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Archive for the ‘How To Prepare Yourself.’ Category

How to Find and Fulfill Your Destiny.

Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Tony Evans‘s new book,Destiny: Let God Use You Like He Made You, (Harvest House, 2013).

What does God want you to do with your life? Are you doing it?

If you’re not yet sure about what destiny God has for you, the answer doesn’t have to remain a mystery any longer. By seeking a closer relationship with your Creator, you can discover and fulfill what He has created you to do. Here’s how:

Consider why it’s important to start living according to your destiny. Living out your destiny will give you greater fulfillment, direction, stability, significance, identity, and provision in your life. Don’t settle for less than the best God has for you, which is to find and fulfill your destiny every day that you live.

Don’t confuse busyness with purpose. While it’s noble to be busy working for God, make sure that you’re seeking God’s will for your work rather than just jumping into activities that seem to be worthwhile. Too often, people spend their time and energy on activities that are good but don’t reflect God’s purposes for their lives. Decide to seek God’s guidance for your life every day.

Measure what you do according to what God has created you to do. Consider whether or not to pursue certain activities on the basis of how they will or won’t help you fulfill your destiny. Keep in mind that your destiny is “the customized life calling God has ordained and equipped you to accomplish in order to bring Him the greatest glory and achieve the maximum expansion of His kingdom.”

View yourself as God sees you. God has created you to be a masterpiece, and that’s how He sees you. As a masterpiece, you are: rare, special, valuable, named, and known. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of that every day, to help you live with confidence.

Seek God’s kingdom first in your life. Place your relationship with God at the center of your life and revolve everyone and everything else around it. Once you start making it your top priority to pursue God, you won’t have to struggle to find your destiny, because God will reveal it to you in the context of your growing relationship with Him. So make God the central focus of your thoughts, actions, desires, time, talents, and treasures, and expect Him to make miracles out of even the messes in your life.

Don’t distinguish between sacred and secular work. Realize that God has called all believers in all professions to advance His kingdom on Earth through their work. God can use your work in any field to accomplish powerful goals that have eternal value. Make a commitment to God that you will do all of your work – whatever it is – with excellence to serve Him every day. View yourself in the workplace as one of God’s ambassadors.

Trust in God’s sovereignty. Since nothing happens to you without God allowing it to happen and God is all-powerful and completely loving, God has a good purpose for allowing every difficult circumstance into your life. Whenever you experience something confusing or hurtful, choose to trust God in the midst of the situation, and ask Him to show you how to respond to it in ways that best fulfill His purposes.

Ask God to reveal your passion and help you connect it with eternity. God has created with you with specific desires and motivations; paying attention to those will help you discover what you’re passionate about. Ask yourself questions such as: “What captures my attention the most?” “What makes me feel alive?” “What would I choose to do if I could do any kind of work?” Once you’ve identified what you’re passionate about, consider how your passion connects to eternal values, such as those that the Bible describes. Pray about your passion, asking God to show you how you can pursue it in ways that will expand His kingdom on Earth.

Move forward one step at a time. Don’t wait to act on the guidance that God gives you about how to fulfill your destiny. God’s guidance will often come gradually, rather than in a dramatic vision that shows you everything you should do far into the future. Rather than letting your partial understanding limit you, respond to God on the basis of what you do know, trusting that God will continue to guide you step by step to encourage you to stay closely connected to Him.

Develop and use your natural talents and spiritual gifts. Ask God to help you identify the talents He has given you to use in the world and the gifts He has given you to use in the church. Once you know what these are, aim to use them as fully as you can every day, and as you serve you will be fulfilling your destiny in the process.

Make the most of your time. Every day that God gives you on Earth contains valuable opportunities for you to fulfill your destiny as much as you can. So maximize your time by presenting yourself as a living sacrifice for God every day, ready to say “yes” to whatever He may call you to do.

Commit yourself fully to God. Rather than pursuing your own plans, seek God’s will and do your best to follow it in every part of your life, without holding anything back. You can best do this by inviting the Holy Spirit to renew your mind daily, empowering you to replace thoughts that don’t reflect God’s truth with ones that do.

Cooperate with God as He trains you to depend on Him. Don’t fight God’s efforts to strip you of self-sufficient habits that negate the healthy dependency God wants you to develop on Him. Keep in mind that you can do much more while depending on God than you can ever do on your own. Recognize that your destiny will always be bigger than you, so you must learn how to rely on God to help you fulfill it.

