Category: 2012

Book Spotlight: Captivating

captivatingCaptivating
by John and Stasi Eldredge

Target Audience: All
Great for men who want to know about the woman’s soul.
Recommended for husbands and fathers.

How did God design the female heart? How does He glorify Himself through the feminine design?

The Lord has designed women to represent His passionate and caring spirit. The woman’s soul is indeed beautiful – it brings glory to the character of God in many ways. But women face deep heartaches and challenges; this fallen world has inflicted on them wounds and trials that specifically target their deepest fears. Satan’s lies are strong and painful, and they seek to destroy the beauty of femininity.

Stasi, along with her husband John Eldredge (the author of Wild at Heart), speaks of the wonder of the feminine design, and what it means to God, man, and the world.

Topics covered:

  • The desires of a woman’s heart
  • Fears and trials that women face
  • Wounds women struggle to heal from
  • The female desire for passion and romance
  • Women in relationship to men and their children
  • Women as warriors
  • The beauty of each woman in how she was made
  • Lies Satan whispers to women
  • God’s design for and message through women

Available on Amazon

Available on Christianbook.com

Study guide and journal also available

Affairs Don’t Just Happen

affair2The news loves stories about affairs. There is always something about the politician, the superstar, or the infamous athlete who cheated on their spouse. While I watching the news one day, someone next to me responded to one of these types of stories with a nonchalant, “Affairs just happen.”

Do they?

I don’t agree with the idea that affairs are accidental. While there are few that purposely make the decision to be unfaithful, the majority that commit an affair are guilty of failing to protect their marriage. Affairs don’t just happen. They are cultivated; they are given opportunities to solidify.

There are some ways that people encourage affairs:

#1- Daydreaming about someone who isn’t your spouse
2 Corinthians 10:5 says to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” How often do you capture your thoughts? It’s easy to let your mind wander on the possibilities of other romantic and sexual partners, but those thoughts are dangerous. Every action begins with a thought. The more you think about someone other than your spouse, the more likely you are to invite sinful behavior. Fantasies may be thrilling, but they’re damaging. Even though you aren’t acting on your thoughts, you’re still weakening your marriage, and you’re giving Satan a foothold to play with.

#2- Creating intimacy with the opposite sex
Sometimes it’s easier to talk with someone else about how you feel, what you’re going through, and what’s on your heart. But just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean it’s better. Emotional and spiritual intimacy should be present in community groups and with friends, but even more so, it should be present in your marriage. Creating a strong emotional bond with someone who isn’t your spouse can open up the pathway to an affair. Don’t let any friendship be more intimate than your friendship with your spouse.  Talk about intimate things with others who are of the same gender you are.

#3- Failure to pursue your spouse
Marriage is hard, no matter who you’re married to. The idea that you married the wrong person and it would be easier if you had married someone else is ridiculous. But we want that infatuation high; the feeling that this is the person you care about more than anyone, and they feel the same about you. That passionate, romantic feeling is still hiding in your marriage somewhere. Bring it out. Pursue your spouse with romance, affection, consideration, and friendship. It won’t be easy all the time, and you may get rejected quite a few times before making any progress, but it’s worth it.

I have no intentions of pointing my finger at those who have had affairs and declare them guilty; the Lord is the final Judge, not myself. (And the process of forgiving those who have sinned against you with affairs is a topic for another time.) I write this not to make anyone feel guilty, but to make people think about how their actions with the opposite sex affects their marriage. Affairs don’t accidentally appear, they slip in through the unguarded back door. Take extra precautions to safe guard your marriage. It’s worth it.

Your Marriage Masterpiece

marriagemasterpieceYour Marriage Masterpiece
by Al Janssen

Each marriage is a small paint stroke of an incredible masterpiece God has painted to show His deep love for His people. Do you see it?

Using illustrations across the Old and New Testament, Al Janssen pulls away the mysterious veil that obstructs our view of God’s marriage masterpiece. With creative narration and deep insight, Janseen exposes the passionate love of God in a way we all may have overlooked.

Topics Covered:

  • Modern views on the marital relationship
  • Being self-centered and looking for self-fulfillment
  • God’s covenant marriage with His people
  • Pure sexuality and faithfulness in marriage
  • How God fights for His bride – and how we need to fight for our spouse
  • Jesus purchasing His bride with His blood
  • God’s unconditional love despite failure of its return; loving our spouse when it is one-sided
  • The adventure and sacrifice that comes with love and marriage
  • Fictional illustrations of angels learning about God while looking at the marriages of men, perfect life in the Garden before the Fall, God’s prophets speaking against lustful idolatry, and other scenarios presented in the Bible

Study guide available in the back for individual, small group, or couple discussion.

Purchase on Amazon

Purchase on Christianbook.com

Be Anxious for Nothing – Come With Thanksgiving

anxious2“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7

This verse has a lot of weight for me, personally. There were many times in my life where confusion and anxiety possessed my soul. I was afraid to pray about my distress — after all, faith is about never being worried…right? I wish I had known then that despite never saying aloud how I felt, God could still see it. He was standing right there, waiting to give me peace. He couldn’t do that while I was hoarding my anxieties for myself. I had to confess all my fear, anger, confusion, pain, and anxiety first. Then, peace came.

