“Women are Most Beautiful at 30; Men are Most Handsome at 34”

I heard that little tidbit on the Today Show.  Apparently I’m well over a whole decade past my beauty prime.  That’s vanity, yes.  If this physical body was all I knew and cared about, I might be tempted to console myself with chocolate. (I might do that anyway.)  But even though our society idolizes the beautiful body, the Christian knows that “beauty is vain” and “the Lord looks on the heart” (Prov. 31:30; 1 Sam. 16:7).

The truth is that I’ve got a long way to go before I reach my true beauty prime.  God prizes a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:3,4).  Holy women adorn themselves by submitting to their own husbands (1 Pet. 3:5,6), and clothing themselves with strength and dignity (Prov. 31:25).  Dressing our best means practicing righteous acts (Rev. 19:8).  You see, presentation is everything to God, too, but He wants us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him (Rom. 12:1).  Gentleness, submission, honor, holiness, and serving others–this is real beauty that never fades.

As someone once said, “You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen.  But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your own soul’s doing.”  Those who are conforming to the image of Christ have this confidence:  “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).

Prayer for Today:  Lord, help me remove all ugliness from my heart.

**This post can also be viewed at:  LivingWell


Shining or Shaming?

Teaching (and even admonishing) can be done without insulting or disparaging others.  Righteous indignation is something Christians will and should feel, but surely that doesn’t give us the right to passionately belittle others.  How we speak is just as important as what we speak.  And although tone is not as easily “heard” in print, word choice conveys quite a bit of the attitude behind the writer.  When making a point, orally or typewritten, consider the following reasons to omit offensive language:

To practice the Golden Rule.  We all want to learn and grow, which involves being reproved at times.  But none of us wants an insult included with the rebuke.  We would feel personally attacked instead of lovingly corrected.  We would ask the one teaching or admonishing us to do so without being ugly or smart-alecky.  So if we prefer to be taught with respect, why would it be okay to teach someone else in a disrespectful way (Matt. 7:12)?

To avoid sounding like the world.  Rudeness and name-calling are all around us.  We’re to act differently, and react differently.  Our words when teaching, correcting, or convincing need to be obviously loving, or we’re guilty of conforming to the world in an area the Bible places great emphasis on–our speech (Col. 4:6).

To demonstrate love.  The people in our lives that we dearly love sometimes need admonishing.  How do we speak to them?  Patiently.  Kindly.  Tenderly.  We would never dream of hurting or ridiculing them; we just want to help them!  So we choose our words carefully in hopes of conveying that.  If love is our motivation behind convicting others, let’s make sure no one ever has to question that (1 Cor. 13:4).

To avoid detracting from the message.  Some might think that using scorn or derision makes what we have to say more emphatic.  It emphasizes something alright.  It emphasizes the personality of the speaker/ teacher.  Is that the objective?  Speaking the truth in a respectful way does not dilute it or make it less meaningful.  On the contrary, it shows we care about getting it right (Eph. 4:15).

To represent the Lord’s church accurately.  The world is watching and listening.  They see our interactions with one another.  What are they supposed to think when they see us insulting others (while supposedly standing for what’s right), using words like “stupid,” “idiotic,” etc.?  They know disrespect when they see it, and it has no business coming out of the mouths (or keyboards) of Christians (John 13:35).

We must teach and admonish, but we must also be careful to do so in a way that shines the Light instead of shaming the church.

Prayer for Today:  Lord, may my passionate convictions be tempered with the tongue of lovingkindness.  

25 Ways to Keep Christ at the Center of My Life

I love this list so much that I made three copies of it.  I put one on our refrigerator, one on the boys’ bathroom wall, and one at eye level where the ironing board is (not that I spend a lot of time there).   This list first appeared in Neal’s “Daily Bread” about a year ago (and can also be found on his blog, http://www.preacherpollard.wordpress.com), but I wanted to share it here because I had an idea.  What if we all focus on one suggestion each day, using the number on the list that coordinates with the date?  That means today we’ll focus on #11, “I will reflect meaningfully on the price He paid at Calvary.”  Each month, start over again so that after a year of “25 Ways” in 25 days, keeping Christ at the center of our lives should be pretty ingrained.  We can share this challenge with our children and discuss it in family devotionals at the end of the day.  We can ask best friends to join in the challenge with us, and email each other encouragement.  Bible class teachers can turn this into a group effort by giving a list to each of the students.  Let’s see how much of a difference we can make in our families, churches, and communities by sharing this exciting challenge to grow ever closer to Christ!