Develop a lifestyle of worship. When you approach every situation in your life with an attitude of worship (honoring God), you will start to recognize God at work in your life and position yourself to hear from the Holy Spirit regularly, which will help you fulfill your destiny.

Aim to work for God’s glory rather than your own. Keep in mind that the ultimate purpose of fulfilling your destiny is for God to be glorified on Earth, leading people to seek Him and find salvation and redemption through Him. Check your motives for your work regularly. Ask God to root selfish motives out of your life and keep you focused on what matters most for eternity: serving God.

Adapted from Destiny: Let God Use You Like He Made You, copyright 2013 by Tony Evans. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or.,

Tony Evans is founder and senior pastor of the 8500-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative, chaplain of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, and author of God’s Unlikely Path to Success and Victory in Spiritual Warfare. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on more than 500 US outlets daily and in more than 40 countries. Visit his website at

By Whitney Hopler

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who has served as a contributing writer for many years. Visit her website at:  

Publication date: April 11, 2013

Why You Shouldn’t Work On Your Weaknesses.

This article originally appeared on Christian Personal Finance. Used with permission.

True or false: “You will learn and grow the most in the areas in which you are weakest.” If you consider that true, unfortunately you believe a common misconception. According to author and motivational speaker Marcus Buckingham, people grow most in the areas they already know and love. Magazine columnist Marilyn vos Savant (famous for having the highest IQ in the Guinness Book of World Records) shares Buckingham’s convictions with this thought: “Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.”

You may be thinking, “Sure, everyone knows that.” Really? According to Buckingham, a Gallup poll asked parents this question, “If your child’s report card was: English: A, Social Studies: A, Biology: C and Algebra: F, which grade would deserve the most attention from you?” 77% of these parents said they would focus their attention on the F. Granted, the F should not be ignored, but these parents overwhelmingly agreed that they should devote the largest portion of their time on their child’s weakest – not strongest – area.

Disproving Conventional Thought

Conventional thought seems to be that we should strive toward becoming more well-rounded by working on our weaknesses, but highly successful people disprove conventional logic every day. What if Einstein had focused on history, language and geography (his weaknesses) instead of math and science? Aren’t you glad that Beethoven (who was known for his fits of temper) did not allow anger management to preempt his musical pursuits? You get the idea. Michael Jordan would never have become an elite basketball player if he had set his sights on becoming a banker or an investment broker. And what if Bill Gates had devoted his energies to graduating from Harvard instead of developing computer software?

How About You?

You might not be another Einstein or Michael Jordan, but you do have strengths and weaknesses. Your natural inclinations make some pursuits fun and easy while others are tedious and exhausting. It seems obvious that we should work at the fun and easy challenges, but we are all too often plagued with guilt when we ignore the things we hate. Today, I challenge you to feel liberated from that guilt. No matter how hard you work at your weaknesses, you will never rise to more than average ability, but when you pour your energy into something you love, you could become world class at that endeavor.

Discovering Your Strengths

Not sure what your strengths are? Give yourself this three-part quiz:

1. Write down a list of things that come easy for you. One thing that comes easily to me is math. As a child, I would buy books of riddles because I loved trying to solve them. Therefore, math problems (especially the word problems) became my new love when I took math courses in school. Studying engineering, for me, was a form of laziness because it was what came easiest for me.

2. List all activities where time seems to fly by. What do you get so focused on that you lose track of time . . . when several hours disappear without you realizing it? This activity is a clue to your natural talent. Me? I can easily lose track of time while writing.

3. Write down the things you do which make you happy. I am probably happiest when I am helping others learn something important. For example, I have been teaching Sunday School regularly for 35 years without ever once dreading it. I also love to help people reach theirfinancial goals…a process which often requires considerable explanations.

When you compare the three lists, you will discover your areas of natural aptitude and greatest potential. For me, math, writing and teaching may seem diverse, but these three qualities are all key to my writing and financial coaching.

What about you? The activities in your life which come easy for you, make you happy, and cause time to fly by are the huge indicators of who you are and what makes you tick.

Why wouldn’t you want to pursue them?

Do you tend to develop your strengths or work on your weaknesses? Parents: Do you encourage your children to pursue their passions or work on their weaknesses?

By Joe Plemon

Joe Plemon started Plemon Financial Coaching in 2006. He has been the Money Columnist for the Southern Illinoisan newspaper (circulation 30,000) since October, 2007 and blogs atPersonal Finance by the Book.

