … Being able to count on these interactions, rather than having to expend the energy each week to schedule time together with friends, gave me a great deal of emotional security.
Second, and this is what I found most intriguing (actually, my wife found it intriguing, and she pointed me toward this article), Hill talks about marrieds and singles treating each other almost as family in certain specific cases:
The 'after 30' friendships that I’ve made with married people have all depended in large measure on my married friends’ treating me not as a frequent guest but like an uncle to their children. While in Durham [England], two of my close couple friends asked me to be a godfather to their children. Being a godparent doesn’t necessarily (or even often, in our culture, I guess) guarantee frequent interaction, but in my case, it meant that I was with these two couples so much that it began to seem natural for me to go on family outings with them, to read books to their children before bedtime, even to share in household chores. I suspect many single Christians feel out of place in churches that place such a premium on programming for families in part because many families are not prepared to welcome single people as permanent members of their circle. But in my case, in Durham at least, I didn’t feel that dichotomy — between couples (or singles) with children and (childless) single people — as sharply as I might have because my close parent friends made clear to me that they considered me part of their family.
I like the vision for integrating singles and marrieds in the church that Hill has outlined here. It's not rocket science. Then again, what he's suggested does require commitment and intentionality, thoughtfulness and effort — as well as challenging the de facto status quo that so easily isolates singles and marrieds as we get older.
For most of my adult Christian life, the New Year has meant
some type of recommitment or recalibration of my daily time in God’s Word. It
seems I’ve started dozens of different reading plans in my years as Christ’s
disciple but have, unfortunately, failed to finish many of them. I don’t know
if its laziness, poor discipline or some secret strategy of the satanic empire,
but maintaining the habit of Bible reading is hard work. Over the years, I’ve
been blessed by several bits of advice that have made my times in God’s Word
fresh, consistent and anxiety free.
1. Create Space
A deeply rooted time in God’s Word requires space, or as
David McIntyre put it, “a quiet place, a quiet hour, and a quiet heart.”
We must find a place and time that is free of distractions. Additionally, we
must learn to quiet our own hearts. Personally, I prefer first thing in the
morning, but others may prefer the middle of the day or evening. Create your
own space and set every possible interruption on “Do Not Disturb.”
2. Manage Your Expectations
Most new habits grow slowly and die quickly. If you don’t
have a regular habit of reading God’s Word, it’s wise to start slowly. You
might start by reading a few verses and thinking about them throughout the day.
Most reading plans are fairly aggressive in how much Scripture to read daily. It’s OK to slow down and read yearly plans in two or even three years. You may
benefit more for meditating on one or two verses for 10 minutes than breezing
through three or four chapters in that same time. Set realistic goals and
manage your expectations.
3. Plan to Miss
One of my biggest frustrations with Bible reading plans is
getting behind. I remember one time missing several days and realizing I needed
to read over 10 pages in Leviticus to catch up. No offense to the writer of
Leviticus, but that’s just rough. So, whatever plan you establish, be sure to
leave room for a few missed days. If getting behind tends to derail your plan,
design your plan in a way that it will be impossible to get behind.
4. Balance Your Diet
I personally enjoy reading in many different places in the
Scripture each day. Many plans are designed this way already. All Scripture is
beneficial for our souls, but verses in Deuteronomy will work in us differently
than a Psalm, Proverb, Prophecy, Parable or Promise. So, we need to grow from
verses that are easy to understand, and we need to grow from verses that are
harder to understand. Think of it like nutrition, and balance your spiritual diet.
5. Pray Before, During and After
One mistake I made early in my life was separating times of
prayer from times of Bible reading. As I’ve grown, I realized that prayer is
essential for gleaning from God’s Word. Before reading God’s Word, I pray that
the Holy Spirit would open the eyes of my heart and help me to love what I'm about to read.
I pray that He would “sanctify me by the truth of His Word” (John 17:17).
While reading, I regularly pause and ask God to make me like
what I’m reading. Just this morning, I read about the stoning of Stephen. As
the crowd threw stones to kill, Stephen prayed, “Lord, do not hold this
sin against them” (Acts 7:60) and I prayed, “Lord, make me like Stephen. No
matter what people do to me, may my heart sincerely long for their forgiveness.”
After reading, I thank God for the gift of His Word. I thank Him for specific things I’ve read and ask Him to help me remember them. I ask
for power to obey every command, hope in every promise, believe every truth and
amen every prayer. Prayer is gasoline on the spark of God’s Word.