Suggestions for how to focus on the list each day:

  1. Start and end each day with a prayer about the specific way to keep Christ at the center.
  2. Keep a journal.  Jot down Scriptures related to it, along with personal reflections.
  3. Find at least one practical way to act on it.

25 Ways to Keep Christ in the Center of My Life

By Neal Pollard

  1. I will absorb myself in the practice of prayer
  2. I will actively practice kindness
  3. I will find someone each day with whom to share Him
  4. I will watch what I allow to grow in my heart
  5. I will consider carefully how what I do effects my influence
  6. I will actively encourage the people I daily encounter
  7. I will assume and look for the best in others
  8. I will nurture a hatred of sin and a love of sinners
  9. I will treat Scripture as daily nourishment for my soul
  10. I will keep a spiritual song in my heart
  11. I will reflect meaningfully on the price He paid at Calvary
  12. I will guard my tongue
  13. I will think longingly about heaven
  14. I will contemplate ways to be involved in the church’s work
  15. I will love His church with a passion
  16. I will cut out the tendency to rationalize or defend wrongdoing
  17. I will be discerning about what is spiritual and what is worldly
  18. I will grow in my understanding of what true love is
  19. I will humbly acknowledge the greatness and power of God
  20. I will do all within my power to help answer His prayer for unity
  21. I will pursue souls with the same vigor that He did
  22. I will look for ways to turn the conversation to the spiritual
  23. I will long for times of worship and devotion
  24. I will care less and less about my rights, feelings, and desires
  25. I will think, speak, act, and look more like Him every day

Prayer for Today:  May I do all I can, dear Lord, to make it obvious that I belong to You.

Beware the Strangler Fig!

Once you hear the fascinating story of the strangler fig, you will shiver every time you see one.  The strangler fig is a large canopy tree that begins its life in an unusual way.  The seed is deposited by bird droppings on a branch of another tree.  As the seed grows, it stretches out in both directions, down toward the ground so it can build a root system, and up toward the sky so it can reach the sunlight through the jungle growth.  The strangler fig grows aggressively, and soon its roots choke off the nutrients of the host tree, while its leaves prevent the host tree from getting sunlight.  Before long, nothing is left of the host but a hollow center.  The common name for this dark jungle dweller is the banyan tree, which sounds a lot more benign than calling it what it is.  And you know where I’m going with this.  Seeds are deposited on us all the time.  Unlike the host tree of the strangler fig, we have a choice as to whether or not the little seeds grow and take over.

The seed of unpleasantness- You’ve had it dropped on you.  No matter how positive you try to be, or how much good you try to do, someone will find fault.  Someone will criticize or say something thoughtless.  You can brush it off, or you can feed it until it you find yourself resenting others.  Common name:  I’mAVictim.  Real name:  Bitterness

The seed of sensuality- It’s everywhere.  Ladies, it’s not just a problem for guys who stare at a computer all day.  It’s in TV shows like Desperate You-Name-It or The Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars.  It’s in magazines.  It’s graphically portrayed in novels.  It can even be found on Pinterest.  It can smother out all sense of purity and wholesomeness.  Common name:  Entertainment.  Real name:  Pornography.

The seed of whispering- Will you join in the conversation?  It doesn’t take much to become a participant, to look forward to the chatter, to contribute what you know.  Common name:  Confiding.  Real name:  Gossip.

The seed of chemistry- A glance here, a little flirtation there, or an exchange of emails or texts that makes your heart flutter and your cheeks hot…there’s nothing harmless about it.  It has an aggressive growth rate.  It damages relationships, and soon you might find yourself guilty of the one thing you thought you’d never do.  Common name:  Affair. Real name:  Adultery.

No matter what we’re exposed to, faced with, or tempted by, we have the choice to nip it in the bud (ha!) from the very beginning (1 Cor. 10:13), or we can let it grow and smother out the Light until nothing is left but a hollow shell of who we’re supposed to be.  “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).

Prayer for Today:  May I always be aware of any sin trying to take root in my heart.

Our group under a strangler fig at an Angkor temple in Cambodia
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