Christian Personal Finance is a resource dedicated to building God’s Kingdom and helping others through money.

Publication date: January 17, 2013

How to Cope with Sexual Abuse.

Editor’s Note: Pastor Roger Barrier’s “Ask Roger” column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at

The following are three letters Dr. Roger received on the topic of sexual abuse. His response is below.

Dear Roger,

From the time I was about 7 until I was a teenager my step dad … sexually abused me. … Even though I grew up abused I felt I was in a normal childhood. My mom was incredible, but I sometimes feel she should have known want was happening. My mom passed away several years ago, and left a note to my sister and I and asked us to be good to our dad because he loved us. How could he? I tried to forgive, I can’t. I know the Bible says we need to forgive, but how?



Dear Roger,

During my freshman year of college I was raped. I have had this fear inside of me that it’s going to happen again. Each day I feel scared and wonder why God would let that happen to me … I have a strong faith in God but this all makes me wonder “why me?” I know that God loves me and is there for me, but this makes me wonder where He was during those moments

Thank you,



Dear Roger,

Both my sister and I were sexually abused by a cousin who was a teenager at the time. Several years later something inside me told it was time to tell my parents. This was about two years ago; needless to say, our family has not been the same.

Growing up in church, attending prayer service, Sunday school, serving in different ministries, it was embedded in my mind we must forgive our enemies … I can only recall this abuse happening once to me but I know it happened to my sister several times. My anger isn’t toward my cousin, it is towards my aunt because she knew about the abuse. She caught him in a bedroom with my sister, and her answer was to spank him and my sister. This has torn our family apart. We hardly go to church anymore. As for me, I have forgiveness towards my enemy. I wish I could say the same for my sister. I want to help her find peace, I want her to find happiness and success in life. I know God works in mysterious ways and he gives us trial because he knows we’re capable of overcoming them. I know coming across this site is more than a coincidence. How do I help my sister?

Name Withheld

Dear Anonymous, Unknown and Name Withheld,

Several year ago one of our counselors and I surveyed a women’s Bible class of over one hundred. We were all shocked by the results. Forty-two percent of the women in the room reported some form of sexual abuse before the age of sixteen.

Unfortunately, your experiences are not unusual. Many authorities surmise that 1 in 10 families are involved in incestuous abuse. Researchers estimate that for every case of incest that is reported, at least 25 cases remain hidden. 9% of American men were sexually abused as children. This trend is increasing. 16% of American boys will be sexually misused before high school.

Who can begin to count the buckets of tears shed by children (and adults) who were abused by those who should have loved them the most? Only God knows how many are mired today in emotional distress because of the traumas of their childhoods.

  • Many abuse victims utilize different strategies in an attempt to handle the conflicting emotions, mental onslaughts, and pains of sexual abuse.
  • Many try to escape reality.
  • Some invent imaginary worlds where all is well.
  • Many begin to neglect personal looks and hygiene, often subconsciously, to make themselves unattractive to boys (men) because of their fear of ever again trusting a male or having a relationship with one.
  • Acting out is common.
  • Unfortunately, way too many abused feel guilty and blame themselves for what happened.
  • Many try to “wall off” the experience and ignore it or live as if it never happened. Unfortunately, the inner poison usually begins to ooze out about the age of 35 or 40.

Whenever I preach on sexual abuse, the church building is eerily silent. Not only because sexual abuse is such a “heavy” subject; but, also because some fathers and step-fathers (mothers and step-mothers) are seated beside their victims.

Sexual abuse is by far and away the most severe type of abuse. The ramifications slide deep within the psyche. If someone wants to scar a child for life then sexual abuse is the way to do it. A life has been sacrificed on the altar of another’s sinful motives and nasty behaviors.

Fortunately, through Jesus Christ, good counseling, and supportive friends and family, great healing can occur.

Sexual abuse victims struggle in multiple areas:

Many are angry with God: A forty-two-year-old woman came to our church for counseling. She was sexually violated and raped continually by her father and one of his friends when she was fourteen. She had kept her secret until it finally began oozing out almost thirty years later. One of her big issues was with God: “Where was Jesus Christ when I was being raped?” How we answer that question makes all the difference in the world.

Where was God? A counselor named Anne led her to see that she was not alone. Jesus was right there with her and He was weeping.