6. Reading Bible
I recommend having a Bible you designate solely for your daily
reading. It should be in a solid translation (I recommend the ESV) and without
study notes. This should be a Bible that is easy to read and reread and reread.
I don’t underline, highlight or mark in mine. I have other Bibles that I mark
up, but my reading Bible I keep clean on purpose. I do this to keep from biasing
future readings of the Scriptures. In years to come, the Holy Spirit may draw
my attention to different verses, and I don’t want my mind to jump to or focus
on verses I’d previously underlined or highlighted. I want my daily reading to
be fresh every time I read. (I've written more about this idea here.)
So, here’s what I do. Every morning, I read in 10 different
places in God’s Word (this is a plan I learned from Professor Grant Horner). I
keep 10 bookmarks in these 10 different sections of my reading Bible. Some
mornings I read in all 10 sections. Other days I read more in one place and
skip another. My priority is keeping myself moving in all 10 areas of God’s
I love this plan because I’m never behind, and I can prioritize areas I need
to read more. For instance, this spring I'm teaching a class on Psalms and have been reading more in that section as I prepare. One of my sections is the book of Proverbs and another is the book of Acts.
In a given month, I often move through the entire book of Proverbs and the
entire book of Acts. With this plan, I am free to design it so I move through some books more frequently than others, even while I'm moving through all Scripture. And did I mention I'm never behind?
You don’t have to use my plan. In fact, there are many great reading
plans to choose from. Above all, keep striving to grow in consistency and in your love for the Lord Jesus Christ. He's what it's all about. I pray 2013 will be a year of growth in God’s Word for you!
As a writer, I'm always interested in how people use (and abuse) words. I'm especially interested in what I call magic words — the kind used not to promote calm, clear thought, but to cast a spell and move an audience to fall in line with the speaker's desires.
For Americans, "equality" can be one of those words. If someone demands it, we're not supposed to ask questions or draw distinctions — to ask, "Equality between what and what?," to carefully consider whether those things are, in fact, of equal worth. We're just supposed to agree that the demand is just and that to deny it is not only unjust but cruel — a type of personal assault against those making the demand. To deny it, then, is to risk putting your own motives under suspicion. (Are you a bigot? A "hater?")
So I can see why supporters of same-sex marriage have taken to calling their cause "marriage equality" — insisting that their unions must be considered every bit as good as those of men and women, in every way. But this begs the question: Are they equal? Truly?
To believe that they are, you have to overlook some pretty huge stuff.
The really remarkable thing about men and women is that they're so different, yet so complementary. As J. Budziszewski put it in "The Seeker," "They're not just different, they match. There is something in male emotional design to which only the female can give completion, and something in female emotional design to which only the male can give completion." Together, they're far more than the sum of their parts and more than any two people of the same sex can ever be. Among other things, as Budzisewski also said in "Homophobia: An Unfinished Story," "One of the purposes of marital sex is to get you outside your Self and its concerns, to achieve intimacy with someone who is Really Other." Homosexuality simply can't do that: "It's too much like loving your reflection." (Surely the main reason so many gay male couples routinely cheat on each other by mutual consent is that they are both men.)
The benefits of marriage for husband and wife are too numerous to list. But the most important benefits are for the children. Mom and Dad together bring far more to the table than two "Moms" or two "Dads" ever could. More than that, both Mom and Dad are essential to showing the child what it's like to be of his or her own gender, and to relate to the other. A boy learns to be a man through his father, learns about women through his mother, and learns about how men and women interact by watching both of them together. There's no way he can do without either Mom or Dad without missing out on so many valuable, precious things.
We can't always prevent this tragedy for every child. But we certainly shouldn't pretend that it's not a tragedy. Yet by the iron logic of "equality," that's exactly what we're supposed to do. By that logic, for example, an adoption agency that can place a child with a Mom and a Dad would be forbidden to give them any preference over a same-sex couple: That would be "discrimination." The result is a kind of child sacrifice. The child must be deprived of either a Mom or a Dad in order to satisfy the demands of the ideological gods of our
Enough already: Let's break the spell and think clearly. "Equality" is not necessarily good. "Discrimination" is not necessarily bad. Indeed, to "discriminate" — in the proper sense of the word — simply means to make distinctions between things that are, in fact, different. That's not bigotry. That's sanity.