It isn’t always easy to be thankful. When anxiety takes over, it’s hard to see God’s blessings. When your marriage is falling apart, when your heart is broken, when you don’t know if you’re going to wind up alone or not, it’s hard to focus on anything else. Relationships are popular obsessions. And obsessions bring anxiety with them.

Peace won’t come until you lay your anxieties at Jesus’ feet, and you rest in His amazing character. Jesus went through the torture of crucifixion for your soul – He intends to protect His investment. Thanksgiving comes when let go of what is going on around us and we instead focus on who God is and how He loves us. Every character in the Bible went through anxieties; their stories are testimonies to how great God really is.

Challenge: Keep an anxiety journal. Write down everything that is causing you anxiety, confusion, or pain. Pray over your list, then write how God answers you. Write down what you learn about His character. Keep this journal for at least a year. You will see God’s hand in your life in ways you never saw before. When you see Him move, your heart will be overcome with thanksgiving and that peace that surpasses all understanding.

Verses to Meditate On:
Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change his mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?

Proverbs 30:5
Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.

Philippians 4:19
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

1 John 4:10
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Psalms 54:4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.

The Creative Language

creativelanguageEvery person has a creative side. Creativity is the way we choose to express ourselves – our desires, our personality, our joys. So the question is this: are you paying attention to your spouse’s creative side?

I hear a lot of talk about Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. It’s mentioned at marriage conferences, it’s recommended by other relationship writers, and pastors reference it in their sermons. I’ve read it, and I agree that it is a good book. (I don’t like that it makes me look high-maintenance – I have a two-way tie between two languages and a third runner up that doesn’t lag far behind.) But as a creative person, I think there is another language that speaks to me more than quality time and words of affirmation: I want a fan.

When you are creating something, you are pouring your dreams, experiences, and personality into that creation. The same goes for anyone else around you. When your spouse creates, they are saying something about who they are. So pay attention! Does your wife make jewelry? Ask her where she gets the inspiration for her pieces. Does your husband like photography? Give him positive feedback on his shots.

Take the time to get to know your spouse through their creative outlets. Your spouse will feel incredibly loved when you take time to pay attention to their craft – but they will feel incredibly unimportant when you don’t bother to care about it. When you are a fan of your spouse’s creative side, you make them feel loved and accepted for who they are.

God is a Creator. Everything He makes says something about who He is. Although our creations are not even half as impressive, we are still made in the image of God, and our creations speak both of who we are and how God has gifted us. Your spouse’s creativity is something that God put in them. Take the time to acknowledge it, support it, and encourage it.

When You Miss Them

When You Miss Them

Breakups suck. Our hearts don’t like letting go of someone after spending so much time getting to know them. And after the breakup, there are times when memories overwhelm us and we find ourselves missing that person even when we know the relationship was unhealthy or heading nowhere. That kind of nostalgia can become addicting. Here are a few things to do to keep yourself from getting sucked into the black hole of reminiscence.

#1 – Grieve
We may push down grief and refuse to deal with it properly when we think there’s no reason to cry over it, but pain can go on forever if we don’t grieve when it’s necessary. It doesn’t matter if the cut to your heart was made last week or if the cut was made ten years ago – it’s okay to grieve the pain you’re feeling. Avoid the temptation to wallow in self-pity; just release any emotion that has its hold on you by doing something that helps you grieve, whether it’s praying, crying, writing, or talking to someone.

#2 – Look at the Big Picture
After you’ve grieved, you need to remember why it didn’t work out in the first place. Accept the situation with a forgiving spirit. Don’t make a list of why your ex was a terrible person, but feel free to state the struggles that would have arisen if you two had stayed together. Think about what you’ve learned since your breakup. How have you matured in character? What have you learned about relationships in general? How have you spiritually grown? Once you’ve meditated on how far you’ve come, decide on where you’re heading next.

#3 – Get Busy
If you’re sitting around thinking about your ex, it’s time to find something else to do. Get to work on that great novel you’ve always wanted to write, volunteer at a local charity, or call up a friend for coffee. Do something creative, fun, and enriching. Wave goodbye to your past life and embrace your future. You can and will have good times once again. Don’t lose hope – keep moving forward.

What not to do when you miss them:
Contact your ex – When you miss someone, it’s tempting to talk to them again for a quick emotional fix, but that route will only end with you missing them more. You’ll walk away feeling worse. Talk to a friend, pastor, or counselor instead.

Pull out the photo album, or go to old hangouts – Looking at pictures of you two at the beach or heading down to the restaurant where you had your first date will tempt you to stay in the past more than it will encourage you to move forward. Find adventure in new places that are free of bittersweet memories.

Hooked on a Feeling

hook3Have you ever woken up in a bad mood for no apparent reason? Have you ever became angry and frustrated when only minutes beforehand you were enjoying everything about life?