Of course she understood that we live in a fallen world. Anne led her to see that she was betrayed by the very person Jesus brought into her life to care for and protect her. In a fallen world people do dastardly things. Fortunately, Jesus is in the business of helping us pick up the pieces, get healed, and get on with our lives.

Many victims feel that the abuse was their fault—because they did nothing to try to stop it, or because the abuse was sometimes pleasurable, or because they feel special favors were received; or because they are so bad and sinful that they deserved the abuse. A child who has been sexually abused feels dirty, unworthy and ashamed—like damaged goods.

Most grow up with injured emotions and distorted self-images. They feel worthless, rejected, and insignificant.

Trust in men is eroded way or nonexistent. Either consciously or subconsciously, all men are potential threats. Victims of incest perceive that their parents are not trustworthy. If other adults further abuse them, they may conclude that there are no adults who are trustworthy. If this cycle of abuse continues, the adult victim may become unable to develop trust in anyone.

They struggle with relationships, especially if a relationship becomes too personal and intimate.It is common for victims to sabotage the relationships they desperately need. Those married to abuse victims often feel that they are “walking on eggshells.” Hopefully, through wise counseling, both partners will come to understand what is really happening and respond properly.

Forgiveness and Healing Tactics

Let’s transition for a moment and talk about forgiveness. All three of you, Anonymous, Unknown and Name Withheld, mentioned this as a significant healing issue.

  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened was okay.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what happened is forgotten.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean that everything returns to the way it was before the perpetration.
  • Forgiveness especially doesn’t mean that family members should excuse the wrong behavior because they are “family.”
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we should hide, or not talk about the abuse or shy away from conflict by not talking about the abuse.
  • Forgiveness does not mean that if we “truly” forgive, we will “trust” each other implicitly. A sacred trust is broken, it takes time (often years) to rebuild trust with your abuser. Frankly, my experience is that such trust seldom is restored.
  • Forgiveness does not mean that we are “letting them off the hook” for the injustice of what they’ve done. They are still on God’s “hook” and vengeance belongs to Him.

In Romans 12 Paul encouraged us, “as much as it is possible, to be at peace with all people.”The implication here is that it is not always right or healthy to have a relationship with some people. Sometimes, relationships cannot be restored and that is OK.

Should your abuser be exposed and held accountable for his or her actions? Most certainly, “Yes!” Research projects confirm that an abuser will continue to repeat until the roots of their problems are uncovered and healed.

If the abuser is the father or the stepfather of the abused, he must be separated from the home until he has been declared “safe” by those who are qualified to discern. However, even if some day the abuser is declared “safe,” my experience is that children and teens must never be with, live in the same house, or have any sort of contact with the Perpetrator ever again. The trauma is too intense and damaging.

Sometimes it may be necessary to confront the abuser. Unfortunately, this confrontation often results in more rejection and hurt because 80% of those confronted deny they did anything wrong. If he (or she) denies it, you might say, “You may deny it, but God and I both know you are guilty. I transfer to you all responsibility for what happened.” In this case, reconciliation in this life is impossible. On the other hand, if he (or she) admits, repents and confesses the sin to God and finds His forgiveness, then healing and reconciliation can perhaps occur–but never quickly.

Sometimes it is not worth it to confront the abuser. Again, consider whether or not he or she would admit and take responsibility for what had happened? Would he or she stand the emotional pain that would come with a confession? Would he or she admit anything with the possibility of criminal charges and prison? If not, leave them with their guilt, shame, pain and seared conscience. You are not responsible for their healing or forgiveness before God.

I wholeheartedly agree with the advice of many counselors to write a letter to the one who victimized you, and then not send it. Another healing tactic is to pretend that your abuser is seated in an empty chair while you say everything you would like to if he or she were actually present. By the way, if you choose this option, be certain to imagine that the abuser is chained tightly and silenced by a big piece of carpet tape so they no longer are a threat in any form or fashion.

Some of you who are reading my answer are even now being sexually abused. To you I will make the following observations: The truth has to be exposed. We’re dealing with a terrible sin and Satan wants to keep it hidden. Stopping the abuse and finding help only comes with exposure. There is no way to make exposing the sin comfortable.

By the way, when a sex abuser is identified, he or she must be reported to the proper authorities. This is a requirement of law. All too often those being abused are in a Love-Hate situation. They “love their dad” and would hate to see him go to jail; but, he is responsible for his actions—and being a dad gives no right to abuse a child and scar them forever.