Happy New Year, Boundless family! Whether 2012 was amazing in your book, or something you'd rather shake off and forget, it's time to move on and look ahead to 2013.
What are you anticipating this year? How do you plan to live the year (yes, I'm gonna say it) intentionally?
Before we look ahead, let's take one more look back at some of the best podcast content of 2012. Here's our second and final installment in our "best of" series to finish out the year. Maybe one of these segments will inspire you as you plan for the coming months.
In the meantime, what were your favorite topics or interviews from the past year?
Church for Men -- 00:00
When Martha first handed me David Murrow's"Where Have the Men Gone?" I
said, "Good grief." There were several things I disagreed with and a
few more I knew would be misunderstood by readers. But I'm no expert on
men, nor am I a man attempting to navigate today's church culture. I
decided we'd let Murrow make his case. I told Martha to (after a few
edits — we're not masochists) run the article; then I prayed. You may
have read the piece and formed your opinion already — or maybe not.
Either way, listen in as several of us react to the article and its
particulars. Then tell us what you think about this thorny "men and the
The Power of a Minute --28:13
Long before Wess Stafford
was president of Compassion International, he was a small boy growing
up in a West African village. Several powerful encounters influenced him
— for good and for bad — during that season of life. And he's never
forgotten them. Join me and the author of Too Small to Ignore and Just a Minute as we discuss the power we have to influence others forever, even in small, seemingly insignificant moments.
Christian Nice Guys --1:00:22
We hear from a lot
of ladies who feel overlooked by the single men in their spheres, but
we've learned that the feeling cuts both ways. Guys complain of being
passed by, too, and this listener wants to know why he's dubbed the
"Christian nice guy" who apparently isn't dateable. Fortunately John
Thomas is here to offer some encouragement and advice.
As I've talked about before, I loved the Little House on the Prairie series when I was young. In fact, I loved anything that related to pioneer days. I liked the idea of baking my own bread and wearing long skirts and petticoats. I liked that people were so polite to one another — the kids called the adults "Mr." and "Mrs.," and a guy who was interested in a girl would ask her to the ice cream social and throw his jacket on the ground so she didn't have to walk through puddles.
But apparently the days of that kind of chivalry are gone. A recent article in the Atlantic pointed out that when a cruise ship capsized about a year ago, men pushed past women and children in order to get on the lifeboats. Women and children first — not any longer.
The Atlantic article called for a return to chivalry, noting that chivalry is not sexist or degrading. It is something that benefits both men and women. The article said that both feminists and traditionalists can appreciate chivalry because, instead of pointing out women as weaker, it honors women as worthy of respect.
Chivalry is grounded in a fundamental reality that defines the
relationship between the sexes, she explains. Given that most men are
physically stronger than most women, men can overpower women at any time
to get what they want. Gentlemen developed symbolic practices to
communicate to women that they would not inflict harm upon them and
would even protect them against harm. The tacit assumption that men
would risk their lives to protect women only underscores how valued
women are—how elevated their status is—under the system of chivalry.
As has been discussed on this blog before, there has been some confusion for men as feminist ideas have grown in the culture. Is it OK to open a door for a woman or not? Is it demeaning to help a woman with her groceries or to walk her to the door? Has the fight for equality for women tried too hard to blur the line between the reality of the differences between the two sexes?
I have always appreciated when guys act chivalrously. I am a fairly independent woman, and I don't see myself as needy or weak. But when a guy opens my car door, I really appreciate it. Like the Atlantic article pointed out, it shows a certain level of respect and honor. And in our culture where everyone — men and women — are so individualistic and quick to look out for themselves, it is nice to see politeness and gentlemanly behavior.
Chivalry is about respect. It is about not harming or hurting others,
especially those who are more vulnerable than you. It is about putting
other people first and serving others often in a heroic or courageous
manner. It is about being polite and courteous. In other words, chivalry
in the age of post-feminism is another name we give to civility. When
we give up on civility, understood in this way, we can never have
relationships that are as meaningful as they could be.
So, I say bring chivalry back! (I'd like a spot on the lifeboat.) But I also think it is a way for men to honor and respect the women around them, which is something I think any woman — feminist or not — can appreciate.
New Year’s resolutions: Love them or hate them? For me, it’s
a mixed bag. The Type A personality in me loves the idea of setting goals and
finding the discipline to stick them out, no matter how hard. The pragmatist in
me thinks they’re dumb, especially when my own experience and a quick look at
my local gym show me most people last less than 60 days with their New Year’s resolutions.