Feelings are strange creatures. At times they are appropriate and sensible, at other times they are irrational and ill-founded. They can come in with the wind and then leave with it, or they can hover in the heart beyond their welcome. They can lead us into dark places just as easily as they lead us into good ones.

Don’t get me wrong – feelings are good things. They are an essential part of enjoying life. The problem is that we let them control us. Our feelings dictate our actions. We make bad decisions because our feelings blind us from good ones.

The largest feeling we allow to blind us is love. This can be seen in the man or woman who leaves their spouse saying, “We don’t love each other anymore.” It is seen in the man or woman who stays in an unhealthy dating relationship because they “love them.” Love has been watered down to a good excuse; a reason for executing any action we please whether it is right or wrong, loyal or disloyal, healthy or addicting. We let this “love” control us. We let it dictate us. And sometimes, we even let it destroy us.

The Problem With “Love”

“Love” is a word we don’t define correctly. When we think of the word “love” we think of that feeling we get when we see a member of the opposite sex holding a cute baby, or when we have a fond memory of our parents, or when we see a picture of a pile of grammatically incorrect kittens. But none of these feelings are love. They’re good feelings, but they’re not love.

The root of the problem is limited vocabulary. Although there are many words for adoring something or someone, the default word we go to in the English language is “love.” Because it’s our default word, its definition becomes vague. If you say you love football and then you turn to me and tell me you love me, how do I translate it? Do you love football and me with the same intensity? Do you have one type of love for football and another type of love for me? And most importantly, does your idea of “love” match up with mine?

We say “I love you” when we feel affectionate towards something or someone. And since that seems universally acceptable, we decide that love is a feeling. Then we decide that our romantic relationships are supposed to be built on this feeling. So in our logic we decide that if the feeling doesn’t exist then the relationship doesn’t need to either. The result? Incredibly messy, painful, and complicated relationships.

Built on Love

So should relationships really be based on love? Not this kind of love. Not the kind of love that feels strong one day and disappears with the next. That sort of love is a fickle beast. There is nothing constant or solid about it.

So what, then, is the real definition of love? What love is solid and created to be built upon?

Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Here we find what love really looks like

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (NKJV)

As you can see by this passage, love is not intended to be rooted in feelings. Love is action taken despite feelings. We should base all relationships on love, but not on the type of “love” rooted in feelings; relationships should be built on the kind of love that exists when feelings don’t.

Real love involves commitment, loyalty, and hard work. Love goes beyond happy feelings, and pours into serving someone else even when affectionate feelings are absent. Love is what remains when infatuation has ebbed.

Does this mean that all dating relationships are healthy, solid relationships if they are built on the foundation of proper love? No. Just as there are those who leave a relationship wrongly because of feelings, there are those who stay in a relationship wrongly because of feelings.

The foundation for all relationships should be the type of love shown in 1 Corinthians 13, but a dating relationship needs a few extra considerations.

Good Foundations

Romantic relationships heading towards marriage need to mix more elements into their foundation to make them sturdy enough for marriage. Dating relationships should be founded on:

Mutual beliefs – Your beliefs are the foundation of who you are and how you live your life. You can get along well with people of opposite religions and beliefs, and you can even have good chemistry with them, but that doesn’t mean you will do well as life partners. The idea of marriage is to become one unit; that is an incredibly challenging task if you oppose one another spiritually. Don’t enter into a relationship thinking that maybe later they will have a change in heart. No relationship should be based on “maybe later.”

Mutual relationship views – There is bound to be heartbreak when one person is dating with the intention of marriage while the other is simply playing the field. It is tempting to think that you can change someone’s mind when it comes to how they view relationships, but don’t place your bet on it. Find someone who has the same level of commitment as you do.

Mutual direction – If your greatest desire is to settle down and have six kids in the middle of suburbia, and your sweetheart’s goal in life is to be a missionary in the most dangerous parts of Africa, one of you is going to end up being miserable. Everyone has a calling on his or her life and it’s important to consider that when dating someone. This may not be deal breaker; if your callings don’t line up completely that doesn’t mean your relationship will fail. But do consider what sacrifices have to be made if your callings are in separate directions, and what roadblocks are going to appear if your callings oppose each other. You want someone you can walk towards a common goal with.

With feelings as fickle as they are, they should not be the main determiner of whether or not to stay in a relationship. We should not let our feelings control us. Although we should not deny or undermine our feelings, we should found our relationships on something stronger: a real love that exists when feelings don’t, and wisdom to realize when our feelings are blinding us from making the right decisions.

Gift Idea: Romantic Fill in the Blank Coupons

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWant a fresh twist on the romantic coupon scene? Try out these fun fill-in-the-blank coupons! Let your sweetheart choose what they desire for the evening. These coupons encourage your date to be fun and creative with their responses. Maybe they like a candlelit mac ‘n’ cheese dinner? Or perhaps drinks at a café in the next state over?

We’ve made 10 different fill-in-the-blank coupons for you, plus two completely blank coupons for whatever sweet interlude your date wishes!

Just print our fill-in-the-blank-coupons on white card stock paper, wrap with ribbon, and enjoy!