We have talked long about you as the abused; but, what about your abuser? I know dads who are in prison and others who’ve committed suicide rather than face their own pain and shame. They leave behind a trail of emotionally cut and bleeding people.

Jesus offers forgiveness if your abuser seeks it. If you are reading this letter and are now sexually abusing someone, STOP IT and get help. You are a sick person. Get help now. Don’t ruin their lives anymore. You have already done enough.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the all-time best healer of broken hearts.

He healed the broken heart of the woman at the well who was on her sixth live-relationship in John 4.

He forgave and restored the woman who was caught in the act of adultery in John 8.

He so well restored the prostitute Mary Magdalene that God granted her the privilege of being the first individual to see the open tomb and the resurrected Christ.

Again, in John 8 Jesus teaches that He is forever in the business of picking up the pieces of our broken lives and helping us to start over again.

In Joel 2  God says that He can supernaturally restore again the years the “grasshoppers have eaten away.” None of us need be shacked in bondage any longer.

My final word is to encourage you to find a counselor who specializes in healing sexual abuse. Not every counselor is competent in this area. You need an expert who can lead and love you back to health.

If you can’t find or afford the right counselor, then go to the bookstore or on line and read one of the many good books written on this particular subject. They can get you well on your way to healing.

Cultivate friends who can listen to your story and grieve with you. Jesus taught that mourning and receiving comfort is the best way to heal the hurts of our lives.

Again, to you three, I grieve for the pains, injustices and personal hurts that were inflicted upon you. May you find restoration and healing by the grace of the Almighty.


Dr. Roger Barrier

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work isGot Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answerfrom Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date:

Create a Fitness Program that Works for You.

woman holding dumbbells

Now is the time to turn your health aspirations into realized goals. But before you get started, make sure you understand the fundamentals when it comes to getting fit.

Many people think that as long as they work on their spiritual relationship they are caring for God‘s temple. But our physical bodies, our emotions and our minds must be in good shape, too.

Besides owing it to ourselves to strive toward a healthier life, we owe it to God. Having good health will ensure that our time on Earth is more enjoyable and effective for Him.

Getting fit requires that you have some basic knowledge of how your body works. If you are going to achieve your fitness goals, you must address all three aspects of your health–cardiovascular capacity, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility.

Your cardiovascular capacity is simply your ability to take in and process oxygen. The greater the workload on your heart, the more efficient it becomes.

Muscle strength is the ability to handle heavy loads quickly, while muscle endurance is the ability to go the long haul. We need both.

Then we must not forget flexibility. Your ability to stretch out your muscles and allow your body to recover will determine how effective your fitness and overall well-being will be in the future.

We need to exercise in order to live a healthy life. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to succeed in your program.

CARDIO EXERCISE THAT FITS When your heart is working at top performance, it is providing you with more oxygen, which will give your muscles more strength and your energy system a boost. The greater your capacity to process oxygen and use it, the lower your blood pressure will be because the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to get what it needs.

The heart needs workload forced upon it to make it pump harder and push blood throughout the body. Obtaining the health benefits you desire requires that you become knowledgeable about cardio exercise so you can work out properly.

When I train clients or speak to groups, I use the FITS formula to explain the parameters of proper exercise. “FITS” stands for frequency, intensity, time and style. We will explore these guidelines and how they apply to each of the three aspects of fitness.

Frequency Refers to how often you work out. According to Peg Jordan, in her book Fitness: Theory & Practice, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) recommends that you engage in cardio exercise three to five days a week.

If you’re working out only three days a week, you probably won’t notice any serious changes to your outward appearance. However, you should receive healthy benefits such as reduced chances of heart disease and less illness.

The bottom line here is to ensure you are exercising enough times throughout the week to help your cardio ability (your heart) improve. I do a minimum of four cardio days a week.

Intensity Has to do with how hard you are working when you exercise. If you truly want to be healthy you will need to work at an intensity level that makes doing anything else impossible. Having an intensity level that is too low is probably one of the biggest mistakes people make when working out.

You can multitask–with little or no health benefits–or you can get serious, put the magazine and cell phone away, and do it right. If you are going to put in the time, make it count.

Time Refers to how long you work out. New AFAA research indicates that we need at least 30 minutes of continuous exercise for it to be effective for our cardiovascular health. And in 2003, the AFAA published new data released by the American Heart Association (AHA) that suggests we require a full hour of cumulative exercise each day in order to receive health benefits for the heart.