Not to over-spiritualize the making or breaking of
resolutions, but I'm often disturbed how quickly we can make decisions and then
lose our resolve. Christ calls us to a life of ever-deepening relationship with
Him and growth in our character. So if resolutions help us get there, that’s
great. But if they are a way we give lip service to something that we know we won’t
follow through on, perhaps we need to re-examine this yearly habit.
To follow Jesus’ exhortation in Matthew 5:33 to keep the
oaths we make, I normally use this time of year to make “resolutions” with my
own twist. Rather than writing an exhaustive — or even short, yet unattainable — list of resolutions, I prefer to spend some time thinking about the past year
and the upcoming year. Rather than setting goals like “lose 10 pounds this
year,” I try to look at the year that’s gone by and consider the patterns I’ve
fallen into and if they’re healthy or harmful.
Here are some of the questions I ask myself:
What did I struggle with in the last year?
How did I grow?
What areas of my life do I think God would like
to see growth?
From these questions, I think through some of the areas that
I can and should work on in the coming year, and I write those down. I can’t
say this method is fool-proof — I still forget and find myself drifting in my
strength of resolve — but I prefer it to the light-hearted resolutions that I
will forget or fail at before January is over.
Another way I sometimes approach New Year’s is through a
quick look at the kinds of books I’ve been reading and the amount of
entertainment (namely, TV) that I’ve allowed into my life. Occasionally, I will
choose some books that I’d like to dive into — or finish — in the New Year.
I haven’t fully decided on the areas that I need to work on in 2013, but as I’ve
started reading Francis Chan’s book The
Forgotten God, I’ve seen that there are some areas in my Christian life —
namely, the work of the Holy Spirit — that I need to develop in a greater way.
What about you? Do you make
resolutions? How long do you manage to keep them?
One of my favorite — and one of the more
challenging — parts of my job as editor of Boundless is deciding what to
publish each week. It's a delicate balance of giving you our readers what you
want and what you need as we work to help you mature in Christ as the
foundation for marriage and family.
Throughout the year, it's exciting to
see what resonates with readers, and I'm often personally challenged and
encouraged by the things our authors write. My favorite article from 2012
didn't make the top-10 list below, so I'll add it here as a bonus: "The Monster Within"
by George Halitzka, which we published around Easter. For me it was a sober
reminder of the sinful nature in all of us and how only by God's grace was I
not a criminal crucified next to Jesus.
Here is a list of the 10 most
popular new articles we published this year.
10. How to Get the Men Back
by David Murrow — This article, by the
author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, shares some tips on how
churches can win their young men back and the role single women can play in
9. Sex Series: Sexy Single
Men by Daniel Weiss — "What does a normal, healthy, single man in
today’s society look like?" This article answers that question.
8. The Big Five by
Aaron Stern — Here are five questions that will help a couple know if they
should get married.
7. I Pursued by
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin — Three Christian guys talk about the process of
pursuing their wives and why marriage is worth it.
6. What's a Guy to Do?
by Elisabeth Adams — Tips for how a man can behave so he does not induce women
around him to lust
This week and next we have compiled some of our favorite podcast segments from 2012. We'd love for you to share this "best of" show with your friends, and let us know in the comments below what topics or guests you enjoyed most this past year.
Happy New Year!
Shame on You -- 00:00
A listener question prompted this week's roundtable. She struggles
with shame around her singleness, brought on not only by the lies she
tells herself, but by the comments she receives from her friends and
family. It got our panel to thinking about how a struggle with the
"shame" of singleness has affected us. Join us for a heartfelt (and
hard!) discussion about finding joy in a sometimes dark place.
Marriage Is Messy -- 31:11
Mark and Grace Driscoll's
marriage should be a bad statistic, but by the grace of God, it's not.
They're still together and doing better than ever as they take life and
love one day at a time. They're also not afraid to share their
journey in hopes of helping other couples avoid the mistakes they made,
and their new book Real Marriage reflects much of their story.
We talk about some of it here as Mark and Grace unpack themes like
friendship, men in marriage, respect, the effects of abuse and other
Lonely People -- 1:03:03
Most of us realize that with singleness comes loneliness. But did we
ever expect it to be this hard? Our listener asks for help in navigating
her feelings on this issue, and I draw from my own experience and the
wisdom of others (including Jesus!) to help her out.