Everyday tasks such as walking, gardening and sweeping are certainly good for the cumulative effect, but they aren’t intense enough. You will need to ensure that you are balancing both high-intensity exercise and other activities to keep you mobile.

Most fitness classes are one hour in length to guarantee that you are getting a solid 30 minutes of true cardio exercise. When you take into account warm-up, cool-down and stretch, you are left with about 30 to 40 minutes of actual exercise.

Style Has to do with how you exercise. The type of exercise you choose will have the most influence on whether you stick to your program or not.

Personally, I hate the treadmill. Put me outside, though, and I enjoy the challenge of watching traffic, going up hills and actually going someplace. On a treadmill, I hope to last 20 minutes. Outside, I can run 40 minutes or more without giving it a second thought.

You have to find something you enjoy. In my book Finally FIT! (Siloam), I offer advice that will help you find the right style of exercise for your unique temperament and personality.

I was never a big weightlifting fan until I learned why it was so very important for me to incorporate it into my fitness program. You do it not to be buff but to have strong bones.

Our bones are designed for normal movement, but they need to grow stronger, more dense. This happens only when they’re acted on by the muscles pulling on them.

Osteoporosis is a result of weak bones. If you do not have weight-bearing exercise in your life, your bones will be weak.

Calcium is certainly necessary for our bone health, but density comes from resistance training. When we add resistance to our muscles and make them pull harder against the bones, the bones are forced to get thicker and more dense.

Frequency. If you want a maintenance program for healthy bones, doing resistance training one or two times a week is plenty when combined with three to five cardio exercise days. You should allow 48 hours between weight-training days.

Resistance training breaks down the tissue in the muscle so that it can be made stronger. To grow, muscle tissues need to be broken into more pieces (multiplying) so that when they combine, you have more tissue than when you started.

That’s why you get sore after you work out, but with a proper cool-down and stretch, you shouldn’t truly hurt. If at any time you begin to hurt, stop.

Intensity You don’t have to lift hundreds of pounds to get the results you seek, but you do need to lift properly. Ever see someone at the gym just belting out his reps (repetitions) at warp speed?

If he slowed down his reps and lifted properly, he would most likely need to decrease his weights. His muscles would not be strong enough to handle the full load since he’s been working only one phase of the muscle contraction process.

As you lift, the muscle shortens. The “pull” enables you to lift the weight. You are moving against gravity, overcoming it.

But it is typically the “release” of the lift when you have to be most careful of not going too fast. Your muscle will want to let the weight down quickly, but the slower you release it, the more you are working the muscle.

Breathing out on the pull will give you power by releasing oxygen into the muscle. It also slows you down and helps you resist the temptation to pull up quickly. Breathing in on the release provides oxygen to the required part of your body.

Time This is where reps come into play. A rep is the number of times you perform the exercise.

Your fitness goal will determine the number of reps you complete. Those who want to create healthy bones will use lighter weights and will benefit from 12 reps, two times, which equals two “sets.” Someone who wants to build muscle mass and develop muscle definition will lift heavier weights for three sets of 10 reps each.

Style Your temperament will greatly impact the style of weight resistance that will work best for you. Free weights (handheld) are easy to use and can be purchased and used at home. To use weight machines you’ll probably need to join a gym.

However, free weights are more dangerous than weight machines. Weight machines assist you in regulating the pressure and force you to perform the exercise in a certain manner.

With free weights you are required to use more of your core muscles to stabilize yourself than on a machine. If your posture isn’t good when you lift, you could hurt your back. If you use good form, then you are building core muscle strength, and we all need more of that.

No matter what type of resistance program you select, you need to ensure that you are eating enough protein and drinking plenty of water. Eliminate these, and you could damage your muscles.

How to Deal With Sexual Fantasies.

Editor’s NoteThe following is a report on the practical applications of Shannon Ethridge’s new book, The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Being Sexual Thoughts (Thomas Nelson, 2012).

The sexual fantasies that pop into your mind can trouble you, but you can’t avoid having those fantasies. Sexual fantasies are natural for everyone, since God has created all humans as sexual beings. What you can do is deal wisely with the fantasies you experience, learning from them so you can heal from the emotional pain they reveal and enjoy healthy expressions of your God-given sexuality. Here’s how:

Ask God to give you His perspective on your sexuality. Since God is the one who created you to be a sexual being, trust God to show you what your sexual fantasies mean and how you can use that information to use your sexuality in healthy ways that will bless you rather than harm you.

Recognize that sexual fantasies are normal and not always wrong. Sexual fantasies are a normal part of life, and they’re not necessarily bad. Fantasies are simply windows into your psyche, giving you valuable psychological information and about your thoughts and feelings. You can use your sexual fantasies for either bad or good purposes; sometimes they lead to sin and destruction, but if you use them to create sexual energy in your marriage, they can lead to a stronger marriage. So pray for the wisdom to know when you should guard your mind against unhealthy fantasies and when you should open your mind to fantasies that can enrich your marriage.

Understand the three different types of sexual fantasies. Autoerotic fantasies are random sexual thoughts that occur naturally without external stimulation. You shouldn’t feel guilty about them, and you can easily manage them. Erotic fantasies those that arouse you and your spouse within your marriage. As long as you both approve of them, there’s no need to feel guilty about them. Illicit fantasies are those that God or your spouse would not approve of because of the context of the relationships reflected within those fantasies. The illicit fantasies are signals meant to draw your attention to emotional wounds you’ve suffered, so you should pay attention to what they can teach you about yourself and pursue healing for the wounds they reveal to you.

Examine what your fantasies may mean. Reflect on the sexual fantasies that pass through your mind and ask yourself key questions about them, such as: “Who are the faces in our fantasies?”, “What roles do they play?”, “What role do I play?”, “What primary emotions do these fantasies elicit and why?”, What event in my history created the need to experience such an emotion?”, “How does this fantasy medicate emotional pain from my past or present?”, “Could there be an even deeper spiritual longing beneath my sexual longings?”, “What can I learn from my fantasies?”, “What driving forces are operating within me that often lead me to toward destructive relational patterns?”, and “How can I heal the pain that is causing me to fantasize destructive directions?”.

Know that your illicit fantasies never stand in the way of God’s love for you. Don’t worry that your struggle with unhealthy sexual fantasies will ever cause God to love you any less. God loves you deeply and unconditionally. Because of God’s love for you, you can count on the grace you need from Him to empower you to heal from the wounds that your illicit fantasies reveal.

Break free of pornography. Realize that pornography is always unhealthy for you to use, because your fellow human beings are abused in order to produce porn, and because porn damages your ability to experience genuine sexual intimacy within marriage. If you use porn to fuel your fantasies, ask yourself what types of images you’re more attracted to, and what underlying emotions you’re trying to quell, amplify, or balance with fantasies about those images. Then consider what messages those emotions are trying to send you, and ask God to show you how you can best pursue the emotional healing you need.

Look to God (instead of other people) to meet your needs. God is the only one who can ultimately fulfill all of your needs, such as those that you may fantasize about another person meeting (satisfaction, provision, and comfort). So don’t barter with your body to try to get other people to meet your needs (such as by fantasizing about people as mother figures, father figures, or spiritual idols, or keys to unlocking the fountain of youth for you). Recognize that what you may have been desperately searching for in others, you already possess in God, through your relationship with Him – and all you need to do is turn to God to claim what you’ve been searching for. Once you’ve learned how to trust God to meet your deepest emotional needs, you can learn how to express affection toward other people in healthy and holy ways.

If you’re married, invest your best efforts into your marriage. God has designed marriage to be the only context in which sexual energies can be expressed in healthy ways, and when you focus your sexual energies on your spouse, your marriage can grow stronger. So if you’re married, do your best to develop healthy intimacy with your spouse. God can show you how to use your fantasies to energize your marital sex life, drawing you and your spouse closer to Him and each other.

If you’re single, direct your sexual energies toward other pursuits. If you’re single, there’s no healthy way for you to express your sexual energies through sex until you get married. So while you’re single, direct those energies into healthy pursuits, such as exercise and creative work.

Expose the roots of fantasies about taboos. If you fantasize about gay or lesbian sex, rape, incest, recognize that such things go against the natural order of how God has made creation and will harm you and others if acted out. If you fantasize about bondage, sadism, or masochism, understand that it’s never God’s plan for sexual pleasure to involve anything that causes others pain.

Put fantasy in its place. Defuse the unhealthy power that fantasies have over you by: focusing on other things you’re passionate about, trusting your God-given instincts more than you do other people, refusing to rationalize stupidity, trusting in God’s grace to avoid sin, strengthening your marriage so you won’t be as tempted to have an affair, and trusting God to lead you and your spouse into deeper levels of sexual and spiritual connection.

Adapted from The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts, copyright 2012 by Shannon Ethridge. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tn.,

Shannon Ethridge is an international speaker and certified life coach. She has a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University and is author of the million-copy, best-selling Every Woman’s Battle series. Learn more at

By Whitney Hopler

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a contributing writer and the editor of’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer. 

Publication date: December 28, 2012

Trying to Prove Ourselves.

You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight. —Luke 16:15

My old friend Pete Cantrell often says, “The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.” I think this is one of the most profound statements I have ever heard. The person who needs to prove how right or how strong he or she is, is one who is not free. There is a struggle inside to make others think they are right and strong. The truth is, if we really are right and strong, we don’t have to say anything! Freedom is being experienced, therefore, when one is having nothing to prove. He or she does not need to justify themselves, make themselves look good. It is enough that God knows for people like that. (See John 5:44.)

When you are justified before God, you are free. Seeking to be justified or vindicated before people is a crippling, endless, and counterproductive enterprise; you are never at peace. No freedom. But when you know that God Himself declares you righteous, you are free and have no need to get your satisfaction from comparing yourselves with others.

The heart of the gospel is at stake here. What justifies us before God—our good works? Or is it our confession to God that we are sinners? Answer: we are justified when we do not try to prove ourselves before God but lean on His mercy. The way a person is converted is to ask God for mercy.

When we are trusting our works, there will always be a need to try to prove ourselves—by words. The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove. This freedom comes when we put all our “eggs into one basket,” namely, the death of Jesus on the cross. That brings freedom because this alone is what justifies us before God.

Excerpted from Controlling the Tongue (Charisma House, 2007).


Things We Cannot Control.

“Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning. The youth may have come from prison to the kingship, or he may have been born in poverty within his kingdom. I saw that all who lived and walked under the sun followed the youth, the king’s successor. There was no end to all the people who were before them. But those who came later were not pleased with the successor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”Ecclesiastes 4:13-16

Commentators disagree on the situation described in these verses. They apparently describe a king who, though popular in his youth, has grown foolish in his old age (perhaps through carelessness or greed or it could be nothing more than the toll of advancing years). He no longer listens to the advice of others. Along comes a younger man—energetic, full of ideas, brimming with vitality, eager to lead the country into a brighter future. Eventually the king loses his throne and the young man takes his place.  The people cheered and the nation prospered. Then it happened again. After years in office, many people were not satisfied with the now not-so-young king. His idealism had vanished—or so it seemed, his vision for the future had slowly dissipated, and all that energy had evaporated with the passage of time. In the end he seemed just like the man he replaced—old, out-of-touch, cranky and creaky, an anachronism, a relic of bygone days. So the people cried out, “Give us a new king.”  Although Solomon doesn’t spell it out, we may be sure that another young man rose to the throne and the cycle repeated itself again.

There are many lessons here, including the obvious one that fame is fleeting. Today’s heroes are tomorrow’s bums. Our attention is short, our memories non-existent, our only question, “What have you done for me lately?” There’s nothing to be done about this but to accept reality.

Each year our local historical society hosts a cemetery walk in which area residents dress in period costumes and act out the life stories of notable men and women buried in this particular cemetery. For seven years I portrayed the famous evangelist Billy Sunday at his gravesite. Each year I pondered the fact that in his day Billy Sunday was one of the most important men in America. He preached face-to-face to over 100 million people—and this before the age of social media, the Internet, radio, television, public address systems, computers, and DVDs. Today the public at large hardly knows his name. Rarely does anyone visit his grave.

This is the way it is. Solomon’s advice is, “You don’t like the idea that you can be replaced? Get used to it.” As French president Charles DeGaulle once remarked, “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”

This truth might make you depressed, and it probably will if you’ve been hoping to take the world by storm. Good luck, and don’t forget to leave a forwarding address. Here’s some free advice: Do your best each day. Don’t fret over how you will be remembered when you are gone. Invest your life in the things that really matter and let God take care of your reputation.

Spirit of God, deliver me from faithless fear about things I cannot control. Help me to do my best and then to leave the results with you. Amen.

This is 1 of 100 devotionals from an ebook called Something New Under the Sun.

By Dr. Ray Pritchard

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